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Rated: ASR · Draft · Action/Adventure · #1871540
Fast-paced story about a young boy. Interesting characters and twists.
The Lost

By Deanna M. Ossenkop

(6,600 Words)

Copyright © Deanna M. Ossenkop , 2012. All rights reserved.

         The label read 16x55 inches. Was that enough space? James didn’t have time to do the math, so he sucked in his breath, hoping for the best, and squeezed his body into the tight air duct. Arms first pulling himself along the flat edges, he felt his hips rubbing along the edges, scratching off a thin layer of skin. The moving was slow, but in a few minutes, the duct sloped and the young boy had pulled himself from the second floor to the basement level. He fell from the ceiling exit onto the cement floor, cracking his left wrist back. It didn’t matter, none of the pain mattered; he had to get away. Breathing hard, James pulled himself back up to his feet and looked around the small room. Seeing nothing of significance, he inched his way to the door and peaked around the corner. The dusty glow of the fluorescent lighting made little difference for the gloom overtaking Junk Town. The boy had only been there two days and he was already sick of it. He dreamed of fresh greens, blue waters, and real sunlight. Squinting, all he made out here was gray, cracked cement floors, walls made of corrugated metal lined with barbed wire, and the smell of garbage and old plastic bags. He swallowed down the stench and started tiptoeing along the musty hallway.

There didn’t seem to be an exit from this hell hole anywhere. Every which way the boy turned he saw another hallway. How did anyone ever escape this place? Another turn and James found himself below an open metal grate walkway. He looked through the small openings and immediately spotted his worst nightmare. Standing 6 feet tall, styled hair combed neatly, in a tailored suit and leather shoes, stood the very man James was attempting to abscond from. Seeing the man so close, and with no way to escape, James gasped, catching the man’s attention. The man adjusted his view, sunglasses covering his eyes, badge catching just enough glint to glow in the dim light. James wondered how the man could possibly see him, but it was evident he did. The boy stood stalk still, unsure of which way to run. If he ran back the way he came, he knew he’d come to the dead end room he had first fallen into, but running forward he would have to get past the bottom stairway where the man was already heading towards. He had no time to waffle; James took one step towards the stairwell and was immediately tugged to his right by a tight grasp on his shoulder.

His feet slid across the floor and tripped on a high step, before James tumbled into a warm dirt covered body. He tried to shriek, but a hand was over his mouth, while another continued to hold his shoulder, keeping his body from falling to the ground. As the warm body continued to move along a hidden corridor, James heard the man curse through the walls. He had escaped, but how? Who was this other person pulling him to his freedom? Or was it to his doom? He began struggling as the tunnel became darker and darker until the boy could no longer see the hand clasped over his mouth. With each step, James found his lungs filling up with the dusty air and smell of garbage until he thought he was going to pass out.

Then relief came. He was blinded at first, but his eyes soon adjusted to the light. He coughed, flakes of phlegm covered filth landed on his shirt and dribbled down his chin. He was released and rapidly fell to the ground; his hurt wrist snapped with a loud pop and he cried out sharply. Catching his breath, James came to realize the dirt beneath him and the light surrounding his body. He looked up quickly and was blinded once again, but this time with joy. It was the sun. The real sun was shining down on his face; warming his aching bones to the core. Swollen and aching, James got to his feet and looked for his savoir. It was Darryl, standing tall and proud. Well, taller than James’ 4’7” height. James couldn’t remember the last time he had seen his friend. He was still thin as ever, yet covered with tight muscles; skin dark even under the layers of dirt and grime. He was only a few years older than James, but the teen’s eyes were dark and stoic looking.  Darryl hushed his friend’s excitement and quickly ushered the boy away. Little was spoken between the two, but little had to be said. Time was not on James’ side that day so, as Darryl found his way back into Junk Town, the younger boy turned away and continued running from the man, as he always did, for as long as he could remember.

Two days passed before James found time to rest. He climbed into a hollowed out tree and curled himself into a small ball. He slept lightly, and only stayed for a few hours before being woken by a young woman. She had stopped to look for food and came across the young child curled in the core of the tree.

“Are you mine?” The young woman asked. Her long, brown colored hair was ragged and uncombed. She tilted her head and seemed to lack the ability to blink her eyes as she looked over the small boy. Her clothes were baggy and old, but covered her from the sun, rain and wind. James looked beyond the woman and saw a small baby stroller, stained with dark brown across the seat. One wheel was missing and the fabric stiches were coming loose, but it still stood whole.

“No, I’m sorry, I’m mine. Not yours.” James responded as he climbed his way out of the tree, his muscles sore, but his scratches finally healed up.

As his body unfolded, the young woman frowned. “Yes, I believe you’re right. Mine is smaller than yours.” Her face was clouded with such sadness that it was hard for James to look the woman in the eyes.

“What is yours called?” He asked politely.

“Oh, I don’t know.” The woman looked over to her stroller and began humming to herself. “I don’t remember.” She walked back to the path to start her journey once again.

James, having stretched lightly, followed the woman along the well beaten path. He held small conversation, but could not obtain any more information from the woman. She seemed to have forgotten everything she had ever known, but she was very proud to say she once knew; she simply forgot.

“Samuel.” James said at length.

“Who is Samuel?” The young woman asked. “Is he yours?”

“No, Samuel is yours. That was his name.”

The young woman’s eyes lit up and immediately nodded in agreement. “Yes, I believe you are right. Samuel was his name.”

James looked over the stroller once again, noting the brown stain. He looked over his shirt and saw the same stains along his sides; he knew what the stain meant.

“Where is Samuel now?”

“He has gone home.”

“Home.” The woman smiled once again, almost as if a warm glow was coming from within her. “Yes, home. I would like to be home. With mine; with Samuel.”

“Yes, you are travelling home now. And soon you will make it home and see Samuel.” James tried to smile back at the woman, but he knew what he was saying wasn’t true. This woman obviously had no home.

“That is where I’m going. I’m going home to see Samuel. And I will be home soon.” The woman repeated the boy’s story many times as they continued to travel along the dirt path.

After travelling together for the day, the horizon ahead showed a small town. It was open and drafty, but all the land around it was sandy like a desert. James frowned at the view, but was glad to know it wasn’t Junk Town.

“I have to go home now; to see Samuel.” James turned to say goodbye to the woman, but she had already turned and was walking away, all the while murmuring to herself about Samuel, whom she no longer called ‘hers’.

Deciding forward was always the best way to choose, James continued into the dust filled town. The boy found walking through the town hard, as the streets were packed with people walking very fast from one building to another, kicking up the sand as they went. With such a short stature, James choked several times before making it past the crowds towards the tallest building in the town. He knocked twice, but when there was no answer, James decided to try the door and sure enough, it opened and James slid his way in.

He coughed several times, clearing his throat and lungs of the rough sand, before looking around to see exactly what type of building he had entered. Looking over the large doubled staircase and chandelier, James was surprised to see he was in a private home. He was about the turn and leave when he noticed the sparse amount of furniture, and moreover, the amount of dust accumulated on what was to be seen. It seemed the house had been abandoned.

Making the decision, James resolved to search the house for any living creature. If he found one, be it person or animal, he would leave the house to its owner. Conversely, if the house is found to be empty, he would claim it. Perhaps this could be his home.

Before the boy allowed any elation to come to the forefront of his mind, he began to search the building doggedly.

For five hours James searched the building high and low for any trace of living being. As each room seemed to be covered in a thicker layer of dust then the first, James was surprised to see neither the presence of anyone living, nor the sign of past living. In fact the building seemed to lack show of any presence passing through. It was then James realized his own footsteps lacked appearance in the very foyer he started his search in.

“Good day, young sir, how may I be of service to you?”

James looked up at the double staircase to see a tall, white haired man dressed in tailcoats and a white bowtie. He stood straight and unmoving even as he waited for James’ reply.

“I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to bother you. I didn’t know anyone was here.”

“Be it what it would, do not cavil, but set yourself in the parlor. I will fetch the refreshments.”

Unsure of how to react to the situation, and quite aware of the unwavering stare of this seemingly butler, James turned and quickly walked into what he assumed to be the parlor because of its large windows and matching couches.

He stood awkwardly in the large room until the butler entered and commented, “Do the seats affront you or are you too simple to understand commands?” It was a question, but James didn’t think he was really expected to answer it. “Enough of this palaver, to think I am conversing with a ragamuffin.” The butler gestured to the room and asked, “Where is the Master?”

“I… The who? He hasn’t come… You said you were...” James replied confused.

“Do you always take pains to discommode?” A bad feeling was coming over James as the older servant became progressively angry. “You are to be a complaisant orphan; instead you have overreached me and have caused my vexation for the last time!” With that, the butler reached out his long arms to grasp the young boy. James was unable to move out of the way in time and the arms reached up to grasp around his neck.

The young boy curled into himself on the floor, dust rising from his fall and scratching his eyes. He pulled his knees into his chest and wrapped both hands over his ears; tears fell hot and heavy down James’ cheeks as he clenched his lids tight trying to avoid the butler’s hands. Thinking only to hide himself, James opened his eyes and began scrambling along the floor to hide behind the heavy window curtains. The thick dust on the floor flew up into his eyes once again and he cried out without thinking. Footsteps came quickly into the room and an arm reached down for him.

He looked up to see a young girl staring at him. She was slightly taller than him, but obviously younger; her cheeks pink, eyes wide, and hair dark brown and curly. 

James yelled out in terror. “Don’t touch me. Don’t touch me! I didn’t do it! It’s not my fault! Let me go, please. Please, let me go!” He began crying once more as the girl reached around the boy and pulled him to his feet. James thought only to run, but his legs were still weak; instead the arm curled around him and he was soon pulled into a reassuring hug. Comforting messages were whispered in his ear until he was able to regain his composure and stand on his own.

Before James could question his savior, she walked out of the room, disappearing around the doorway. The boy shook his body free of the thoughts of the butler, who was nowhere to be seen, and turned to leave the house. It was foolish of the boy to think he could stay anywhere. Home or not, he had to keep running, to keep escaping. 

Looking out the front windows before opening the door, James saw the man. There was no way he could see James through the dirty window, but the young boy couldn’t help but believe the man was looking directly at him; even with the glasses covering his eyes. The man began walking towards the house, calmly pushing his way through the crowd of fast moving adults.

James screamed out lightly as he tried to think of what to do. Calmly and without any notice of the boy, the old butler went to open the door for the man. James grabbed at the butler, pulling him away from the door before running up and locking the bolt himself. He turned, pressing his back against the heavy door and stared down the butler like he was mad.

“To what do I owe this reoccurring pleasure, young sir?” As if he just noticed the boy was still in the house, the butler looked at him squarely, as if sizing him up. The butler continued when silence was his only reply. “Go on, vent your gall, dear boy. Do not let my earlier exigency cause obloquy. Your answer is necessitated.”

James barely understood what the butler was saying to him. The words were quite foreign even in their familiarity. However, he knew he had to say something or else deal with the anger he knew the butler possessed. Instead of directly answering the question, James decided to ask his own.

“What is your name?”

“I am to be addressed as…” The butler faltered. He frowned and tried again. “That is, my name is…” A look of frustration crossed the older man’s face as he tried to think of his answer.

Thinking of the woman from the day before, James commented. “You don’t remember your name, do you?” The butler merely frowned in response. “Did you know before?”

“Of course I knew my own title, I have simply become graveled at the present.”

Mulling it over in his head, James began forming a story of what could have happened to this butler. He eyed the dust about the house, how at first it seemed to not move, but later kicked up in the air as easily as the dirt ground outside. There must be some sort of connection between the dust and the butler.

A loud pounding hit the door as the man tried to enter the house. James spoke quickly, keeping the butler’s focus on him instead of the entryway.

“David. Your name is David. And this house, it belonged to your master, but he died. He died of… small pox.”

“The Pock?” The butler cocked his head to the side listening. “Yes, of course. It was a very gruesome way to die.”

“Yes, and when he died he left you this house. The two of you were very close.”

“I remember. We were as brothers despite the class difference.” The older man was nodding in agreement to the young boy’s story. Then he paused and glared at the boy. “And what of his name?”

“His…His name?” James gulped, trying to think. “David.” Oh shoot, that’s what he named the butler! Before he could correct himself, the butler took over.

“Aye, my quondam master shared my namesake. We were true, as if he was an elbow relation.” The butler sighed tiredly. “I miss his risibility.”

James nodded slowly, neither knowing what the older man meant with his words nor very sure if his own story would stick or not. Another loud crack caused the boy to jump and squeal. He had to go or else the door would be knocked clean off its hinges. He squeezed his way past the murmuring butler, towards the back of the house. He vaguely remembered another door hoping it lead outside. As he rushed through the hallway, he briefly glimpsed towards the dining room seeing the curly locks of the girl from earlier. She was turned slightly towards him, but moving in the opposite direction. James wanted to so badly to stop and talk to the girl, to know why she was there and what she knew, but he had no time. He never had time.

Rounding a corner at the end of the house, James grabbed the door, tearing it open. He stole himself from the house, running past the busy streets and out of the dusty town. He didn’t look back, didn’t trust what he would see, but something told him, some feeling deep inside let James know, the man wasn’t following him. But he had no idea why, no idea what could have gotten in the man’s way.

Even with this knowledge, James ran fast and hard. He was always pushing his body to its limits, not sure if he would make it to the next day. It was the only thing he knew how to do. To run. To escape.

He slowed after a day’s travel at near constant sprint, but he didn’t stop. It had been stupid of him to stay in that house as long as he did. What had he been thinking? Honestly? A home? It didn’t exist, not for him; not now, not ever.

Night was falling quickly and a cold chill fell over the boy. The nights were getting colder and longer. It had its perks; the boy found it easier to hide in the dark, but his ragged jeans and torn up t-shirt weren’t enough to keep him alive if snow began to fall. He looked down at his shoes, a large hole growing near his left big toe. He would need to find replacements, and soon.

Walking at an even pace through a lightly wooded area, James came across a small brook. He leaned down to drink some of the cool flowing water, taking large handfuls and choking lightly from his hurried gulps. As he coughed lightly, James looked up to see a young man standing on the other side of the brook. Startled, James threw himself backwards, only to trip and land hard on his backside. The man took slow confidant steps towards the fallen boy and leaned down to help him up. James wasn’t sure what to do, but knew he was in no position to decline the helpful gesture.

Once on his feet, James was able to get a better look at the man. He seemed to be in his early thirties, maybe younger. Light blonde hair fell in front of the man’s eyes and cascaded down to his shoulders. He had a strong, stalky build and was extremely tall. James felt as if he needed to lean back to get the whole of the man in view.

The young boy shivered involuntarily.

“’Ello there tiny traveler!” The young man clapped his large, calloused hand against the boy’s shoulder in a friendly manner. James stumbled slightly forward from the pat, but stayed upright. He looked down at the man’s feet, thinking he must be dizzy or confused. They were huge. James had never seen feet as big as this man’s. And it seemed the man had made his own shoes from an animal skin, sewing it together with leather strips.

Trying not to stare, James looked back up at the man’s smiling face and, without thinking, smiled back.

A comfortable silence fell between the two, as the young man gestured for James to join him at his campsite. A fire was roasting three small rabbits on spits causing James’ mouth to salivate. He couldn’t remember the last time he had a hot meal and the possibility that one of those rabbits would be offered to him became a slight obsession. For the next few moments, James’ thoughts were only on the food before him instead of on the man he knew couldn’t be more than a day behind him. He never was.

“So what brings you to these parts, child?”

Coming back to grips with reality, James wiped his mouth on his sleeve and looked into the man’s face. He was smiling again as he turned the spits to get an even roast. James found himself smiling once again. “Oh, I’m just passing through.”

“Ah, do you come here often?”

“No, I don’t believe I’ve been here before.” James couldn’t say that for certain, but the direction seemed a little off to him. And if he had come across this man before, he surely would have remembered. “What about you? Do you live here?”

His smile dwindling slightly, the man shook his head no. His eyes seemed to shimmer, but James wasn’t sure why that would be.

“When did you get here?” James asked, his own eyes growing big as the young man passed over one of the spits he deemed finished. The young boy immediately began devouring the rabbit at hand. His mouth burned with the heat, but the taste of cooked meat made it worth it. James had finished half the meal before the man had retracted his outstretched arm and reached for his own dinner.

“Slow down there, child. You’ll ruin the meal.” James coughed roughly and took a few breaths before ripping off another large bite. This time he chewed it slowly, enjoying the gamey meat seasoned with only salt and a few sprigs of mint. It was the best meal James ever remembered having.

Nodding to show he would continue a slower devouring of his meal, James asked his question again.

“I’m not sure when I got here.” The young man rubbed his hand through his hair and sighed. “I’m not too sure of anything much anymore.” He sighed.

James stopped chewing; another one? He had to confirm his suspicions. “What’s your name?”

The young man shook his head slowly, taking a bite from his meal. He wasn’t smiling anymore.

How could this be? James pondered. It seemed that every adult he came across had forgotten some part of their past. They all had something that showed a past, the woman with her stroller, the butler in the house, and now this man showed a knowledge of living outdoors, but none of them could recall basic information on a personal level.

James began to question the young man about the wilderness and different trapping methods. A smile reaching his eyes, the man answered in great detail his expertise on survival. James questioned the man’s shoes and how he made them. In response, the young man pulled out some leather scraps and began showing his companion how to make his own.

The process was simple enough and soon James had the beginnings of his own makeshift shoe. It was exactly what he needed for the coming winter.

James couldn’t believe his luck. With one accidental meeting, he had found a warm meal, a way to create a new pair of shoes, and an evening of comfortable companionship. His smile nearly beamed as brightly as the stars above.

Knowing he had to return the favor, James began the only thing he knew he was good at. He gave the young man a name and a story. It came easier this time around. Joel was the name he gave and the young man lit up immediately. It was if his entire life was being handed to him. He looked taller, stronger, more eager, and most importantly, friendlier. James told Joel about how he had the biggest feet in the world, to which Joel laughed heartily and kicked up into the air. The boy continued with some nonsense about living out in the woods and opening a shoe making business. The young man went to work immediately with a vigor for life James envied.

As the sun rose up into the sky, James realized he had to bid his farewell and was sent off with the last rabbit in hand. He moved along at a quick pace, but much more relaxed than usual. Something he knew he would regret later, but at that moment James felt he had finally found his purpose in life.

The rabbit digested and his spirits high, James took off at a run out of the wooded area and across miles of open valley.

Three days of travelling through valleys, the night wind cold on his back, James spotted a city in the distance. It was much larger than the desert town he had last seen, and yet open and freeing. He smiled at the city and took off at a sprint.

It was night by the time his tired, yet exhilarated, body reached the outskirts of the city. Leaning over and breathing in large heaping breaths, James waited as his body relaxed and he was able to begin his search. For what, he wasn’t entirely sure, but something about this city needed to be explored.

Under the shadows of the night sky and tall buildings, James crept through the streets unseen. Something was so strangely familiar about this city, but the young boy couldn’t put his finger on it. As night continued on, James felt the familiar feeling of exhaustion weighing heavily on his head and limbs. He quickened his pace and searched for a place to rest out of view. In the middle of the city he found a gated park with such large trees they seemed to dwarf the buildings surrounding them. Raising his body over the metal fence, James managed to make it over without scratching himself on the sharp points. As he dropped to the other side, his jeans caught on one of the points and tore a small hole on the right back pocket. James frowned as he looked over the jeans. He had completed his new shoes during his journey to the city, but didn’t have any materials left over to fix the jeans. He would have to think of something later.

Looking around the small park, James saw an empty fountain between the three large trees. Noticing the dry leaves covering most of the cement build, James decided he would get the most cover from the high edges. As he set his body down into the fountain, James looked around quickly and noted that the entire city seemed to open into this gated park. That was good, if someone found him in here, he could run in almost any direction. Feeling comforted by his escape plan, James curled his body in as small a ball as he could manage, draped some dried leaves over his cold body, and fell into a deep sleep.

Squinting at the bright light, James stretched his body out slowly, his back cracking lightly at the effort. Why was it so bright? As consciousness won out, James came to the realization that the blinding light was the sun and it was directly above him. Startled, James jumped up, spinning around. It was a bad idea. He had slept far too long and now it was the middle of the day. As if things couldn’t get any worse, the park was surrounded by curious onlookers as his head popped out of the fountain.

James ducked down quickly, but knew the damage had already been done. He didn’t know what would happen next, but he didn’t think he could get himself out of this. The whole park had been surrounded by adults and soon they would be on him. He probably climbed into some sacred area and now they were going to sacrifice him to an evil god or something as drastically unnerving. James waited. Seconds passed adding up into minutes. Still he waited. He could hear the adults muttering to each other, but the words were just a mix of nonsense. Still he waited. After another moment’s time, James came to realize none of the voices were getting louder. Well of course, the ones coming after him would be quiet, right? But still, no one came.

Deciding he couldn’t stay crouched down in the fountain for the rest of his life, James slowly stretched his legs up until the top of his head poked out of the fountain and he could just see over the edges. He was still surrounded, but they were all on the outskirts of the park. He twisted his head around slowly, taking in each individual and wondering why they were standing so far away, what they were saying, and why this whole situation seemed so familiar. He shook off the last thought and focused on the park. The fence, that was it; the fence didn’t have a gate. Wouldn’t they just jump over the side of it like he did last night? No, of course not, they were adults. They don’t go jumping into other people’s parks and hiding in their fountains. No one does that. James shook his head, slightly ashamed.

He had to make a decision, but it seemed his options were very limited. He couldn’t just stay in the fountain, he couldn’t even just stay in the park, no; James had to leave. But all these people, all these sets of eyes. What would they do to him? He knew he couldn’t outrun them all. There were some adults that looked tall and lean while others looked as if they could take down a wild boar bare handed. Some looked soft and comforting, and then there were still those with sharp features and frowns on their faces.

Suddenly James came face to face with a soft, comforting look. It looked so familiar yet he couldn’t place it. It was an older woman, grey hair mixed with a soft brown just touching the edges of her face. She held a soft smile on her lips, yet her eyes seemed to shine with the same kindness.

Standing up straight, James climbed over the edge of the fountain, turning and lowering himself back down to the grass below. He started walking towards the woman; something telling him he had nothing to fear from her; that as long as she was there, no one would hurt him.

The woman helped James over the fence, raising him high above the metal points, clear from any danger. She then wrapped her arm around him protectively and walked him away from the crowd. They continued on this way in complete silence, weaving through the tight streets and across an open marketplace. James inhaled deeply as the smells of the fresh foods overwhelmed him. Without needing to ask, the woman stopped in front of a small stall and bought a freshly baked sweet bread. James took it with a pure contentedness only a child could manifest.

The two familiar strangers continued on until the woman stopped in front of an unmarked door. James pulled back slightly, not sure what was behind the door, but one look up at those smiling eyes, and he trusted the woman fully once again. They entered into a small three room apartment. The walls were bare, the floor hard, and very little furniture left an uncomfortable feeling in the room. James looked at the small stove and ice box sitting too close to one another in the far corner. A table with one chair took up the other side of the largest room. The woman walked through the door directly across from the apartment’s entrance; James saw a small bed and cabinet taking up what little space the room held before the woman walked back out with a clean, fresh shirt, a pair of rugged looking jeans and a sweater.

Handing the clothes over, the woman spoke for the first time since their meeting. “I hope these will fit. I’ve had them for a while; just sitting around. I don’t know whose they were, but I would like you to have them now.”

James frowned. “You don’t know whose they were?” The woman shook her head back and forth. “Do you know why you have them?” He already knew the answer, she didn’t remember. No one remembered.

Surprising the young boy, the woman replied, “I don’t know whose they were, and I don’t remember why I had them before today. But I know with a strange certainty that today I have them for you.” She then ushered the young boy into the bedroom to change. He did so with little resistance; what the woman had said made James feel special. The words made the boy feel as though someone was there to help him. And not just a friend like Darryl, or like the girl in the last town, whom James was certain is the only reason the man hadn’t caught up with him yet. No, this woman, this mother of someone, cared for James.

The idea brought tears to the young boy. As he changed into the new clothes, James gave up trying to decide if the tears were of fear or of joy. He wiped his face off on his old shirt, collected the ragged cloths into a pile and walked back out to the woman. She was leaning against the only window sill, staring out into the city’s streets.

James coughed to get the woman’s attention. Her face beamed with joy that the clothes fit so well. James pulled at the neck of the sweater a little, not used to something that fit so well, but otherwise smiled in return.

The woman took the old clothes from the boy and threw them into a box on the floor. Surprising James, the woman then said, “It is time for you to go.”

“But...” James stammered in response. “But, I don’t want to go.”

The woman shook her head. “It is time for you to go.” Seeing the tears forming in the young boy’s eyes the woman added, “It’s okay. We’ll see each other again. But right now, you have to leave. He will be here soon.”

The man. He was here? In the city? James looked out the window frantically searching up and down the streets before him. Of course, he’d stayed still too long. He had to move. But the woman, how did she know?

“Go.” The woman opened the front door, placed a small cloth sack into James’ hand, and pushed him gently onto the street. “We will see each other again. And when we do, you can tell me my story.” The woman then closed the door, locking it softly.

James wanted to scream. He wanted to throw a fit, bang on the door, tuck himself into the comforting woman’s arms. He wanted to stay. But as he looked over the house, through the only window, he saw the woman leaning over the box of his old clothes, crying.

He didn’t fully understand the situation, but James knew the woman was right. He had to go. He had to run before the man showed up, but he knew he would be back. And that he would give this woman her story.

A cold chill crossed the boy’s body. He knew it wasn’t from the wind. He started down a long alleyway to the edges of the city. Jogging up a small hill, James looked back into the city. He saw the man. Standing outside the very apartment the boy had just left. He didn’t wait any longer. Turning, James took up at a full sprint.

The rations in the small cloth pouch lasted the young boy five days. He was used to eating such light meals that the food could have lasted longer, but it was a delicious collection of sweet breads, berries, and cheese. Luckily, the food lasted until James found himself looking over the familiar boxed shape of Junk Town. He turned up his nose slightly at the inevitable smell, and considering skipping over the town entirely. However, he needed to see Darryl. To thank him and to show him his new acquired skill of shoe making. Darryl lived in Junk Town as an acrobat of types, charging shows of him walking along the barbed wire laced through the ceilings and walls of the town. The adults were enamored by the show and tossed coins and food to the boy whenever they saw him.

James loved watching Darryl high up off the ground seemingly walking on air. It gave an illusion of freedom to the younger boy; it left the impression that James could one day be free.

The two had never spoken about the man, James had never spoken to anyone about his chaser, but Darryl knew. He knew why James could never stay, why he ran from one unknown place to another. Neither knew how long it had been going on, or even when the man had first begun chasing James. It seemed as if that was the way it had always been. It was the way it would always be.

Shaking off the fear that he shared the same fate as the adults he met along his way, James found a small opening in the high corrugated metal walls and wedged himself inside. Looking to the fake skies of metal and stringed lights, James worked his way farther and farther up into the enclosed town. He searched every ceiling, every staircase, and every room he passed, but seemed to come up short of finding his friend.

Growing tired, James sat on the edge of the tallest stairs he could find, and looked down on the town below. It was a mess of labyrinth-esque walls, never ending hallways, and trash. James could never get over how filthy the whole town was. It was as if the people just didn’t care, they threw new and old things alike away; into the streets. They threw food on top of clothing, and shoved it all into the corners of every hallway, every room.

A large hand clasped down on the boys shoulder, causing him to jump up. An arm reached out to keep James from falling off the edge of the steps into the mess below. The boy looked up to see his friend Darryl smiling brightly.

“You near on gave me a heart attack!”

“Nice to see you too!” Darryl quipped in reply.

{To be continued...}
© Copyright 2012 Deanna M. Ossenkop (dbakashojou at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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