In a dystopian reality where music is everything, the world is ruled by a Council of corrupt dictators. The greatest punishment possible, reserved for only the worst of criminals, is called Silencing. But one Silent proves that, even if he is a outcast, shunned from society, he still has a voice.


8. Chapter 7: Shade

After almost a month without rations, Shade could barely find the energy to dig through the garbage for lost coins. His clothes hung loose and baggy on him, even though he had been thin before. Now, he knew he was dying. Jay never said anything about it, and neither did any of the others, but Shade saw the pity and the pain in their eyes.

            “You’re not a Riat any more, Shade,” Grey had said to him, when he joined the revolution. But he still was, in the eyes of the Council. After he had passed information to Grey a few times, the Council had realized what was happening. Shade’s mother had been taken in for questioning, and hadn’t come back. Inglorius was gone too, so he was no help. Shade was relatively certain that his oldest brother was a Watcher now, but there was no way to know.

            Shade saw something glint in the mud and lunged toward it, ignoring the unpleasant sound of squelching mud. There it was, a silver. Shade was struck by the randomness of it all. He had chosen this place, outside this relatively profitable-looking inn, only because he couldn’t bring himself to go any further. Now, he had enough money to live for at least three days.

            Three days, Shade thought bitterly. Once, I would have laughed at that. Once, I had a future. But the resistance doesn’t have enough to provide for every kid starving on the streets. Even Jay and his brother couldn’t spare much to help Shade, though he didn’t blame them. All of Jay’s money went to the upkeep of Wren’s inn.

            Clutching his found treasure protectively, Shade curled into a ball. He would just rest here for a moment, and then he would go into the inn. Even if one silver wasn’t enough to buy anything, it would be warm. If he was careful, he could sit inside for at least a few minutes before they threw him out.

            Shade had learned how to make even old garbage comfortable to lean against. Resting his head on the dirty ‘pillow,’ he let his eyes slip shut. Just a moment, he reminded himself. It was just so cold. The air seemed to freeze him in place. Freeze his eyes shut. Within seconds, Shade knew he was asleep, if only because that ever-present pain of starvation had faded.

            He woke warm and comfortable, aside from an aching in his arm that hadn’t been there before. Shade opened his eyes and then shut them again quickly, blinded by the flickering firelight. He was in a storage room, Shade saw when he opened his eyes again. It was dusty, but dry and warm and free of mud and rats. Lying on the small pile of blankets, Shade wondered if this was what heaven looked like.

            But in heaven, he wouldn’t still be hungry, would he? As soon as he thought it, a wrenching pain doubled him up, dry-retching. When he was done gagging, Shade lay back down again and curled up. Then he remembered. The silver was gone.

            “Now I’m really dead. Great.” Somehow the thought wasn’t that worrying. He wouldn’t mind being finally dead. Maybe he could see Ghost there. Or, if betraying your family really was the worst sin possible, then he and his brother would both be in Hell, right? Or did Hell even exist? It couldn’t possibly be as bad as East End.

            A voice, soft and sweet and familiar, sounded from the other side of the wall. Shade strained to hear, and caught part of the conversation. It seemed strangely one-way, but then maybe the other just wasn’t near enough to the wall for Shade to hear. “In the alley… Sleeping…” They’re talking about me, Shade realized. “Been a month… Dying… Talk to him… Come on!” It sounded like a petulant child, ordering a friend to do something unpleasant. Was he really that disgusting?

            The door to the storage room burst open and clicking heals marked someone entrance. Shade drew back into a tiny alcove between two boxes and watched from his hiding place.

            The girl – for it was a girl – couldn’t be older than he was, but she carried herself with a confidence that bespoke experience. Her clothing was bright blue-green and sparkling lavender, clearly the garb of a performer. Raven-black hair hung long and free, falling almost to her waste, and blue eyes practically shone with intelligence.

            She walked to where he had been only moments before, and then stopped, scowling down at the empty blankets. As her gaze swept the room, he pressed himself further into the shadows. He must have made a sound, though, because instantly she locked onto his hiding place. “Come out, Shade. I know you’re in there. Frankly, I’m impressed that you fit.”

            How did she know his name? Was she a Watcher? Was she keeping him here, waiting for the Enforcer. Shade took a second to think. He believed that this inn was in the Third District of East End, so it wasn’t the post his mother had recently vacated. In fact, he had never been caught in Third. The lash marks across his back were from First and Fifth, and once in Ninth, in North End. Those last still stung.

            The girl walked toward the boxes, but Shade wriggled out before she got there. When she saw him, she gasped and backed up a little. “Didn’t think I could fit, huh? You’d be surprised.” Shade crouched on the ground, but it was more because he didn’t have the strength to stand anymore.

            A little half-smile touched her lips. “You really do look alike.” The girl mumbled it as if to herself. “Come on, relax kid. I’m not going to hurt you.” Shade practically snorted. Of course not! The girl was younger than him and, even weak as he was, he was sure he could take her. “You want something to eat? I will be back in one sec.”

            Shade’s stomach betrayed him then. After all, if she was going to report him, at least he wouldn’t be hungry when he died. He was dead anyways, if he didn’t eat, without that silver. He managed to jump onto one of the stacks of boxes, and by the time the girl returned with a steaming plate of food, Shade had his back to the wall and his feet dangling over her head.

            The food was the best he had ever eaten. After days living off moldy loaves and the bits and pieces that people would throw to him, it tasted amazing. Hot, doughy rolls and small bits of shredded mean and even some steamed vegetables. Shade didn’t look back at the girl until the plate was clean.

            “You can kill me now,” he told her when he was finished. “I don’t really care. I have been waiting for it for weeks now. Can’t believe I’ll never be an adult.” He pulled one leg up to his chest and leaned his head back against the wall.

            “I’m not going to kill you, Shade.”

            “Why ever not? I’m a dangerous fugitive, or hadn’t you realized? You could probably get a good price for my head, although I’m inclined to believe that the Council would prefer me alive for public execution. Impalement, if I’m luck. Those usually go the slowest, and I do so love to dance.” He was rambling, but Shade didn’t care. This was the last free conversation he was ever going to have.

            “Shade, come-”

            But he cut her off, looking down sharply. “Will you stop saying that like it’s some kind of charm? Saying my name’s not going to do you any good, Watcher. Although, it does make me curious as to how you know it.”

            “Your brother told me.” She said quietly, glancing back toward the door.

            “Oh, so that was Inglorius you were talking to, then? What, he sent you in to get information before they kill me? Well, fine, if you want information, here it is. The Council can all go fuck themselves – or each other. Whichever you prefer.”

            The girl’s eyes widened, and she just stood there for a minute. Then, with an angry flick of her head, she stormed out of the room. Shade heard the click of a deadbolt sliding home. Haha, oh well, guess she doesn’t like me. Shade jumped down from his perch, but almost fell when he hit the floor. Clutching the stitch in his side, he limped back to the pile of blankets and settled in. If they were going to provide him with comfort, why not enjoy it while he could?

            I will make you proud, Ghost.

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