The nursery was bustling as boss Gage barked out orders to us workers in preparation for the arrival of the Consulate, a group of the higher-class humans. They help to maintain order and work as a go-between for the people of the city and the revenants. The Consulate visits the nursery a handful of times each year. On-site inspections are what they call it. I think they just want to remind us of our place in the world.
The sun was midway through the sky when the whistle blew signaling us workers that it was time for lunch. I grabbed my bag and headed out to the roof of the nursery to eat my cucumber sandwich—as I have done every day for the past two years.
No one comes out to the rooftop to eat. Most of the other workers congregate in the alleyway outside the nursery. They trade their lunches and place their bets as cards begin to fly. For the next hour, some poor soul will end up going hungry because they lost their lunch in a hand of cards.
The sun was hot today. Its rays warmed my skin as I rested against the opaque wall of the nursery roof. Off in the distance, the sky rumbled as dark ominous clouds crossed over the mountain. Rain was coming and with it the humidity. The south is nothing if not humid. The clouds would be a welcome sight if only they didn’t bring with them the promise of an increase in mosquitos and flies. At least I won’t have to go and help cart water from the nearby river to the nursery. The rain barrels surrounding the nursery have been dry for more than two weeks. It would be nice to give my aching back a rest for a while.
The sound of footsteps from the side of the nursery roof catch my attention. The smell of tomato and earth hits my nose as I wait for Val to try her measly attempt to sneak up on me. Val has been my best friend since we were children. We went to school together and now work together at the nursery. She always tries to catch me off guard. It is a game we have played for as long as I can remember.
Her shoe scraped against the brick floor as she edged closer. She has never been able to sneak up on me. I can usually hear or smell her before she has the chance. Twisting my body around the corner, I caught her off guard. “Gotcha!” Val jumped and nearly fell to the floor.
“Jesus, Phoebe, you almost gave me a heart attack.” Val laughed and moved to sit next to me, her hands void of lunch.
“Let me guess,” I said as I broke my sandwich in half. “You lost your lunch in the alley before you came up here, didn’t you?” Val took half of my sandwich and devours it in one bite.
“I almost won this time though,” she said with a full mouth. “One more three and I would have won. We would be feasting like queens had I gotten it.”
“Had you gotten it, you would still be down in the alley playing with the commoners.” Val laughed as she leaned back against the wall of the nursery.
“One day,” she said. “One day you will join us commoners in the alley and find out that there is more to life than sitting alone up here on this vacant roof.”
“What’s wrong with the roof?” I asked.
“Nothing is wrong with the roof,” Val replied. “But you are always alone up here.”
“I like being alone,” I replied. “Besides, I have the birds and the sky as my companions. What more could I need?”
“One day, Phoebe, you are going to eat those words,” Val said with a laugh. “One day. Just you wait and see.” The whistle blew signaling the end of lunch.
Back to Work.
Every day is the same. As soon as the sun has risen, I leave Pappy behind—asleep in his chair with a book on his lap—and make my way to the nursery.
Once the last whistle blows, I rush from the nursery back to our small apartment. You don’t want to be out on the streets in the city at night. Rape gangs and headhunters own the streets after dark. People have gone missing or ended up in comfort houses after being captured by the evil that lurks in the shadows. There are even rumors that the revenants leave their tower after dark to scour the streets in search of a fresh meal.
Blood straight from the source rather than from a bag.
I don’t know what I would do if I were to come face to face with a revenant. I’m not even sure what they look like. Val said she one once, from a distance. He was cloaked in black with a silver cross hanging low across his chest. I had asked her how she knew it was a revenant, but the whistle had blown, and we had to return to work before she could answer.
The streets are emptying fast as the sun sets lower in the sky. Hues of orange and red reflect from the revenant tower in the distance. The tower stands taller than any other building in the city. When the sun rises and sets, the tower acts as a lantern for the city surrounding it. It’s mirrored surface sending rays of light across the expanse of buildings. A beacon of both hope and despair.
Hope for the upper class. Because of the revenants, they live in prosperity, never worrying about where their next meal will come from or having to donate blood. But for us in the lower part of the city, it is a constant reminder of what we must exchange in order to survive.
Some say we are blessed to live in the city instead of scavenging outside the city’s walls. While others say we no more than sheep living in the lions’ den.
A food source. The sustenance of the revenants.
We are nothing more than cows waiting to be slaughtered.
An offering for the continuation of the human race.
Personally, I don’t know which I believe. As long as Pappy has a roof over his head, clothes on his back, and food in his belly then I am satisfied. If it weren’t for Pappy adopting me and raising me as his own, I wouldn’t be here now. He is both my father and my savior. Because of that I owe him my life and would willingly give my own if it meant saving his.
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