|Atmosphere Chronicles: and the Rat Warren Winds
Author: j.d.sch PM
Beneath the glittering skyscrapers of the floating city of Junction, deep in a place known as the warrens, there lurks predators and vagabonds, gamblers and drunks, roving bands of children gangs and the growing influence of the Syndicate. Its a world Fen Tunk must exploit to survive, but how far is too far? [Updated: 4-7-13, New title]Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Sci-Fi - Chapters: 15 - Words: 22,421 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 02-20-13 - Published: 10-06-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3063561
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
All he had left in the world was his sister, back at the tavern, and really the only way to keep her safe now was to do as everyone wanted him to do… die.
It wasn't long before his gang-mates came crawling from the pipework like nequam demons of lore… and like the Enox Unon devil himself, Mr. Time came crawling out after them.
"Nowhere to go, kid. You should have killed me when you had the chance because now, oh-oh-oh, I' m going to cut you into pieces while you're still alive and feed you to my dogs! When I get done with you, you're going to beg me to kill you."
This boy, only thirteen years old, stood on the tiny ledge he found himself trapped upon, the hiding place he used to retreat to when he wanted the world to go away, the hiding place at the very edge of the world, now the place between life and death.
His thought turned to falling… tumbling through that night of starry blackness… his only escape.
Moments earlier Fen had stood alone at the edge of the precipice, rubbing the back of a grimy hand against the irritated field of his tired eyes. They burned, but no tears would come to flush the ground filth away. All the tears that had remained in reserve dried up on the climb here, and even the stinging oil smeared into his sensitive orbs could do nothing to cox even a single one out. What remained of his emotions, what little there was to begin with, had been taxed to the last, drained completely and left to dry crusty upon his cheeks over the past hour—an hour that had turned his entire world into a twisted nightmare.
To be truthful, that pain had felt good, reminding him of life—of living, distracting him from the inevitable conclusion of his sorrowful childhood existence—death… and very soon. The worse part of it all… he was going to be cut down by the very mates he had called friends for years… Elad, Benny, Ratter (no, Ratter was dead now), Shoat, Delm… no, at least he was still on his side. How easily the bounds of friendship could be cut to curry the favor of stronger men, but he really only had himself to blame.
He regretted bitterly the events that had brought him here, but then it was hard to figure out where exactly the seeds of his destruction had germinated. The roots stretched too far back to be sure. Perhaps it had flourished after his parents died. Time spent roaming the streets without guidance, looking for mischief… but that was too easy, Fen Tunk was hardly the model boy before that. So further back then. Could the seed have been sown after his family was evicted from the workers' district in the mid-level, forced to cultivate shelter in the shambled shanties of the under-level slums, possibly? That is when he had met his gang-mates after all, idle brats with too much time on their hands and no form of supervision. But then what did a six year old know about running with a bad crowd? Certainly his parents should have been there to guide him away, but by then his father was too busy dying of alcoholism, and his mother too busy slaving away to feed him and his sister.
Thoughts of her had stayed him at the precipice edge for a time, dragging his mind from the abyss. The matter of blame became a moot point. Who cared when and how it started? What happened happened, and Fen had turned sour… his life had turned sour because of it, and it took his sister Lydia to show him that. Oh sure, she had tried time and time again (just this morning in fact), but he ignored her until she was left screaming, your head is just as dense and opaque as lead, Fen.
Simply put: the stalk had already grown too rigidly in the wrong direction.
It was all so strange now, thinking about it, looking out into the open air where cathartic clouds sulking listlessly across a night of impetuous black, their ambiguous forms tainted orange by the urban glare of the unseen city above him. Somewhere above, beyond the pipe-works and ducts, the steel and concrete, was a much better place, the sky-levels of Junction. Up there was a world of happiness and bliss of the sort children like him could only dream of through rose-tinted spectacles.
It had been the promise of those lofty heights that had driven him mindlessly to his doom here in the bowls of the world at the very edge of the precipice to misty oblivion. Somewhere in those boiling vapors awaited his ultimate fate… death.
Better to jump than to face what my mates and Mr. Time have in store for me. He had mulled, looking down into the writhing mass of fog, a festering sea colored platinum under an unseen moon, chocking the planet of Atmosphere like a blanket.
A heavy breeze slipped into this lofty antechamber, tousling Fen's clothes about, trying to tear away the garish costume that was the very symbol of his growing decadence. Silk and velvet… A boy his age living in the warrens had no business in fine clothes like these, but even now, on the edge of death, he obediently smoothed down the silken lapel of his ornate vest. Greasy handprints marked the occasion and he actually got mad at himself for it. Careless, that's all he could think to describe his escape through the dense maze of tangled piping and conduits. Careless, not for any reason than because his vest was irreparably ruined.
So close to the end, and this is what he was lamenting—his vest? At least he could count on his gang-mates having an equally hard time in the crawl spaces, ruining their own fine clothes coming after him. It seemed fitting. After all, it had been these costumes that enticed them into the mucky underworld of Junction.
Ultimately, it was when his gang mates came clambering out of the shadows that he made up us mind, edged closer to the brink. End of the line… nowhere else to go, nowhere else to hide. Mr. Time could be heard howling in outrage behind them. And once more his sister came to mind.
"…Thick as lead… Fen, I'm warning you, those boys you hang out with are no good, and you would see it if your mind wasn't so opaque." his sister's voice came back to haunt him at those final moments. "I've looked in their eyes and I see that same glimmer of viciousness I find in harder men. I don't want that for you. I know mom wouldn't want that for you…"