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LJ Idol Topic - Week 4: Haven


The streets were no longer safe.

Gabby pulled Milton behind her and hurried down the darkening alley looking for food scraps that they might be able to nab and take back with them. They were late tonight and the pickings were slim even in Restaurant Row. Of course, with Guardian scheduled for release at midnight, many people had stayed home. There was a general air of anxiety that permeated the entire city. The Masque was supposed to work, government officials said so, but no one was really sure.

It had been four days since Gabby and Milton had fled the dispensary where they had stolen what they had been denied. The gelatinous substance she had taken and placed in her nostrils had dried and she was getting used to having to breathe out of her mouth. Milton’s Masque, obviously pieced together with his child’s hands instead of being custom fitted, had shrunk considerably upon drying. It now only covered his nostrils and half his mouth. He could breathe through it but was mostly breathing around it.

“Gabby, it’s cold. When can we go in?” Milton tried not to whine. He wasn’t used to the foraging they had been doing.

“Just a little longer Milton,” Gabby told him. They had a place where they had been stockpiling supplies and it was fairly close. She just hoped it would be enough.

“We need to get as much food and water as we can,” she explained to the smaller child as she looked in another dumpster outside another dark restaurant.

Seconds later she triumphantly stuffed a half loaf of bread into his pack that they had crafted from an old jacket. A light turned on down the alley and they quickly ducked behind the dumpster. Peeking around the corner, Gabby saw a box near the door under the light just as it went out. Quickly and quietly they moved toward the box. It was loaded with jugs of water and the pre-packaged foods that had been distributed for use after Guardian was released. Fresh food would be contaminated for weeks. Added to their stash and with some diligent rationing, it would provide them enough to last until it was safe to be on the street again.

Gabby divided the find and stuffed it into their packs. She picked up the remaining two jugs of water and they made their way out of the alley, hugging the shadows.

They were in the old part of the city. It had been built on top of ruins from a long forgotten war. The tunnels underneath the city held beauty and destruction, safety and danger, anonymity and infamy, well traveled paths and obscure hiding spaces, devils and angels. It had proved to be the only haven for the street urchins who had suffered so much. They could lurk around the edges unnoticed by others, observing the way things worked. The black market offered any number of goods, usually easily poached – if you were small enough and good enough not to get caught. The throngs of people in different gathering areas offered that all important commodity – information – if you were small enough and good enough to be able to hide and listen. And the street urchins were. Some shared with others, most didn’t. Some were better off than others. Some banded together, feeling safety in numbers. Others kept to themselves, feeling that they could survive better on their own.

Milton and Gabby moved among the shadowed tunnels trying not to garner any attention. The tunnels were empty of the usual throngs of people, but there were eyes in the shadows watching and waiting for any sign of weakness. At the spot Gabby had marked days ago, she and Milton removed their packs and scrambled up the wall to a small opening near the top. Pushing their packs in front of them, they squeezed their slight forms through.

The drop on the other side was easily negotiated and they collected their packs and continued moving in the dark tunnel. Their small size kept them fairly safe. Not many could fit through the entry they had come through. They stopped periodically listening for signs of someone following them, but heard nothing. Two hundred yards further a pile of rubble blocked a fork in the tunnel. Gabby and Milton scrambled up the rocks and debris, once again removing their packs and shoving them through a small opening. They quickly followed, collected their packs and scrambled down the other side.

Gabby pulled out the Phospholight she had and connected the two halves. A soft, green glow emanated from the light and they continued on their way. They came to the wall marked “mory” and continued past to the old wooden window casing that had long been smashed.   Checking once more to be sure no one had followed them, they climbed through the window. Together they lifted an old piece of wood to cover the inside of the window.

The window opened into a large room. The marble floors, covered with dust and debris, were cracked in several areas and a large hole was in one corner of the room. The remains of a reception desk still stood at the center, guarding two large, once ornate doors. Rats skittered into hiding as the two children pushed open the doors and walked through.

Carefully closing the doors behind them, they entered a corridor and made their way to the staircase at the end. They descended two flights, keeping to the right and avoiding missing and broken steps. Following the corridor to the left, they turned a corner and entered the third door on the right.   Beyond the front area they entered another door into a larger room. It had once been secure, filled with cages and bins, but age and damage had wreaked havoc and the secure areas were misshapen and could be opened with little to no force.

Milton pushed the crude barrier they had been able to construct through the handles of the final door, giving them one more added level of security. In the back corner of the room, in one of the more intact cages, Gabby started unloading their supplies, combining them with what they already had. She held back two Nutribars and pulled two chunks off the loaf of bread they had just found, their allotment for the evening.

As the children ate their meager meal, they fiddled with the funny shaped masks they had found amongst the ruins. The snouts were long and round and the eye holes ended up on their foreheads when they tried them on. When they pulled them tight enough, they made a seal around their heads.

Gabby secured hers and then helped Milton with his and they settled down to wait out Guardian.

This is an entry for LJ Idol Exhibit A - Week 4: Ultra Deep Field.  It is a part of Insignificants, but is meant to stand alone.  If you would like to read the first part of Insignifigants, it can be found hereAs always, concrit is welcome.


( 33 comments — Leave a comment )
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(Deleted comment)
Feb. 19th, 2013 03:42 am (UTC)
Thank you. I hope you stay fascinated. ;)
Feb. 15th, 2013 05:51 am (UTC)
The tunnels as you described them reminded me a bit of the Cu Chi tunnels in Vietnam. They're the only tunnels from a former war I'm aware of, though, so I guess that's why my mind went there.
Feb. 19th, 2013 03:43 am (UTC)
In my mind, the tunnels are the old streets and alleyways that made up the ancient city. Kind of a myth that really does exist.
Feb. 15th, 2013 10:37 pm (UTC)
Oh!!! I love it! I'd love to read even more about this world. :)
Feb. 19th, 2013 03:44 am (UTC)
Thank you. I hope I can fit more of it to the prompts as they come along.
Feb. 16th, 2013 01:27 am (UTC)
Very curious to know more about what's going to happen and why these characters are important to this world!
Feb. 19th, 2013 03:46 am (UTC)
I know some of it, but it's been exciting to figure out more and more as the world develops in my head. Thanks for reading!
Feb. 16th, 2013 08:36 am (UTC)
More Guardian! They just don't stop gassing these poor kids, do they?

This is a very interesting world, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens. :)
Feb. 19th, 2013 03:47 am (UTC)
Guardian is only dispensed once. That's why it is so dangerous. It's a very deadly, very extreme measure.

Thanks for reading.
Feb. 16th, 2013 12:04 pm (UTC)
Ooh, awesome! I think you did a good job of making this a standalone piece (something I am never good at doing with things that are part of a greater whole and am going to try to learn next time I do an Idol thingy). Reading this piece gave me a sense of both foreboding and wonder, which is good since you're writing from the viewpoint of scared children with a decent amount of street smarts.

One thing I wondered - based on the previous story, I'm assuming the gas masks they find at the end don't fully protect them? I'm curious about why or if I missed something, but if that's something that'll be answered later, don't tell me. ;-)
Feb. 19th, 2013 03:49 am (UTC)
I was hoping it would stand alone. Thank you for the compliment. I love that you picked up on the emotions I was trying to get across.

If you really want to know, I can divulge my secrets, but it will be addressed later. ;)
Feb. 16th, 2013 07:59 pm (UTC)
It's interesting to see more of the "middle," since the last story looped around to a much later time.

It's hard enough being an orphan... but when your own government is trying to randomly kill off the underclass, that's even worse. That makes us feel doubly for these characters.
Feb. 19th, 2013 03:52 am (UTC)
I'm so glad you picked up on the double hit of being an orphan and being "exterminated" as an undesirable. Guardian is being released to eliminate the plagues that caused so many of these children to be orphans. Having them succumb to the gas is just an accepted side benefit by most of the upper class.
Feb. 16th, 2013 11:35 pm (UTC)
I am curious to know if the masques are going to help save them at some point. They sure are resourceful so far!
Feb. 19th, 2013 03:53 am (UTC)
Their resourcefulness comes from having to survive on their own for so long.

The masque will help them, but it may not be enough. We shall see.
Feb. 17th, 2013 02:48 am (UTC)
Well that doesn't sound ominous or anything. ;)
Feb. 19th, 2013 03:54 am (UTC)
Thank you. Muhuwhahahaha! ;)
Feb. 17th, 2013 03:25 am (UTC)
Feb. 19th, 2013 03:54 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Feb. 17th, 2013 05:44 pm (UTC)
The tunnels underneath the city held beauty and destruction, safety and danger, anonymity and infamy, well traveled paths and obscure hiding spaces, devils and angels. This is a great line. It gives a sense of the scope of the world that I like a lot.

Feb. 19th, 2013 03:56 am (UTC)
Thank you. I really wanted to show that there is a good side to the tunnels as well as a seedy side without stating the obvious.
Feb. 17th, 2013 08:31 pm (UTC)
I like reading about these kids, and I'd love to read more episodes!
Feb. 19th, 2013 03:57 am (UTC)
I'm hoping there are more prompts that will inspire. They've taken hold in my head, and I'll probably continue them even after Idol.
Feb. 17th, 2013 10:44 pm (UTC)
I am for pulling for these kids! I continue to enjoy this story line.
Feb. 19th, 2013 03:58 am (UTC)
Thank you. Glad you're rooting for them.
Feb. 18th, 2013 06:17 am (UTC)
I like this world, keep it up!
Feb. 19th, 2013 03:58 am (UTC)
Thank you. I don't think I'd be able to give it up at this point. They've taken hold.
Feb. 18th, 2013 07:43 am (UTC)
I really like this world - and this is another excellent part of it.
Feb. 19th, 2013 03:59 am (UTC)
Thank you. Glad you are enjoying it.
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