z
  • Home

Young Writers Society


16+ Language Violence

The Fall - Chapters 1-4

by WilliamPaige


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language and violence.

(1)

-Benjamin-

 "There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of the law and in the name of justice," I mutter to myself, lost in thought amidst the flurry of students rushing to their next classes. The words have an eerie resonance in my mind as I watch, in horror, as the scene plays out before me. The sound of metal striking bone and the spray of innocent blood. 

 Despite being aware of the consequences of being late, I can't bring myself to move from my spot amidst the crowd. My eyes catch the image of the victim lying on the ground, surrounded by chaos. It is as if the truth of what I have long since known to be true has just now revealed itself to me. This single moment, shattering the shallow illusion of a just and fair society.

 Even as the sounds of footsteps fade away, I remain rooted in place. The horror taking hold of me only seems to grow stronger with each passing moment. Causing me to wonder if the justice they tease us with truly exists, or if it was merely a facade that we still cling to in the face of violence and chaos.

 “I think that's enough.” Initially I think the voice is mine; only for me to realize moments later, it was instead that of the headmistress; a woman whose mere presence brings tears to the eyes of children. She glides down the hallway with menacing grace. Followed closely by the sharp, echoing click of her heels. 

I freeze, the weight of inevitability settling upon me. Similarly the officer, as though sensing the headmistress’ approach, halts his work and stands rigid. His posture that of a soldier at attention. 

“Good morning, ma’am,” Punctuating his statement with a curt nod. Though, as a result of his short stature it could better be defined as a bow. At his feet a broken boy lies, whimpering, nursing a busted face ignoring the jagged slice along his shoulder. The headmistress regards him with little pity. However, her lip curls in distaste at the sight of his blood pooling on the polished tile floor. Raising her pointed nose in distaste she turns her steeled gaze toward me. My blood runs cold, knowing if I play the wrong cards I will be joining the sobbing kid on the ground. 

Rule number one: do not speak until spoken to. I hold my tongue waiting for her to address me. 

“Hill.” Her voice drips with so much venom I can almost see it running down her chiseled jaw, lacing each syllable with malice, “Has the final bell not rung?” 

“It has ma’am,” I respond, silently praying that she cannot hear the panicked beating of my heart in my stomach, even as it pounds restlessly. She stares me down, the hot flames of her eyes licking sharply at my skin, searching for even the slightest twitch to give away my fear. I offer her no reward for her search. 

Rule number two: never admit fear; to the headmistress or otherwise. 

The headmistress points her chin to the boy on the ground.

“Clean this up,” she snaps, her words a whip on my back. In a flurry of fabric, she spirals down the hallway. As soon as she turns the corner I rush to the nearest maintenance closet. The dim, flickering light peppers the short walls with shadows, casting an uncanny glow on all of the room's belongings. I retrieve an old mop from where it hangs lazily on the wall, its ropes worn and frayed. As I grab the door handle to leave, a roll of bandages catches my gaze and I discard the mop. Checking the hallway for any stray eyes I slip them into my pocket. 

I hurriedly make my way back to the boy, my mind alive with a flurry of conflicting thoughts and emotions. Even though the scene was not one of rare occurrence. With every step, I feel the heat of the bandages in my pocket, singing my thigh, a painful reminder of my acting of defiance.

Reaching the spot of confrontation, I find the boy lying on his side, face contorted in pain. Without hesitation, I kneel beside him. Reaching out my hand I offer, not only assistance, but alliance. I slip the bandages from my pocket and his eyes widen in surprise and skepticism, then soften with gratitude as he accepts my help.

"Here," I say softly, "Let me help with your injuries."

He nods. Holding back tears he gingerly sits up. The hallway is silent as we work, the only sound, that of the boy’s raspy gasps. Gently, I wind the fabric around his wounded shoulder, shushing him as he winces in pain. Trying not to think of the punishment that awaits us if we’re caught. Yet, with each careful movement, through his curses of pain, I can't help but feel a sense of kinship with this stranger.

Once his injuries are taken care of, to the best of my ability, the boy offers me a weary smile. Gratitude filling in where pain leaves gaps in his features. It's a small gesture, but in a fight or die place, it holds power. 

After I finish I return to the closet for the abandoned mop. When I return the kid has disappeared down the hallway, his footsteps fading into the distance. Leaving me moping the dirty floor alone.

The final class bell rings, the sound rattling behind my eyes, as it signals the end of a long day. In harmony every classroom door swings open, releasing a flood of students. The crowd fills the packed walkway headed for the dining hall. Ignoring the hollow ache in my stomach, I decide not to test my luck with the bloodbath of mealtime and instead make my way back to the sanctuary of my dorm. I peel away from the rush of colliding bodies and turn towards the stairwell. Inching upward in the echoing room I listen to the cacophony of cries that work their way through the thin walls. One of the few things I enjoy at East River, within the confines of the stairwell, you can see the world for what it really is. And through the echoing sobs you can still find the strength to keep moving forward, one step at a time.

(2)

-Sange-

The uneven crunch of fall leaves chases after me. Slowing, I peer towards the sky, listening through the whistles of wind through tangled branches. A flash of white flicking overhead sends me charging forward again. I throw myself over fallen logs and dodge low-hanging branches. My heartbeat shakes my body, demanding more air like an angry child. In my gasps, I catch his familiar scent and confirm my target. Cutting to my left, I reach out and grasp at the large trunk of a red oak. Reacting to my momentum, I catch a branch. Swinging upward, I fly through the leaves. 

Thwap. 

My body crashes into a mess of feathers and we both spiral downward. My body presses down, pulling his wings tight to his side. Our altitude stubbornly drops… only a few more paces…

"Yield!" Icarus's voice slices through the air, flooded with a mixture of exhaustion and triumph. Finally relenting, I release my hold on him and leap off his back. His wings unfurl with a soft rustle, and he descends gracefully to the forest floor, landing with a gentle thud. Seated cross-legged on the ground I watch as he stretches, a scowl etched across his features.

"I know you're not really upset," I tease, my tail sweeping behind me in a clean arc. He rolls his eyes, still glaring as his fingers deftly pluck leaves from his unruly white hair. Behind him the sun dips, the evening light bathing him in a warm glow. It falls across his body illuminating the subtle hues hidden within the arching feathers of his wings.

"Well, considering you so rudely attacked me, I think it's only fair that you cook," he retorts, playfulness returning to his tone.

I gasp mocking offense. "What are you implying? That women belong in the kitchen?" I taunt. He makes a move to swat me, but I duck out of the way, slapping at his arm. "You act as if you could cook if you tried. Stick to your doodles, pretty boy," A grin spreads across his face, his eyes alight with amusement.

He takes one last swing at me and a feather grazes my cheek. But again, I dodge. This time however, I seize his wing, pulling it to the side with a tug, causing him to flip onto his back with a grunt with surprise. I turn to leave when a sudden flash of white sends me tumbling into the foliage.

Spitting out a mouthful of dirt, I roll onto my back. Still laughing as Icarus lays down next to me. Sparks of sunlight flit over my body, dancing warmth into my cold limbs. Above, the remaining leaves sway gently on barren branches, painting the sky with a kaleidoscope of colors. 

You don’t deserve this

Deserter

“Come on Sange, we have a lot to do still, and it's getting dark,” Icarus says. I sigh, slowly coming to my feet. 

Run away

You always run

I shake as if I might be able to toss the voices away, but ignoring them is futile, their taunts dragging across the bottom of my skull like jagged nails. 

“Sange?” Icarus puts a reassuring hand on my back. Blinking, I am momentarily wrenched back to the physical world by his touch.

“Yeah, fine,” I manage, though the lie hangs heavy in the air between us. His furrowed brow betrays his concern. It's not the time for misery. I have things to do. People to care for.

Icarus stays behind me as we work through the familiar path. Despite not being able to see his face, I feel his worry crawling up my back, nestling in between my shoulder blades. We reach the nests just as the sun collapses over the horizon; casting the forest into a tapestry of moonlit shadows. The familiar rustling of the nests greet us as we enter the clearing, their gentle sway dislodging stars from the sky, leaving behind a dark void against the speckled canvas above. Each refuge, a testament to our ingenuity, is meticulously crafted from supple twigs, intricately woven together to form a resilient sanctuary. Though shrouded in darkness, I am able to discern the four identical pods from the humming shift of sound.

Beside me Icarus springs effortlessly into the air. His ascent a graceful dance against the fading light. I watch his silhouette disappear into one of the rooms, a fleeting shadow swallowed by the darkness.

 As I trot through the clearing, along the halo of red oaks, I approach one of the smaller trees. Crouching low, I reach between the gnarled roots, anticipating the collision of my hand with the earlier stashed corpse of a plump rabbit; yet, I grasp only air. I’m puzzled until I hear the giggles from overhead. With an exasperated sigh, I lift my gaze skyward.

 As if on cue, the rabbit drops, landing at my feet with a hollow thud. Swiftly followed by a cascade of colored feathers, laughter trailing in their wake.

Kili. 

Kili's gaze meets mine, her eyes wide with innocence and curiosity. Framing her round face is a tuft of unruly hair. She's the newest, and youngest, addition to our sanctuary, a fragile soul seeking refuge from a world of bruises and fear. Just like the first few, who, after some persuasion, I allowed to take shelter. And as long as they are here, they are safe from the dangers that lurk beyond our haven's walls.

“Kili.” I reach to untangle a twig from her braids, but she scowls, slapping my hand away. “You should be with the others: inside.” 

She huffs stubbornly.

“But they are loud,” She protests, slowly enunciating each word with deliberate precision.

“Come on,” I coax, hoisting her onto my back. “Icarus is probably worried.” 

Shaking off the chill that clings to my limbs, I grasp a rabbit between my teeth. Sliding my fingers around the rungs of the natural ladder, I cling to the rough bark, lifting myself off the ground. With practiced ease, I ascend, navigating the branches. Once high enough, arms outstretched, I leap to the swaying nests. For a few stiff seconds I hover over open air, until clearing the imposing gap. For a moment I stand, tasting the breeze; the sweet taste of autumn coming to a close. Kili leaps from my back, causing me to stumble forward, the sudden release of weight catching me off guard. As soon as her feet touch the floor she starts her sprint across the loose bridge to a farther pod. Already halfway across when I call to her,

“Wai-g!” My voice muffled by fur. Kili pauses to look back, the bridge bouncing from her early charge, “Can you take this?” I toss the rabbit and she catches it effortlessly, before disappearing into shadows.

“Icarus?” I peer through the round doorway, but find it empty save for the pale glow of lantern light. A soft gale slips its way through a gap in the far wall, sweeping white feathers across a bed of animal furs. Turning away from the empty room, I cross the narrow bridge to Icarus’s art room. Inside, I find him engrossed in a sketch, his fingers tracing the delicate lines of a forget-me-not, using a hand-made brush to fill each petal with deep, violet-blue. 

All around him the walls are adorned with his vibrant artwork, each piece a testament to his talent and passion. Deciding to leave him undisturbed, I retreat back across the walkway. Pausing only to glance at the kitchen, but exhaustion washes over me, and I forgo the kitchen in favor of a quiet corner. Peeling back the hand-sewn curtain, I whistle softly, listening for the familiar responses. They come back staggered and quick. Silently, I keep count. One: Kili. Two: Estra. Three: Carrow. Four: Nex. All accounted for.

One by one they join me, filtering in through the narrow doorway, claiming furs and pelts. Comforted with the knowledge they have Icarus close by, I follow the small bodies into the room. I stumble over soft furs, whilst dodging sleeping silhouettes, before finding a place in a secluded corner. Wrapped in a thick bear pelt, I allow the gentle breeze to lull me into a dreamless sleep, the worries of the day fading into the darkness.

(3)

-Benjamin-

“Benjamin, Benjamin. Ben-”

A voice pierces through my semi-conscious, dragging me reluctantly from the comfort of sleep.

“Jaxson,” I mumble, eyes pinched shut as to block out the violently bright, overhead light. “Why are you leaning over me, breathing in my face, at four in the morning?” 

I hear a scoff. 

“How do you even know it’s four A.M.?”

“What time is it?” Hesitation, then: “Four sixteen.”

Cursing silently, I extricate myself from the tangled sheets, rub my eyes before finally peering at Jaxson. He squats on the edge of my bed, wearing a mischievous smile, fully aware I lack the energy to reprimand him. I hold his gaze but give up after a few moments. Shaking my head, I jump to the floor where the icy chill of the linoleum greets me. I shake out the ache of exhaustion still clinging to my muscles. Mindlessly, I smooth the sheets, tucking them neatly around the edges of the mattress. Jaxson rolls his eyes and hops off of my bed, wrinkling the newly straightened bedcover. Over his shoulder, past the dreary gray sill of the arching window, the shadowy fields of silence engulf everything, untouched by the early hour when even the ghostly glowing screens hesitates to pierce the heavy darkness

“Did you forget? Today’s the field trip! God, finally something interesting is happening! I would at least expect you to look a little less like you’re battling a hangover and maybe have some energy.” Jaxson quips. He leans on the far wall of our dorm, picking at his acne-ridden face, a habit he couldn't seem to break

“First off, you’ve never even seen someone with a hangover. Second: what do you mean? I am so excited to sit on a bus with a bunch of sweaty teens for five hours.” Though I'd never admit it, especially not to Jaxson, a small part of me was genuinely looking forward to the trip. It's not everyday the government drags their “waste-of-space” children on a walk. 

Jaxson tosses me a not-so-gentle punch to the arm. I snatch my pre-packed backpack out of his outstretched hand and sling it over my shoulder, knocking the heavy canvas bag into the side of his head. Grumbling, he shoves me through the door.

“Move your ass, we're gonna miss the bus.” 

Emerging from the dimly lit boys' dormitory, we step into the vast expanse of the school parking lot. As the bustling scene unfolds before us, I sketch a mental map of the lot. Four run down buses, buzzing gently as they hover over the cracked pavement. All around them a sea of bodies shape into scraggly lines. Adjusting my shoulder strap, I quicken my pace, feeling a palpable sense of unease amidst the vibrant positivity. A sharp contrast to the day before. The wait is brief, and within moments, we find ourselves aboard the bus, greeted by the familiar scent of plastic seats and the hum of the electric engine. 

I find an open seat and fall into the squeaky polyester. Jaxson bounces in the seat beside me leading me to press myself further against the aluminum bus wall.

“Let the hell ride begin!” He shouts, pumping his fists into the air, inches from taking my glasses with him. Though I don’t react to his exclamation, he is unbothered, already chatting with the people in our neighboring seat. Leaning against the cool window, I close my eyes, allowing myself to be enveloped by the mechanical wizz of the engine as the bus sets off down the dimly-lit road.

-o-

“HALFWAY THERE!” 

I’m jolted awake by a cacophony of cheers; definitely an unusual awakening when you attend East Rivers’ Corrective School. Yawning, I peer out the window, observing the artificial rain cascading from heavy-duty sprinklers, creating a shimmering curtain that veils the city below. Buildings blur past, their shapes distorted by the speed of our passage; chased by the hum of activity as hundreds of people begin to stir, heading off to face the day. Colorful umbrellas crowd auto train passages, traveling throughout the vastness of the second level. 

Towering over everything is the man-made sky. The next layer of the city, resting hundreds of feet above. Sounds of early morning chatter and the whistle of advanced technology echo off the decorative panels that conceal the stone ceiling from the world below. I shift my gaze just as we pass a colossal building, its structure dominating the skyline. A deafening roar escapes from the trembling building as the inner magnets strain to hold up the sky. The Atlas of Machines. 

I lean down and pull my bag back onto my lap. It takes a few moments of rummaging through the contents: some changes of clothes, deodorant, a toothbrush, for me to conclude: no entertainment. Two and a half hours and nothing to do. It could be worse. Defeated, I zip the bag back up and return to the scenery, allowing my mind to wander. 

No one told us what to expect on this trip. We were told the day before to pack for a six-day trip and no one bothered to question it because any chance to avoid the headmistress’ wrath, is one you take. When I asked one of the instructors for more information he got a weird look before, snapping that I didn’t need to know. Leaving me to ponder my unease alone. 

Jaxson grabs my arm and points out of the window. I almost shake him off before I see what has him so fascinated. The edge of the city rushing at us; an imposing cutoff. Past the gray building, climbing far into the sky, is a large clear wall. A dome so large the top slips into the clouds. Clouds. Real clouds. Leaning forward I press my face against the glass, squinting at the fluffy white phenomenons. Only to be torn away to the multicolored sunlight –natural sunlight– as it glitters across the multifaceted surface of the dome. As we glide further towards the edge I catch a glimpse of the workings of nature within. The greens and browns of vegetation, maybe even the sheen of water.

A few students squeal as the bus slips off of the city highway, tipping over the lip. I feel the drop in altitude as we descend slowly down to the earth. The sinking bus sparks with anxiety lighting a panicked fire within the compact space. Feeding off the rushed breathing of confined youth. 

Land. The same land that was said to be so toxic that only a few minutes exposed to it can lead to a painful, radiation filled death.

I shuffle back into my seat as the excitement of the Biodome is replaced with nervous tension. 

-o-

In front of me, a few rows ahead, a chorus of girlish giggles fills the air, drawing my attention. Three figures huddle together, their animated whispers punctuated by glances in my direction. With playful nudges, they push one of their own forward. She stumbles slightly as she steps down the walkway. A rosy blush spreads across her cheeks, adding a vibrant pink against her fair complexion. She glances back at her friends, only to be propelled forward again. She meets my eyes and a hesitant smile falls across her thin lips as she offers me a stiff wave.

“Hi, Benjamin,” She says, her voice piercingly high, “I’m Isabella. I’m in your chemistry class.” Her introduction hangs heavy in the air.

“Okay?” I glance around looking for an excuse to get away, while trying to avoid looking like a panicked animal. As well as realizing the unfortunate truth of Jaxson’s traitorous abandonment. Leading to the seat next lacking a life-saving occupant. 

Isabella shuffles into it, leaning forward, close enough that somehow the suffocating intensity of her floral perfume masks the permeating musk of body-odor plaguing the interior of the bus.

“Long ride.” She inches to close the ever growing gap between us, “Shame we sit so far apart.” I manage to choke out a soft “yeah” as she flicks blonde hair out of her face. 

“I’m actually- Well I don’t-” She shushes me. Shifting her weight, allowing her short skirt to flash a glimpse of her upper leg as she stands.

“I get it.” I smile with awkward relife. “You’re playing ‘hard to get’.” My smile fades quickly and I stare up at her, bewildered; my mind struggling to process the unexpected turn of events. By the time my shock subsides and I open my mouth to respond, she is already halfway back up the aisle. Then just when I think the torture is over she casts one last flirtatious glance over her shoulder, a mischievous twinkle glinting in her eye.

As the bus lurches to a stop, the engine squeals as we reach the earth. We decelerate, gradually easing into stillness. I try to peer over the seats to get a glimpse out the front window, only to be thwarted by the heads of my classmates obstructing the view. Annoyed, I slump back into my seat, awaiting the roll call by our bus chaperone.

Due to our alphabetical boarding, the exodus begins with the occupants at the front, leaving only a handful of us remaining when my name is finally called. I work my way up the empty aisle, my backpack slung loosely over my shoulder. I’m almost to the exit steps when my attention is yanked away. Nestled snugly under a seat, wedged between the wall and the floor, is a small book. I crouch down to get a better look. It’s small, barely the size of my palm, and the pages look well-weathered. Out of its small hiding spot, the delicate pages feel fragile between my fingers. I take the worn cover in my hand and flip to the first page…

“Benjamin Hill!” 

I jump, nailing my head into the metal bars under the seat. Clumsily, I stash the book into my bag, wincing as I hear a faint tear. Resisting the urge to inspect the damage, I hurriedly make my way down the aisle and descend the steep steps of the bus.

The sudden assault of sunlight overwhelms my senses. It’s shocking, unlike any subdued lighting of our urban realm. I blink away the tears forming in the corners of my eyes. Squinting against the glare, I wait for my vision to clear; when it finally does, I am able discern the silhouette of a squat, square building ahead. Planted in front of the massive oak doors stands a slender woman, unremarkable in appearance save for her deeply bronzed skin; dark from the sun, tanned from hours outdoors. A contrast to the pale faces of the student body. Her posture is rigid, as if bracing herself against an unseen force. Gray strands pepper her hair, yet her eyes gleam with an intensity that belies her otherwise mundane facade. Our gazes meet, and for a chilling moment, a malicious smile stretches across her face..

“Students,” she calls over the murmurs of curious teens. A bark to shut it causes the clamor to subside at the sharp rebuke of our teachers. With a sudden rush, uncommon for a woman of her age, the woman charges forward. An explosion of color escapes as she leaps into the air, wings stretching from her back, “Welcome to the Biodome!”

(4)

-Sange-

 The air is cold. I don’t know where I am… then I’m falling, crashing through the ice. I can’t swim. My arms refuse to move. Water invades my lungs. I’m going to die. Pain flutters, delicate wings almost a comfort in a storm of agony. Too cold. Sinking…

My cry jolts me awake. A thundering through the eerie quiet. Despite the chill of the room, sweat clings to my body, turning my skin to ice.

 The darkness envelops me, suffocating, pressing in from all sides. I try desperately to force down the panic building in my throat. Frantically, I search for Icarus, my fingers trembling as they reach out into the void. My hand collides clumsily with his arm and I shuffle closer to him. Oblivious to my hysteria, he lies still. I cling to him, turning my focus to the steady rise and fall of his silhouetted chest. He grunts something quietly but stays asleep. 

Pain, fear, dark, cold, panic, pain, fear, dark, cold, panic… drowning… drowning. My head overflows. The bitter taste of panic fills my mouth, floods my nose. I inhale but manage only to suck in more panic… pain, fear, dark, cold, panic… too loud. As though the beating echo of my heart is a call to the snarling memories as prowl through my mind. 

My nails dig into my palms, leaving bloody, moon shaped arches as they slice through skin. Sliding my knees to my chest, I bury my face in my arms. Tears blur my vision, mingling with the darkness that surrounds me. Eventually, despite my struggle, I succumb to the exhaustion, and fall victim to my unconscious. 

-o-

 The next morning is heavy, tugging on my body, as if the very air conspired to drag me down. By the time emerge from the room into the sunlight, Icarus is already toiling in the garden below. A whirlwind of children running circles around him. Taking turns pouncing and stabbing, wielding sticks as swords, warriors locked in battle. Passing above them, I make my way to the largest pod, its wooden structure groaning softly with each step. A gust of wind rushes by, causing the room rocking in the gentle breeze. Sun rays filter through narrow crevices, casting ethereal patterns across drying meats and berry filled baskets. 

 Reaching across the makeshift countertop, I retrieve the six wooden bowls from their resting place, the worn surface of each vessel a testament to countless meals shared. With practiced precision, I split walnuts with my blade, the scent of crushed nuts mingling with the sweet aroma of honey and the faint tang of ripe berries. Opening a small basket chest I find half this spring's berries, to my disappointment, squished and gray. Disheartened, I discarded the spoiled fruit into a nearby bucket. Salvaging what I can, I mix the remaining berries with the walnut scaps, and the last of our honey. 

 “Hey, pretty boy!” I call, scooping up the stack bowls. The room shifts as Icarus lands in the entrance. He ducks through the doorway, taking care not to knock his head into the low frame. I pass him the meals and he snatches them eagerly, his wings fluttering with anticipation. Breakfast in hand, he descends gracefully to the ground below.

Perching on the edge of the bridge, I let my legs dangle freely in the open air, feeling the cool breeze brush and tug at my clothing. Below, Icarus distributes breakfast before returning to my side.

"We're running low on supplies in the kitchen," I remark. He doesn’t respond but I note the slight scrunch of his feathered crown.. “I think we might have to make a Scrap Run.” 

“Ugh,” Icarus groans, his playful whine mocking that of the younger children's protests. “Do we have to?” He pouts and I smack him, almost knocking his bowl out of his hands. He turns his back to me with a huff.

“I’ll get you some new paints…” He spins around grinning.

“Well, I guess we can go.” 

We both finish off our breakfast, and I collect Icarus's bowl. Just as he's about to slip away, I toss him the bucket; however, his catch is delayed and it thunks against his chest, spraying juice across his skin. 

“Toss the berries then fill this,” I instruct.

“You’re the boss.” With open wings he falls back off the ledge. Despite me knowing he’s fine, my heart still flutters. 

Returning with extra dishes, Icarus waits as I make quick work, soaking the bowls and returning them to their shelf. 

“Hey, can you let the others know we’re leaving?” Icarus asks. With a nod, I scramble down out of the trees, the sounds of laughter growing as I near the earth.. 

“Can’t stop me now!” Carrow shouts, making a move to ‘stab’ Estra, missing by inches. Frustrated, Carrow’s ears go flat and he bares his teeth..

“You idiot, I am the leader!” Estra exclaims, attempting to deflect Carrow with a wing.

“Fire powers!” Nex cries out, leaping onto Carrow’s back, “You’re dead!”

“Hey! That’s not fair!” Carow protests, shaking Nex off.

“Yes it is!” 

“Nuh uh!” I let them go back and forth for only a moment before I intervene.

“That is enough,” I warn.

“She started it!” Carow whines, kicking at the dirt.

“Well, uh… you should, you know, be nice no matter who started it.” I reason. Racking my brain I try to remember how Icarus would talk down fights. It’s not as though I have any history with gentle nurturers. The whole acting parent thing was all his idea. All I agreed to was giving shelter to the one desperate kid that showed up at our doorstep. I didn’t expect that we would become an orphanage. “Um… Anyway, me and Icarus are heading out for a day or two… Wait. Where is Kili?” I spin, scanning the clearing. No one but us four. 

“She wandered over that way, she wanted to see the fish.” Estra points, directing me to the path that, very obviously, leads to the river. 

She’s probably already drowned

Dead

Your fault

“Oh shlet,” I curse, already sprinting down the path, “Kili!” I hear the others charging after me. I don’t bother to wait for them. In my sprint I hurdle logs and dodge branches, ignoring the slender thorns and clawing brambles as I crash through the brush.

I reach the river in a breathless frenzy. Only to find Kili sitting cross legged in the muddy bank, her feathered back to me. 

“Oh thank the Agwado,” I mutter. She doesn’t hear, or if she does she doesn’t look up from the water. Relief floods me as I realize she's safe, yet, a chill settles in my chest as I peer at the bubbling river. I walk to her slowly, my feet sinking uncomfortably into the mud. 

“Kili?” The name is more of a question than a statement,

She turns around. Her round face is blank, missing her usual child smile. The forest is silent. Not even the wind dares to make a sound. Kili stares back at me. A soulless, blank stare…

Then it's gone. As suddenly as it came, it vanishes. Whatever it was. Kili's blank expression becomes bright and the silent trees continue their chatter.

“Kili!” Carrow shouts, breaking through the brush. He’s grinning from the chase and his ash tail sweeping back and forth at his ankles, a whirlwind of energy in the peaceful glade.

“Hello, Carrow,” Kili says, already stumbling through the mud towards him. I catch her arm as she walks by. She looks up at me and blinks in confusion.

“Kili, you can’t go down to the river on your own.” I say, trying to be stern, “It’s not safe.” She nods slowly, as though the thought of possible danger hadn’t occurred to her. 

Of course it hadn’t, she’s six

Going to get her killed with your stupidity

“Okay.”

“Okay.” She squints at me, waiting for me to say more. What does she want? I high five for not dying? Why are people so difficult? Luckily for me though, when she realizes, after a short moment, that I’m not going to continue, she shugs and bounds over to Carrow; who is, surprisingly, waiting quietly at the tree line. He takes her hand and together they start the walk back to camp. As they disappear into the trees, I turn to face the river. The water hisses and spits. I jump back as waves lap hungrily against the shore. The cold fingers of fear lingering like ghostly tendrils in the air. I jump back as waves lap hungrily against the shore. Shivering, I retreat slowly into the shaded protection of the forest.

-o-

“Ready?” Icarus asks, already looping his arms around my waist. Silently, I shuffle through a mental list of the goods in our sack before nodding. My stomach lurches as his large wings take my weight to the air. Frigid air slices my arms and creates pin-needles in my lungs.

 When my feet are finally back on the ground my whole body shakes in response to the rapid pounding of my heart. Flexing the stiffness from my fingers, I take note of everything about Icarus's landing point, mapping the stretching landscape. The trees are smaller, growing only to my head. Tall grass sways beneath them. The area seems untouched. However, a trained eye could catch the betrayal of the pristine facade: shallow foot prints traced in the dry dirt laced with the bitter scent of tobacco. Days worth of travel crossed two measly hours of flight.

 My attention shifts to find Icarus crouching over a small yellow flower. I nudge him gently and he ruffles his feathers in annoyance. 

 “I’ll meet you in there,” he grunts, “as long as you don’t make another scene.”

 “Ha ha, very funny.” He ignores my sarcasm and I leave him to his gardening, starting for the Scraper Town. 

 The town is less of a town than it is a group of old buildings, crumpling under the weight of their own dirty roofs. Pushing through the crowd, I scan the storefronts, the bustling marketplace a hive of activity and excitement, the air filled with the tantalizing scent of spices and the raucous laughter of merchants haggling over prices. While shoving my way through a particularly tight press of bodies, a drunk man stumbles in front of me, muttering curses. I try to step past, only to be thrust roughly into him. Immediately, I jump back, but not before his sluggish brain noticed me.

“Why sush’ a rush lil’ lady.” “Why shush a rush, lil’ lady,” he slurs, reaching for me. I spin away, instincts on high alert. He tries to follow me but is interrupted by vomiting in the dirt.

I sneer, navigating my way to a small vendor. Whilst tugging my sack over my shoulder, I knock a boy who scowls at me. I ignore him and rush forward. I stop at a small stand opening the weathered fabric. 

“Ello, sweet.” The old lady working the stand smiles. Attempting to play nice, I offer a small smile back before revealing the freshly dried meat, dropping it on the table. The scent of spices drifts to the crowd, causing passersby to eye the morsel greedily. Even the shopkeeper seems to drool at the tiny selection of meat. 

“I just need some bread,” I state. The lady nods slowly looking between me and my offer. 

“Sorry hun,” The shopkeeper eyes the meat greedily, but shakes her head, her gaze lingering on the tantalizing morsel of food, “this ain’t gonna cut it.” I shug.

“Then I guess I must take my business elsewhere.” Turning my back to her, I gather my goods.

“Wait.” I smile at the ground, though quickly neutralize my face in my rise. Smug, I look back to the shopkeeper, however, to my surprise, she is working organizing her products. Confusion sweeps over me, my senses on high alert. A sudden tug on my pack almost sends me into the dirt. I yank it back and reach to unsheath my dagger. 

 “Whoever you are, you're making a mistake.” I growl at the crowd, stepping back cautiously. A large hand grips my arm. In a single fluid motion, I toss my blade to the other hand, thrusting into my attacker. As planned, they loosen their grip and I slip out of their grasp, slicing out where they stand. 

“WHAT THE HELL!” the assailant cries out, crimson dripping from a jagged streak along his shoulder.

Leaping back, I take a moment to evaluate my attacker. They face me furious and bleeding, never a good mix. A bulky man with a scruffy chin; his wings, too small for his large form, are ruined and caked in mud. 

“Get lost,” I hiss, the worn straps of my pack coiled around my fingers, the leather creaking in protest as I pull it closer to my chest. He is no threat to me, but just as I prepare to retreat, a whispered utterance slithers through the air. I freeze, the hairs on the back of my neck prickling with unease. I cock my head, letting my ears spin towards the noise; teeth digging sharply into my tongue. “What did you say?” 

“I said,” he snarls, “I don’t take orders from a seslion.” the final syllable spat out like poison, staining the air with its malice. “Don’t think I didn’t notice the mark on your arm.” I can feel his cruel grin, hot on my back. “Traitor”

Doesn’t deserve it

Show him what you are

Show him

Show…

Rage bubbles over, an inferno of fury. My limbs seem to move on their own, I feel my fingers clenching around the strap of my pack, the supple leather biting into my palm; my free hand sneaking into the concealed sheath on my thigh. He doesn’t even have a chance to scream. His body slumps into me, blood like ribbons around his throat. I kick him off, the deafening orchestra of cheers in my head filling my senses as I rush out of the screaming crowd. Over, just as it began.


Is this a review?


  

Comments



User avatar
112 Reviews

Points: 9184
Reviews: 112

Donate
Sat Jun 08, 2024 8:13 pm
Ley wrote a review...



Image

Hello fellow writer! Ley here to write a tortoise-y review on this amazing work you've published! This is a new review style that I'm using only for the month of June, in spirit of the Great Tortoise Race! Let's get started, 'shell' we? xD

Shell Start:
This was a super interesting read! I love science fiction, especially in a school setting, so I had to click on this as fast as I could. What I got from this piece is that it revolves around a somewhat toxic and weirdly governed educational environment, where Benjamin witnesses some sense of brutality happening. By helping the boy that gets hurt, they form a bond. We're then switched to another perspective, Sange, who is playing around with Icarus in the forest. we're then switched back to Benjamin and then back to Sange. There was a lot of hopping around in these few chapters, but it was still a super thrilling read! Let's get into the specifics a bit:

Favorite Leaf:
I really enjoyed the symbolism in this piece. For example,

The headmistress regards him with little pity. However, her lip curls in distaste at the sight of his blood pooling on the polished tile floor. Raising her pointed nose in distaste she turns her steeled gaze toward me. My blood runs cold, knowing if I play the wrong cards I will be joining the sobbing kid on the ground.

So, the symbolism here is quite clear but also gives us even more background on the school they attend. The blood on a polished floor shows how the facade of order and the brutality hidden beneath it. A clean floor: order, the blood: a facade. Lovely job with that! Not sure if that was your intention, but it works very well with this story!

You also mentioned the sky a couple times in this story. The artificial layers, the fact it's man made. To me, this sounded kind of hunger-gamesish, but that's not a bad thing at all! The fact the sky is artificial and man made hints at the complexity and artificiality of their world, hinting at societal hierarchies and controlled environments. This is classic for a sci-fi novel, though, so I really enjoyed it! You gotta tag me when the rest of these chapters come out, if you can! <3

Shell Fractures:
Now for my suggestions/critiques:
The transitions between different scenes and perspectives could be smoother. For example, in the first part with Benjamin, the shift from his internal monologue to the interaction with the headmistress could be made clearer. I had to go back and read it to really understand what is going on, but that's nothing that can't be fixed with a few added sentences!

I also wish we would've got some more detailed descriptions of the setting. Yes, I know they're in a forest, but what did the air feel like? Was it windy? Try describing all senses; sight, taste, hearing, and feel. That way, we, as the readers, could feel immersed in the story. <3

Overall:
This was an engaging sci-fi read! I was immersed by the first paragraph, and this seems like a really good start to an even better story. I wish to read more from you in the future, have a great day! :D

Thank you for taking the time to read this review! I hope to see you join the race, and keep being awesome! Happy Writing~

Image




User avatar
4226 Reviews

Points: 290766
Reviews: 4226

Donate
Thu May 23, 2024 6:40 am
KateHardy wrote a review...



Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night(whichever one it is in your part of the world),

Hi! I'm here to leave a quick review!!

First Impression: Well this is setup quite neatly here, loving the first four chapters that you've got here, especially the worldbuilding around the two locations that you showcase here and of course our cast of character. Quite a few interesting peeps in there. I think its a lovely start here.

Anyway let's get right to it,

"There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of the law and in the name of justice," I mutter to myself, lost in thought amidst the flurry of students rushing to their next classes. The words have an eerie resonance in my mind as I watch, in horror, as the scene plays out before me. The sound of metal striking bone and the spray of innocent blood.

Despite being aware of the consequences of being late, I can't bring myself to move from my spot amidst the crowd. My eyes catch the image of the victim lying on the ground, surrounded by chaos. It is as if the truth of what I have long since known to be true has just now revealed itself to me. This single moment, shattering the shallow illusion of a just and fair society.


Well that is certainly quite the start here, absolutely strikes down quite hard on us readers really establishing the act that this is not a place fair and just by any mean even as that notion is introduced here.

Even as the sounds of footsteps fade away, I remain rooted in place. The horror taking hold of me only seems to grow stronger with each passing moment. Causing me to wonder if the justice they tease us with truly exists, or if it was merely a facade that we still cling to in the face of violence and chaos.

“I think that's enough.” Initially I think the voice is mine; only for me to realize moments later, it was instead that of the headmistress; a woman whose mere presence brings tears to the eyes of children. She glides down the hallway with menacing grace. Followed closely by the sharp, echoing click of her heels.

I freeze, the weight of inevitability settling upon me. Similarly the officer, as though sensing the headmistress’ approach, halts his work and stands rigid. His posture that of a soldier at attention.


Ooh well that immediately adds an interesting flavor to this whole thing with the headmistress grounding us in exactly what kind of setting this whole thing is set in which definitely elevates it into being just that much more powerful.

“Good morning, ma’am,” Punctuating his statement with a curt nod. Though, as a result of his short stature it could better be defined as a bow. At his feet a broken boy lies, whimpering, nursing a busted face ignoring the jagged slice along his shoulder. The headmistress regards him with little pity. However, her lip curls in distaste at the sight of his blood pooling on the polished tile floor. Raising her pointed nose in distaste she turns her steeled gaze toward me. My blood runs cold, knowing if I play the wrong cards I will be joining the sobbing kid on the ground.

Rule number one: do not speak until spoken to. I hold my tongue waiting for her to address me.

“Hill.” Her voice drips with so much venom I can almost see it running down her chiseled jaw, lacing each syllable with malice, “Has the final bell not rung?”


Oh dear, well if all the evidence upto now hasn't been clear about what sort of society is being run here in this school that most definitely makes sure to reinforce it right up there. This is truly a hell.

“It has ma’am,” I respond, silently praying that she cannot hear the panicked beating of my heart in my stomach, even as it pounds restlessly. She stares me down, the hot flames of her eyes licking sharply at my skin, searching for even the slightest twitch to give away my fear. I offer her no reward for her search.

Rule number two: never admit fear; to the headmistress or otherwise.

The headmistress points her chin to the boy on the ground.

“Clean this up,” she snaps, her words a whip on my back. In a flurry of fabric, she spirals down the hallway. As soon as she turns the corner I rush to the nearest maintenance closet. The dim, flickering light peppers the short walls with shadows, casting an uncanny glow on all of the room's belongings. I retrieve an old mop from where it hangs lazily on the wall, its ropes worn and frayed. As I grab the door handle to leave, a roll of bandages catches my gaze and I discard the mop. Checking the hallway for any stray eyes I slip them into my pocket.


Oooh wel it seems while we've got these horrifyingly strict rules here to keep it all together and to enforce this horror of a school, our protagonist isn't one to simply accept it all but is perhaps planning just a teeny tiny bit of rebellion even amidst what he's been assigned to do there.

I hurriedly make my way back to the boy, my mind alive with a flurry of conflicting thoughts and emotions. Even though the scene was not one of rare occurrence. With every step, I feel the heat of the bandages in my pocket, singing my thigh, a painful reminder of my acting of defiance.

Reaching the spot of confrontation, I find the boy lying on his side, face contorted in pain. Without hesitation, I kneel beside him. Reaching out my hand I offer, not only assistance, but alliance. I slip the bandages from my pocket and his eyes widen in surprise and skepticism, then soften with gratitude as he accepts my help.

"Here," I say softly, "Let me help with your injuries."


Well this is nice to see amidst all of what we've seen here, even though its a simple act of defiance by just the one person it seems people haven't just condemned themselves to this world.

He nods. Holding back tears he gingerly sits up. The hallway is silent as we work, the only sound, that of the boy’s raspy gasps. Gently, I wind the fabric around his wounded shoulder, shushing him as he winces in pain. Trying not to think of the punishment that awaits us if we’re caught. Yet, with each careful movement, through his curses of pain, I can't help but feel a sense of kinship with this stranger.

Once his injuries are taken care of, to the best of my ability, the boy offers me a weary smile. Gratitude filling in where pain leaves gaps in his features. It's a small gesture, but in a fight or die place, it holds power.

After I finish I return to the closet for the abandoned mop. When I return the kid has disappeared down the hallway, his footsteps fading into the distance. Leaving me moping the dirty floor alone.


Well that's quite the moment there for the kid to then leave. So many notes to think about with regards to how exactly that must be interpreted. There's certainly a lot of nuance to it at the moment. Let's see where this goes.

The final class bell rings, the sound rattling behind my eyes, as it signals the end of a long day. In harmony every classroom door swings open, releasing a flood of students. The crowd fills the packed walkway headed for the dining hall. Ignoring the hollow ache in my stomach, I decide not to test my luck with the bloodbath of mealtime and instead make my way back to the sanctuary of my dorm. I peel away from the rush of colliding bodies and turn towards the stairwell. Inching upward in the echoing room I listen to the cacophony of cries that work their way through the thin walls. One of the few things I enjoy at East River, within the confines of the stairwell, you can see the world for what it really is. And through the echoing sobs you can still find the strength to keep moving forward, one step at a time.


Hmm well this is an interesting little spot, the little corner where we have jut a little moment of respite for poor Benjamin from the flood of students that seem to break out there. Well all in all a solid little first chapter this.

The uneven crunch of fall leaves chases after me. Slowing, I peer towards the sky, listening through the whistles of wind through tangled branches. A flash of white flicking overhead sends me charging forward again. I throw myself over fallen logs and dodge low-hanging branches. My heartbeat shakes my body, demanding more air like an angry child. In my gasps, I catch his familiar scent and confirm my target. Cutting to my left, I reach out and grasp at the large trunk of a red oak. Reacting to my momentum, I catch a branch. Swinging upward, I fly through the leaves.

Thwap.

My body crashes into a mess of feathers and we both spiral downward. My body presses down, pulling his wings tight to his side. Our altitude stubbornly drops… only a few more paces…


Oh dear, well this is quite the start already within some sort of accident going down there. Loving the way that you've established here, the descriptions really kick it into gear quickly there.

"Yield!" Icarus's voice slices through the air, flooded with a mixture of exhaustion and triumph. Finally relenting, I release my hold on him and leap off his back. His wings unfurl with a soft rustle, and he descends gracefully to the forest floor, landing with a gentle thud. Seated cross-legged on the ground I watch as he stretches, a scowl etched across his features.

"I know you're not really upset," I tease, my tail sweeping behind me in a clean arc. He rolls his eyes, still glaring as his fingers deftly pluck leaves from his unruly white hair. Behind him the sun dips, the evening light bathing him in a warm glow. It falls across his body illuminating the subtle hues hidden within the arching feathers of his wings.

"Well, considering you so rudely attacked me, I think it's only fair that you cook," he retorts, playfulness returning to his tone.


Well it looks like its all friendly for the moment and they were just playing about there. That's a little bit of a relief after everything that we saw leading up to this moment here.

I gasp mocking offense. "What are you implying? That women belong in the kitchen?" I taunt. He makes a move to swat me, but I duck out of the way, slapping at his arm. "You act as if you could cook if you tried. Stick to your doodles, pretty boy," A grin spreads across his face, his eyes alight with amusement.

He takes one last swing at me and a feather grazes my cheek. But again, I dodge. This time however, I seize his wing, pulling it to the side with a tug, causing him to flip onto his back with a grunt with surprise. I turn to leave when a sudden flash of white sends me tumbling into the foliage.

Spitting out a mouthful of dirt, I roll onto my back. Still laughing as Icarus lays down next to me. Sparks of sunlight flit over my body, dancing warmth into my cold limbs. Above, the remaining leaves sway gently on barren branches, painting the sky with a kaleidoscope of colors.


Hmm well even in the midst of all this laughter and what looks to be a truly beautiful little there's a little hint of something that's a little bit off there just hanging in the background.

You don’t deserve this

Deserter

“Come on Sange, we have a lot to do still, and it's getting dark,” Icarus says. I sigh, slowly coming to my feet.

Run away

You always run

I shake as if I might be able to toss the voices away, but ignoring them is futile, their taunts dragging across the bottom of my skull like jagged nails.

“Sange?” Icarus puts a reassuring hand on my back. Blinking, I am momentarily wrenched back to the physical world by his touch.


Well those certainly are some very powerful voices to be hearing there with quite the pointed accusations coming in quite strongly. It looks like there's quite a past on this one. Sange definitely has more to her than what we're just seeing on the surface now.

“Yeah, fine,” I manage, though the lie hangs heavy in the air between us. His furrowed brow betrays his concern. It's not the time for misery. I have things to do. People to care for.

Icarus stays behind me as we work through the familiar path. Despite not being able to see his face, I feel his worry crawling up my back, nestling in between my shoulder blades. We reach the nests just as the sun collapses over the horizon; casting the forest into a tapestry of moonlit shadows. The familiar rustling of the nests greet us as we enter the clearing, their gentle sway dislodging stars from the sky, leaving behind a dark void against the speckled canvas above. Each refuge, a testament to our ingenuity, is meticulously crafted from supple twigs, intricately woven together to form a resilient sanctuary. Though shrouded in darkness, I am able to discern the four identical pods from the humming shift of sound.

Beside me Icarus springs effortlessly into the air. His ascent a graceful dance against the fading light. I watch his silhouette disappear into one of the rooms, a fleeting shadow swallowed by the darkness.


Hmm well this is gettting more and more intriguing as we go along here. SHane here is certainly going through some stuff here from the looks of things. Its going to be quite the moment.

As I trot through the clearing, along the halo of red oaks, I approach one of the smaller trees. Crouching low, I reach between the gnarled roots, anticipating the collision of my hand with the earlier stashed corpse of a plump rabbit; yet, I grasp only air. I’m puzzled until I hear the giggles from overhead. With an exasperated sigh, I lift my gaze skyward.

As if on cue, the rabbit drops, landing at my feet with a hollow thud. Swiftly followed by a cascade of colored feathers, laughter trailing in their wake.

Kili.

Kili's gaze meets mine, her eyes wide with innocence and curiosity. Framing her round face is a tuft of unruly hair. She's the newest, and youngest, addition to our sanctuary, a fragile soul seeking refuge from a world of bruises and fear. Just like the first few, who, after some persuasion, I allowed to take shelter. And as long as they are here, they are safe from the dangers that lurk beyond our haven's walls.


Oooh well this is fun, both an interesting new character and also to get a little idea of what this is. So it seems this is beyond all the horror we saw earlier and inside of somewhere safe.

“Kili.” I reach to untangle a twig from her braids, but she scowls, slapping my hand away. “You should be with the others: inside.”

She huffs stubbornly.

“But they are loud,” She protests, slowly enunciating each word with deliberate precision.

“Come on,” I coax, hoisting her onto my back. “Icarus is probably worried.”

Shaking off the chill that clings to my limbs, I grasp a rabbit between my teeth. Sliding my fingers around the rungs of the natural ladder, I cling to the rough bark, lifting myself off the ground. With practiced ease, I ascend, navigating the branches. Once high enough, arms outstretched, I leap to the swaying nests. For a few stiff seconds I hover over open air, until clearing the imposing gap. For a moment I stand, tasting the breeze; the sweet taste of autumn coming to a close. Kili leaps from my back, causing me to stumble forward, the sudden release of weight catching me off guard. As soon as her feet touch the floor she starts her sprint across the loose bridge to a farther pod. Already halfway across when I call to her,


Well this is certainly quite the combo here and I am loving this little depiction of life upto now. It gives us a good idea for exactly what we're dealing with in this particular moment.

“Wai-g!” My voice muffled by fur. Kili pauses to look back, the bridge bouncing from her early charge, “Can you take this?” I toss the rabbit and she catches it effortlessly, before disappearing into shadows.

“Icarus?” I peer through the round doorway, but find it empty save for the pale glow of lantern light. A soft gale slips its way through a gap in the far wall, sweeping white feathers across a bed of animal furs. Turning away from the empty room, I cross the narrow bridge to Icarus’s art room. Inside, I find him engrossed in a sketch, his fingers tracing the delicate lines of a forget-me-not, using a hand-made brush to fill each petal with deep, violet-blue.

All around him the walls are adorned with his vibrant artwork, each piece a testament to his talent and passion. Deciding to leave him undisturbed, I retreat back across the walkway. Pausing only to glance at the kitchen, but exhaustion washes over me, and I forgo the kitchen in favor of a quiet corner. Peeling back the hand-sewn curtain, I whistle softly, listening for the familiar responses. They come back staggered and quick. Silently, I keep count. One: Kili. Two: Estra. Three: Carrow. Four: Nex. All accounted for.


Looks like everyone's safe and sound for now judging by that. Its good to see that everything in this little place is just ticking along for the moment despite those slightly mysterious whispers from earlier.

A voice pierces through my semi-conscious, dragging me reluctantly from the comfort of sleep.

“Jaxson,” I mumble, eyes pinched shut as to block out the violently bright, overhead light. “Why are you leaning over me, breathing in my face, at four in the morning?”

I hear a scoff.

“How do you even know it’s four A.M.?”

“What time is it?” Hesitation, then: “Four sixteen.”


Well this is a fun little start to proceedings here. Not everyday that you get to see someone able to tell the time quite that accurately there. That's quite a neat little detail to include that.

Cursing silently, I extricate myself from the tangled sheets, rub my eyes before finally peering at Jaxson. He squats on the edge of my bed, wearing a mischievous smile, fully aware I lack the energy to reprimand him. I hold his gaze but give up after a few moments. Shaking my head, I jump to the floor where the icy chill of the linoleum greets me. I shake out the ache of exhaustion still clinging to my muscles. Mindlessly, I smooth the sheets, tucking them neatly around the edges of the mattress. Jaxson rolls his eyes and hops off of my bed, wrinkling the newly straightened bedcover. Over his shoulder, past the dreary gray sill of the arching window, the shadowy fields of silence engulf everything, untouched by the early hour when even the ghostly glowing screens hesitates to pierce the heavy darkness

“Did you forget? Today’s the field trip! God, finally something interesting is happening! I would at least expect you to look a little less like you’re battling a hangover and maybe have some energy.” Jaxson quips. He leans on the far wall of our dorm, picking at his acne-ridden face, a habit he couldn't seem to break


Well looks like something exciting is going down that day. Certainly something to note there about it all and perhaps what Benjamin has perhaps been through to be able to tell time so well.

“First off, you’ve never even seen someone with a hangover. Second: what do you mean? I am so excited to sit on a bus with a bunch of sweaty teens for five hours.” Though I'd never admit it, especially not to Jaxson, a small part of me was genuinely looking forward to the trip. It's not everyday the government drags their “waste-of-space” children on a walk.

Jaxson tosses me a not-so-gentle punch to the arm. I snatch my pre-packed backpack out of his outstretched hand and sling it over my shoulder, knocking the heavy canvas bag into the side of his head. Grumbling, he shoves me through the door.

“Move your ass, we're gonna miss the bus.”


Well that is certainly an exciting little bit of thought there for scenes to come here. We'll see what exactly this is going to go towards here with all of those aforementioned sweaty teens.

Emerging from the dimly lit boys' dormitory, we step into the vast expanse of the school parking lot. As the bustling scene unfolds before us, I sketch a mental map of the lot. Four run down buses, buzzing gently as they hover over the cracked pavement. All around them a sea of bodies shape into scraggly lines. Adjusting my shoulder strap, I quicken my pace, feeling a palpable sense of unease amidst the vibrant positivity. A sharp contrast to the day before. The wait is brief, and within moments, we find ourselves aboard the bus, greeted by the familiar scent of plastic seats and the hum of the electric engine.

I find an open seat and fall into the squeaky polyester. Jaxson bounces in the seat beside me leading me to press myself further against the aluminum bus wall.

“Let the hell ride begin!” He shouts, pumping his fists into the air, inches from taking my glasses with him. Though I don’t react to his exclamation, he is unbothered, already chatting with the people in our neighboring seat. Leaning against the cool window, I close my eyes, allowing myself to be enveloped by the mechanical wizz of the engine as the bus sets off down the dimly-lit road.


Loving the description there just to get a little feel for what this area is like and what exactly goes down there. I think you've gone and done quite a neat job of it to showcase the condition of the ride too.

I’m jolted awake by a cacophony of cheers; definitely an unusual awakening when you attend East Rivers’ Corrective School. Yawning, I peer out the window, observing the artificial rain cascading from heavy-duty sprinklers, creating a shimmering curtain that veils the city below. Buildings blur past, their shapes distorted by the speed of our passage; chased by the hum of activity as hundreds of people begin to stir, heading off to face the day. Colorful umbrellas crowd auto train passages, traveling throughout the vastness of the second level.

Towering over everything is the man-made sky. The next layer of the city, resting hundreds of feet above. Sounds of early morning chatter and the whistle of advanced technology echo off the decorative panels that conceal the stone ceiling from the world below. I shift my gaze just as we pass a colossal building, its structure dominating the skyline. A deafening roar escapes from the trembling building as the inner magnets strain to hold up the sky. The Atlas of Machines.

I lean down and pull my bag back onto my lap. It takes a few moments of rummaging through the contents: some changes of clothes, deodorant, a toothbrush, for me to conclude: no entertainment. Two and a half hours and nothing to do. It could be worse. Defeated, I zip the bag back up and return to the scenery, allowing my mind to wander.


Well it looks like quite an intriguing little world here judging from all that. I sense quite a bit of worldbuilding having gone into this. It seems like quite the world out there at any rate.

No one told us what to expect on this trip. We were told the day before to pack for a six-day trip and no one bothered to question it because any chance to avoid the headmistress’ wrath, is one you take. When I asked one of the instructors for more information he got a weird look before, snapping that I didn’t need to know. Leaving me to ponder my unease alone.

Jaxson grabs my arm and points out of the window. I almost shake him off before I see what has him so fascinated. The edge of the city rushing at us; an imposing cutoff. Past the gray building, climbing far into the sky, is a large clear wall. A dome so large the top slips into the clouds. Clouds. Real clouds. Leaning forward I press my face against the glass, squinting at the fluffy white phenomenons. Only to be torn away to the multicolored sunlight –natural sunlight– as it glitters across the multifaceted surface of the dome. As we glide further towards the edge I catch a glimpse of the workings of nature within. The greens and browns of vegetation, maybe even the sheen of water.

A few students squeal as the bus slips off of the city highway, tipping over the lip. I feel the drop in altitude as we descend slowly down to the earth. The sinking bus sparks with anxiety lighting a panicked fire within the compact space. Feeding off the rushed breathing of confined youth.

Land. The same land that was said to be so toxic that only a few minutes exposed to it can lead to a painful, radiation filled death.

I shuffle back into my seat as the excitement of the Biodome is replaced with nervous tension.


Oooh loving this subtle little reveal about the kind of world that they live in here. I think it does a wonderful job of showcasing what kind of future this is without having a random info dump on it. Loving that subtle bit of worldbuilding there. Can't wait to see what more we learn today.

In front of me, a few rows ahead, a chorus of girlish giggles fills the air, drawing my attention. Three figures huddle together, their animated whispers punctuated by glances in my direction. With playful nudges, they push one of their own forward. She stumbles slightly as she steps down the walkway. A rosy blush spreads across her cheeks, adding a vibrant pink against her fair complexion. She glances back at her friends, only to be propelled forward again. She meets my eyes and a hesitant smile falls across her thin lips as she offers me a stiff wave.

“Hi, Benjamin,” She says, her voice piercingly high, “I’m Isabella. I’m in your chemistry class.” Her introduction hangs heavy in the air.

“Okay?” I glance around looking for an excuse to get away, while trying to avoid looking like a panicked animal. As well as realizing the unfortunate truth of Jaxson’s traitorous abandonment. Leading to the seat next lacking a life-saving occupant.


Oooh well this is an interesting moment, Benjamin having to talk to someone besides just his friend. It seems he's not the most social of people judging by how that reaction went.

Isabella shuffles into it, leaning forward, close enough that somehow the suffocating intensity of her floral perfume masks the permeating musk of body-odor plaguing the interior of the bus.

“Long ride.” She inches to close the ever growing gap between us, “Shame we sit so far apart.” I manage to choke out a soft “yeah” as she flicks blonde hair out of her face.

“I’m actually- Well I don’t-” She shushes me. Shifting her weight, allowing her short skirt to flash a glimpse of her upper leg as she stands.


Hmm well this is a bit of an awkward start to this conversation here, its going places that's for sure. I am very intrigued to see if poor Benjamin manages to survive this.

“I get it.” I smile with awkward relife. “You’re playing ‘hard to get’.” My smile fades quickly and I stare up at her, bewildered; my mind struggling to process the unexpected turn of events. By the time my shock subsides and I open my mouth to respond, she is already halfway back up the aisle. Then just when I think the torture is over she casts one last flirtatious glance over her shoulder, a mischievous twinkle glinting in her eye.

As the bus lurches to a stop, the engine squeals as we reach the earth. We decelerate, gradually easing into stillness. I try to peer over the seats to get a glimpse out the front window, only to be thwarted by the heads of my classmates obstructing the view. Annoyed, I slump back into my seat, awaiting the roll call by our bus chaperone.

Due to our alphabetical boarding, the exodus begins with the occupants at the front, leaving only a handful of us remaining when my name is finally called. I work my way up the empty aisle, my backpack slung loosely over my shoulder. I’m almost to the exit steps when my attention is yanked away. Nestled snugly under a seat, wedged between the wall and the floor, is a small book. I crouch down to get a better look. It’s small, barely the size of my palm, and the pages look well-weathered. Out of its small hiding spot, the delicate pages feel fragile between my fingers. I take the worn cover in my hand and flip to the first page…


Oooh well it seems we have arrived at this location after all here. I think this is really going up quite nicely here, its developping quite a bit at this point and I am excited to see what kind of place would even be a field trip location.

“Benjamin Hill!”

I jump, nailing my head into the metal bars under the seat. Clumsily, I stash the book into my bag, wincing as I hear a faint tear. Resisting the urge to inspect the damage, I hurriedly make my way down the aisle and descend the steep steps of the bus.

The sudden assault of sunlight overwhelms my senses. It’s shocking, unlike any subdued lighting of our urban realm. I blink away the tears forming in the corners of my eyes. Squinting against the glare, I wait for my vision to clear; when it finally does, I am able discern the silhouette of a squat, square building ahead. Planted in front of the massive oak doors stands a slender woman, unremarkable in appearance save for her deeply bronzed skin; dark from the sun, tanned from hours outdoors. A contrast to the pale faces of the student body. Her posture is rigid, as if bracing herself against an unseen force. Gray strands pepper her hair, yet her eyes gleam with an intensity that belies her otherwise mundane facade. Our gazes meet, and for a chilling moment, a malicious smile stretches across her face..


Well here we go, looks like things are about to go through here, and it looks set to be quite a situation here. Looking forward to seeing how this is all going to play out although it seems that will have to wait.

The air is cold. I don’t know where I am… then I’m falling, crashing through the ice. I can’t swim. My arms refuse to move. Water invades my lungs. I’m going to die. Pain flutters, delicate wings almost a comfort in a storm of agony. Too cold. Sinking…

My cry jolts me awake. A thundering through the eerie quiet. Despite the chill of the room, sweat clings to my body, turning my skin to ice.

The darkness envelops me, suffocating, pressing in from all sides. I try desperately to force down the panic building in my throat. Frantically, I search for Icarus, my fingers trembling as they reach out into the void. My hand collides clumsily with his arm and I shuffle closer to him. Oblivious to my hysteria, he lies still. I cling to him, turning my focus to the steady rise and fall of his silhouetted chest. He grunts something quietly but stays asleep.

Pain, fear, dark, cold, panic, pain, fear, dark, cold, panic… drowning… drowning. My head overflows. The bitter taste of panic fills my mouth, floods my nose. I inhale but manage only to suck in more panic… pain, fear, dark, cold, panic… too loud. As though the beating echo of my heart is a call to the snarling memories as prowl through my mind.


Well that is certainly a nightmare and a half that with that kind of situation. You can definitely get a glimpse into her past through that one that's for sure. Really love how much you're telling us through just little hidden details here.

[quot]eThe next morning is heavy, tugging on my body, as if the very air conspired to drag me down. By the time emerge from the room into the sunlight, Icarus is already toiling in the garden below. A whirlwind of children running circles around him. Taking turns pouncing and stabbing, wielding sticks as swords, warriors locked in battle. Passing above them, I make my way to the largest pod, its wooden structure groaning softly with each step. A gust of wind rushes by, causing the room rocking in the gentle breeze. Sun rays filter through narrow crevices, casting ethereal patterns across drying meats and berry filled baskets.

Reaching across the makeshift countertop, I retrieve the six wooden bowls from their resting place, the worn surface of each vessel a testament to countless meals shared. With practiced precision, I split walnuts with my blade, the scent of crushed nuts mingling with the sweet aroma of honey and the faint tang of ripe berries. Opening a small basket chest I find half this spring's berries, to my disappointment, squished and gray. Disheartened, I discarded the spoiled fruit into a nearby bucket. Salvaging what I can, I mix the remaining berries with the walnut scaps, and the last of our honey. [/quote]

Well this is a fairly cute little description once again of just how life goes in this quiet little sanctuary here. It really works wonders to sell the whole procedure here.

“Hey, pretty boy!” I call, scooping up the stack bowls. The room shifts as Icarus lands in the entrance. He ducks through the doorway, taking care not to knock his head into the low frame. I pass him the meals and he snatches them eagerly, his wings fluttering with anticipation. Breakfast in hand, he descends gracefully to the ground below.

Perching on the edge of the bridge, I let my legs dangle freely in the open air, feeling the cool breeze brush and tug at my clothing. Below, Icarus distributes breakfast before returning to my side.

"We're running low on supplies in the kitchen," I remark. He doesn’t respond but I note the slight scrunch of his feathered crown.. “I think we might have to make a Scrap Run.”

“Ugh,” Icarus groans, his playful whine mocking that of the younger children's protests. “Do we have to?” He pouts and I smack him, almost knocking his bowl out of his hands. He turns his back to me with a huff.


Well this is going along quite nicely here, loving how much you're developping this relationship too, you can certainly tell they've known each other for quite a while.

“I’ll get you some new paints…” He spins around grinning.

“Well, I guess we can go.”

We both finish off our breakfast, and I collect Icarus's bowl. Just as he's about to slip away, I toss him the bucket; however, his catch is delayed and it thunks against his chest, spraying juice across his skin.

“Toss the berries then fill this,” I instruct.

“You’re the boss.” With open wings he falls back off the ledge. Despite me knowing he’s fine, my heart still flutters.

Returning with extra dishes, Icarus waits as I make quick work, soaking the bowls and returning them to their shelf.


Well it seems like they've got a bit of a plan all worked out there for the day, it looks like we're going to be following two little journey's at the same time with the way this is shaping up.

“Hey, can you let the others know we’re leaving?” Icarus asks. With a nod, I scramble down out of the trees, the sounds of laughter growing as I near the earth..

“Can’t stop me now!” Carrow shouts, making a move to ‘stab’ Estra, missing by inches. Frustrated, Carrow’s ears go flat and he bares his teeth..

“You idiot, I am the leader!” Estra exclaims, attempting to deflect Carrow with a wing.

“Fire powers!” Nex cries out, leaping onto Carrow’s back, “You’re dead!”

“Hey! That’s not fair!” Carow protests, shaking Nex off.

“Yes it is!”

“Nuh uh!” I let them go back and forth for only a moment before I intervene.

“That is enough,” I warn.


Well that certainly escalated just a tad there. I love the little description of the fight here, I think it does a great job there, and you can also a little of the kind of situation everyone is under in this sanctuary and how maybe all of them don't know each other nearly as well as others.

“She started it!” Carow whines, kicking at the dirt.

“Well, uh… you should, you know, be nice no matter who started it.” I reason. Racking my brain I try to remember how Icarus would talk down fights. It’s not as though I have any history with gentle nurturers. The whole acting parent thing was all his idea. All I agreed to was giving shelter to the one desperate kid that showed up at our doorstep. I didn’t expect that we would become an orphanage. “Um… Anyway, me and Icarus are heading out for a day or two… Wait. Where is Kili?” I spin, scanning the clearing. No one but us four.

“She wandered over that way, she wanted to see the fish.” Estra points, directing me to the path that, very obviously, leads to the river.


Welll it seems that fight was handled about as well as it could have been at that point, certainly could've been done just a bit better but it shows you how much experience the two who appear to be pseudo leaders have with this sort of thing.

“Oh shlet,” I curse, already sprinting down the path, “Kili!” I hear the others charging after me. I don’t bother to wait for them. In my sprint I hurdle logs and dodge branches, ignoring the slender thorns and clawing brambles as I crash through the brush.

I reach the river in a breathless frenzy. Only to find Kili sitting cross legged in the muddy bank, her feathered back to me.

“Oh thank the Agwado,” I mutter. She doesn’t hear, or if she does she doesn’t look up from the water. Relief floods me as I realize she's safe, yet, a chill settles in my chest as I peer at the bubbling river. I walk to her slowly, my feet sinking uncomfortably into the mud.

“Kili?” The name is more of a question than a statement,


Well that was quite a moment to pan to in that moment, I think it was a good indication again of the experience that Sange has and a little bit aboutt the kinds of things Kili gets up to.

She turns around. Her round face is blank, missing her usual child smile. The forest is silent. Not even the wind dares to make a sound. Kili stares back at me. A soulless, blank stare…

Then it's gone. As suddenly as it came, it vanishes. Whatever it was. Kili's blank expression becomes bright and the silent trees continue their chatter.

“Kili!” Carrow shouts, breaking through the brush. He’s grinning from the chase and his ash tail sweeping back and forth at his ankles, a whirlwind of energy in the peaceful glade.

“Hello, Carrow,” Kili says, already stumbling through the mud towards him. I catch her arm as she walks by. She looks up at me and blinks in confusion.


Well it looks like a whole squad has run down here for the moment although the most responsible which I take to be Icarus from what we know so far still hasn't appeared from the looks of things.

“Kili, you can’t go down to the river on your own.” I say, trying to be stern, “It’s not safe.” She nods slowly, as though the thought of possible danger hadn’t occurred to her.

Of course it hadn’t, she’s six

Going to get her killed with your stupidity

“Okay.”

“Okay.” She squints at me, waiting for me to say more. What does she want? I high five for not dying? Why are people so difficult? Luckily for me though, when she realizes, after a short moment, that I’m not going to continue, she shugs and bounds over to Carrow; who is, surprisingly, waiting quietly at the tree line. He takes her hand and together they start the walk back to camp. As they disappear into the trees, I turn to face the river. The water hisses and spits. I jump back as waves lap hungrily against the shore. The cold fingers of fear lingering like ghostly tendrils in the air. I jump back as waves lap hungrily against the shore. Shivering, I retreat slowly into the shaded protection of the forest.


Well it seems thing have been mostly brought under control for the day and things are now finally moving forward. Looking forward to seeing how this is going to go here.

“Ready?” Icarus asks, already looping his arms around my waist. Silently, I shuffle through a mental list of the goods in our sack before nodding. My stomach lurches as his large wings take my weight to the air. Frigid air slices my arms and creates pin-needles in my lungs.

When my feet are finally back on the ground my whole body shakes in response to the rapid pounding of my heart. Flexing the stiffness from my fingers, I take note of everything about Icarus's landing point, mapping the stretching landscape. The trees are smaller, growing only to my head. Tall grass sways beneath them. The area seems untouched. However, a trained eye could catch the betrayal of the pristine facade: shallow foot prints traced in the dry dirt laced with the bitter scent of tobacco. Days worth of travel crossed two measly hours of flight.

My attention shifts to find Icarus crouching over a small yellow flower. I nudge him gently and he ruffles his feathers in annoyance.


Hmm well Icarus is back with us it seems as we head out into this unknown. This is going to prove quite interesting I think judging by just the scene that we've had described to us upto now.

“I’ll meet you in there,” he grunts, “as long as you don’t make another scene.”

“Ha ha, very funny.” He ignores my sarcasm and I leave him to his gardening, starting for the Scraper Town.

The town is less of a town than it is a group of old buildings, crumpling under the weight of their own dirty roofs. Pushing through the crowd, I scan the storefronts, the bustling marketplace a hive of activity and excitement, the air filled with the tantalizing scent of spices and the raucous laughter of merchants haggling over prices. While shoving my way through a particularly tight press of bodies, a drunk man stumbles in front of me, muttering curses. I try to step past, only to be thrust roughly into him. Immediately, I jump back, but not before his sluggish brain noticed me.

“Why sush’ a rush lil’ lady.” “Why shush a rush, lil’ lady,” he slurs, reaching for me. I spin away, instincts on high alert. He tries to follow me but is interrupted by vomiting in the dirt.


Oh dear well that is definitely a very concerning moment. I was not expecting things to escalate to quite that level and honestly I don't know what I was expecting but this definitely caught me by surprise.

I sneer, navigating my way to a small vendor. Whilst tugging my sack over my shoulder, I knock a boy who scowls at me. I ignore him and rush forward. I stop at a small stand opening the weathered fabric.

“Ello, sweet.” The old lady working the stand smiles. Attempting to play nice, I offer a small smile back before revealing the freshly dried meat, dropping it on the table. The scent of spices drifts to the crowd, causing passersby to eye the morsel greedily. Even the shopkeeper seems to drool at the tiny selection of meat.

“I just need some bread,” I state. The lady nods slowly looking between me and my offer.

“Sorry hun,” The shopkeeper eyes the meat greedily, but shakes her head, her gaze lingering on the tantalizing morsel of food, “this ain’t gonna cut it.” I shug.


Hmm well given that start, this is also a bit of a surprise move to see that they have to conduct trade but I suppose supplies must come from somewhere and it seems this place odd as it is, will be the only option.

“Then I guess I must take my business elsewhere.” Turning my back to her, I gather my goods.

“Wait.” I smile at the ground, though quickly neutralize my face in my rise. Smug, I look back to the shopkeeper, however, to my surprise, she is working organizing her products. Confusion sweeps over me, my senses on high alert. A sudden tug on my pack almost sends me into the dirt. I yank it back and reach to unsheath my dagger.

“Whoever you are, you're making a mistake.” I growl at the crowd, stepping back cautiously. A large hand grips my arm. In a single fluid motion, I toss my blade to the other hand, thrusting into my attacker. As planned, they loosen their grip and I slip out of their grasp, slicing out where they stand.


Oooh well this is a fun moment, getting to seee a bit more of that past through this one and a little bit more about Sange in general and how she's in such a position. She's absolutely a fighter and quite a good one at that.

“WHAT THE HELL!” the assailant cries out, crimson dripping from a jagged streak along his shoulder.

Leaping back, I take a moment to evaluate my attacker. They face me furious and bleeding, never a good mix. A bulky man with a scruffy chin; his wings, too small for his large form, are ruined and caked in mud.

“Get lost,” I hiss, the worn straps of my pack coiled around my fingers, the leather creaking in protest as I pull it closer to my chest. He is no threat to me, but just as I prepare to retreat, a whispered utterance slithers through the air. I freeze, the hairs on the back of my neck prickling with unease. I cock my head, letting my ears spin towards the noise; teeth digging sharply into my tongue. “What did you say?”


Well this is escalating a little, it seems we're not going to just get to see this person back away out of fear of that warning. Things are most definitely getting more interesting.

“I said,” he snarls, “I don’t take orders from a seslion.” the final syllable spat out like poison, staining the air with its malice. “Don’t think I didn’t notice the mark on your arm.” I can feel his cruel grin, hot on my back. “Traitor”

Doesn’t deserve it

Show him what you are

Show him

Show…

Rage bubbles over, an inferno of fury. My limbs seem to move on their own, I feel my fingers clenching around the strap of my pack, the supple leather biting into my palm; my free hand sneaking into the concealed sheath on my thigh. He doesn’t even have a chance to scream. His body slumps into me, blood like ribbons around his throat. I kick him off, the deafening orchestra of cheers in my head filling my senses as I rush out of the screaming crowd. Over, just as it began.


Well that certainly escalated rapidly, wow and I though the previous little confrontation was a bit of an escalation. That definitely proves all of those nightmares and things to mean a lot. I am very intrigued to learn more about Sange here.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall I think this has been a lovely start, I am really loving the worldbuilding that you've done here and the characters are already so complex and some especially Sange have some rich backstories there, looking forward to seeing how this continues on here.

As always remember to take what you think was helpful and forget the rest.

Stay Safe
Kate





I think Amelia Earhart wants you to get some ice cream.
— SilverNight