I could feel it, seeping out and soaking the green cotton of my dress. Sticking the cloth to my skin as it spread. I imagined the contrast as warmth blossomed across my chest and my heart began pounding. I wondered, bizarrely, if he was smiling.
“How brazen the young of this city are becoming,” he told me softly.
My legs began to buckle, threatening to collapse completely. As my full weight pressed back against him he allowed us both a slow, controlled descent. His hand was still clutched tight to the handle of the knife in my side.
“You know I’ve lived here all my life, grew up just round the corner there. Watched this place spiral up and out, buildings and people and those damned machines, all rising from the ashes. As though they wish to grasp the sun.”
He paused, and for a few moments we both just breathed. “You’re the first to ever steal from me. I’m not sure how I feel about that.”
His voice was so calm and gentle against my hair. It was almost smoothing. “Probably better than I do,” I managed, choking on my own spit.
The smallest hint of a chuckle and then, “Well, yes, I imagine that’s so.”
I thought about the other girls back at the home. The way their fingertips would tap against wooden tabletops as they waited for dinner. Matron with a flat stick rising and falling into the palm of her hand.
I saw Gemma smirking above me as I twisted in the mud, trying to wiggle free. Heard the sound of the others cheering her on as she raised her fist.
A loud noise made me start in his arms – steam being released from a workshop behind us. It reminded me of the battered pipes in the shower room and the way they rumbled in the middle of the night.
“Had you just chosen the other pocket, I might not have followed you.”
I took a breath and shifted, wincing through the pain. I hadn’t more than glanced at him in the first instance. Too busy concentrating on the glint of the chain against his waistcoat and the promise of coin. He didn’t look like much, no different from the dozen others. A little handsome maybe, if you didn’t mind the stubble.
“They’ll catch you one day,” I said, more to myself than him.
He hummed in agreement, watching as I faded. I realised the small black ring was still in the palm of my hand. I looked down at it, the solemn dark stone. Saw a glimpse into the future, of a Watchmen pulling it free and examining it, crouched over my body. He might regard me with a little sorrow even, before returning to the tower and adding it to a dozen others just the same.
Then a flash from my past, only minutes before. The loud chattering mass of people on Market Road; the dance of all those potential targets.
Well, the worry of ever being caught myself was gone now at least. I’d never need money again.
I could still hear them, beyond the high stone walls. I imagined myself walking through them again like I was nothing. How I’d slip around and under and through. Invisible.
…But I wouldn’t be for much longer. My hollow face would be everywhere by morning, just like all the rest.
“I didn’t think it would take so long,” I admitted, tasting copper.
The blackness crept in as I watched him slip the ring out of my palm and place it on my ring finger. I breathed my last as the dagger finally pulled free.
“Sweet dreams,” he whispered back.
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Written for the Brilliant Disguise Daily Prompt challenge as part of today’s Blogging101 assignment! I must confess, I did cheat a little. The first draft for this short was a response to a writing prompt over on Reddit a few months ago. One day, I’m sure I’ll write a personal blog post for the DP and not let myself fall prey to fictional hijinks*.
I don’t write in first person very often, and to be honest I’m not much good at it. But it does make for a good writing exercise now and again. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to read all the awesome responses waiting for me in my reader! :D
*But I wouldn’t count on it.