The Streets

I set this story in a dystopic future, where the Wall of Order has been erected to separate the Homeless from the rich in their Houses. The Sweepers patrol the Streets on the orders of the rich and pick off the weak Homeless one by one to be used for unknown purposes by those who reside in the Wall. Thanks for reading if ya do, and any constructive crit is always welcome :)

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1. Cassie

I clenched my teeth and wriggled my hands deep into my pockets, holding myself steady. Leaning against an old, sodium street lamp I squinted at the shop window opposite. My reflection squinted back: thin and dirty. But not shivering.   

That was good.   

It was raining, gently pattering against the filthy pavement. I bounced lightly on my toes, hoping the movement would warm me up. I knew it wouldn’t make a difference, but I couldn’t move any more vigorously in case I attracted unwanted attention.   

There was nowhere I could go if that happened, nowhere to hide. My last den was found out, and I only just escaped from the Sweepers. All my things were taken by them. But it could have been worse. They could have got me.   

Someone was lying in the doorway opposite, a bundle of torn blankets and jumpers and scarves wrapped roughly around their shaking body. I worried that the display of weakness would attract the Sweepers here; I frowned at him, trying to get my meaning across without having to speak. If they came it was almost certain that I wouldn’t escape again. I must have been high up on their ‘Wanted’ list by that point. The Sweepers have never liked to be embarrassed.    

The Sweepers. Or as they called themselves, the ‘Street Crime Prevention Squad’. They were strange creatures. I still don’t believe that they were entirely human. They smelt weakness, sensed it and they hunted down the scent. More like dogs, like wolves than people. Children learnt very quickly not to cry on the Streets.      

“Oi, mister.” I hissed. A pair of eyes opened, glaring reproachfully at me. They were bloodshot and swollen – drunk. I trod carefully. “The Sweepers have been about this bit lately,” I crouched low; got onto his level to show I was no threat, despite being across the road from him. “You’d best watch out, with that shakin’ you’ll have ‘em down on us.”   

He muttered something before rolling over and ignoring me completely. I sighed, rolling my eyes and standing back up. If he wasn’t going to listen then it was pointless trying to help. Forcing it would just annoy him. If there was one thing I had learnt on the Streets, it was not to annoy drunk people.

 But that didn’t mean I was going to stick around and wait for them to get me too.   

I shrugged my hood over my head and began walking quickly. I didn’t know where I was going, I had nowhere to go, but it was often safer to keep moving any way. Harder to catch a moving target.   

The rain grew heavier, and I was drenched and cold. I ducked into a doorway, already a couple of blocks away from where I had been, blew on my hands and waited for the rain to stop. I pulled my hood down and started trying to wring out my sodden clothes. It would take them days to dry out properly. Not like I had anything to change into.   

Oh well, I thought to myself, maybe it’d wash some of the dirt off.    

I heard him before he grabbed me, but I didn’t move quickly enough.

“Drowned rat.” I swore before the hands clamped over my mouth and neck. “Such foul language too.”  

The arms were strong, locking me tight to the spot despite my struggles. Furious with myself, how stupid, how stupid not to check there was no one already in the door. Rookie mistake. And the last thing I was was a rookie.

 “Stop it. Just...stop it!” The voice was commanding, and I did. Sometimes it was best just to do what you were told, in the hope you’d be let go all in one piece.   

That wasn’t always a guarantee though.   

“If I take my hand away, I want you to keep your mouth shut. Yes?”   

I nodded once.   

“Excellent.” The grip around my jaw lessened. “Now, Cassie, I’ve been watchin' you.”   

“What-?” The grip came back, even tighter than before.  

“Mouth shut, I said keep your mouth shut. As I was sayin', I’ve been watchin'.”   

I nodded. I could feel concealed knives in the sleeves and I wanted no reason for him to use them.  

“And my…my handler has taken an interest. She wants you.”   

I shrugged.  

“Viv.”   

I froze. Viv. Vivien; otherwise known as the Urchin Queen. She ruled the children of the Streets, took them under her wing and watched over them; just as they watched over her. I had seen the things those disturbed children and their mistress could inflict on their enemies, and I had stayed well away from them. The fact she had been watching me was no comfort at all. “She sent a message.”   

I nodded.   

“If you need help, you just find an Urchin and ask for Viv. She’s a good friend to have, kid. You just remember that.”   

I nodded again.   

“We’ll be watchin'. We’ll be havin' another chat before long.”   

The arms clamping me slowly loosened, then let go entirely and I spun, ready to turn the mystery Urchin twelve shades of purple. But there was no one there.  

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