Filth’s heart was pounding in his ears. His breath was haggard and sent spirals of smoke into a night already dense with smog. He had waited several hours in the tree until the sky was coated with several layers of midnight black. The moon was merely a sliver of dull grey and there was not even the faintest pinprick of a star to be seen. The surge of adrenaline was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time, as Filth dodged his way through alleys and behind buildings. He opted for a longer route to avoid meeting any Es. Finally, he was crouching behind the half crumbled remains of a stone corridor that would eventually lead to the inner Tower.
Despite the hours in the tree, Filth still hadn’t settled on an actual plan. A plan was a useful thing indeed and he was not absent one for lack of trying. His brain had worked and reworked all scenarios and they all typically ended in him being caught, getting himself beat down to a sniveling red pulp of a man, and thrown into some kind of dungeon or pit where he would wallow away his remaining days in despair and starvation. Perhaps he would share the time with a little rat, who would become his friend and messenger. Filth would train it to send messages to Clem. Of course Clem would be unconscious anyhow, but maybe she would wake up just enough to know the rat was a message from Filth. Then again, a rat is just a rat and would probably eat him when he’s dead. This is how Filth’s mind worked anyways, when he asked it to work out a plan. So, unfortunately, Filth was crouching outside the Tower with no idea what he was doing.
Crouching seemed more suspicious and anyways, it wasn’t seeming to help. He hadn’t actually seen anyone yet. It was an eerily quiet night. Although anyone scrupulous would be asleep by now and anyone who remained awake would prefer to operate within the silence of shadows. Hesitantly, he stood, while a chill ran down his spine. With the mantra, For Clem, resolving his will, Filth’s feet slowly moved forward, away from shelter and into the unknown. It was thrilling. He would have yelled out, howled at the bit of moon, if he wasn’t too frightened. He had never felt so alive in his life.
Then he did yell, abruptly, right before a hand muffled the rest of it. The man had been so immersed in darkness, Filth had not seen him, until he walked directly into his back. Filth had yelled out like a complete imbecile. The man had jumped slightly, but despite being startled, had quickly dominated Filth with one hand over filth’s mouth and a knife quickly pressed into Filth’s stomach.
Idiot, Filth chided himself, while panic swept through him.
“I’m going to move my hand, but you got to shut-up, kid. Got it?”
Filth nodded his head. The man slowly removed his hand, but not the knife. This was every bit an E: the sags of fatty fleshy jowls, the meaty fingers and the perfectly tailored suit. Filth was very conscious of his own NW qualities.
“A little late to be out here, eh kid?”
Filth just nodded his head. It was like being a kid all over again, being caught with the baker’s bread.
“What business you got in there, kid? You know, a place like this isn’t a place you want to be.”
“Yes it is.” Filth surprised himself by squeaking out a sentence. The man raised his eyebrows.
“Ya. I need to make money.”
“You up for that kind of money, kid?”
Filth had no idea what that meant, but nodded anyway.
The man clucked his tongue and shook his head. “Ok, kid.” He said, “Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.”
The man put his arm around Filth and walked him forward, toward the Tower.
For Clem. You idiot! For Clem.
Holly opened her eyes and blinked. Feeling dazed for a moment, realization came swiftly along with the fear that had been gnawing at her lately, knotting her insides. She had wandered away from the house, again.
It was night and she felt the cold nip at her bare arms. Apparently, she had gone out without thinking of dressing for the chill. Holly looked around and felt her insides heave with fear, while trembling, she hugged herself. She did not feel right; this did not feel right. Was she dreaming? She had never been cold like this in a dream though. No, this was real.
“Oh, no, oh no, oh no,” she began to panic. How had she gotten here? She was standing between the stone walls of the Tower’s courtyard. It had been thirty years since last she had been here. At the time, she had been an invited guest of the Author when she was a free citizen. Now, she was a trespasser of the worst kind: a westerner off her turf past curfew.
The door swung open behind her and she spun around.
“Why are you out here?” A man’s gruff voice asked.
Holly’s legs moved as if of their own accord. Numbers spiraled through her mind, turning the walls into measurements of depth and height, while her optimal trajectory to leap over the fence formed its spiral: run four feet forward and leap. She knew from past experience that her body would follow the path and obey the cues, as if the years melted from her bones. She was keenly aware that the man was moving toward her and that shouting echoed in the distance. Holly ran, feeling the exhilaration of her body slice through the friction of the wind.
Holly bound forward, sticking her right leg down as she prepared to fly through the air in a gazelle like leap. Pain wretched through her supporting foot as her ankle turned dangerously under her and as her body fell, the numbers fell with her, dissipating into reality. She griped her ankle, crying out. Bewildered, she saw the problem. She was wearing heels. Holly was too practical and too old to wear heels. These were Cray’s.
Distracted by her confusion and pain, Holly did not notice that the man was now standing above her, until his tight grip was around her arm, yanking her to her feet. She cried out again.
“Come on.” He said, as he grabbed at her. She stumbled, her ankle turning, but he tightened her grip so she did not fall. He sighed loudly. He hoisted her small frame into his arms, carrying her off like a silly child. That’s how she felt at this moment, like a helpless, stupid silly child, who was losing her mind.
That I am, so you are. If not for me, there would not be you. Your reality is the construct of my perspective and without my gaze upon you , which recognizes you as alive, you would not be. The evidence of me is you. If you are alive with conscious thoughts, then although I have departed from this dimension, you know I exist.
There are many levels of conscious beings that roam the third dimension. Some are flat, low-level creatures that exist as a background to me and my incarnates. Their purpose is hardly more than to be shrubbery or perhaps as drones to carry out the activities of society. They are the worker bees, but less intelligible. Unlike the flats, worker bees, knowingly and with devoted purpose, serve their Queen.
These flat, unconscious characters hardly know anything because their bodies have been developed, but their minds have not. For it is the mind that compels the body to act toward that fulfillment of achieving a soul. A death of a flat character is hardly anything to be concerned with. Surely, many will die as I depart. But, do not mourn a flat as they are nothing more than dust. Do not feel guilt toward taking the life of a flat, or using them to your advantage. It is no different than pulling a carrot from the soil and chopping it up for your soup.
Only those characters with consciousness will understand my words, which are as breath to the body. You will recognize each other by the roles you play in my story. You must be diligent. Do not allow a flat to impede you, for in doing so, you may lose your role.
“Bye, ma,” Cray whispered into her ear while she stroked back her mother’s grey hair to reveal a tear moistened cheek. Cray planted a quick kiss thereupon, tasting the saltiness of her tears. Her mother stared out through large vacant eyes. Cray wrinkled her forehead and her lips pulled down into a disapproving frown. Her mother had been going off, more and more lately, into her own mind. Cray sighed. At least they would not have to fight this time.
Cray stepped into a night that would have been beautiful had she been wearing more clothes to shelter her from its chilly bite. Not wearing enough clothes was the point though. She crossed her arms and tried to pull the bits of her shawl a little tighter around her shoulders. This action made her rather humble bust look a little bit bigger. There is a always a positive side, if you look for it. Of course, it helps to keep a sardonic sense of humor, especially in this hell hole.
Cray walked along the usual path toward the gates, where a group of skinny, scantily-clad girls were also waiting and clutching themselves in futile attempts to stay warm.
“You’re actually on time,” Voila said in a voice that sounded too husky for her frame. “I can see why you’re usually late: you need all the time you can get to look even a little human.” She looked up and down Cray’s short stature with distaste while another girl snickered.
Cray shrugged, “Congratulations.”
“For what?” Voila asked.
“For standing upright despite that huge melon head of yours. That’s really impressive. Honestly, I’m amazed your neck hasn’t snapped yet, if not from the enormity of your head, than by the stupidity of your mouth. Seriously, I am really surprised no one has killed you yet. You are a freaking miracle.”
Voila rolled her eyes and huffed, but Cray was spared a retort as the gates opened up. Cray quickly shot out her right leg, pulled back her shawl and stood with her chest out as far as possible. All the girls stood in a line, all of them needing desperately to be picked.
The Captain was a portly man with hungry eyes that took his time eyeing each of them. He fed off of their desperation and anxiety more than anything else. Small men, petty men, crave any kind of power. He was the kind of man that liked leaving his girls with an imprint of his hand. Luckily for him, Cray, despite being chosen for the Tower on numerous occasions, had never been his personal choice.
He squatted down to look Cray in the face. He bloody well knew what she looked like. This was just part of his game. She felt her face redden and her shoulders shuddered involuntarily. She had, however, picked a wire on the gate as her focal point and this steadied her. The Captain breathed in deeply with a small nose whistle and then blew out into her face, so that the meat on his breath made her nose wrinkle. After his lungs emptied, he whistled in through his nose, stood upright and continued down the line.
Finally, he walked behind them continuing his painstakingly carefree stride.
“Captain?” a young guard said.
“Sir, I do not wish to be impertinent, but the girls are expected at the Tower.”
“Yes. Yes, very well. This one,” the Captain said pushing Liza forward. “And, you, you and you,” Voila, Noor, Clements were pushed forward.
Come on, Cray urged. Yesterday, she had arrived just as the gates were shutting with the selections on the other side. She needed to get through tonight.
“You,” he urged Cray forward. Breath she had been holding escaped in a sigh. Maybe tonight will be the night.
Alright, I am back and ready to start writing this second novella.
I spent the month of October taking a university course toward my commerce degree and just wrote the final exam yesterday. Originally, I was going to balance my time between both projects. However, I soon accepted that balance is not how my brain best operates. If I focus on one thing at a time I can absolutely demolish it!
So, I am ready to focus on writing. My challenge will be to complete this second part of my novella in 4 weeks!
I challenge you to spend the next four weeks making time for one of your passions or projects. Find out what can you achieve when you set your intentions and focus.
Stay tuned dear readers!
This is Part One of Book 2 in the novella series, ‘She Who Wrote the World.’ If you enjoy it, kindly like and share!
Part One: Filth in the Apple Tree
“Belief is what makes everything OK.” Filth’s older sister had always said that. When he was a boy, she used to sing to him every night before he went to sleep:
Close your eyes and end your grief
All you need is sweet belief
In your dreams you’ll be relieved
And find all along that you believed.”
Despite having grown into adulthood, Filth would still catch himself humming the lullaby to offset the helplessness he often felt.
Filth’s parents had died from the viral outbreak. His mother had been a direct casualty of nanotech deactivation since she had been born with a defective heart that had only continued to beat by the grace of nanos. His father had died within a week from what the Easterners dubbed, Connection Withdrawal Syndrome or CWS. It was a psychological breakdown from being ripped from the intermind connection. CWS had been the leading cause of death in the first year after the virus. The Easterners (or what most people just called, Es) washed over the west without having to raise a single weapon. The virus had been enough. The Westerners acquiesced to their new controllers without a single skirmish. The Es were ingenious and they liked to remind the NWs (native Westerners) of this more frequently than was necessary or tasteful. It was hard to believe that just thirty years ago, NWs had been a free people living in a lush land.
He had been three when the virus spread and could barely remember the interconnection or his parents. Clem, his sister, had been eight. In a moment, she had become his parent, teacher, best friend and saviour. Clem had the mental fortitude their father had not. Somehow, she had managed to keep them alive as street riffraff while they played dodge the Es backhand while stealing scraps of food.
Clem was his world. He was not going to let her down.
The curfew alarms sounded that informed the NWs it was time to scamper back inside the confines of their area. They were allowed out to work their menial jobs, of course, but it was punishable to loiter. Filth’s job was weather dependent. Either he would be clearing snow, laying down sod or picking fruit. His reward was a backache, perpetual blisters and just enough food stamps to keep a thin layer of skin across his and Clem’s frames. He had no conventional way of affording the medical treatment Clem needed.
Luckily, there was an unconventional way. Green, one of the usual NW crew he worked with, had told him about an after hours job he could do at the Tower. The Tower had once represented the values of the West. Now, it was a seedy nightclub.
“What kind of job?” Filth had whispered to Green while both men tottered on rickety ladders that led to the apples.
“I don’t know exactly.” Green whispered back. “I overheard some other guys talking about it. Said another guy went over there after curfew and came back with enough stamps to repair his roof. He didn’t have any trouble at all.”
“Sounds shady.” Filth said, but he hadn’t been able to suppress a grin. Something shady was exactly what he needed. Clem would have panicked if he had not come home at curfew. For Clem, panicking meant she might stay up an hour later than usual. Clem would fight panic with her unrelenting optimism, but he would still get an earful. Now that she was sick, Clem had only short bouts of consciousness and seldom was she cognizant. She wouldn’t even notice if he did not come home.
There was something wildly therapeutic about walking into danger and he couldn’t help feel a bit better.
“How did this guy get to the tower without getting caught?” He had asked Green.
Green shrugged. “Maybe he just looked more like an E.”
Even the poorest of the Es was wealthier than the richest NW and that lent itself to a generally plumper frame among the Es. They wore better clothes and had access to dentistry, health services and had generally better hygienic practices. Their skin tone was the same since both had descended from common ancestors, but the Es had a cooler, almost blueish, undertone. While nanos had been used in the west to clean drinking water, in the East, they had purified their water with colloidal silver, which resulted in the slight variation in hues.
Filth seemed to have a permanent blush, which only seemed to deepen when anyone drew attention to it. His bones poked out of the rags that passed for his clothes. He was every inch an NW.
Since blending in seemed impossible for Filth, he had kicked the ladder away and sat on a thick branch, hiding in the tree leaves. The alarm sounded its final warning causing his heart to jump and his breath to become fast and irregular. Squeezing his eyes tight, he thought of Clem and her calming presence. He could hear her beautiful voice sing the lullaby in his mind. He rehearsed it over and over for fear he might one day forget the sound of her voice. His breathing slowed.
Now, Filth just had to wait for nightfall.