Starting a new month, I thought I'd share an extract from The Rising Fire. It's been over three years since I wrote the first draft of this section, but it feels more relevant now than ever before. The Rising Fire is all about civil unrest and government corruption, two concepts we are more than familiar with at the moment.
The change in S’aven hit Rachel in cold shivers as she made her way through town. Her powers made her invisible to those around her but not immune to the degeneration of her former home. S’aven had always been a dark place. A town built on misfortune had no option to be anything else, but this time things were different. She could feel the suffering in the brickwork, the pain rising from the cracked tarmac. S’aven was dying. And despite all this place had done to her, had taken from her, she found she was sorry to see it this way.
Her boots crunched against the shattered glass glittering on the pavement like fresh snow. The shops lining the street were boarded up or kicked in, selling only dust from their ransacked shelves. She twisted her fingers as she walked, hunting for any tormented souls looking to block her path. It was strange. The street was empty.
Even in the bleakest winters, the road heading towards the market was crammed with S’aven locals looking for a scam. She’d regularly fought through crowds of shoppers to get across town. Now the way was clear. She crossed the road and spotted two men hovering at the corner. They stood as though on guard, their woollen hats hiding their weathered faces. They didn’t see her—she made sure of that—but surveyed the crossroads shrewdly. She passed them unnoticed and took a left into S’aven’s market.
What was left of it.
Day or night, the market had been the violent home of commerce and corruption. Men and women screamed and raved about new stock, knock-offs and rip-offs. Dirty notes were pressed into dirtier hands. Deals were done. Wallets were lifted, thieves were beaten. And amid it all, slum tourists queued for an E. coli burger in a bun. It was never quiet. Never still.
Rachel stared at the graveyard of stalls. The wind whipped against stray flags desperately clinging to abandoned frames. Amid the desolation there were pockets of trade. The trinket sellers, the jewellery makers—those that sold things nobody needed—sat optimistically looking for business. As though having no other business in their way would elevate their wares to something beyond pointless.
She walked to the nearest stall, looking at the pitiful display of wired earrings rusting in the display cabinet. The woman operating the stall was old, her fingers thick and swollen with arthritis. She coughed, a dry, empty noise ricocheting across the market place. There was nothing here of use.
The only other option was the ration house.
When she’d lived in S’aven, she opted for rations over haggling with traders every time. But back then money was tight. She lived frugally to keep herself under the radar, to keep a little aside in case she had to get out of town quickly. The government supplied enough reasonably priced protein meals to keep a girl with simple tastes healthy. Once a week she’d join the winding queue and wait patiently for a share of sustenance, ignoring the cramping in her overworked legs and the blisters on her overused feet. God, she was glad those days were over. As the wind strengthened, she pulled her collar up and hurried southwards.
Six blocks down, she rounded another corner and stopped. The ration house was dark. Chipboard panels covered the door and windows, CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE crudely written in red across them. Rachel felt a chill that ran colder than the wind. Even when things were really bad, S’aven could fall back on the ration house. It was S’aven’s heart, keeping the town alive when the other organs failed. She stared at the useless building. The sooner they got out of town the better.