Death on the Fly (pt 1)

May 3, 2010
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I sat, my back to the damp tiled wall my eyes to the cracked and bubbling paint on the ceiling, the faint and fading scent of bleach in my nose. This was the room I had chosen to live in out of the dozen in the building.

It wasn’t that the bathroom was particularly safer or cleaner; it was the knowing. Knowing that everywhere else in this house there would be a reminder of what I didn‘t have, a family.

The room was dirty, high dusty cobwebs swayed above as I leaned to shut the loose door, whether it was from me or from time I didn’t know. I pulled a ragged blanket from the darkness and braced myself against the heavy porcelain tub. It would be coming any second now and finally for the first time I was resigned to my fate.

I had seen them gathered outside the abandoned building before I had entered and I knew what they meant. Death.

I had heard about them on the streets nearly two years before when the first lives had been taken; when I had lived in the alleyways behind the theatar strip. They were the reason the baker had died, I had noticed, he had given me leftover crusts and then suddenly they had been gone. And so had he.

They had seen me, they’re beady black eyes attentive but they’re birdlike-bodies still. So like other birds but not. They were only messengers of a sorts, following the orders of the Magistar. And he knew what we didn’t, our last minutes. That’s why they were called the Magistar’s Crows or Crows for short. It was said they might as well be the reason that you die because they were known to eat your body once your soul had left it.

I had no doubt that they were here for me, I hadn’t eaten in nearly in week except for an apple core I had found on the sidewalk several days ago and I hadn’t drank anything not including from the rain gutter on the corner.

Since the Magistar’s appearance and first speeches people had slowly stopped giving to the poor but even without that I could have still survived. No, it was when the main households began to incinerate they’re garbage that I had known I would be fighting for my life.

He had said initially that he was cleansing the world and then the senators had begun to disappear. He had said he was just a messenger of Death with messengers of his own. But I hadn’t really believed him, people were still dying without having seen the Crows. But that was then, now they did.

I closed my eyes harder and tried to blend into the cold white shape. I was resigned but that didn’t mean I wasn’t afraid. I had no idea how I was going to die.
I was just starting to relax when it happened though it wasn’t how I had expected it to be.

I had imagined Death twenty times each second that I had known it would be coming. It was slow gentle footsteps gathering in sound as it tunneled right to my door creaking, suspenseful.That was Death. How could this high voice and hurrid feet pulling open the doors searchingly be Death. But how could it not be?

The door slammed open and I caught my breath.

“Don’t kill me, I swear I’ll do whatever you want.” I rushed as the shadowy figure brushed by the setting sun stepped forward for me. So much for being resigned to my fate.

“What the hell yous talking about Kholi?” A flashlight clicked on and when my vision cleared before me I sighed. It was just Yvona, another street girl I didn’t much care for. But if anyone could scare Death away it would be her.

“What do you want Yvona, I haven’t any food.”

“No, I got us a gig. Heres it; Old Man Hodges just died. Hes got a full fridger in his basement. Comes we got to go fore the others hear.”

“No, I got the Crows outside my door Yvona. Food isn’t going to help me now.”

“Kholi,” Yvona whined grabbing my blanket and throwing it away, “thems be for Old Man Hodges. Now come with me or I’ll go and get somes other streeter.”

I allowed her to help me to my feet and I followed her out into the street but I couldn’t help but wonder if the Crows had really been for Old Man Hodges, they had looked right at me. Knowing in some way.

We glanced around and then ran up the steps of the home of Old Man Hodges sneakily like the stealing children we were. The door was open and we rushed in picked our way over the dead man and attacked his fridge.

That’s how we survived these days, watching the Crows and when they left raiding the houses of the desceased. No one really cared, people seldom came to retrieve their dead family members once they realized they were no longer living. In fact people were seldom buried these days as well, there was still a skeleton in the kitchen of the house I was using. It might have been Ms.Sanders or Mr.Loasty but I can’t remember anymore.

The fridge door opened heavily letting a huge blast of cool air escape into our faces and then with delight, the food. Long plastic packages of sliced bread, a bright bag of lemons, a Styrofoam case of eggs, peanut butter, chunks of marinaded ham, and so much more. We grabbed pillocases from the old man’s bed and stuffed them, moving from the fridge to the pantry where the more valuable longer lasting food was kept. Satisfied we had saved all that we could we snuck out the back way and over the fence into a nook beneath an upturned wheelbarrow in Cobbler’s District.

Eating the refrigerated foods where now on the top of the adgenda as they would soon expire. Some ham, a pear, and two lemons later I sat staring at the case of eggs.

“Have you ever ate them before?” I asked Yvona hesistant. I had heard of eggs but I had never actually come across them, even people who had money nowadays tended to stay away from them because they were said to be wasteful. The chicken that would come from the egg would be a better feast.

“Ach, you just crack and slurps. Don’t eat the outsiders theys make you sickesys.”
She broke one to demonstrated the watery inside dripping down her face. “It be’s an acquired taste.”

I held one up and shook it wondering if one day people would find a way to eat human eggs; anything was possible these days. I broke the shell against the wood of the wheelbarrow and held the shattered piece to my mouth waiting… but nothing fell into my mouth. I pulled the shattered piece from my lips and pried open the edges with my ragged fingernails.

“Yvona, there are never empty eggs are there?”

“I shouldn’t knows I’ves only hads them once another times.” She replied peering into the empty desolate shell. I shrugged abandoning the egg container and grabbing the bread bag.

“I thinks we should speaks to the Marmu.”

“Yvona, it was just one egg,” I said, “I’m sure the other ones are perfectly fine.”

Yvona grabbed the carton and broke the rest of them open. Out of the seven that had been three others were empty.

“Its not rights.” She said standing and dropping all the food to the ground. “We’s got to speaks to the Marmu…” Yvona backed up into the road earnestly beckoning.

Just then a loud shot erupted around the corner and I crawled slightly out from underneath the wheelbarrow to look. Yvona’s head turned wildly as a huge black machine ricocheted off the curb and abruptly headed toward us without stopping. I dropped back into the dark.

“Yvona, get out of the way we‘ll go to the Marmu soon.” No reply. I peered out again as the thing sped down the street. “Yvona, the Magistar’s voiture stops for no one…” I warned as she stared at it. Slowly her head swivled to look at me.

“It was him Kholi, it musts have beens him…” Was all she got out as suddenly the machine revved faster in its eagerness to come near and smashed unsolicitly into her side.

I felt my jaw drop open. She hadn’t moved.

“Marmu…it happened right there in front of me. I didn’t know what to do.”

“Kholi…” The great lady from the slums warned her metal bracelets jingling harshly around her heavy wrists. The Marmu was said to have once been a rich woman from another province who was so struck by the destitute children in the city that she had sold everything and stayed to help the poor. I didn’t know how true that was but I did know that she was probably the only person who could help Yvona now.

I had been so surprised that Yvona had lived that I had nearly forgotten the way to the Marmu, I had left her and stumbled through the districts of the city for about a half hour before I regained my senses.

“Will she live Marmu?” I whispered tilting my head past her black braids and the swinging gypsy charms attached to it that many children gave as payment for help when nothing useful can be found.

“I cannot tell for I do not know the speed of impact…”

“Yvona!” I wailed desperately grabbing at the unconscious figure on the mat behind her. For I had just had a thought; what if the Crows had been for her? She had spent many a night in the living room below me though it was not in any way a permanent location. I shouldn’t have listened when she had insisted that the Crows were for Old Man Hodges, if they were his they would have been directly in front of his own home and not in front of mine. His would have left hours before I entered the building so I wouldn’t have seen them.

The Marmu grabbed my shirt and pulled me outside of the shack. She squatted to my height and pursed her lips.

“Kholi, I cannot have you yelling, you know I am on this land illegally. I will do all I can to help Yvona but I need you to leave.”

“But Marmu,” I cried, “I can’t leaves, it was my fault.”

“Shut your mouth child.” She accosted reminding me why I hadn’t wanted to come see her when we had found the empty eggs and why I had decided to not tell her even now. “If you refuse to do what I ask of you maybe you will do better to hear it from the bones.”

I looked at her wildly and tugged at her grip on my arms.

“I canna… I canna; get offs me…” I struggled with her stronger arm as she tugged me to a nearby tent considerably smaller and shorter than the shack.

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