Claimer: Property of yomimashou and myself
Rating: PG-13 for violence
Warnings: non-graphic violence
As the world sloshed around her in a wet spiral of light and dark, Aureliana Ferdinanda Esperanza had choices to make. Should she aim to collapse out in the street, where others would see her? Or would that land her directly in prison… or worse? Would it be better to collapse near a house? Or would the house happen to be the home of the head of the group trying to kill her? She couldn’t hear the footsteps behind her anymore, luckily, it seemed her pursuers had lost track of her, but that still left her with the problem of her injury, and the fact that she could tell she was going to black out. Decisions, decisions, but the world was turning gray, then black around the edges, and she could feel the blood from the bullet wound running down her arm, and before she had a chance to really make up her mind, she was falling onto the porch of one of the identical, gray houses before passing out entirely.
Warmth. Something warm and wet and comforting against her arm. Pain, but warmth. Where was she?
…There had been a boy. A little boy, playing in the street. There had been a little boy, playing in the street outside of the storage cellar where she had been hiding out. He was a Classification 3, she could tell… that’s right, she could tell from the number on the back of his school shirt. Bright red hair. Playing in the street. That’s right.
Then what had happened? There had been Maintainers of Public Order… two of them. Yes. There had been two of them, with those magnalights they used now, for both flashlights and clubs, weapons. They had approached the child, casting their long, dark shadows over him, and told him it was illegal to play in the street. He had looked up from his seat on the hard gray asphalt at the men, teary eyed. Yes, she remembered, she could see it all from the bushes behind which she was hiding. She had been on her way out for food. That was right. When she had seen it.
He had looked up at the officers and explained how his house was too small, that his mother would not allow him to play inside. He had asked, couldn’t he please stay there, since he was out of the way? But, she remembered, the officers had laughed at the poor child, called him a few cruel names, and insisted that he move.
Anger had boiled inside her, but, she remembered, she hadn’t moved then. She kept herself from doing anything drastic; she knew that she had to protect her hiding place. She bit her tongue, clenched her fists, tried to turn away, but couldn’t.
The boy had begun to get up, but lost his balance and fallen. The officers had barked at him to hurry up, to get out of the way, and at this, the boy began to cry. Aureliana’s heart wrenched, but she still had managed to stay put. She had to, she remembered telling herself.
But then, when the boy stumbled again, one of the officers had lashed out in his impatience, hitting the boy with his magnalight, knocking the child off the street and onto the sidewalk. The child let out such a pathetic shriek of pain that Aureliana could remain hidden no longer.
As the officers continued to batter the boy, the gray of their weapons turning red with blood, Aureliana had yelled to get their attention… Yes, she had called out her name, she remembered, and when they realized who she was, they had chased after, leaving the poor boy. She had run, knowing she couldn’t return to her hideout now. What she hadn’t realized, she remembered, was that the officers had guns, as well.
She had, luckily, been rounding a corner when they fired the first shots. But she had known that once fire was involved, flight was much more risky, and so had cut through a side-road towards the residential areas, where she would have more places to hide. As she had been jumping a fence… yes, she remembered now. It was a fence, and as she had been jumping over, she had lost her balance, and that was when she had been hit.
Hit. In the arm. Where it hurt. Yes. But… where was that pleasant warmth coming from?
Aureliana’s eyes snapped open and she sat bolt upright, looking around frantically. Her eyes adjusted quickly to the gray lighting, and she took in her surroundings. She was in an unfamiliar home accompanied by an unfamiliar person dressed all in gray. On her guard, she tensed before realizing that her wound had been tended, her tan skin cleaned of the dried blood and wrapped up. Still, that didn’t necessarily say anything, and so she looked around again, trying to spot any near exits, before addressing her assumed caretaker. “Where am I?”
“Relax,” came the reply, the person seeming at a loss for words, but Aureliana did not relax. Though her perhaps-rescuer seemed confused, indecisive, not about to kill her or hand her in, she didn’t want to let her guard down. However, she listened at a continuation: “I’ve cleaned up your wound. You were hit pretty badly, but it seems you were lucky. May I ask what happened?”
She looked into those gray eyes, over the neatly combed hair, the perfectly wrinkle-free gray shirt, the shined black shoes warily. This person certainly seemed entirely law abiding, but looks could be deceiving. She was deliberating what to say when suddenly, she was recognized.
“You’re… you’re the known revolutionary, 3 46363 747, who goes by the name Aureliana Ferdinanda Esperanza! You—what are you—" It seemed the do-gooder had not recognized her, but now she would find out: was this person really good or bad? For the government or against it? Would she be helped or have to fight her way out? Even her host didn’t seem to know however, and looked distinctly caught in an internal struggle. Aureliana waited, and was about to consider saying something when she was surprised with: “I won’t turn you in.”
Her rescuer seemed as surprised as she was to hear these words, or possibly more so, and she couldn’t help but be suspicious of the whole thing. This person seemed to have no idea what was going on, not even knowing who Aureliana was and then declaring that she was safe. Everything about the dress, the hair, the being of this particular person besides facial expression so struck her as neat and orderly and perfectly legal and non-indicative of a rebel-supporter that Aureliana couldn’t believe it. “What is your motivation?” she asked carefully.
Silence for a moment. Then: “My name’s Carraway. I’ll set you out tomorrow, somewhere no one will see you. Then you’ll be on your own.”
That didn’t answer the question, and she raised an eyebrow. She still didn’t understand this “Carraway”s motives, and she wouldn’t be so easily trusting. After all, she had learned from years on the run, on the top ten most wanted list. Not everyone who said he or she wanted to help really did want to help. So Aureliana asked a simple question: “Why?” Carraway’s answer should be revealing enough that she could make a decision on whether to stay or make a run for it.
“I—I just don’t want to have anybody die. That’s all.”
At this, Aureliana was moved. Certainly, this person wasn’t an activist or a rebel, but she could respect a person who wanted to avoid bloodshed. That was better than most in this brutal society, where the Maintainers of Public Order were legally encouraged to murder rebels on sight, where officers assaulted children, where those of a higher Classification had legal sanction in “incidents” involving those of a lower Classification. Lowering her guard, she nodded. “All right. You’ll have to excuse my manners, but I never know who I can trust. Thank you for your hospitality.”
Carraway simply shrugged with a shake of the head. Aureliana assumed that the whole event was overwhelming, as it would be to anyone, she supposed, to find a rebel on his or her doorstep. Remembering that Carraway had asked what happened, she continued.
“As to what happened…I’ve been hiding in a storage cellar for some time, but today, I happened to see some officers harassing a little boy who was playing in the street. They were telling him that he was breaking the law, and when he didn’t leave the street quick enough, they started beating him with their magnalights. I couldn’t tolerate it—I guess it was stupid, but I went out after them. Of course, when they saw me, they chased me down…” She shrugged. “I have to find someplace new to stay now.”
Silence again. She was really beginning to wonder what went through Carraway’s head in these long pauses, but decided that it wasn’t really her problem, and she didn’t have much of a choice but to accept that this was Carraway’s natural way of handling things. Aureliana was again wondering if she should say something to perhaps snap her host out of the deep state of thought when a response came. “I’ll let you on your way tomorrow morning, Miss.”
She laughed at the formality, shaking her head and leaning back against the couch. “Don’t be so formal! Call me Aureliana. There’s a reason I dropped all those numbers, you know. Everyone here’s all the same, but me, I’m going to make a difference. I’m not a number. I’m a person.”
Carraway said nothing, again seeming lost in thought. But this time, before turning and leaving, her rescuer looked back at her, meeting her eye. “Good night, Aureliana.”
She had thought, when she had first woken up, that Carraway’s eyes were a dull gray, but now, it seemed that perhaps they contained a bit of the lightest blue. Aureliana smiled at Carraway’s back before lying back down on the couch and once more releasing consciousness and drifting into darkness.
Aureliana was pleasantly surprised by Carraway’s kindness to her the next morning; after offering her clean clothes, which, belonging to her host and thus being gray and white, would hide her identity well enough, she was given a warm, if gray and tasteless breakfast before the two set out. The plan was to head for the busiest part of town, the commercial area, and there, Carraway would leave her to find someplace new to hide. No one was likely to recognize her with her colorful clothes absent and her long, untamed hair pinned up beneath a hat. She could slip away effectively, hide beneath the shadows until she could come up with a way to clear them.
A bit of a chill hung in the morning air, but Aureliana hardly noticed. She had seen much worse in her days of living as a fugitive, and she had a positive feeling now, anyway. The sun shone out brightly, and even the grayness of the city streets seemed more lively in the light, the dullness of the houses and the yards more vibrant now, not cloaked by the shadow of night. Aureliana walked briskly beside Carraway, a bit of a skip in her step, excited to be alive, to be free. It was moments like these that kept her going, that inspired her to fight another day, so that everyone in this godforsaken nation could experience true happiness, true life. She longed to paint this street lamp red, that street sign green, but her days of color-vandalism had come and gone. She’d think of something even bigger, even grander, something that would really further her cause.
She had agreed with Carraway, earlier, before they left, that she would tell no one of their meeting. It seemed fair; Carraway really had rescued her, and it would really be unfair of her to mention anything to anyone, no matter how grateful she was, since it might end up, in some accident, with her rescuer being arrested and imprisoned, or even executed. And Carraway had promised not to tell anyone about her, about her whereabouts or what had happened to her. It was more than a fair trade, Aureliana thought, and she really was grateful to Carraway, at whom she glanced now, smiling to herself.
They walked on into the morning, and all was going well. The streets were sparsely populated because of the time of day, and Aureliana was really beginning to let her guard down when, all of a sudden, something slammed loudly behind her, and she jumped, startled, before taking off full speed. She told herself it was nothing, but her nerves kept her running, down the block, around the corner, barely hearing it when Carraway called after her. She stared at the gray cement beneath her feet, trying to hide her face, her fugitive’s instinct taking over. She needed to hide, she needed to get out of plain sight.
She continued to careen down the street until she noticed a looming figured move to block her path, and came to a screeching halt, finally looking up to see the black eyes of a man whom she vaguely recognized to be with the Maintainers of Public Order. In the sudden movement, her hat had fallen from her head, and her face no longer obscured by shadow, was thrust into revealing light. In a moment, she could tell she, too was recognized, and braced herself as the man spoke. “You have some nerve to even be showing your face in public, let alone charging through a nice, neat neighborhood like this one, 3 46363 747!”
She took the tone that she always used with law enforcement officers, a haughty one of disrespect. “That’s Aureliana Ferdinanda Esperanza, if you please!” She wouldn’t stand to be called that atrocious number, not even if she were to meet her death.
The officer laughed at her sneeringly, and she glared as he responded. “Really,” he said condescendingly, “Why must you insist on calling yourself such unusual, cumbersome names? The numbers work so much better. Now, you still haven’t told me what in the President’s name you’re doing here!”
She scoffed, noting that he was just like any other nameless face in this country, mindless, authority-worshiping, and completely against any change. She noted, too, that he was egotistical, and realized that he must be a Classification 5, the sort who looked down on anyone he considered beneath him, and those were the type she hated the worst. Temper flaring, she shot back, "Excuse me for wanting to be an individual, I forgot it was a crime here. Now I don't have time for nobodies like you, so why don't you just step aside? Who knows, maybe then you'll have done something useful in your life." With that, knowing that escape was her only option, she burst into a sprint again, aiming around the officer. Hope was only just beginning to build inside of her; however, when she heard a resounding bang and then felt the sharp, searing pain she knew all too well shoot through her back. She stumbled, fell to the ground, aware only of her own warm blood drenching her body and the terrible, piercing pain. The world was beginning to go dark at the edges again, shadows were closing in around her, but she got the feeling that, this time, she wouldn’t have a chance to see the sunlight again.
It was rainy again the following morning when a local newsstand owner opened shop for the morning. Under the shadowy dry comfort of his awning, he looked over the day’s paper as he set it out on the racks. “3 46363 747 EXECUTED! PRESIDENT COMMENDS CAPTAIN 5 69785 426 FOR A JOB WELL DONE,” the headlines blared. His interest piqued, the newsstand owner took one of the papers out of the stacks and read over the cover story, wondering what rebel had been killed. Even though he was an avid follower of the news, being a newsstand owner, he had some difficulty remembering the numbers that corresponded to the different criminals. He figured it was because he was getting old, but sometimes he had a sneaking suspicion it was because he was only a Classification 3. His brother, a Classification 4, had always been brighter than he. But either way, now, as he read about the daring appearance of 3 46363 747 in public and how she attempted to escape, he couldn’t remember which noted criminal to which the newspaper referred.
He sat for a few minutes feeling irritated as he tried to remember the face that corresponded to the number, but then he got a better idea. All of those rebels always took on strange, long names by which they wanted to be called, and those were easier to remember. He opened the newspaper again, to where the article was continued on page A4, and began to scan through, to see if he could find her pseudonym listed anywhere, so he could better visualize what had happened, and so that he could gossip with the other newsstand owners on the street later.
But no matter how hard he looked, he couldn’t find her name mentioned anywhere.
...I think my icon is appropriate. XD;;;