I walked through the dark cobbled streets of Rome. It was three in the morning, but I couldn’t sleep so I decided to take the opportunity to photograph Rome at night, free of tourists. It was mid-week and everyone was in bed. There was a Spring chill in the air and I was thankful for my fleece. Sitting on a bench by the Trevi Fountain, I reviewed my work. The Trevi Fountain is magical at night. I took a few moments to inhale its beauty.
I was startled by a soft voice close by. I looked up to see a young girl sitting on the wall by the water.
“You startled me, what are you doing here all alone?”
“There was a fire alarm in my hotel and we had to leave.”
“Where are your parents?”
“They’re looking for me. I heard them call my name, but I couldn’t see them. There was smoke.”
“Lets go and find them.” I said and held out my hand. She took it and walked with me. Her fingers were icy. Taking off my fleece, I wrapped it around her shoulders as she led me down an alley and into another piazza, one I hadn’t visited before. We turned onto a small dark street. It was desolate and deserted.
I heard the whisper of a womans voice. “Lisa, Lisa, where are you?”
“Listen, I hear someone. Is your name Lisa?” I asked.
Standing still, I listened, but the voice never came again. The street was badly lit and I proceeded with care until I came to the ruins of a building. The blackened walls told me it had been destroyed by fire. Shadows moved ominously inside. The doorway was gone, but the steps that once led to the entrance were tiled and the top step read “Hotel Delphi”
“Lisssssaaaaaaaa.” The very building seemed to whisper now.
“Come on, let’s get you back to your hotel,” I said to no one. The young girl whose hand I’d been holding was gone.
Now I was cold, very cold. I looked around, but there was no sign of the little girl, or my fleece. I hurried back to my hotel, confused and a little scared. Had the darkened streets of Rome sparked my imagination to see things that weren’t there?
The following day, after breakfast I returned to the Trevi Fountain which was now bustling with tourists, all eager to have their photograph taken near the beautiful landmark. I wanted to tell them how much better it looked at three in the morning. I shivered as I remembered the cold young girl, and retraced my steps to the darkened alleyway and condemned hotel.
I found the remains of Hotel Delphi. In the daylight the damage was clear to see. It had burned long ago and was nothing more than a shell. An old man approached, a sad smile on his face. He began talking to me in Italian.
“I’m English.” I said, smiling apologetically.
“Thirty years I work there, concierge. My life was there. Twenty people die in the fire.” he said in broken English.
“Oh, I’m sorry that’s awful. How long ago was the fire?”
“Five years to the day. The owners die, and no one has money to rebuild.” He walked away, shaking his head sadly.
I stared at the remains of the building. Something caught my eye. It was my red fleece wrapped around a blackened statue. The statue of an angel.
“Lisa, Lisssssaaaaa.” The sad voice carried on the wind.
I shivered and walked away.
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