State of Nature

July 4, 2013 in Leviathan Universe, Nelly by nelly

Hi!

The Nowhere and Unknown collection is going to centre in a particular universe. I’m going to begin at various different places, perhaps in different times (perhaps not), and with different characters. And as we go along, maybe they’ll meet up and this will go from a bunch of unrelated stories (in the same world) into a single story stream. Or perhaps not. I want to grow this story as we go along, so make sure you always let me know what you think!

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Taeyeon tailed a man in a grey suit down the street. The sidewalk was crowded, filled with office workers that had just been let off for the day and were heading home. But Taeyeon was good enough at what she did that she never bumped into a single shoulder or attracted a single glance. No one knew she was even there. She closed the distance between herself and the man until she was walking directly behind him, a small shadow matching his footsteps. She knew she didn’t have very much time before he turned left into the parking lot and his car. Taeyeon had been tracking this man for the past week, memorizing his movements and habits: when he left his building, where his car was, what made him look around, what made him wary.

Taeyeon slipped a switchblade into her hand from inside the sleeve of her hoodie and cut the man’s wallet out of his back pocket. Kept in stride with him as she opened the wallet quickly, pulled out all the cash, and slipped it back into his jacket pocket. She was gone, long lost in the crowd, before he even turned the corner to enter the parking lot.

She only allowed herself to relax when she’d ducked into a back alley four blocks away. Then she hunkered down behind a dumpster to count the bills.

In her trade, even small mistakes couldn’t be afforded. Stealing was a tier 1 criminal offense. First time offenders were branded with a black hand on the right cheek. It let others easily identify them as thieves; citizens to be shamed and avoided. And it also served as a permanent warning. Because if thieves were caught a second time, which wasn’t often because of how easily noticeable the facial brand was, the offender lost their right hand.

Taeyeon tucked the 435 dollars into the side of her bra. It would have been easier, and much much safer, to have just taken the entire wallet. But then the man wouldn’t have had his identification cards, and if the police checked him he would have been arrested and questioned as an illegal outsider. The man was a stranger to Taeyeon, someone who had done no evils to her, he didn’t deserve that. She didn’t want to hurt him any more than she needed to in order to survive.

As she exited the business district, a bulletin board overhead began playing a public advertisement. “Citizens are reminded that any and all suspicious activity is to be reported directly to the…” Taeyeon tuned the voice out. She turned the corner and saw the slums in the distance.

She jogged the remainder of the way down the street. As the slum district grew closer, the houses on either side of the street became older, more broken down, more disorderly. By the time Taeyeon slowed to a walk again, the scenery was vastly different than that of the business district. In the business district the buildings were all stainless steel and polished glass, towering skyscrapers that seemed to touch the sky. But here, most of the buildings were made of old, inefficient materials like dusty red brick or creaky splintering wood. Crumbling artifacts from the past.

But that wasn’t how Taeyeon saw them. Taeyeon saw home in the makeshift shacks thrown up between the old buildings. Saw security in the doors that were practically falling off the hinges. She entered the apartment and took the stairs two at a time all the way up to the 6th floor. Knocked on the door and waited for the slow shuffling coming from inside to get closer.

The door creaked open slowly and a greying old woman poked her head through the gap. When she saw Taeyeon, she smiled and took her hands, pulling her into the apartment kindly. “Come in, come in, Taengoo. Sit down, I’ll pour you some tea!” Taeyeon thanked her and followed her into the kitchen, but insisted the old woman take a seat at the creaky wooden table while she poured them both tea from the kettle on the stove. When they were both situated at the table with steaming mugs of tea beside them, Taeyeon reached into her bra and pulled out $400. She took the old woman’s hands in hers and pressed the cash into them. “Here, take this.” The woman tried to refuse, like she always did. But Taeyeon insisted, like she always did. Taeyeon knew that anyone past eligible working age could only make a living off of selling home grown produce or scavenging old items or clothes to repair. But this woman was housebound from old age, hands too weak to tend a garden and legs too frail to spend hours picking through garbage dumps or disposal units. If Taeyeon didn’t help her, she would starve.

“Oh, Taengoo, that’s far too much. This withering granny doesn’t need all this money-”
“Please, ma’am,” Taeyeon smiled into the woman’s eyes and squeezed her hands, “take the cash, I have way more than that! Just remember to share this delicious tea with me!” She laughed lightheartedly so that the woman would smile too. They chatted for a while before Taeyeon excused herself.

She took the stairs up again until she got to the 10th floor. Pulled her key out of the bottom of her shoe and opened the door with it. Inside, the room was bare except for a dirty mattress on the floor.

“Ah,” she set her backpack on the floor and flopped down on top of the mattress, stretching her arms out, “Home.”

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As always, love to know what you think!