Separates (Short Story)
Rosa | Canterbury Girls’ Secondary College
Secondary English | Term 1 2021
Devyn dreamed she could fly.
She was light as a bird, leaping from rooftop to rooftop, the sprawling slums spread beneath her airborne body. The sky wasn’t as thick with smoke up here, the air was thin and cold and fresh, the clouds almost touchable. Devyn was so close to the wall that she could see it, could see its weathered stone and its security towers, see the glittering white buildings beyond it.
She rode the air like a falcon, arms outstretched, the slums a dollhouse-sized town beneath her, getting closer and closer to the wall –
“Devyn,” whispered a small voice.
She came crashing down to earth.
“Devyn,” he whispered again.
Devyn yawned, keeping her eyes closed, her face buried in her pillow. Miles’ hand remained on her arm, his tiny fingers clasped around it, not tight enough to hurt but tight enough to wake her.
“Devyn, Mama’s not back yet.”
“Okay,” she muttered.
She cracked open her eyes with difficulty, gently prising her brother’s arm off her. His small form was barely visible in the half-dark – the morning was wet and foggy, pressing in on the sheet-covered windows. Eli was lying a few feet away, unmoving, his small form covered by a scrap of blanket. Miles’ eyes were wide as he looked at her, his face thin and gaunt. Another day without their mother – another day to fend for themselves.
Devyn was out of the house before the sun rose, walking quickly down the dirty street as the rain pounded on her clothes, dodging beggar after beggar. The houses of the slums were mostly quiet in the early morning, the silence punctured only by the screams and cries of babies up early, muffled by half-asleep parents. A man grasped at Devyn’s clothes as she passed, she tugged her shirt out of his clawing grip as he pleaded with her, his face lined and weathered, desperate, his brand visible on his wrist. Her heart wrenched horribly as she moved away, blocking out his pleads and screams as she walked farther and farther down the streets of the slums, knowing nothing good would befall him. Knowing they wouldn’t care, as long as they couldn’t see it.
As she neared the wall, as she covered her brand with her jacket, Devyn remembered their words.
Separate was better.
Chase watched the wall from his perch on the roof.
Dawn was breaking in a grey sunrise, a settled hush still over the apartments and estates. The weak sun bounced off the white buildings, turning the city hazy through the rain, glittering like dusty diamonds in the morning. Beyond the wall, the slums spread into the distance, black smoke hanging in the murky air.
In a few minutes, his father would go to work, conducting business in his glass tower, looking over the harbour, and Chase would go with him, studying to take over his father’s job when he died. Chase watched the wall, where guards were stationed at the watchtowers, looking out at the slums. He saw tiny figures moving below, the great doors pushed open, admitting only the choicest few to the other side. Chase had never been beyond the wall – and as he constantly assured his parents, he was content never to go. But really, a spark of curiosity lived with him, it burned constantly, whispering questions about that other world beyond the great doors, beyond the wall.
It wasn’t safe, they said. It wasn’t a place for hardworking, respectable people.
Separate was better.
Devyn made it through the gates.
She’d been doing that for years.
The guards bought her nonsense excuse, as they always did, and she blocked out their muttering as she passed, as she always did. She didn’t belong beyond the wall.
Beyond the wall was a perfect world for them – the few that lucked into it. They seemed to think the slums were big enough for everyone who didn’t have millions to spend. They were wrong.
When she walked through the gate, the guard had sneered at her clothes, her skin – she’d bitten her lip so hard it bled, her face hot, ashamed of her very existence. The streets were quiet as she crept down them, past the perfect houses, gardens, and ivory towers. Cars sped past her, most of the drivers frowning at Devyn as they passed, as if wondering how she got in. She was used to that too.
Then she heard them – voices.
Devyn walked faster, already soaked, pressing her body to the wall, gripping the pipe in her bag tightly, ready to use it. There were two of them, by the sound of it – a man and a boy.
Devyn thought of her little brothers, who the task of looking after had fallen to her. She thought of their gaunt faces, their thin bodies and weak voices. Without her they wouldn’t survive.
There they were – two people living beyond the wall, who had everything.
There she was – with a pipe in her hand.
Devyn bit her lip.
Separate was better.
Chase barely saw the whirlwind that was their attacker.
In a fraction of a second his father was holding his arm, yelling and trying to drag him away. Then she was there – a girl with dark hair and a brand on her arm.
A girl from beyond the wall.
Within seconds his father had pushed the button on the nearest building as the girl swung her pipe at Chase. As sirens wailed from far away, time seemed to move in slow motion.
Chase watched the fear in her eyes as he caught her arm, the pipe inches from his face.
He watched the resignation and the fury in her face as the sirens came closer and closer, as he pinned her down onto the ground – the girl from beyond the wall. Even as her face was bruised and her clothes were soaked and hair matted with rain and blood, she held her head high.
“Why did you do that?” he whispered to the stranger. “You knew the consequences.”
She stared him dead in the eyes with no ounce of remorse.
“Because I had no choice,” she said.
As the sirens came closer and the rain fell harder and Chase and the girl stared at each other, he thought of what they always said.
Separate was better.Rosa | Canterbury Girls’ Secondary College
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