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Mine is just under 500 words, and as always, gentle comments are welcome.
He lifted his head as he heard the noise. Somewhere beyond the alley, maybe a street away. He sniffed the warm night air. Usual stuff, ordure, overflowing bins, not so much oil or gasoline. Since the virus, not so many cars were about, and none after nightfall, save for cops.
He could still remember the old days, when the nights were full of bustle, lights, chatter, and then just shaded lights, and bustle of a more furtive kind.
Now it was still each night, save for the odd person who decided that night was the time to escape lockdown. It didn’t help him, though. That sort of person was the least of his troubles.
No, it was the gangs who had moved in from the suburbs, they were what he was worried about. Why they thought the city had richer pickings, he couldn’t fathom. There were more yards in the suburbs, more places to hide, more critters to eat. Here the pickings were slimmer, even though the trash cans were as full as ever. That was because the nightly emptyings had stopped.
It all made his youngsters careless. Nothing much to watch for, and meals in almost every alley.
Unless the gangs saw you. Then you could expect trouble.
Where was his eldest?
Should he investigate that noise?
He moved along the alley, stealing through the shadows and slinking low against the wall when there were none.
At the end he looked out, and sniffed. No sign of his son. No more noises either. He considered his options. Leave it, and leave his son to his fate. He could imagine the teasing he’d get in the morning when his son came in, full of himself and his bravery. It would be a tall tale, no doubt.
But then, what if it wasn’t?
He decided on the source he’d heard earlier. He knew the street, an alley collecting the backstage tunnels from three or four theaters. Broadway had been dark for several seasons now; he could hardly remember the last time the crowds had come.
Yes, his son would have ventured there—but what of the gangs? It could be a good place for them, too.
There was a light, flickering, around a corner.
He could smell a person, a hobo probably. Why had he lit a fire?
He could smell blood too, some spilt recently.
Poking his nose around the corner, he took in the scene in one glimpse, and pulled back again. A person, shrouded with layers of shapeless clothing, lit up by a fire, where he had a body propped across it. He held sticks with meat on them into the flames too.
And on the wall behind him, showing russet in the glow of the fire, seven pelts hung, spreadeagled, at various stages of drying.
So that’s where the last gang had got to.
And the last pelt…
He choked and ran.
© J M Pett 2020
And if you haven’t guessed, the inspiration from my #30DaysWild is urban foxes. I have no ideas if they have them in New York, but they do in London.