It’s a mock historical romance, fairy tale, kind of thing. Absolute nonsense, but I like it.
High above the street, along the rooftops and across the crumbling balconies between housing establishments, a pursuit was in progress, a grim and dogged hunt, there were several pursuers and one who ran for his life.
Under the dim of the cinder-choked moon, on and on over the rooves, sometimes the pursuers grew close and the one running would turn and throw roof tiles back to attempt to slow them down, or if they grew even closer, these men with a mean gleam in their eyes, if they drew out their swords to stop him, yes to fight, then the hunted would grab whatever thing he could find, be it a fragment of wooden balcony railing, slate tile, or handful of thatching to throw at them, then run and jump and try to evade these determined pursuers who kept on and kept on after him.
Though the one that was chased wasn’t scared of a fight and would have turned back and stood up to his hunters, but he had tried, and realized that if he didn’t fly now there was a great likelihood that it would be the end of his life. For mad they were, maddened to a fevered state and they were many in number and fervent in their chase.
They yelled and they shouted, he could hear them behind him, and they’d dogs following on the ground below, that growled in the most frightening manner, as if they too wanted this poor creature for their dinner, and they did everything possible to catch up to him and corner him from below as their masters followed above.
He thought he was done for as he continued to flee, jumping from one roof to another again, tumbling and running on, climbing up on tenement balconies, looking back fearfully, but to his surprise most of the horde had been left behind, he must be faster and more cunning than he thought he was, but then he saw them, a couple of men, gaining range, so close by, so he ducked down a dark way in the smoky shadow of an old steeple spire, running on as he could, along the sloped roof, but he knew he could not keep this up for much longer. Then as he ran so close to edge he slipped in his haste, his foot finding a disintegrating section of guttering. He fell, but held on still, just by a few fingers, the dogs catching up and barking menacingly below. He could see their white teeth and their fierce eyes from where he hung, and he tried ever so desperately to pull himself up. His heart shuddered inside him, dogs below, pursuers so close, he had to, oh he had to pull himself up.
With a great heave and force of will, what with such spent energy he thought he had nothing left, but he did, yes, he reached up and pulled and with all of his strength managed to pull himself back up onto the sloped tile roof. Quickly he was up, no time to catch his breath, the pursuers were so close he was sure he could hear them breathing and feel it. Then he turned to find one of the hunters in front of him suddenly. He hit back as the man came nearer and tried to take him, he fought back, he wasn’t giving up, but somehow, as the fight continued onto an adjoining balcony, now about four storeys high, the dogs below managed to find their way up, and they came at him too with jaws ready to bite. They fell upon him, as the man knocked him down, clawing his face, his arms, and tearing his clothes, the others would soon catch up, it was certain they would finish him.
The hunted hit out and kicked out but was nearly overcome, seeing no way to evade them, not now. But then as he struggled to free himself from the fray, fighting for his life with everything he had, he realised he was close to the highway, yes this balcony extended out to it, and if he was not mistaken he could hear over this rage the yell of a coachman, and the unmistakable thundering of the rushing of horses hooves over the cobbling.
He kicked back the men about and knocked the hounds on their noses, then scrambled up and jumped out over the edge, the dogs leaping after. Down through the darkness he fell, sorely wounded but hoping this last chance of escape would succeed, for even in their falling the dogs snapped at his heels. Below him, lighting the grey and grim street, were the lanterns of the galloping travelling carriage. He feared he would miss, be too late or too early, and break on cobblestones, there was barely a chance of this madness succeeding, but he jumped out of grim fear and with the slimmest of chances…
Two dazzling prisms lit the way ahead, the whip flicking the shining flanks of four thoroughbreds, effortlessly pulling the magnificent equipage as if floating forwards, though really their hooves pounded heavily, as their flesh rippled and strove onwards at a yell from the coachman, lifting their fine legs all the faster.
The golden framed carriage, a picture of luxury and elegance, sped on behind the thoroughbreds and an outrider who rode ahead hunched in a thick overcoat, his thin chin hidden in a scarf, his woollen cap pulled low and tight over his skull, he was squinting from the cold yet he watched the way keenly, glancing side to side at the bleak streets which seemed to lunge toward them out of the greasy night as they sped ahead.
A chill draft crept about the young lady inside from some crack the coach maker must have missed and there was an unnerving shriek in the black distance, or was it just her anxiety, her dreadful imaginings? She twisted a handkerchief in her fingers and she drew her warm mantle more tightly around her. Then all of a sudden without warning or premonition, there was an awesome crash – a man, and then a dog, landed upside down on the velvet upholstery of the couch opposite!
She looked around her for some weapon or any hitting implement. All she could find was a lace parasol that must have been left in the carriage from a noon-time engagement, but she picked it up now and wielded it at the figure. She couldn’t really see him as it was still very dark, but he did seem quite frightening and certainly rough, especially to Juliet who was ever so prim. Then the dog got up and became quite ferocious, but unflinching the man pushed it to the floor, took a curtain cord and tied it tightly around the hound’s jowls, effectively muzzling it before it could do anything.
Juliet was impressed, but the young lady remained sitting stiffly in her corner, pursing her lips, not sure what to make of the ragged man, and wondering why the coachman wasn’t immediately stopping, though, if it be known, he was desperately trying but the horses were frightened and galloped on all the faster.
The light of the moon filtered now and again through the broken roof, and she could see more of this intruder. She saw there were cuts and tears on his flesh, and as he looked around, contemplated the situation and recovered his breath, he licked some blood from his cut lip, and she noticed that he looked up and listened, with nervousness in his eyes, as if he were afraid he was being followed, even through the torn roof of the carriage right then.
She watched him as the carriage jolted now and again, as the coachman strained to halt the steeds as they ran. She wondered he wasn’t dead from the cold alone from the little clothing he wore; a long sleeved cotton shirt, a scanty jerkin and threadbare breeches, shoes that were made more of holes than of leather, and if he’d ever had a hat it must have been lost somewhere.
‘Are you alright?’ she said, wondering if he could even understand her, for he was so unusual, at which he pushed his hair into some semblance of neatness, held out his hand and said, ‘Ah, call me Ando, my lady, pleased to make your acquaintance.’
She looked at his hand, and then at his face, which now had a smile though it was a little lop-sided and pained, and she thought as she looked that there was a familiar thing about him, a warmness, somewhere behind the blood and the grime and the detestability of his raiment. So hesitantly and gently she replied, ‘Juliet,’ and gave him her hand, which he took and he kissed ever so lightly, just as if he had always been a most excellent gentleman.
‘My apologies for the hole,’ he pointed to the roof, ‘truth was I was aiming just to hang on top, not go right through it!’
‘Oh,’ was all she said, as what else could she say to such a statement?