Sunday, June 21, 2009

In London

Night falls late here, in the high latitudes, but fall it does: the last of the golden light licks from the buildings and all is shadow and blue. The buildings sparkle with white and yellow lights, sodium arc, halogen, blue-white headlights and high twinkling jets coming into Heathrow, thirty miles west.

I had just finished a "thank you" contest with a nodding room service steward.

"Thank you, have a good evening."
"Thank you, you as well."
"Yes sir, thank you."
"Yes, thank you."
"Thank you."
"Thank you."
"Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you." With this barrage of gratitude he stepped backwards out into the hallway and was gone. I went to the window to close the blinds against the night; hours of work and laptop and typing remained.

But there was something. A shadow like a splot of black paint, or a cloak, wrapped around the corner peak of one of the high buildings. I had to stand in the corner of my room and even then crane my head sideways against the window to see.

It was too dim to see: not yet dark, no longer twilight, and blue shapes and after images swam in the air as I tried to squint at the thing on the building.

It fell, or detached. Or released. That I saw. I know I saw it let go. I saw.

And it fluttered a story, two stories, a flapping rag, a car-sized flutter of darkness. And it broadened and the plunging fall slowed into a low swooping curve.


The window rang when my head jolted against it. Suddenly I felt exposed: a bright-lit hotel room looking onto a dark city, and I reached behind me to switch off the light. When I looked back I could see nothing for a moment, and then far movement against the blue-dark sky. Long wings flapping, heavy wingbeats like a vulture or a heron, though no feathered thing ever grew this big.

Close the curtains. Make sure they're closed. The phone still works. Turn on the lights. Turn on the TV.

Do not look out the window.

1 comment:

Babs said...

Two words for you...jet lag. Keep those curtains closed!