Union Candy (part 13 of 19)
Union Candy (part 13 of 19) postapocalyptic stories
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ferp2 Old, well, old-ish.
Autoplay OFF   •   a month ago
The girl in the tree.

Union Candy (part 13 of 19)

After the fetid humidity of the sewer, the cool night air Finny emerged into was something she just wanted to stand in and savour, possibly forever.

Unfortunately, the urgent rasping hiss of her partner's voice wasn't letting Finny enjoy the moment.

"Finny! Finny! FINNY!"

Finny sank to her knees and peered down the hole.


"Stop arseing about and get a move on!"

Fortunately, all Kru could see, staring up into the comparative brightness of the streetlights was a silhouette, so she didn't get to see the face Finny was making.

Then the manhole cover grated back into place, and Kru was plunged back into darkness.

Standing up again, Finny went to brush dirt off the knees of her jeans, but the contact with bare skin reminded her that her jeans were gone forever, or at least until next birthday.

The whisper of a breeze brought the smell of roasting meat to Finny's nose, and the corresponding growl in her tummy reminded her that she hadn't eaten since the ice cream that morning.

The smell, of course, would be from the 'party people' and their bonfires around the pond.

Finny checked her watch, holding it up to the orange glow of the nearest street light and silently mouthing off the numbers as her finger traced their way around the dial. Sixteen to seven.

At the orphanage, supper would be over, and it was that quiet time of the day when you got to just chat or play or do hobby stuff before bedtime.

A small worry showed itself fleetingly on Finny's sewage-smeared face. Bedtime meant a bed check. If she wasn't back in time for that, there would be consequences.

Now, an additional sense of urgency motivated her feet as she headed towards the flickering glow above Plaza De La Charca, more familiarly known as 'the square'.

Finny emerged near the Union guard post and stayed as much in the shadows as she could,

even walking through the urine-soaked ground beneath the rickety wooden platform where the guards kept an eye on the proceedings in the square.

The pagodas, of course, were now empty of the merchants and their wares, long since gone home to their families.

The vaults, however, never close and even now a couple of bank officers remained to help drunken vault owners and to keep away those who had no business there.

From the shadows, Finny could see that there were a good dozen bonfires already on the go and others in the process of being built further around the pond.

There was already singing and dancing going on, but the evening activities were still only just getting underway.

Finny knew from staying up on her ledge until almost bedtime that things got a lot more raucous later on.

The important thing, though, was that she couldn't see anyone more suspicious than the regular party people hanging around.

She snuck towards the vaults as casually as possible, trying to blend in with the small crowd of street rats who were already gathered.

As the party people got more and more drunk, the chances of scrounging food and other good stuff became better and better. Mind you, so did the chances of casual violence coming your way.

In the past, more than one unlucky kid had been the victim of accidental, or even deliberate shooting when a drunken clone had decided on some target practice.

Most of the half-wild urchins paid her no nevermind and even the couple of them who did curled their noses up and moved away rather than investigate too closely.

Finny started sidling towards the vaults. She reckoned she could open her vault, remove the roll of lock-picking paraphernalia and be away in less than thirty seconds.

She was within five metres and already reciting her magic pin number under her breath when a hand descended on her shoulder.

"And where do think you're going, boy?"

Finny spun around, throwing the man's hand off her shoulder.

"I'm goin' to my vault to get something out."

Bank officer Carlin put his hands on his hips.

Why did these kids keep trying this bullshit? All they ever wanted to do was to climb up on top of a vault and do the 'hey, look at me!' dance for their friends.

A pain in the ass, the lot of them.

"Sure, you do..." Just then, the whiff of the more fluid components of Finny's disguise hit him. "Jesus H Christ on a stick son! Have you shit yourself?"

Finny opened her mouth to deny that she had done any such thing, but the man had already grabbed her by the scruff of her tee-shirt.

"You sure as hell ain't going anywhere near my vaults covered in shit." Carlin looked towards the fire-lit pond. "In fact, the only place you're going is for an overdue bath!"

Finny found herself choking as she was frogmarched through the nearest bonfire camps towards the pond in the middle of the square.

She tried to protest but, as her fingers scrabbled to reach the man's clenched fist bunching her tee-shirt up behind her head, all she could really manage was a breathless squeaking.

They had just reached the tree when an unfamiliar voice came from above.

"Whatcha doin' mister?"

Bank officer Carlin turned around, dragging a now puce-faced Finny in a wide arc to stand in front of him.

Finny might not have recognised the thin, childish voice from the figure crouched in the lower branches of the tree, but Carlin had.

His suspicion was confirmed when a short, dungaree and bobble hat clad figure dropped to the ground in front of them. Carlin licked his suddenly parched lips.

"I er, I caught this boy, er trying to climb on the vaults."

The unsmiling figure didn't say anything, just tilted her head to one side.

Carlin, suddenly feeling light-headed, went on.

"He. He kinda smells bad so, I er, I thought a bath might, you know..."

"Is you his Papa?"

Confused, Carlin shook his head.

"No, no I'm not his er, Papa."

The girl turned her attention to the still struggling Finny.

"Does you wanna take a bath?"

Finny shook her head as decisively as she could.

The increasingly annoyed-looking tree-girl turned her eyes on Carlin again.

"If ya ain't his Papa an' he don't wanna have a nassy bath, then you shun't be makin' him have one."

Behind her, from the nearest campfire, several figures were paying close attention to the proceedings. Nudges were being exchanged along with nods and winks.

Then one of the figures slowly climbed to his feet, and Carlin immediately recognised the Chota chieftain.

The bank officer suddenly felt his legs turning to jelly and then the smell of roasting meat from the fire demanded half-remembered rumours rise into his thoughts.

Don't look at the meat, he thought. Don't look at... Too late, Carlin's eyes betrayed him and he'd caught sight of what was roasting in the embers. He felt warm wetness running down his leg.

Finny felt the man's fingers loosen on her shirt, and she wrenched herself free. Once the girl had dropped from the tree, Finny had recognised her immediately.

She was one of the party people Finny had occasionally seen around the vaults. Sometimes the girl had perched upon the ledge Finny and the other kids often occupied.

When she did though, she usually had the ledge all to herself. Finny admired her, was envious of her freedom, but, right now, Finny was just glad of the distraction.

Taking the opportunity, she bolted into the darkness beyond the campfires and back towards the vaults.

Nobody stopped her this time, and Finny's deft fingers quickly gained her access to her vault.

Behind Finny, distant laughter and the occasional high-pitched shriek told her that 'something' was going on near the water's edge, but she had no time to look.

Roll of picks in hand, Finny bolted the way she had come in.

However, as she passed the Union guard post, a desperate-looking bank officer was pleading with the guards high above to do something about what was happening to his friend.

The Union guards, however, were just slowly shaking their heads. In their opinion, whatever was going on was beyond their pay grade to deal with.

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