(This one is a bit longer, but it’s the end of the chapter and I didn’t see a good spot to cut it, so here it is. :p Hope it’s been a good ride so far…it’s been neat for me to see and know other people are actually reading it. I’m thinking about trying to finish it before November, somewhere around 7,000 words or so…what do y’all think? I’m halfway there, now, so I know it’s possible…but is that a good length for a short story?)
Sev scowled, and nodded. That’s sorted…go on, take it. She grinned, and began scooping up the pile, already scoping out the main drag for a good spot. Let the newbies take the one under the sunbeam, she’d take the one where the beam’d be once the people started coming…and -away- from the entrance, where the non-serious shoppers wandered in, and blocked off the view of the good ones. Cuddling the pile to her chest, she began shuttling back and forth, her grin widening as each new layer became visible. Putting each find where she felt it got the best show took the best part of an hour, and by the time she was done, the first trickle of customers was heading in. As usual, the day went by quickly…maybe a little too quickly. By the time the torches went on, and the night crowd started filtering through, she was already wondering what to do with herself that night. Tossing a quick if insincere grin up at her replacement as he approached, she sighed, and adjusted the new scarf she’d appropriated for herself as she stood. Ok, ok…you can have it. Anything happening?
He shook his head, already more interested in sorting and sifting. Party up t’the Hotties, but you know how that crowd gets…and I heard something about a new singer over t’the Kitchen Sync. Oh, and Jamie wants t’talk t’ya…said it’s important. Butt-in-a-sling kinda important. He looked sideways at her, quirking his lip at her suddenly nervous expression. Hell, relax…she prob’ly needs someone t’chew on for a while…it’s Jamie, y’know? If she don’t got somebody to bite ever day, she gets cranky. Maybe the Spikester ain’t been licking her boots right, huh? He grinned nastily, and put on a whiny tone of voice. Why doncha ever -listen- t’me, spikie? Left -then- right…left -then- right…are you just stupid? Is -that- your problem? Blue snorted…then outright giggled, swatting him beside the ear. You…are gonna get us -both- in trouble, she ever hears you do that. Ok, I’m off…just…be careful, huh? And don’t let that big piece go to anybody but Old Dave…he’s been looking for one just like it for-ever.
She shook her head, and headed off down the hall, after one last wistful glance at the treasures spread out all around her. Not till the weekend. Sellers-day was coming, just two more days…then she could pick and bargain…for whatever was left. She bit her lip, trying not to anticipate what this little “talk” with Jamie was about…Spike being her best friend wasn’t going to hold her here for -much- longer, especially if Jamie got wind of her…nocturnal activities. Sidling through the torchlit shadows, she wondered again what was with the lo-techs and lighting. Sure, it made it more…romantic, in here, and got people buying more…but they acted like even having lights back in the stores was somehow bad. Just a few little lights, and they’d double their productive time, instead of having to rush everything, then leave it sit all night. She shrugged, and slipped back into the shadows behind the “sales floor” with relief. Less smoky back here…and less temptation.
The store was dark, as usual, the only illumination coming from the tiny candle that sat in the mouth of the stores sign/mascot, giving a soft glow to her somewhat frantic looking features, and the tiny fire in the barrel that sat in the middle of the main room. The off-duty team sat around the barrel as usual, and someone had been in a giving mood, obviously…there was a strong smell of cooking meat, without the charred-hair smell that meant rat-thing, and a jug of chilled water sweated gently in the heat. She inquired as to Jamie’s placement with a raised ‘brow, and was directed to the back of the Lair…behind the double-row of beaded curtain that blocked off all light from the back room.
Boss? She moved to the curtain, parting it just enough to stick her head through…and received the usual grunt in reply. Slipping the rest of her way through the surprisingly heavy beads, she waited a second for her eyes to adjust, then paced forward to kneel down by the pair of figures who curled together in the middle of the cushions covering the floor. As her knees hit the cushion, two pairs of eyes opened, and one mouth grinned…but which was which was hard to tell. The gravelly voice that spoke was -definitely- Jamie, though…and -not- in a good mood, so most likely -not- the grin. What’re you doing, Blue? She blinked, confused, and shrugged. Talking to you? She tried. The voice snorted, and a rustle from the darkness revealed itself as Spike sitting up and moving out of range. Lemme clarify…what’re you doing that I don’t know about? That takes you out all damn night? That brings you back beat to hell and gone, and dirtier than a Raver at a Pow-wow? What…are you…doing?
Blue…gulped. I uh…I got stuff, boss. That’s all. You said, long as I’m working, you’re good. You said, when Spike and me got here. She blinked, as a light flared, revealing Jamie’s face all too close to her own, looking rather demonic in the flickering flame of the tiny tea-light candle. I said…yeah, I did. But that’s before I saw. You’re working, yeah. But one-a these days, you won’t be. You’ll be down t’fill, only -in- it, steada on it. Now me, longs it don’t affect the Claires, I don’t give a smack…but Spike, he likes ya, and I’m not liking it when he’s too worried about ya to do his…job, y’hear what I’m saying? She glanced over her shoulder at him, the look on her face softening into as normally…human…as Blue had ever seen. Spike, for his part, kept his eyes down, hiding his face behind his curtains of soft blond hair…but Blue could tell he was upset by the set of his shoulders. So…either y’tell me what’s happening…or I got no choice. I gotta letcha go.
Up till now I’ve been throwing these out there in approx. 500 word chunks. Would anyone like to read more at one time? I have a good deal more written, I just wasn’t sure how much people wanted to read. 🙂
Ok, now back to our regularly scheduled mayhem…
The Mall was bustling, now that noon was almost here…runners tramped back and forth between stores, their overflowing backpacks and hip-nets glinting with hidden possibilities. Sifters perched before their mountains of plunder, quick hands flying as they sorted out the trash from the treasure…handing the trash to the crafters, for a final sorting and possible rebuilding, and the treasure to the sales crew, setting up their spaces down the center court. Smells and sounds drifted like smoke above the tiled floor, and Blue hurried down toward her spot trying not to pay too much attention to either.
Passing banks of collected aroma, she wove her way between them with only a quick glance to scout out possibilities…the Gap crew seemed to’ve picked up some coffee somewhere, or at least something with a passable imitation of its smell…the Hotties had their usual day olds, and what looked like a pile of excrement but was most likely whatever topping they’d concocted today. Blue’s sensitive nose twitched, and caught the scents of cinnamon, brown sugar, and some other spice, as she hurried past.
Hey, Blue…the voice was soft and hoarse at the same time, and the small sifter that stepped out of the shadow of a column and into her path was a study in contradictions as well. His face was slow and expressionless, but his hands and eyes twitched rapidly, almost in unison, enough to make the light of the tiny hand-rolled he sucked on look like a laser-toy. Hey…just wanted t’say…better not let Big Rob catch y’all letting that cat in here, y’know? I mean, far as I’m concerned, cats gotta have shelter just like the rest of us…but you know how he is.
She carefully controlled her voice as she tilted her head at him, a fake confused expression on her face. Cat? Billy-G, what -are- you talking about? We ain’t got no cat. You think Jamie and Spike’d let a dirty ol’animal get inta their precious stuff? I -don’t- think. She chuckled, dismissingly…
Uh-huh. Whatever…just wanted t’say. He turned away, the tiny point of light inscribing whorls and spins of light in the shadowy areas between the columns. Just sayin…geez. His voice trailed off as he slipped back to his pile…and Blue carefully didn’t let the shaking start until she was safely out of his sight and headed down toward her own pile.
Sev looked up with a hassled look on his face as she approached, nodding to the little runner at his side. Ok, ok, I got it…tell Spike we’re gonna be on time, no matter what -some- people think… He bit his lip in a habitual gesture as the kid took off past Blue, and hollered after him. And -grab- something on the way back…you think we live on charity? Then he turned his scowling eyes on Blue, and shook his head. And you…you ready to do some sales this time, or you gonna pass out like last time? I haveta take over for you -one- more time…
Blue shook her head, confidently. I’m on it, Sev…really. What’ve we got today? Anything good? She moved forward toward the right hand pile, going gracefully to her knees to hover her hand over the contents…not -quite- daring to touch until the sifter’d given permission. But even from back here she could see that her group had done their usual good job…the glint of shiny plastics and sturdy metals could be seen through the grime, and even the bundled cloth looked like it held surprises of the positive kind.
The rest was almost laughable in its anticlimax…at least, someday she’d laugh about it. For now, she simply relished the relative ease of making the careful stretch and scrabble to the next few rungs, then slipping sinously up onto the roof to look down on the milling, furious pack below. Sighing softly, she called down toward the street, couching her voice in as casual and concise a way as she could, considering her condition. “Here, boys…it’s over. Just go home now, like nice doggies…and maybe next time we’ll find time to play.” This had the expected effect of stirring them to frenzies of scrabbling and leaping after her, and she simply shook her head and turned to head home over the rooftops. The path was clear from here, and with the pack occupied below, as safe as any she’d find on street level.
It was a very tired and dirty Blue that slipped in through the gate at the back of The Mall that morning…not that anyone there would’ve recognized her in her current condition. She padded slowly down the cool floor with its tile pattern of blue and green waves, hearing the soft stirrings of morning in the stores as she passed. Head hanging low, she slipped under the curtain and into her current home, tossing a soft smile up at the ever-smiling head of the stores mascot/angel, above. Careful to find her way to the spot that she’d prepped behind a pile of boxes in the back storeroom, she collapsed on the cool cement floor, and fell asleep licking her wounds…
The sound of The Mall opening for business woke her several hours later, and she stretched, wincing as her elbows hit the sharp edges of the boxes, and her knee came unstuck from the floor, reluctantly. Sighing, she reached for the clothes she’d left here before heading out the night before and slipped them on, taking the time to examine herself from head to toe as she did. Apart from the long scrape on her side, and the cut on her knee, and the usual wicked headache, she seemed to have once more slipped through without taking any serious injury. How long this state of grace would last was unknown and unknowable, but for now she’d settle for being grateful it existed, instead of whining about it.
Tying her hair back in a loose messy knot, she made her way down the hall and out into the main store, carefully not meeting the accusing eyes of her “boss”, and the resigned pair belonging to her best friend. They sat curled up with each other in the soft corner, Jamie with one hand on Spikes head, stroking him like a pet. Jamie obviously felt that Blue was hiding something from her, (which to be fair, she was), and when Jamie was upset, Spike felt it as well, even though he had no real clue what. Blue sighed, already seeing the loss of yet another “family” and home in her near future.
I think I’m ready to start working on my book again, got my confidence up and my discipline as well..I hope. ;p
Either way, I’m going to start posting at least one page or possible chapter twice a week, and I welcome all comments of constructive critism or praise. 😉
Blue and Grey, synopsis: In a post-apocalyptic/dystopian future, Blue: an unwilling young shapeshifter, and Grey: a born shapeshifter and master burglar, become less than willing partners out of mutual necessity. (I know this needs work…wish I could find the 25 word pitch I did, but I seem to have misplaced it in the junk-filled filing case that calls itself a laptop.)
Blue and Grey: Part One
Blue curled her lip as one paw splashed through an unidentified liquid spilling out of a drain, but kept running. The sound of the pack was all too close behind, their mingled yips and yaps echoing off the alleyway bricks and bouncing around in her already sore head like barbed wire ping-pong balls.
She took the next turn a bit too close, shaving time and a bit of fur off as she did. Almost there, she thought. Just a bit more, and I can put my head down, even if I have to do it on the floor. The thought of the cold concrete floor of the back room was soothing to her cut and scraped up paws, and she managed to pull a burst of energy from the thought and double her speed for a few moments.
It wore off quickly though,and she was back to the limping scamper that she’d kept up for blocks now, and the pack…wait…why did they sound like they were coming from in front? She listened carefully, slowing her steps, hoping against all hope that it was only an effect of the echo that made the yipping cries come from -both- directions at once.
The supposition failed, however, when she reached the corner of the main street leading to The Mall…and heard them more clearly. Damn, they must’ve circled around. -Now- what? I can’t get home without getting caught between! Half-panicked, half-exhausted, she looked around frantically, and grinned tiredly as she noticed the ladder half a floor above her head. Yes! Saved!
Her first leap was fruitless, only managing to scrape her fur against the brick, leaving a smear of what she -hoped- was mud, but was more likely blood. Too tired to feel the pain, she positioned herself a bit more carefully, and took another leap…this time, managing to grasp the bottom rung of the ladder with the claws of one sore paw. Scrambling frantically, she pulled herself up onto the rusted metal, and lay there for a moment, prostrate with relief.
Ok, now for the fun part…carefully she stood, stretching her lean body up toward the next rung, ignoring the calls of the pack as they raced closer from both sides. Just a bit…more…there! Got it. She made the pull-and-rest maneuver one more time, before the first of the packs outrunners, a scruffy little terrier, ran into the alley. Here, here, here!! The cat, it’s here! She sighed, and watched it as it scrabbled frantically at the brick below the ladder, mad little eyes sparkling in its filthy face and spittle spraying everywhere. Dogs…so the dignity.
My 25 word pitch for my book, Blue and Grey, is up for dissecting over at Madisons blog. If you want, run on over there, check it out, and give me your honest opinion…would you buy it? 😉
Edit: Since Madison has moved, I’ll put the pitch here, in case anyone digs and finds this post. 😉
Blue, an unwilling cat shapeshifter, and Grey, a master burglar and shapeshifting fox, form an uneasy alliance in a post-apocalyptic city.