• Fools of the World by Katelynn Orellana

    The time was 11:36 PM and the chill night had blanketed the desolate city with an all too familiar hush. Crumbling structures wept beneath softly falling snow and a bitter wind stirred amongst empty streets, yawning doorways, and abandoned window shops. Lonely cars lay strewn about the icy pavement, traffic lights blinked a random sequence of red, green, and yellow, and nothing disturbed the quiet of the night but for the tumult of snow, wind, and a lone figure slowly picking its way between cars in the middle of the road in what ought to be the bustling center of the city.

    The powdery snow just barely sighed under her booted feet as a young woman cloaked in black feverishly glanced inside the various car windows. The moonlight reflected brightly in her deep, emerald eyes. They were glazed over from worry, from despair, but a faint spark ignited somewhere inside them when she peered into a blue Subaru with a cracked windshield and saw a first-aid kit poking out from beneath the passenger seat, that wonderful little red cross inviting her to enter the car.

    The girl quickly produced a backpack from between the folds of her cloak and at the same time pried open the frozen driver-side door with determination. She hastily scrambled into the car, felt the leather of the tattered seats on her tired hands. She grabbed at the kit and flung the cheap white plastic lid up and rifled through several bandages, some antiseptic, and various painkillers and vitamins, and a bag of jerky. She fumbled in unzipping her backpack and stuffed the first-aid kit in amongst the various products such as foodstuffs and other helpful items like string, cloth, pocketknives, matches, and a small porcelain Siamese kitten trinket she'd found in a minivan when she'd first come to this particular city.

    The girl blew on her hands and rubbed them together. She couldn't feel them, and she watched absently as they pulled her sleeve back so that she might look at her watch. 11:42 PM, and though her findings for the day were meager she knew she needed to find temporary shelter. When the bag was zipped tight once more and safe at home under the cloak, she drew it close to her neck, bowed her head, and lightly stepped from the car, parting the constant fall of snow in the atmosphere around her and heading for a nearby awning.

    Once under the awning the girl shook her hood loose to reveal shoulder-length, jet black and wavy hair that blew around a clear, olive skin tone. She squinted at the sign on the window below the striped awning. It read: "Carrie's Coffee and Cakes," and also listed business hours. A low booming echo far in the clouded distance made the girl shudder and wrench open the door. The bronze doorknob was locked but it gave way easily to her sudden force, and once inside she closed and relocked it with trembling fingers and fastened the rusty deadbolts above the abused knob.

    Darkness was everywhere in the would-be cafe. There was the faint and savory smell of ground coffee, and soon some fumbling rustles and heavy breathing, followed finally by a zipping noise joined the smell of coffee lingering in the air. A beam of light from a cheap plastic flashlight penetrated the room and shone in the girl's deep green eyes as she waved the saber of light through the cafe. It was relatively small and clean, there were some tables and musty looking couches, a dusty antenna TV in the corner, and random pictures of cowpoke and Western paraphernilia. Some spoiled pastries and sweets were safe behind glass cupboards, and several stained mugs littered the heavy mohagany countertop that ran the length of the far wall.

    "Just the place," the girl sighed. She threw her backback behind the counter and between the wall where there were several storage shelves and cubbies housing various tools that would've been used by the barristas of the place in its hayday, as well as some extra mugs, utensils and bags of sugar and the like. She grabbed some cushions from one of the couches and, after beating the dust and dirt partially away, placed them alongside her backpack to use as a bed in her makeshift room. She was fortunate enough that there were several votive candles dispersed about the cafe for decoration, and she used some flimsy matches to carefully light a handful of them and place them along the countertop and shelves behind the counter, then she settled down to lay huddled on the cushions.

    Another booming echo far, far away. The girl cringed and flicked off her flashlight, drawing her cloak closer. The candlelight flickered in her eyes, and tears flowed silently onto the cushions for just a moment of weakness. "Shhh. They aren't here, get some sleep," she whispered to herself, "You're alone."

    11: 25 PM and a lone figure is approaching the sloping outskirts of the decrepit city, hunched against the howling wind. It struggles and slips, losing footing on the slippery clumps of covered grass. From atop a freshly blanketed hill the wind stirs his dark, crimson cloak and bites at his prominent frost-bitten cheeks and pricking his stubble. He overlooks the city now, staring through the snow with caution and practiced scanning. His narrowed eyes are a very dark brown, nearly black, and the snowflakes dance in their depths.

    "A new city and yet it's like most all the others," he observes, noticing the quiet, dark buidlings and flickering lamp posts. He glances at his watch; it flickers 11:32 in the moonlight. He focuses his attention on the cityscape once more. "And again, not a thing in sight, not a single living...but wait..."

    He rubbed his eyes with calloused hands. Was that movement he just saw, there in the street? Certainly that black speck moving begrudgingly amongst the dotted cars of the lifeless city couldn't possibly be anything other than a discolored snowflake.

    "Heeey!" the man yelled out with uncertainty. Though, did he really want to attract attention? What if this was a ploy? His voice was drowned in the cold wind despite his attempts, and he clasped his hand over his mouth. "Don't be a fool. It can't be, nothing's here."

    He watched for several more minutes. That little black speck kept rummaging amongst the cars, and finally stopped at a particular one for a while. His curiousity and anxiety peaked as he observed the speck disappearing under an awning, accompanied by a loud boom that shook his body more out of nervous reflex than any physical thunderings from far off distances. The man laughed hysterically for just a moment, pulled his cloak tight around him, and descended the slope, onward to the city. He would investigate this strange figure, no, he would prove to himself he was simply seeing things, going crazy from always being alone. Because nothing ever changes now; the world has nothing good left to offer, only pain, running, hiding...