The Shield


Dawn came slowly to the asphalt moor. The night retreated softly and soundless, unable once more to defeat the sun. As light crept along the streets to the trumpeting of morning finches, steam spilled from the swampy sewers.

A dark figure huddled on the sidewalk, a striking contrast to the drifting plumes of clouds. The figure inhaled deeply. He placed a calm, brown hand flat on the cool concrete for balance.

Where is the wine that does not fail?

One more night like the last, and he would pass far too close to Death, the silent rider with his sword of carbon steel shimmering in moonlight. The weapon did not worry him. He had wit to defend himself, and had made a coat of mail from the tabs of 30,000 aluminum cans. No, it was the bloodless face that chilled him.

He shifted to his other hand. As he moved, his trench coat fell open. The salvaged aluminum across his chest briefly glistened in the sunlight. A cat on the other side of the street caught the reflection and ran off, crashing blindly into the bushes. Covering himself once more, his chest jingled; a sound like a thousand beer bubbles bursting. The man took another deep breath and hid from the world now waking.