Lines on a Map (fragment one)

This was originally posted on my tumblr blog here and I thought I would share it as it takes place in a similar world to the one in a story I’m currently working on and will be posting updates from here. I also want to get into the habit of posting stuff from previous blogs up here and editing it in the process.

Jake was leaning over the table a look of concentration on his face, his intent was reinforced by the tip of his tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth. Sally had to admit he looked cute like that. He was carefully folding a torn page from the London A – Z 1998 edition into an intricate 3 dimensional shape.

After what seemed like an hour but was only five minutes Jake sat back and sighed contentedly, in front of him on the upturned tea chest he had used as a workbench was a delicate and beautiful paper swan, criss crossed with angry red A-roads and thin yellow B-roads and blotched with the brown grey of urban blocks.

“OK, what now?”

“Wait.”

Sally idly scratched her chin and shuffled around the cramped and dirty store room they were in; Jake just stared at the swan with a blank expression.

There was a crackling and rustling, Sally turned back to see the swan shake it’s neck and slowly, carefully spread it’s wings and give an experimental flap or two. Sally stuck her knuckles in her mouth to stop herself crying out. The swan then leaned forwards and with a couple more slow flaps of it’s thin papery wings launched itself into the air; it circled lazily, almost in slow motion, spiralling upwards, craning it’s neck as it searched for an exit. Jake gave Sally a warning look that said “don’t speak, not yet.”

After a few long drawn out moments the swan glided over to a rusty vent in a dirty top corner and seemed to rumple itself into a smaller shape that squeezed through and out to the open air.

With it’s departure Sally realised the air in the room had felt electric, and that feeling was now noticeable in the absence.

“Right then” Jake stood up and brushed imaginary dust from his hands.

Sally brushed her long purple fringe back from her eyes. Her blonde roots were showing, she would have to dye it again.

“So… What now?”

“Enough waiting, let’s see if the coast is clear,” Jake turned to the swollen ancient wooden door and strode purposefully to it, grabbing the handle in a single smooth motion. He opened it cautiously though and peered through the little crack that appeared. The coast did indeed seem to be clear.

“Right then.”

He was obviously psyching himself up, making sure he seemed calm and in control. Sally grinned at him.

“Come on then let’s go, I’m starving.”

They carefully and quietly stepped out into the shabby yard, both straining their ears for any barking or hooting.

They had been walking through silent narrow abandoned streets, past empty mostly windowless and sometimes half shattered buildings until they rounded a corner onto a junction, two proper main roads crossed each other; there was a pelican crossing and the traffic lights looked like they still worked, there were a couple of rusted and battered route masters with no wheels or glass in their windows.

Jake was about to step out into the road when Sally put her arm out holding him back.

“Stop – Look”

They both looked down, a crude blue line was painted thickly on the tarmac less than a foot from the pavement. It was a border marking. They both looked back up, nervously scanning the roof tops and the top decks of the buses. Looking for border guards. There were no threats in sight, which didn’t mean they weren’t there, it could mean they were hiding and spying on the two right now.

“Let’s go this way,” Sally pointed round the corner, along the main road to the left.

“I agree.”

They hurried round the corner past the other bus and along the street heads down not looking back. Sally could feel her heart pounding and taste metal in her dry mouth.

“I need a drink,” Jake said echoing her thoughts.

“Look up there, ask and the gods shall provide.”

Up ahead to the right across the other side of the street was the entrance to a park, rusty municipal green spiked railings separating short neatly trimmed grass and manicured evergreen trees. A few yards further along they could see the entrance and the gate was open, permanently by the looks of it, buckled and hanging half off it’s hinges.

They sped up, checked the road for painted lines there were none except the broken white ones in the middle, so they stepped out and almost ran across up to the ruined gateway. They stopped in the entrance, the railings and gate formed another border, and one just as likely to be under observation.

Breathing heavily they stood framed by the sign over the gate, it wasn’t the original it was a rough wooden plank two by four fastened to the gate posts with filthy rope. It simply said ‘Tygers’.

Sally and Jake looked at each other.

“Never heard of them,” said Jake.

“Me neither.”

They scanned the park, it was a large one, a cracked and weedy path led from the gateway towards an over grown bandstand half obscured by more neatly trimmed but large trees a few hundred yards away. The path then curved away behind the trees and bushes and out of sight.

They stepped in, whatever danger might lie within it felt safe somehow than the streets outside.

That proved to be a mistake as what had looked like solid tarmac was a large dirty grey sheet stretched over a ten foot deep hole.

They landed with not too painful thuds on shallow mud and stones.

“Ow,” Jake pushed Sally off his torso where she had landed in an ungainly tangle.

They both sat up looking dazed and grubby with bemused expressions on their faces, somewhere in the distance a bell was tinkling.

“Well I suppose we’ll meet the Tygers in a minute,” Sally said; as they both stared up at the dull white sky above.

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