Waiting for 53A North
In late summer and early fall, grit would sting the skin and hurt the eyes because the rains had not restarted. The advantage was the dry air was comfortable in the night air. The disadvantage was the gray and the beige blowing dusty clouds in the street. Smoke from the generators covered the rest of the blocks in monotony. Still, better than the black speckles of mold on most exposed surfaces come autumnal solstice. And no one remembered green on the outside; plants were relegated to indoor shopping centers and the Fabulous Tower Center in the city where the wealthy lived in health.
Prynne trudged the hardened ground, careful to avoid the rubble on either side. Rats lived there and would be hungry until the water came. Her boots went high to her knees but she covered them with her wide pants and tied them at the bottom. It was more protection from the rats and the roaches which scavenged on the floor of the transport. Her daughter was lucky to have leggings handed down from a neighbor's cousin. They were tough but light weight and they were long enough to stuff into her brother's old boots. Prynne worried about the holes in the soles but some cardboard and a lot of duct tape would be enough protection for the time being.
"Mama, I'm thirsty." Pearl covered her mouth with her scarf and turned her face against the wind.
"Watch your step and stay on the sidewalk. You don't want to upset those rocks. Who knows what's watching us." Prynne stumbled and caught her step with the broad sword xw. The smithy at the mall would sharpen the tip when she got there but it bothered her that she used it for something other than defense.
"Mrs. Buchanan put out her pretty flower pots. See, Mama? They're dark blue and black on the top. They're pretty but not as pretty as those red ones from last year. I liked those. It made her house look cheerful. Mama, a rat, right there."
Prynne whirled around and used the blade to hurl a small stone at a snout and whisker. The animal glared red eyes and scampered back in the shadow of broken cement shards.
"Nice shot." The girl adjusted her cap. "Mama?"
"Can we get something to drink when we get to the smithy? I'm so thirsty."
"Pearl, let's concentrate on getting to the stop. I don't want the transport to miss us. Watch your step there."
"The transport is always late and we are always early." Pearl stopped as a particularly strong gust threatened to knock her over. Her mother grabbed her hand and held her steady.
"Better that than missing our ride altogether. That would be bad for us today." Prynne looked at the sky. The main sun was almost overhead. "Second sun is ready to rise so the transport will be here shortly."
"I wonder what that--"
"Hush, child. Lower your voice," Prynne hissed. "We want no trouble today. Remember we talked about this?" She looked at her daughter and stood straight with a firm hand on the grip of her sword. The metal lid clanged on the barrel as they carried it all away, the liquid still shining in the sun.
The wind pause made Prynne even more alert. Every creak of metal, every crumble of rock and stone, every scamper and hidden squeak could be heard all around. She could make out hushed conversations from the tent block a quarter mile away. Pearl squeezed her hand and looked straight, just like she had been told.
To look around was to show fear. To look straight and listen with all your heart was bushido.
As the wind pause ended when second sun rose to the south and east. Wind gusts muffled the sound of the transport, which grew louder behind them. It was harder to listen in the wind but also safer to talk.
"I brought the coins that I have saved, Mama." Pearl loosened her grip.
"What will you buy for yourself, child?" Prynne checked the strap of her coat as her hood blew in the air.
"Colored chalk. I would like to have coins for beautiful pottery like the Buchanans, but that's ok. The cluster gangs come and break them anyway so they don't last. But colored chalk would work. I will draw on the slab in back of our tent. It's flattened and wide and only a little taller than you, Mama. I'll draw and it will rain and I will draw something else. I remember the stories about rainbows so I know that there are other outside colors. Just not here. I would like to see other colors outside, Mama. It'll be pretty." Pearl looked up at her mother. Prynne could tell by the shape of her eyes that she was smiling.
The transport turned around in front of them. Steam spewed out of the tail pipes and the door opened. The cyborg driver turned its head and made a garbled speech about welcoming them aboard 53A North to the city.
"Come along, little artist. We will get your chalk after we stop at the water cafe."
Pearl let go of her mother's hand to grab the handle bars. The steps were large and steep. She stomped on a roach with a sigh of triumph. Prynne dropped her tokens in the fare box before the transport doors closed behind them.
Copyright 2015 by C. Deanne
All Rights Reserved