Take Me Away
Better to die than to give in to the fever
Better to die than live with the pain
Their voices are screaming
Their hopes slowly dying
The child glanced around, both nervous and covert. It was only a piece
of bread, but one had to be careful, adults or guards could be
watching. Or even worse, the others. Best not to steal something the
others wanted, best to keep to the shadows and only pick the small stuff
that no one wanted. Things like himself.
One day, one day, he thought, casually moving closer to the stall in
sync with the crowd. One day Zelgadis isn't going to be some weakling
who can barely keep himself alive, someday I will be strong! When
he was strong he wouldn't have to beg, wouldn't have to rely on
"adults", wouldn't have to risk himself every day just for food. But
Some Day was a false promise with false hopes. Zel had learned that
early. Learned it when no one came for him, when no adult had claimed
him as theirs, when no one and nothing had ever bothered to show him
love or affection. He had stopped wishing for it a long time ago. Or,
at least, that was what he tried to convince himself of.
Zelgadis was a street rat, pure and simple. The streets were his home
and the alleys were his life. There was nothing outside the squalor of
this city and no way he could get out if he tried. He had no money to
get away and no way to get that money. He hated Sailoon.
Just a little closer ... Let the royals tout their lies and fake
promises about Justice and love all they wanted. Those promises had
never helped him, never made the pain less real, or the loneliness less
consuming, never put food in his mouth or protected him from the
others. Their guards were his enemies. They'd kill him if they caught
him. So let them speak, he knew the truth about their "glorious" city.
Gotcha! He carefully snagged the loaf of bread off the stall while
the merchant's back was turned, then melted into the crowd, darting
between people and horse's hooves to a side alley. Safely concealed, he
examined his catch.
Smooth, golden wheat bread - very expensive here. He could feel the
warmth seep into his fingers. Freshly baked too. Zel's mouth watered.
Oh, if only he could eat this ...
Zel looked around from his hiding spot. People surged through the
streets on their morning errands, cloaks held tight around them,
shoulders hunched against the cold wind. Guards bustled by, making way
with their weapons, clearing a path for officials or the wealthy.
Maybe the Red Priest will come today, he thought wistfully. Zel
didn't know much about the man, except he was the only person who had
ever been kind to him.
Out of every child that had flocked to the Red Priest's side that day
long ago, why did he choose him? He was just ... just ... the mouth
curved into a snarl ... trash. Why him, Zelgadis of all people. The
Man had said that he was his grandfather, his family. He had smiled and
dropped a gold coin into Zel's hand and left. If he was family, if he
loved him, why didn't he come for him, why didn't he take him away? Zel
rubbed away the tears as they threatened to spill over his cheeks.
You made my life miserable! You made the others take away your gift!
You made me more of an outcast! Why?! Why, why, why ... He knew the
why. In the end he was nothing. That's why he was out here in the
streets instead of with a family in a home. That's why ...
"Hey, Zel, whatcha got there?" He froze, glancing over his shoulder. He
swallowed when he saw what he had feared seeing. The others, the older
kids, the ones who were strong.
"N-n-n ..." he swallowed again and drew himself up to his three feet of
Keri, yeah that was his name, shoved him up against the wall, plucking
the bread from it's hiding place. "Nothing, huh?"
It was insane but he did it anyway. He glared at Keri, then shoved and
snatched the bread back. Only the weak can't do that to the strong
without being made to suffer. He ignored their angry cries and ran.
They were chasing him now. They no longer cared about the bread. Just
him. He had to be made to pay for his daring. He must suffer for them
to keep they're reputation as the strong. He just ran, between people,
through alleys, past guards and adults that would never help him or
care. He wished desperately that someone would help him, that the Man
would come and save him, that he could escape. But wishes are nothing
and came to nothing.
They cornered him in a alley with no way out. He cowered against the
wall, hugging the bread to him, calling on a gods he had never known to
help him, and knew they wouldn't. The others debated quietly, leering
at him. Zel couldn't hear them and didn't want to, he was too busy
trying to think of a way out. Keri turned to him, smiling, a dark sick
smile. "That was stupid, Zelly. You were stupid. Now yer gonna pay."
Zel choked back a pathetic whimper of fear as they crowded close .....
When they were done with him, he was just a heap in the back-most corner
of an alley. A bleeding, broken heap. The bread had been forgotten in
his punishment, but it couldn't be called bread anymore anyway. Too
beaten into the scummy, dirty water, too covered in blood ... his
Hope is so fleeting
So sharply deceiving
So swiftly destroying
The Man had come. After all these years. After Zel had escaped and
run, after he'd done everything to escape Sailoon, after he had sold
himself body, mind, and soul to get away ... But he had come, finally.
Zel felt hopeful. Even after all these years. Maybe now the Man would
love him. Maybe now they could be a family, right? Maybe now?
"So, Zelgadis, you wish to be strong?"