A fog-swallowed day. He’s carapaced to resist it, whatever’s coming. Full on weather warrior, that one. Don’t ask where he got his old armament, the battered brown kind that deflects acid like raindrops. Bullets or hail, makes no never mind. Might’ve slaughtered for it, might’ve bartered for it. A fistful of blueberries or viscera; he ain’t telling.
Can hear him before you see him. It’s the humming gives him away. Most folks think the Street of Queens can only be survived by slinking by. Head low, shoulders hunched–and for Frig’s, Freyja’s, and Fraggle Rock’s sake don’t make eye contact or your ass is last winter’s dog scat after the first thaw.
But the humming. That’s his secret. How you know it’s him. Another day, another sunny smile. Ready for anything, wary as a broken bottle. He hums and thrums his way across the street. Makes it to the other side, safe. I watch from the window tucked in his right hand. From a hundred miles away, safe in my tower, nose pressed to my mirror, watching.
Trucks swerve to avoid him. Even the cyclists slow their kamikaze velocities–out of respect, see. That music? That’s old jubjub. La canción. El encantamiento. That’s the secret, he told me once. “You gotta sing your way through this city. Remember that.”
Wasn’t a lesson so much as a reminder. I too lived among cliffdwellers once, in the City of Drowned Glass. Got soft in this tree-lined place, where the rain is just rain, and the trucks don’t have teeth. I admit, I’d rather an ocean than the cicada roar of construction–and when I say cicada, think just popped outta the shell, size of a football field, and yeah, the city’s no place for entomophobes. Like I said. Soft.
But my breath fogs the mirror. The cityscape rolls away into gray as he makes his daily commute via katabasis. Green eyes, a slick stairwell, gone.
I’ll be joining him soon. Some things you just know. The tune in your throat tells you so. Time to polish my old breastplate to bronzelight. Time to open my mouth and sing.