Invisible City

Nik stared out the window at the dim lights of the train station as they pulled into it. The brakes made his teeth jar, kind of like the way chalk on a blackboard did. The shadows played across his face as the waning of one light turned into the waxing of another. It looked like someone was staring at his face frame by frame in slow motion.
"Will you be alright, son? Is someone coming to the station to pick you up?" asked the old man in the seat across from him.
"Yes, my aunt is coming to the station" Nik lied.
The old man settled back in his seat, satisfied that the young lad would be taken care of.
Nik, relieved that the old man hadn't probed too much or offered to wait with him for his aunt, turned his attention to collecting his things - the green "Scooby Doo" colouring book, his crayons, his soiled handkerchief that he'd used as an eraser in the absence of a real one. He carefully stuffed all of his things into his olive green canvas school bag along with his Batman action figure, the few clothes he was carrying and his most prized possession, a clay piggy bank, pink in colour, complete with the snout and coiled tail. The clasps on the bag closed with a soft click. Nik double checked the clasps, like he'd been taught. Satisfied, he bent to put on his floaters. Grabbing the one he saw, he got on the floor searching for the other of the pair under the benches of the booth. Retrieving the floater from the recesses of the bench he drew his hand back carefully so as not to disturb the cockroach he found staring at him.
The sight of the bug had put an extra spring in Nik's step. He fastened his floaters, collected his solitary bag and ran straight for the door to the train compartment, the sound of the old man's goodbye barely even registering in his racing mind. The screech of the brakes resounded through the silent compartment, a few snores the only other sound to be heard. The disadvantage of reaching your destination in the middle of the night and ahead of schedule to boot. The compartment swayed as the brakes kicked in, pushing Nik off his feet and into the sleeping form of a man soon to become quite disgruntled. He woke with a grunt and stared at his attacker, or his prey. His eyes gleamed in the sparse lighting, holding Nik to his current position. The movement of the man's hand broke the spell the boy had been put under, his young legs carrying farther and faster than he thought were possible. He reached the end of the compartment just as the train stopped at the platform. Jumping off without giving it a second thought, Nik continued to run away from the man, who hadn't even found his way out of his blankets yet, who loomed larger than the Beanstalk's giant in Nik's mind, whose eyes gleamed like the wolf's.
Nik ran past the dirty metal pillars, through puddles of water, over refuse dumps, ahead of desperate porters and disparate passengers until he ran out of platform to run on. Caged by a once white metal fence that loomed large over his head, he grabbed the rusted bars of his cage, struggling against them. He pushed against them, pulled at them, tried to lift them off the ground, tried to climb over them to the other side ... anything to get to the other side ... anything to get away from the eyes in the dark.
Holding onto the bars he sank to the ground, broken. He wanted to go back home. Settling down on the dirty ground with his back to the bars he put his face between his legs, remembering who he was, remembering what he was, remembering where he came from. Holding desperately onto his identity lest the memory slip away from him into the black hole of the city.
The smell of spices as he stepped into the house after playing with his friends in the evening.
The sound of anger mixed with amusement when he came back from playing in the dirt.
The feel of strong arms holding him when the sound of anger drove him away.
The sensation of a large hand engulfing his own as he crossed the road.
The grooves of a wooden cane he held onto as he walked through the park so that he wouldn't get lost.
Wrinkled hands feeding him a sweet, brushing away the hair from his eyes as he ate.
He sat there with his head resting on his knees, his back against the fence, aching to go home, weeping for he used to be, weeping for who he wanted to be. His resolve weakened,
under attack by his sweet memories.
He remembered the angry voice that tore away the dirty clothes from his body.
He felt his cheek burning where those large hands had slapped him.
He felt the end of the wooden walking stick prodding him to move faster.
He felt those wrinkled forcing medicine into his mouth.
His resolve strengthened, quenched in his bitter memories, but it had developed cracks. Cracks through which doubt flowed ... he wanted to go back home. He wanted to see his parents and his grandparents. He wanted to be the apple of their eyes again, even if it meant having to hold the bitter seeds. He wished he'd never run away. The sounds of the city swallowed his sobs, the rattle of the trains, the sounds of traffic outside the station, the sound of footsteps coming closer.
Wolf's eyes stared at Nik from the darkness, shining with anticipation in the sparse illumination of the overhead lamps. The man walked slowly towards Nik, his designer shoes polished so that they gleamed in the shadows, the only other part of him that could be seen apart from his shimmering eyes. A grin spread across his face, baring his teeth in a rictus of anticipation as he stared at the little boy on the floor.
"What's wrong, son? Why are you crying?" he asked, stepping out of the shadows into circle of light.
The deep voice startled Nik back to the present.
"I'm not crying!" he said as he wiped away his tears.
Nik's eyes widened as he recognised the man standing before him. Once again he was fixed in place, staring at the man's eyes. He didn't even notice the bulldog shaped face or the grey suit that the man was wearing, the red silk tie or the or sparkling gold rings.
The man approached the boy slowly, as though expecting him to bolt at the slightest movement. Nik's eyes were fixed on the man, though, like a bird hypnotised by a snake. He didn't move a muscle, he didn't even think of moving a muscle. The somewhat heavyset man struggled to crouch ahead of Nik's knees and offered him a silk handkerchief.
"Here, wipe your tears. Big boys don't cry."
Nik made no movement to take the handkerchief. In fact, he made no movement at all.
The man reached out and wiped the boys tears himself. The touch of the silk against his cheek seemed startled Nik out of his trance.
"I'm not crying!" he said in a quivering voice.
"Of course not, you're a big boy. Big boys don't cry!" came the kind response.
"Yes!" said Nik with confidence that he didn't feel.
"Where are you from?" the man asked.
Nik shied away from him, pursing his lips as though to will them from not opening. 'Never talk to strangers', the phrase kept playing in his head.
The man sat down next to him and started to search his coat. Fishing out a lollipop from his breast pocket he handed it to the boy.
"Go ahead. Take it" the man urged.
Nik looked at the lollipop intently. Exactly like the ones his grandmother bought from him. He reached warily and grabbed the lollipop from the man's hand. The wrapping was off and the confectionery in his mouth in a flash. The smile on the man's face grew a little wider.
"Now, where are you from?" he asked again.
"My village. I'm going back on the next train." Nik said with false bravado.
"Ah, ok. Do you know when the next train is?" the man asked in all practicality.
"I'll find out from the man at the station. He wears a red coat. He knows everything about the trains. He even showed me the engine of the train before we left from my village."
Nik's eyes gleamed with the awe he felt seeing all of the levers and dials in the engine.
"And how are you going to pay for the ticket?"
Nik turned to his bag and carefully retrieved his piggy bank.
"Here, I have money. See!" he said shaking the clay pig, smiling at the sound the coins made. The man smiled right back at him.
"So you're going to break that open?" he asked with a mock sad expression on his face.
Nik put the pig in his lap and stared at it for a couple of seconds.
"Well .... I have to, don't I" he said sadly, looking up at the man.
"No, you don't. I'll pay for your ticket and you can come and stay with me tonight, I'll even drop you to the station in tomorrow" the man said. His hand found its way to Niks thigh and gently started massaging it.
"You'd do that?" Nik asked him delightfully, ignoring the goosebumps that had risen on his thigh.
"Of course" the man said, staring at the boy's thigh, feeling his skin pebble against his palm.
"Everybody always told me that the people in the city were not nice. But you're a very nice man."
"Oh, there are a lot of nice people in the city. This is the first time you've come to a city?" he probed.
"Yes. I've heard a lot of good things about it. And bad things too." Nik volunteered.
"Tell me what you know about it. But first, welcome to the city ...."
Where no one sees nothing, he thought to himself.
Approximately 30% of the populace under the age of 18 has suffered some form of sexual abuse.
World day for prevention of Child Abuse is on November 19th.