Saturday, 1 July 2017

[Glory Brats] There must be an easier way

Zed found Bee in a large room just off the hall where they had found Dee. She was sitting in a chair that spun around as she kicked at the base. He stood in the doorway for a while, looking round at the room. It had a soft covering on the floor that was nice under his feet, and he curled his toes into it. The walls were covered in wide shelves with odd things on them at regular intervals. He wanted to go and look at them but then he remembered what he'd come to say.

"Dee wants...we're going to go to the room where the food is. He wants some food too." When she didn't reply, he raised his voice a bit. "Dee and I were..."

"I heard you the first time." She stopped the chair so that she was facing away from him. "Go where you like. I'm not going to stop you."

He hesitated, wanting to say that he meant that she could come too, that they should all stay together now, but he couldn't find the right words. She started the chair spinning again and he backed out of the room to where Dee was waiting for him.

Dee was already standing on the table trying to get up to the ventilation grate, but he was too small to get to it on his own and the surface of the door didn't give his bare feet any grip. Zed clambered up to join him on the table, and crouched down so that the younger boy could stand on his shoulders.

"Why have you only got one hand?"

Zed stared at the door. "That's just the way I am."

"Oh, right-o."

He felt Dee's weight on his shoulders and braced himself until Dee had scrambled through the gap onto the metal shelves. He stood up, and stretched. "There must be an easier way to get around this place."

Dee looked at him through the space above the door.  "But I like doing this." He grinned. "It's better than being stuck in one room all day."

"What about where your room is?" Zed asked. "Maybe we could find an easier way through there?"

Dee leaned forward through the gap. "It's through that door there." He pointed. "It swang open when I ran into it. I thought it would be locked. I bumped my head."

Zed jumped down from the table and went to look. A bunch of keys hung from the lock. He took them over to show them to Dee. "Someone must have unlocked the door before they all left."

"Why did they go now?" Dee wondered. "They've never left before."

Bee came to the door of the other room. "I don't care. I'm glad they've gone."

"But they left us here on our own!"

"Maybe it's another experiment..." Zed said slowly. "They could be watching to see what we do."

Dee stuck his tongue out. "There. That's what I think of them and their stupid experiments."

"If it's an experiment then they won't let us get out of here." Bee said, frowning.

Zed held up the keys. "But we can try!"

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

[Glory Brats] Knock, Knock.

Zed's bits of wire got them through the lock on the door in no time at all. He stood blinking in the green emergency lighting after the semi-darkness of the store room.

"It's just another hallway..." he said, disappointed.

"Maybe this one goes somewhere." Bee said, pushing past him.

There was a door immediately to the right of them, but they reasoned that it must only lead back where they'd come from. The next door along was only a simple lock, but Bee said they should leave it for now.

"It doesn't look as if it leads anywhere anyway," agreed Zed. It had the same sort of marks on it as the store room door had, so probably it was only more of the same boxes. Useful to know, but not important for now.

The corridor turned a corner and presented them with two more doors. They turned their attention to the nearest one but were distracted by a loud banging coming from behind the other. They both jumped. The banging stopped, but only for a while; it started up again after a few seconds. They listened as the noise subsided and started up again, several times in a row, becoming more half-hearted each time. Eventually it died away altogether.

Bee stretched her hand out towards the door. Zed caught at it before she could do anything.

"Should we?"

"Why not?"

She hit the door with her clenched fists: one, two, three. Then she put her ear to the door, listening. Three knocks came back,  quickly one after the other. Bee rapped out an irregular sequence, and this, too, was copied. She found the keyhole with her fingers and yelled through it.

"Who's there?"

"Who's there!"

"I'm Bee. Who are you?"

"I'm Dee who are you!"

Bee slammed her fist on the door. "Stop that!"

Zed tugged at her sleeve, "Wait, he said Dee, not Bee."

"Dee?"

They heard a shuffling noise from the other side of the door. "Dee, are you still there?"

Silence. Bee placed the palms of her hands on the door, "Can you unlock this one?"

Zed ducked under her arm to get a better look at the lock and shook his head. "No, it's the same as the one in the cupboard."

"What about when we crawled through the wall? Is there one of those here?" She crouched down to the floor and began feeling slowly along the wall with her hands.

Zed turned to look at the rest of the corridor and then back again. "Uh, yes. but you're not going to like it..." He looked up at the metal grill above the door.

"Why? What is it?" Bee said impatiently.

"It's higher up than the last one. But I think I have an idea."

"Good." She settled down on the floor. "Let me know if you need help."

Zed wandered back along the corridor to the store room. He found he could see better in the dim light than he could before. He stood in the doorway and looked at the rows of metal shelving. He crouched down to see if they were attached to the floor in any way. They weren't. He put his head round the doorway and yelled, "Bee!"
***
Zed wriggled his shoulders through the grate and looked down at the small figure looking back up at him. "Hey, Dee? Is there a chair or something you can pull over so I don't have so far to jump?"

Dee nodded and disappeared through a door at the other side of the room. There was a loud crash and he reappeared a short while later dragging a low table. He shoved it up against the door and watched with interest as Zed slowly manouvered his way out of the grating and down to the table. He turned back around and stood on tiptoe to check on Bee's progress.

They'd managed to take apart one of the metal shelving units and use the base as a step to reach above the doorway. Bee was bigger than Zed and found it more difficult to get through, but she didn't seem to mind how many scratches she got. She joined Zed on the table and promptly fell off backwards. As she fell, she grabbed at Zed's arm for support, pulling him down with her. They landed next to Dee in a heap on the floor. He began to laugh and sat down next to them.

"What's so funny?" Bee said crossly, rubbing a sore bit on her arm.

"You!" Dee gasped out in between bursts of laughter. "You looked so funny falling backwards like that." He wheeled his arms backward to demonstrate, and stretched his face into such a strange expression that Zed started to laugh with the younger boy.

"Well I don't think it's funny." Bee said, but this just made the other two laugh even harder. She shoved them away and stood up.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

[Northspell 16] The princess talks to herself

"Why are you pretending to be me?" Irena asked.

"Why are you pretending to be me?" the impostor retorted, in exactly the same voice.

"You're the one that's pretending," Irena protested, desperately searching for something that would mark out the other girl as the impostor she was. She studied the face in front of her and saw nothing untoward there. It was exactly the same as the face she'd seen in the mirror before she left her rooms in the palace and all this trouble started.

"What's your name?" she asked suspiciously.

"Princess Irena Mariya Imaldi," the impostor promptly replied.

"But you CAN'T be..." Irena said, thumping her hand against the door in frustration. "That's ME. At least...it used to be," she said slowly, an idea coming to her that might catch the impostor out. "I'm just called Irena now, so you see, I'm really me and you, you're just a...just an old shadow." She was quite pleased with this reasoning, although she wouldn't have liked to explain it back to Books Mistress.

The shadow looked confused, then she made a face that Irena realised with a shock must be her 'trying not to cry' face. The girl crouched down on the ground, curling into herself. Irena almost felt sorry for her, and knelt down beside her. She wasn't quite sure what to do, especially now that the girl was sobbing quietly and trying not to show it. She thought of what Arkel had done when Gia had her nightmare, and awkwardly draped an arm over the shoulders of the other girl. "Um...there there. Don't cry. Stop it. Um...it'll all be another colour by the morning?" Whatever that meant.

The girl looked up, wiping tears from her cheeks with dirty fingers that left streaks. Irena felt the question before she asked it. "No, I dont know what it means either."

"But if I'm not Irena Mariya Imaldi then who am I?"

"You mean WHAT are you." Irena quickly corrected her, and almost felt sorry for it. 

The girl looked as if she was about to cry again. "I am a person you know..."

"People can't just appear out of nowhere, therefore you're something -I don't know quite what yet-  but you can't be a person." Irena reasoned in a clear-headed manner that Books Mistress would have been proud of. She thought she heard a noise out in the street and peered around the doorway to check. "Stop your crying a moment, I need to listen for Gia coming back..."

The street was empty. She turned back to see Arkel's head poking down through the gap between the door and the wall.

"Are you talking to yourself?" he asked, eyebrows raised.

"No, I'm..." Irena faltered, confused. She shifted her legs in the small space, and stood up, suddenly conscious that she almost missed the other girl who was not her.

"You're crazy." Arkel said cheerfully, before he was pulled away and replaced by Toban's furious face.

"Hush up, the pair of you, or I'll knock your heads together. This is serious business and the two of you sitting there clacking away like a pair of tea merchants."

Monday, 6 March 2017

Beautiful People link up: Em

Em from Glory Brats. She's an awkward half-feral mute child. Beware, she bites.

What’s their favourite book/movie/play/etc.?
She can't read, but she likes looking at the book that Sparrow is using to teach Tekla to read and write. She understands more than she lets on, but doesn't like the way the black marks jump all over the page. Her favourite part is licking the glue off the pages.

Is there anything they regret doing?
She regrets nothing! She lives in the moment and is probably overall the happiest of the Brats. If something bad happens, she generally bites someone and moves on.

If they were sick or wounded, who would take care of them and how?
Bee would feed her syrupy things from their food stash, Zed would tend her wounds, Dee would finger-wrestle with her (and let her win), Tekla would build her a blanket fort and Sparrow would worry about how to get her to a medic.

Is there an object they can’t bear to part with and why?
She is insanely jealous of Tekla's soft toy bird and constantly finds dead things to carry around as a substitute because she thinks that's what Tekla's toy is. She doesn't understand why the others find this objectionable and keep taking her dead things off her.

What are 5 ways to win their heart (or friendship)?
Food, food, food, food and food.

Describe a typical outfit for them from top to bottom.
Frayed wool hat, baggy t-shirt, dungaree shorts with big pockets (for stashing stuff), dirty sandshoes with mismatched laces. Sometimes bandage mittens that Sparrow ties on to stop her scratching, but she tears these off as soon as she can.

What’s their favourite type of weather?
She likes all kinds, but especially storms. She could watch lightning and listen to thunder rolls all night.

What’s the worst fight they’ve ever been in?
When Exchange is besieged by the Outsiders and the Glory Brats sneak into their camp. Em is caught stealing food and starts biting the guards when they catch her, and the others have to rescue her.

What names or nicknames have they been called throughout their life?
She gets called Em at the research clinic because her designation is 'M' - mute. When Bee and Zed first find her, they nickname her 'Rat' because that's what they thought she was when they heard her scuffling around in the store room. Then when Sparrow joins them with her reading knowledge she tells them that the mark on Rat's wrist is a letter called 'M' and the one on Zed's wrist is a 'Z' and Bee's is a 'B'. Personally, she doesn't like the high, sharp sound of 'rat' but she likes the round, happy sound of 'emm'. So she ends up answering to that.

What makes their heart feel alive?
Being free. Climbing to the tops of things. Using the swing that Cap makes for them. Eating food until she's full. Being with the other Brats, but she doesn't realise this until they get to Central and she gets taken away from them all.

If you want to see the other blogs in the link-up then pop on over to Paper Fury




Saturday, 4 March 2017

[Glory Brats] More Bee and Zed

They couldn't break the door. Not even when Zed jammed the back of the chair under the gap at the bottom of the door and tried to lever it open. Exhausted, they sat down in the dim green of the emergency lighting inn silence. Zed stared at the wall. "I didn't know there was anyone else here," he said eventually.

"I wasn't always here." Bee replied slowly. "Before, I was...somewhere else."

"What was it like?"

"Noisier than here."

Zed kicked his feet against the wall. Then he stoped, and scrambled onto his knees to investigate. "There's a grate in the wall here, by the floor, look."

Bee felt around the small metal rectangle with her fingers. "So?"

"So, I can see through it to the other side, into another room. We can get it off the wall and crawl through."

"IF we can get it off the wall..."

"I can get it off the wall." Zed said with quiet confidence. He opened the medicase and removed the set of tweezers. He slid the end of one of the squared-off points into the slot in the first of the screws. It slipped out of place the first few times he tried to turn it, but the grip held, and soon he had the satisfaction of feeling the screw getting looser and looser. It toppled out and rolled around on the floor.

"Is that it off?" Bee asked.

"Just the first one. Another three to go."

"Ugh..."

Zed didn't say anything, but rooted around in the medicase for a bit. When he'd found what he wanted, he tapped Bee on the shoulder. "Here. Careful - the end's really sharp."

He placed a smooth, flat piece of metal in her hands. She ran her fingers along it to the point. "Ow."

The other end's flat so you'll get a better grip." Zed explained. "You can work on this side and I'll do the other." He showed her where the grate was fixed on to the wall and saw that she could find the tiny gap in the screw.

With both of them working, they got on much faster. Bee finished first. Once she knew what to do, she could turn the screws quicker than Zed could. She held the grate in place so that it didn't fall off the wall as the final screw clinked to the floor. Zed put down the tweezers. "You can take it away now."

Bee put the grate to one side and felt the empty space in the wall with her hands. "It's not very big," she said doubtfully.

"It's big enough."

Zed stretched his arm through the wall to the other side and felt around the opening there. Then he edged himself into the hole, twisting his shoulders round to fit through the gap. Once on the other side, he stuck his head back though.

"C'mon Bee, you can do it."

"Course I can," she said huffily, lying almost flat to feel her way through the space and shuffling forward.

They found themselves in a large room filled with open shelving units. All the boxes on the shelves were sealed shut, apart from one. Zed opened the top of it and pulled out a metal can wrapped in colourful paper. He turned it over to look at the base, and passed it to Bee.

"It's a food can," she said.

"What?"

"They had them at the other place. It's what food comes in."

Food for Zed came three times a day on a flat plastic tray. He couldn't think why food would come wrapped in metal.

"It's to keep it from spoiling. Going bad. Doesn't taste nice. Makes you sick." Bee sounded pleased that she knew more than Zed about something.

"The picture on this one looks like the green stuff they give us sometimes," he said.

"What does it look like?"

"I just said."

"No, I mean properly."

Zed thought for a minute. "They're small and round. And green."

"What does green look like, smartboy?"

"Bright, um..I don't know, it just is."

Bee crooked a finger into the ring pull at the top of the can and yanked it open. She scooped a handful of the contents out and shoved them into her mouth. She held the can out to Zed. "Peas. They're peas, idiot."

Zed took another can from the box and copied her actions to open it. " Mm, this one's sweet." He passed the can to Bee. "I like this one. What are they?"

She tasted the contents of the can. "Cherries. Me too." She held the can back out, but jerked her arm back as they both heard a scuffling noise from the darkness at the back of the room.

"What's that?" she whispered.

Zed peered through the gaps in the stacked boxes. "I can't see anything..."

"Some use you are." Bee got into a crouch and waved at Zed to do the same. They tiptoed round to the other side of the shelves. "What can you see now?"

"It just looks like a pile of blankets. I can't see anything more without going closer." Zed looked longingly towards the door. "I can get through that lock in no time..."

"Don't be such a coward. It's probably just a rat."

"What's a rat?"

"They scuttle. And like the dark. And food. They bite babies sometimes too."

"We should leave it alone then. I don't want to get bitten."

"It won't bite you. Unless you're a baby about it."

Zed didn't know what a baby was, but he didn't want to be one. Bee didn't make it sound like a good thing to be. He took a step closer, and was going to take another when he froze. "It moved!"

"Where? Poke it."

"You poke it!"

Bee sighed. "Fine. Give me something to poke it with."

Zed looked around and siezed on a long-handled brush. "Here."

"Where am I poking?"

He moved the broom into position, and Bee shoved the end of it into the pile of blankets. Something within the pile squealed and scurried out towards them. Bee flailed the end of the broom around, hitting Zed on the knee. He cried out and grabbed the broom handle, jamming the end of it ender his arm for support.

"Did I get it? Where did it go? Can you see it?"

"No, you didn't get it. You got me!" Zed rubbed at his sore knee, keeping a close eye on the thing perched on top of the shelves, gripping at the metal and baring its teeth at them. "I don't think it's a rat though...I think it's one of us." He kicked at the blankets that had been formed into a sort of nest, and revealed empty cardboard boxes and scattered crumbs.

*** *** ***

Dee soon tired of swinging in the chair. The shelves on the walls only held solid blocks of paper all spoiled by black marks. There was a large sheet of clear paper on the desk, and a bundle of graphite sticks, but after he'd covered the first sheet with scrawling marks he got bored and instead fell to exploring the rest of the room.

One full wall was covered with large plates of glass in metal frames, with smudgy darkness beyond. He tried to break through the glass, but it was too strong. He raised a fist, and pulled it back to punch again, but caught sight of his own blurred reflection. He laughed, then frowned, making silly faces that were mirrored in the vast expanse of glass.


Tuesday, 22 November 2016

[Northspell 15] A walk through the city

Toban led them along dark streets and twisting alleys, across empty courtyards and down worn steps. Arkel and Gia called him all the names they could think of, dodging his retaliations easily. The other Irena followed Toban obediently, while the real Irena held back, and wondered why the imposter wasn't struggling or trying to get away. A small part of her thought that she should use this opportunity to escape, but the far greater part was itching to grab the imposter by the shoulders and shake her until she'd explained what she was doing, and why she'd come back so suddenly.

She came to an abrupt stop. Toban had pulled the group ahead into a huddle at the bottom of a flight of steps. She slowly crept as close as she dared before remembering that the others couldn't see or hear her anyway. It still took all her courage to step out of the shadows and move closer towards the group. She strained to hear what Toban was whispering.

"...the watchman. Lead him away from the warehouse and meet us at the...Arkel - you slip in through the roof and let..." he jabbed a finger at the imposter, "You - you wait for us and let me know if anyone is coming, or if the watchman returns too soon."

The imposter nodded meekly. Irena scowled. She herself would have had a thing or two to say to Toban, if he could have heard her. She watched Gia shimmy up the wall and drop down on the other side. Running forward to where the others were, she saw Gia pick herself up and run round the corner of the warehouse. Toban gave Arkel a push in the direction of the stairs, and clamped a hand on the imposter's shoulder. From around the corner came the sound of Gia being chased by the watchman. Toban lowered the imposter down the wall and then jumped down beside her. They turned the corner, and Irena was left at the top of the wall, gazing down into the darkness. She sat down. It felt less high then.

Gia had managed it. Gia wasn't that much taller. Arkel would dare her to do it.

 She slid herself off the edge, remembering at the last minute to bend her knees like Arkel had taught her when they were climbing in the caves. It still hurt though, and she'd scraped all the palms of her hands. She got shakily to her feet and stumbled to the corner. She heard Arkel's voice muffled in the doorway, and then it fell silent. The street was dark, so she shuffled forward, feeling her way along the wall with her sore hands outstretched. The doorway was even darker than the street, and she hesitated before stepping into it.

"Ow!"

She stood on something moving on the ground. The thing stood up. The face was at the same height as her own. She looked into the eyes of her double, and saw frightened recognition there.

"Why are you following me around?" It hissed.


Sunday, 20 November 2016

[Northspell 14] Dreaming Reality

For a start, it felt like she'd just woken up. She opened her eyes and found that she could see perfectly well in the cavernous room. Even the bits that had been shadowy corners before were now clear and bright. She heard, but also sensed, Arkel snuffling as he turned over in his sleep, and Gia muttered something about a rockfall and cried out.

Alarmed, Irena ran over and began to shake her by the shoulder, calling out her name, but she was unable to wake her, She went over to Arkel next, loose threads of her clothes catching on the rough wood of the ladder. She was about to call out his name as well, when she became aware of someone or something else down below. At first she thought that Gia had finally woken up, but the noises weren't coming from Gia's sleeping place, but from where she herself had been lying on the pile of rags. She shrank back into the alcove and nudged Arkel with her foot.

"Arkel..." she whispered, "Arkel - there's someone else here. Does anyone else know where you live?"

But Arkel remained fast asleep. Irena kept shoving him with her foot, trying to wake him up, but like Gia, she couldn't shake him out of his sleep. Meanwhile, the figure below was stumbling about in the dark. Irena realised that whoever it was couldn't see as well as she could. She sensed the figure drawing nearer, despite Arkel's curtain obscuring her view of the main cavern.

It was strange, it was almost like she could feel the other person's movements as if they were her own. She felt the texture of the wood beneath her hands, and then the weight of the curtain as it was wrenched aside.

She gasped. The imposter was back. The girl with her face reached down and felt blindly for Arkel. "Arkel, Arkel, wake up." She said, just as Irena had done earlier. "There's someone else here..."

Irena held her breath. Did that mean her? Then she heard loud noises and shouting from the entrance to the cave.

"Oy, wake up you two, there's work to be done."

As the owner of the voice got nearer, Irena saw Arkel roll over and get up on his feet. Everything around her grew darker and darker again, until it was as dark as it had been before. She crawled to the edge of the alcove, feeling for it with her hands. There was more light in the centre of the room, as a strange boy was holding up a stick, the end wrapped in some greasy rags that had been set alight. He was an older boy, taller and more heavily built than either Gia and Arkel.

"Put that light out, Toban" she heard Gia say. "Your eyes will get used to the dark eventually."

"Hey, I don't spend half my time scurrying around in the dark like you tunnel rats," he said defensively.

Gia sighed. "Just put it out, Toban." she said wearily.

"Toban's afraid of the daark, Toban's afraid of the daaaaark...!" Arkel crowed, and Irena imagined him capering around like he usually did, constantly moving.

There was a scuffle, and a sharp yelp from Arkel, and the torch light was extinguished, but not before Toban had cried out, "Hey, there's three of you here; who's this?"

"Oh she's just a girl who ran into trouble and we picked her up," Gia explained. "She's hiding from the guards cos they said they'd cut her hand off if they saw her again."

Toban chuckled nastily, and Irena shivered. "Well, she'd better hope we don't run into any guards tonight ot they'll take both hands..."

"What?"

"Tonight?"

Gia and Arkel spoke at the same time.

"Yeah, tonight. Mamata's got a job for us. Your new friend can come too. We'll need the extra help."

The voices faded away and Irena hastily slid down the ladder and followed them down the dark tunnel.