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Lumi says...



I want to open the entirety of this extensive file by telling the next inheritor my ending and your beginning. My carnation lasted little over seventeen years before our families were taken, but in my ardor to see the breaking land and seas, I refused to leave Russia with them.

I cannot immediately tell you much about myself, but I hope that by inheriting these memories you will gain an understanding as to why I made the choices that I did, and how I absolutely adored the outcome, however lethal it may be. Just look.

The sands speckled among the acrobatic grasses. And the orchestral sound of the ocean lapping and yawning.

This is where I die. But may you remember that gorgeous yawn on the new earth.

If you want to begin our story together, W, then we will take this one day at a time.

____


V will be a single-MC storybook focused around a young boy experiencing his world after great clear walls that divide heaven and earth have been erected to contain the peoples of collective nations. V will require no character templates, and each entry will be no more than 1000 words. Much of his world is up to fellow writers to determine alongside one another, so do use the DT abundantly.

1. First person.
2. Past tense.
3. No backwards writing, though if you find a way to accomplish this in this storybook, I'd be dumbfounded.
I am a forest fire and an ocean, and I will burn you just as much
as I will drown everything you have inside.
-Shinji Moon
  





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Fri Feb 03, 2017 8:54 pm
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Lumi says...



phpBB [media]


V
one. devils


If I could tell you only the beauties of the earth: the lilacs in bloom, the yellowed prairie grasses waving under the sweetness of the world's breath. If only I could tell you that was the entirety of my life, and stay in my imagination, or behind faded photographs.

I think your story would be much more lovely if you could believe these things.

For what matters, though, our story begins in the gray apartment lines of St. Petersburg. I sat on our second floor airway that we shared wholly with our neighbor, my grandfather, Nicolai, who was very fond of taking newspapers and crossing out words to make the articles say what they did not say.

"It is like knowing a secret language," he once told me. And that morning as I watched him scratch out words in the newspaper, I felt at ease with growing to his age because that, the thought of having a secret language, would keep me entertained, even when my family didn't visit the airway during rainstorms, or when the coffee rations were bad.

As I had finished my breakfast and heard the dryer downstairs buzz with my clothes, I scraped the remainder of the powdered eggs from my plate onto grandfather's and made for the door, stopping only when he called for me.

"I have something to ask you, little hare."

"I have an answer for you, old turtle."

Grandfather grinned a devious grin and smacked my thighs over my briefs with his newspaper. "When will you learn to eat?!"

I ran to avoid another hit because, in actuality, it did hurt. "When you begin brushing your teeth!"

I loved my grandfather. I loved him dearly, but as most people will tell you, there are certain demons that older angels cannot name. And that is important, as you will soon see.

After I had pulled on all of my tattered clothes and sneakers, after I had stood at the sink with mouth rinse burning my tongue for far longer than is recommended, I left my home with a few garbage bags and roamed the streets, as it was no longer time for children to go to school in Russia, and instead father had devised a route for me to collect recyclables to keep me busy and out of trouble.

It was along this route to keep me busy and out of trouble that I saw Alexei, a boy who had been kicked out of school for vandalism. True to form, he was spray-painting The Wall--and I should explain what I know about The Walls.

When something terrible happened to our fragile planet, it was not the world leaders who took charge of the situation, but private men of industry, which my father says is an admirable thing. While entire governments collapsed, these industrious men created what could be considered a housing block in western Europe that extends for what was previously several nations, which were previously a single nation, which were previously an empire. So...when I say that I live in Russia, the truth is, I don't know that I do or not. I live in what is now Russia.

On the other side of this wall, for instance, is England, full of moors and coastlines.

The walls, as I understand them, are to control air quality, climate, and disease spread. There are doors, of course, but they are far away.

But. Back to Alexei, for he had painted something that would remain with me for as long as I lived.

To be free, you must know your devil's name


This shook me, as I'm sure you are aware, but. It seemed to be wrong somehow.

"Da, Alexei? What if you have more than one devil?"

Alexei looked at his work. "Well shit."

For this reason, I decided to know it more accurately.

Alexei sat down against the wall and ripped a cigarette out of his jacket. Thinking again, he pulled out a second, offering it up to me. I sat next to him, and, as he held up his lighter for me, I noticed that we had the same sneakers. I wondered if that could make us friends, but then I wondered what father would think of me being friends with a vandal.

Exhaling and failing very miserably at not coughing, I realized that grandfather would just be happy I had a friend who was not him.

"What're they teaching at the animal farm now?" he asked.

"I think the current lesson is how to have fun and enjoy break."

Alexei grinned. "Smartass."

I sat for nearly the entire cigarette, peering down into the city where the cathedrals and riverways made for a sort of heartbreak I imagined could only belong in Russia, as it was distant, it was lonely, but it was incomparably beautiful.

When it was dusk and I had returned home, I placed my clothes in the washing machine, fetched gym shorts from a drawer, and a book from my shelf. An hour passed, but try as I might, I could press no further than the scene of Phineas jumping from the riverside tree before Alexei's art hung in my mind. I put my book down on my bedside table and pulled my covers back, sitting on my knees.

"Insomnia. I've named you, and by Alexei's logic I should be free, but I know that's idiotic. What am I going to do about your name?"

A knock came at my door before father entered, head turned away in what I guess was anticipatory anxiety. When he turned back, he sighed in...I suppose relief. "I heard you speaking to someone, I thought there might be a girl in here."

"We've had that talk already."

Father sat on my bed and gripped my ankle over the covers assuringly. "V, you've had it rough since she left." He looked away. "You won't let me help. I just think a doctor could--"

"I don't want you to finish that sentence, Papa." I was crying, albeit against my will, and all I could think of was how nothing in St. Petersburg was the color of her hair. It made me sick, it made me sick, it made me sick.

"A doctor could help you name your devils."
I am a forest fire and an ocean, and I will burn you just as much
as I will drown everything you have inside.
-Shinji Moon
  





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Sheytato says...



Alexei wasn't at the Wall this afternoon. I had avoided going home since my father brought up the devils. I had come to talk to Alexei, but he was nowhere in sight. His vandalism had been wiped away last night, presumably by the dark figures who constantly monitor the Wall. They were pacing in the area, and I shied away when they turned their shadowy eyes at me.

Turning, I began to run down the dirty roadway. About a quarter of a mile away was the city. It was a massive colony of stone structures, with waterways twisting throughout. It had a reputation to be quite beautiful, but I saw it in black and white. I saw all its cold, unwelcoming aspects. The waterways were polluted, and trash filled the riverbeds. The mossy paths were cracked and disgustingly green. The houses were crumbling and empty.

Then I saw the figures. They were patrolling a certain spot in the waterway. Strange. The figures weren't supposed to have authority over anything but the wall, so their being in the city means something, or someone, here had affected the wall. Feinting uninterest, I walked between them and peered into the waterway. They all stared at a pipeline under the water, and I immediately realized Alexei must be down there. Probably they were looking for him because of his vandalism.

For some reason I still fail to understand, even now, I jumped into the water. The figures watched me lifelessly as I swam down and through the pipeline. To my surprise, the pipe wasn't very long, and after a few minutes of breathless anticipation, it opened into a dome shaped atrium. Pipelines jutted out from eight sides of the dome, and in the center was a cement platform. Water poured onto it from the ceiling, but there was still dry space on it. And sitting on that dry space was Alexei.

He sat fearlessly, smoking a cigarette. However, his eyes were dark under the brim of his cap. Looking up, he waved at me. “Hey.”

I swam up to the platform and ran up to him. “Why would you vandalize the Wall in front of the figures?!”

He laughed a bit. “You didn't realize they were monitoring that part of the Wall when I vandalized it?”

“No!”

“Well, shit. Didn't realize you were so oblivious. Wanna cigarette?” He pulled a cigarette out of his pack and reluctantly, I accepted. “Have a seat.”

I sat down. “You didn't answer my question.”

“I did it to be myself. I don't follow rules.”

“But their after you now! Sooner or later they'll figure out how to get down here, and when they do, you're screwed!”

“Yeah, I'm betting they'll find that stairwell you have yet to notice in about three minutes. But I ain't gonna run, or anything, so get back in your seat.” He looked me in they eye. “Listen to me. I'm namin' my devil. If it means death, than so be it. Death never scared me.
“Death gets us all one day, and vandalizing crap till it knocks on my door isn't on my to do list. If I'm gonna die, its gonna be while I'm being myself, a rebel. Now go, unless you wanna watch whatever they do to me.” I noticed the figures creeping down the stairwell on the far side of the tunnel as he pushed me into the water. Hesitantly, I turned and swam away, Alexei's screams behind me.

When I surfaced, the figures were gone. I lay on the ground and wept for a person I barely knew. I lost someone else. That's how it was, inside the wall. Death. Pain.

Then I up made my mind. I was gonna scream in death's face too. Turning around, I began to sprint to my home. Barging through the doors, I went to my father. He sat in a rocking chair in the living room, reading a newspaper from many years ago.

“Father, please help me name my devils.”
-=-=>[¤]<=-=-

In my eyes, all potatoes are equal.


...Except sweet potatoes.

-=-=>[¤]<=-=-

Formerly Sheyren, Sheyren, and even once I was Sheyren
  





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Tue Mar 07, 2017 12:49 am
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TheSilverFox says...



(997 words)

I couldn’t let it be.

Father tried to ask me what had happened, why I was so panicked, and why my clothes were wet. I ignored him until he finally got up and called the psychiatrist, whereupon I undressed, put on my gym shorts and a shirt, and threw my previous outfit in the washing machine. The stink would last for days. I worried that they would find me, that they would hunt me down for having been around Alexei, so I relaxed on my bed and tried to go to sleep, resolving not to go outside.

My demon laughed at me. I gritted my teeth and resisted the urge to get up and punch a wall. I knew his name. Why couldn’t I kill him? Why was he determined to live?

When father turned off the lights in the apartment, I got out of bed. My hoodie in tow, along with a pair of dirty sneakers, I unlocked the window and crawled my way out over the abandoned and dark streets of St. Petersburg. It was easy enough to grab onto a withered, leafless tree, and make my way onto the ground quietly. Nervously, my eyes shot up to my apartment, but I saw no lights nor heard any sounds.

No figures came to torture me. I sighed with relief.

There was an abandoned building not far from my home. It used to be part of a bathhouse/swimming pool complex, but the government had apparently decided it “unnecessary,” and “evacuated” the owners (it was better not to think about the doings of the Wallbuilders). I came with a packet of cigarettes stuffed in a hoodie pocket that I had gotten from Alexei only a few days ago. He had told me to save it for a rainy day; I had retorted they were all rainy days in this world. Now more than ever, it seemed.

I stood outside the ruined building, spotting Alexei’s graffiti beside a blown-out window. A blindfolded lady holding scales was being tossed inside by three in gray and black suits, one with the distinct toupee of the presiding leader of the Russian District. Sic semper tyrannus, the text read. I had seen it countless times, but this simple design had been amplified by Alexei’s demise. Here was a dead man’s mind painted with a spray can. The screaming lady was permanent, an ironic testament to his existence; how much I hated it. Still, it reminded me of what each man strives to do to leave their mark on the world. Could I ever leave such a legacy? I wondered, climbing the rusty stairs that clung to the wall leading up to the rooftop.

There were the stars. They had long ago decided to forsake St. Petersburg, however much they laughed at man’s futile efforts to barricade themselves, but I admired them. Maybe, for once, they could tell me the wonders and mysteries of the world. Orion and Sagittarius and Libra had been to England, to the Swiss Bloc, the Yugoslavian State, and even to the exotic Canadian Sector, the last neighboring the wastelands of what had once been America. My father and grandfather read old papers and sometimes made cranes out of them; who were they to tell me the sights and sounds beyond the walls?

“Where did they take him?” I called out, grabbing a cigarette and putting it in my mouth. Cursing my lack of a lighter, I imagined a cacophony of voices shouting back at me, each pitching in a different idea. To somewhere peaceful. To somewhere nonexistent. Canada. Past all our hands. Closer to your heart. Somewhere where he can be free. Somewhere where he rules the government. In the stomachs of the figures. In the hands of the Wallbuilders. Hung on the gallows to prove a point. Thrown off a bridge to drown a spirit. He threw himself off the bridge and flipped them off while laughing at their grim faces. Alexei flicked a cigarette at the leader and let the smoke rise into the air. They kicked him out of the Wall, let him fend for himself. Japan. The North. The South. Heaven. Hell. Nothingness. Everything. Everywhere.

I nodded and sat down. “In that case,” I responded, “he’s here, right now, in this cigarette. I will never know what happened to him, but I can at least guess where his spirit might wander.”

There was silence as I dangled my legs over the edge of the building. Sagittarius winked and drew his bow at Scorpius. His counterpart, Centaurus, pursued Lupus. The hunting dogs followed their quarry as their master remained triumphant in the sky. I realized that each and every one of them knew their demons by name – and had for a long time - eternally chasing them in the sky. The astronomy book that I had received a birthday gift when I was 13, and the lessons my grandfather gave me before his rheumatism and bad health caught up with him, had taught me their names. Why couldn’t I have such a clear demon to pursue? Maybe something obscure and simple, like The goose, the eagle, or the fox?

No, I was a child, staring at the stars in the middle of the night. My demon was looming over me again, smirking in that seductive way of his. Was he my demon? I knew his name, but this did nothing against his might. Desperate, I shouted to the stars, “Who is he? Who lies in my heart and tells me lies? If he is here, smite him!”

My eyes did not droop. My soul did not quieten. The stars and constellations were mocking me, I imagined, for my naivety. That I, a pitiful human, should be as certain and majestic as they. My demon was just meant to be vague, mysterious, incorporeal; I would be trapped in his hell.

Screw this. I threw Alexei’s cigarette in their faces and made my way off the building.
S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
a persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma per ciò che giammai di questo fondo
non tornò vivo alcun, s'i' odo il vero,
senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Inferno, Canto 27, l 61-66.
  





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Fri Mar 10, 2017 12:11 am
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Lumi says...



Because Dedushka had once told me that Russian spirits become ice and snow, firm and relentless, because he had told me that Russian souls imbue the water we drink and walk through when the clouds above are dark, I could think only of one place Alexei would reside. On the outskirts of the city, surrounded by cement and wire walls, there slept an old pond that remained iced over for most of the year.

It was there that I sat on the snowy banks and crossed my arms to feel my shoulders for pain, for wings, for bones jutting out and trying to escape calamity.

"I do not want to talk to stars, Alexei," I called. "They are snobs and think only of themselves and do not make jokes...the way you made jokes." I closed my eyes. "They do not smell like paint and menthol. They do not call me names."

The pond did not respond.

"I bought a lighter outside of the city, Alexei. They did not ask me my age and were generally kind to me. I wondered if they knew you." I withdrew a cigarette and lit it, admiring the amber glow as the integrity gave way to heat the way man's integrity gives way to laws handed down by a bald autocrat. Upon exhale, I studied the brilliance of the billowing smoke and how it curled in on itself as water when having someone dive into her.

I was seeing with his eyes. I wondered, with the water, if I would see or smell or hear him. If he waited for me to be brave and relentless as he had become. In the center of the pond was a hole large enough for a man to fish through, and as I walked towards it, I dropped my cigarette.

I sped.

I dropped my shirt.

I sped.

My pants and shoes and socks and briefs.

I sped before my fear could hold me back away from him and into the souls I plunged.

And the water stung every inch of me, outside and in, and it was dark and bright together; and I reached out to feel him and felt nothing but bitterness the way Dedushka had felt bitterness when Babushka had left, the way Papa had felt bitterness when she had--

You are drowning for a memory that yet breathes.

You are looking for a man who is still a man.

Bitterness.

His clothes. Everything's here!

The dim light of stars who do not want to be stars.

Volody! Volody!

The pull down. The love for the undertow. The warmth of the deep stars.

V
two. run


It had been six days and six point five nights since Papa had found me at the pond, and our nurse neighbor, who had refused me to visit the hospital, had sat with Papa for many nights to ensure everything was safe.

You see, I do not mind this time being watched by my father and Nurse Vanya because, for the first time, I had heard my father offer to trade devils to spare someone pain, and I'm unsure about you, but that meant a great deal to me.

It was enjoyable, like this, until night six point five five, when both Papa and Vanya left my room, and I heard gasping and groaning, Papa's old mattress screeching spring-from-spring. It would be inhuman of me to think ill of him for...needing this thing; but in the pit of my stomach, all I could feel was the color gold and how Vanya was not the color gold, nor could she ever be.

I left my room and sat on the airway, huddled in my blankets, speckled with unwanted tears. And, looking up, I saw a new idea in Alexei's art: fresh and dripping.

Image
I am a forest fire and an ocean, and I will burn you just as much
as I will drown everything you have inside.
-Shinji Moon
  





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Sheytato says...



“What are you doing?” I asked the girl before me. She appeared to be, maybe, sixteen? She also appeared to be hitting the wall with a rock.

She turned around to me at my voice. “I'm hitting this wall with a rock.” She then immediately spun back to the wall and smashed it with the rock some more.

“May I inquire why?”

“If you want.”

I frowned. “Okay, why?”

She stood up and stepped aside. Then she pointed to the spot where she had been hitting. It was cracked, and had a dent about half a foot wide. The dent was extremely deep, but probably nowhere close to breaking through the wall. “I found a chip in the wall, and because of this tree,” She gestured to the tall tree beside us offering shade, “the figures never spotted it.” There was logic to what she said. At a quick glance, the tree blocked the crack. “So I began hitting it with a rock to see if I could break through. Been doing it for about a week.”

“That still doesn't tell me why.”

She looked me in eye seriously. “You really want to stay here? Confined to these borders? I don't. So I'm trying to break out.”

I avoided her eye for a second. “If it was that easy, how come no one has ever escaped?”

She grinned, holding up the stone. “They didn't have a rock.”

We both laughed for a bit, without saying anything. There was a relief in this. Bonding without conversation, something I hadn't tried in a long time. When finally we had stopped laughing, I said “What's your name?”

She looked up, as though she was trying to remember. “I forgot.”

“You got no name?”

“Oh no, I got one. Just haven't needed it in awhile.”

“Well I guess I'll call you... uh... Sonja,” I stuck out my hand for her to shake, “I'm V.”

She took my hand and shook. There was a tough force behind it, and that force gave me a glimpse into her rough life. You can learn a lot from the way people shake hands. Gentle, and they're cautious, perhaps afraid of you. Firmly but softly, and they're used to the easy life. With force, and they haven't had it easy.

“I should be getting home, V.” She awkwardly turned away, waving behind her. “I'll be here tomorrow, smashing, as well as any other day, so if you ever wanna talk.” She walked off.

There were no homes where she was headed.


I slowly began to walk home, thinking about Sonja. She hadn't had it easy, I could tell from her handshake. And the fact that her “home” had no houses further supported my theory.

Finally I arrived at my house and stepped inside. Pa was sitting at the same chair he always sits at. “You're home,” he said.

“Why did you suggest I talk to her?”

“To ground you. I don't know what's been on your mind recently, but it's time to start thinking about other things. Look at her. She's what happens when you aren't grounded.”

I sighed angrily. “I knew it was a bad idea to listen to you-” I started but was cut off by the doorbell ringing. “I'll get it.”

I pulled the door open and looked outside. Surprisingly, a girl I had come to know very well stood before me. “Natalia!”
-=-=>[¤]<=-=-

In my eyes, all potatoes are equal.


...Except sweet potatoes.

-=-=>[¤]<=-=-

Formerly Sheyren, Sheyren, and even once I was Sheyren
  





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Lumi says...



"I do not think I understand, V." Natalia and I were sitting cross-legged on my bed with a bowl of berries between us. If I had remembered correctly, they were her favorites: blueberries; and, coincidentally, the only berries I ever took at the market.

"It's just a cold, Lia, I'm sure." I nodded and burst a blueberry with my teeth, flush-cheeked. "Very sure."

"I don't mean the little raincloud on you now, babe." She ate two and put a hand on my shoulder. She smelled of lilacs. And she reached into her bag and retrieved a notebook full of history notes, which quickly registered her purpose at my home.

(Was it my home? I felt trapped, suffocated, molested by the place--could such a place be a home? Who would have an answer? I knew who would have an answer, but asking graffiti is not a wise course of action in life after proving to your father to be suicidal...whether you are or not.)

"Natalia, you shouldn't have done this."

"I certainly should have." She put a finger down on the hundred-and-fortieth page. "This is where you left off. I remember...well, I remember the suit coming for you, Volody." Her face fell. "The storming of the Winter Palace."

"Was the text Leninist or revisionist...?"

Her fist balled on the page and her head turned to look at me with disdain, hand grabbing my socked ankle. "Volody, I understand it must be a horrible world. I understand that the stars must be an unbelievably wicked shade of ink black. I understand that everything must roar in your mind at all times and I understand that nothing I say can make it better, but why did you--"

She stopped as Pyotr entered the room with an apple in his hand, flecks of it in his black beard. "Papa, we are okay."

"I am aware, Volody. I could not pray for a more grounding voice than little Natshka." He smiled. "But Natalia, remember that there are always going to be things about Vanya's death that Volody will not know."

He paused.

"And I suppose neither will I."

Natalia shook her head. "I should apologize, Mr. Pyotr. It must be a horrible world for both of you, but at least you have one another."

Papa shrugged. "Fathers and sons are like apples, isn't that the right analogy, son? Some days we are delicious together. Others, too tart to stomach in the same place."

He walked away, and I looked at Natalia with tears dammed back. I laid my head on her shoulder and asked if she had heard about Alexei.

She said yes.

I asked if she ever dreamt of life outside the walls.

She said yes.

And I said, "Yesli vy besplatno nachnete ubegat'."
(If you're still free, start running away.)

"Where will we go?"

"Uvidet' yego."
(To find him.)

"Where do you think he is?"

"Dumayu, on nas provedet."
(I think he will tell us.)

"We will leave tomorrow, then, V." Stroking my hair. "What if we find ourselves in England, yeah? And tell the press about the Autocrat who kills his troubled teenagers?"

I nodded into her shoulder.

"I will go home and pack, then. And I will bring my book of poetry, and I will bring many pencils. And you will bring your camera. And we will make memories that will never be forgotten."
I am a forest fire and an ocean, and I will burn you just as much
as I will drown everything you have inside.
-Shinji Moon
  





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TheSilverFox says...



(1,000 words)

We were to leave soon. There was nothing more to it.

This place was my demon – it surrounded me, suffocated me, punched into my heart and through my head. I had lost too many people here, and here had come my father and grandfather to heap more onto the pile of bodies. What good was there to be grounded when I lived where the rulers killed their citizens and spat on their graves? Sonja had been right; I wasn’t about to stay here any longer. Preferably, I wanted to take her with me. She didn’t have a safe home or a safe life, given how she had strode off into where there were none, and had been desperate enough to break her way out long before the very thought had truly entered my mind. Perhaps she, the girl with no home, would know best how to survive in the abandoned forests and wastelands that would mark our journey from Russia to England.

I worried that she would not get along well with Natalia; that there would be tension and spats, like those I had seen on my grandfather’s VCRs when I was younger (before the machine broke down - by my carelessness, of course). But I then reminded myself that life was not like the movies, and Natalia had seen enough of me to not be concerned of it. Besides, she had my goal - she wanted to take her notebook, her poems, and her (damning) history notes, and that was all that mattered. Neither of us cared who would accompany us, as long as they were trustworthy and reliable when it mattered. I, and perhaps she, hoped the same of ourselves.

There was but a few left to speak to. My father and grandfather would have to wait until the last minute, as they would otherwise suspect and capture me before my plans were complete. These beings, however, were dumb enough to be looked upon, but never capable of inflict their full wrath in return. I feared not that they would betray me, as they had no means to. All they could do would point, laugh, taunt, and act haughty when there was no such strength behind it, try as they might to hide it. And I had grown stronger than before, now that I was sure I had seen and prepared to slay my demon, and would not fall for such ruses.

Sneaking out proved more arduous than before, as every minute I spent in that apartment made me warier and more nervous. This time, I fell as I climbed down the tree, loudly bruising my knee in the process on the earth and stone. I gritted my teeth and avoided the urge to swear, though it quickly dissipated. There was movement in the apartment above, and I felt my heart and breathing crawl to almost a halt as I heard my doorbell being twisted, the door about to fly open on my ruse. Whoever was up there, however, decided against their better judgment to check; perhaps they assumed I had just fallen out of bed. The door closed, I breathed a sigh of relief, and crawled away, now but a small child hiding among ruined buildings in St. Petersburg.

------

The stars glimmered above as I climbed my way up the fire exit, through darkened and partially destroyed hallways, and stood upon a rusting balcony overlooking the modernist homes of thousands of former residents, stretching in a half-circle in front of and beside me. I knew not any of these people, nor where they lived or were buried now; only that this had been burned down in a night of arson, gunfire, and terror. The people and government blamed it on each other, claiming the other had been looking for new victims to inspire fervor among the rest. I could see which side I took in the way that Alexei had written on the floor, “The first step into madness is a doozy,” with the face of the head autocrat positioned above it, under my heel. It filled me with determination that I was making the right decision, that this land had truly fallen into decay, even as the people (including, once, my grandfather) worked with the government in “public service” programs to preserve order and sanity. They knew no better, and I found it hard to blame them – what choice did they have anymore?

I pulled out a lighter and a cigarette from the pockets of my hoodie, lighting up the cigarette and taking a drag.

The constellations were masked by clouds. Only their feet and arms were left to point at me, like trying to cast meteors upon me, as the remainder of their figures languished in their palaces and avoided my piercing gaze.

“My demon will die soon,” I called out, as I made my way towards the fire exit and climbed higher. “I will be rid of them, as you will see me run, run as far as I can away from here.”

Upon the rooftop, I watched the head of a dragon appears from the sky and snort fire, billowing smoke in the form of clouds across space. “This is not a dream anymore. The men and women live on the bones and ashes left from tyranny. This private sanctuary, try as they might, is becoming Hell for me and them all, and I must leave it.”

Now I stepped on the edge of the roof and continued smoking, coughing for a long minute. The bears and lions and dragons charged slowly across the sky, obscured by fog as they became the hunted, pursued by the hunters and hounds. I felt content; they had chosen to acknowledge my victory and return to their lives, having given up mocking me and my naivete. Perhaps this was but the first of many demons, and the first of many fights in the endless war of my life, but this battle had been won spectac-

“Volody!”
S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
a persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma per ciò che giammai di questo fondo
non tornò vivo alcun, s'i' odo il vero,
senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Inferno, Canto 27, l 61-66.
  





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Sheytato says...



Stupid, stupid father, I thought as I sat on my bed and stared out the window. Before me was my father yelling at me, but I wasn't really listening. He knew it, too, and quickly gave up before angrily rushing out the door. I leaned my head into my hands and recalled how he grabbed me by the ear and dragged me all the way home, telling me I couldn't just run away, that running away only teaches you how not to face your issues.

He didn't get it. I wasn't running, I was leaving, searching for a better world. Natalia got it. Then again, Natalia always got it. She was perfect in that way, and I knew I could trust her anytime. In fact, I relied on her to keep me alive, since without her I wouldn't have a reason to live. She gave me life.

Looking out the window, I had a plan. It was a dangerous plan, but I had been plotting it for awhile. Me and Natalia had said we wanted to run away, but in reality, it was crazy talk. Neither of us knew a way out of this prison we named home. But I had just formulated a plan.

Maybe Natalia wouldn't want to come with me, since maybe she only said she'd run with me to make me feel better. But I had to try. Leaping up from my bed, I grabbed a pack of cigarettes, lit one, and put the box in my back pocket. I then locked the door so father wouldn't check on me and see I was gone. Turning, I looked at my bedroom.

Perhaps I should have felt more sentiment. This had been my home for years. However, it lost all the warmth of a home a long time ago. This was place was not a home, it was a place to live. The word “home” meant more than just where you lived. It was where you loved, where you spent enjoyable moments. Most of all, it was not this place. I crossed to my windowsill and hopped out, not looking back.

This time I climbed down the tree perfectly, hit the ground smoothly, and dashed down the stone roads. I felt elated, a new spring in my step. Maybe this was the feeling of a demon dying, because as I left my home and childhood behind, I knew something inside me died, some weight lifted. With this renewed energy, I headed to Natalia's house. By now, she would have expected I had gotten caught, abandoned the plan, and went home, so I knew she was there. The only problem was I needed to get her without alerting her family members.

Looking past her bedroom window, I saw a sturdy vine climbing the stone wall of her house which might be able to hold my weight. Carefully, I tried it out and realized this was a way to reach her bedroom. Quickly rappelling up, I slipped onto her roof, silent as the night. Noticing her lights were on, I tossed the cigarette box through the window. She knew what I meant by it. A few minutes later, she hopped out the window a packed bag on her back and climbed the vines, rolling onto the roof gracefully.

She stood up and regained composure, smiling at me. Her hair shined a luminescent silver in the light of the full moon, and I stared at her. Her green eyes were so beautiful, and her skin had a quality as though it produced light. Brushing the hair out of her face, she began to speak. “So, we're actually doing this?”

I gave a grin. “Yes, we are.”

She tossed me my box of cigarettes. I pulled one out and passed it to her. She looked like she was about to decline, but she changed her mind and lit the cigarette with my lighter. “Do you actually have a plan to get us outside the wall?”

“I do.” I took a deep breath. This was the part I was afraid of. This was the moment of truth, a moment which may change the course of my life entirely. “You know, you don't have to come with me. I wouldn't ask you to leave your home for me.”

“V, this isn't my home. You are my home. A home is more than a place you live. It is the place you love, and spend enjoyable moments.” She smiled. “Unknown poet, 1476.”

So that's where I had heard it.

“I enjoy my time, no, I love my time with you, more than I love the time with my family. More than I ever will. You've met my deadweight family. I'm sure you can imagine,” She said, and we both chuckled.

As if in sync, we lay down on the roof. The sharp edges of the tiles dug into my back, but it was painless. I think, in that one moment of time, everything, my past, my life, was painless. I was with Natalia, alone, on that roof, staring at that green-purple sky glittering with stars. Laying next to each other, she grabbed my hand with her's.

“Do you think there's a sky like this in England?”

I turned my head to her, and we looked each other in the eye. “I hope so.” It was a beautiful sky, one I did not want to give up. I remembered one of Alexei's sayings. Beauty is a universal thing. There was a beauty above us, and I thought maybe Alexei was in that beauty. It was fitting that he would end up with the stars. He more than deserved a place there. I knew he in the stars now. Beauty is a universal thing. It made me think of the girl beside me.

This was the girl who had been my only refuge through the troubled part of my life. I do not know why I ever doubted she would come with me. If I could trust anyone to follow me, it was her. After a long while, we stood up reluctantly. Sliding down the vine was our one last task before we left this neighborhood behind.

I began to walk down the streets, but stopped when I noticed Natalia lagging behind. She looked up at her home, tears welling in her eyes. She still loved this place. I felt a wave of gratitude, that she chose me over this place which she loved so deeply. Turning back to her, I wrapped my arms around my shoulder, and she cried into my shoulder. We stayed like that for some time.

----------


“So, what's your plan? How are we getting out of here?” We were following the base of the wall as we headed to a slum off the side of the city. Our hands were interlocked, and we peacefully took in the sights around us.

“Its a secret,” I said, putting a finger to my mouth. She didn't ask questions, and we continued down the path. Then I saw it. It was barely visible under newly grown vines, but I could make out what it said. Beauty is a universal thing.

It was uncharacteristically optimistic of Alexei, and he had written it in many places. I had always wondered what it meant and why he would say it, but looking at Natalia, it all made sense. He wished to live in a beautiful world. This was a plea for others to make the world beautiful. Alexei trying to teach the world a life lesson. Strange.

I remembered the quote for the future. Even if he wasn't alive to do it, I would make sure his message was heard by the ears of the world.

Finally we arrived at our destination. On the side of the road was Sonja, sleeping wrapped in a blanket made of patched together fabric squares. I awoke her, and she groaned. When she registered me and Natalia, she sat up. “Huh?”

“Sonja, we're getting out of the wall, and we need your help.”

She raised a hand gesturing for me to stop talking. “Say no more. I know what you mean, and,” She held up her wall-breaking rock which she had slept next to and grinned, “I got just the thing.”
-=-=>[¤]<=-=-

In my eyes, all potatoes are equal.


...Except sweet potatoes.

-=-=>[¤]<=-=-

Formerly Sheyren, Sheyren, and even once I was Sheyren
  





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Lumi says...



Nikolai flipped the pages of his paper clippings like one would the precious reams of the bible, for to him these words and darkness were sacred. As the grand churches had been closed shortly after the earthquakes began in his childhood, Nikolai had forgotten the wonderful things: Hail Mary, full of grace... so on and so forth until we're saved. And on yellowed pages, he stopped when he found his eulogy blackwritten for Natya.

It was simple, and it had allowed Volody to sleep some nights when he had grown restless with the hatred growing inside him, but Nikolai often wished he could have done more for her, as Volody had once asked upon being caught running from home as a young boy, chasing a girl who was missing: Dedushka, would you not? Would you not go back and stop Babushka from running?! But he wouldn't have.

But he would have done anything to save Natya for that haunted boy. His fingers ran over his gentle work.

There was no funeral lovely enough for she.
I am a forest fire and an ocean, and I will burn you just as much
as I will drown everything you have inside.
-Shinji Moon
  





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Dino says...



I never expected to see how pretty it was finally escaping.

For sure, my imagination couldn't have painted a picture quite like the one. Sonya and Natalia were perched outside the wall while I angled my camera upwards at the sky. It was blue and endless. It dipped down into the curves then evened out. It was an ongoing process that pleased me. I took pictures of everything I saw outside the walls, even turning back and snapping a lasting memory of the prison before pocketing the camera into my pocket. Sonya yawned, stretching a hand to the sky before placing it on her head. I took a minute to realize we escaped because what we had back there was far. Unknown. Unsure. It didn't feel real.

Natalia had seen my thinking face and giggled slightly.

"What're you thinking about, Voldy?" she asked. I turned my head towards her and shrugged.

"What we're going to see in the world outside of St. Petersburg. Surely, they'll be more welcoming and free than this place."

Natalia sighed, looking back at the outstretched land. "We might explore some places where we are not welcomed. But, that's okay. If we stay together we'll be fine. Speaking of exploring places." Natalia got off the wall and stood in front of Sonya and myself. She had her hands on her hips and was smiling. "Where should we go first?"
She was the always the leader type. The one who would place the ideas into motion with enough charisma to build up onto that idea. There was also a soft tender side that only few people saw.

"You know me than me and Sonya, I believe. Why don't you chose?"

Natalia laughed lightly, looking up at the sky. "We could go to London."

"What's that like?" I asked, lazily.

"Well, it is a foggy with beautiful structures underneath. People walk around with umbrellas and there's little bakeries with array of smells. You can hear the sounds of the birds echoing off the stone walls. My own opinion can't describe the wonderfulness that the city holds," she explained. She then paused before continuing, "I read about it in a book. But it was one of those fictional pieces so I couldn't actually believe what was happening." Sonya sighed, poking a finger against her leg. I was closing my eyes, trying my best to imagine it all but it seemed blurry. A fragment of my imagination was blown to bits and I didn't have the courage to reach out and grab it. Books gives us the false reality that we need to place inside of the one we have now.
There was a slight fear about exploring the unknown. What it holds within and how you grab onto it. We wanted to get away from the mess of St. Petersburg and to actually find ourselves out there. I didn't know what to expect nor did I want to find out what will happen.

Sonya stood up, her joints cracking. She was wearing a black shawl that was curled around her shoulders. Her greasy black hair was patted down but had some leaves and such poking out.

"I think we should just explore somewhere else. I mean, London sounds nice and all. But, I want somewhere warmer than froggy London."

Natalia sighed, rubbing her palms together. "It's nice there, trust me. It just leaves the question as to what we'll see there. Mysteries are always fun, right? You can live your whole live inside of these walls without knowing what is outside. That probably sounds cliche but it seems fitting for a moment like this one." Sonya groaned, stretching.

"We can exchange cliches all days, sitting here when we could've been some distance away from when we first started," Sonya pointed out. I nodded, yawning. Natalia tilted her head back, squinting at a singular white cloud.

"I suppose you have a point. Make ground then plan. Sounds like a wonderful evening."

"Natalia, how far away is London, anyway?" Sonya asked. Natalia seemed to falter to find an answer to that but it quickly faded away.

"'Walk towards the good in life and one day you will arrive'. You know who said that? Atticus. And he has a good point. We walk until we find London."

Sonya shrugged and we began walking. It started off silent and during that time, I think we actually started understanding each other. I was thinking about home and everything. What Papa would be like. I had some regret but it was good regret. Adventure was waiting and I hardly knew what to do. At least, I had some friends to do it with.
You are like a blacksmith's hammer, you always forge people's happiness until the coal heating up the forge turns to ash. Then you just refuel it and start over. -Persistence (2015)

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Sheytato says...



The sun was setting, and it was amazing. The wall used to block out the sunset, so being able to see it was a whole new experience. The reds and oranges and pinks filling the sky took my breath away. Instantly my camera was up, and I took at least twenty pictures of the same part of the sky.

Sonya was behind me, watching as I photographed. “I never realized you were the artistic type.”

I turned around and noticed her for the first time. “It's a hobby,” I said, shrugging.

“Think there'll be a lot to take pictures of in England?”

“If what Natalia says is true, which it usually is, then I guarantee it.”

Sonya stared at me for a while. Realizing what she was doing, she snapped out of it. “You seem laid back. Almost like the stress you felt within the wall is gone. I guess that's the effect of freedom.”

I laughed a bit. “I'm not as laid back as it seems then. The truth is, I'm quite scared of England. Sure, Natalia talks of a beautiful place, with a touch of art around every corner, but all that's done is get my hopes up. It won't be hard to crush those hopes when we arrive in England, and disappointment is what I fear,” I spoke quietly, watching the sun as it dipped further below the horizon. “I am but a young child, lost in the center of a vast city, one which I have never seen. The city around me keeps moving, but I am standing confused in the middle, watching the bustle around me. Maybe someday I'll find my way home, and maybe someday that home will be England. But maybe it won't be. That, Sonya, is what I fear.”

She laughed a hearty laugh which could be heard all the way to England. “I see why you and Natalia get along. Both poets at heart.”

I smiled. “A poet I may be, but Natalia I am not.”

“Guys, come here!” Natalia shouted from up ahead. She was standing at the top of rise, staring down the other side of it. Excitement glinted in her eyes.

Me and Sonya ran up the rise to stand on both sides of her and we looked down. At the bottom of the hill was a quaint little town with beautiful stone houses and glorious red roofs. In almost every chimney a cloud of smoke billowed out. In the windows were warm lights, and instantly we were drawn down the hill to enter the town. As we approached the town, I snapped a bunch of pictures.

When we set foot in the streets of the town, we realized it was empty. No one was inside the houses. No one was out on the streets. We cautiously stepped inside one of the houses to find a fire with wood recently added, but no one was near.

“I... I don't understand.” Natalia said. “No one's here.”

“But who is keeping the fire tended to?” Sonya inquired.

That was when we heard the footsteps. They seemed almost silent at first, but soon the sound grew to a deafening volume. It seemed almost like a march. We peered through the curtains of the window and out onto the rise we came from. Outside were hundreds of soldiers, marching their way to the town. As they approached, they broke up, and the soldiers made their way back to their homes.

We saw someone approaching this house, so we spun around and sprinted into the cellar of the home. I fumbled with the lock, but eventually got it hooked together. Sighing, we fell back and rested on the wall farthest the door. “That was close,” I whispered.

Then the soldier tried to open the door. When he realized it was locked, it occurred to him someone was hiding inside. He body-slammed into the door, and the lock bent under the pressure. We could tell he was preparing for another tackle, and Sonya grabbed something next to her in preparation. It was a rifle.

She angled it at the door and waited for the soldier to slam into the door, but he never did. Peering through the keyhole, we realized he had left.

Silently, We unhinged the lock and stepped out of the cellar, Sonya still holding the gun. That was when we all felt the force of a full grown man tackle us to the ground.
-=-=>[¤]<=-=-

In my eyes, all potatoes are equal.


...Except sweet potatoes.

-=-=>[¤]<=-=-

Formerly Sheyren, Sheyren, and even once I was Sheyren
  





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Lumi says...



Inheritor, it is a terrible shame to tell you that my story ends here, beneath the burl of an English soldier.














And that it begins again with a grand headache as I open my eyes to the speckled popcorn ceiling of a room that smelled of boiled eggs. I lifted my head to find a camouflage-draped couch, cushions with stitchings of deer on them, each with little red hats adorning their heads. It was a strange thing that confounded me. Across from me, in an armchair, was Natalia, who was rip-corded to the arm of the chair--but only by one arm.

"It's inescapable," she whispered. "Small and confusing, but inescapable."

"Like love," I concluded.

"Like love," she affirmed.

I looked around for Sonya, but found her nowhere. "Something tastes wrong in my mouth." I cleared my throat and coughed out clear and white phlegm that felt wrong. "Where is--"

Natalia had tears in her eyes as she looked at the floor. "She's tending to the Richard's garden," she cut.

"The Richard?" I looked at my body. "Am I bound anywhere?"

"The Richard said you weren't." She closed her book of poetry. "Perhaps we will be set free now that you are awake and safe. You apparently hit your head very hard on his, how he said, washboardabs?"

"England smells like eggs," I deadpanned.

The front door opened, and I saw him, unarmed, and got up groggily; and goddammit, I ran at him with all my strength--

--until the chain buckled to a band around my waist whipped tight, knocking me to the floor before Talia. She reached down with her free arm to pick me up as The Richard laughed.

"Oi, I always wanted a dog, I did. Now I've gone and got a Russian Terrier, Russian Gardener, and Russian Shakespeare." He chortled. "Read me a line, would ye, Willy?"

Talia closed her eyes and sighed, her Russian accent becoming thick. "Wicked, brittle, twisted / be it the man or winter / upon which was trodden / one which breaks the other / in Camisado."

Sonya walked in with arms full of vegetables and put them on the counter to begin skinning and cutting. I looked up to see The Richard's face, and saw a man almost moved to tears by a poem that was no poem at all.

Natalia was always the clever one in my darkness, and so I will translate for you, Inheritor:

Natalia closed her eyes and sighed, her Russian accent growing thick. "For what you have done to us, I will kill you with my own two hands."
I am a forest fire and an ocean, and I will burn you just as much
as I will drown everything you have inside.
-Shinji Moon
  





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TheSilverFox says...



Flight of the Wasps




For as malevolent as The Richard was, he was stupid in three ways. First, that he had not expected the dog to bite back. Second, that he had named (as I was told later) his garden Bosworth Field, believing that it would be best to pay tribute to a previous king. Third, that he was so overconfident that he did not consider searching Sonya for either her gun or knife (or, as I was also later told, search among the earth for where something might be buried). All that he did as she cut and carved the vegetables, looking almost pitiful in a green apron and a smock, was to stare at Natalia and I – particularly me – with a hungry and intrigued gaze. He had all the grace and step of the man seeking to take pleasure in his days and the arts (perhaps having taken possession of us to use as his pets while he bade his time as a military office) but I felt the distant impression of a monster lurking in step behind him.

That monster sank into the earth during the looks that Natalia and I exchanged when Sonya had finished with the vegetables, placed them neatly onto porcelain plates by the sink, and left to return to the garden for more, followed by The Richard. He whistled happily as I raised myself just enough above the chair to avoid being pulled back into it, and there I saw Natalia’s eyes, a fire that desired to snap the cords that bound her by an arm to the chair. I was accompanied by this, the couch that I had been laid down upon and tied to, and the smell of boiled eggs that pervaded my brief amount of time in England.

A few seconds passed as The Richard began to hum, in the distance, what sounded like the Ride of the Valkyries. Then we heard a brief argument, a distinct clicking sound, a young girl shouting “I prefer turnips!” and a loud gunshot. Natalia chose then to flash a brief smile, though it faded away into an expression of horror as she stood up, tugging at her chords, and dropped the book onto a floor with a rug depicting the same deer pattern that had thus far taunted us. Neither of us had the slightest clue as to who had won that brief duel, if anyone at all, and fear gripped out hearts as he waited impatiently for the door leading into the outside world to open.

“Sonya!” she cried, as the girl in question ran back into the room, rifle in tow. She dangled a few keys happily, running over to my chair and unlocking the mechanism holding the chain in place. I let the metal jingle happily to the floor as she brandished a knife and tore the cords that bound Natalia. It took only a few more seconds to rip the band from my waist off, and then the three of us tore our way through The Richard’s room. Stealing as many of the cut vegetables as we could, I led the charge through the door, into the garden, and over the small stone wall flanked by relatively tall buildings, letting the distant cries of alarm and footsteps deliver the adrenaline I needed.

It had apparently been some hours since I had come to, and The Richard had taken us to somewhere else. Where we had gone to was more of a proper town, with imposing stone buildings and rows of trees and passerby walking peacefully by. Or, they had been, before jumping aside and shouting as we bolted down the streets and weaved in and among the houses, churches, stores, and all that composed this surprisingly large space. England had an odd appearance, with many buildings appearing to have been bombed at some time in the past. Many windows had been shattered, and the bricks looked awkwardly cobbled together. The people themselves had tattered clothes and dusty faces, much as they smiled and looked as peaceable as possible.

Perhaps I would not have noticed any of this were it not for being pulled into an alleyway at the last minute by Natalia and Sonya, hiding amidst a tangle of vines as we heard distant signals and shouting. After all, then I was left patiently observing the stone I was trapped in and the increasingly-running passerby. As it was, I could have seen and heard more as we stifled our breath and tried to remain as still as possible, had I not made a wrong step and hit a piece of glass with only enough force for it to crack and make its presence clear. I took a few alarmed steps away, hitting the other end of the wall and bruising my shoulder, and gazed up at the writing on the wall above me. Natalia and Sonya first attempted to shush me as I loudly wormed my way into the vines, but they too came to join me while I mouthed out the words written at an angle on the back of the alleyway.

Your journey has only begun, and the wise men who saw the world told their students it must begin within your best mirrors.

The beautiful handwriting of Alexei stunned me, validated my greatest hopes, and left me speechless as Natalia picked up the piece of glass I had trodden upon. We all clustered around her as she placed the piece of glass at the center of the image of the mirror, allowing us to view a distant, partly-destroyed tower now gleaming as much as dull stone could, with our faces reflected and positioned around it. We looked at each other, nodded, and made our escape into the crowds of the city. It was then, in the seconds before returning to running, that I spotted other pieces of glass among the vines. I ungracefully hid them with my foot, but not before picking one up. Though Natalia kept her piece, alongside the book that had once been The Richard’s, I felt that this was not the last puzzle we would encounter.

I hoped that nobody would spot the bloodstains left behind when I cut my finger on the edge of the glass.
S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
a persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma per ciò che giammai di questo fondo
non tornò vivo alcun, s'i' odo il vero,
senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Inferno, Canto 27, l 61-66.
  





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Sheytato says...



I led Sonya and Natalia through a large crowd of people, and we struggled to push our way around. People seemed to barely notice a group of teens attempting to get around, and they certainly weren't going to move. Humans are so focused on themselves. I was reminded of something Natalia read to me long ago. It was one of the few poems I could recite by heart, probably because of how short it was. I felt that the ignorance of these people was all too fitting of the poem.

The cold of snow
is no colder than a human heart
and snow can kill


Finally Sonya let out a growl of anger and pulled out the gun she used to kill The Richard. Aiming up, she fired a shot. People turned to her and realized she was trying to get through. Naturally, they opened up a path.

Sonya crossed to a small food stand on the far side of the street. It was run down, and the wood it was made of had cracks and moss covering it. The fabric for the roof had moth holes littering its surface. Sitting within the stand was a boy of eight or nine. On display was a shelf of rock-hard bread loaves.

“Um, Sonya,” Natalia said, tugging on her sleeve. “Shouldn't we try to get out of here? We killed someone, and now we're kind of wanted fugitives.”

“Those vegetables won't hold us forever. Let me just fill this satchel with bread and we'll be on our way.” She turned to the boy in the stand. “I'd like enough bread to fill this.”

The boy laughed. “You wouldn't be able to afford it.”

“How would you know?!” I butted in.

He gestured to the shelf of bread, which had no prices. “You're desperate. I could make this the most expensive bread you'll ever find, cause we don't have set prices, and you'd buy it. You need it.”

Sonya made a fist, but Natalia shoved her aside. “Who are you? Can we please speak with the owner of this stand?”

“Name's Kosma. And no, you can't. Dad left yesterday. Said he'd be an hour, but hasn't come home. Probably got shot.”

“And... You don't care?” Natalia asked.

He shrugged. “Was bound to happen eventually. Welcome to town.”

I turned to Natalia and Sonya. “Let's go. This kid isn't helping us at all.”

Sonya glanced at the Kosma. “Any objections to breaking the law again?” No one spoke, but suddenly I had a bad feeling. Sonya approached the side of the stand and got as close as possible. She leaned over the edge. Reaching for the knife in her back pocket, she slowly pulled it out, making sure he saw the glint of the knife. “How about you sell us some bread for a reasonable price?”

Kosma wasn't even slightly affected. Instead he pulled out a knife from his own back pocket. “How about you get away from my stand?”

Sonya covered up a look of immediate shock. “Huh, I really thought people in England would be nicer,” she said as she turned to me and Natalia.

“Likewise,” I said, and Natalia nodded in silent agreement beside me.

The kid began to laugh. “Wait, you... Actually...” He said between bursts of giggles. “Think you're in England?”

I turned to him in astonishment. “You mean to say we aren't? Because that's a relief.”

“No, you fool. This is Ukraine. Have you been living under a rock?”

Natalia shrugged. “In a sense. Russia. We're trying to get to England.”

“Great place. I've been.”

Sonya, Natalia, and I all looked at each other, our eyes lighting up. We lurched forward so we were up in his face, probably closer than is acceptable. “How do we get there?!”

Kosma suddenly had a devilish grin cross his face. “Cross the border until you're in Poland, then ride a ferry through the Baltic Sea to the North Sea. You'll be landed on the coast of England.” We stared blankly. “You have no idea what I'm talking about, do you?” We nodded. “I can come with you, if you want.”

“Really? You'd do that for us?” I asked, hope fueling my response.

“Sure, on one condition. You buy all of my bread.”

I turned the others, and we hesitated. “We have enough money.”

“But we won't have a lot left over,” Sonya pointed out.

Natalia looked at the Russian currency in her hand. “I doubt this'll be much use once we put some distance between us and Russia.”

“So?” I raise one eyebrow, holding up the pouch with the bulk of our money contained inside.

Sonya and Natalia nodded. I spun around to Kosma and poured half the bag onto his counter. He looked me in the eye and folded his arms across his torso. “You're gonna need to pay more than that.”

“That's ridiculous! It's bread!”

“How badly do you want to get to England?” He asked. I sighed and poured out another quarter of the bag. He stared at me accusingly, and I reluctantly gave him the rest.

“Okay, follow me,” he commanded, hopping over the side of the stand. Sonya grabbed the bags of bread and threw it over her shoulder, and we followed him. He scurried into an alley between two presitigious brick buildings. As we kept running, the buildings appeared to get closer together. We were shuffling sideways, stomachs rubbing against the walls, when it finally opened into a clearing. The clearing was a wide square, buildings on all sides, and four pathways led from the center in all directions. On the ground was a sloppily drawn compass, each alley following the cardinal markings.

Kosma glanced at the large “W”. Wordlessly, he looked the path pointing in that direction and cussed. On the wall beside it was a cryptic graffiti message. It read “Sometimes you need to go home to leave it.” We stared, and slowly I approached it, gently tracing it with my hand.

“That damn kid followed me in here! I knew he was trouble.”

I turned to him, filled with shock. If I was right about who made this, and Kosma had actually seen him, then he couldn't be far. “What are you talking about?”

“Yesterday, after Dad left, I went home. To get there, I crossed through here. For about half of the way, some kid in an edgy hoodie followed me. His face was covered. I tried to shake him, and I though I was successful, but apparently he was trailing from a distance. Now someone knows about this place.” He cussed again.

My eyes opened wide, and I stared at Natalia. She stared back. “Does that mean-?”

“That he's alive?”

“If so, he'd only be a day's trip away!”

“If he's alive. After all, how would he have survived the police getting him?”

Sonya looked at us uneasily, as did Kosma. “Sorry, is there something I'm missing?” She said.

“I don't know. We'll figure that out later.”

“Could someone please explain?” Kosma asked.

“No time!” I called over my shoulder as me and Natalia dashed down the path. Kosma and Sonya followed uneasily.
-=-=>[¤]<=-=-

In my eyes, all potatoes are equal.


...Except sweet potatoes.

-=-=>[¤]<=-=-

Formerly Sheyren, Sheyren, and even once I was Sheyren
  








cron
I am and always will be optimist, the hoper of far-flung hopes, the dreamer of improbable dreams.
— 11th Doctor