This week I was inspired by a picture! It's been a while, but this one just screamed out at me. I hope you like the update to my Wednesday Briefer's flash story.
Fortitude Part Eleven
Not prisoners didn’t mean Anna was just going to let us go. Oh no, that would be too damn simple. There were vague comments about returning our pistols and swords, after a tour of the city. And lunch. And a visit to the nursery to see they had young thriving.
We found Wildman there.
He was not thriving.
They’d cleaned him up and given him fresh clothes. He looked sullen. A guard stood next to the small stool in the corner where he was sulking away from the other kids and teens. A boy was sitting on the floor in front of Wildman, staring up at him, but Wildman stared straight ahead.
I frowned. “Why is he under guard if everyone is free to come and go, without any of the smothering restrictions of the cities?”
Our guide hemmed and hawed, fidgeting with a handkerchief he pulled from his pocket. He waved it, the fabric fluttering. “Oh, just a precaution,” he said in an offhand tone. I didn’t buy it for a second. “Timmel, come over here and say hello.”
The youth in front of Wildman got up reluctantly and came over to us.
“Hello,” Teddy said.
“Hi. What’s your name?” he asked.
“I’m Teddy, and this is Will.”
Timmel looked over his shoulder. “You were with Charlie, when they brought him in.” He looked up at Teddy. “Are you his friend?”
“Well, I think of him as a friend.” Teddy crouched down. “I like making lots of new friends.”
He needed to work his magic, away from the too watchful gaze of our guide. I distracted him by asking questions about the small classroom I could see set up in an adjacent room. He went on and on about the superiority of the knowledge they shared—none of it hidden or secret from the citizens like in the city.
After a while, I’d had all I could stand, and I figured Teddy had gotten what information he could from young Timmel. I pretended to yawn indelicately, letting my mouth gape open.
“Ahem. Perhaps you’d like to return to your room for a bit of a rest? I’m sure you’re still quite exhausted from your travels.”
I nodded. “Yes. This tour was very exciting, and we’re still tired from everything we went through.” I’d done as much as I could to dim my powers, acting nearly as biddable as Teddy really was. Anna had said the cities did away with their betas, to protect their own interests. But if that were so, they didn’t seem to have flocked to the so-called free territory.
Back in our room, Teddy and I curled up on the bed so we could whisper to each other. I hadn’t detected any listening devices, but it paid to be cautious.
“Timmel wants us to take him with us. He knew we’d be leaving,” Teddy said.
“What?” I said it too loud, and Teddy frowned at me. I lowered my voice. “He’s just a child. We cannot be responsible for Timmel. Besides, where would we say he came from when we get home? We cannot afford to stand out, at all, if we’re going to investigate the nobles on the Council.”
“Not Timmel. Charlie. I mean, Wildman,” Teddy said, probably in response to my look of confusion. “That’s his real name. Timmel said Charlie was part of a group of boys, some of the older ones, who lived in the jungle. They roamed free, totally wild, but one by one they’d been civilized by Anna’s free territory dwellers. They were absorbed into families.
“But not Charlie. He refuses to stay, no matter how often they bring him in to clean him up and force him to take medicines. This time, they have a guard on him constantly. Timmel said Charlie won’t do it—he’d rather die than live inside four walls again.”
Anyone who’d prefer to live outside with all the threats—the acid water, the giant birds, not to mention the distinct lack of food—must have a pretty good reason. It was no beautiful landscape with rainbows and sunshine driving away the rain clouds out there. And if he’d escaped that many times, he’d have to know the best way to get out… and maybe even where they’d keep our weapons and packs. I couldn’t see him passing up the chance to get supplies on his way out.
“All right. Here’s what we’re going to do. We take naps now. Tonight, we eat dinner, but stash some food if you can. We’ll sneak out before dawn, when it’s the quietest. Do you know where they’re keeping Wildman?” He wasn’t Charlie to me. Wildman was far more suited to his personality.
Sneaking out of the city was child’s play compared to getting away from the reclaimed building Anna lived in. These people didn’t follow any sort of regimen or schedule. There were guards, but they didn’t follow ascribed paths I could decipher. Fortunately Anna had given us new clothes, even shoes, that were far easier to move about in than our previous wardrobe.
Finally we got to where Timmel had said they had Wildman under lock and key. There was a guard outside the door. Just beyond the door was a light running off a wire tacked to the wall. If I could reach the wire, I could knock out the light.
Then knock out the guard.
I gestured to Teddy, indicating my plan.
He shook his head.
“We have to. I won’t hurt him,” I whispered.
Teddy licked his lips, and then let out a slow, silent breath. He nodded.
A surge of energy, from a simple thought, burst the bulb. “What the hell?” The guard jumped, turning to look up at it. I took advantage of his back being to me, and darted forward, quickly hitting him hard enough his head bounced off the wall.
He slumped to the floor, a wicked red bump on his forehead, but he was breathing normally when I checked.
Hoping there wasn’t another guard inside, I opened Wildman’s door.
Wildman was curled on the floor beside the bed. He looked up at me.
“Want to get out of here?” I asked him.
I hope you enjoyed this week--next week will see the boys back in the thick of things! Now go on and enjoy more flash--cause there are some great updates.