Walking In The Neon Night
Copyright 2016 Michael Huddlestone
Published by Michael Huddlestone at Shakespir
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Johnathon squinted. The rich red neon light burned deep into his eyes as he approached, marking the entrance to the underworld that lay taboo to the everyday culture. The light gave a cheap look to any piece of furniture it illuminated, removing all trace of respectable colour from their surface. The same brush washed over the women who sat alone at the numerous square tables, seeking companionship from a paying stranger. They remained silent, each keeping to themselves. The electric red wash hid the women’s beauty and disguised their hardships.
The roughness of denim scratched the palm of his hand as he rubbed them back and forth on the side his jeans, wiping away dirt that just wasn’t there. During the walk to this point, he was confident in his convictions, now, he struggling to convince himself they still held strong.
Don’t look them in the eyes, don’t talk to them. His father’s preaching echoed in his mind from their last visit to the city before his death. His eyes disobeyed him, wandering to where they sat. They each wore deep red lipstick, short black skirt, and a revealing white singlet, calling out to any man walking past. Any paying stranger would suffice. One of the women caught his glance and smiled.
Such a gentle smile. His brow furrowed, raising his chin, looking down upon them. Jonathan continued, thrusting his hands into his pockets. The buoyant tone resonated again, a single hum, softly flowed from the vacant tables as he passed by. The gentle tone touched his ears; his chin lowered slightly. He glanced back. Still she smiled. Still he continued to walk by, letting them sing in the sea of their sins.
Building after building passed by at a slow pace, night club after night club. Each had their music disrupting the night, beckoning any passer-by. Jonathan paused from his walk, leaning against the power pole on the other side of the street. Close but still at a distance.
He watched the young men walk along the street. Some alone stumbling along their journey back home after a night of intoxication. Some with a friend, taking all that surrounded them into their gaze, the idle chat between them broken by the music. Some in groups, feeling fearless that they congregated in numbers, their laughter filling the streets as the half-drunk bottles swung from their hands.
Stop. For each male, it was all the same. The electric lights captured their eyes.
Let the music play. The modern dance music filled them with an upbeat rhythm that unconsciously put a swing in their step. This swing walked them closer to the doors. Their eyes fell prey to the temptation.
Let it play for you in here. The women would watch the men looking in as they lurked the shadows, before walking out to greet them as if on cue.
Let it play for you as they dance for you. The women took their hands, rubbed their shoulders, pulling them into their darkness. Some resisted; others succumbed.
Another ship runs aground on the rocks.
From his position Jonathan surveyed the street, bright lights, loud music, and beautiful women. It all came together casting an energetic shadow over a lifeless, destitute undertone. Still his mind wandered back to the woman’s smile. What would make someone want such a life? He felt for his cigarettes, withdrawing the packet from his shirt pocket. He placed the filtered tip in his mouth, firmly holding it in place while he searched for his lighter, eyes staring blankly off into the wash of neon lights. The question still replaying in his ears, each time answered with a different response. Maybe they didn’t want the life. Maybe it was money. Maybe they were forced to by someone.
The lighter alluded him. So drawn into answering his questions he didn’t hear the sound of high heels on the road behind him. The sound of striking flint and a flame danced suddenly in front of him drawing him from his self-analysis. Jonathan looked up; there was her smile again in front of him. She nodded. He leaned forward, sucking the flame in through the cigarette, inhaling smoke into his lungs before exhaling to the side of the woman. Her eyes cut through the remaining smoky haze, a rich emerald green.
“Thank you” His words were spoken with caution, restraining his gratitude, not wanting to be seen as a prospective client. Her perfume was delicate yet alluring. Sweet, noticeable but subtle that it didn’t cheapen her.
“Welcome,” She replied, her gaze breaking away to return the lighter to her black clutch. Silence hung in the air for a moment. She looked down the street towards the bar where he had first past her. Though he may be judgmental at times, his mother taught him better, brought up with some manners, finally breaking the silence.
“Don’t smoke?” Her gaze returned to him upon his question.
“Used to a long time ago, now I just carry it just in case…” her voice trailed off. It was soft, tender and had a presence of an innocence hidden within it. In case of what? He wanted to ask, but he could almost feel his father’s hand reaching from its grave, tightening its grip on his shoulder in an attempt to steer him away from her presence.
“Enjoying your evening?” It was the usual small talk he expected before the proposition for paid sex. His palm became damp with sweat, noticing he casually slide his hand into his pocket.
“It’s been ok.” His response was short, guarded. Avoiding eye contact he turned his attention past her, along the street that had increased in foot traffic as the evening turned to night. She tucked a stray strand of brown hair behind her ear, catching his attention from the corner of his eye. Their eyes met. The emerald reflected as the overhead street light lit up her features. Her makeup was subtle; she had a natural beauty that radiated beneath it. Faint traces of perfume lingered drifted up to reaching his senses; it had a delicate aroma to it. Her red lipstick emphasized her lips, not overpowering like others he had seen during the evening. He caught himself staring at them, breaking his gaze away.
“You don’t like our little corner of the world here, do you?” Caught on the back foot, Jonathan paused, his judgment of her must have been more visible than he thought.
“What makes you say that?”
“I can just tell.” She smiled again. “It’s ok. I’m used to it.” There was no malice in her tone. Jonathan looked down to the ground, unable to meet her eyes again. He stared at the crack in the concrete that traveled under his shoe.
“I’m Rose.” He looked up. The richness of her lipstick against the pale contrast of her skin reminded him of a stray rose petal that lay on a white sheet. The name suited her.
“Jonathan” He responded, extending his hand out to her, letting his judgment of her fall into the cracks in the concrete below. His father’s voice no longer echoing in his ear. Her hand was small in comparison to his, lost in greeting, her skin tender to the touch. She smiled. He smiled.
“Ask me whatever question is plaguing you” His cheeks burned red, the warmth from it shivered against the cool night air.
“Ok then,” he paused briefly, dropping the recently lit cigarette to the ground. He pressed his shoe against the amber-lit end, using the time to plan how he would ask the question that eluded him, the same question that brought him here. Despite his planning, only a single word rolled off his lips.
Rose gave a quiet little laugh, grinning at his awkwardness. There were so many answers she could easily use; she used some them in the past. Her pimp made her. She had a daughter to feed. She couldn’t get work doing anything else. She just loved sex. His presence though felt different
“There are a hundred of reasons why,” she paused, staring at his questioning brown eyes, “and there are also none.” Rose looked up to the stars. Jonathan watched her. He wanted to reach out and run his fingers along the soft skin of her jaw line. His hand remained still, remaining in his pocket.
She could feel his eyes on her, returning her gaze back to him.
“Walk with me,” Rose asked, gesturing down the street. The black river visible in the distance. The city lights reflecting off the black water.
They walked together. Two feet was all that separated them, neither wanting to move further apart or closer. Yet. Their conversation danced around his question, and she, in turn, questioned him. She spoke of her first weeks after she arrived in the city. How she left her parents’ farm for a different life. Jonathan spoke of the tyranny of his father, a topic he never let grace his lips. With her it was different, maybe it was because he felt she wouldn’t judge him. The conversations flowed.
Before he was aware, they had reached the river. They both looked out over the dark water. The lights of the city reflected like a mirror against the stillness. The rail was cold under his hands, as his slid them over the steel, folding his fingers together, resting his elbows on the railing. Both of them remained quiet; it was a comfortable quietness. He felt the warm, gentle touch of her fingers come to rest on his forearm. He turned to face her. She was already looking at him. She smiled. He smiled. A passing boat broke the stillness of the black water.
Warm rays of early morning sun caressed Jonathan’s cheek, lighting his hotel room through the sheer curtains that hung across the glass. His eyes squinted as he repositioned his head on the pillow. The sound of traffic was distant, confining itself to the streets far below his room’s floor. The air conditioning chilled his naked chest. Finally, he sat upright, legs hanging off the side if the bed, he pulled on the white singlet that lay on the bedside table. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees, slowly he traced the place her fingers had touched his forearm. Visions of her red lipstick and emerald green eyes flashed before him. He smelt the lingering traces of her perfume that wasn’t there, teasing his senses like ghosts of days past.
Sunlight shimmered through the sheer white curtains, beckoning him to visit the balcony and dwell in the daylight. He obeyed willingly, leaving the warm disheveled white bedsheets behind. The cool early morning breeze welcomed him as he opened the sliding doors, stepping out into the world. The world that for him was now forever changed.
About the Author
I guess you would call me a hybrid.
A cross between a logical thinker and a creative dreamer; with a dark streak rippling just below the skin. Though sometimes I venture out and try something new, like I have with this story.
By day I swim neck-deep in an ocean of numbers, data and code; by night, I write. I am a horror writer who recently re-discovered his lost passion for writing.
I am a father of two, drawing my inspiration from the world around me and adding my own dark flavour to it. Looking to answer my own constant question of What If.
I am an avid follower the writings of Stephen King, Anne Rice, Dean Koontz, and PJ Tracy. I do enjoy a blend of horror and thriller genres. I am a proud member of the Townsville Writers & Publishers community.
My tastes in literature lie in those stories that send a shiver down your spine and cause you to check under your bed at night. Those tales that keep you on the edge of your seat waiting to see what happens next.
I am currently working on my first novel.
I appreciate you reading my story. Here are my social media coordinates:
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