The Prophet of Partridge Square

by Chris Starr

He was not a prophet.

He had been a soldier, had campaigned in the endless wars on the continent. Not from London, but here now, the miseries of the city lain out before him like thatch, one strand woven to the next, over-under-over, so that every unique misery disappeared into the whole, countless whispers subsumed by a scream. A scream made by everyone, by everything, by every wicked body that moaned and keened and ate and stank and bled, a scream that only he could hear.                   

He was not a prophet.                    

And then: he was.                   

It started in mutterings — in whispers, yes — as he made his self-appointed patrol of Partridge Square. This watch was his for weeks now; the shopkeepers here and the rest of the sinners had long since stopped paying him mind. Just another nameless man come back broken from war. Broken mind, broken body. A dead man with dead eyes and blistering feet that shuffled along while they waited for the rest of his body to realize that it was dead.                    

His patrol traced the edges of the square. Started at the stone of church steps — clack-clack, clack-clack — then sixteen paces scratched in dirt — Chh-chh. Chh-chh — right six-and-twenty past the bodies selling low things and vanities, right again, then footfalls drowned by the roar of the forge that seared him as he passed, promised purification, begged him to stay, to draw near, to come home to the only true thing in this corrupted creation, the Holy Ghost's last vestige left to this earthly realm — for what else rose when all else fell? What else rid souls of bodies, like smoke released from timber and pitch?

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