BayStorm (Sample Pages)

Isa huddled close to the stones of the alley. No one seemed to see her here as they strode past in their busy world.

Children ran and played through the streets, but even they ignored the narrow space between two of the shops on the city's main street. Maybe they knew that it didn't go anywhere.

As someone glanced toward the alley she shrank back, burying her face in the dark filth of her shirt. She'd taken it from a dead man close to a year before―he hadn't needed it by that time―and the shoes she'd found in a garbage heap ready to be burned.

It amazed her, the things people threw out.

When she lifted her head the man was gone.

She pulled back into the shadows, squirmed down between the stone blocks lining the street and the bricks that made up the house. The space was small. Perhaps the soil that had once filled it had run off in the spring rains.
But they didn't have spring rains, Isa reminded herself. They didn't really even have seasons, this close to the Demons Bay.

Under the street the space widened just a little, enough for her thin body to curl up in relative safety. The hard soil held up the stones on either side, but the soil at the bottom was spread in hard canyons like the streams of a river when it transformed from river to ocean.

She remembered that, vaguely. In Gealleghe? She'd been there once, and they had a delta. She let the thought go as she gnawed on the hard dry loaf-end she'd found in a refuse bin the night before.

She had to be careful going through the bins. If someone saw her it would start a search of the city and people might be hurt. Best just to walk along the street and take something if she saw it sitting on top of the pile, then go back to whatever hiding place she'd found for the night. If the garbage was kept inside the city it would have been easier, but they took it out and composted it for the farms. The gates were closed at night.

Sometimes there were no hiding places, but she'd found this one close to a moon-cycle ago and no one had found her yet.

Isa jerked upright as feet pounded by in the alley, cracking her head on the stones. She grabbed at it, letting her meal fall in the dirt, and listened with wide eyes to the thunder of feet. Three sets of feet, she thought, and wondered frantically if the stones above her were as secure as they looked.

She shifted as close as she dared to the wall of the building, just in case, and looked up to meet the shocked eyes of someone peering down into her hiding place.

"Hey!" He called out to the others. "I think I found her!"

Careless now of the way the stones might fall, Isa cringed back away from the edge where he knelt on the stones.

A hand touched the edge of the stones, she saw fingers curl around the underside and picked up a piece of broken stone, battering at the fingers. "No! Don't touch me!"

Not again! Not again! She'd promised herself she'd never risk it, but this place had seemed so safe. She'd stayed here too long. Someone had noticed.

The fingers disappeared, and the voice exclaimed over the cuts. Better cuts than―

She forced the memories away. "Don't touch me," she screamed as she saw the stones start to rise. "I'm a carrier!" Others had refused to listen, and died of it.

The stone fell back. Had they heard her? Did they understand what it meant?

She curled up, watching, waiting for them to lift the stones again, but the footsteps retreated hurriedly back toward the street. She swallowed and curled against the hard soil, not quite daring to slip out again. When they came back they would touch her and someone would die.

Her fingers curled around the last of the bread, gathered up the scattered crumbs. She'd rolled over the loaf-end in her urgency.

She waited, half desperate and half hoping. They would return. Would they kill her? Try to drive her from the village? Not the first time, and probably not the last.

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