(SHORT STORY) 🌘A Glint Amongst The Rubble
Wassup, wassup? 🙌
This is the second short story set in a brand new world I'm developing. 😊 As always, any and all feedback is appreciated.
You can read the other story here. 🤙
Hope everyone has a great rest of their week. Enjoy!
“A copper, sir? Sir? Please? I’ve got nothing to eat, sir. Please –“
The response was a kick in Van's ribs. “Get up.” Said a ragged voice above him.
Van didn't hear him through the pain. Inside of himself, he welcomed the distraction. It made him forget the hunger. He wanted to see the ‘thoughtful sir’ that taunted him so bravely - but he was gone. Van recalled his shoes, however: fine, black leather.
Too tired to continue begging, Van curled up in a ball on the side of the busy street. His wooden plates prevented the chill from the stones underneath. It took him a week to construct his make-shift bed. Best work he’d done all month.
And it was a hard month. Harder than most. He hadn’t eaten in four days now. That will soon catch up with him. The longest he’d gone without a bite was a week? No. Six days. Never a week. Never again.
Smack! Dim tunnels. The drip, drip, drip of oil lamps. Smack! His hands aching. Darkness. Drip, drip, drip. Smack!
Van shook the thoughts aside as he had a hundred times. I’m never going back there. He was proud of that. Truthfully? It was the only thing he had left. If I die, I’ll die as a member of this city. The lowest member perhaps, an afterthought most certainly, but a free man. A free man that tried and failed.
He didn’t stay curled up long. He never could. “Copper, please. I’m so hungry.” The streets of this city might be unforgiving, but Van had known worse. “Madam? Madam, please…” Better a beggar than a slave. Always. “Kind sir, I’ve had nothing to eat all weak.”
By the fifth day of no food, he challenged that perspective. At least, in the mines I had food, sometimes. He chewed his lip every time he thought that. There was no way he was going back.
By the end of the day, his lip was bloody.
The sixth day was worse. Van’s strength, dwindling as it was - left him. He could no longer plead. A mute. Van focused all his willpower on keeping his hand upright. If nothing else, he would do that.
He lay there, a wilting shamble of a once-proud person. Seven days had passed without food. Van could feel it in his bones: tonight was his last night. That thought alone nearly revitalized him. He would no longer have to suffer this accursed world and could join his parents and baby brothers. Yes. Tonight was the night.
Dusk fell and Van felt no inhibitions. He lay there on his wooden bed watching the feet pass. Up and down, they went. Up and down the street. None stopped. None cared. Van watched it all with a smile, eager for the end to come. Might as well have one laugh before the darkness. This city owed him that much at least.
As the phantom feet dwindled, Van grabbed and tripped a particularly funny set of boots. The man fell with a yelp accompanied by the clatter of coins. One somehow found itself wedged between two stones – Van couldn’t look away from it. But he did. What good was coin to a dead man?
“Guards!” The tripped man yelled in a foreign accent. “Guards! I’ve been attacked!”
The voice was pleasant. Soon however, guards started beating him with sticks. And beating him…
What were all these guards doing in the mines? Had Lord Penrose’s paranoia gotten the better of him? That wasn’t nice, Van had only two sections left before he could eat. The shadows were calling.
Drip, drip, drip.
The brutes left in darkness. All Van could see was a glint in the rubble. Hide it! Quick! Hide it or they’ll see! Yes! He needed gold to escape this place. Escape and get food. Hide it quick! Before they see! He was exhausted; his masters were exceptionally cruel this past week. He knew he couldn’t just do nothing however, that path went to certain death.
Van focused on that glint for a long while. Finally, it vanished. I did it! He was in darkness now. Just enough to buy my freedom!
Tomorrow he would have to smuggle it upstairs somehow. A problem for another day. Right now he needed rest.
The warmth in his mouth was foul. He was almost asleep and then they decide to tease him? He had enough! His palms chafed from holding a pickaxe all week but he did not care. He pushed himself up. He would see those who-
He would see a man crouched over him, a bowl of something hot in his hand. “You really are a fighter, kid. Moons above, but you are.” The crouched man said in a ragged voice.
Van felt both cold and hot. The mines were gone and he was free. But he was back, he was...
“Still uncertain, eh? Come on, kiddo.” He placed the broth to Van’s lips. “Drink.”
Van lived. He lived. How could I give up? He was furious with himself. I was supposed to be strong! yet he had returned to that place. He wanted to scream. To crawl. To sob.
The tunnels had taken him again…
“Drink.” The ragged voice insisted. So, Van did. What else could he do? He could barely stop his lips from trembling. He was a man betrayed by everyone, even by himself. “Drink.” And he did. Repeating his mantra, although with halfhearted conviction; he had never escaped Lord Penrose’s mines. He was a fool. “Drink.”
Before Van placed his lips on the bowl, he noticed something: the man’s shoes were fine, black leather. And that voice… Van leaned back with a jolt, awestruck by his current circumstances.
He barely whimpered a disgruntled, “why?”
The man placed the warm broth next to Van. He felt the dirt then held up his thumb and forefinger as if he was holding something. But there was nothing there. The man cocked a questioning eyebrow. When Van said nothing he proffered his hand and opened his fingers. Van heard a cling-clang but saw nothing.
“Because,” The ‘thoughtful sir’ made a show of waving his hands magnanimously. “You are blessed, young warrior.” When Van shook his head, the man bowed in mock reverence. “And I’m your humble witness.”
Van saw the coin then. Face up in the ground staring at them. A foreign coin.
“Come.” The man stood up. Van gulped the rest of the broth down and followed suit.
“Where?” Van asked in dumbfounded trepidation.
The ‘thoughtful sir’ clapped Van’s shoulder. “To freedom.”
Van took his hand and followed him out of the city, shadows ever following.
If you've made it this far thanks for reading! 😗
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Cover image sourced from here.