Orphans of a Dead Nation Chapter 9: Crawlers in the Night
It was noon. The sun was just dipping from its apex, its light shining warmly against the clay-tiled roofs of the neighboring buildings, where remnants of a snow that caked intermittently from a snowstorm from a few days ago. And on one of those roofs sat a stone. It was large and grey, the same kind of common rock others often used to hold down shabby patch jobs in the ghetto; often to protect from leakage during a cold rain or an invasive wind. But of all the others, this one in particular had a peculiarity to it – a strangeness. As the sun moved down, elongating its soft shadow across the roof, the shadow no longer looked like that of a stone’s, but of a small curled up boy.
And as the sun began to set, there, on the surface of that grey stone, silently and quickly, an eye opened- its iris the color of a blazing yellow. The pupils constricted. Suddenly, the entire stone began to shift; without a single sound, a human-like figure stood up, it’s skin a gravel grey. The same grey in color as the other stones of the neighboring roofs. But even as the creature now looked human, it had no mouth; it had no hair; and It was faceless. The eye blazed at the small of its back. And in the middle of its chest, a half sphere-d stone laid latched. It was as blue as the deep ocean, it’s surface smooth and shimmery, and yet, the fading light of the sun, like a giant orange bleed, drowned within it, refusing to reflect off.
The creature stood there. It remained still and quiet, unmovable as if it were a statue of old, one that has weathered through storms and chaos. But as the last vestiges of light was pulled below the horizon, and the waxing crescent glimmered in the sky, a small green and black flame popped up in front of it. It burned, gradually morphing into a scroll. The scroll was like black sheet metal; and after a few seconds, with no apparent motion from the creature, it unfurled.
That’s when it moved.
The creature grabbed it and squeezed, turning the seemingly dense, metallic structure into nothing but black vapor which dissipated in moments.
It then bent low, going on both its hands and feet, crawling that way as it slowly moved across the roof, its body shifting and arching like a predator on the hunt. As the creature reached the edge of the roof, it managed to latch itself, and crawl down the side wall until it reached the second floor window.
The window was open that night. More like, cracked – it’s shabby, rusted edges unable to fully close, letting a whistling sound echo as the occasional gust of cold air slithered across.
Lying there in a full-sized bed, with thick blue blankets toppled onto her, was a child. She was no older than seven, and her breathing was slowly paced in a rhythmic verse, highlighting her deep sleep.
There was a single light inside, albeit small. It came from a translucent light stone, quite disposable as it would die after producing a small radius of light for a few hours.
The creature slid its fingers between the crack of the window. It smoothly pried it open, somehow masking the creak of the rusted edges, not making a single sound, and crawled in. With a glance, the light stone dimmed to nothing, and darkness shrouded the room, and a gust of wind blew in.
The child stirred.
The creature stood up and walked towards the child. It hovered over her, it’s blazing eye still blazing, and its stone imperceptible in the blackened room. But as the tiny moonlight cascaded through the window, it highlighted its gruesome figure.
The child squirmed as she dug for warmth under her covers, struggling to continue her dream.
The creature just stood there for a while, looming as the winter winds grew more hectic, sapping everything of heat.
Suddenly her eyes snapped open. She didn’t scream. She didn’t move. Only her eyes widening could be seen.
On the creature’s face, almost near the base of the chin, the skin tore, revealing a black mouth. And soft cold words echoed in the girl’s ears.
“Master, it shall be done.”
Navari’s eyes snapped open. Sweat pooled down his face as he rose up, a thick cotton sheet sliding down, furling at his waist. His torso was bare and he took long breaths to calm the erratic heartbeat within his chest.
Two days ago.
“Welcome to Center Market!!” A teenaged girl called out. She wore a thin thermal tunic and skin-tight thermal black pants with boots, and nothing else. Odd in the middle of winter, but she stood by a tall metal pole on a three-step platform, where four branches spread out from the top. And as the wind blew, the air would warp ever so slightly, but she would never seem to feel it. The girl kept calling out as several people traveled across the town square. All around there were areas with those same poles, some with many clustered together, their branches spread out wide, and a slight warp in the air shimmering around them; and under the branching white metal were several stores of food, textiles, and even machine and building parts. These poles with branches were tents, capable of allowing shop owners to display their wares in the middle of the square without having to worry about the cold or the rain.
A few dozen feet away, a middle-aged man stood hawking his wares. “This is a great product sir. Great product.” The man was holding up a blue thermal tunic in one hand and a black one in the other. “We have them in several colors. Let me get-”
Woosh! Suddenly, a small draft blew in. It was common as people would enter the area of the shop, sifting through the translucent membrane-like curtain that covered the store. But what was unexpected was the raw, pungent stench that followed after. It swam up the man’s nose, and his eyes began to burn.
“What the hell?” The customer roared. “Is this what you are selling?” His yell turning into a coughing fit.
The middle-aged man looked to where the customer pointed, and there, hanging in his hands was a shabby old jacket, the blue tunic gone. The middle-aged store owner’s eyes widened. “Thief!” He yelled out! Only to see a black blur leave past his area and run off, losing track of him in a store.
The middle-aged man ran after him, finding and losing sight.
Several instances popped up here and there, before the figure ran from the square and into the various alleyways of the nearby buildings.
And the store owner could do nothing but give up.
So it’s been two days now. Ever since Navari was able to convince Alaina, they’ve stayed in the town, and had not tried to immediately cross the second wall. Of course the two had split up. The town was large, capable of holding a few thousand, but it would not be hard for those who were watching them to keep track if they stayed together. A boy who stunk and looked shabby along with a girl with a large package on her back, as well as being a known quantity, with her description probably spread from the mouths of her enemies to the local guard. That was not good. So for now, there best chance was to split up and hide themselves.
When they first split ways, Navari quickly skirted through the alleyways and streets. As he passed open markets, he smoothly swapped out his cloak with something new. He would sneak and exchange, grabbing a few items here and there. At first, he was too noticeable at the moment. By removing the cloak, no one would be able to match him as the one who went through the gate with Alaina. Alaina contact never saw him, so it would have been hard for them to get any information. As for his dirty makeshift clothes, he swapped those out too.
Walking in an Inn, he booked a room and took a bath. His smell was noticeable then as well. The counter lady nearly fainted when he walked up. And so, like this, two days passed. Now it was time for them to meet again per their arrangement.
Navari brought his legs down unto the wooden floor. Cold. The wood pricked the balls of his feet. He tore the sheet off, and rubbed the rheum from his eyes.
I dreamt again. That same dream. And their getting worse. “I feel like they mean something. Somethign important…” Navari mumbled. “But that’s impossible. How could they be related to this place?” Navari racked his brain, but as usual he couldn’t see how his past could affect him now.
Heaving a heavy sigh, Navari got up and got dressed. He washed his face and mouth. Now, he wore a blue, long-sleeved thermal tunic (‘exchanged’), a nice pair of white boots (also stolen) and pants (Stolen). Silver stones were stitched into the fabric around the waist, and Navari put on a black jacket and burgundy cloak (‘exchanged’) as he left the room.
Settling everything, Navari left the inn. He didn’t have much with him to begin with so he left light. His dark hair was cut, and it wind rustled through it as he opened the door and left to the exposed frigid air. “I should have taken a cap too.” He mumbled before walking a few blocks to a restaurant. The restaurant was in a brick building two stories high, and the door was closed.
As he turned the knob and pulled the door open, a wave of heat hit his face. Swarms of smells filled the air, and a boisterous noise roamed as men and women drank and laughed. Taking a quick glance, Navari saw a girl with a keg on the left far corner. She was young, looked to be fourteen to fifteen years old. Her hair was green, braided in one at the back, and her skin was nicely tanned.
And for some reason Navari couldn’t help but chuckle a bit.
“So… She dyed her hair.”
Author’s Notes: So, I finished this one yesterday, but I was so tired I needed to sleep. Well, I finished it today so 😛 . Anyway, if you enjoyed this story, please comment at the bottom and I would sincerely appreciate any donations! Just go to the homepage of https://fantasy-boosk.live and click Donate! This way I will be able to release chapters much more quickly. Thanks!