Crafting The Wind

"I heard the voices, muttering and whispering, then one spoke out, as if the leader, and the others fell silent. I looked, but unseeingly, into the darkness. I held my sword out in front of me, but unsure of the protection in would give, and if I even needed protection..."
May is a fifteen year old girl, living her life in River Fie Region. Her life couldn't be rated as terrible, but it doesn't sit high on the scale as fantastic, and things aren't easy - her Father dead, two younger sisters and a mother falling ill but refuses to admit it. Matters grow worse when a new Governor is elected, and not of the choice of herself. And what of the strange voices and seven bue finger prints? Has May entered a fairy-story or a war zone or is she stepping into an adventure?
~For the Sony Young Movellist Of The Year Competition~
© 2013 by Beth Morrow all rights reserved

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1. Chapter 1

 

I leap out of the back window, running along to find Ritumas, hugging my prize close to my body. It's wrapped in my sisters shawl and tied with some long, river fei grass. I can just picture the lopsided smile that will appear on his face, and the curiosity in his eyes. His great blue eyes, that are now etched with grey, but that only shows the strength in him, the things he has faced.

I trip over my laces but catch myself, and run more carefully, not wanting to drop my surprise. The grey laces have always been too long on my Mum's old trainers. But I s'pose I wasn't concentrating – too busy thinking about Ritumas's eyes.

I roll my own eyes at the very thought, laughing inwardly at myself.

Turning a sharp left, I take the long twisting back street, surrounded by walls that are crumbling. They cast eerie shadows down the passage, and I take in a deep breath, ignoring the horrors they somehow behold.

Moving along the backstreets is not in any way a comforting business. It is like trying to direct yourself through a sickening labyrinth. The taste of deceit rolls over my tongue, and it feels like the crumbling wet walls are closing in. I shiver and quicken my pace, avoiding the large rats that blink at me with their bloodshot eyes.

Running faster, I notice once again those blue finger prints along the walls, each different. I count them all. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Seven blue fingerprints, and all seemingly from different people. The fingerprints are all in a sort of circle, and no amount of rain has washed them off. They have been there for as long as I can remember, all blinking at me as I pass by. I feel sort of comforted when I see them, something bright along this deathly dark passage. Even though they are faded and old, they still strongly show their blue colour. They are the only thing that remain, that stand strong. For some reason I am drawn to them, I almost feel as if I know them as one knows an old friend.

They almost have some sort of... life. Like they're living creatures, with their bright blue bellies and swirly markings.

"May."

I look up at the sound of my name, glancing around as I continue to walk. I see no one, just an empty alleyway.

"May."

Again, I hear my name, and stop abruptly, the rats scurrying at my sudden halt. There's no one, not a soul.

Not. A. Soul.

Then, in an echoing version of before, I hear my name, thrust around this dark passage. I shiver, but not from cold... and yet not from fear. It's nothing, I tell myself, just the wind.

But suddenly I hear it, shouting in my ears, a bashing version of my name. Shouted so loud my reaction is to place my hands over my ears as the blasting voice screeches continuously.

"May. May! May!" Time after time my name is echoed across the passage.

That's when I begin to run.

I run so fast I almost trip over my own feet. I'm not afraid, but whoever—or whatever—is yelling, is creating a sense of dread that tingles down my spine, causing my toes to curl in these once white shoes.

I try to ignore the muddy water that sticks to the hem of my jeans as I splash through puddles, wanting to get away from the voice, that seems to stick to my ears.

I dash through the labyrinth of dark, tight passages, all cold from the lack of sun they possess. Eventually I come out onto the centre of River Fie Region. I feel like I can breathe now. Stopping, I double over, trying to catch my breath, beginning to realise the deadly silence, and the lack of activity.

I straighten up and look around, but the town is empty. I stare across the streets, completely confused that the place isn't buzzing as usual. I make my way past the closed shops, and as I get closer to the town centre I can hear a loud voice being projected across the concrete paved square. I run out and find the usually spacious place crammed full with Region 7 citizens.

The huge screen—built just sixty-three years ago into the grey brick wall, separating us from the next region—is turned on, and an undeniably tense atmosphere has settled across the crowd. The grass that people usually won't walk on, because it's so fresh and clean, is covered in children's bare feet and people's muddy boots. You can hear the wind trying to move through furry coats and faintly a baby cries, her tears dripping to the ground, joining the puddles that lye on there.

I look up at the huge screen and see a faded image of a man standing there, his face glaring down at us all, black hair slicked back to reveal slightly red ears, and a blue flower stuck to his grey suit.

"I shall take on the reign of each Region with great loyalty and care." A sharp smile grows across his face, real and evil.

My heart stops as I realise what's going on; there has been some election, that once again we were not aloud to vote in.

Our Governor—or now ex-governor—with his greying moustache sagging and his hair ruffled, looks out of the screen.

"I am sure Percifuo will rule with great respect and I know he shall do better than I ever could," his voice is dead, his words empty and the only life behind them is that of disgrace. I wouldn't be surprised if he had been forced into this, black mailed.

I think of his daughter, the one who is always dressed in pretty clothes and looks like a spoiled pussy cat, wrapped in her plush garments and curled blonde hair. I wouldn't be surprised if Percifou sent out some men to kill her, unless he 'surrendered'.

I saw his daughter once, pampered to the extreme, shaking everyone's hands, politely 'hello-ing', her blue boots clashing slightly with her yellow dress.

Five region commanders step forward to touch Percifou's head, a symbol of trust and acceptance. But one, the sixth commander stands rigid, his hands at his side, making no attempt to play is part. Percifou looks at him, his eyes burning and nods, signalling that it's his turn to touch his head.

The man doesn't move.

A guard steps forward, and almost gently grabs his arm, but as the man resists he begins to become aggressive, trying to lay the mans hand on Percifou's head.

But the man shakes him off, kicking him before he streaks out of the place, feet clattering against the floor as he is chased by four burly guards.

The screen goes black.

Everyone in the town is silent, we all know the consequences of not obeying the Governor: Death. I shiver at the thought, he was the commander of Region 6, which is Sail Yer Region. A piece of land that was submerged in sea, and houses built on creaky platforms high above. I know that they won't be having any celebrations since their commander chose to disobey. But until he obeys, without his hand touching Percifou's forehead, he is not Governor.

But Percifou won't wait, I could see the anger flaming in his slowly darkening brown eyes.

The town square is now filled with citizens moving about, looking concerned, muttering to their neighbours. I stare, unseeing, into the crowd, a sick feeling coming over my stomach. Everything happened so fast, the day going from a feeling of pride to a feeling of fear. The expressions painted on the faces of people here are nothing out of the ordinary, no one exchanges smiles very often anyways. I guess we've all just become so used to the forever fighting, forever changing, politics. It no longer worries us... but today was different. My eyes go out of focus, something they do a lot, and so does my mind, I grab my parcel, feeling it slipping, as am I.

"May," someone says my name, but this time I know who it is: Ritumas.

I look over my shoulder at him, and for once his face isn't adorned with his lopsided grin, rather a straight solemn frown has settled over his fine features. Usually I would smile in greeting, but I don't think now is the time to smile, not with this atmosphere. Ritumas places his arm around my shoulder and whispers in my ear, his voice breathy, "What's in you parcel?"

I don't answer immediately, I wasn't expecting that question. Something more along the lines of, "We're doomed with Percifou as Governor."

But no, this is Ritumas and he is always looking for food.

That's how I met him, I was searching for game, just eight years old. My Father had told me not to go out on my own until I was better at hunting, but I was a young adventurous child—still am adventurous—and I was adamant that I could catch something.

Slipping on some rough boots and my Fathers hunting shirt––which fitted me like an oversized dress––and grabbing a bow and arrow from the cupboard in the hall, I headed out, feeling all high and mighty with my 'hunting outfit'.

I saw the leaves rustling, and I was all ready to strike when I noticed a human hand move through the greenery. Curiosity overtook instinct and I walked over to the bush. As I pulled apart the leaves I saw a little boy, his shirt covered in berry juice and his face just as bad. I stood there staring at him before he looked up and saw me, his fingers still in his mouth.

The first thing he had said was, "Don't tell."

I had just looked at him, unblinking, my expression blank.

"They're just in season," he had said shyly, after a while. Carefully he had held out his fist, slowly opening his little, chubby fingers to reveal bright, blue berries. "Want one?"

The question hung in the air but, again, I didn't say anything, too busy staring at him, his light blonde hair falling into his baby blue eyes. Then his face split into a lopsided grin, a grin that had made girls fall head over heels to meet him – and still does, much to my own annoyance. But I wasn't a goner as they were. Actually, at that moment in time, I thought he was a stuck-up, arrogant, greedy little pig. And stupidly I told him so.

Yes, it was his turn to stare. I had slapped the berries out of his hand to where they rolled into the mud. Then grabbed his juice-stained hand, pulled him along to the river... and threw him in.

I don't regret it, not much... He, in my mind, deserved it. The whole of River Fie Region was starving, and there he was, sitting in a bush like a stuffed teddy.

But when his spluttering, cursing figure had emerged from the muddy water, I realised I should probably pull him out. The language he used probably was the things he had heard when he was sitting in the bakers shop, begging for buns and sweat tarts.

At that time I was much stronger than him. He was a spoiled child, his Father was getting higher up in politics and it seemed he might become a lawyer, and get them out of this pit. Or at least what mostly everyone here considers a pit – but to the government we live in “a very pleasant spot on the edge of the country, and are very lucky.” But I know under all their lies, they're so called 'blessings', they really think we're ants to be crushed. A bunch of poor fools.

Yeah, they wish.

Every 4 years our earnings are counted up, and those who make the most live in richer Regions, with better food, pretty houses and expensive schools. But, those who struggle to make money sink further into the vile pit that the lower Regions offer. I have always been here, but my Mother has high hopes – she believes I will pull myself out of this muddy River Region.

After I took Ritamus home that slightly awkward day, we had discovered that the berries he had been feeding on were poisonous. His parents praised me for saving him just in time—if he had eaten any more berries that would have been him.

Now Ritumas's cries of, “My Dad'll kill you!” had no affect, once it turned out I had saved his life.

His family rewarded me with a necklace. It was a blue stone held in a case of threaded metal and some indeterminable writing scrawled all over it. I have worn it since, it never leaves my neck, forever clinging to my chest. And somehow, from that day onwards, Ritumas and I were friends.

Each year—I know it was wrong of me—I prayed they would stay in this Region.

And somehow, they never moved to a higher Region. His Father fell ill and their money began to fade. Fade like everything. Like the pigeons that used to chatter above our house, we used to call them a pain, a nuisance, but now I wish they were here.

Or the rich chocolate-chip cookies Mum used to make, until chocolate became a delicacy, something impossible to ship in.

No one seemed to move to a higher Region, my sisters and Mother just moved to a small hut near the woods, where short, daring animals play at the edge of the fence.


 

"Nothin's in the bag," I say, but he knows that's why I came here. That's why I ran here to meet him, and I know my face must still be slightly flushed from the running earlier.

"Give us a peek," Ritumas says.

"No," I say, waving the wrapped parcel before his nose.

He snatches at it, but I pull it away. He steps back and does his 'dog-eyed' thing. I start to laugh.

"Come on an' I'll show you."

We slowly walk out of the square, but as soon as we're down to the backstreets we start to sprint.

One thing Ritumas has never mastered is memorising the backstreets. I have though, and it's second nature to me now. I'm pretty sure I know my way better than anyone now.


 

"So," says Ritumas, looking at me expectantly as we sit under a tall Harto tree. It's our favourite spot, and thankfully no one should come walking along here in a hurry. The wind plays here the most, and if I listen hard enough I can hear muffled voices carried with the ancient breeze. Unfortunately though, because the wind blows here, it carries with it paper bags and plastic bottles, so the place is somewhat of a dumping ground.

I look at Ritumas for a minute, remembering what he was like when I first met him. He's much the same beneath, but his exterior has changed. His voice has moved to a rich, lower sound and his hair falls into his blue eyes, that seem to be turning grey. The colour scares me, I feel like he's sinking, like I'm slowly loosing him.

"Well," I say, tucking my hair behind my ear, but as soon as I lean forward my recently washed hair slides into my eyes, clouding my vision. I shake my head back, trying to fling my black locks behind me.

Ritumas sits, his long––slightly gangly––legs crossed and looking frustrated, being impatient as he always is. He glares at me, his eyelids narrowing, shuffling uncomfortably. The sound of his brown shirt rubbing against the green strap that stretches across his body––from his left shoulder to his right thigh, then twists into a belt––is distracting me slightly. It's like his trade mark, the strap of died leather is now a part of him. And somewhere, beneath his layers of clothing, lies a short blade that slips between the seams of material.

I pull a strand of tall grass and bunch all my hair together, gently tying it up.

"Ugh!" yells Ritumas impatiently, throwing his hands in the air with annoyance, leaving the last autumn leaves to give in to nature and spin to the ground.

I laugh, clapping my hands together, trying to contain my excitement before I show him whats wrapped in the green shawl. I almost giggle from the built up emotion, I've been waiting almost a week to show him this.

I pick up the carefully bundled package and untie the strong fie grass. Tenderly pulling my sisters shawl away to watch as it tumbles out.

Ritumas gasps.

I smile, but what he says next has me ready to slap him.

"May, how could you steal this," he says in horror.

"Steal!" I exclaim, shocked that Ritumas would think such a thing.

He just looks at me.

"I didn't steal it!" I hiss, "I won it!"

He raises his eyebrows in disbelief as I try to explain that I didn't steal it, that I won it from a competition in Region 3.

I try to ignore his expression, wanting my friend to believe me, wanting his support, "I swam under the wall into Region 5 and from there I borrowed a rowing boat.” I emphasise the fact that I never really stole along the journey. “I then climbed the wall to Region 4, before sneaking through the gate to Region 3. I called myself Alya. I shot arrows, I threw knifes... I won, Ritumas, I really did.”

Again, he's looking at me as one might look at someone who's explaining to him that unicorns exist.

I feel ready to cry, shouting at the top of my voice that I don't steal, but as soon as I scream it I know it was a lie.

So I quickly say, "Well, at least I don't steal this sort of thing – I only steal food, we both do. And I have reason to steal food. I'd rather steal than starve." I'm almost begging now, stooping so low in the hope that my friend will trust me.

I sigh, then begin reaching into my pockets and pulling out wads of paper notes; money.

I scramble around in other pockets and pull out a selection of crystals. Ritumas holds them, then bites on a gold coin to check it's real.

"See, don't you believe me? I couldn't just steal this, not easily. And I'd feel wrong doing so, unless it was from the Governor."

I gasp at what I said, slapping my hand over my mouth. Ritumas sits up straight, hushing me to be quiet. We both know that if anyone heard, I'll be dead. But thankfully Ritumas just ignores what I said, acting like nothing happened. He turns to look at my prizes, letting out a sigh.

Pink, purple, sapphire – every colour of precious stone imaginable is scattered across the ground, sticking out sharply as they try to burrow into the dead leaves.

Ritumas picks up one and holds it in his hand, muttering how rich I am, and I know that I have earned his trust.

"But if anyone found out how I got this..." I draw my finger across my throat.

Ritumas nods.

I start to tell him my plans, how I can save the money, and no one will be any the wiser. I tell him of how free I will be as the faint whistle of brown birds and the crunching sound of tin cans rolling past animates my voice.

"But how free?" Ritumas asks, glancing around as if looking back to the town square. I gulp, knowing what he means, everything is unsure with the whole 'Governor' situation.

We sit, staring at the gold winner's plate I had brought back, and my fake name—Alya—carved onto it. The leaves falling upon it's still shiny surface and the bugs touching it, bumping against it in confusion.

"I had better be getting back," Ritumas says eventually, "Ma will wonder what I'm up to."

I nod, and we both rise to our feet. He helps me wrap up my prize again in the shawl, and hands me the sparkling jewels. But I place one back in his hand, telling him to keep it.


 

We begin our long walk down the labyrinth of streets. Commenting on small things, trying to pad out the silence. At least I feel comfortable with Ritumas, we've been friends for so long, he's like the older brother I always wanted—and needed.

We pass the blue finger prints but no voices cry out, and it feels like what I experienced earlier was all a dream, my silly imagination. I'd feel stupid saying anything to Ritumas now.

I start to remember the time we perched ourselves from the top of the wall, when we were much younger, so we could attack the next person on their daily walk with our paper aeroplanes, folded from sides the of paper bags that the wind carry.

"School tomorrow," Ritumas says, popping a hole in my thoughts.

I sigh, his words making my heart sink lower into my still churning stomach.

"We've got the test."

His voice echoes, and I feel my stomach tighten and twist, worry adding to the load in my arms. I nod at his comment, as if I didn't already know. It's the end of year test, and this time it's a big deal. It spreads out over two weeks with tests everyday. Mum wants me to do well, get some fantastic results so that I can become a lawyer, or the politics I so despise.

I know she wants the best for me, but it's the last thing that I want to do.

These test results depend on our future––my future––as my darling Mother keeps reminding me, her voice constantly burying deeper into my skull, the reminder now drilling it's way into my everyday thought track.

We continue to walk in silence until we reach the fork in the path which determines our different ways home.

"See you," I say, with a weak smile.

"Dreading tomorrow?" he asks.

I shrug, "I s'pose."

"Alright, I'll see you then."

We both turn to walk away, feeling slightly dreary, just as I feel when it's been raining for too long. My feet feel like led, trying to make my way to my home as the sky darkens and the moon already hangs with a faint mark in the sky.

But before we've both gone I can hear Ritumas's voice rush past me—so fast I almost miss it. "And well done on winning!"

A huge smile covers my face.


 

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