I went there to disappear, but she found me nonetheless. She sat down at my table, directly opposite me, and just watched me with those big, brown eyes as I swilled the drink around my glass. Courteous, she waited until I’d downed my whisky before hitting me with her words.
“We need your help.”
“Won’t you at least listen to what is at stake?”
“The stakes are always high. You wouldn’t be here, if they weren’t.”
I tossed a few notes down on the table and wrestled my arms into my jacket. It was raining outside; I could tell by the raindrops which still clung to her perfectly coiffed hair as she watched her hopes stand up and tip an imaginary hat to her.
“Good day, ma’am.”
“But the world is in peril!” In the silence that followed, you could have heard a pin drop. My fellow shadows, the other people who’d come here to disappear, looked at her as if she was a vicious dog threatening to tear out their throats. One or two of them left. The rest resumed looking for answers in the bottom of their glasses. The young woman glanced around cagily, then lowered her voice so that only I could hear. “Again.”
“Wrong.” I planted my hands on the table and leant down over her. I’ll give her her due; she didn’t lean back. “The world never stopped being in peril. You just got distracted by other things. Men with bigger guns. Nations with bigger nukes. Flags raised, and carried, and burned. Shiny new gadgets which allow you to connect to your brain via Bluetooth.”
“But… you were the world’s greatest hero!” The look in her eyes suggested her childhood dreams were currently being crushed like an old banger too beat up and rusty for salvage.
“That’s right. I was.” I leant back and glanced out the window. Pouring rain, just as I’d expected. But even the pouring rain was preferable to her pout. They’d picked a better messenger, this time. The last guy they sent, I punched and broke his nose.
The rain claimed me as its latest victim, and I knew I’d have to find a new bar. A new city in which to disappear. They’d find me again, sooner or later, but I much preferred it to be ‘later.’ The world used to be a bigger place. Maybe that was why it was always in peril, these days. Maybe the world was too small for us, now. Maybe this was the tiny sparrow trying to get the fat, greedy cuckoo chick out of its nest.
I just hoped we could learn to fly in time.