viii. the gallery

She awoke early. The sky was still dark, but it was always dark now. She’d come to accept it, and had even noticed a subtle beauty in the shifting tones of grey threaded through the day. She stoked the fire in the stove and set the kettle to boil. As the air around her warmed, she completed her morning stretches, coaxing the kinks that come with sleep out of her long limbs. Over a meager breakfast of hard biscuits with jam, she tried to read but found herself too anxious about the day ahead. So she drank the last of her tea and prepared to leave. She donned her oilskin slicker and found her umbrella. It rained less now, but sporadic short squalls during the day were still common. She’d reinforced the outside of the umbrella with tin plating to protect herself from the toxic rain. Hearing the raindrops strike the tin pleased her, despite their inherent threat.

She made her way on foot to the city sector where the gallery had been located. It was in the old theater district, where she’d spent many hours during her time at university. She’d been fascinated with the arts, but could never seem to choose just one for herself. While her school friends had been busy auditioning for plays, preparing for recitals, or drawing in the park, she’d been turning the pages of a book. For her, reading was an art, and she worked hard to perfect it.

When she arrived at the correct address, she didn’t recognize the place at first. The gallery was on the first floor of a building that had suffered structural damage from the rain and was now partially caved in. Disappointed, she walked around to the back of the building to see if anyone was around. The entire area looked deserted. But then she saw a small boy picking his way through the wreckage of the caved-in section. She called to him, surprised at the strength of her own voice. He didn’t turn around, but had clearly heard her, for he picked up speed. Craning her neck, she could see where he was headed: a small opening between two falling-down walls that likely led to the alley on the opposite side. She hurried back around front and down the alley, where she slipped in through the gap and called to the boy again. Seeing that she now blocked his way, he stopped and stood still, like a rabbit frozen on an open patch of grass.

“You’re not an orb,” he said.

“No,” she replied.

She wondered if seeing her features had helped put him at ease, since he now showed no inclination to escape.

“Who are you then?” he asked.

“I’m looking for Ana. Do you know her?”

He looked away.

She worried that he would run, so she began speaking faster. It was becoming easier, perhaps because he was a child? She wasn’t sure.

“I’m a friend of hers from university and I need to reach her. It’s very important. Please.”

“How do I know you’re not a destroyer?”

This kid was tough, she thought. Someone had trained him well. She’d expected such resistance, though, and so had brought a small piece of proof with her: a flyer from that last art opening she’d attended. On the back, Ana had scrawled a message thanking her for coming and had even drawn a little picture next to her signed name.

She handed the flyer to the boy. After examining it closely, he slipped it into the satchel slung across his chest. He gazed up at her for several moments before speaking again.

“Go to the loading dock of the old post office at noon tomorrow. I will show her this and tell her you want to see her. If she decides to meet with you, she’ll be there.”

And then he was gone, through the gap and down the alley, back to his people.

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3 Comments

  1. I’m glad you’re here again today.

    Reply
  2. taidgh

     /  July 16, 2012

    A speedy post indeed. I wasn’t expecting to see a new chapter so soon. A welcome surprise. I eagerly await the next part. Keep it coming.

    Reply

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