Jill had woken up early that morning. She wanted to be at the office before the others as she had a meeting at 9:30 sharp and wanted to look something over before it began. She’d had an idea during the night and this meeting was a dreamed opportunity to submit it to the board. If they liked it, this would mean a huge step forward for her. She just needed to check one last thing to make sure it was feasible. “Please let it be,” she prayed silently as she rushed into the rue Souveraine at the corner of her street.
The winter air blew coldly in her face as she walked quickly along the darkened façades, her silk scarf leaving a scented trail of jasmine and bergamot in her path. It was still dark, but a pale glow was slowly appearing in the sky, outlining her feet on the grey tiles of the pavement as she made her way. Her mind was focused on the morning meeting. With each step, she went methodically over all that could go wrong; trying to guess what arguments the board could come up with.
She was so tied up in her trail of thoughts that she first did not hear the voice. It came again, this time louder: “Hey lady!” She stopped in her tracks and turned around. There was nobody there. She heard it again, like a strong and insisting whisper “Hey lady, wait! Come back here, please”. Her eyes slowly looked over the street. It seemed totally deserted at this early hour… then she saw it. A faint light came from an open basement window a few meters on her left. Slowly, she retraced her steps back towards it. The window had iron bars in front of it, probably to protect it from the passing crowds as it was at leg level and gave on directly to the pavement. She leaned in, cautiously, only to see long white fingers griping the bars delicately. A dark figure held itself sternly in the back, hidden in the shadows. “Hey lady” she heard again, “good you came back, I’ve got something to show you.” Jill backed away and straightened herself up. She was about to leave when the figure came forward. She could see it properly now. It had the height of a young boy but its face was one of an adult. His skin was pale, almost translucent, as if it had never been in the sunlight. His eyes were dark as coal and burned with a strange cunning glow. He came forward and pressed his face between two of the bars, looking up towards her: “I have something for you” he said again.
Jill looked as though she would walk away but something in his gaze kept her rooted to the spot.
– “What do you mean you have something for me. Who are you?”
– “Who I am is not important. It’s what I have for you, to show you that is…”
She kneeled again at his level and noticed that the ceiling hung low and appeared to go on forever behind him.
“I’m sorry, I have to go to work.”
– “You can have anything you want you know, but you’ll never find it out there.” He slipped a finger between the bars and softly stroked the felt of her winter coat.
– She winced “what do you mean?”
– “Do you really think you’ll find anything by running after it? Don’t you think that if it worked, everybody would eventually stop running after a while?”
– “I’m not running” Jill justified herself.
– “Of course you are, look at you, trying to adapt the world to your needs.”
Carrying her hand to her chest, she got up at once.
– “I’m sorry I don’t know you, I don’t know what you mean. I have to go, I have a meeting”.
– “Wait!” he urged.
Jill was already walking away when he said in a stronger voice that reverberated inside her head: “I can show you where everything can be found. I can show you where to go.”
She turned around.
– “And what’s in it for you?” she spoke out, louder than intended.
– “Much more that you will ever know” he answered softly.
For some reason she knew he was telling the truth. She walked back towards the open window and peered in. As his face came forward again she noticed that his dark eyes were now filled with tears. He pointed his chin towards the wooden door of the house on his right and said: “come in, it’s open...” She pushed it with her hand and found it gave way to a darkened entrance hall. When she looked back at the window bars, he was no longer there. If she hadn’t focused so much on the door and on the entrance hall, she would have noticed the thin trails of blood which ran down the two bars he’d been holding only a few seconds ago. If she had focused on his long thin fingers instead of on his teary eyes, she would have noticed that he had gripped the bars so tightly that his long nails had torn the pale white flesh on the sides of his fingers.