Photo by Deensel, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The minute he saw the picture of Praza do Comercio, the square acknowledging the sea with elegance worth empires, he felt Lisbon’s call. There was nothing left for him in his own country: work or identity. Like many others his age, he could be defined as a useless piece of flesh. He knew that to be untrue. That high angle of Praza do Comercio was the evidence that he was more.
After a couple of low-paid high-risk jobs, he gathered enough to buy the bus ticket to drive him across Europe. Several of them, actually. He slept on so many coach seats that reaching Marseille he came close to losing it. Seven days had passed since his departure, and he still needed five more to reach his goal. Even if he was in survival mode, that long adventure was beginning to drown him in a deeper state of despair. The only thing that would lead him back to sense and purpose was that crease pic he kept in his pocket, that square in Lisbon welcoming the water at sunset.
When the last bus finally arrived at Staçao do Oriente, his gaze was animal-like, scared and wild. He had managed to maintain his hygiene at bus station toilets, but exhaustion had coated him with a dark shadow. No wonder people stepped back when he approached them to ask for directions, the photograph of the Praza on hand. He took another bus and yet another until an increasing itch began to occupy his entire body. It felt like needle points pushing up from under his skin. There was no sign of bug bites. He thought it better to get out and continue his way on foot.
His appearance was scary compared to those other youngsters in the terraces chatting in all the languages of the world. They looked fresh and unconcerned, possessing the moment without hesitation, belonging to it. On top of the hill, right in the middle of the Alfama quarter, he knew that those instants were his too. The fading light in the sky reassured that deep feeling. He knew he was where he was meant to be, even though the itch had advanced so much that it was burning his flesh. With running eyes, he finally saw it down there, the dreamy place in the picture, that open gate to upper realms, perhaps. For an instant, he felt he could fly to it, jump off the magenta wall covered by bougainvilleas and land on the baluster by the sea.
After crossing those myriad streets that turn the Alfama into a maze, he arrived at Rua da Prata. His arms and hands had turned black, his bones felt shrunk and shorter, and he suddenly experienced that there was too much skin around his skeleton. His feet were unmanageable but jumpy, and that’s how he moved down the street until reaching the Praza. At long last. After days of longing to be there. He collapsed on the cobbles in front of the equestrian statue, facing the sea. Everything went dark within. And then, the chirps, thousands of them, an unfathomable abundance, quavers of all kinds dawning in him.
A joyful flapping of wings followed. So many that he finally felt in peace, elevated.
All those at the square at that moment witnessed the most incredible murmur of starlings conquering the sunset, disappearing behind the wound of the horizon before it closed its eyelid.
Rosemary Thorne is a Spanish bilingual writer living in Madrid, Spain, who has been her entire life producing fiction in her mother tongue, with not much local professional encouragement. That’s why in 2019 she became a HWA member and began to think Horror in English terms. She was born in 1968, year of shocking revolutions; that’s why she doesn’t give up. In December 2021 she published her first novel in Spain. Her goal for 2022 is to have it translated into several languages and to populate the world with her monsters. Find out more about her: https://linktr.ee/Rosemary_thorne