Flash Reality — STORY # 2 (St Lucia Station)
This is Flash Reality as opposed to Flash Fiction. I’ve coined this term to narrate personal/real stories tweaked to suit fictional purposes. The maximum word limit I’ve chosen for these stories is 2000 words excluding the wording of any poem or reference material.
Having stubbed out my cigarette against a stone on the street at Salita Fontego, I picked my shoulder bag from the floor and continued my walk towards Ferrovia to wait for my train departure early in the morning from St. Lucia train station, Venice. It was around 2:00am. Occasionally a passer-by strolled from one or the other street; the streets otherwise apparently abandoned by humans. Having spent the whole evening at the Lido beach, and almost the latter time of the evening at San Marco, I had preferred to walk instead of catching Vaporetto (the water bus). My last stop was Rialto Food Street where I took one Pizza and had one glass of red wine after enjoying in a Gondola.
I was heading towards Strada Nuova, the longest street on my way to train station. “Strada” in Italian means “street or way” and “Nuova” means “new”, I didn’t know when that street was constructed, I only knew that this long street would lead me to my destination. I was a tourist and had spent only a couple of days in the city, so was not that acquainted with each and every Strada in that canal city. Yeah, the city was criss-crossed with canals.
I had walked straight from San Marco at a fairly slow pace as I was exhausted now, given the fact that I shook my whole body at the Lido beach swimming and roaming around the Venetian waters, and had been traveling for over two weeks in Europe, mostly walking. The water bottle in my hand was less than half, and I had almost a half-filled pack of cigarettes.
Before I entered Strada Nuova, I felt two people came after me from a distance with a fast pace, waving their hands and talking as if they wanted to say something or stop someone. I looked around to see if there was someone else in the street that they were talking to or following, but found no one in the surrounding. Of course, I was the only one walking along the street. An unknown fear surged through my whole body.
I had read to beware of walking alone at odd times in deserted streets, especially cities like Venice, as there was constant fear of pick-pockets, thieves, looters, and the notorious Italian mafia. I wondered what had Italian mafia to do with me. I had never attained such a social status that would make me a prey or target for the mafia. My mind did not come to any conclusion. The only thing that I was sure about was “speed”. However, I did not convert my brisk walk into running, so was the case with those two men following me.
Having walked for quite long through the Strada Nuova, now I was sure it was I whom they followed. They could run but they chose not to. Why? This intensified my curiosity more. I thought maybe they feared I carried a gun, but that had nothing to do with their running. But of course, running was an obvious action of frightening the person they followed. Though I was exhausted and quite tiresome, I did not lose my speed at any point. I thought if they kept moving with that speed, I would be able to reach the train station before they catch me. But St. Lucia station was not that near then. So the fears did not have any choice to be quelled.
Earlier I could see some passer-by strolling along some street, but since those men followed me, I could see no one in the street. It seemed as if I was going to be their victim. First I thought of stopping and talking to them and if they resorted to fighting, I would fight back. But then sanity prevailed because I realized I was in no position to physically be a threat to them. They were apparently stronger. This made me weaker. Besides, I didn’t know if they carried any weapons. I had just a pack of cigarettes and a water bottle apart from the shoulder bag I carried, which also did not have anything special in it, except a few maps, books and some tickets.
I knew I could turn to the main Grand Canal and catch a Vaporetto but was not sure if there was any available the moment I reached the stop. Sometimes they took five to ten minutes to reach the stops, so considering it a risk, I averted my mind from this idea and kept my speed intact.
I crossed St. Felice, subconsciously I had thought if the church were open, I would get some shelter if possible, but having seen the church door closed, I continued walking. The fellows followed me with the same pace.
By now I had crossed Strada Nuova and entered another street, Rio Terra Maddalena.
Now I was sure their speed was faster than it was before. I pushed myself harder but chose not to run, my whole body perspiring. Of course, had I run fast, I couldn’t run for long, I knew. Thanks to their walking. Nevertheless, I maintained the distance, rather at a few points I increased it occasionally.
I wondered why on earth they did not leave the pursuit. Why were they bent on following me? I had done nothing throughout my way from Lido or even San Marco that could have offended anyone. At one point at Lido, I had offered a pretty girl to swim with me, which she happily accepted and we swam in the Mediterranean water for long before indulging in some sensual activities at the beach. Then, I remembered: I had talked to a girl sitting beside me in the Vaporetto, who had come so close to me after our continued chat throughout the way that, a time came, she started kissing me and of course I was not a statue. Two persons there kept gazing me for long and I averted my eyes from them, and since they were at a distance, I could not conclude those persons could be the ones following me. But then why on earth could they follow me? She might be an agent or a criminal herself. She might have to transfer some item from one place to another, which they might have thought was transferred to me. My head was shaking with confusion. Their following me after so long a time was not conceivable. A tourist, I was occupied by whole mental bullshit that came to me, which I certainly knew nothing about. I only knew one thing: speed.
Fears exist. They existed that moment. But fear of what? Could they kill me if I resisted? Could they harm me with a dagger? Snatch my wallet, which had only a few thousand Euros in toto? Could they kidnap me for whatever reason? If it was only the money they wanted without harming or injuring me, it was not a big deal after all. But I was not sure what they wanted, so the fear survived.
Now another street had appeared: Rio Terra San Leonardo. This street like others, if visited in the daytime, would offer one with several shops and a great hustle bustle throughout the day. McDonalds, pizza, Italian and other foods, shopping avenues and what not? The day is like a tiger; while the night like a mouse. This was the last major street up to the St. Lucia train station.
“Even if I reach the train station, who will I find there for help? I’d already been there even at 12 of the midnight the last day; it was like a haunted place; no one was inside, not even at the counter unlike at the stations in Berlin, Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam; but outside the station near stairs there might be some rush of people as it used to be in the preceding days” I thought. Of course, this was the only choice I had by then. I usually went to the station and sat at the bank of the canal near the train stairs and opened my bottles of whiskey or a few cans of Carlsberg and sat there for long to enjoy the serene water of the Grand Canal and peaceful restaurants and hotels abutting on it, some people walking here and there, others drinking like I did, a few couples in their romantic mood etc.
Now I saw the men running after me. I took to running as well.
The place I was running through was sometimes ago used as a ghetto for Jewish population. It was still named as such as they lived there for long and still lived there even after Hitler’s atrocities. Shakespeare’s drama “Merchant of Venice” speaks of Shylock, the Jew merchant, the villain of the drama, who hailed from Venice. That Jew was a villain in Shakespeare’s text, but it was other way round there with me. Those Italians were performing the role of a villain, but of course they apparently belonged to Venice. Perhaps Shakespeare was right, if not in the case of Shylock, then the Venetians. I thought it must have been suffocating for the Jews to have lived in the ghettos. I was also feeling suffocated, more by the fear that traveled through my mind, than by mere running in Venetian Summer. It really was a ghetto in the ghetto street.
Hardly had I reached the bridge at the end of Rio Terra San Leonardo from where the station could be at a running speed of one minute, I had a jerk, and in a few seconds I found myself on the road, face-wards. I stood up and resumed running, my eyes towards the men following me. Before I could handle my running well, I had another fall, this time not with enough time to stand up and balance. The moment I had stood up, I was caught by the men following me.
“Non abbiate paura; siamo amici” or something like that was uttered by one of them.
None of them tried to hold me. Through their gestures, they asked me to open the shoulder bag. I opened the bag reluctantly. I saw the zipper already open, but anyhow I opened the bag from its outer pocket. They, through their gestures, asked me not to put my hand inside. I followed. One of them, put his hand inside the outer pocket of the bag and, after a few seconds, took out something I least expected to see. It was a bomb.
The fellow took the bomb in his hand, which was having a clock in it, and having observed it minutely, cried “Scostare!” I learnt it only when the other fellow turned on a side, and the same asked me to be on the side he had turned. I followed the orders.
The other fellow, who had the bomb in his hand, threw it at a distance towards the Rio Terra San Leonardo Street, where the bomb, having been hit against the road, burst with an explosion. It was not a big explosion after all, but had it exploded while I walked, it could have burst me for good and all.
These men were from Italian Intelligence Agency. They had seen me at Rialto eating pizza and drink wine. There, someone put the bomb in my bag, which I had kept aside, and left. These men followed the fellow, as they saw him putting something inside my bag, as they had also some inside news of the kind of occurrence in the town, and caught him and having known what he had done with my bag, they started following me.
I reached the St. Lucia railway station, hale and hearty, and kept waiting for the train departure for Vienna till the early morning.