Piercing the darkness, a single star is seen through the vaporous clouds. How softly shines the light; how momentary it is, for an instant passes and the thickening atmosphere again smothers the sky. Left alone, Fredrick stares up at the empty place where the star was, wondering, hoping, to catch another sweet glimpse if heaven. Upon his roof he lays, now and then feeling the cold through his shirt.
As a child, long ago and far away from here, Fredrick had lain upon his back in the summer nights and seen stars, seen the whole blue heaven filled with the raucous light of stars, of dancing stars—their tails of fire softly fading away before the next streak of light came. In grassy fields he’d gazed upon the dark night sky, and slithering hopping things lived in the night, and he lay in the night wondering at all the sights and sounds and . . .
The sounds tonight were busy too: Solitary cars drove hurriedly home, here and there the women of the night wandered and whispered below, and in the surrounding buildings were the sounds of men: Hurtful words, loving words, playful words, and all that can be heard. He gazed up into the sky and his ears heard the whole of the world, it seemed, heard the world.
Still hoping, he gazed, wondering if the stars would reappear.
No one knew Fredrick; no one ever called him Fred. He was alone upon the roof, alone in the little apartment he rented, alone in the city. It was a warm breeze which passed over him, but still shivering, he rose from the weathered lawn chair. Stretching, he walked to the balustrade, looking down into the alley. He hugged himself, rubbing his arms for warmth. Scanning the dirty stretch of pavement hidden behind the building, Fredrick spied the huddling shape of a man under layers of debris forming a sort of sordid lean-to. This was set against the rusted green dumpster which was still damp with the day’s summer rain.
Fredrick wondered how this man could be so foolish: Did he not know? Before Fredrick could decide to warn the man, wondering if they would really bother him, his ears caught the fluttering of wings. Returning his gaze unto the sky, he saw a shadow against the darkness. Dropping from heaven, the demon descended. For a moment it stood between two forms, and like some liquid thing, the shifting boarders of its outline ebbed and flowed, the small bat growing into the shape of a man.