I emerged from the movie theater, a dark helmet clasped under my arm. Instead of my usual light gray hooded cloak I wore my best coat, heavy black wool with a tightly cut torso in slightly military fashion, descending in waves of ample drapery at the back, resembling a victorian dress.
The Witcher and his friends were close behind me. I had come to the capital on account of the institute’s Christmas party, but since it was also the day of the Star Wars premiere I had decided I could just as well do both.
The theater we had picked was small and inconspicuous, an insider tip located in an alley in the city’s cultural center. The bell of a nearby church chimed 6 pm as we made our way down the narrow streets aiming for the metro station – or at least in that general direction.
“Guys, do we know where we are going?”
“Yes, I’m pretty sure that this is the way.”
The Witcher had also been pretty sure about the location of the theater, still we had found ourselves in a dead end on our way there.
“Well, if you don’t know you can just say so and let me navigate my own way.”
“No, we know what we are doing.”
The next turn brougt us out of the alleyways and back unto a street, bright shop windows and Christmas decorations lighting the way. A girl stared at the helmet, then smiled at me as we passed her. The Witcher took his phone out of his pocket.
“Me checking on my GPS doesn’t mean I don’t know where we are.”
I slowed my steps, watching the Wichter walk on without me, looking at his phone and mumbling: “I just want to make sure.”
As his friends joined him and everyone’s attention was elsewhere, some quick strides in another direction brought me away from the group. Before I had time to think about what I was doing, I was around a corner, out of view from the others. Now there was no turning back. If some unconciscous, slightly mischievous part of me had decided to play a joke on them, it would have to be done properly.
I quickened my steps, still keeping my usual poise to avoid unsettling the people nearby.
I knew I would have to take at least two turns unseen to have truly escaped, and I suspected them being close behind me.
Adrenaline rushed through me as I hastened on a little faster. I passed people buying last-minute Christmas presents, others leasurely strolling the streets glancing at shop windows. A slight scent of cinnamon and vanilla hung in the air when I finally broke into a run, the cold wind of speed hitting my face.
So many times had I been chased in my sleep. Running away is a re-occuring motive in my dreams. I was now living my dream… and it felt good! It felt free! I was grinning like a madman as I sped over the ancient cobblestones in my high heeled boots.
The city around me was a whirl of darkness interspersed with hundreds of tiny lights. This was the capital, the city of music, the city of dreams, the center of a huge empire before its much deserved downfall, now nothing more than a tiny sparkle in the sky of today’s politics, but still beautiful! I would never admit it to the Witcher, because disliking the capital is obligatory in my country for anybody not living there, it’s like a sport, a game, something you just do. But deep down I loved its old manors, its vast parks, its grimy charm, even the people living there, infamous for being always grumpy, always complaining. Never tell it to anyone, but I love the capital!
I made another turn, hurried along the high walls of a church. There was a crowd blocking the way ahead of me. Another turn, and the next street brought me straight to a brightly illuminated square. I took the steps up a fountain and came to a halt.
Panting I took in my surroundings… Tourist groups made their way across the square, men in suits opened doors to visitors of the most expensive shops. Hundreds of voices surrounded me. Sweet smells hung in the air, originating from a nearby Christmas market, where people drank hot wine and ate roasted chestnuts. Looking up I noticed an ocean of little lights, forming festive images. Obviously nobody had been following me.
I wanted to take a picture to send to the Witcher and let him guess where I was, so I took out my phone and saw that he had called me numerous times. Still in a playful mood, I declined his next call and took some pictures. However, I had no chance to send them because I was almost constantly called by his phone.
It then occurred to me that he might not have found this funny at all, and might in fact be genuinely worried about me.
“Where are you?”
“I’m next to a fountain.”
“You what? Wait. Which fountain? Where did you go? We turned away for 2 seconds and you were gone! Can you walk back?”
“Honestly, I have no clue which way I came.”
“Argh! Stay where you are! Don’t move!”
My mood still up, I bathed in the lights of the Christmas decorations, enjoying the song of a distant choir until I could see him approaching me, easily to be spotted amids the crowd by being taller than anyone else by a head, and he seemed not amused. Not often have I seen him genuinely angry, but he was now.
I greeted him cheerfully, with my best smile, crushing the ice at first contact.
“Why did you do this?”
“I don’t know! But it was wonderful! I had always wanted to try this, but it was the first time I actually did!”
“Let it be the last time as well.”
He had been worried and I felt sorry now. I let them escort me to the metro station, hugged him and his friends and drove off to the Christmas party, still carrying the Darth Vader’s helmet.
It is Christmas, so for a change you got an almost up-to-date entry today.
I wish all of you happy holidays, whatever the festivities of your choice might be, may they be like my small adventure: full of lights and laughter and people caring enough for you to be worried when you are gone, and to forgive you when you did something stupid. 😉