I traveled through the cobbled streets, heading towards the market; it was a humble place. Since the war started, food was rationed and the price went up. You had to make whatever you could afford last a week, because the market only came to town every 5 days. Someone ran into me and spun me off into the brick wall of a building. I yelled at them angrily and clenched my fists. In these dark times, you didn't have the slightest idea when or where the next bomb would hit. However, that didn't give you the right to act like you've go insane.
Jingling the coins in my pocket, I watched as a mother hurriedly herded her hungry children around her. To my left, I saw a scrawny old man taking a drag on his cigarette, flashing me a yellow-toothed grin as I passed by. I thought of Lily, wondering how she was doing in that big house all by herself. Glancing over my shoulder, my footsteps stopped. I ran my tongue over my chapped lips and narrowed my eyes at the darkening sky. It was going to rain. I needed to hurry; they wouldn't keep the market open much longer.
My walk sped up to a steadied run, passing people by as my breath escaped my mouth in faint puffs of air. The sky crackled with thunder and flashed with lightning. More than anything else, I wanted to return to Lily. My affection for her caused me to contradict myself; I had to go to the market so she would not starve, but I needed to comfort the fearful child now, too.
When I had finally reached my destination, the merchants had already begun to pack up, hurrying to get out of this storm. My face flashed with worry.
"Wait!" I called to an elderly man selling loaves of bread. His dark, beady eyes lifted to stare at me. It was a questioning look, almost suspicious, but he had decided to listen to me, so I quickly dismissed his suspicion from my thoughts.
"I need to..." I began, my words fading in and out as I struggled to catch my breath. My fingers dug into my jacket and then held out the pile of coins in trembling hands. "Mister, I need to buy some bread. My–my sister at home, she's starving. Please, wait a moment longer."
"You're Rowan's daughter, aren't you? You have his face," He muttered in a hoarse, yet gentle voice, making my eyes widen in surprise as he spoke my father's name. I watched his scrawny hands reaching for two loaves wrapped in plastic. He handed them out to me.
"How do you–"
He cut me off with a wave of his hand, and pressed my fingers back onto the coins in my palm, refusing to take them. I took the loaves despite the confusion and stumbled back a step.
"Thank you," I breathed, clutching the loaves tight to my chest. Lily would not go hungry and that brought the lightest of smiles to my face.
The old merchant nodded and gestured me to leave. "Be safe," He said and then turned his back to me.
From there I took off, bolting through the freezing sheets of rain that sliced at my face. The streets were now empty, so there were no obstacles in my way, but strangely, I felt extremely vulnerable all alone.
A few more blocks, I told myself, just a few more. But I was so exhausted suddenly. My legs felt like lead and the dancing shadows drove me to the edge, forming grotesque delusions. I slowed down to a hurried walk, constantly glancing over my shoulder or to my side. My blue eyes were wild with paranoia. My drenched body was trembling madly and I felt as if I were to collapse at any moment. What had brought on this rush of madness?
My instincts were trying to tell me something, I was sure. Was there truly an enemy lurking in the midst? A spy from another country?
Damn the spirit of inquiry that led me to staring into the blackness of an alleyway, and damn the hands that dug into my arms and pulled me out of sight, leaving the bread to soak on the street.
"Will she do?" I heard a voice whisper as a hand smelling of leather and something I couldn't decipher slid over my mouth. I continued to thrash wildly despite my fear.
In the shadows I saw a familiar figure grin with his teeth. "She's quite energetic, no?"
I knew that voice. It was the same one that voiced the endless propaganda that aired on televisions and radios. But why was the president here? Furthermore, what did he want with me?
The man holding me tightened his grip, but my adrenaline was already pumping. I sunk my teeth into his skin and chuckled darkly as he gasped, tossing me at the brick wall. My head had begun to ring, but I didn't care. I suddenly felt murderous, with the taste of the man's blood on my tongue.
"Knock her out," The president commanded calmly.
More hands grabbed at me and soon a cloth was pressed to my mouth. My sight instantly went blurry and my head swung back dizzily. In moments everything fading to darkness and I was left at the president's mercy.