Authors: Nicola McDonagh
The Song of Forgetfulness
The Song of Forgetfulness
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and events portrayed are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any character resemblance to actual persons living or dead is entirely co-incidental.
No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical without written permission from the author.
Copyright © 2015 Nicola McDonagh
All rights reserved.
Cover design by Daphne deMuir
Original photographs by Nicola McDonagh
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Carnies - Cannibal renegades have come to Cityplace.
With them a clinging fog that makes the gentle occupants turn into savage beasts.
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To Martin for all his help, support and patience with me. I couldn’t have done it without you.
Sweat trickled down my armpits and back as I shinnied upwards. The climb was harder than it looked. I stopped midway and clung onto the thick twine for a much needed breather. The air hovered still for a sec and in that quiet I swear I heard an owlet hoot. Or maybe it was the ghosties of our lost ones wipple-warbling through the dirt-free walkways of Cityplace. Nah, what rot. Anyhoo, best not pause my ascent to ponder such a notion. It was nearly dusk-to-dawn time and my outsideness was in jeopardy.
“Flimsyfem. Feeblewomb,” voices beneath my swinging feet heckled each clammy-fingered fumble that I made. If I’d been on ground level they’d be red-nosed crying like a bub, but I was not, so I ignored their goading and carried on.
I pulled myself up the rope, too vigorously as it turned out. The cord began to sway causing my shoulder to bump into the side of the massive metal frame. Although it hurt, I did not cry out. Even when the heat from the humming gastubes scorched my ear and I smelt the burnt sugar stench of singed hair. I kept shutums. If not, the bet would be lost.
Shaking my head to dispel the sizzle-sting, I over handed bit by bit until I reached the middle support rung. As I scrambled onto the narrow ledge, I heard a familiar two-pitch whistle. Flashlighters. Nad. I couldn’t be caught again.
The last time they fingered me sneak-thieving inside the Minion quarters outside Central Local. Well, my bro dared me to go and ask one of the dark-eyed dwellers exactly what the huff they did. Never did get to find out, though. All I managed to do was to scare a grubby-faced little ‘un when I held out my mutant mitts. A thing I do too often as it turns out. Like accepting dares. Although this one was by far the least hazardous, despite it being so high up. One day I would say no to these challenges. Yeah, right.
Yep, I know, I know. Derisive calls did not help to clamp down my fear at teetering on the edge of an info board beam. Although nervous and height-stricken, I looked below to where Drysi and Hrypa slouched. “Oy, tug on the end of the rope so that I can slip-slide down before the Longarms get a whiff of wrong doing.”
The over washed sissy-necked juves fled. I was left to hide as best I could before the Cityguards came searching for Curfewcrashers. Always get more folk risking being nabbed when something oddly occurs. The under-breath murmurs about the Carnies, and the kiddles that disappeared had residents all skittish with the need to know info that was not forthcoming.
Once, when these flesh-gobblers and their notsofunfair came to these parts, the mayor had to call in the S.A.N.T.S. to bumrush them out before they hoodwinked us and filched all the grain. Some say they use it to lure the birdybirds so they can suck out their eyes and brains.
A recollection stirred in my noggin. A half-memory of something best forgotten. Ah, Carnieval. That was it. I shuddered at the memory of their hideous show then sidestepped my way behind the vidscreen into almost darkness.
I put my hand on a cross section support strut and felt something gunky. I lifted my fingers to my face. It took a while for my eyes to become accustomed to the gloom, but they did. What was stuck there made me hold my breath as I glanced along the metal pole.
They’d been here. Birdles. The white plops spattered along the beam proved it. Not that I’m an expert or anything, but the size and shape of said bowel squirts would indicate a sphincter no bigger than a newbies fingernail. No hominid I knew had a backside that small. Besides I found it hard to believe that any Citydweller would climb the central vidscreen to do a dump.
Huffin’ hell and back. Santy Breanna’s voice crashed through the buzzing of the neolights. I almost lost my balance. With a gulp, I inched sideways along the ridge and peeked down at the plaza. Big mistake. The antivertigo tabs I’d taken earlier had worn off. I’d come over with a severe case of the wobbles.
“Adara, you are too much of an age to be playing ‘gohideandseek’. I’ll not count to a specified number in the hope that you’ll appear. No, I’ll just stand right here and wait.” Santy put her hands on her hips and lifted her head. I slid behind the screen and stood motionless.
A low bonging sound resonated around the square. I closed my eyes. Curfew chimes. I had no desire to be caught by the Flashlighters and spend the night in the filthhole, but the tone in Santy’s voice made me stay where I was. Every time she used my full name I knew I was in trouble. I moved my head round the corner, watched her pull back her shoulder length strawberry blonde hair and twist it into a tight knot.
“Hear that? You’d better come out right now before the Longarms appear. The Sheriff doesn’t look kindly upon re-offenders.”
Her words activated two hand-in-hand, lip locked ‘dults who sat on the rim of the palm tree-shaped fountain opposite the infoboard. They stood ‘bruptly, dropped their hands and skedaddled in different directions as shiftily as a Minion caught nattering with a Highup. I thought Santy would scarper too, what with the lateness of things, but she remained, arms folded, foot tapping, serious of face.
Inhaling deeply, I prepared to wait it out. Moontime was fast approaching and with it, danger of exposure. I squinted when the spiral security beacons blasted on, floodlighting the entire space. I’d never seen the square like that before, never from such a height.
The large paved rectangle that made up most of the plaza was dull in the extreme, and the fountain plonked in the middle did nowt to enhance its gloomy look. Up here it took on a more eerie appearance. Smothered in a sickly yellow glow, it made the surrounding concrete buildings look as if they were about to throw up. I thought I was too and stretched my neck out to see what Santy was up to so that I could make my descent.
I happened to look towards the perimeter fence, although far in the distance I thought I saw a blip of white light just behind it. I narrowed my eyes and made out the shivering shape of a hominid crouching.
“Right, that’s it, Adara, time is up. I am gone. You can wait for punishment.” Santy gave an eyescan of the square, then turned away from the infoboard and walked towards Cityhall. I pulled my gaze away from the suspish figure. Despite my fear, I quickly grappled my way down, unhooked the zip rope, bundled it into my pants pocket and tiptoed up behind her back.
“Hi, hi, Santy. Shouldn’t you be indoors? Curfew’s chimed.”
She swivelled round grabbed my right ear and dragged me past Cityhall, the fountain, the Seedbank Centre and through the arched gateway towards the folkdwellings. I placed my hand over hers in an attempt to ease the pressure her fingers made on my lobe, but she was clamped on tight.
“You’re lucky the Curfewkeepers are late, or we’d be shivering in the dirt pit till sunup. Do you want us to go to the Decontamination House? Or be thrown out into the Wilderness to be eaten by Wolfies, or worse, Carnies?”
I said nowt except for, “Ow,” then mused briefly on what she’d said. Just the thought of those low-grade carnivores made my gut flip and my hands moisten.
Santy did not let go of my lobe, which throbbed, until we reached Puritytowers. I rubbed my burning flesh. Santy shook her head. “That was a close call. Next time, and don’t look at me as if there won’t be, I’ll leave you out there to fend for yourself. I thought you’d outgrown these bub-like shenanigans.”
“But, they called me a flimseyfem.”
“Adara, you are nearing the time for joining. You must be ‘dult now and take on the role of legal age.”
With a sigh, I lifted my head. I never tired of looking up at the building we lived in. Even by Cityplace standards, this was an impressive structure. As tall as any mythical oak, Puritytowers loomed over the rest of the abodes like a giant many-sided mirror. The reflective outer cladding sparkled in the daylight and became a black mysterious object at night.