A Secret Revealed

16 Nov

Ok, I don’t have a Thursday (or Friday, as it is now) post this week, because I am a) on yet another business trip, b) recovering from a week of burst ear drums and the resulting vertigo issues, and c) just too lazy to be clever at the moment.

So, I’ve decided to let you all in on one of my secret projects.  Back in February, I talked about NaNoWriMo, and how it had impacted my paycheck from November.  The short of if it, I wrote a 50,000 word novel last November.  This past week, I wrote the final lines on it.  Now, I’m doing a final polishing edit before I decide what to do with it next.  Below is the sample I posted on the NaNoWriMo website last year, which is about 1/4 of the first chapter.  I probably won’t leave this up here forever, but I’ve been talking about this novel for almost two years now, and I figured it was time to show people that it’s not made up.

So, if you like it- Yay!  If you don’t, then I totally didn’t write this and I’m just pretending that I did to protect a friend’s identity.

Northgate

            Nothing ever changes in Northgate.  The day begins with the city bell, hung high about the Council House, tolling First Light, and ends with the same bell tolling Last Light.  The same bell, the same tolling, and the same times, day after day after day.  Even after the sun sets and night falls, the routine is the same.  Some call it predictable and safe.  They claim it is what protects us from Darkness.  I call it boring.  And it definitely doesnt protect us from Darkness.

Simone sighed and set down her pencil.  She knew she wouldn’t be able to turn in the page as written, and it would take another hour to rewrite the assignment properly.  Combined with the other schoolwork she had left to complete and the fact that the store still needed to be cleaned, Simone knew it would be one of those nights when she didn’t get to sleep before First Light.  At least she had that going for her.

The bell started its slow tolling, announcing Last Light in the City.  Simone pictured the path of the sound- the deep peals winding their way through neighborhoods and around stone buildings, compressing to fit down narrow alleys and expanding to fill the open-air marketplace.  It took the sound nearly half a minute to cross the City and reach the store, according to the Council-controlled timepiece on the wall.  That gap of sound had always bothered Simone.  A lot could happen in thirty seconds.

The problem was that it was the same routine every night.  The same famed 10 Steps to close the shop, the same four bags of trash to be dragged out to the alley, the same hours of schoolwork that awaited her upstairs, and the same promise that it would all be the same again tomorrow.  There was no variety, and no chance for escape.  Nights like this, Simone felt like she’d trade her left arm for even the smallest change of pace. Everything was the same, and the sameness was overwhelmingly oppressive.

Just like every night, Simone dragged the trash bags down the hallway.  Just like always, she hit the latch on the alley exit door with her hip, and just like always, it swung open with a creak.  Just like always, Simone swung the trash bags off the steps, and waited to hear the same sounds of the bags hitting the cobblestone ground. But this night, the sounds were different.

“Ow!” accompanied the landing of the first trash bag.  Surprised, Simone let go of the second bag too early and it broke open as it rolled down the three concrete steps.

“Eres tu simbali” Simone muttered under her breath, fumbling along the inside wall for the light switch.

“Swearing in Orcian will not help your case.”  replied a voice in the dark.

Simone found the light switch.  She glared at the boy sprawled on the ground at the bottom of the steps.  He sat rubbing his head, and from the looks of his hair, the first trash bag had caught him right in the face.  It had broken open, and the boy was covered with bits of papers and the remains of Simone’s noodle-based dinner.  It would have been funny, except that it wasn’t funny at all.

“What are you doing down there?  And what case?”  Simone demanded. This was not the kind of difference that she had wanted.

“The case to be heard by the Council, when I demand your rationale for throwing refuse at me.  They look poorly upon those who use such vulgar vocabulary, by the way.”  The boy replied.

“Not as poorly as they look upon street rats.  I’ll ask you again, what are you doing down there?”

“At the moment, suffocating.”  The boy said, shoving the black trash bag off of him and attempting to pick the larger pieces of trash from his dark-colored tunic.  He took a closer look at his arm, and looked up at Simone with glee.

“And bleeding to death.”  He said, brandishing his forearm.  There was a faint trickle of blood across his wrist.

“I don’t see anything.”  Simone said.  “Besides the three layers of dirt you’re covered in.”

“Four, if you count my most recent bath of filth, thanks to you.”  The boy stood up and took a step into the light.  Simone was surprised to see that, even standing two steps above him, the boy was almost eye level with her.  His hair, the parts which weren’t covered in sauce, was a sandy blonde, and his eyes were a deeper blue than the ocean.  Even covered in dirt, he was good-looking.  Really good-looking.

“So, are you going to just stand there or are you going to invite me in?”  The boy said.

Simone shook herself back to reality, and remembered why she’d been glaring at the boy in the first place.

“Why would I invite a filthy street rat into my home?”  She asked.

“Because while the Council might not care if you mistreat me, they probably will care that one of their shops is being run by a 16-year-old.”

“My parents own this shop.” Simone said.

“Yes?  And where are they?”  the boy asked.

Simone’s jaw dropped in horror, but she covered it quickly.  How had this boy found out her secret?  Her mind raced, trying to find a way out of the situation.

“Let me in out of the darkness, and I’ll be bound to keep your secrets.”  The boy said.

The words of the Custom- the Request for Asylum.  It was a bold move, and Simone suspected that it was because the boy had run out of other options for gaining entrance.  By law, Simone could not refuse admittance to her home if a stranger spoke the Request, but surely that law didn’t apply to filthy street rats?

The boy waited, standing in the pool of yellow light in the middle of the alley, staring at Simone with eyes that contained entire worlds in their depths, covered in dirt and garbage.  She knew it would be a mistake to let him in, that she would be risking everything in the store, and possibly her life as well.  But those eyes, those eyes that were familiar and alien at the same time, kept spinning her thoughts and allowing plausible excuses to creep into her mind.  No, she couldn’t let him in.  The risk was too great.

A faraway scream tore through the silence of the night.  There was silence for half a minute, then the bell began its ominous tolling.  This was no Last Light toll.  This toll was counting the number of those Taken.  As it rang its sixth, the boy’s eyes met Simone’s, and she saw true fear clearly in their depths.

“Please.” He said.  And against her better judgement, Simone stood aside and let him in.

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