« on: November 16, 2010, 06:08:56 pm »
This is a short story I did awhile back, and I don't know if I'll ever finish it. But please read on and tell me what you think of my writing style and characters.
People. Everywhere there’s people, much more than usual. Somehow I ended up in a huge city. All the light, the noise… It hurts my head. The people, oh the people. So many in just one small space. If I didn’t have to be here, I wouldn’t be. These were the thoughts that passed through Athella’s head when she stepped off the crowded bus, delighted to be away from all those people. She couldn’t stand people, not one bit. They were so… complicated, always quarreling with one another, their semafora swirling around them erratically. It annoyed her. She’d had enough of people long ago. Or at least she’d thought she had. What had happened to make her so sick of them? Unfortunately, that was not included in the short, random clips of memory that she possessed.
Hurrying towards the lower district, she kept an eye out for predators, the men and women who preyed on those unfortunate enough to live in the lower district. Passing by a couple from the upper district, oohing and ahhing over the pitiable catastrophe that is and always will be the lower district, she kept away from them. Watching as the man who bumped into them lifted both of their wallets, walking away proud as a peacock. She shook her head, didn’t these people know better? The answer was painfully obvious. Of course they didn’t. The only reason they were down here was because they wanted a thrill, see how those beneath them live. They don’t realize they could be lead astray by one of the many predators that lurk in the dark alleyways that make up the district, end up dead or worse behind a brothel, drugged, kidnapped and or shanghaied from one of the many taverns. Yes, the lower district was a frightening place, but who else would take in a homeless urchin who only had a few coppers on her?
Out of the corner of her eye, Athella noticed the men creeping up behind her, their semafora showing they weren’t the type to want to chat with some dirty woman. She tried to hurry, but they caught up with her. She braced for the pain, this was nothing new. People were raped, murdered, and or mugged every minute in the lower district. It wasn’t like she hadn’t been robbed of her clothes and left to die in a mud puddle before.
“Heeeeey baby, where’re you off to in such a hurry?” One of them asked, leering down at her. From the odor wafting off of him and his buddies, as well as the erratic behavior of the semafora, they’d been drunk for a few days, maybe a few weeks.
Athella kept her eyes on the ground, speaking quietly but firmly, “Nowhere sir, just looking for a place to stay.”
The others grinned, why was it that drunks always thought that whatever they did was so sneaky when it was so obvious? Oh yes, because they were drunks.
“We got a place for you to stay, sweetheart. Why don’t you follow us?” The one who’d spoke asked again, the question not a question at all. If she didn’t go, they’d beat her and force her.
Taking a few steps back, getting ready to try and make a run for it, Athella bumped into another man. He’d come up from behind while the other distracted her. Idiot! How could she have not felt him come up?
“Aww, you trying to run away from me, sweetheart? You’re hurtin’ my feelings.”
Gritting her teeth slightly, Athella got ready to do what she hated. “Please sir, let me go…. I just want to find a place to sleep with a roof; I’ve been on the road all week. Please just let me go on my way.”
One of the men laughed and stepped forward, too close for comfort. “Oh let’s just take her now, Kasta! She’s not gonna come with us, why should we go through all this fuss?”
The man called Kasta backhanded the man who’d spoken. “Hey! I’m calling the shots here! C’mere you little skank!” He reached for Athella, grabbing her arm roughly.
She moved quickly, driving her free arm into his stomach and pushed past him, running as fast as she possibly could, the men following right behind her. Left, right, left, left, straight, turn, she moved through the twisted alleyways, finally coming to a halt at a fence blocking the way.
“Come back here you!” One of the men shouted, they were almost on her. She had only one chance of escape, over the fence.
She backed up, and then ran towards the fence, praying to the gods that they’d maybe give her wings just for that moment. The prayer went unanswered as she scrambled half-way over the fence before a hand seized her by the collar and yanked her back into its owner, the hands of the others grabbing at her hair and clothes, pulling and scratching like rabid dogs over a scrap of meat. Athella screamed, and a gunshot rang through the air.
“Now Kasta, what have I said about bringing trouble to my doorstep?” A deep, female voice asked her tone even and calm.
Kasta whirled around and tried to focus his hazy eyes on the figure wielding the shotgun, standing in the bright doorway. “Ruby? S’at you?”
Suddenly Athella was dropped onto the ground. Seeing her chance to escape, she scrambled to her feet.
“Ah ah ah, not so quick now sugar. Come over here behind Miss Ruby, you’re in no danger.” The woman said, smiling kindly, and then turned back to the men, her face stern once again. “As for the lot of you, unless you got money to pay me up front, you’d best be leaving. Unless you’d prefer a bullet in one of your thick skulls, then I’d be happy to oblige.” She said, raising the old shotgun with one hand.
The men hunched there shoulders, muttering that they “didn’t mean no harm” and were “only having a little fun”, before slinking back into the shadows.
Ruby sighed and leaned on the gun, her dark skin illuminated by the light inside the small one room apartment. “Woo, you sure got some bad luck there, sugar. Kasta and his boys just got paid from workin’ out in the mines. If you hadn’t stepped into my alley…” She didn’t finish the thought. Noticing Athella inching away, she grabbed the poor girl’s arm and hauled her inside. “Uh uh! No you don’t! Do you want them comin’ back after you?” she continued on without waiting to see Athella’s answer. “Didn’t think so. Sit down in front of the fire and I’ll make us some tea.”
Athella stood her ground. She didn’t know this strange woman, dressed in bright red clothing with skin black as ebony. Her semafora danced playfully, darting too and fro, making Athella dizzy. She could tell that this woman was proud of what she did for a living, even if most people thought it dirty. The colors that the semafora held were loud, reflecting the owner’s personality, but they weren’t menacing as the men’s had been. In fact, they were almost kind.
The smell of oats and cinnamon made Athella’s stomach growl as Ruby set a bowl of oatmeal down on the table as well as a cup of hot jasmine tea.
“I’m sorry it’s not much. Business has been slow lately, so I’ve had to make due with odd jobs.”
Athella looked at the bowl, her eyes devouring it already, but her body held back out of habit. For all she knew, the oatmeal could be drugged and she’d end up on a ship in God knows where, tearing her from the one thing that was keeping her alive even now. “Why are you being so nice to me? You don’t know me. For all you know, I could rob you blind while you sleep and slit your throat.”
Ruby smiled wryly, taking a bite of the oats and a swig of the tea, she rounded on Athella, standing at her full height. Which wasn’t as impressive as she seemed to think it was, seeing as how Athella was a full hand taller than her. “Why am I being so nice? Simple. From the looks of you, you haven’t had a good meal in a few months, if you’ve even eaten in the last month at all. You’re dead on your feet from running away from those vermin outside, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let a poor thing like you walk away from my house without so much as a drop to drink. Now sit down and eat, or I’ll hold you down and spoon it down your throat!”
Athella sat and started to eat. This woman wasn’t one to mince words or make idle threats. As the first spoonful passed her lips, she almost cried. When had she eaten last? Honestly, Athella had no idea. She then set about eating it like a ravenous wolf.
Ruby nodded in satisfaction, then turned around and started on the dishes. “Oh, and sugar. If you do plan on robbing me blind, make sure you’re quiet about it. I’ve got ears better than a bat’s, and you’d best be getting out of this town quick as you can cause I know all the lawmen, and some of the others. You won’t be getting away if you steal from me. And I sleep with that shotgun under my bed and a knife under my pillow.” Hearing no reply, she turned to see the poor young woman asleep on the table, her head in the bowl, still clinging to the tea mug. Smiling, Ruby shook her head and draped a blanket over Athella’s shoulders. “Sleep hun. We’ll have loads to talk about in the morning.”
Semafora: (also known as auras) The orbs of light that surround a person’s body. Tells whether a person is healthy, their emotions, whether or not they lie, and if they’re about to die, as well as numerous other things. The shades of the light, the rate at which they travel, how many there are of them, and how big they are all determine different things.