February 23, 2015

The Last Ones: Chapter 3

(By Samuel Elkins)

Chapter 3

Sunrise.

That holy moment of the day when the world holds its breath until the sun has just come up over the mountains. 

And instead of triumph and glory, the world simply exhales.

It surprises us every time.

The hard, smelly feet of Jet woke up Nate, as they pummeled his back into a pulp. The kid was nice enough to look at, until you got down to his toes. 

Disgusting. 

Leaning forward, the boy pried one of his victim’s eyes open.

“Geez, you sure are a hard sleeper. I’ve been waiting for hours!” He yelled at a volume that made Nate want to kill him.

Nate shoved him off and grabbed his things through the fog of sleep, trying to grab at pieces of something he couldn’t quite remember. It was a picture on the edge of his conscious...a dream that was clouded. 

All he could hear was a humming.

And behind the humming were words that made his skin itch. 

He saw that Clara had put out breakfast, which meant it must be Saturday. The only day she took off, although she always ended up reading for most of it. Nate stared at the milk she was pouring into a bowl, and sat down numbly on the wooden bench.

“Where in the world did you get milk from?” He asked, dazed. 

“A couple of traders from the mainland were in town today, and since it’s a special one, I thought we’d celebrate. Don’t ask me how much I paid though…you won’t like the answer.” 

She winked as she fixed the top buttons on Jet’s coat.

Nate groaned, and put his head in his hands.

“You can’t be serious! You want me to take the brat out for the first time on a Saturday? Every kid and his uncle is going to be out there dumping at the heaps.”

“Which makes it the perfect time for him to learn how to keep out of sight! And besides, I’m not arguing with you, Nathaniel. You’re taking him out whether you want to or not.”

Nate noted that one of her eyebrows was dangerously close to raising, so he dropped the topic. 

Jet was smiling at him smugly. His black hair was sticking up even more than usual, and it made him look wild. Unhuman, even. He was wearing the leather jacket of a roamer, and he had obviously been rubbing dirt on it to make it look worn.

Roamers were a strange breed. Most worked for private companies, stealing loose ends for bosses they barely knew. Others were dangerous, and they killed to get what they needed. Factory works were afraid of them, as they often caused trouble with the Sentries, but they mostly stayed out of sight. 

Nate had only met one in his lifetime.

He remembered the light in the man’s eyes, so unlike the deadness in everyone else. He was a runner, quick and strong, beautiful almost. 

Someone they couldn’t tame. 

He had been standing on top of one of the steel factories, framed against the burning sky like some sort of blackened bird. Nate had gulped in the fire from the sunset like it was water, and when he looked for the man again, he was gone. 

But he felt alive.

Alive, and desperate to be someone free of whatever spell was on this place.

Jet was anxiously drumming his thumbs on the table by the time Nate was done with breakfast, and the moment they stepped outside, he was off running.

Nate looked back once more.

Beautiful Clara with the dirty hands.

She waved to him gently, eyes filled with silver tears, and he smiled sadly at the lights strung up behind her.

Jet had almost dashed into the street by the time Nate caught up to him and grabbed onto his collar. Women hurrying past blinked at them; a vendor from across the street stared nervously at him. 

“Idiot! One more step and you could’ve gotten yourself killed.”

“Oh please. As fast as I am, they wouldn’t even see me.” He sneered back.

Nate dragged him into the shade of the building and away from any prying eyes. Stumbling down the street in a single file line, the workers were being herded to the factories, and there were at least a dozen Sentries standing guard.

They looked hollow, as they shuffled in their grey rags. Their eyes were empty of everything except breath.

Like lungs, right before death.

The tragedy of a human life being sucked away right before his eyes.

“You get caught, Jet, and they’ll put you in that line. They’ll take your name, and your life, and they’ll burn you in some parts-making factory. Even if you-“

Nate whirled around. How in heaven’s name could a kid run so quietly? 

And just as he was making a good speech too.

Trying to stay out of the way of the Sentries, he ran back up the ally that they had come down. Curse the boy! He could be anywhere. 

“Lose something?” 

He turned and threw a punch at the speaker, but he was too late. The boy grabbed his arm, tightening his grip until tears sprang to Nate’s eyes. 

“If you’ve done anything to him-“ Nate gasped.

But the boy only smirked.

“Relax, kid. I haven’t done anything to your precious baby boy. I’m just resuming our conversation. What did you do with the gear?” 

Nate writhed in the boy’s grasp, trying to remember what he had done with his knife. The pieces from the dream were beginning to fall into place again. But the boy’s eyes only flashed in response. 

“Answer me!”

“Tell me what the humming was, and I’ll tell you where I put the gear.”

Slowly, the iron grip on his arm lessened. The wolfish look had returned to the other’s face; a hungry, frightened look. He motioned for Nate to follow him, and took off at a run down the alley. 

By the time Nate caught up, he was sucking air and sweating. The boy had grown no slower overnight. A Sentry passed by the mouth of the alley, and the glare of his cold eyes reflected in the light. As an order, the Sentries always kept their faces covered, so that you could only see their eyes.

Maybe they were monsters after all.

The boy waited patiently until he had passed.

“I’m Charlie, by the way.”

Nate almost laughed. Almost. Charlie raised an eyebrow at him, daring to make fun of the name that didn’t quite fit. But there was a half-smile on his face.

“If you want to know what the humming was, I have to make sure you’re what I think you are. Where did you put the gear?”

“I put it into a mechanical mouse that belongs to the kid you saw with me.” Nate replied, wondering where in the world Jet had gone. 

Charlie looked surprise.

“And did it fit in the mouse?”

It was Nate’s turn to be surprised. What did the mouse have to do with anything?

“The gear was a test, mush-brain. You found it, which was the first test, but it didn’t fit into anything that belonged to you.”

The boy groaned and suddenly slammed his fist into the wall. 

“You’re not the person we need.” Charlie muttered, and his voice cracked. He raised his eyes to Nate and the fury in them made the boy step back.

“I bet everything on you. Everything on the fact that we would find you here. And now, I’ve come all this way to find out I was wrong.” He shouted.

From somewhere up the alley, a shadow was cast into the light. 

“You’re wrong, Charlie. This is the boy from the dream.” 

Standing beside a haggard looking Jet was a girl. She was small, and thin, with pale blond hair strung into a braid down her back.

A ghost?

She turned her soft, almost translucent eyes onto Nate, and he knew she wasn’t. 

She was something better. But something just beyond his understanding. 

“If they both passed part of the test, then we have found everything we need.” She said quietly. 

Her voice.

Like a sound he knew, but couldn’t remember. 

Charlie pushed past him towards the girl. His eyes were still furious, but that only made Nate more angry and confused. 

“Quit staring at her, mush-brain.” He snapped. 

If he had been two inches shorter, Nate would’ve slugged him. But he wasn’t, and Nate had never been a very good fighter. Better to live a little longer than to die young. Jet was blinking away tears that Nate had never seen him cry as he drew closer.

“Why would you do that to me? Why would you run after I told you not to?” He muttered, clamping onto the boy’s shoulder. 

Jet pushed his hands away and stared back furiously.

“Because you’ve always been a coward! And I didn’t want you slowing me down.” He snarled. 

So, that was it? They were just words, yes, but somehow they drew blood. Nate tried to breath. Tried to think. 

The girl was watching him when the blackness cleared. Something in her gaze made his muscles relax, like she was cutting all of the strings connected to his bones. 

That’s when the humming began again. 

Charlie cursed under his breath, and Nate caught a glimpse of something like a man farther down the alley. It was all shadowed that way.

It made his blood run cold.

The girl grabbed Jet’s hand and turned to run. She was strangely quick, moving more like water than flesh and bones. Charlie pushed Nate after her, and yelled something about running. As if the chilling darkness behind them wasn’t enough to make his legs work.

Every time he looked to his left, Nate could see the dark figure moving with them. When they turned, it came up a road. When they went straight, it would stay level with them. He began to have the horrible feeling that it was simply waiting.

Waiting for someone to stumble.

And then who could save them? 

Sunlight nearly blinded him.

The girl had led them onto the main road, and had ducked into one of the many taverns that the Traders used. Nate barely had a moment to think before Charlie pushed him through the door.



xoxo


p.s. sorry this isn't love overflowing! i couldn't access my photo-editor. i'll be away most of this week, but i'll try to get some posts out (including love overflowing!) love you all immensely!


14 comments:

  1. Seeing this was up made my whole morning better. Eee, it's so good!!! ^-^
    ~Adi

    ReplyDelete
  2. Love your blog design!

    -elly
    a-girl-named-elly.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Elly! I really enjoy it too. :-D

      xoxo

      Delete
  3. Woah. Please keep writing this story. *bows down*

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  4. Replies
    1. Yesss! Keep your eyes peeled! *picture of bananas on your eyes* ♥

      xoxo

      Delete
  5. OH MY
    you should totally become a full time writer. your books will be bestsellers and your writing is so freakingly amazing ♥♥
    this was sooo good. i can't wait for more! xxx.

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    Replies
    1. ELISABETH.

      This made me laugh so hard I snorted a chip into my lungs.

      thank youuu. ♥

      xoxo

      Delete
  6. Your writing could bring on world peace.
    It's that pure and good and perfect in every which way. <3 <3 <3

    ReplyDelete

be kind.

xx