This is the description of my short story Jynx and the following are the first two parts.
In a world where words and letters are as foreign as Jupiter's moons, Jynx stands out. Reading and writing are crimed, forbidden to most people -- except, there are always those poor, old people who hide as beggars and the homeless, and can read, for they were taught during the time of Before. But they are always found and always put to death by the all-powerful Reds, which are the lawmakers and law-keepers.
Jynx is one of the few youngsters who can read. She is young -- she has just attained the Age of seventeen -- but she cannot live with her parents anymore as a law. Jynx knows how to read and write just a little bit -- but this too is punishable. However, she is not suspected, for she's too young, and it seems Jynx's only duty is to stay alive in her civilized and chaotic world where the pen is mightier than the sword.
Except, that doesn't explain why a group of Reds are after her.
The sky was gray and the moon was visible, although the sun, too, was out.
A girl -- you could tell by the clothes, always by the clothes -- in a scarlet, hooded robe stepped out of a silent stone building. Her head was bent, her shoulders were hunched, and she paced quickly, as though anxious to get under a roof once more. Her brisk steps caused the gravel underneath the soles of her worn boots to crunch; the sound seemed to amplify in the silence of the street.
The girl looked about her. The pale, white moon was high against the sky. The dull sun outshone the moon, making it appear like an insignificant speck in the vast sky. Yet, nothing was significant. Everything was one color, the same bland gray.
She continued her consistent pacing, this time looking only straight ahead. But it wasn't long until she heard a slight rustling, a faint sound audible only to the ears that sought it. Her first thought was that of an electric crimson gown. Instinctively she stopped but didn't look about this time. Indeed, this time she positioned herself to do the only thing she knew how to do. When it came to strangers, there was only one thing to do: run.
She was then a mere flash of red.
Thundering steps pursued her and the girl knew that she had only one place to go, one place they wouldn't catch her.
Some yards and a door slam later, the girl was under another roof, safe. There were angry shouts at the sound of the door slamming, and a certain male flinched at all the sounds combined. He had been sitting alone, undergoing a new headache, when this happened. This town did not suit him; the people here were inhospitable and loud, the inns were scarce, and everything was dull. Irritably, he got up and went to his room upstairs, making sure to slam his door as well. This didn't drown out the harsh voices from below but did double the pain in his head.
He sat on the hard, well-used bed, rubbing his temples. The shouts of protest were now replaced by another sound the male had gotten familiar with: laughter. Crude, obnoxious, collective laughter that made his nerves go on end. Someone (he couldn't place the sex of the voice) shouted, "Jynx! Jynx! Howl ya dun?"
"I'd jinx them all if I had the chance," he muttered, half-aware that he said something aloud. There was a breeze that entered his room from the dirty, punctured window. The cracked glass was still on the floor -- there were no cleaners here. He went over to pick up a piece of the glass and stared at it, barely making out his own reflection. The shard showed that he was a dark-haired youth, four or so years older than the Age. The glass fell from his hands without him even registering it and he was on the bed once again.
It seemed that he was attached to this old piece of furniture. It was a constant thing, available for him when he had to lie down and think. For that was all he did on this bed and in his room. He slept elsewhere, usually on the roof of the building where there were no vermin.
He thought of nothing but of everything, so it seemed. There was nothing to think of but there were so many thoughts crossing and skittering in his mind. It was all insignificant -- gray matter. The voices below were soon forgotten and he was home with his parents; he was a prince; he was in his nook, reading the days away; he was in love with a beautiful girl, who he married; there he was, reading again when family life got the best of him --. His life had been planned out for him before he was born. His father knew he'd be a reader, his mother predestined that he'd marry someone beautiful. Everyone already knew his life yet he still had to live it.
For the first time since his arrival, his eyes fluttered closed and he was falling asleep on the old bed, thinking of a chocolate colored leather-bound book with four golden letters: J, Y, N and X.
It wasn't who she thought it was.
"Wasn't quite sure, miss," said the middle-aged man in his raspy but polite voice, "if it was you, see, but I had to give this to you anyhow. Pardon if I frightened you."
Jynx nodded once. The man claimed to be a messenger and declared that his only intention for running after her was to deliver a sealed envelope. The address area of the envelope bore her name in great, big letters. She now gripped this and kept it hidden under her cloak, hidden from prying eyes. A name meant everything.
And one stranger already knew it.
"But what made you come here, miss? Why run here?"
Jynx knew this question wasn't merely for polite conversation. The man did make it seem as though he cared for her, but instinct taught otherwise. There were no straightforward, honest approaches. All one could trust was instinct.
"Was coming here anyway," she made her reply brisk and short, trying to communicate non verbally her wish to take leave of him.
The messenger comprehended her wish but did not stop talking. Instead he asked her question after question, to which she either gave another short reply or outright lied. All were acknowledged, all were ignored.
Finally the man left her and she went upstairs. This little inn was a public one; most here were. A public inn was financed by the state and so it had to offer free boarding to everyone. Although this policy sounded generous, the rooms were so badly taken care of and the food was always so repulsive that these inns were loathsome in many people's eyes so they chose instead to pay for better board and lodging. Therefore those who did frequent public inns were mostly the lower, disagreeable class.
In a storage room, there was a small mattress on the floor and a bucket of dirty water. There were no windows, and no light brightened the room save a single dim bulb. This was a "spare room," used only when all the others were unavailable. Jynx's usual room, she was told, was just so.
She could not lock the door since there wasn't a lock. She leaned against it and flicked on the light. When she tore open the envelope, she found a single sheet of paper with a few sentences. She struggled to get through the lines:
His Majesty the King summons your presence at Court. Addressed to: JYNX W09D, Aged SEVENTEEN.
The Court was a safe place, unlike prison. If one was called to Court then it was generally looked upon as an honored thing. Yet that still didn't explain why Jynx had been seeing crimson robed Reds everywhere. If she had been called to Court then there shouldn't be...
She stepped out of the room, still holding the slip of paper and the envelope that bore her name. It was late morning when she arrived; now she could see the sun setting through the big windows downstairs. A startled breath caught her attention; she had assumed the hallway was clear. Quickly, she hid the papers and turned around to face the stranger. A carmine colored robe revealed that it was a male. Jynx quickly looked away and began pacing towards the stairs.
However, she had to cross him in order to go down as the staircase let barely one body through. The male made no movement, as though shocked into paralyzation. She dared not cross him until he moved first. It wasn't safe with any stranger.
"Sorry," he said, to which Jynx nearly growled at. She was the one paralyzed with shock now.
Obviously this man was a foreigner, for there was a whispered rule among the nation which commanded that you couldn't speak to anyone you never spoke to before unless introduction by a third party had already occurred. It was a practice...no, an instinct to keep oneself safe. Anyone could be a traitor, a robber, a murderer....
Jynx grunted and wished he would already move.
"Are you well, ma'am?" He asked her in a quiet voice. Below them, the noise of loud laughter and coarse voices filled the air like solid matter. Above, where they were, it was quiet but not deathly so.
"Fine," she replied, not bothering to inquire on his health. The male was definitely "well bred" and polite, but Jynx was sharper witted.
A moment of silence flicked by.
"Are you Aged, miss?" He asked, trying to create an unwanted polite conversation.
"A year above it," she fibbed.
"I am four," which meant that he was twenty one, if, of course, he wasn't fabricating it like she was.
She nodded, jaw jutting out.
The male seemed to have gotten her unspoken message; he moved some ways, allowing her to sidestep him, which she did hurriedly. Before she was out of his peripheral vision, she heard him call out, "Wait! Don't go yet! My name's Carden..."
Jynx had to run again or the Reds would find her -- for all she knew, this man might have been an undercover Red. She took off into the street once more, already erasing the youth's name from her subconscious mind.
Behind her the youth trailed off into the hot air, "...I think I know you."
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