Please criticise this as much as you can- it's the only way I'll learn.


Chapter 1

They checked my teeth first, because I wouldn't fetch a good price if I had bad teeth. Not with my eyes like they were. Then my hands were inspected, held palm-up with weights on them to see how much I could carry. The Sisyphite woman frowned when she saw my trembling hands with their gnawed, red fingertips.

"That's no good," she tutted, her brow crumpling like old newspaper before she realised it would wrinkle. She wiped the frown away. Lifting a hand to her forehead, she turned to one of the men. "Tie the hands behind on this one." Then another glance at me and a half-snort. "With those eyes, you might want to bag her head, too."

"Then we'd have to bag all their heads," he muttered. Laughing in a hollow sort of way, she shoved me towards him and barked for the next lot- a little lad a bit younger than me with wide, terrified eyes- to come forward. Poor bairn was shaking so much his bones rattled. Was his mother here too? Something awful clutching at my stomach, I mouthed a little prayer to protect him and smiled when he caught sight of me. He didn't smile back before a big, hot hand grabbed my little, shivering wrist.

There was an overpowering smell of potpourri in the auction hall, and the reek of floor polish made me woozy. Was that done deliberately? To confuse the Elysians into paying more for us? Or was it to cover the smell of wee? It wasn't uncommon. A child as young as five could be snatched from their sobbing mother and auctioned to as a slave, never to be seen again. Not all of them were toilet trained. And after all that prodding, poking, and strange people, and the unguessable future ahead... Well, who could blame them?

"Sturdy female, ten years of age," the auctioneer bellowed as I was led up to the stage, the polished flooring barely thudding under my footsteps. "Five stone two in weight, four feet and eleven inches in height. Right-handed, and heterochromic." The last word was so sickeningly sympathetic I could hear my mother telling the auctioneer off in my head: Eyes are for seeing with, you idiot. What does it matter if they're not a perfect match? She can see, can't she?

"Well behaved with some knowledge of household chores. Shall we start the bidding at five hundred?"

My little bones rattled under my skin at the silence. Somehow the floor polish smelt even stronger, the floor froze under my bare feet. I tried to picture my mam's face and there she was the second my eyes closed, right down to her freckles, her red cheeks, her bright eyes; one hazel, one blue, like my own. I remembered her warm skin, her vanilla smell so much nicer than that horrible potpourri. When I last saw her I knew she'd been crying. Memories of warmth, vanilla and a shaking, breaking voice that whispered goodbye; that was all I had of her now.

"Let's start the bidding at nine hundred," the auctioneer suggested, straightening his tie. A blonde man raised his hand. "Do I hear ten hundred?"

"Ten hundred."

One and four zeros. We weren't meant to know how to count that high. Much less write. What was the point? My sort didn't need to know about anything like that, and reading would only give us ideas. Bad ideas. Dangerous ideas. I couldn't do much of either- I only knew I was ten because I had ten fingers- and for the most part seeing what happened to people who read had beat the curiosity out of me for the most part. In retrospect I can read the sign above the stage: August Auction 2018, and then lots of names. There was a sign by the door, which I think was full of people who showed up. All those faces watching me, and everyone of them so inhumanely beautiful. Which would I belong to? Whose was I?

Another hand shot up, this time from a dark-eyed man with a neat, black mustache. His expression was cool, his face aware and proud of its fine features. The boy beside him tried to mimic his father's posture, but rather than looking majestic he just looked like he'd been ironed into his suit. He seemed shocked by every movement- his eyes widened when another hand shot up.

"Twelve hundred," said the blonde man.

"Twelve hundred."

The man with his son shot a hand up again.

"Thirteen."

"Thirteen hundred."

Please God, I found myself praying. What was I praying for? I don't know. Please, God. Please, God. I chanted it under my breath, over and over.

"Fourteen," went a woman with a long, blonde plait coiled around her neck. She blinked twice, drawing attention to the glitter sparkling at the end of each long, black lash.

"Fourteen hundred."

Please, God.

"Going once. Going twice."

"Fifteen hundred."

I dared to look at the blonde man. He didn't look like the vicious sort. Please, God.

"Fifteen hundred."

"Sixteen."

"Seventeen."

"Eighteen hundred." That boy with his father, was he smiling at me? Why, was I a present, maybe? I lifted my head and sure enough, the corners of his mouth curved upwards. His eyes were black, like his father's, but they sparkled. Kind eyes. Giving the slightest smile back, I began to hope. Maybe I was being bought as his playmate, a friend. It wasn't unheard of. Then I wouldn't have to work over a hot, hot stove, under a cloudy sky, in a mine, in a brothel, as a test subject. I would wear pretty dressed and learn to read. I would be well fed. Everyone would like me. I would never have to worry about heavy hands because the boy would protect me. I would be safe and sound and-

"Nineteen hundred," offered the blonde man.

"Nineteen hundred. Going once, going twice." Bang, went the gavel. "Sold to the gentlemen for nineteen hundred. Next lot."

The little boy was sent up next, but I can only hope he went to a good home. Heaven knows what happened to him- the bidding started at five hundred as I was dragged to what was now going to be my life.