The beat (Chapter 48)
I think the shadows in the narrow allies are my only friends on this strange planet.
Darkness shading my steps, I trip along the cobblestones towards an unknown destination.
I see no one and that is okay. The dried mud and crusted blood which mar my hands and dress would surely draw stares. And questions.
It’s been an hour or so- I’m not quite sure. And I have just wandered.
I am haunted by the boy’s screams. I keep going over it. What happened? What did I do? What happened? How did- how did he bleed from his eyes like that? What happened?
But it’s been an hour and my shock is beginning to wear off. And my realization that I have roamed from the familiar once again is dawning on me.
I’m such an idiot.
So now, in my faint daze, I roam looking for anything with a hint of familiarity. But the streets are all the same crooked grey homes with cracked stucco and mold. The homes similar, but different, its like a maze of grey that i can’t get out of.
I drag a hand through my hair. It’s becoming long, but I don’t even know if they have hair salons here. I’ll have to remember to ask James. I feel so lost, not just literally as I wander the city, but in my sense of self. Any hint of belonging I had begun to feel in recent days, ripped away with the boys screams.
I look up to the sky. It bright blue is cruel to the citizens of this neighborhood’s ever-shaded streets. But what I do see in the distance is heartening to me, the tips of the temple buildings from the market square.
I breathe a sigh of relief. At least I know where I can go and get some assistance, because I am not heading back to the Female Center…
As I approach the central market square, I can hear music growing louder and louder. A drum beat so loud it echoes off the walls of the building and tumbles down the street. It moves through me and I feel it in my chest as though it was my own heartbeat.
I see the tall white buildings with tree-lined avenues that grace the central district. Pure, clean stone with flowering vines snaking along the façade for as far as my eyes can see.
I know where I am now. I know the office building with large steps across the street from me and I know the corner where men usually stand discussing the day’s news. It’s eerie to see the normally busy street largely devoid of people, but that does not make it any less recognizable.
And I can easily make it home from here. It’s just down street, around a bend and then straight through to the North District.
But that would lead me away from the beat…
I pause. Do I want to see what the music is all about? What festivities await me in the market square? I am covered in mud and blood, and probably look like I have been run over by one of those horseless carriages.
Then again, I haven’t seen a Pinn festival before.It sounds... intriguing.
I bite the inside of my cheek. After a few seconds decide to just take a peek from a side street onto the square. I mean, I can’t exactly walk into the center of it looking like this, can I? But I can take a quick look before heading home to clean up.
I decide to walk around to the far side of the square where I know there are a few dark alleyways leading into it. I feel a touch of pride, before I remember that I was just lost. I just have to shake my head at my own stupidity. I will always be lost on this planet.
Ugh, enough whining. I’m tired of it. Tired of feeling sorry for myself.
With a new sense of determination I approach the alleyway. It’s long, skinny, and dark. Perhaps two people could stand side-by-side, but not more. There is a rank smell of rotting garbage and unwashed streets. The hidden ugly of the city within the pristine borders of the central district. It’s the perfect place for me to peek into the square without revealing myself.
I just hope I don’t step on anything.
I step gingerly into the shadowy alley. I am tempted to hold my breath to avoid the smell, but there is no point- the alley is too long. Now that I am in the shadows I can see the bits of litter and the broken cobblestone. I can see the light at the end of the ally and feel the music pulse in the air.
I feel a strong arm wrap around my chest pulling me back into the warm embrace of a man’s steely chest. Fuck. I open my mouth to scream and a hand roughly clamps over my mouth. My lungs burn as I try to force out any sound. My heart races. No no no no no….
But no one can hear my muffled scream over the noise of the festival and I am dragged backwards towards an unknown destination with an unknown man.