February 5, 2015

The Last Ones: Chapter 1


Chapter 1


Nate coughed.

He hated winter.

Winter meant the heavy ash from a thousand chimneys falling down low and scorching the earth. It meant the glow of fire in every window except his. And above all, winter meant the boats that brought the new workers from the mainland, across the sea.

He hated them, and the fact that they always seemed to disappear before he could even learn their names.

As he slowly climbed the iron ladder to the top of the Brick House, the glow from the sea-boats wavering faintly through the smog, he paused and looked back.

Windlyn, they called this city.

What a lovely, beautiful name.

And yes, he supposed that some city out there deserved such a name. But not this one. This one could never own up to what it could’ve been.

It was blackened, and cold.

Heartless.

Nate leaned out as far as his arms would permit, enjoying the pain. He felt strong. Peaceful. But he didn’t have time to watch. Climbing up the rest of the way, he slipped into one of the broken windows and quietly looked around.

There.

Behind a stack of faded paper, he saw a small tuft of black hair sticking out. Nate rolled his eyes. Dumb kid. He was never going to learn.

The papers exploded, and the small, lean body attached to the hair threw itself onto him. They both went down, scattering the glass from the broken window and the precious pages out into the freezing night air.

“Finally!” The little boy grinned. Rolling off of Nate’s chest, he began to rip through the bag thrown on the floor.

“Find anything good?”

Nate groaned as he pushed himself onto his elbow.

“Nothing that concerns you. Besides, you’re going to have enough work on your hands finding all of the paper you just ruined.”

He grabbed the bag from the boy, ruffling his hair. Every time Clara sent him out to collect scraps of trash to turn into paper, Jet made sure he got to him first. One day it was a lens from a crumpled pair of glasses. Last week it was a half of a poster from something called a “carnival.” Clara said it must’ve washed up from the mainland.

Nate slipped down the railing to Clara’s workshop, careful not to topple anymore stacks of paper.

“That better be you, Nathaniel, because I am in a foul mood and am about to tear Jet’s head off.”

Choking down his fear of her “foul mood,” he entered the forbidden place.

So many years ago, she had found those lights strung all around the ceiling of her kingdom. She said they helped her think. Nobody was sure when she began her business. To most, it seemed like she had always been there, timeless as the morning itself.

The book-binder in the Brick House.

The most beautiful thing on the face of creation.

Clara turned to him, her oily fingers still clutching a piece of paper. She was a magic-worker…the woman who turned scraps into books. Taking all of the old manuscripts and stories people brought, she would copy them again. Bind them. Turn them into something that could be read.

She kept most of them, as people had no time for books anymore.

They had become a world of workers. Dead men pulling at machines. Not many of the children brought up under the darkness could even read anymore.

It made Clara cry to talk about it.

So she took in a boy. A scrawny boy, with hair the color of the old pages. She taught him to read. She taught him to steal.

She gave him all of her words, so freely it hurt.

“If you just stand there, I am going to grow old before your eyes and die.” She snapped, running her fingers through her inky black hair.

Nate dropped his bag on a stack of dusty covers, pulling out two whole treasured pieces of paper. Maybe it was the lights, but as Clara pushed up her magnifying goggles, the brilliance in her blue eyes startled him. She really was lovely, underneath the dirt and grime. But perhaps the weight of her work had made her grow old before her time.

Pushing past the old cat who usually sat on Clara’s desk, Jet slipped into the room to gape at the pages.

“How did you find them?” He gasped.

Nate grinned at him, tossing him something wrapped in a greased rag.

“Genius. Trust me, kiddo, I run this city.”

“Liar, you mean. I’ve seen you on the streets. You’re scared, and you’re always sneaking.” Jet sneered, unwrapping the rag. A small wind-up mouse, tail broken long ago, fell into his dirty lap. Picking it up gently, he rolled it over in his fingers…gentle fingers as soft as his personality was rough.

Nate swallowed, watching the boy look over the mouse. How could he just say things like that, as if they were facts everyone knew?

And for so long he had been trying to convince himself that he wasn’t scared.

It wasn’t being alone. He was used to that. Same old story of tragedy…parents lost to a factory fire. Everyone had seen it hundreds of times over. Clara took him in not long after.

Maybe that’s why he was scared.

Because he knew he should’ve been something else, and then things changed.

He was haunted by that change. By that unpredictableness of life.

Jet had taken the mouse apart, carefully picking through the innards.

“It’s missing a gear here, and it’s the one that connects the handle to the rest of the body.” He sighed. It would be impossible to find such a small gear thrown out by accident.

“Hey, maybe I’ll find it tomorrow. No sense in giving up hope just yet.” Nate said slowly, resting his hand on the boy’s shoulder.

Clara looked at both of them gently, wiping the sweat from her forehead. Putting down her tools, she gathered Jet up in her arms and climbed the winding staircase to their corner of the building. It was a small nook; Jet’s was mostly overrun by his collection of things. But it was home.

As she laid the little boy on the bed, he fixed his eyes on Nate.

“Promise to take me with you one day?” He asked.

“Promise.”

Clara pulled his sheets around him, planting a dirty kiss on his forehead. She paused for a moment. So still. So at peace. Not thinking about anything but the life before her eyes, with the messy hair and the turned up nose.

“He’d die for you, Nate.” She whispered.

Nate’s hand closed around the pipe closest to his bed as he watched them.

“I’d never want him to.” He whispered back.

“You never will. But I’m telling you now, before he gets out onto the streets.” Turning, she put her hand on his face.  He could feel the callouses…the places where the pens had rubbed. It was a strong hand. And her eyes. Oh, her eyes. They were all the good things left on the Earth.

“I have lived all of my life trying to tell myself I am not afraid. That I have no reason to fear change. And do know what I’ve found?”

He shook his head, unable to look away.

“I have found that it’s fear that keeps us alive, darling. Keeps us tender. It’s a dark, cold world out there. Staying gentle is the most courageous thing you can do.”

She smiled sadly at the way his eyes held hers. And she knew, for all the world, that it would kill her to lose him.

He was all of her words.

All of them.


xoxo


p.s. alright! i'm about to start sharing some chapters, so feel free to give advice and such. thanks! ♥




14 comments:

  1. *throws off elf hat* *dances into random room*
    I'm in love! I'm in love! And I don't care who knows it!

    I'm already going through withdraws from your story, dear. Must. Read. More.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OH MY GOODNESS. *cries laughing*

      You precious girl. <3 Thank you!

      xoxo

      Delete
  2. Can I cry a river? Can I collect these words and let them be swept away by the current? They are ever so lovely and I'm afraid that they've captured my heart.

    p.s. north & south reference????????? KINDA????????? XDDD <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HAHAHAH YES. North and South forevah.

      Thanks girly. <3

      xoxo

      Delete
  3. Exactly how often will you be posting this BECAUSE I NEED MORE. xD
    Your writing is amazing. Wow. WOW.
    *flails arms* More, more, more!!!
    ~Adi

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I cannot stop laughing.

      You are literally the best!!

      I'm planning on posting a chapter at LEAST every two weeks. Possibly one week. We shall see. *grin*

      xoxo

      Delete
  4. I'm SO looking forward to this series ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ A million hearts + smilies can't describe my excitement. ♥

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have no idea how happy that makes me, Vanshi!! I'm so excited to share it. :-D ♥

      xoxo

      Delete
  5. I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH. *dead*

    ReplyDelete
  6. *mouth drops to the ground*
    I love, love this! I NEED to feed on this, more!
    MORE!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Love this line: "She gave him all of her words, so freely it hurt."
    GIRL, your writing! <3

    ReplyDelete

be kind.

xx