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I’ll be providing the entire story here for free for a limited time.  In return, I ask that you tell a friend about Chapter 1!  The only way others find out about my work is through word of mouth.

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Chapter 59

“Okay, Tom,” said Airomem as she arrived at the section of wall where he waited. “On the other side of this wall is an apartment room. One room over from that is where they are keeping Horatius and Hannah. The problem is, we don’t know what is in the first apartment, and we are going to have to move through it. So once we break in, I’m going to need you to guard the door. And if there is anyone inside, you’ll need to keep them from getting help.”

“You want Tom to hurt them?”

“No, all you have to do is block the door and keep them quiet. As long as it stays shut, we should be okay. Now, ready?”

“Ready.”

With a careful hand, she began to slice with the Omni-cutter – here, she was far closer to the windows than she had been earlier, and under no circumstances did she want an accidental gash to expose the entire farmland to space.

Unlike earlier, she cut away a large section of the wall, comprised of rectangles six feet wide and as tall as she could reach, exposing the interior wall. With each completion, Tom helped her lift and set aside the rectangle blocks, their movements considerably more strained than the other porters due to the increase in size.

“You as strong as Tom!” he exclaimed after the second one, when beads of sweat appeared thick on his forehead.

“Yes, but I’m cheating,” she said, gesturing at her suit.

Several minutes later, the wall lay bare, and she walked along its edge, searching the metal. Then, she stopped, her fingers parting two bundles of wires, and her expression triumphant.

There, along the smooth metal, were a set of fasteners. A rectangle of them, several feet apart, which would be holding a piece of furniture in place on the other side within the apartment. In this case, a wardrobe or closet, whose back was flush with the inner wall.

“Tom, have you ever heard of the bogeyman?” she asked, clearing away more wires.

“The who?”

“The bogeyman. He hides in closets and comes out at night to scare children. It’s just a story.”

“No bogeyman on this side of the ship,” he answered, his voice resolute.

“That’s where you’re wrong,” she said, and started to cut. “I’m going to need you to be our bogeyman. And this is your closet.”

 

Chapter 60

In all of Dandelion 14’s known history on Horatius’ side of the ship, no one had jumped between walls. No one had found themselves in a room where they should not physically belong, nor had discovered passageways unknown to the vast majority of the ship. And certainly, no one had ever created such a passageway.

Until now.

The three inhabitants of the apartment were playing carrots – a game left over from before the rationing days. The premise was simple – the players gathered in a circle, and the initiator produced a full carrot. He or she then took a single bite from anywhere on the carrot’s surface, and then would pass the carrot to their right. The next player would then continue, taking another bite at their own discretion, another piece of the morsel to be eliminated. They too would pass it to their right, and the circle would continue, up until the final play could finish the remainder of the vegetable in one large bite.

It was at the very end of the game when the abnormally large figure slipped from the closet without a sound, like a shadow bouncing along the wall. And it was the player who had just shoved an entire carrot into his mouth whose eyes widened as he saw him, trying to shout in terror as the morsel of food only jammed itself deeper into his throat and caused him to gag.

“Urllllfll!” he shouted as the players around him laughed, and the one closest to him, known as a “shoveler” in cases such as these, whacked him on the back. “Urlllfl!”

“C’mon, Esau, spit it out, spit it out,” said the player next to him. “We wouldn’t want you to choke now, not at the beginning of the feasts!”

The player raised a hand, gesturing towards the dark figure as the crowd of four laughed again. But they didn’t turn around. They didn’t have to, because as the figure crossed to the door in two strides, all the clues they needed were provided when it closed with a soft click.

“The closet!” Esau finally managed, the chewed bits of carrot exploding from his mouth over the other players as they whipped around, already far too late, their voices stuttering over each other as they jumped backwards.

“Tom is hungry,” Tom said, his eyes on them, his voice low and dangerous. “Very hungry.”

“W-w-we have plenty of f-f-ood, Tom!” said Esau, his eyes darting to the closet. “W-we can share with you! How did you get in here?”

“Tom so hungry,” came the response as he held a clenched hand over his stomach and glared. “That Tom rip the wall in half.”

From where she hid in the closet, Airomem suppressed a smile as Esau’s and company’s faces drained of blood until they reached a white so pale they rivaled the stars.

“We should, we should, ah, probably be fixing –” started Esau, moving towards Tom, but he held up a hand and the smaller man cowered backwards.

“Tom hungry and angry,” he said, the muscles in his jaw pronounced. “You play games with Tom’s food.”

“And I’ve taught Tom something of the way of my people,” announced Airomem, stepping from the closet and flashing her teeth. “You see, on my end of the ship, when we got hungry, there wasn’t always food. Sometimes, we had to improvise, if you catch my drift. And we taught Tom here a lesson about food. Specifically, how to get more of it when none is around. Just like they did with Segni.”

“Oh God, no,” they whispered, moving back as Tom nodded, his eyes on the floor. “Please –”

“Oh yes,” said Airomem with a low laugh. “But we’ll spare you – all you have to do is stay quiet. Not a word. The slightest noise and  – clack!” She brought her teeth together loud enough to make them jump. “Or, of course, you can leave.”

“Of course, we’ll be right on our way –” started Esau, edging towards the door, but Tom shook his head as Airomem spoke up.

“No, not by that way,” she said, and pointed behind her to the open closet. “That way.

“But the others, what’re they going to do to us?” he wailed, his face filled with realization.

“That does sound like a problem, one you probably should have considered before stealing the food,” replied Airomem, throwing the door open wider so that the hole was fully exposed. “But is that as big as a problem as you staying in here with us?”

They left, quickly and quietly, into the hands of others that intercepted them just outside the wall. And Airomem turned back to Tom, her voice low.

“Well done. And now, for the most important part.”

White light flashed as she clicked on the Omni-cutter and started to cut once more, burrowing deeper into the ship.

***

Next Chapter

Don’t forget to vote for  The Bridge!  It takes 2 clicks.

I’ll be providing the entire story here for free for a limited time.  In return, I ask that you tell a friend about Chapter 1!  The only way others find out about my work is through word of mouth.