The Secret Carriers

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Chapter 13

Her aunt took her by the hand. Abigail flinched and almost pulled her hand away, then stopped herself. Her aunt thought she was a kind, sweet little girl. That was the false impression she got whenever she was allowed to come visit her sister, Abigail’s mother, a couple times a year. Her aunt always said how well she was treated by her owner, how he was one of the nicer ones , and let her take however long she wished when she went out to buy fruit and vegetables from the outdoor markets that were held every Friday, and then onto the butchers after that. It was the only time she was able to see fellow native Londoners – the ones that had opted to stay above as well. She chatted with the woman that ran one of her favourite vegetable stalls, pointedly avoiding the heavy chain that tied the woman to her stall to prevent her running away.

Her aunt chatted away like this, regaling Abigail with how life was above. How different it was from New London. “There’s fresh air!” her aunt cried, and then turned to her with a sad half-smile. “Well, as fresh as it can be with all the horrible smoke from those big factories. Have you seen those smoke stacks down by the docks?” she shook her head. “No, of course you haven’t dear poppet. You’ve never seen anything have you? Until today. Goodness, how strange it must have been when I came to visit my sister, your mother,” she added as if Abigail didn’t know who she meant. “And when I spoke of the things up here. How the Roman’s patrol the streets every night, making sure all of us old Londoners are back home under the watchful eyes of our employers. There’s a curfew at nine every night in the summer time, and even earlier in the winter when it gets darker sooner. You wouldn’t even think about wanting to escape if you heard what happened to those people that tried and were caught.” Her aunt shook her head, her dark hair so much like her mothers.

For a moment Abigail had a brief twinge of guilt, imagining what it was like down there, in her former home. She wondered if her mother was okay, and the question voiced itself aloud.

Her aunt deposited her on a large couch that was the colour of champagne swirled with gold thread. Abigail had never seen anything so nice. She ran her hands over the brocaded fabric.

“Of course you’re worried about your mother and father dear,” her aunt replied, taking a seat in a large armchair next to the couch, with a quick glance around the room first. She sat uneasily, and stiff backed.

“I’m not-“ Abigail had started to say she wasn’t worried about her father. He had been cruel to her, punishing her for anything, no matter how small. And her mother had just turned a blind eye. If she didn’t behave herself and act like a good girl when her aunt Tamara came to visit, she would suffer the consequences for weeks after – bruises and welts making every movement excruciating.

The ruse had worked though. Abigail was a good actor, and Tamara believed Abigail was kind and obedient.

“Do you think…” Abigail stopped, picking at the gold thread on the couch absently until her aunt slapped her hand.

“Don’t do that!” Her aunt’s blue eyes looked nervously around the room. “This is Cassius Augustinius’ furniture. You have to treat it with respect.”

Abigail looked at her aunt, really looked at her for the first time. Outside of the dark gloomy light of new London, where the only lights were small lanterns, or large jars full of fireflies which cast an eerie glow on everything, creating large reaching shadows, her aunt looked tired and worn. There were shadows under her eyes, and she sat at a stoop, her shoulders held high and tense up near her ears. Down below Abigail didn’t see any of this, the firefly light was deceiving. Up here in the bright, openness of the living room with a large fire crackling in the hearth and lamps situated on every spare space on the wall, her aunt looked like a totally different person.

“Do you think my parents are dead?”

Abigail shivered at the thought of the wolf, snapping at her feet at the bottom of the ladder.

Her aunt sighed loudly. “If they are, I wish I could help them but…it’s against the rules.” Her eyes grew wide and she slapped a hand over her mouth. “Forgive me, I shouldn’t have said anything. I was forgetting myself. You see, it’s been awhile since I’ve been able to talk to someone that isn’t someone that has control over me. The men and women at the market don’t really count. We can’t talk about anything except the things that they sell. We’re watched all the time. But at the moment, Augustinius is out, trying to petition commanders in a neighbouring suburb to decrease the curfew for all of us. He thinks we get too much freedom as it is.” She sighed loudly again and shook her head. She got up and went to the fire, shifting the logs with a long iron poker. Sparks jumped and ash fell. “Look outside Abigail,” her aunt gestured to the large floor to ceiling windows that made up a set of double French doors. “Look at the garden and all the pretty flowers. I’m sure you’ve never seen anything like that below. I know they’ve tried to grow gardens down there in the past but nothing’s ever held.”

Abigail shot a cursory glance out the window. It was a riot of colour that she had never seen before and she had an urge to jump up and press her face against the window and look out at the patch of alien land, with a bright red Japanese maple sheltering a bed of purples, pinks, reds and yellows. But she couldn’t let the opportunity pass.

“Rules? What rules? What do you mean, au- Tamara.” She had never used an adult’s first name, but she was sixteen now, nearly an adult, and didn’t adults use their first names?

Tamara shuddered, and turned dark weary eyes to her niece. She took her place back in the armchair, throwing herself down heavily in it, and then as if remembering her place, positioned herself primly at the edge of the seat.

“You know I’ve always thought a lot of you Abigail. I’ve always admired how much life and tenacity you had about you, despite being trapped down there,” her aunt caught her eye, and saw the look on her face.

“You felt that way too, did you not? Because that’s what you were. I said to your mother how unfair it was, for you to be down there. You had no say, no choice in the matter. You suffered for a decision that your parents made for you. Before you were born of course. They were only thinking of themselves at the time. They were young, and they thought it was the only chance at life. They thought I was crazy to stay up here. They said that I was trapped up here, not them down there. But I never saw it that way. I’d rather be able to hear the birds on a spring day, and watch the snow as it blanketed the garden. I’d rather still be able to see the sun rise every morning and set every night, than be subjected to perpetual darkness. I wouldn’t be able to live if I had been used to all of this,” she gestured out the window at the sky where the sun was attempting to escape from a prison of clouds,” and then to throw it all away forever.” She shook her head. “And my secret, I would feel even worse with it than I do already. It would be even more morbid than it is, if I were to use it down there in the darkness. Somehow, up here, in the light of day, it seems a little less sinister. Don’t ask me why, I’m probably just talking crazy.”

There was a noise and Tamara flew up from the chair and stood stiff as a soldier, waiting for inspection. She brushed the wrinkles from her skirt and patted her hair with a nervous hand. A tall man entered the room, tall polished boots clacking loudly on hard marble. He raised a perfectly arched eyebrow below impeccable dark hair, just beginning to go grey at the edges. Blue eyes looked at her in barely concealed astonishment. “Ms. Henshaw, what is the meaning of this?”

Tamara curtsied and then bowed so low Abigail thought her nose would hit the toes of her polished shoes.

“Sir, I must apologize. This is my niece, Ms. Abigail Hendry. She has come from below.”

This time both perfect brows shot up. “She has escaped?”

Tamara nodded, her dark hair shaking like a plate of jelly. “Yes, something has gone wrong below, sir. And she knew that I worked for you…I am her only relative.”

The man’s piercing blue eyes swept to Abigail, taking her in, appraising her as if she were an object found at the market. “I see. How is she at washing up? Doing dishes? I need to get a new dishwasher. The last one has…overstepped her bounds, shall we say.”

Without missing a beat, Abigail jumped in. “I am great at dish washing. Sir. My mother had me do them all the time at home.” And she wasn’t lying, though she didn’t say it was the punishment for disobeying either her mother or her father. Her hands were always somewhat wrinkled with dishwater. She saw her aunt cringe and tremble at her outburst. “I’m sorry, sir,” she apologized hastily. She doesn’t know the rules her, the protocols you have set.” Her aunt turned to her with unabashed fear in her eyes. “Abigail, we do not speak without being spoken to by Augustinius”.

Abigail put her acting into practice and suppressed the urge to laugh at the ridiculousness of it. Instead she gave a low curtsey. “I apologize. As my aunt said, I’m unfamiliar with how things are above here. It is my first time here. It won’t happen again.”

The commander nodded curtly. “Good. You can start in the kitchens tonight, after dinner is served.” He turned on a polished boot heel, and swept from the room, his long red tunic with gold trim flaring out behind him.

Her aunt visibly deflated, and shrunk once the man had left the room.

“How can you live like this?” Abigail shot, accusingly. “This isn’t any way to live!”

Her aunt turned to her, eyes burning with tears and regret. “I live the best I can.”

Abigail sighed. She wouldn’t get the information from her aunt if she turned on her, if she showed her what she was really like.

“I’m sorry Aunt Tamara. I’m just scared is all. Scared of all of this, this is all so new and different.” Of course she was scared, she berated herself. That’s what she always was. Her father always disliked how she was so spineless, scared of him, of his inventions. Scared of the dark. How could you be scared of the dark when you lived in a world of darkness? She shook her head, annoyed with herself. He aunt came to her and sat down on the armrest of the couch and put an arm around her thin shoulders. Her aunt mis-interpreted her tears of annoyance and frustration at herself, as tears of fear. She hated being thought of as being scared, a frightened little girl. She was sixteen for God’s sake, not a child who wet the bed after nightmares of wolves being let loose on the city.

“There’s something I’ve wanted to share with you, Abi,” her aunt said. She had never called her Abi before. No one had. It was an adult name.

Maybe her aunt wasn’t so bad after all, she thought. She looked up at her with tears still shimmering in her eyes.

“I have a secret. Something I haven’t even told your mother. And you know how close we are. We were as close as two sisters could be – before your father shows up and wedged us apart, just as surely as we were separated by the Atlantic Ocean instead of still living in the same city. This was before the Roman’s invaded of course and took over London. I was only about your age, I think, when it happened. Maybe a bit older. How old are you now, Abi? I’ve forgotten, my mind…it plays tricks on me now. More and more every day it seems.”

“I’m sixteen. Almost seventeen.”

“Is that all? My dear, you are still a child!”

Hatred that had fled since she arrived in this new, brighter, shinier world full of opportunity sprung up again as fresh and vibrant as lava spilling from a volcano.

“Am not!” Abigail cried, fully aware that her retort was childish and petulant.

Her aunt smiled at her and patted her hand. Abigail froze at the action, on the verge of pulling her hand away, but she stopped. She didn’t want to seem ungrateful and ruin her chance, something that was about to be revealed to her.

“No, of course you aren’t. I was only just seventeen myself when I made the choice to stay above. No small decision let me tell you.”

Her aunt rose from the arm rest, slow and jerky, and held out her hand. “Come with me, I want to show you the garden up close. Winter is coming soon, and the flowers will all be hidden by snow any day now. I can feel it in my bones.”

They stood in the open doorway, admiring the bright colours.

“When I was almost twenty, I met a woman at the market. I’d never seen her before. She was a gypsy woman, I think. She wore so many rags it seemed like she was more cloth than woman, and her face was covered by scarf the colour of the ocean, so that only her eyes were visible – eyes that were a strange indigo. She was selling small little dolls, woven of rope and clothed in the same rags she wore herself. Their eyes were little black beads. I was looking at some ripe mangoes in the stall next to her when I noticed her waving at me, waving me over to her stall. I shook my head politely, not wanting to look at her dolls – I was there to get fruit and vegetables for that night’s dinner, not to look at toys. But she kept insisting. And she got up from behind her stall and came up to me, grabbing me by the hand and leading me to a chair set up in front of her stall. It was only afterwards that I realized she hadn’t been tied to her cart like all the other sellers were chained to theirs. That thought alone had kept me up that night, wondering, curious. But it was too late. I’d accepted her. And everyone knows you can’t go back on your word with a gypsy. They have powers. This particular woman however, had even more power than most. I was young, and naïve. What she’d offered me was so amazing I didn’t even question it. Not thinking things over is never a good idea. I learned that the hard way. That’s why I’m going to lay it all out for you here. You’ve always been a good girl Abi, and I think you’re the person I need to pass this onto.”

“Pass what onto?”

Her aunt was staring out at the garden now, but Abigail could tell she wasn’t really seeing it. She was seeing something else, something that only her aunt saw. She watched her for a moment and saw a single tear make its way slowly down her cheek.

“Are you okay, Aunt Tamara?”

Her aunt shook herself, wiping the tear with the back of her hand. “Yes. No, not really. But yes, now that you’re here. Your arriving here, above, is a miracle from God.”

Abigail didn’t believe in God. God was something you prayed to when you looked up to the heavens, to the stars. But there were no heavens or stars below, and therefore no God.

“I had thought of passing it onto you before now, of course. But I didn’t like the idea of you being stuck down there with the ability. It seemed wrong, somehow. But up here. Up here it’s a lot better. Still not ideal. The power itself isn’t ideal, but it has to be known by someone. Has to be carried on, passed down.

Her aunt spoke without looking at her, continuing to look at something far away, past the vibrant garden that unfolded before them. “It’s good timing you arrived when you did. Like I said, I think God must’ve been looking down on me.” She laughed then, loudly, suddenly, and Abigail jumped, but remained silent. “I’m not sure why God has his eye on me of all people. I would think He would think it to be an abomination. Most of the time I do.”

Abigail wanted to ask her what she was talking about but knew she would come to it in her own time, without pushing. Her aunt continued to look straight ahead, at some other life that Abigail couldn’t see. “I’m sick, Abigail. But I’m sure you already knew that.”

Abigail stared at her, stunned. She didn’t know that. She had no clue.

“No, I didn’t know. Why would I?”

Her aunt turned tear-filled eyes to her, matching blue ones just like her own and her mothers. They were the colour of a stormy ocean, if Abigail had ever seen an ocean, which she hadn’t. “You mean your parents never told you? That’s what I told your mother, and father,” she added absently, “last time I was down visiting you on Visitors Day. Why would they not have told you?” She looked appalled.

“I…I don’t know.” But she did know. She turned her gaze away, her aunt reminded her too much of her mother, that same stern, piercing look. The one she got when she was in trouble. Which was always. She was grounded on a weekly basis and sent to her room, which she promptly escaped from and shimmied down the side of their house to wreak more mischief on the poor citizens. It was the only time she was thankful that New London was perpetually cloaked in a murky dimness that made everyone who lived there glow with a sort of luminescent paleness that, to the sporadic visitors, looked sickly.

Her aunt took her small hand in her own and Abigail noticed how thin and frail her hand was even though she wasn’t all that much older than her mother, who was only in her early forties.

“It doesn’t matter. You know now. Which will then make it clear the reason behind what I’m about to share with you. It’s something that not even your mother knows. No one but the Consortium themselves know of it.”

“The Consortium?”

“Yes, dear. They’re the…well, I’m not sure if they’re people really. But they’re the ones in charge of making sure these secrets are well guarded. Are passed on to the right people. I guess you could say I’m a Guardian.”

The way her aunt said the word, Abigail could hear the importance and gravity of it. “But in more layman’s terms, I’m called a Secret Carrier.”

Abigail only nodded, not sure how to answer that. She’d never heard of a secret carrier before. Was it like a mail carrier, she wondered? But mail carriers didn’t seem all that important.

“Like I was saying, the gypsy woman, she gave me this. I didn’t know what I was agreeing to, not fully. Not until it was too late.” She shook her head. “I’ll stop rambling. I carry the secret of Necromancy.”

Abigail didn’t read much. There was a library underground, but Abigail had more exciting ways to occupy her time than reading books. It sounded big and fancy and important.

Her aunt looked at her out of the corner of her eye. “You don’t know what that means, do you?”
Abigail shook her head, her eyes dropping to the floor.

“It means I can bring back the dead.”

Abigail stared at her aunt. “Are you saying if my parents were dead from the wolf that you could bring them back to life again?”

Tamara gave an almost imperceptible nod. “But why? What’s the purpose?”

This time it was her Tamara’s turn to stare at her. “What do you mean why? Isn’t it obvious? When someone dies, you would do anything you could to bring them back, to have them with you again.”

Abigail hadn’t had anyone die before. She hadn’t thought about it, to be honest.

“But there’s a downside. When I got the secret from the gypsy woman, after I had passed the test that is, she admitted to me that it wasn’t complete. Almost but not quite. I didn’t quite know what she meant until I used it the first time.

There was a boy, one winter, who had fallen through the frozen ice on a lake.”

“What’s a lake?” Abigail asked.

‘What’s a-?” Tamara looked at her with unconcealed shock. “Oh of course they don’t have lakes down below, do they? You have so much to learn about the world up here. There is so much more than what there was in New London. A lake is a big puddle of water. Imagine a big giant fountain, but in the ground.” She waved a hand. “I had been walking past at the time, and even though I wasn’t the one to rescue him, that distinction went to a man, I did my best to assist him in helping to rescue the boy. But it was too late. He had been in the cold water too long, and had swallowed the icy water. He turned as pale as a sheet, so white I could see the veins under his skin clear as day. So I did the only thing I knew how to. I promised the man I would take him to an undertaker. I said it was the least I could do. The man had been in a hurry, rushing off to something, when he had stopped to rescue the boy, so he was grateful to have me take him off his hands, so to speak. But instead of taking him to the hospital or undertakers as I’d promised, I bundled him up in my shawl and took him back home. I snuck him in and took him upstairs to my bedroom.

I was frightened, scared that I would be discovered with a dead boy in my room, but also because I had never used the Secret before, even though I’d had it at least a good six months or so by then. But everything went as planned. I’d followed the instructions just as they were. At first it looked like nothing happened. The boy just lay there and I stared at him, watching his chest for movement, for when he started breathing again. But that movement never came. I thought I’d failed. But then I noticed his eyes were open and he was watching me, warily, like a wild animal. He had a look on his face like if I made any sudden movements he would bite me.

I watched his chest, but I still didn’t see any movement. And then I mimed that I would put my ear to his chest, before I actually did it, so he wouldn’t get scared. I did so, and found the reason why I didn’t see his chest rise and fall with breath. I couldn’t find a heartbeat! He was alive, but at the same time, not entirely. His heart was not beating so he was dead at the same time. Dead, but conscious and moving around. I asked if he felt okay and he nodded, looking at me with large blue eyes, the colour of the ice water he had drowned in. I asked him what his name was. At first he looked at me a long moment in silence. And then he opened his mouth to speak, and he said his name was Adam. Though I could barely understand what he had said at first, he just croaked it out, it sounded hoarse, like his throat was full of gravel and that it hurt him to talk.

I asked him if he felt okay. He didn’t answer me right away and then eventually nodded, and made a motion as if he wanted to get out of bed. I had been sitting on the edge of the bed at this point, so I moved out of the way. He moved slowly, as if his arms and legs were moving through molasses. But eventually he got out of bed. But he moved so strangely, it made me feel ill to watch him walk – he moved in fits and starts, all jerky. And then he looked back at me with a look on his face that made me almost burst into tears. It was the saddest thing you ever saw! But then he looked away and concentrated on moving again.

There was a noise and I could hear people downstairs. I grabbed Adam’s hand and we went as quietly as we could through the house, slipping out the back before anyone had a chance to see. He was still wearing his clothes from the lake. They were sodden, and crusted with frost and ice – the water in them freezing.

I couldn’t put him out on the streets like that. So I took him to a thrift shop and got him some nice warm clothes. The woman in the store looked at him as if he were carrying some plague or something, and asked if he was okay. Adam nodded and gave her a sad half-smile. The shopkeeper moved off with looks over her shoulder at us every few minutes.

After I dressed him, I asked if he was hungry or thirsty. I was ravenous myself and grabbed a pastry from a bakers, but he just shook his head. I said, “You’re not hungry? Not at all?” and he just shrugged at me. After that, I just let him go. I released him into the wild like a child releasing a pet fish into the river, or a bird from its cage – out into freedom. He tottered a few steps, unsure without my hand for support, and looked back at me once over his shoulder. I didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t keep him, and I didn’t want to take him back to his parents. I knew I should have. That would have been the right thing to do…but what do you say to them, sorry, here’s your son, back from the dead. He’s not a hundred percent right, but he’s close enough?”

Tamara laughed then, a shaky sound on the knife edge of hysteria.

“Adam was the first. And then there was Frances. She was about my age at the time, maybe a bit younger, maybe even a bit younger than you are. She was one of those girls in the bad parts, you know?”

Tamara looked at Abigail and then shook her head. “Oh what am I saying? Silly me, of course you don’t know! The bad parts of the city are where the poor used to live. Before they…well, before they were sent to live in New London. Or some decided to stay on up here because serving the Romans was a much easier life, in some ways, than barely surviving out there on the streets!” Tamara shook her head. “Anyways, I saw Frances sometimes when I used to walk past the outskirts of the bad areas…she would be huddled by a big oil drum warming her hands in the flames. I would smile at her whenever she lifted her eyes to mine, but she never smiled back at me. One day when I walked past, she wasn’t standing over the fire, and I came across her a few yards away, leaning against the wall, almost lying on the ground. I asked her if she was okay and she shook her head. “It’s my time to go,” she said to me. At least that’s what I think she said. She spoke so softly I could barely hear here.

And then I realized here was my next chance. My next opportunity to use my gift to save someone. “What if it doesn’t have to be?” I asked her. She just looked at me. It was a look of suspicion, one that I’m sure she gave to most people who stopped to talk to her, unsure what their motives were. But mine were just.

“I asked her if she was afraid to die, and she said no. She said she welcomed it to the life that she was living. So I asked her what if I was to bring her back to life, after death? And like Adam, she looked at me with such a pitiful look in her eyes and just shrugged. I took that as her giving me her blessing. I sat with her a moment. It didn’t take long. It was cold, and she was barely wearing anything but rags. And then she closed her eyes and I knew, I just knew that she was gone. So crouching there, on the side of the road, on the edge of good and bad, I did my thing, just like I had done with Adam. She looked more alive than him. The colour hadn’t left her skin as it had with him falling into that water that had drained all signs of life from him. She still looked…alive. And then her eyes opened again but I knew then that there was something different. She didn’t have that same spark in her eyes, the same life inside her. I didn’t know then that she had no life at all inside her. She looked at me and for the first time in all the months I’d seen her, she smiled at me. And I knew in my heart I had done the right thing then. I took her hand and helped her stand. She was unsteady, like a newly born calf.

Frances looked at me. She said thank you, as best she could. I think doing what I do, it changes people, and they can’t seem to speak well anymore. But they can use their hands to communicate. I’ve seen some of them around, some of the ones that I’ve rescued. They look lost, wandering, aimless. Once I saw one of them, a woman named Lucy if I remember correctly. I had rescued her. She had been beaten severely by her master who had left her to die. And die she did, but only after I found her. I found her crawling down the front steps of her master’s house, like some slithering creature, her face bruised and her hands cut and bloodied. But I saved her.”

Tamara stopped and looked at Abigail. “I thought of it as saving, anyway. In the beginning. I did my magic; I used my power and helped her up. She smiled and gave me a curt nod in thanks. I left, thinking no more of it, knowing I had done my good deed for the day.” A loud braying laugh burst from her. She shook her head, her long dark hair swaying across her shoulders. “One day I came across her again. She was no longer a servant to the master that had hurt her. I saw her working in a factory, one that builds some sort of weapon.” A distracted look filtered across her face. “It seems like everyone nowadays is just building some sort of weapon or another, don’t you think?”

Aibgail knew she should keep her mouth shut, but the words came out without her thinking. As usual.

“They’re a little like weapons, Aunt Tamara. Aren’t they?”

Tamara’s eyebrows shot up with shock, and she stared at her niece, stunned. She opened her mouth, as if to say something but then closed it again and shook her head. ”Lucy, she stood there, almost lifeless. She looked different from everyone else there, all the other women in the factory who were doing the same thing. Moved differently. She caught my eye, as I’d stopped to watch her through the window as I passed. She looked at me, and I froze. Even though there was no life in her, not as we know it anyways, the look she gave me was pure hatred; pure anger and it chilled me to the core. I saw her move, take a step away from what she was working on with those numb, colourless, dead fingers, and I knew, I just knew that she was going to come after me, so I ran. I heard the bang of the side door of the factory, the one that lead into the narrow alley way. I didn’t look back. I knew she was standing there in her factory uniform, a plain dress, the colour of mud mixed with dust, and a simple white apron tied over it to protect it. I could hear her feet as they began to shuffle slowly in that awkward, jerky inhuman way that they have. And then there was a sound I never want to hear again as long as I live. Two sounds, actually. The first was the scream – a blood curdling scream from a strangled dead throat, one that didn’t work the same as it used to when it belonged to someone from our realm. Someone from the land of the living. But it was the next sound that I heard that I don’t want to hear ever again, and I hope I don’t do it myself, because I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I did that to you.”

Abigail was confused and was about to ask her aunt what she meant, but her aunt continued.

“All of a sudden the slow shuffling that always made me feel sort of sad disappeared and was replaced by the thud of her feet pounding the ground, moving quickly. I turned. I shouldn’t have turned and looked back. She had lifted her skirts up, exposing her tall white boots that were part of her uniform – boots with little pearl buttons that ran up either side that the laces looped around. I thought to myself that they were very pretty boots. Such a strange thought to have right then.

She ran towards me, fast. So swiftly I daren’t even imagine it. Her lips were pulled back in a snarl, wild and feral, like a rabid dog.

I screamed then and ran faster than I ever had in my life. I nearly got hit by a carriage. The horse reared up, but I managed to avoid it. It gave me a few extra seconds, I think. But Lucy didn’t avoid it. She ran straight into it. Not meaning to, I don’t think, but she did. I was stupid enough to stop, when I reached the other side of the street, and I turned to watch. It all happened so slowly. Time seemed to stretch on an age, and the horses, they came down right on top of her, and then kept right on going.

I heard a strangled noise. I thought it was a scream at first. Maybe that it was from me. As I saw her crushed into the earth by those two horses, that were now long gone and turned the corner up Blaylock Street. But as I stood and stared, filled with dread, the dread was quickly replaced with horror that surged through me like a tidal wave. It wasn’t any scream that I’d heard. It was laughter. Lucy raised her head from the ground. It was cut and smeared with dirt, and her neck twisted and bent, but she pushed herself up, and with a smile that was fit more for the devil than a young woman like her, her brown hair, once so neat and tidy in a long brown braid at her back was now a disturbed halo of hair, wild around her face. In a second she was up again and running. I screamed and did the only thing I knew to do. I ran to the police station.

Did I mention this was before the Romans arrived? There is no need for a police station any more. No one misbehaves – not the original Londoners anyway, not us. We know what happens to us when we’re out of line. And the Romans, they just kill each other at the drop of a hat, it seems. They’re very hot blooded these Italians. In any case, I was very glad this happened before the Roman invasion, as there were police to help us, the citizens, when we were still free. When we were the ones that were the trouble makers that needed policing.

I ran to the police station as fast as I could, and up the wide stone steps, bursting through that door as if the living dead were after me. Because it was. I appealed to the officer behind the desk, a portly man who hadn’t seen anything resembling proper police work in a while. I told him, I know what I was about to say would sound strange, but I needed someone to shoot the person who would be coming through the door next. I knew she was close, because I could hear the screams on the street as people tried to get away from her, out of the path of her rampage.

And then the door burst open, and it wasn’t her. It was a man, tall and lean, and sharp – sharp eyes, and face, and intelligence I could tell. In the light of the station, from the lamps that lined all the walls I could see the way his eyes shone, a brilliant gold.

I turned to the officer behind the desk and knew he hadn’t taken my request seriously. He hadn’t raised a finger to shoot anyone, even though shooting the next person who had come through the door, this man dressed in a long overcoat over a silver waistcoat, would have been pulling a gun on the wrong person anyway. So I turned to the new arrival. I could tell this man was shrewd and cunning and I saw the bulge of a gun belt around his hips, even concealed as it was under his coat.

I screamed at him, not caring how unseemly my behaviour was. I screamed, “The woman that comes through the door, the one with the white boots, shoot her! Shoot her without hesitation.” I saw the man smile ever so slightly before he turned, as the doors opened spilling a dim light in the station, along with the woman with the dirty halo of hair around her head and her pearly boots streaked with mud and dirt.

The man’s long coat whirled as he turned with speed to the woman who had thrown herself through the door. Like lightning, he whipped the guns from his holsters and without flinching emptied both into the girl. She flopped around like a rag doll in a storm. She was a slight thing to begin with and the force of two guns worth of bullets threw her out the double doors, before they had yet a chance to close. For a moment, I was hopeful, but it was only fleeting. I had held my breath, thinking that she wasn’t going to get up again. That I was safe. But I was wrong. I saw her thin, colourless fingers creep around the edge of the door, and before I saw any more, I requested the woman be locked away in a cell, forever more. I hoped that this time the officer would heed my words but I didn’t wait to find out. I grabbed another young officer by the arms and asked how to get out of the station, another way. He was kind enough to point me the way.

I didn’t ever see her again so I can only assume she is still locked away. If she wasn’t, she surely would have come after me again.” Tamara trailed off, lost within her own old thoughts and memories.
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