This week's prompt from Write on Edge was the first line: 'Two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane.' The limit was 500 words. I wrote about an early visit to Jerusalem in 1981.
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Two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane. I could see the lights of my hotel, the Jordan House, twenty yards behind them; people on the patio, a waiter passing with a tray of drinks. Plaintive music drifted from an open window upstairs. Behind me lay the still-unknown streets of East Jerusalem – finding my way in the dark had been an endless journey through the winding alleys of the Old City, up half-lit lanes, and along unfamiliar streets of iron-shuttered shops until at last I found the Albright Institute on the corner of Salah-ed-Din Street and knew I was nearly safe.
The men had seen me. My choice lay between a brazen forward approach and flight back into the labyrinth.
I chose the former. Perhaps they were on their way home too, late for their families, imagining dinner. Only the prickling on the back of my neck told me that they were a threat.
Without breaking stride, I moved into the lane, out of the moonlight and into the shadow of a parked tour bus. The men were still in front of me, perhaps ten metres away, in the moonlight until they melted into the shadow of the wall. Losing sight of them, I felt my heart and breathing quicken and my eyes dart, striving to pierce the blackness. My ears strained for the scuff of footfalls, my nostrils widened, trying to sift human scent from the background city smells.
Nothing. Another two steps, three. They must be very close now, the distance between tour bus and the wall was hardly more than two metres and I had been moving steadily forward.
I was nearly out of the shadow.
A hand snaked from the side, grabbing for my arm. I whirled and roared, turning in towards the figure darker than darkness, slamming into his slight body, my jacket slipping from his loosened grip as I smelled sweat, cigarettes, and cheap cologne. Then I roared again, and teeth bared headed for the bigger figure looming on my other side. The momentum carried me into the moonlight in front of the hotel and I heard the patter of running footsteps, a slither on loose stones, a muttered curse in Arabic, then only the chatter of the other hotel guests discussing their day in the City of Peace.