Comic 23 - Chapter 4 - 3

26th Jan 2021, 7:48 AM in Chapter 4: Trapped

"You're holding up well everything considered," said Anton, looking more carefully at the girl. She was a little taller than him as well, with a long, serious face framed in a crown of black hair. A jumper dress with fingerless gloves up to her elbows and tall boots with many straps completed the picture.

"You're making fun of me." She glanced over her shoulder at the two Reapers, who were walking a good distance behind them as the group navigated a tangle of medieval streets up the mountainside. It was sunny, but windy, and chatty pedestrians mingled among well-maintained gothic architecture.

"Not at all. My first night here? I spent it crying."

"Oh dear. I hope you're sleeping better now?"

He shook his head. "There is no sleep in the Afterlife. Though sometimes you can forget yourself for a while."

She made a face.

"It's not so bad..." He paused. "Did you feel it?"

"What?" she asked, then looked around with a shiver.

"That." He lowered his voice. "We should..."

The adults were already next to them. "That way," said the Caretaker, pointing at a narrow alley off to the side. They piled up in the opening just as the rhytmic cadence of boots exploded around the corner.

It was a troop of about thirty, wearing the New System uniform, only now they had steel helmets and truncheons. Other pedestrians were hurrying to get out of the way as the thugs marched up to an imposing manor with a strange sigil carved in stone above the main entrance and filed through the gate.

"That symbol looks familiar," pointed out Anton while he leaned out to see better.

"Get back here!" snapped a voice from further up the alley. "They'll be watching!"

The boy whirled in place. It took him a moment to recognize the portly old man waving a cane further up the alley.

"Mr. W.!" Anton ran past his companions and nearly hugged their missing friend. "What happened to you?"

The bearded man leaned heavily on his cane and puffed. He was wearing drill trousers instead of his usual suit, and a vest of the same material on top of a white shirt. A wide-brimmed fedora, also white, shaded his face. It wasn't enough to hide his palor, or the big bruise high on his cheek, which his sunglasses didn't quite cover.

"I'll be fine. Who's your new friend?"

Y. looked at Anton. Anton looked at the girl. She stammered.

"I... I'm Anne, sir. Er... nice to meet you?"

She extended a hand, which W. kissed. The girl looked even more confused.

"We picked her up on the way here," explained Y. dryly.

The man examined Anne inscrutably. "New arrival, then? Very well..."

A cloud covered the sun, and he waved them into a side alley. " let's get out of here."

They scurried deeper into the maze, new alleys seemingly appearing in front of them as they walked. Anton looked back thrice, and every time the path they had taken was no longer there. From the rearguard, the Caretaker waved to him reassuringly.

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