June 14, 2018
It had been four days since the dead man had come to see me and Phobie had just brought the good news. His body has caught up with my prognostications and he died some time early this morning. He will be buried tomorrow so that means I will have to collect my effigy tonight before there is any chance of it being cleared or discarded. I will have to be stealthy as surely the extended family has gathered at the house. The wailing and moaning will be insufferable but maybe it will hide my approach.
Light of foot and heart aflutter I grab my gear and set out. Cobblestones tessellate my path forward. The sun set a full turn ago and not many are on the streets this evening. No moon above and the stars hidden behind clouds make for a darkness that holds close like a blanket. On the rare occasion I have been advised women should not walk the streets at night, but I am four and 0 against brigands as well as two and 0 against city guards so I like my chances. The street begins to narrow as the downtown gives way to the porters district.
The district is awkwardly named as it lies nestled in the corner of the north and east city walls, lacking the connectivity necessary for transportation. Skinny row houses stretched along blind alleys. Streets left unnamed and few maps exist. The locals know where to go and not many visitors come through anyway. It is an ant colony without a queen. I don’t make a point to come here but in my trade you follow the desperation; so you could say I know the neighborhood quite well.
Two lefts and then right, over the bridge and I am here. They live in the house right there, the second floor accessible from the central stairs that leads to all four floors of the building. With the amount of people inside going through the front door would not turn out well for me. So instead, I sneak up the stairs passing the second floor entirely as I head for the top floor. The top landing has a window looking out onto the street. Opening the window leaves the roof a mere two meters from my grasp.
I climb into the window frame and push out with hands and feet locking myself into place. The simple act of turning is slow as I reposition each limb one at a time. Now facing the outer wall, my feet on the bottom frame and hands on the inside of the top. One hand, just one hand. I can’t quite reach the roof. This is going to be harder than I thought.
After a moment I have decided, a few centimeters will not conquer me. The positioning makes it tricky but I take my pack off and chuck it up onto the roof. One, rock forward, two, rock forward, three. vaulting upwards I grab the roof solidly with both hands. Kick out to the side and a leg is up. Shifting my weight up to the roof is tiring but with two anchor points, assured. Rolling inward I find my pack and grab my rope. The chimney a perfect square. An anchor hitch for the chimney and an eight knot through my belt.
Still have to climb down the rope of fall its full length. I wouldn’t hit the ground but falling two stories would not be fun. Lean into it and foot by foot walk backwards down the side of the building. Past the fourth floor windows. Past the third floor windows. The bedroom window has a sill I stop at. Crack it ever so slightly and step inside.
The corpse laid out in bed. Smell already considerable. A son’s hands enveloping his father’s; asleep in annihilation. Untie myself and slink over in two long, slow strides. Under the bed, under the bed, I find my prize. Even holding it I can feel its power. The soul has taken residence within. In the pack it goes. I rise seeing the man as if for the first time. Two rounds on his eyelids. I pocket those too. Maybe next time I see Death I will pass along the alms.
Time to leave. I retie myself to the rope and step back out the window. I close it behind me and climb out to the window over the landing. I open that window and climb inside. Untie myself here and drop the rope back out the window. Close the window then walk back up to the top floor. From here I just cut the rope above the top of the window frame and let it drop to the street below, then close the window and head for the ground floor. Out the front door to gather most of my rope and head for home. A trying night but a successful one; life is good.