The Edge (Crossing Over 1)
The place called the Edge wasn’t much more than a rubble strewn empty stretch of rocky ground where the land met the river. On the other side of the water, the gleaming glass skyscrapers of Velo City rose out of the rancid river the way crystals form in nature; tall, sharp and glowing. The dark water stretched about a half a mile between Velo's island city and the Edge, with only one bridge spanning the gap. Older than ancient, it was, made of stone and metal. It still looked passable, but it was no longer crossed. Crossing over from the Edge to Velo City was forbidden so the bridge was heavily guarded. Every night the sun set behind the skyline of the city turning the cold glass skyscrapers into a dark, sparkling silhouette. The looming towers lorded their majesty over the flatness of the Edge, as if to say ‘we are everything and you are nothing’. That’s rather how it felt, actually, if you lived on the Edge.
"Hurry, hurry, it's clear now, hurry, hurry, hurry," the Kid thought to himself as he scurried quickly across the hard baked plane of the Edge. He carried a bulky brown burlap sack, if you could call it carrying, as he barely kept it from dragging on the ground, even as he clutched it best he could with both hands. Small and wiry, the Kid was no more than ten or eleven time-years old, his skin brown from the sun and dirt. A smudged cloth visor hid most of his short black hair and his Asian influenced eyes. His lips parted as he breathed in the hot late afternoon air.
"Hur-ry, hur-ry, hur-ry," he chanted in his brain, marking time with the motion of his feet. He moved with his head down, struggling to pull the heavy sack a bit higher. As he reached the Big Rock, he took a quick look behind him as he went, always a mistake.
Five dark haired, older teens approached from the distance. Their forms moved across the flat brown earth like shadows, dark and angular. Their thin bodies wore ragged clothes, very much like the black cotton fatigues the old soldiers used to wear. But they weren't soldiers. They were unarmed, in fact carried nothing at all and they walked too close together, often bumping and shoving each other. Sweat dripped down the backs of their necks, making clean stripes in the dirt and dust. The wind off the water made their loose clothes whip at their bodies, but it was no relief from the heat. It would take the sun to finish setting to allow the air to cool. That would come soon, the coolness of night, but the darkness would bring other elements, none of them good. The teens saw the Kid and quickened their pace in his direction.
No place to hide. Nothing but emptiness. The Kid let these thoughts float through his brain without slowing his pace. He hurried south, past the Big Rock on the edge of the water, and past the piles of rubble, but the gang moved quickly toward him, shortening the gap. The Kid moved as fast as he could, but he was hindered by the heaviness of the sack, as well as his hunger and fatigue. If only I didn't have this sack, or it was lighter, or for that matter, he smiled, if I wasn't being chased by those gangers. But we need what's in this sack, and its heaviness is a good thing, once I get it home. He clutched the sack ever tighter, and thought without looking back, I can keep ahead of them without letting go.
But those were only thoughts. The gang overtook him suddenly and easily. They quickly separated him from his sack and dragged him inland. They surrounded him, pushed his thin frame back and forth between them, as if making him the game-ball of the day. Laughing, and slapping at his tanned skin, they taunted him without words. He tried to twist away from each hit, attempting escape, his visor slipping off, his loose shirt sliding sideways exposing one shoulder. Each time he almost got away, one of them would grab him and pull him back into the circle. They had him. The darkness of the eastern sky came closer, and the Kid's thoughts drifted. Supper'll taste good tonight back at the Shed, if I could just get there.
Suddenly there was the loud clang of steel against stone. The gangers all stopped moving and looked west. A dark figure was just visible in the dusk, standing to one side of the Big Rock. Details of the silhouette were hard to make out, except for the long steel sword that pointed to the ground and glinted in the last remaining sunlight.
The Kid, now held by only one of the skinny teenagers, tried to wiggle himself loose. What had moments before seemed impossible, slowly became viable. The eyes of the teens facing the figure began to show fear, then panic. The grasp of the teen who held the Kid weakened and he was able to slip free. He ran toward the dark figure, who stood on strong legs, hips distance apart, one hand on the hilt of the long sword, the point resting in the dirt, the other hand on hip.
The gangers slowly gathered themselves closer together, the Kid forgotten, fear hissing in their whispers. Then as if on command, they abandoned the sack and hurried away to the north, in the end stealing nothing but glances behind them.
The sun finally finished setting itself below the skyscrapers and the air quickly turned cool. An evening breeze appeared as if from nowhere, howls of the dogs came closer, and, across the river, Velo City’s lights mocked the night, as darkness came to the Edge.