This is a story I started writing back in 2007, but had no idea where I wanted to go with it.
Sofia sighed deeply, her misty breath hanging in the air for a few seconds before disappearing into the twilight gloom. It was raining again – it always seemed to rain here, no matter what time of year it might be. Grey skies, grey buildings, grey streets, grey looks in peoples' eyes… No wonder they called this place Slateham.
Its lack of emotion, that was the thing. Any emotion would be a start. But no, this wasn't even the kind of place you could get depressed about. it was too dull for that, a kind of oppressive, invasive, terrible dullness that got inside you and infected you and converted you to its cause.
“I hate this place,” she said to herself over and over again, just to keep the hatred alive, just to keep herself from fading away into the dusk. “I really hate it. I really, really hate it!”
Then she'd realise that she was thinking childishly, so she'd think instead of the reason she was here.
It seemed strange to say it, but she'd come here to find God. She wasn't exactly sure what she'd do once she found Him – “Hah! It's not as if I'm on some humble pilgrimage,” she whispered to herself – but she was confident that some kind of plan would present itself.
There were the beginnings of a plan, anyway. There was another of her kind in Slateham, one more favoured by Heaven. Surely she – her name was “Ahava”, apparently – would know the way back. It was bound to be allowed, after all. If times were ending, and so many said they were, then so was her punishment. Finally, after so many years, she could go home!
Thunder crackled across the heavens, and the rain began to fall with renewed intensity. Even under the bridge where Sofia stood the rain fell, in droplets from the cracks high above and in tiny rivulets across the smoke-blackened brick.
Sofia reached into her bag and lifted out the pack of cigarettes and the tacky plastic lighter that sat jammed down between her perpetually silent mobile and the make-up she might one day have a reason to use.
Two left. She sighed, sending a plume of condensation out into the uncaring night. Nowhere would be open at this time; Slateham just wasn't a “24/7” kind of town.
“Shit,” she muttered, and lit one anyway. Then, pulling her coat around her and steeling herself against the freezing cold air and pouring rain, she left the shelter of the bridge and headed home.