Dodging the debris and dust that arose around her, I approached. The stonework of Warner Place had opened up and cradled the young woman like a babe in its mother’s arms. Her nude form lay still and I strained to see if her lungs took in breath. As a man in my thirties, I’d seen nude women many times, but I felt awkward about looking at her. I felt that my concentration on her chest would give others pause to speculate as to my intentions. Her chest didn’t pulse as if breaths were drawn and that brought on a profound sense of loss. Only her long blond hair moved, dancing in the wind.
“Did ya see that?” an old woman said as she stepped up to my side. “A bit unseemly, I’d say. Guess she flung herself off the roof. Another jumper I reckon.” She scoffed when my eyes didn’t move away from the young woman. “Could’ve had the decency to have put a stitch or two on before leaping.”
I glanced at her and nodded slightly. An elderly couple braved the dust as well to get a look at her. While the old man studied the scene intently, his wife tugged at his arm not wanting to see what she assumed was a tragedy. She nagged him to take her home until he finally gave in and they walked off without another word spoken.
The number of folks who’d jumped from the rooftop or taken their own lives had steadily increased after the European continent had formally collapsed and fallen into the hands of the Otherworlders. The number increased even more when word reached us that the Americans had fallen as well.
With England now standing alone against the alien horde, most people had lost hope and only longed for a quick, painless end. I couldn’t blame them. The Otherworlders wanted more than just land, they wanted us. Every captured soul in the occupied lands were nothing more than food stock, assuming that anyone other than the aliens still lived in those blackened lands. And London stood almost empty due to the daily shells that rained in each afternoon from the massive cannons on the northern coast of France.
My gaze moved to the rooftops and I scanned for any signs of foul play. A naked girl just doesn’t fall from the sky, but what bothered me were the heights of the surrounding structures. The buildings were simply not tall enough for someone to have garnered the speed to make such a devastating impact. When my eyes returned to her, I lacked the ability to understand why her body didn’t show more signs of damage or distress. The impact should have shattered her petite form, spilling blood and organs everywhere.
But she lay there as beautiful as a sleeping princess, awaiting a prince to kiss and awaken her. Flawless, pale flesh and golden locks were a stark contrast to the dark, crumbled stones that she lay in, like a pearl resting within the black and gray shell of an oyster.
“I don’t think she jumped,” I whispered, only to hear the old woman scoff again.
Cautiously, I stepped into the crater and knelt beside her. Her chest heaved slightly, and I almost jumped. Clearing my throat, I looked back to the old woman.
“She’s alive. She’s breathing,” my voice shook slightly, hinting at the fear within me. She couldn’t be natural, maybe not even of this world. No one could have survived a fall like that. I inwardly cursed my inability to deal with the moment in a calm and manly manner. “She, she must be hurt. Is there a carriage about?”
“Bloomin’ city is emptied out. Ain’t nobody around here exceptin’ you and me.”
My mind raced on what course of action I should take. She needed help, medical attention and what not, but without a cart that meant carrying the lass, a dozen or so blocks to the nearest hospital. My flat lay just around the corner, but still, I wasn’t a doctor, not in the medical sense, anyway. And there was the meeting that I should already be sitting at.
I had hoped to catch one of the steambuses that still operated and get to Whitehall and the War Office. My meeting wasn’t urgent. It was more of the usual updating the Admiralty on my efforts. I’m a scientist, a tinkerer, and since the war started, a weapons designer.
I started to scoop her into my arms but hesitated. It’d be unseemly to carry a nude young woman about town, let alone into my flat. I glanced at the old woman and caught sight of a flag pole behind her. The impact had damaged the stones beneath it, causing it to tilt over. I bolted over to it, snatched the Union Jack that dangled from its midpoint and returned to her. With care, I wrapped her up and then lifted the unconscious woman from the damaged stones.
The young woman’s body fell limp in my arms. I groaned at the weight, estimating her at fourteen stone. Yet, she was a tiny little thing and appeared to weigh half that amount.
“Whatchya gonna do with her?” the old woman yelled as I started toward my flat.
I stopped and hesitated, not really knowing what the best course of action would be. Looking back, I replied, “Taking her home. My woman can see to her needs while I fetch a doctor.”
Then I stopped, remembering the situation at home. I had no woman or servants of any kind, not any more. My housekeeper had abandoned me and the city after the enemy’s shells began to fall. All that awaited us in my flat was a laboratory and enough food for a month of good eating. Still, there were few options and her weight prohibited me from carrying her all the way to the hospital.
“On second thought, my woman has escaped the city. Perhaps, you could assist?” I asked. “I’m lousy when it comes to cooking and I’m sure she needs a meal and what-not.”
She looked annoyed until I mentioned food. “Well, mind ya that I’m only coming along causin’ it wouldn’t be proper for a man your age to be carrying a girl like that about.”
“I have others at the lab, several men who assist me in my work, but they’d be no help with…’ I said and nodded towards the woman in my arms.
As I did so, my eyes fixated on her round face. Without a doubt, her beauty was beyond measure. She had rich full lips that were as red as crimson and a small nose, which turned up slightly at the tip. My thoughts were so dazzled by her appearance that I failed to see anything else, including the old woman as she approached. She stepped quickly to my side and gave me a suspicious look.
“Call me Mattie.”
I nodded and glanced over at her, “umm ... and I am Thomas Laybourne, the third. My friends call me Tom.”
“Hmm, nice to be makin’ your acquaintance, Mr. Laybourne.”
To read the rest of the story, you'll have to wait until the anthology is out. :)