The Inbetween – Chapter 2 first part

Laura woke up earlier than usual; she had decided she would not try to sneak out under the eyes of the hood. She put on her usual clothes, grabbed the bag she had packed up on the evening before. She would pick up her Backpack down at the river; there she had hidden it in the foundation of the old bridge. She had food and water, a blanket and a few tools like a small ax, her large knife and some things and a few credits she had been able to save up. The hardest task would be to live the old brick and mortar building of her block farm without being noticed. The good thing was the all turning hydro/solar sails on top of it produced enough background noise all the time so she would not have to be overly careful about making sounds. However, she’d still need to get past the night watch at the entrance and then make it safe and unseen down to the river.
Laura had put on her work boots and her usual pants as well as her jacket. Both covered with pockets, as was the usual attire for people of the lower castes in her hood. She slipped past her parent’s bedroom, the painful interrupted snoring of her father who was old and the sickness had caught on in his lungs, he would not be much longer in his world. Nor would her Mother who was only a few years younger. This was how it had always been for as long as anyone could remember. The old ones whispered around the fire of rumors of legends that it had not always been this way, but most people disregarded these as madness caused by the sickness infecting the brains. Past the rooms of her siblings, and past the kitchen and the table where the family would gather in the morning and the evenings. Past its old tapestry with the images of long lost family members and the big one with the thousands of names, only known as the tree. Laura would not spend the rest of her few precious years, breeding and working and then taken away by the sickness. Laura did not want to save anyone but just wanted to see the places of the stories the old ones told. She was set on living her own life as she deemed. Dan was probably going to ask for her hand in marriage, content with the life he was living. Some of the other girls envied her for his infatuation with her. She did not give a damn.
Laura shook her head to get the thoughts out; she needed to focus on the task at hand, or all her preparation would be for naught. Her goal was to be past the bridge and onto in a different clan’s hood by dawn. They would not dare to follow her there, neither the clan’s guards nor her old parents. She was now in the stone stairwell, dusty and gray like everything which led down from the level her family lived, one near the top as her father was one of the mechanics who was responsible for keeping the sail works. Laura kept close to the wall in the shadow and made her way down. Past the small market stands, where the inhabitants sold their products to each other and visitors, to make some income besides the stipend for their work for the Hood. The stands looked weird in the darkness and shadows with their colorful attires now looking gray and waving in the air. This took a while, and she was thinking the whole time how she’d get past the guards, could she bribe them? Talk her way past them? She was not sure; she only was sure she would have to make it out of the walls who felt like a cage to her. On and on, down and down Laura went. Then suddenly she saw a child she vaguely recognized, sitting and playing by itself at the entrance of its family’s quarters. She froze then the child’s gaze caught her. If the darn thing would scream her freedom would be over before it started. She carefully put her finger to her lips and made a shhh gesture. She forced a smile on her face. The child kept looking at her its face not content if this was fun or if it should cry out and throw a tantrum, not sure if this grown-up person would react soothing or ignore it, its toys were forgotten, by this new exciting lady in front of it. Laura put her hand in her jacket’s pocket, desperately searching for one of the sharp ginger sweets she liked so much. She held it out to the child so that it could see the promise of sugary goodness, then Laura put it on the floor and moved away she hid in the shadow of another entrance. The child’s attention now focused on the sweet, it started crawling over and grabbed it with its sticky hand and directly put it in its mouth. After a few seconds of open mouth chewing and grinning and drooling, the child’s face changed, and the wailing commenced. The sharp ginger had reached its small brain, and the pain from the spice did its work. The Night watch came up looking for the reason of this disturbance and Laura was able to slip past them, the gates to the outside in sight. On into the night, she went, behind their back, the guards distracted, while they dealt with the child and tried to find out to which of the many families it belonged, to return it. Their annoying voices and the child’s screams fading.
Laura had made it safely out into the night and ran in the shadows of the dirt pathway between the blocks towards its border. From one shadowy dark wall and stand to the next parked cart, further to a lonely shed build on the side on a tower and so on. Avoiding the few dim lights from the lights high up and shining out of the few lit windows of the lower quarters, that was if they were lucky enough to have windows. The blocks looked even less inviting from the outside than from the Inside. Tall and gray, dusty and ancient, they lacked any decoration or ornaments, except around the entry levels were the clans decorated them with their crests in a show of power. Otherwise, they just looked mighty with their thick concrete walls and burned black shadows, and cracked holes were looking like someone hammered away at their walls without success. Laura looked at them with disgust; they were the symbol of the continuous suffering of the people forced to dwell here inside, held by fear of the clans and the Golden Tower at the center of the known world. This was as it had always been and no one remembered who had built them and for what purpose. The inhabitants lived their short lives, keeping them running and then dying of the sickness, breeding like mindless insect’s, content with their lives as they where. No dreams left to them, even those it seemed the Clans and the Golden tower, and its ruler had stolen from them, and they did not even care. Laura shook her head in disgust; this would not be her future, she would see the world before she would pass into the next world. The few people outside paid no attention, there was no good reason to be outside, and everybody kept their hoods down to not be easily recognizable. Laura didn’t care for them. She was finally outside; she had made the first step.
The bridge and the river in sight, she slid down the riverbed, and her enthusiasm carried her fast and far. Led her to lose grip and she fell into the little river, luckily it was already warm, due to it being early summer. Laura was afraid that anyone heard the loud splash listened into the night if she could hear anything. No one came and Laura, frozen in all movement, did not dare to breathe, afraid of any more noise she would make with it. But all she could hear was the humming and metallic creaking noises the hydro/solar sails, turning on the roofs of the blocks, made. She let out a sigh of relief and crawled out of the river unto under the bridge where she had hidden her carefully packed and protected belongings. She crawled up and noticed all her clothes were getting dirty, being wet all the dry sand and earth caught stuck onto them. She’d be standing out everywhere if she would go on looking ragged up and dirty like this. She did not have other clothes; she had to be careful not to draw attention when preparing. Laura did not think long; there was only one option for her. She undressed in the protective and soothing darkness and cleaned the clothes in the flowing river water, only seeing so little as the light of the stars and the moon permitted. Then she crawled back into the small cavern in the bridge’s foundation and hung them on the stone walls as best as she could, she would have to spend the day here, waiting for them to dry and hiding until nightfall. She got her woolen blanket out of her backpack and curled up in a corner. Her petite and small frame and the grayish color of the rug making it easy to hide in the darkness.
Laura felt strangely alive and reborn, it was as the sudden splash into the river had washed away everything she used to be, and she felt the only thing left was to cross the river to be born into a new world and life.

A few hours later Laura awoke from the noise of people passing over the bridge; she could hear the clicking of the hooves of the beasts and even the sirring noise of one of the two-wheelers the guards used. The mumbling of voices and the sounds of the animals were indistinguishable. It was way past the sun dawn and Laura, was cold in the cave, she was still nude under her blanket, and if discovered her dreams were over, she would be dragged back, and they would make sure she would not be able to flee again. She could even be sold off as a slave or given to a lower clan member for his pleasure. She did not dare to move, but her clothes were hung much further in the entrance and visible to anyone who’d go down to the river and look in her direction. And people did go down to the river, either for past time during lunch or even to catch a fish or just have a bath. Laura started to move slowly and carefully. She moved inch by inch, content on not making a noise or cause the rubble on the ground to move. She grabbed her clothes and even though they were still damp, this would have to do. Finally, Laura had all her things back in the darkest and furthest corner of the small cave, she curled up there all but her face hidden under her gray blanket. She stared at the entrance; her knife grasped in her hand, her knuckles going white from the strength of her grip. Gone was the feeling of being reborn, she was afraid now, and fearful of getting caught.

When Dan, woke up he was happy, today would be the day. He washed and shaved and put on his best clothes; his mother had cleaned and prepared for him during the night, after all the household was a woman’s chore, while the men of the family would do all the hard labor during the day. Dan set down at the breakfast table and helped himself to some more food on his plate; he would need a full stomach. Just as Dan was about to put the first spoon full of food into his mouth, he heard the commotion outside in the tower. He shrugged his shoulders but the disturbance continued, and it seemed to move towards his family’s quarters. A loud bang on the door followed by a bellowed command of Open in the name of the Clan Jade-Weasel. Dan got up this was serious these were the guards, keeping them waiting was never a good idea, they would use that as an excuse to push them around. After all, they were bored and used any possibility to push around the inhabitants. Dan opened the door and stared into the faces, surrounded by the green, bluish scaled helmets and took a step back, he put on a smile and bowed. They ignored him and rushed in, they pulled back all curtains in the entrances to the rooms and searched the quarters while one stayed with Dan and stared at him, pushing him against a wall, snarling if he knew anything about Laura and where she was. Dan shook his head and said, she should be either in her family’s quarters or at her workplace, but yes, he knew her and was actually about to venture to the clan’s stronghold. He wanted to request permission to marry her, though it would be a surprise for her, he smiled content how Laura would be happy and at peace with herself no longer forced to learn her father’s trade and to be able to do what any woman was made for. The Guard snarled at him, spit on the floor and Dan was a little afraid, this question did not make sense, and the guard did apparently not believe him. Dan did not fully understand what was going on, but he was content to find out. Anger was building up in him if something happened to Laura what were they doing here? He always protected her; everybody knew that. The guard was looking through eyes forming slits as Dan started to breathe slowly and his facial expression hardened. The guard was not too keen on having to fight Dan, Dan was big and muscular, the guard was of average height, but he wore armor and a weapon, he pulled out the buzzer, a stick capable of delivering an electric charge and hissed to Dan “Try me, peasant!” It did by far not sound as harsh and threatening as the guard had hoped, but Dan seemed to calm down a little bit, even though it had more the feeling of the calm before a storm would hit. The guard decided he showed enough force, nodded and relaxed and took a few steps back.

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