Street Preacher

Look at the art! Sharna and Jackie!

…now if I can figure out a title, it’ll seem like I’m really making something here each Saturday! Thank you again to Schnekk for her hard work.

Congratulations to everyone who participated in NaNoWriMo 2017. No matter how many words you wrote, you won. Great job on reaching out for big goals!

 

Street Preacher

The people walked with their heads down and their faces fixed in blank stares. No one spoke. No one made eye contact.

Jackie and Sharna paused at the mouth of the alley. Both of them felt a chill zip down their spines. Sharna shivered.

“Something’s not right,” said Jackie.

Everyone wore mismatched clothing, their limbs stuck out like bones from frayed hems, and the streets were grimy and trash-strewn.

“Are you sure this is the Cloud Realm?” Sharna whispered. Neither of them were comfortable talking above a whisper. The entire block was blanketed in silent bustle.

Jackie slowly shook her head, but didn’t answer. She watched the people, and then raised her eyes to the skyline and squinted. There was nothing to see above them. No birds, no clouds. Just an endless fog obscuring any warmth of light. She shrugged and grabbed the sleeve of the next passerby.

“Excuse me.”

The man shrank back from the two girls, but didn’t try to pull away. He stared at them with sunken eyes and hollow cheekbones. His mouth opened slightly as if he were going to protest being grabbed, but instead he leaned closer to Sharna and pinched her arm.

“Ouch!”

“You’re real then,” he said.

“Of course I’m real! Why would you think I wasn’t?” She rubbed her upper arm. “You all are out of your minds,” she added under her breath.

“Look at you,” he breathed. His breath was sour and he swayed slightly under Jackie’s grip. “I’ve not seen the likes in decades.” His eyes grew wide and he pulled back in fear from them both. “Are you from the Fathers? Have they sent you to collect me, then? I swear I didn’t mean anything by it! I was hungry! I was hungry!”

He ripped his jacket out of Jackie’s fist and sprinted off away from them both. His legs looked like a scarecrow’s and his sparse hair blew upward in the wind. He never looked back, and the rest of the people in the streets pretended not to notice the altercation.

“Oh, Jackie. Something is very, very wrong here.”

“Yes,” the thief leaned against the brick wall and bent her knee to rest while she watched the people pretending not to see them. “I thought it was a version of our West End, but now I’m not sure.” She pushed back up onto two feet and shrugged. “Let’s keep walking. Maybe we’ll learn more.”

The rest of the crowd were mostly going in the same direction, and the girls followed along as if they belonged. As they neared an intersection of two roads and several squat buildings, the crowd slowed and bottle-necked. There were barriers to corral them toward a central fountain, its tiered statues dry and cracked, and the basin empty of all but detritus and dust. Here a man stood on a battered box, yelling. A wary line of armed men watched from behind the barrier, truncheons held in tight fists by their sides.

“Children of the Clouds, we can bear these hardships no more! We must rise like the fog and bring clarity to our lives! Our babes die like the wheat stalks the Fathers pretend will feed us! The handful of seeds we are given only serves to make us their slaves! We must come together and demand we be given living seeds, not the -”

He was cut off by the line of armed men advancing toward him. He stayed on his box, and his mouth moved, but nothing more came out as fear overwhelmed him. The crowd had been listening, rapt and straining with longing, but now they began to scream and run for the narrow exits. Jackie knew a trap when she saw one, but it was too late. They were sitting ducks.

(Thanks for reading!)

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