by Nick Rolynd
(For the third donor in my Cambridge Donation Campaign, who gave $5.00 on 2/29/12.)
The train speeds along at 400 ligues per hour, the plains zipping by so quickly the world becomes a blur. It’s like I’m fast-forwarding right to the worst parts, missing the picturesque herds of candas and untouched landscape and being thrust right into the most vicious war Sei’ahno has ever known.
Every step further into Ave’ahla is one more tangle in a never-ending web of deceptions and lies and careful omissions. Bless Shavri’s heart and all, but the Lords are thugs. They have no fear of being ousted without committing a truly heinous crime, and so they push their limits, skirting the thin line between legal and not. Some of them aren’t all bad, but all of them are somewhat bad. They each have a growing pile of things that have been swept under a plush, expensive carpet. And for a few them, the bulge is noticeable.
Tith, if only I could skip Inspection. But last time I tried that, Chiyo-vadne shocked so me hard I–
“Whoa! What?” My hands tighten on the seat grips.
Nama, hunched forward, taps his fingers on his pants leg. “Nice trip?”
“To outer space?”
I kick him. “Screw you.”
He snorts. “Stuff of nightmares, those old bags, eh, pretty boy?”
“Shut up.” I cross my arms. “And don’t call me that.”
He smirks. “Ah, there‘s my pretty boy.”
“I am not your fucking–”
The compartment door slides open, revealing a stern-faced Chiyo-vadne. “You shouldn’t yell rude things on a train,” she says, eyes moving from me to Nama, “and you shouldn’t goad people into doing so.”
I try my hardest to shrink into the seat. It doesn’t work. “Yes, Chiyo-vadne.”
Nama nods along.
She doesn’t buy it for a second, but she lets it go. For now. “We’ll be arriving in five minutes. Get your things ready.” She slams the door shut.
A moment of silence.
“I swear that woman gets scarier every year.” He waves his phone around for emphasis.
“At least you don’t live with her.”
“Man, your life does suck.”
I kick him again. “Thanks for reminding me.” My head lulls, landing on the cool window. I’m not even in the city yet, and I’m already exhausted.
“It’ll be all right, Narksis.”A shiver creeps up my spine. Nama probably doesn’t realize it, but he only uses that tone when nothing will be all right. “It always is.”
I feel the rain again, that freezing rain.
Always doesn’t mean forever.
The train whips around the worn mountain range that flanks Ave’ahla, and there it is. The five Kohn Business towers gleam in the midday sun, one hundred twenty-five stories high. Each tower is surrounded by historical buildings–the Lord Hall, built two thousand years ago, the National Archives, eighteen hundred, the Library of Arts, seven hundred. The list goes on. Some of them are blocked from view by their modern counterparts, grandiose metal spires interwoven with worn gold gargoyles and once-brilliant marble.
Five thousand years.
Five thousand years of history and building and business and development and change and growth and setbacks and hopes and dreams and failures, every single one on every single street of the city. Everything. Everywhere. All at once.
And holding it all in place, guarding the chaos of civilization from the untouched plains outside it, is a wall. Built two thousand years ago for a war that lasted a decade. And never has a single Lord suggested it be torn down. Just like the Wall. It’s been two thousand years, and every single one of those bastards is just as racist, hateful, and scared as their predecessors.
The architecture tells a story of change. The Lords tell a story of stagnation.
The trains grinds to a violent halt as it zooms through the gate in the city wall, coming to a stop at a crowded platform. Hundreds of people mill about. Most are D-Po or regular passengers. Some are reporters. They know I’m coming. They always know.
I slide my bag out from underneath seat with my foot and give Nama a weary smile.
“Let the games begin.”
[Note: This is the first time I've written anything for Siphen in very long time. And it's still mediocre as can be. Good Lord, if I don't get better, I'll never be able to write this series. -head desk-]