fells; gate || sequence_1.01_kali

©2022 Michael Raven

Everything was grimy wherever Kali looked, but she had no other frame of reference. The Sprawl had been grimy the day Kali’s mother had issued the child from her loins and no one in Lowertown had seen fit to spruce the place up since then. As such, Kali did not know anything else.

Grime had always been her reality. There were many days in the cavernous wastes of the Sprawl’s underbelly where the sun didn’t even reach the streets, where nights bled into days in the ever-present haze of overhead smog and soot, resulting in the grime blending with shadow and the overhead flicker of the ad-scrapers was never enough to chase away the gloam. And so, it was with a blind eye that she viewed the filth and refuse of Lowertown, with eyes straining beyond the shambles and mounds of detritus for something different in that tangled undergrowth of an aging city slowly succumbing to a return to dust. Different was where the skeppa were. Different was often something the hawkers of the Night Market would look at twice and, more often than not, offer at least a pittance in exchange for whatever salvage Kali might have brought to trade. Skreppa meant food, and Kali was hungrier than hell after however many cycles had turned since she had last eaten.

A rat skirted along the crease where the footings from the city buildings met the cluttered remnants of streets. She ignored it. Kali had not grown so hungry as to lower herself to eating rat, and it would be a desperate day indeed when she might ever entertain such an option.

“Doncha eat no rat. Evar, girly-girl. An’ doncha eat food from none you don’t know an’ trust, ‘kay?” Kali’s mother had emphasized over and over. “You gone eat rat, an’ you gone have th’ Rage, an’ you don’ want none of dat noise, girl. ‘Leave you, me.”

When word came down the street No Name caught Rage, her mother made sure Kali saw what happened when you ate rat.

The man didn’t have a name because he had not lived in Lowertown long enough to be given one. A “Fallen Angel” they called those who came from Hightown. All Fallen Angels were given a new name when they arrived. Using an old name was clinging to a hope you might return to Hightown.

There was no returning.

No Name ate the rat, cooking it over an open fire thinking to burn away disease. Within hours he was a curled fist of cramped agony, guts twisting inside out. Then, the vomiting and spasms began, eventually subsiding as the hours wore on. By nightfall, his eyes had taken on jaundice, with bright red veins throbbing angrily in each clouded, glassine orb.

They shut No Name up in a nearby saferoom “for observation”. Then, the waiting began.

On rare occasions, the Rage would fail to set in and, after a few days, the afflicted could leave confinement. No Name had not been so lucky. After the Rage set in, he went into a murderous rampage, throwing himself headfirst against the room’s wall until he died from his own violence.

Kali’s mother had made her watch it all: from the growing sickness until No Name bashed his skull in hard enough for the brains to leak out. If there was a cure for the Rage, the folks of Lowertown were not included in the messaging. “Don’ eat no rat,” her mother reminded, making Kali watch even as they mopped up the brains.

Kali moved on, eyes scanning the street for salvage.

There was a pervasive darkness and filth that flooded this cornerstone of the Sprawl. As cluttered as it was, there lingered a constant sense of emptiness on the steets. The Forgotten’s population exceeded that of the rest of the bustling Sprawl, from Midtown to Hightown combined; still, the Forgotten had learned invisibility was essential. They found refuge in burrowing deeper into the tunnels and caverns to stay out of sight. The debris-filled streets were long ago impassible, and all of the residents eschewed overground routes, avoiding any chance encounters with joy gangs riding their cycles in search of entertainment in the shape of violence. Anyone foolish enough to leave the caverns beneath the shell of the old city was fair game for the gangers’ depredations.

Alternately, it might be the young elites of Midtown or Hightown, looking for the thrill-kill Hunts they would organize, conducting “pest control expeditions” with the main targets always being Forgotten.

Kali feared both groups less than she feared catching the Rage. She was adept at moving with shadows and neither group had managed to catch sight of her. She had started scavenging topside after her mother failed to come home one night. After a few days alone, she knew she was on her own — her mother dead or run off with a new man.

Kali always kept an eye for where she might hide when the rumbles of either groups’ entry filled the streets. She was small, even for a lifelong Forgotten, and she used her size to her advantage.

She froze midway through a crossroads without names. She had only been topside for several minutes and had found something different almost right away.

However, instead of being shiny or interesting in shape, it was the sound drifting between the buildings that caught her attention. Voices.

Not voices laced with drek-laden street jargon like the joy gangers, nor ones filled with masculine bravado mixed with woots and yelps from groupie tag-alongs like those the Hunters would bring, but voices both calm and distressingly refined by Forgotten standards.

“Are you certain, Lewellyn? Are you absolutely certain that you have the right location? Because, gods damn it, I get tired of your frequent and reoccurring ineptitude of late,” said a woman from around the crumbling brown brick and grey mortar corner of what might have been a storefront before the Sprawl had assimilated these streets.


Changelog

  • “cred” and “credits” changed to “skreppa” (using same word for singular and plural); interchangeable with “scrip” later in story.

10 thoughts on “fells; gate || sequence_1.01_kali

  1. Holy cow this is good! I’m completely sucked into this world and can’t wait to see where you take the story. I love the dialect of Kali’s mother and the story of the rage-it’s giving me a really rich idea of the structure and life of this world. Can’t wait for the next one!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really enjoyed this, Michael. You have set the tone well, I feel, with just enough detail to whet the appetite without swamping the reader with description that can be unveiled as the story unfolds. Same with your characters. I like the nod to how people can ‘fall’ and that there is no hope of redemption – sort of hints that there actually might be.
    One thing I might change is the use of ‘creds’ – sounds a bit like the ‘credits’ which seem to be prevalent in this genre.
    Just a thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you and a good point about the “credits”. I’ll think on how to modify that.

      I’m glad you found it enjoyable. I’m always a bit more nervous about my fiction after a bad experience I had with someone who was supposed to be teaching techniques to improve one’s writing.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Which is ultimately how I think about it now, but the trauma still lingers over a decade later because he was so flip with his, “nononono, that’s no good. That’s not how you do it at all” in front of twenty other people who all smirked because they were not the target of his derision. He had a cadre of his favorites whom he praised up and down that wrote some of the most tepid shite and I thought… This guy has nothing to teach me; he only like the latest flavor-of-the-month “literary genius”. Still… it scarred me.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yeah, I get that, and I understand that it’s difficult to erase such memories. For me writing is it’s own reward – I’d hate it to become a ‘job’, churning out the same old stories with the names and places changed (no authors named here), regardless of the mknetary rewards.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Sometimes I think you and I of a rare breed of people who do it for the sheer bloody joy of writing (with that admission from you). Compensation and recognition is nice, but secondary. As soon as it become a chore, I hate it — which is why I tend to do as you do and not look back once I am done writing something (if I understood a recent comment you made correctly).

              Thanks Chris, I really appreciate your insight.

              Liked by 1 person

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