The streets of Seldon Valley was busy every single day. Enchanted customers made their way to and from the spurious stalls that were set up by dubious people that made up a quarter of the whole town; and Seldon Valley was not your typical grocery stop. But nevertheless, the town was always bustling with disappearances or a wanted criminal’s capture posted on the daily newsletter written by the one and only Audrey Williams. She, unlike most of her neighbours, was always thrilled to sit by the window in the corner of her favourite cafe, run by a very handsome man, who also happened to be the person Miss Williams had fallen for. Despite the fact that she had been going to that same cafe for over a year now, and that this man had been working here for at least six months, the woman still did not know his name.
Miss Williams, as much as she wanted to, could not afford to even attempt to flirt with the man, which was quite ironic; her friends who she met with every weekend always pushed her to go for it. Apparently she would have nailed it because of her stunning looks, which in Miss Williams opinion, was average. Regardless, she still went to the cafe to write down anything she could find (and she wouldn’t deny that a certain somebody was always written about in her journal). Miss Williams enjoyed journalism, which was one of her favourite hobbies coincidentally. Each page of her journal was always filled with different coloured inks, writings, findings, and even scraps of her serviettes covered in dorky doodles she drew for that hour in the cafe. Most of them were filled with her romantic dreams (which she found rather embarrassing to show to others).
Everything seemed to be fine on Monday in Seldon Valley. Mr and Mrs Crooks were fighting like usual in front of the vintage shop owned by one of the student’s parents who used to attend the same university as Miss Williams did. The woman’s sharp, gazing eyes darted around the streets of Seldon Valley like normal, seeking for any new information to write down into her journal as she made her way back to apartment 101. As her thirsty eyes looked for news to quench themselves, Miss William’s eyes set upon something peculiar. Something like never before, something that did not belong in the streets of Seldon Valley. But everything was always fine and belonged to Seldon Valley, so why didn’t this one?
Covered in greasy bruises, cuts and bandages, with hair as dark as the night sky of Seldon Valley’s twilight. It covered its owner’s eyes, which Miss Williams was somehow managed to spot gazing to the ground. They were shivering badly, only sporting a white, dirty singlet and grey shorts that looked like they hadn’t been washed for weeks. There was a horrid stench coming from the person, and it was then when Miss Williams realised that this mysterious person was sitting beside the rubbish bins. Covering her nose to rid of the nasty scent, Audrey Williams made her way slowly toward this youth.
“Excuse me,” Audrey said warmly. “I wouldn’t recommend you to be sitting beside our bins. They stink. A lot.”
The feral boy did not look back at her, but instead continued to look down at the ground by his feet. “How did you notice me?” He soon said. “I was convinced I looked like these garbage bags here.”
Audrey blinked, dumbstruck. This boy, most likely seven to eight years younger than her, despite looking like the homeless, did indeed have bad attitude. She was definitely sure this young man was not part of these towns, as he was clearly not familiar with the people here.
“Our people here are not really careful around others,” Audrey told him. “It’s also quite hard to spot you in such a location; you’re quite lucky to be found by me. Here, let me help you.” She pulled out her hand for him to take. The boy glanced over his shoulder, the sensation of his soft breathing against her palm sending chills down her spine. Miss Williams was sure that she didn’t plan to be helping what seemed to be a homeless boy on the streets of Seldon Valley, nor did she expect the boy to reluctantly take her hand and get up. She could now see his face properly, as his hair had been pushed back by the evening wind of the chilly town.
Just as the boy got up, he winced and covered his arms with his hands almost subconsciously. It was then when Audrey found her eyes set upon severe cuts and wounds that were still open to the stinging air. She briskly took off her fur jacket and placed it over the young man’s shoulders to keep him warm, even though she had just bought the jacket a mere week ago (and from a designer shop). Audrey wanted to ask ‘why’, and ‘how’, but couldn’t bring the courage to do so. Instead, she simply began to walk.
“Come on,” she ushered him over, glancing around to find judging eyes piercing her whole soul. “Don’t just stand there- here, put your arm around my shoulder.” She helped the limping boy down the street, huffing herself. She couldn’t believe that the boy right next to her was able to survive in such cold weather. She could finally feel the strong winds hitting her like a truck, now that she was exposed to nature without her jacket.
It was an awkward walk, with no talk whatsoever. Miss Williams no longer cared that people were watching her, whispering or even giggling; she knew she was doing something right, something no one else would have bothered to do. But she did wonder who this boy was, and what he was doing here.
“Obviously… I’m sure you’re not from this place, are you?” she started, looking down at the boy. “Where exactly are you from?”
“I can’t say,” he rasped, avoiding her welcoming gaze. “What’s it to you, anyway?”
Miss Williams pursed her lips. Judging by his heavy accent, the boy wasn’t from this estate or even the governing city. He had either travelled on foot all the way to her town…
“Did your parents tell you not to talk to strangers?” Miss Williams chuckled, trying to lighten the mood. At the moment, nothing was really helping to make the boy open up to her. Yes, she definitely wanted to help him, it was more like an essential that an option. She couldn’t just leave him there to freeze to death as the mighty winds of the city blew past them.
“Why do you care so much about Papa?” he grumped, tugging at her jacket fiercely. He stopped midway, at least a metre or two away from Miss Williams. “Why don’t you just leave me alone and take your stupid jumper… jacket or whatever!” He dropped the fur jacket onto the stone ground, running away. As he did, his bare feet stepped into a puddle and splashed everywhere, not sparing Audrey’s jacket.
“Little boy, little boy!” Miss Williams ran after the kid, forgetting about her expensive jacket. She effortlessly jumped over a long piece of timber that had been dropped by a startled lumberjack. “Please, your wounds! They’re open and bleeding!”
But that did not stop the feral child. He continued to flee, flee away from the noise of the city, flee from the danger lurking in the alleyways of the streets, flee from Audrey and anyone who would’ve helped him (though he doubt anyone beside that woman did). He still managed to take another few steps despite his wounds, that began to bleed profusely. At last, the pain sent shockwaves throughout his whole body, and the boy collapsed to the ground, panting heavily. His hands were coated with his blood as he clutched onto his ribs in agony. Tears swelled around the corners of his eyes as they threatened to pour. But he couldn’t cry, now wasn’t the time. There was something far more important to do than cry because of a silly wound to his ribs. The feral child attempted to get up once again but failed miserably as another wave of sharp pain dug into his ribs like a dagger. And so he screamed. He screamed so loud that he was certain that the people twenty stories above from the apartments above could hear him. He screamed like there was no tomorrow. But not only because of the pain but…
“Little boy, your ribs… “ a shaky voice gasped. Audrey dropped herself to the ground beside the boy, rubbing his back. “Please, let me help you.”
“No!” He yelled at her, shuffling away in a ragged motion. He gritted his teeth like an aggravated dog. “Stay away, don’t come near me!” But the boy had not been able to convince the journalist. His eyelids drooped down dangerously, until all he was, was an unconscious body.
* * *
Sounds flushed in and out of his ears like the waves crashing on the shore of the beach. The sound of a monitor beeped rhythmically to his own heartbeat. His muscles throbbed painfully as they ached to move.
“You’re awake,” a melodic voice spoke. A white light shone like the gateway to heaven. As his burning eyes adjusted to this light, the boy saw a figure looming over him like a hovering dragonfly. “Please do not try to overexert yourself, your wounds are quite severe,” the voice said just as the feral boy attempted to sit up. He winced in pain and gave up, slumping into his pillow much like a withering flower.
“Who are you, and where am I?” He said to the voice.
“In Seldon Hospital, deary,” the voice said to him. “A young woman dialled the ambulance because she found you on the streets, unconscious.”
The feral boy immediately knew who this young woman was. He frowned at the thought, the heart monitor beeping more rapidly now.
“And what is your name, deary?” The boy could now see the voice’s owner more clearly. She was most likely in her middle ages, clad in the typical nurse’s uniform.
“Why do you want my name?” He said dubiously.
“For the records, dear. I need the patient’s name in order for them to be recorded in the hospital.”
“Willow,” the boy said slowly. “My name is Willow.”
The feral boy heard several pen scribbles against the roughly textured paperboard. Losing interest of the nurse, who had eventually left his room, Willow looked up at the IV drip that connected to his arm. Somehow, he felt no pain, his whole body numb.
“Oh my Lord, young boy,” Willow moaned as he heard who it was. He rolled his eyes as Miss Williams entered the room. “I’m so glad you’re okay. You collapsed, hardly breathing, and- and… so much blood was lost!”
“Yeah, yeah,” Willow waved the arm he could use dismissively. “I’m used to it- Papa taught me how to deal with it.”
“Your Papa… where is he right now? I can get him to take you home-”
“NO!” Willow’s face flushed, but he wasn’t sure if it was either from the sudden outburst or from the heat he was feeling from being under heavy blankets. “No, Papa doesn’t need me right now. I’m getting him something from here- this place, whatever it’s called.”
“What are you getting? If you want, I can get it for you instead.”
“I don’t need your help,” Willow snarled at Audrey, his fists clenching beneath the bed sheets. “I can get it myself, I’m capable of doing that.”
“Right, of course. But please let your wounds heal first- little boy!” Audrey shrieked as she saw Willow rip the IV drip out of his arm. Barely flinching, the feral boy stumbled off the bed and was about to leave, until Audrey stopped him. “You can’t go out yet! Little boy!”
Willow shook off Miss Williams’ hand angrily and stomped away. “Leave me alone- and my name isn’t ‘Little Boy’, it’s Willow!” He growled, beginning to run out of the small hospital.
“Willow! Wait, please!”
Ignoring Miss Williams’ desperate pleas to stop, Willow continued to run. He winced as he felt the stitches in his rib stretch rather painfully. Going back to what he had said before he left, Willow mentally facepalmed. Why did he tell her his name? Papa always told him to never get help from strangers, so why did he listen to that woman? He covered his palm in his face as he ran across the nighttime streets of Seldon Valley. At last, he found the place he was looking for- the Pharmacy.
“Papa…” Willow panted, slowly making his way up to the front entrance. “I’m finally here. Here to help you live.”