The colours under the bridge and the underpass changed on a pattern, shifting gently from yellow into green, then blue, into red ( which for a moment showed a hint of purple) past into orange and returning to yellow at the beginning and end of the sequence. The sequence, which was slow enough to be almost unnoticeable, created a strange doubling effect with the river, especially on nights when the river was placid and still. The bridge, illuminated as it was, reflected by the flat plane of dark water beneath it became a tunnel, an opening, a multicoloured radiant doorway.
The man who huddled in the underpass, shivering against the cold breeze, was there for the door. He’d been waiting for an hour or so, trying to stay warm until midnight, regulating his breathing so that the light would be red as he inhaled, blue as he exhaled, the theory being that the red would warm him, the blue cool. His eyes were swimming with tears and mucus flowed freely and uninterrupted from his nose. He wore nothing but a hospital gown and a large Aran sweater that was uncomfortably large and scratched at his arms and neck. His legs seemed almost too thin to support him and his bare feet bled from a multitude of small cuts and punctures.
The voice came from out of the dark, flat and nasal with a hint of the Cardiff accent, a curious elongation of vowels, a flattened O sound, and an unpleasant sharpness that stabbed at the man’s ears. He shook himself and blinked in the green light, then brushed the tears from his eyes and tried to stand. The effort was too much for him and his abortive attempt earned him a place sprawled on the cold paving slabs, chest heaving with exertion. There were soft footsteps, and then a pair of bare feet, tanned to an almost gold complexion, moved into his eye line.
“Joseph. You look tired my son.” The owner of the voice crouched next the pitiful figure of Joseph and gently smoothed down his rumpled hair with a sympathetic moan. He was hairless himself, his skin tanned and exposed to the elements, although he seemed not to notice the bitter chill in the air. “Why did you call me here tonight?”
Joseph rolled himself over, his brimming eyes casting around wildly, searching for the golden man.
“I need to get out of here. You said you had a way. A way out? Right?”
The golden man’s eyes narrowed and a sneer curled his lips.
“You sound like a dog Joseph. A whipped dog. After all I’ve shown you, you want to leave now? “He made a disappointed clucking sound with his tongue. “Why? What has scared you so much that you run with your tail between your legs?”
“She knows. She has seen me, and spoken to me. She says that I will die if I stay here.”
The golden man straightened up and nodded sharply. His eyes were cold and the colour of well cut topaz.
“There is a path my son, out over the river, that angles towards the bridge. You will need to jump from the path towards the door, and pray that your faith is strong enough to carry you across to that other place. You haven’t long.”
Joseph nodded frantically and began to crawl towards the river as the golden man walked away, his naked body pulsing with colour as the lights beneath the bridge began to change more rapidly. Then the lights slowed again, and the golden man was gone.
Joseph sank like a stone.