SHADE (for writelongandprosper)

Yellow for mild swearing and some scenes of a sensitive nature.

To the north, there lies the old lake. South, the mountains. The west of the city is bordered by desert. To the east, there stands a wall.

Myles Lakeman is 18. He is a man, and it is time for him to receive his mission. His mission? Survive the night.
Myles must capture the rebels, conquer the landscape and most importantly, escape the elusive Shades... but along this journey he meets a girl, a girl with a mission of her own: she must find her brother.
Together, they discover that their world is hiding so much more than they once thought: what are the Shades and where do they come from? What are the rebels doing? What is on the other side of the wall?

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6. Chapter 5: Lydia

By the time she reaches the rotting fence that marks the boundary to the old fields, Lydia is sure her leg has blistered. Her throat is dry and scratchy with dust, and she chews slowly on a bite of carrot the size of her fingertip as she leans on one of the few pieces of fence still standing, her eyes running lazily across the cracked earth towards the horizon.

It’s terrifying in a way: standing at the edge of the city, every living soul in the world behind her and nothing in front of her but dry earth between her and the sky. It’s almost like the earth ends there, as though just beyond that edge of dry ground the world drops away into the emptiness of the sky.

On her left, the mountains curve around the city and slice across the desert, rocky red-grey hills rising and falling until they meet the ground an impossible distance away. To her right, the desert slowly turns to the slightly darker earth of the old lake bed, sloping downwards into a wide, deep pit.

She remembers not too long ago, paddling in the edge of the glittering lake with her father at her side. While the city had not been perfect, it was much easier to survive back then. The abundance of water meant they never had to struggle for food. They always had something to drink, something to eat. Now though…

The last bit of carrot is dry in her mouth, and she throws the limp, leafy end as far as she can across the dry patch of land in front of her. If it rained, there would be a chance that it could grow, but the thought almost made Lydia laugh. When was the last time it had rained?

She knows that if she wants to make it back before curfew, she needs to leave soon, but there is something about the landscape that draws her in. It’s so wide, so infinite and endless that she cannot help herself but step beyond the fence. She puts one foot forwards, and then the worn foot of her wooden leg, and takes off across the earth.

Her run is lopsided, the lack of an ankle and a real foot on the bottom of her second leg somewhat hindering her progress as she rockets across the field. She lifts her arms out to the sides, letting the blanket trail along behind her as she runs across a landscape that is so uniform it feels as though she is barely moving at all. The sun, which has by this point begun to creep towards the horizon, beats down with an unbearable heat that bounces off the pale earth and fills her lungs.

When she stops running, she turns around and lets her arms fall to her sides. She is still only within a stone’s throw of the fence, the dilapidated shacks at the edge of the city giving way to the taller, crumbling buildings that form the urban sprawl surrounding City Hall. The large, white-faced building towers high above the others, the orange sun reflecting off what looks like hundreds of windows stretching high into the sky. Beyond City Hall, beyond the buildings and the mountains and the tall grey wall that forms the far edge of the city, a number of small, white, fluffy clouds are painted across the sky.

She wishes she could keep running, leave this place and find somewhere else- but she doesn’t know if there is another somewhere to find. The threat of curfew looms too near, the dangers of the creatures that emerge after nightfall too real for her to imagine she can escape. Besides, each inch the sun moves towards the horizon marks another few minutes until the soldiers emerge from City Hall, guns slung across their chests and metallic eyes glinting in the moonlight.

Reluctantly, she takes a deep breath, unties the blanket from around her neck and wraps it around her shoulders as a shawl, draping the front over her hair and ducking her head forward to move through the streets. It takes her longer than she expected to walk back to the fence, and by the time she has moved past the rows of dilapidated shacks into the shadows of the taller brick buildings, the sun has all but ducked beyond the horizon.

The air is suddenly cool and electric, the fair hairs on her arms standing up on end as she sidesteps down an alleyway. She doesn’t recognise this part of the city- it all looks different in the dark, and with the buildings towering above her on either side she can barely even guess at which way she needs to walk.

When she emerges into the next street, she chances a look towards the horizon. The darkened sky is just tinged with the last orange hints of sunlight, and her pulse races in her ears with quick, unforgiving thumps. She’s out of time.

Behind her, she hears the slithering, swishing movement of the creatures emerging from the shadows. Her father had called them Shades, but she can’t think of them as anything other than monsters. They took her mother, and they took her leg. Of course, there’s more than one kind of monster in this world. The other monsters took her father and her brother, and they’re out to get her too.

She runs down the length of the street, her leg tapping against the concrete. Her stomach twists with dread, with the knowledge that she won’t be able to find her home until morning- if she even lasts that long. If Owen was with her, they could have just ducked into almost any one of the buildings in the city, but he isn’t. It’s too dangerous for her out here, and she knows it- but she doesn’t have a choice.

The sounds of the monsters creeping behind her are getting louder, moving closer. Her heart races as she throws herself into a space where a house used to stand, her fingers fumbling along the wall until she finds the alcove where the fireplace would once have sat. Something bangs behind her, the sound of a doorway being knocked over. A sickening scream fills the night, one that is loud and injected with pure terror, one that cuts off halfway and leaves behind an echoing, empty silence.

Lydia climbs, using her arms to pull her body up the chimney. Decades old soot clings to her skin, sticking to the blanket wrapped around her shoulders. She finds footholds where bricks have fallen away, her hands screaming with pain as she fights to hold herself above the increasing gap opening up beneath her. Above, she can see the stars glittering in the night sky, and she keeps her eyes on these until she eventually emerges at the very top of the chimney.

She stands atop the chimney, her arms outstretched to balance her weight as she jumps across a narrow alleyway, dropping onto the sagging roof of the building below her and cursing under her breath as her wooden leg punctures the old slates. Her arms shake as she slides across the ridge running along the top of the roof until she finds a hole big enough to slide through, and falls onto the dusty floor of the building below.

Moving quickly, she kneels in front of the old fireplace and moves the crumbling bricks out of the hole in the wall, her fingers sore and bleeding after just a few seconds of work. When the space is big enough, she slides inside and sits with her back to the outside world, her legs dangling down the chimney in front of her and the sooty blanket draped over her head, falling down her back and just touching the dusty floor. She hopes it will be enough.

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