A Ragged Soul

If the people of London looked out their windows exactly at midnight, they might see the man in dark rags. Tall and way too thin, his scabbed skin was barely visible as he trudged through the streets under the cover of night.

Occasionally, he would walk past a window or a lamp, and his sallow face would be lit for a short moment before falling back into darkness. Suddenly, there was a sound, and he stopped to listen.

He fixed his gaze in the direction of the sound. Was it a child crying? No, an adult. A woman? Yes, a woman. It was a young woman, almost a girl. She was bundled up beside a trash can in the alleyway. The man stared down at her face. She was quite pretty. Her lips, especially, were lovely. Perhaps he should..? No, now was not a good idea.

The middle-aged man looked at the street name plated on the brick wall, memorizing it. He would come back another time. He turned and kept walking.

Walking further down the street, he came by a playground. By the playground was a light. Was that a child standing in the light? Perhaps this..? The child turned, as if it knew it was being watched. It was a very young girl. She cocked her head and looked at the pale figure staring back at her. No, not her. The man peeled his eyes from the girl and turned a corner.

Now there was another sound. Was it that woman again? No, this was lower and more strangled, as if attempting to conceal it. This was it. He could tell. He proceeded slowly down the street, careful not to make a sound.

Where was the sound coming from? Over here? No. Over here? No. Then... over... here. Yes, there it was; A small child - a boy - was huddled up in a corner, his head buried in his arms. His body was small and frail. The tall man inched closer. His breathing was ragged, but quiet. His shoe scraped against the cobblestone and the child looked up.

The man’s voice was not at all gentle, though he tried to make it so now. He opened his mouth and a voice like choking spilled onto the street. There you are. I've been looking all over for you. Please, don't ever run away from home again, Tommy.