Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday. Inspired by Lisa Walker England I’m planning to make this as regular a Friday feature as possible. Step over to her site to link up if you want to join the fun. Let’s start a trend! If you post something, share it on social media with the hashtag #flashfridays
And as the darkness fell, the Scurry-Foots crept into the open, man and beast, to forage what even the Thief-Mongers would not touch in daylight.
The lamps were lit few and far between with the cold, green, sickly gas flame that was all the Fire-Barons would allow in the streets; and in their shadows, hundreds of tiny, furried shapes rushed silently past. Nearly soundless two-legged footsteps rasped against the cobbles.
The tiny black beads that were Mortimer’s eyes shone softly in the dark of the alley as he twitched his long pointed nose gently in the air beyond his hidey hole. His whiskers swept the air sensitively, searching for anything out of place.
He inched forward by millimeters, his hairless pink tail wrapped around a twig for security as his furry body emerged into the night. He dropped with a fat plop to the ground, twitching and sensing all.
All except what his eyes saw on the cobbles; the slight shape and shadow of a two-legger just before him. He was going soft.
A gasp, a swift tilt, a lock between eyes.
The smell of her fear hit him before the sight of it flooded the hollows that held her hard, dark eyes. He could smell all now that this twelve-year-old Scurry-girl with deep brown eyes, course, dirty blonde hair, and scars on her back from the beatings had to hide. What magic had hid her from him?
Cruel hissing echoed suddenly in the quiet alley as a pack of claw-rakers passed, hunting his kind with the only ferocity he feared in the world. If possible, Mortimer froze stiller. This frightened girl knew what agony she had to fear from his kind. She could easily signal cats like that, scurry-foots always could. He held her gaze as she lifted a hand to her lips; and she held his back. The moments ticked. The yowling faded.
The alley drew in a sigh.
The slender hand, white in the darkness and streaked with grime, slid to the apron pocket. Mortimer backed three paces, one small, clawed pink foot in the air at the ready.
As the hand slid upwards again, he crouched, pre-spring.
But it was a hard crust of bread that emerged, not some handmade weapon.
He saw every molecule of movement as she gently crouched, gracefully pinched, and slowly scattered the stale crumbs that sloughed onto her fingers.
She’d become queen in the alley.
He crept, ever-slow, to the first dark crumb, always watching her.
Just before his gaze slid to the bread, they both stiffened, noise-startled.
“I’m asking ya, where isshe?” the slurred voice shouted.
“‘Ow should I know where the gutter-snipe’d go? You’re the one what gave ‘er that madge for ‘iding-like to ‘elp ye on the pinching lay.” Annoyed but not invested.
“Bel, dear, ye come’ome ‘is minute, ‘ear?” the slur bellowed, livid.
Understanding passed between their eyes. Hers widened, head shaking.
Mortimer lurched into a run, around her kneeling figure, and into the street. Smack into bootleather. Producing another bellow.
Rodent-shrieking, he darted away from the kick, up the wall, into an emergency tunnel. Paused.
“Nah, she’d never be round ‘ere with the scurry-foots. They killed ‘er da.” Snort. “Coward.” Pause. “Come on then,” the slur roused near coherence.
Loud shuffles fading. Mortimer sniffing scorn-like. Bel sniffing tear-like.
Another soft gasp bounced off the cobbles as Mortimer’s tiny, cold nose found her warm, slender hand, nudging gently.
She hesitated, raising her fingers slowly to pat him.
He submitted to this, then darted back to the crumbs, sniffing appreciatively.
Bel’s face creased in a hesitant smile.
Stop back next Friday to hear Bel’s story! Thanks so much for reading!