The boy raced around the corner grasping his pilfered treasure tightly in both fists. He knew that stealing was wrong, but when there wasn’t enough food to eat and no real work for a boy his age, the line between right and wrong blurred to a sort of gray. The boy did the best he could with odd jobs in the Warren and when that didn’t make ends meet, he stole what they needed to survive.
He heard his pursuer gaining on him as he scrambled over crates and sped down the alleyways near the market, continuing down the route he designed to take him home and evade capture. The wet leaves were slick beneath his feet as he skated around another corner and approached the forbidden heart of theWarrenknown as Brickside.
His Mam loved to tell the ghoulish tales of how naughty children were captured by the witches of Brickside. It didn’t matter that nobody had ever seen any of these witches, her captivating tales frightened all the children in the neighborhood away from Brickside – except, of course, for the boy. He had long since discovered that the quickest way from the market to their dilapidated apartment building was straight through the heart of forbidden territory. Though he boasted that Mam’s tales were just stupid stories to make children behave, it didn’t stop the trickle of fear that slid up his spine every time he rounded the corner into the neighborhood. His Mam would have his hide if she knew he used this shortcut.
The boy sped through the main square, vaulted the low stone wall to cross the small courtyard of St. Monica Parish and skidded around another corner to the hidden niche he had discovered on a similar escape. He pressed his small frame against the worn brick wall and prayed that he would remain unseen. Listening carefully, he heard his pursuer’s footsteps slow to a trot then a brisk walk before finally pausing at the end of the alley where he hid. The boy squeezed his eyes shut and prayed silently to anyone who would listen to protect him from discovery and prevent his pursuer from discovering him in his hiding place.
He opened his eyes and glanced down to the end of the alley. He caught a glimpse of his own face in a shop window and pressed even closer to the bricks, though he blended into the wall better than he had expected. He caught a brief glimpse of his pursuer passing the window and continuing down the street. The boy heard his curse as he scuffed his feet and gave up the search, though he waited until the dull footfalls gradually faded before breathing a sigh of relief.
The boy felt all the small hairs on the back of his neck stand on end as a quiet voice murmured, “so sweet of you to ask to join us.” He tried to jerk away from the wall, but felt tiny fingers grabbing him from behind and pinning him in place. Tendrils of something rough and sandy crept along his shoulders and cheeks as he struggled to escape from the grasp of the brick. He glanced again at the shop window and gasped as his terrified reflection slowly took on a rusty hue. He watched in horror as his expression froze, his final gasp still on his lips.
Becket Moorby, October 2011