This short story is an introduction to a series of short stories containing the same characters, but with out much of an overarching plot. More information soon to come!
Chay had always had a thing for rooftops. Sitting above the city, the chaos seemed less suffocating.
She had only been in Sakai for a few weeks, and had only recently found a replacement for her old rooftop sanctuary. From here, she could watch the people move around the streets and the shore, and the ocean in the distance. Seagulls screamed above her, and the wind blew the unfamiliar smell of the ocean towards her. Behind her, the wall surrounding the Sakai stood tall.
Chay took a deep breath and leaned back on the rooftop, closing her eyes for a moment. Peace was hard to find in the small apartment that her and her eight relatives lived in, and it was nice not having her younger cousin bugging her, or her mother’s nagging.
It was unlikely anyone could find her up here…
“Who are you?”
Chay jolted, causing her to slide down the roof an inch or two. She caught herself and straightened into a sitting position, weight on one arm.
At the top of the roof, where the trap door was, a young boy peaked his head out.
“Who are you?” Chay asked.
The boy narrowed his eyes. “I found… I found th-this hiding spot f-first.” He pushed himself up so he was sitting on the far edge of the trap door. “So, who are you?”
“Dolce,” Chay replied. “But most people call me Chay. And as far as I’m concerned, I found this hiding place first.”
“What exact… what exactly are you, you hiding f-from?” The boy asked.
He was short, but Chay realized that he was closer to her age than she originally thought – probably a year younger than her. That would make him close to thirteen. He looked a lot like her, too, with solid black hair that fell into his black eyes, a naturally crooked nose, and bushy eyebrows. He was tanner, though, and his voice had an accent Chay couldn’t quite place.
Chay shrugged. “Nagging family, mostly. I won’t hurt you, if you’d like to join me. But I would like your name first.”
“Matt,” the boy replied. He tilted his head, looking Chay over. “You have-haven’t been here… been here l-long, have y-you? I m-mean, since it looks… looks li, like y-you have-haven’t been in th-the sun mu-much.”
Chay rubbed the bright-white skin on her bare arms. “Is it that obvious?”
Matt chuckled. “J-just a tad.”
Chay smiled. “Come up here. I promise I don’t bite.”
Matt gracefully lifted the rest of his body up onto the roof and slid next to Chay.
“It’s a nice view up here, isn’t it?” Chay said, laying back down.
Matt nodded. “Have you… have you ever been acro-across the ocean?”
“Not this one,” Chay replied. “But yes, I’ve been over seas. I was born in Duexon.”
“So was I.” Matt leaned back and rested his head against his hands. Chay caught a glimpse of a black mark on his wrist, but didn’t put much thought into it.
“But you weren’t raised there?” Chay asked.
Matt shook his head, but before he had a chance to respond, their conversation was cut off by the sound of incoming planes.
Chay and Matt both jerked up.
“Missiles?” Matt asked.
“I can’t tell,” Chay replied. “I can’t tell where they’re coming from. But if we were under attack they would sound the-“
Sirens throughout the small city blared.
“The alarms,” Chay finished. “We need to find shelter.”
Chay and Matt helped each other off the roof, and ran down the spiral staircase to the bottom floor of the building.
“They’re get- they’re getting closer,” Matt said. “Can you, can you make it to th-the nearest sh-shelter?”
Chay glanced out the window. It would be a long walk to any shelter that she knew about.
“I don’t think so.” Chay looked around the building. “There should be a shelter here, right?”
The old building used to be a restaurant, but had closed a year ago. The golden floors were covered in dust, and the patterns on all the rugs were indecipherable. Old tables and chairs were stacked one side, and the red curtains to the kitchen were beaten and torn.
Matt shrugged. “Maybe it’s… maybe it’s under one of the- one of the rugs.”
Matt and Chay moved each of the three rugs on the ground, but found nothing. They then checked the kitchen, and even the bathrooms, but with no luck.
“How can a restaurant not have a bomb shelter?” Chay asked. Above her, the sound of planes approaching grew louder.
“They’re al-alm-almost here,” Matt said.
“We need to get out of here,” Chay said.
“M-maybe n-not,” Matt replied. “Th-this is a pr, a pretty aband-abandoned-d section of th-the city. M-maybe we’re safer here?”
Chay shook her head. “Last time, they came from the shore inwards. And they’ll be dropping missiles any second.”
Matt nodded. “I th-think I know a close p-place.”
He led Chay out of the restaurant and into the street. He gestured towards the left, and the two of them darted in that direction.
Chay’s black slippers slipped off her feet as she ran, but she didn’t bother going back for them. She just kept running, even as the hot pavement burned the bottom of her feet.
Chay heard the whistle of a missile deploying, and a second later the ground rumbled. Chay and Matt were thrown off their feet, and Chay scraped one arm against the pavement hard enough to make it bleed.
A second later and another missile hit. The ground shook and a few roof tiles fell off the top of the nearest building.
“We need to keep going,” Chay said. She pushed herself up and helped Matt stand up.
Another missile hit, and Chay barely kept herself from falling over. Debris scuttled down the road.
“We d-don’t have t-time,” Matt said.
Chay glanced around as another missile collided with the city. Debris rained from the sky.
“In here.” Chay pushed open the nearest door and prayed that there was a safe place to hide.
Another missile hit, and a window in the building shattered as a piece of brick flew through.
“Downstairs,” Chay said, pointing towards a set of stairs descending into darkness.
They stumbled towards the stairs as the ground shook again. Another window shattered as a roof tile smashed into the building.
Chay made it to the stairs and pulled Matt towards them. She shoved him into the stairway and followed right behind him.
The walls around them were reinforced, but the ground still rumbled. About hallway down Chay slipped and hurt her ankle.
Chay stumbled and grabbed onto Matt to keep her balance as pain flared up her leg. She muttered a series of curses in various languages under her breath.
“You have a v-very ext-extensive vocab-bulary,” Matt noted.
He helped her hop down a step, and Chay readjusted her position so it was easier to lean on him.
She hopped down the stairs, keeping her weight off of her ankle, and slowly the two of them made it to the bottom of the stairs. Their feet splashed as they stepped off the last step.
“Well, this is a nice shelter,” Chay noted, looking around. Water had gathered all over the floor, coming from a leak in one of the walls. Decaying cardboard boxes laid scattered over the room. And the whole thing smelled like rotten fish.
Matt helped Chay sit down on the second to bottom step, and then sat down next to her.
“V-very p-pleasant,” Matt agreed.
Chay chuckled. “I guess it’s better than sticking around up there. I just hope we aren’t stuck in here all night.”
Also I’d like to add that this is my first published story with a character who stutters, so feedback about that – and anything else – is greatly appreciated!