|Daww, what a pretty scary cottage :3|
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The Feral Boy 4
Amelia crouched on the road, her hand wrapped around the butt of a torch. Jessica squatted beside her. “So, we’re here...what now?” She turned and looked at Amelia, a smile playing across her lips. She seemed to be enjoying herself. “Well, any ideas?”
Amelia shook her head and turned the torch over in her hand. The beam of light in front of her jiggled, passing over the thick glass of a window. They were outside the feral compound on the edge of town. It was huge and grey, a seemingly endless expanse of despair. It wasn’t tall, as such, but it was long and slender, a rectangular snake. A tall jagged fence surrounded it and a single dog was tied to the barrier. It was a German Shepherd and its eyes were closed in the throes of sleep. Its long coat brushed the pebbled ground, and its nose twitched. It might have been sleeping, but it was still vicious - Amelia could make out the glint of white canine coming from its mouth like a dagger.
Amelia gulped. “I-I don’t know. We could sneak through the fence I suppose but what if the dog wakes up.”
She bit her lip and glanced at Jessica. “What do you think?”
“Yeah, we could try getting past Fluffy. It wouldn’t be too hard...”
Jessica shrugged. “Well, he has to have a name. It was either that or Norbert.”
Amelia rolled her eyes. “Jessica, now is not the time to be making names up, ok? We need to save Javen!”
“Oh, fine then,” Jessica said. She pointed at the corner of the fence. “If we sneak round to the corner, we’ll be upwind and the dog won’t smell us, ok? Now, are we going to move or not?” She bounced to her feet and crept forward, keeping low to the ground. She was silent, but then that was expected.
Amelia joined her, stepping as lightly on the ground as she could. Stones crunched under the soles of her shoes and she winced. Did it have to be so loud? She slid her torch in her pocket, shielding the light. She took another step and was relieved to find the spongy texture of grass beneath her. Glancing up, she rolled her shoulders. The fence was a metre in front of her, standing tall and black. Pointed posts speared the stars, which looked like sequins in the satin sky. Amelia looked at it for a moment. It was beautiful. She had never really seen the stars before. It wasn’t what you did in Skyy. You sat and watched the box or you played the game station. You never went outside, and you never saw nature.
“Well, come on then!” Amelia blinked and saw Jessica scrambling up the fence, her arms weaving over the posts, grabbing and yanking. She was very near to the top. “Amelia! Come on!” She turned around and let go of the fence with both hands. Amelia jerked forward as if to catch her and then she remembered. Jessica wasn’t real. She couldn’t fall, let alone die. And sure enough, there she was hanging in mid air, her legs wrapped round the beam. “Are you coming or not?”
Amelia walked forward and wrapped her hands round the fence. It was ice cold and Amelia felt a shiver ripple down her spine. “Y-yeah, I’m coming.” She tightened her grip and yanked herself upwards, just far enough to push her feet in between the thin gaps. She moved her hands upwards and made to go again, but then she stopped. “Wait...”
Amelia jumped down from her position and put her hand between the bars. The gap was huge. It had looked small, but it wasn’t. Amelia narrowed her eyes. That was weird. She passed her other hand through it. Still tons of space. Amelia grinned and took a deep breath, her eyes narrow. One, two, three. She fell forward and landed with a plop on the other side of the fence.
Amelia pushed herself to her feet and looked at Jessica, who was standing to her right. “Woah,” she said.
“What was that?”
Amelia grinned. “It’s not real. The fence, I mean. It’s a dyadic infra unit - a Diu for short. It’s a box that projects an image over a distance. It turns real but only when you apply pressure, otherwise it’s just a projection. Which is why it ceased to exist when I let go of it.” Amelia shrugged and brushed the dirt off her legs. “Dad uses them all the time, to make coffee and stuff, but I’ve never actually see one before.” Amelia glanced over her shoulders at the fence. It looked real again, solid. She swallowed and turned back round to Jessica. “They must have better security on the inside if the fence is fake. Come on.”
Amelia skittered over the concrete, her feet skimming the smooth surface. She daren’t turn her torch on. Windows shimmered in the moonlight - what if one of the guards saw her torch? What would she do then? No, it was better to run in darkness.
The building grew rapidly as she got closer. The grey wall seemed huge, bigger than anything Amelia had ever seen. There didn’t seem to be any door. Great. Amelia stopped and turned round to look at Jessica. “How are we meant to get in?”
Jessica snorted. “Through an air vent of course. Don’t you know anything? Look, there’s one over there.” Her slim finger jabbed thin air, pointing at a tiny rectangle two metres to the left. It was about a metre off the ground.
Amelia could barely see it, but it was there all right - she could hear the hiss of the air conditioning inside. She nodded. Her heart was thumping in her chest, thunderous and irregular. This was it. It hadn’t quite sunk in, but now she realised...this was real. She could be shot, arrested, thrown in jail, all for a boy, an Unregistered boy. Was it worth it? Did she really want to do this? Yes. No. Yes. Amelia’s mind raged inside her head, her feelings battling it out with her brain. She willed them to stop and instead chose what her heart said. Yes. Beyond any reason, any question, anything. Yes.
Amelia raced forward. She skidded to a stop in front of the vent and used her hands to feel the edges. Cold
metal tingled her fingertips, and sharp, jagged points of a nail ran over her palms. It was sealed shut. There was no way they were getting in without making a bang.
Amelia sighed and lifted her foot. Clash! The soft heel of her shoe collided with the grate in an instant, sending it soaring backwards into the gap. It clattered for a moment on the hollow tube and then stopped. Biting her lip, she placed her hand on the thin layer of metal. It was warmer than outside, but she could feel the heat disappearing beneath her fingers. “Are you coming?” she shouted to Jessica. A trail of steam came from her mouth and hit the metal.
Amelia heard a giggle ahead of her. She blinked and saw Jessica on her belly in front of her, smiling. “Way ahead of you.” She giggled again and crawled forward. Her legs flailed behind her, threatening to whack Amelia in the face.
Amelia grinned and squeezed into the tunnel. It was tight, pressing her lungs into her heart and her arms into her stomach. She wriggled around a bit. There. It wasn’t as uncomfortable now. She pushed her hands in front of her and crawled forward. One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four. Amelia pressed her head down, but she could still hear the steady thump of Jessica’s elbows whacking against the vent. She was glad she had given Jessica noise now - it made the whole thing seem less frightening, less scary.
“Watch out. The end’s right in front of you!” Amelia glanced up and froze. Her arms were perched on a ridge, her hands dangling over the floor below. Straight ahead she saw lights, flickering and dirty. They were attached to damp green ceiling. Amelia looked down over the ledge and gulped. The floor seemed miles away, dull green linoleum staring up at her with black flecks and brown dots for eyes. Amelia wriggled backwards. She was glad Jessica had told her when to stop, even if it was a bit late. Otherwise she would have been a goner.
Amelia leaned her head over the edge and saw Jessica standing on the floor below. The wave of her blonde hair was almost a pinprick. “H-How am I meant to get down without making a noise?” Amelia whispered. Her voice caught in her throat and she choked down a cough.
“Jump, of course! I’ll catch you!” Jessica grinned and reached her hands out in front of her.
Amelia frowned. “I’m not in the mood for games, Jess! You know I’ll go straight through you! What do I do?”
Jessica sighed. “Fine then, scaredy pants. You can’t see it but just below you is a metal plate attached to the wall. Step on it and then jump down, ok?”
Amelia gulped. “I-it’s there?” She leaned her head further over and she still couldn’t see anything.
“Yes, yes! Now, come on! Just swing a leg over and...hop!”
Amelia took a deep breath. There was nothing to lose...well, apart from maybe a limb or two. Amelia closed her eyes. Think of Javen. The sweet, musky smell of his hair, the feel of the dirt between his fingers, earthy and light...Amelia opened her eyes and jumped.
soared through the air, her fingers scrambling over the cinderblock wall. There was nothing there. There was nothing there! No ledge! Amelia felt the ground fall away from her and she was falling, plummeting, skydiving through the air, nothing to hold, nothing to grab, this was it, this was the end...
Amelia landed on the floor with a thud. A moment of silence passed, a second of white that clouded Amelia’s closed eyes. But then it faded and she peeled apart her eyelids. She was looking at the ceiling. She wasn’t dead.
She groaned and felt her shoulder pop back into place with a sickening crunch. “There, that wasn’t that bad was it?” Amelia glanced up and glared. Jessica was standing in front of her, beaming. “Come on then, get up. You’re not hurt! Look up - it’s not even that far!”
Amelia moaned again and struggled to her feet. She cast her bloodshot eyes upwards, and there it was, the vent, only a few metres above ground. Amelia sniffed and then turned back to Jessica. “You tricked me.”
Jessica nodded. “Uh, duh. I had to, other you’d never come down. Right, let’s go find Javen.” She grasped Amelia’s hand and broke into a sprint, flying along the corridor fast as a breath of wind. The corridor was long and dull, curving around at random intervals. Jessica took a left, then another left, then a right. Amelia wondered if she knew where she was going. Surely not? If Amelia didn’t know, how could she?
Jessica took another right turn and then stopped in front of a heavy metal door. “That’s where Javen is.” She slid her hand into her pocket. “Well,” she said, a grin returning to her face. “On you go!”
Amelia bit her lip. “Are-are you sure this is right?” She twisted her head and peered through the thick glass windows on the door. The glass was dirty and covered in grime, but there was no doubt about it - there weren’t any lights on. Amelia craned her head further, but the glass was too clouded to see anything more. She sighed and turned back the Jessica. “Well? How do you know?”
Jessica shrugged. “I don’t know.” She saw Amelia’s sceptical expression and put her hands on her hips. “I just know, ok? Now, go!” She pushed Amelia forward again, ramming her into the cool metal of the door. “You can do this,” she whispered. “I know you can.”
Amelia nodded and felt her hand tighten round the butt of the torch. She pulled into out her pocket. The weight was strangely comforting, friendly even. She twirled the torch in her hand and then pressed her hand to the door. The metal was cold and she could see smears of red and brown on its surface. “Y-you’ll come with me?”
“Of course. Now go.” Amelia nodded again. She could do this. For Javen, for Javen...She pressed hard on the door and stepped inside.
The first thing Amelia noticed was the smell. It was rotten, dirty, like roadkill. Amelia felt her throat rise in a gag. It was disgusting. Amelia closed her eyes for a moment and let the doors swing behind her. She could get used to the smell - no, she would get used to the smell. She had too. Amelia opened her eyes and slowly brought herself to focus the flickering torch on the room around her. It settled to her right, and a gasp choked through her throat.
Cages. Rows of cages, each holding a quivering body. They were metal and lined up at the sides of the room, the gaps between them barely noticeable. The room itself was no more than a wider version of the corridor outside, but it was dirtier, smellier. Red streaks were smeared on the walls, sometimes paired with brown dots and black stripes. Amelia shuddered. They had passed at least ten doors, and if each of them was like this...
Amelia whipped round and stared at one of the cages. There was a woman there, huddled in a corner. Her skin was white and parchment thin and her cheekbones were like knives under her face. She moaned again and shifted away from the light. Her arms were wrapped around something, hugging it close to her body, but Amelia couldn’t see what. The bundle quivered and Amelia saw a bony hand reached out and touch the woman’s face. A child. Amelia felt a twang in her heart. A child. A tiny toddler, stuck in this prison. Amelia watched it stroke its mothers arm for a moment and then wrenched her eyes away. She was here to save Javen. She would save the rest if she could, but Javen was the priority.
Amelia turned the torch to face ahead of her and then took a wary step forward. She was half expecting for the floor to snap up and bite her, swallow her whole. But it didn’t. She was safe. She took another step forward, and soon she had broken into a run. She couldn’t hear or feel Jessica beside her, but that didn’t matter. Her eyes scanned the cages, looking for Javen’s brown hair, or his ragged clothes. Nothing. All she saw were men, and women - no teenagers to be seen. Amelia bit her tongue and slowed down to a jog. She wanted to shout out, but she didn’t dare. What if the people heard? What if they swarmed, or something? Amelia had seen a movie where that had happened and the character almost died. No, she couldn’t ask someone...unless there was someone already awake...someone not wanting to make a fuss...
Amelia stopped and looked at the cages nearest to her. She still felt a shiver crawl down her ribs when she saw the metal bars. Woman, sleeping. Man, sleeping. Man, sleeping. She turned to the other side. Man, sleeping. Woman, sleeping. Man, sleeping. No, wait...the man’s eyes snapped open and he grinned.
Amelia blinked. The man was awake alright, his beady eyes staring at her like a vulture admires a dying carcass. He was middle aged, gray hair thinning on the top of his head. He was well built but it was easy to see the effect imprisonment had had on him - his mouth was turned down at the corners and his eyes were lined with wrinkles too deep to be from natural stress. There was something familiar about him...something she had seen before... The man leaned forward and beckoned for Amelia to come closer. Amelia gulped and walked towards the cage, making sure not to get to close.
The man smiled again. “You looking for someone?”
“Yes, Sir. Actually, I was wondering if you could help me.”
“Sure thing, but only if you do something for me.” Amelia paused then nodded.
“Me first. I’m looking for a teenage boy, a bit taller than me with brown hair? Have you seen him?”
The man’s eyes widened and he wrapped his arms around the bars. “J-Javen?”
Amelia nodded. “Yeah. Have you seen him?”
The man smiled, a laugh playing on his lips. “Seen him? Yeah, he came in a few hours ago. He’s up that end.”
He pointed further down the corridor. “I was going to ask you to do something else, but here’s my new favour. Look, can you bring him down here once you’ve busted him out?”
Amelia narrowed her eyes. “Why?”
The man laughed, a deep hearty sound. “Why? I- I know him.”
“ He-Javen...” He looked into Amelia’s eyes and she noticed the edge of tear hanging from his eyelashes. “Javen...Javen’s my son.”