By S. F. Brooke
Beyond the pale brick homes of the small city that sat nuzzled between the two Hender Mountains laid the undiscovered lands. Even so, the never-ending mazes of escaping never seemed to be possible to navigate. Why live someplace ruled by those with power, when you can redeem your own? This was a quest that Theodore had always dreamed of achieving. However, what loomed over him stood forever in his way. He lived in the City of Dust, trapped forever in the small confines of what little land the gods deemed necessary to survive.
His house, which looked no different from the others, was beyond the temple gates. It sat on a hill, not too far from the market, where most people made barely enough to survive. The house itself sat between two of the same style house, making it rather difficult to find. More than once he had tried to unlock the wrong house.
“I’ll sell it to you, boy. But you must tell no one of my business. Otherwise, I’ll put you in the ground myself.” A man told Theo.
“Thank you, Sir. I will keep my lips shut.” Theodore replied calmly. He had been in this position before. He knew it was best to keep cool. “May those who hold power bless you and your family.”
The man nodded and returned the gesture. Then, he walked off into the dimly lit street that led to the market. Theodore looked down at the item that the man had sold to him. It was a small thing, barely the size of Theo’s palm. It was metallic but had the texture of furs only the higher-ups owned. he stuffed it into his pocket and wandered out of the compact ally and up the street towards the hill his home sat upon. He unlocked his home and dropped his jacket on the chair that sat next to the door. He then took off his shoes, which he placed next to the same chair his coat was now on.
“And where were you this time, Theodore? Nothing suspicious, I hope?” His roommate, Jax called from the kitchen.
“No. Nothing at all. Just took a stroll. that’s all.” Theo muttered as he sat down at the small two-person dinner table.
“In this weather? I don’t believe you.” Jax told Theo as he brought his roommate a cup of hot chocolate. “I won’t be surprised if it snows later.”
Theo nodded and took the mug. It was indeed cold out. Colder than usual. He leaned back in the wooden chair and ran his pale fingers through his golden hair. “I got it.”
Jax lowered his mug of cocoa. “Sorry?”
“I got it.”
Jax leaned forward. “Show me.” His eyes shined with such disbelief that could send even a god to The Underground. Theo pulled the furry object from his pant pocket. He laid it out on the table, so both boys could see. It unraveled, to reveal a small, bug-like creature with six metal legs.
“The key to talking to the Banished Goddess… is an insect?” Jax wondered aloud. Theo nodded in response.
Jax crossed his legs and thought for a while. He sat like this often, and Theo admired how he could sit so still.
“So, how do we use it?” Theo asked finally, breaking the uncomfortable silence that plagued the dining area.
“I dunno. I’ll tinker with it tomorrow. However, it’s almost midnight and YOU need some sleep.” Jax told Theo as he took up the little bug. He turned to go upstairs. “Oh. And don’t forget, your 15th birthday is in a few days.” Jax winked and left the room.
Jax was a few months older than Theodore and also shared the curiosity of the outside world. Theo had always admired him. His Redish hair, his freckles, his beautiful amber eyes, the way his ears were pointed just so, the way he dressed… his gaze was what mesmerized him most. He often found himself staring at Jax. He didn’t know what to do about it, but whenever such feelings surfaced, he tried to push them down.
He too went upstairs, into the bathroom that sat next to the stairs. He brushed his teeth and washed his face, then stared at himself for a good, long minute. He then combed his medium-long hair and turned the light off in the bathroom. Their bedroom, which was across from the bathroom, was tidy, as he often found himself angered with the sight of a messy room. His bed was dressed in white sheets, just like Jax’s bed, which was already occupied by the boy Theo admired so. He changed, and went to bed, thinking about the insect-looking, fur-covered metal creature that was sure to get them out of the City of Dust.
He found himself unable to sleep. This happened often, only this time it wasn’t from the soft snoring that came from Jax’s sleeping figure. He was nervous. He knew that if he and Jax were to be caught, they would face punishment, containment, and eventually death. His mother had fallen to that outcome. At twelve, he had been forced into a home with Jax. Of course, An adult stayed with them until Theo turned thirteen. Then they were considered adults and were left to fend for their own.
Jax was the chaotic one, and often found ways to do things that could get anyone, no matter what position, into trouble. Yet he always got away with it. Theodore on the other hand was rather responsible and took care of most things around the house. Cleaning, cooking, and laundry were all things that he did. Every weekend, the Inspector came to look over the house. If even a single cup were out of place, both Jax and Theo could face a week in containment. That was how strict the City of Dust was. It was normal for people to end up in sticky situations. Life was tough. That’s why the two boys wanted to leave so much.
When he finally fell asleep, he was greeted with the usual dreamless sleep that every citizen in the city saw. Dreams were regulated by gods. Only those with power could have their own little worlds when they slept. If someone who didn’t have power dreamed, then they were to be punished terribly. They were a threat. At least that’s what those with power told those without power.
He was startled to find himself staring at a scene made with his mind, as he slept.
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