Waves is the third edition in the continuous short story series, Eyes of the Innocent, that will span across this year’s Verse Magazine, inspired by the theme of each particular edition. It tells the story of how one cataclysmic event can affect different people and how it can bring them together.
Written by Rylee Cooper
Kai was preoccupied when the floor beneath them trembled.
The vibrations shook the glasses on the table and rattled the headboard against a groove in the wall worn out by the metal frame. The man beneath their hands came out of his pleasure for a moment, blinking once in Kai’s direction. They didn’t make eye contact.
‘What was that?’
The man’s voice was low and gruff, his eyes rolling back into his head as Kai began to move their hands again.
The rumbling eased. The explosion was far enough away that the man splayed across the bed like a roasted boar didn’t allow it to distract him for long. The governmental pin at his collar rose and fell with every quickened breath.
‘Don’t worry about it,’ Kai purred. The dimmed light above the couple casted their shadows in long, inhuman shapes across the bed.
Somewhere outside the hotel, through the split streets of the slums, a raucous cheer erupted like a battle cry. Kai moved his hands faster. The man beneath him began to moan, his hands shifting over the red velvet covering the bed as he neared his release.
He found it just as the lights above them dimmed violently, the bulbs sputtering out into blackness.
There was a moment of silence. The panting of the Financial Minister below them was the only sound filling the darkness. Then Kai grabbed the cloth beside the bed and walked to the adjoining bathroom; the buzzing, battery-powered LED light above the bedhead offering the smallest amount of illumination. The darkness reflected back at them in the bathroom mirror helped calm their nerves, twisting wizened taps as unclear water spattered onto their hands.
The bathrooms in the hotel stood wall-to-wall and Kai loosened a breath as a two-toned knock sounded from the other side. It was what they had been waiting for, what they had been told about all those weeks ago.
It was starting.
‘What happened to the lights?’
The man on the bed was buttoning up his suit pants. His thin face turning around the room as if looking for the source of the outage.
Kai steeled themselves as they walked through the doorway, wiping their hands on the cloth and shrugged, ‘These old buildings lose power all the time, considering we don’t have the best power supply like the inner city.’
The man snorted, thin fingers now working on the buttons of his shirt, brushing over the pin displaying three interlocking circles, ‘I don’t pay you to be political, kid.’ He walked towards Kai who clenched their jaw as the man gripped it with three fingers, ‘I pay you because you like me.’
Kai gave him a snake’s smile through the dark, ‘I like whoever is paying me.’
There were footsteps in the hallway, hurried steps like the scampering of excited children. Three knocks in rhythm tapped against the closed door in front of Kai before they moved on to the next room. Kai turned out of the man’s grip towards a cupboard in the far corner, reaching inside the dark.
‘What was that?’ The man was frowning towards the door, the pink LED casting red shadows across his sharp features.
Kai pulled his arm out of the cupboard and pointed the metal bat towards the man, end first, ‘You ask a lot of questions.’
The first swing knocked the Financial Minister to his knees, the second breaking through the bone of his skull. Kai gritted their teeth as they swung the bat over and over and over again, letting the blood spatter onto their boots until the man no longer moved, until the rage that bubbled in their veins ebbed. There was another set of knocks at the door and Kai called out in response.
The door pushed open to reveal a frail woman with hair hanging by her waist, a lamp clutched in one hand, the warm light lifting her cheekbones and highlighting the hollows of her brow. Her hands and arms were splattered with blood. Her dark eyes slid towards the body on the floor, ‘Is it done?’
Kai nodded and lifted a coat onto their back, stepping over the broken man, ‘Yes.’
‘Then we should go – the march has started.’
Kai hurried with the girl downstairs, standing at the foot of the landing to peer through double doors to the scene on the street.
It was chaos.
Swarms of people surged through the narrow streets, fingers tearing at the sides of buildings, vehicles, debris, anything that they could find to wield between their hands. The posters hanging between buildings baring the three interlocking circles – the symbol of the capital – were either ripped to shreds, or defaced with red paint. The yelling and chorusing of the crowd electrifying the air and making Kai’s hair stand on end. The thrum of the shouts igniting the rage in their blood. Kai stepped out of the hotel and joined the surging crowd, like stepping into a running river.
They were jostled from either side, their shoulders bumping against other members of the crowd that shouted, ‘We warned you’, in unison. Their steps fell in with the rest of the crowd and they found themselves chanting too, raising the bat above their head as every inequality, every hardship, found its way up their throat to rise into the air.
Four thumps sounded from the front of the group, metal banging against metal that sent a message down the surging crowd. It silenced the shouting and had the people around Kai gripping their weapons harder, white knuckles clenched around a makeshift armoury. Still, they marched forwards, determined to reach the peaks of buildings towering in the distance, determined to make their voices heard.
They marched, armed with weapons pulled from broken homes and battered windows, towards the police cars blocking the end of the street. Towards the figures with visors dark enough to cover their eyes, to pretend they weren’t human anymore. They marched towards raised guns and silver bullets.
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