The Return of the Shadow: 4. Memories

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4. Memories

A grey dawn finally penetrated the shadows of the passage. The tunnel, which had been gloomy before, now looked absolutely miserable. The young vagabond cast a look at his watch. The glass was cracked, but it still gave the time.

Seven o'clock. But it was Saturday. Saturday was a good day for singing in the trains, but not as early as seven o'clock. He sighed. He was cold and tired, but he knew that he would not find any deep, peaceful slumber. Not now, not here. The best thing he could do was doze with his eyes open and slightly glazed, seeking the strange paths of his dreams. It was easier to forget the cold and the loneliness when he was playing some music to his dreams, and so he kept on strumming his guitar, playing melodies of many countries and many centuries, some well known even today, some known to a handful of experts, and some of them completely unknown by anyone.

He would have to wait to nine o'clock, catching the people on their way into the city centre, on their way to shopping and browsing through the galleries, on their way to spending a relaxed day with the entertainments offered by the capital city of Germany.

The time between nine and ten would be good work on the trains.

After that, he would have to go outside. In the summer that was quite profitable, too, singing and playing his way through the cafés and bistros. Now, in fall and on a rainy day, he would have to try and see if he could get away with making some music in one of the malls. But that was always a risky business. You needed permission by the proprietors, and more often than not he was thrown out within five minutes.

If he was thrown out, he had to try the stations. But most good spots in the stations were claimed by the various clans of homeless, beggars, street artists, vagabonds and petty thieves that roamed the streets of Berlin, and jealously guarded against any competitor.

He did not care for fighting over where to sing or where to beg.

Most of the time, when he did not find a good place where he could sing for his supper, he simply roamed the streets and the parks of the city until yet another long and wearisome day was finally over.

Early and late in the evening the trains would pay well again. Early in the evening because of the people returning to their homes after a day's shopping and fun, late in the evening because of the people going home from the theatre or the opera. This crowd was the best audience. They were rich, and most of the time they were relaxed and in a good mood on their way home. He always took care to check what they had been seeing at the opera or at the theatre, to keep his music in tune with the show they had enjoyed.

If the police did not catch him, he always did well late on Friday or Saturday evening.

Slowly the minutes passed. The weather grew worse. The drizzle deepening into heavy rain driven by a piercingly cold wind from the east.

His dog crept into the lee of the bench, hiding from the wind. The dog was getting old. The next winter would be hard on his companion. He knew that sooner or later he would all alone again.

Finally it was time to go.

oooOooo

He rose from his bench and crossed the passage. At the rear entrance, on the right hand side there was a small spot of greenery. Not a park, but a few trees and an impenetrable thicket of thorn bushes and holly. He slipped into this thicket of thorns. He had made a hollow at its centre, where he could hide his things and leave his dog while he worked during the day.

That was all the home he had at the moment, apart from the bench in the underpass, which he had claimed as his. He slipped into his cold hollow of thorns, holly and winding creepers and put down his backpack for the day. He laid a dirty rug on the muddy ground, then left the hollow to refill the dog dish with water from a nearby fountain.

His dog had already curled up on the rug, shivering slightly from the cold and the rain.

He hunkered down next to the animal and stroked his wet fur. In a soft voice he told his dog to wait for him, he would be back with a nice meal for both of them. The dog only looked at him.

Then the young vagabond picked up his guitar and walked to the nearest train station.

The weather stayed horrible all through the day. It was grey and wet and cold. A thoroughly miserable day in November. Most people on the train were pretty miserable, too. And there were not many people out to do shopping in the big city. It had been better business some years ago, when the New Economy had still flourished. Now Germany was in the middle of a recession that bordered on depression. Many had lost their jobs, and those who still had jobs were overworked and frightened to lose their jobs. The introduction of the European currency had made the prices rocket, and now people were careful with every cent they spent. Parents thought twice about taking their kids to fun fairs, because a simple carousel ride was too expensive if you had three kids wanting to take a ride.

In a few years things would be better, he knew that. He had, after all, witnessed the ups and down of economy in human society many times before.

But for the time being, living in the streets was an even harsher life than it was in the best of times.

When the trains became empty towards noon he had only earned about two Euro. It was enough to buy bread, orange juice and a can of dog food. It was not enough for the tent he wanted to buy. He could, and had, survived many winters out of doors. But he did not like it. His dog did not like it. His dog was too old for another winter out of doors. He also did not like spending the winter in one of those charity homes. He could not stand being locked together with so many people, day and night.

He was a solitary creature. He was too old, too set in his ways to change that.

Therefore he had decided that he needed a tent.

But that was easier said and done. It was not easy to earn money in the streets. And already it was November.

oooOooo

Some time late in the afternoon he walked through the park to get to the line that paid best early in the evening. The grass of the lawns had already turned the dull grey-green colour of winter. The bright golden and red leaves of October had been blown off the branches days ago. Heavy rains had turned their beautiful colours into an indefinable mess of brown and grey sludge.

With a little bit of bad luck it would stay that way until May next year. Cold, grey, wet. Dreary and miserable. Sometimes he thought that was what he missed most; at home the seasons had seemed longer to him, and clearer defined in their different ways, each beautiful in its own special way. Yes, every season had been beautiful when he was a child…

And the air…ahhh…

He forced his thoughts away from his memories.

If he gave any thought to the quality of air, he would start feeling choked. And then he could not sing. And he had to sing, to earn the money he needed to buy that tent. And perhaps enough money to take the train to the sea, where the air was at least a bit clearer, cleaner…

No. He would not think about clear, clean air.

The skin at the back of his head itched. Not lice. Surely not lice. Not again. But when he looked at his short finger nails, sure enough, there was the crushed body of a louse.

One of those days, he thought. A day, where you are better off just staying in bed. That is, if you are lucky enough to have a bed to stay in.

He could not cut his hair. He would have to spend days soaking his hair in vinegar to get rid of the lice again. He could only hope that he had not already spread them to his dog. Getting rid of lice living on him was miserable enough, but to get them out of the thick fur of his dog was beyond misery.

Perhaps it had been the first one. A lonely beast he had just saved from its fate of eternal loneliness…

A short time later he reached his destination, one of the big stations in the city centre. He carefully arranged his dreadlocks around his head, slung his guitar over his shoulder and boarded one of the trains leaving the centre of the city.

oooOooo

He played his guitar and sang a popular English song. A mournful, romantic song. An old tune to the ears of his audience. There were not many people in the car. A young girl watched him with misty eyes, obviously lost in some foolish dreams of love and desire. An old man smiled at him, his gaze looking far away into an unseen distance, probably reminded of the journeys of his youth. When he had finished the song, the old man approached him. That in itself was a rare occasion, but the old man smiled at him, gave him one Euro and thanked him. The young tramp bowed politely. He rarely was given more than twenty cent apiece. And he could not remember the last time someone had actually thanked him for a song.

Then the train passed the station where the young street-musician usually got off for his hide-away on the bench of that dreary underpass. Not yet ready to change trains, but finished with singing for the moment, he stepped close to the glass doors, looking through the rain covered glass at the station with its grey pavement and the people hurrying to the trains, their heads bent, their shoulders sagging.

Was he looking for something?

Or someone?

Perhaps he recalled the other evening, because he had been thinking back to other unusual listeners.

Perhaps the incident had never left his mind.

Whatever the reason, he suddenly remembered the woman he had seen in that very station some days ago.

oooOooo

It had been very late, he had been singing and playing in the trains for the crowd leaving Berlin's theatres and operas. It had been a good night, too. The Komische Oper had given Mozart's opera about the Serail. It was a thoroughly shocking interpretation of the piece; they had changed the setting to a whorehouse of modern times, complete with naked singers and undisguised violence. Berlin had been in an uproar. A real success! People were angry, people were disgusted, people were delighted, people were fascinated; no one was untouched by this latest production of that particular opera. He had played soothing music that night, light Italian aria of times long gone and forgotten, and many people had given him the odd twenty cent, or sometimes even fifty.

Perhaps that was the only reason he remembered that night.

She had not been to the opera.

She had been on her way home from the airport, clutching a small black suitcase.

He had thought her very beautiful, although she had looked very tired, sad and lonely. There had been a stillness to her that he saw only very seldom in anyone of this day and age.

A depth of knowledge that was unusual in one so young in his eyes.

But it had not been this unusual quality of her demeanour that made him remember her.

It had certainly not been her appearance, although he had appreciated her black and silver hair and her clear face, along with her slender, but well proportioned figure.

It had been very late in the evening, and he had been tired from a long day of begging and singing. Entertaining the rich audience leaving the theatres and the operas was always more strenuous than his other tours.

He had been thinking about calling it a night, because he had done really well, taking advantage of Mozart and that daring new production.

He had not watched what he was doing and had somehow fallen into the rhythm and melody of one of the first songs he had ever learned as a child.

He recalled clearly that he had even sung the words to go with the melody, which he never did, because using the language of his childhood made him sick with a desperate and impossible yearning for the home his childhood.

He had played the melody of a hymn to Elbereth, Goddess of the Stars.

And he had sung the Sindarin verses of that particular hymn.

The woman had already left the train, he recalled, but when she had heard him sing, she had turned around on her heels instantly.

Her eyes had been wide with amazement, and very bright, as she had looked straight at him for only a second, the blink of an eye.

Then the train had left the station, and he had not been able to see her any more.

There had been something strange about her.

No, it was not only strange. He knew that it was impossible. But somehow, somehow he had had the impression that she had understood what he had been singing. Somehow he had – for short moment - imagined that she had understood his Sindarin words, and stranger still, that she had known the song.

It was strange. It was more than strange, he told himself. It was simply impossible.

He knew that it was impossible. He had probably imagined her, along with her intense gaze, her bright eyes. He must have imagined her.

No one here could speak Sindarin. No one here knew any hymns to Varda, Goddess of the Stars.

But even though he was almost sure that he had only imagined the black-haired woman, that he had only dreamed of her staring at him like that, even though he was almost convinced that she did not exist at all –

he looked for her as the train passed that particular station.

But she was not there.


This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: JunoMagic

Status: General

Completion: Work in Progress

Era: Multi-Age

Genre: General

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 08/08/07

Original Post: 03/05/06

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