So, I'm late. I know, I know, not surprising, but there we are.
This is the first installment for Self-Induced Disease's "Holiday" prompt "Blue". Blue hasn't been mentioned yet, but I promise it becomes a very obvious part of the plot, by the next update at least. Which may be later today. I just wanted to get the first bit up while we were still in December.
If you haven't checked out Xanthofile's stories for this month (that's right. Stories) then you totally need to. Because they're awesome. And, I believe, he's still finishing one.
Anyway, as usual, all links can be found in my profile and I hope to see more entries next month! Hope you all had a happy holiday!
Look for Blue
It wasn't done. Was, in fact, completely against the rules, but there he was, walking quietly through the streets of the outer city, the place beyond the wall, the place no one ever went. It was dangerous, dark and dingy, just as dirty as the stories said, and nearly as frightening.
Except Omarion had found himself in a fortunately quiet part of town.
It was late evening when he slipped through the opening in the wall, the legs of his old jeans still damp from where he had to wade through knee-deep waters to slip through the loose bit of steel grating (more appropriately, cell bars) beneath the thick expanse of stone and cement wall, and out again through the other side. His sneakers were still damp and he nearly gagged at the idea of all the dirt and grime and filth sticking to their surface.
Omarion was there on a dare. Less a dare, really, and more a "right-of-passage" that all boys his age were charged with by the others. At Christmas when they were seventeen, the year before they were legally allowed to leave the inner city, the boys had to sneak out and return with a token from the outer world, something interesting that had to do with the season. If they didn't have something to show for it, the other elites were sure to make life hell the rest of the way through university and sometimes, so he'd heard, through a small portion of their adult life as well.
The task was supposed to be simple enough. Get out, get something interestingly Christmas-y, and get home to shower in scalding water. But Omarion was stunned to see, that unlike the inner city – decked out in lights and trees and all sorts of glimmering, glittery madness – the outer city had nothing.
Nothing but dirt and grime and filth. And all of it cohering, sticking to ever inch of him, and certainly infecting him with some strange, outlandish outer city disease.
So, needless to say, after hours of slipping quietly through the rather vacant streets, peering in through cracked shop windows and dusty street stalls, Omarion was still empty handed.
"So much for a simple task," he mumbled under his breath as he slipped into another alley, shoulder's hunched and rounded, hood pulled in close to his head, shrouding his face.
Omarion nearly flew out of his skin, jumping side-ways, away from the voice to his left and just above. He turned his face up, brown eyes wide, and stared in shock at the dark-skinned, pale-haired man that stared down. He was perched on a ledge, what may have once been part of a wall that enclosed the alley, and looked all too comfortable in his crouched position. His expression was mischievous, outlandish features only enhancing the troublesome expression. Omarion took another step back.
The man laughed and shifted silently. "Oh, I get it. You're one of those inner city brats here to get your 'token of manhood', or whatever you spoiled little fucks call it," he teased sharply. Omarion gaped, but the man continued. "Don't bother denying it. Only time we ever see those Aryan features are when one of you lot makes their way down here like mingling with us less fortunate is some kind of test of honor."
Omarion stared at him a moment longer. "Just leave me alone," he spat, voice quavering more than he'd have liked, and he bolted down the alley …
Only to be knocked roughly to the ground.
He gasped, palms stinging as they scraped across the dirty ground, the bite of stone and glass making him wince. His knees didn't fair much better, but at least he hadn't landed on his face. Looking up, it became apparent that he was surrounded by outer city youths, all of them present with their strange features, so many mixed qualities it was difficult to tell heritage just from looking. Coal-black faces were framed in shocking red hair, ivory and yellow sporting strong noses and bright blue eyes, pale white faces with large lips and unruly, curly black hair, tight to their heads and coarse.
Blinking, he scuttled back, meeting a brick wall. Five faces stared down at him, two obviously twins, and Omarion gasped when the first man jumped down in front of him, a snarky grin on his face.
"You think that would work?"
"Just leave me alone," Omarion insisted again, pushing to his feet. His hands hurt, and he glanced down briefly to see bloody scuffs on the meat of his palms.
The group just laughed at him, as though it were a grand joke. "And if we don't? What're you to do, Leet? Scream for your daddy and his money?" taunted one of the others, a dark, dark girl with fiery red hair and amber eyes.
"No one here to help you," that first man insisted. "You get arrested here for anything and everything. You call for help, they'll put you in cuffs and march you back and you'll have a red mark to your name in your precious Inner City. And your children will be watched and monitored, and probably even their children."
Omarion scowled. "You're lying."
"Am I?" the man grinned.
"What do you want?"
"We're just having a bit of fun. Like messing with you Leet kids, come down here lookin' for something 'unique' to show you, what … have the balls to come out here in the first place?" cajoled a man, as white as Omarion, but with springy black hair and broad features.
"What'chu get into more trouble for? Gettin' caught sneaking out, or getting' caught out here?" asked one of the ivory twins, blinking down at him through startlingly blue eyes
Omarion just gaped. "What … I don't … What's a 'Leet'?"
The group laughed.
"Leet. Elite. You folk up there on the hill behind your pretty little wall. Elites," clarified the first.
Omanion sighed and chewed his lip. It was never good when people had special names for groups. To them, he was sure he was less than human, just a thing, an annoyance, and wondered briefly if they would kill him. He hadn't done anything, didn't deserve to die.
"Anyway," said the first man, his grin lessening. "You'll have to come with me."
Omarion blinked. "What?"
"Aw, Day, let'im get caught and shit. Don't risk takin' on a Leet," mumbled the red-headed girl.
"Caught?" mumbled Omarion, slightly alarmed.
The man, this 'Day', looked back at him and laughed at his worried expression. "Oh, so your pals didn' tell you that we out here have a curfew, eh? Get caught out on the streets after eight and they lock you up for a whole twenty-four hours. Don't feed you or anything, no water. They'd do it to you, too. Teach you a lesson a'fore they shipped you back in their underground tram, made you suffer the shame in your pretty inner city."
Omarion gaped. "But … but I –,"
The group laughed again and he flushed, certain the whole thing was a massive joke at his expense.
"Don't worry. You come with me, I'll get you back before the Retainers find you," Day insisted. The group around him began their grumbles again and he hissed and snapped at them.
"You'll get yourself in trouble," the red-headed woman insisted.
Day shrugged. "Wouldn't be the first time. You lot better get movin'. I'll see you all tomorrow," he said. He motioned for Omarion and started down the dirty alley. The group gave him one last glance, and suddenly they were jumping and vaulting and climbing up the crumbling walls to disappear over buildings and through busted windows. Omarion gaped a moment, but hurried down the alley to catch Day up as he vanished around a corner.
"Who are you?" he asked, stopping next to the man.
Day glanced at him and shrugged. "A person. Unless you mean something more specific, like what my name is, or where I live, work, that sort of thing," he teased.
Omarion frowned. "All right, your name then."
"Day," he mumbled.
Day glanced down at him again, as if annoyed. "Mm."
"I thought it was just a nickname." Day shrugged in response. "I'm Omarion."
"Sounds like a Leet name," he teased.
Omarion flushed. "My mom came up with it."
"My mom got to pick mine from a predetermined list of names for the year of my birth. Easier to keep track of us Outties that way," said Day, a hint of irritation on his voice.
"They do that?"
"Yeah. What, they don't teach yous about what goes on down here to 'maintain order' or anything? How old are you, seventeen? Che, naïve as a babe," Day cajoled.
"Do you have to be such a jerk?"
Day blinked at him and had the decency to give a semi-embarrassed grin. "Sorry. Can't help myself. You Leets are so easy to tease. But seriously, they don't ever teach you guys nothin'. Nothin' that doesn't involve everything inside your pretty little walls. Not unless you're being shoved off into a place of power or something."
"And they don't seem to teach you proper English," Omarion snapped back.
"Never start a sentence with 'and'," Day goaded. Omarion flushed. "Most of us get pulled outta school early to start workin'. Some barely learn their letters, so we just have a weird way of speaking, is all. No different than you folks up there. I mean, take a look back. See people talkin' like Shakespeare anymore?"
"Chances are they didn't really speak like that -"
"Yeah, yeah, I know all the hear-say and what-haves. So I take it they call you Omar up there on the hill?"
Omarion scowled at the strange change of subject. "Mostly."
"Well you get to have a creative name not picked from a list and best everyone comes up with is Omar?" Day tsked.
Omarion shrugged. "I think it makes sense."
"Oh sure, but why waste an opportunity for something unique? We don't get the chance down here."
Omarion hummed. "And all your friends back there. They have similar names?"
Day nodded and reached into the pocket of his ratty hoodie, pulling free a small tin case and sliding out a cigarette. It looked hand-rolled and was very slim, much different from the thicker, neater ones Omarion usually saw friends and family puff on. Day pinched it between his lips and used the built-in lighter on the side of the small case to scorch the tip and set the tobacco to smoking.
"They do. The red-head, her name's Sky. She was born same year as me. Lots of sky related names and such, whatever. The twins are Lin and Lee. Parents didn't pick those ones, the hospital did. Thought it would be funny because they're assholes. And the guy with the crazy hair, that's Hoot."
"Undoubtedly," mumbled Day.
Omarion started as realized how close to the wall they'd come. "Wait. Wait, I can't go back yet, I didn't get my token."
Day sighed heavily, a trail of smoke issuing from between his lips. "No time for that tonight."
"I didn't think it would be so hard. Don't you celebrate Christmas?"
Day turned to him and stared critically. "It look like we celebrate Christmas?"
"I thought everyone celebrated Christmas."
Day just shrugged. "We don't have much cause to celebrate anything down here. Most of us are pretty dead-set against anything 'traditional' or 'religious'. Why celebrate the oppression?"
Omarion frowned. "So I'm not going to find what I'm looking for?" he asked, slightly irritated.
"I'd wager that you'd need to know what it is you're looking for before you can find it," Day suggested.
"We're supposed to get a Christmas-related gift of some sort. Like an ornament, or trinket."
Day chuckled. "And what, all the boys before you march in all proud like, waving around their Christmas thing and announcing they filched it from some shop or another?" he teased.
"Well … yes," Omarion mumbled. Day laughed and the boy fumed. "What's so funny."
"Probably weren't nothin' they got here. Probably went out with their mommy like good lil' sons and bought 'em trinkets with their daddy's plastic money," Day laughed.
Omarion glowered. "There's no way, we'd have known," he insisted.
"Aye sure. What with all you glittering fineries, I'm sure anything even a lil' dull could'na come from the tchotchke shop downs the street," Day teased.
"What the hell is a tchotchke? Could you at least attempt to speak with a little more prose, I can't understand half of what you're saying," Omarion grumbled, completely fed up with the teasing. But the glare those amber eyes shot over to him tempered his fire, and once more he was afraid for his life.
Day stopped moving forward and turned to Omarion instead, pressing in on him, the youth backing up until he was nearly flush against a wall, penned in. Day exhaled a puff of his smoke into Omarion's face, and he briefly pondered over the fragrance, not like tobacco at all, instead exceptionally floral.
"And there you go again. Just like every other little brat that comes waltzing down here from the hill. You don't know how lucky you are that I found you first. There are some down here who wouldn't hesitate to skin you alive and hang you in the town center for the world to see. All because when you people come down here you spit on us, the laborers, like we're less than dirt. I saw a man just last week beat a boy half your age to death because the little thing, half starved as it was, ran into him in his hurry to work. Do you understand that? One of your precious people beat an eight-year-old to death for besmearing his fancy suit with a minute trace of grime. And all I could do was stand there and watch and carry the thing back to his mother after. Ever heard a mother scream in despair?" Day seethed, getting angrier and angrier as he spoke, voice nearly a growl.
Omarion gulped, pressing into the bricks behind him, and shook his head. "No."
"No," Day repeated. "You don't have to face any of that real-world shit behind your pretty wall. You probably don't even know what it feels like to be hungry, to be afraid you'll be walking down the street one morning for work and an official will decide he doesn't like the way your face looks and put a bullet between your eyes. So go home pretty boy," he reached up and wrapped dirty fingers into Omarion's hoodie, lifting him just off his feet with a strength that surprised the youth, and tossing him toward the wall, right out in the open where Retainers usually walked and kept watch. He stared at Day in horror, and backed away further.
"Go home behind your precious wall," Day spat, and he turned and slipped back into the shadows of the tumbling buildings.