The Grey City XVI

Saturday April 12, 2008 @ 12:08 AM (UTC)

The Grey City I
The Grey City II
The Grey City III
The Grey City IV
The Grey City V
The Grey City VI
The Grey City VII
The Grey City VIII
The Grey City IX
The Grey City X
The Grey City XI
The Grey City XII
The Grey City XIII
The Grey City XIV
The Grey City XV

Eirian ran down Orchard Street, down indeed for the road slanted toward the river. She could hear the Runner behind her, and her breath was broken by sobs. The Runners might sneer about Country stock, but a Country girl was wise in life and death, and Eirian knew what she had seen.

Now she must run. Mother said to mind, she thought, must run. The footsteps behind were gaining on the gentle slope, so Eirian darted sideways into an alley, dodged around a broken bottle. She did not look back. The man’s shined boots fell regular as clockwork, as pistons, the only variation the sound they made on cobble, or straw, or shards.

The alley gave onto a street of shabby tenements, and the girl thought of pounding on doors, but swallowed the notion away. Who would help her against the majesty of the Law? Here the gaslights were often broken or unlit, and she ran from dark into dark, not daring to think or plan more than a step ahead, a yard.

The street loomed into existence building by building, smelly and endless. Breezeways and alleys appeared, but were closed off with planks or rusting iron gates. Dogs barked as she hurtled by their houses, recognizing criminal, or prey, or fear. Ahead, something changed; a red glow built and she could see that on both sides of the road ghost-buildings rose, black from ancient fire. At their flanks rose strange bristles of junk, of fence palings and curtain rods, old signposts and even a bit of spiked church railing. They fanned from either side in a strange display and cast flickering shadows towards her like fingers. The sound of dogs behind her had grown, more animals joining, hounds belling, and through their noise she could barely hear the Runner’s footfalls. She threw a look backward to make sure he was still there.

Jeffers, no longer white but scarlet with fury and exertion, was no more than an arm’s length behind. With a yelp Eirian tried to surge forward, but tripped on a charred brick and tumbled into the ashy street. She felt the Runner’s hand clamp around her little shoulder like a blacksmith’s tongs, and was jerked upright again.

The jumbled barricade was near now, and the wide gateway in it — strangely clear and inviting in such a stockade — seemed to Eirian to promise freedom, the bonfires a more wholesome light than the sickly gaslamps. She flailed, out of breath and half-mad with desperation, and, turning her head, bit down on Jeffers’s gripping fingers so hard she tasted soap and blood.

Free, she ran for the gap in the threatening fence, and was through, running from cobbles onto uneven earth, curving away from the threshold and staring, wild-eyed, over her shoulder. The Runner did not follow.

She ducked into a doorway, taking what time she could to breathe, and watched Jeffers turn away, wrapping a hankerchief around his bleeding right hand. He was not watching her, so she slipped into the shadows between this building and the burned-out next, nestling into the jungle of rusting poles and spikes. The Inspector ran briskly into view and joined his junior at the pale. Eirian spat convulsively. It was a vulgar gesture Carys would have despised, but she spat her hatred and the Runner’s blood onto the ground.

“Jeffers, report,” she heard, faint but clear.

“Subject Erin Owens, on point of apprehension, entered the Warrens; pursuit suspended per statute 34a sub2, pending your determination.”

The Inspector’s eyes never flicked toward the girl or the fires. “As if there could be any doubt.”

“But sir! She bit me!” Jeffers waved his bloody cloth. “That’s assault on an Officer of the Law…”

“I am not going to call in a regiment to sweep the Warrens just because your apprehension form is shoddy. Call it off.”

“And the corpse report?”

“Write it for the other, Carrie.” The Inspector waved a hand. “The Warrens keep their dead as well as their living. We won’t see Miss Erin Owens again.”

The Grey City XVII


I’m all tingly! : )

What could possibly be worse than Runners?

1) I have the next segment drafted on paper already and
2) it doesn’t really answer that question?

Does a writer ever really know how it ends until the last page is written? ;)

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