I regret the stubbornness which numbed me and left me unmoved, unable to hear her.
Have you ever noticed how, each time we talk, the subject always changes around changing?
“You asked for new, not original,” Matt said. He had wrapped the same old prose around something fresh. Something different.
Finder was always looking for something new. Pressing against the edge of the old, the familiar, the past.
“This isn’t what I meant?” Finder couldn’t conceal the intrigue. Finder smiled.
“Are you sure?” Matt raised an eyebrow.
“Okay,” Matt sighed, “but you’ve gotta admit. It’s not everyday that some stranger on the internet writes something for you, with you.”
Finder paused. Matt couldn’t tell what Finder was thinking. Whether any of the words he had said or written had landed.
Maybe this wasn’t new. Perhaps this wasn’t for Finder. He had certainly intended it to be.
Yet, as Matt tapped out each half-extinguished word onto his phone, the new quickly slipped away from him. Rusting, rotting, dying.
What was left was, well, nothing, except Finder. And Matt. And that little spark of connection across oceans, across people, across worlds.
Is it late enough to wake you up? Your endless sleep still worries me.
The rain-wet glass looks overcast; Barely a morning to greet you with.
The horizon opens out and stretches wide into that dull and cold unfinished sky.
Does anybody even know what we're searching for? In this wilderness, we are without rules.
And, like aimless rain, we wash the world in a fleeting, half-remembered fall.
“They kill the ratfolk first. If there’s a mix, we’re always the first to go,” Newton said.
He picked at his two front teeth as he spoke, sitting across the kitchen table from his little sister. He hated answering her questions about these things. But she had to know.
She had to know that this was not their world. They just happened to live in it.
Newton spooned another glob of milky broth into his mouth. It tasted grey and gritty.
Of course he had cooked it wrong. With everything else he had to do now, he didn’t have the time or patience to learn how mum used to make it.
“Never think it will end any differently, Kass. Humans kill us. They killed mum. They killed dad. They blamed us for the plague. Never think a human will die before you do.”
She always seemed sad with the truth. Then again, the truth was awful. It was heavy with blood.
In the weak amber light from the stove, her wet pink nose twitched into a fleeting grimace before she silently nodded in acceptance.
Kassil was only young, so she still looked mousy. She had a chance if she stayed like this. Pretty. Cute. Likeable.
Newton hoped he could preserve her. But he knew all too well that the world would make her ugly. Life would matte her hair, crack her teeth and sharpen her claws.
Ratfolk never survive on looks alone.
The spoon made a clattering noise as it dropped into Newton’s empty bowl. He was done.
Done having to wait for change. Done feeling live with anger. Done watching Kass tolerate him and, every night, quietly push her dinner into uneaten neatness.
Newton pushed the table away from him. Kassil jumped. He was predictably unpredictable since Dad had died.
Newton paused. Although he didn’t say it, he told Kassil he was sorry. Again.
He frowned to himself. Lately, life had been an endless stream of apologies. Sorry for getting angry. Sorry for getting sad. Sorry for being sorry.
“Go to bed, Kass.” He tried to fake warmth in his words.
She stood up, straighten her nightclothes and gave him a weak smile. Then she scurried off to one of the bunks.
The stove fire had started to die out. It was now desperately licking at the underside of the cauldron. Its sporadic efforts to reach out, to live on, shifted shadows around the rest of the kitchen.
The darkness moved around Newton with an admirable elegance.
He checked to see if she had actually gone before moving the table. He tried to shift it gently so not to make a noise.
Once it was out the way, he knelt and flicked out a pocketknife. He slid the blade between two of the floorboards and, as his tongue pressed against his upper lip, started to pry the wood away from the floor.
With a numb clunk, the floorboard flicked out and roll onto its side. Exposing a hidden compartment.
He reached in to retrieve a small shard of violet glass. He handled it with care, holding it to the light. Wild wisps of lightning crackled within it. Newton’s face split into a smile.
In his hands, he could feel it. The weight of change.
It was time.
The only way to protect Kass, to protect any ratfolk, was to make the world safe. Remove the threat. Mass extermination.
The end of meaningless ratfolk killings and the start of a humanless world. The effect to the cause.
“If there’s a mix, the ratfolk always die first. If there’s a mix.”