The Reds

Elodie Wastell

My hand is warm, almost too warm for my liking, and slightly moist, but that’s not my fault, it’s my dads. I’m holding his hand as he just got back from a trip to the other side of the Outer Ring – someplace called the Clockwork Common Markets – a chance to get real chocolate, a rarity only those in the Inner Ring can enjoy. Though, other than that slightly bothering detail, this is quite a cheerful moment. 

We turn the corner and I immediately smell the familiar sweet smell of cakes baking and the scented vanilla candles that constantly burn in our store. I look up at my dad, smiling, he’s smiling too. I squint, noticing the grey streaks through his rough, short beard and the bags lying below his bloodshot eyes. He’s tired and before I can say a word my mother runs out from the bakery, the shop bell dinging behind her. 

“Hey guys! How was your trip, Ax?” she says, you can hear the smile in her voice. She doesn’t look tired at all.

“Didn’t get any chocolate. By the time I arrived at the Markets it was sold out, and that was at 2am.”

“People are crazy.”

My parents smile at each other, as they do so, I see it again, bold, glowing, bright. It’s happiness. The happiness quickly fades as they both look into the sky. I notice a red flare flying up high. Maybe it’s fireworks, but why would there be fireworks at this time of day? The firework flies higher and higher and I’m scared it will burst the sun, but no, it pops. Blood red slowly covers the sky.

To my great annoyance, my dad slings me over his shoulder and runs me into my bedroom. Without a word he locks me in, away from the outside world once again. This happens every year, and apparently when I’m old enough I’ll be able to learn what it is about, but for now, all I need to worry about is myself.

I sigh, staring outside the window, watching every house get coated in what I have always supposed is red paint and the city turns to chaos before my view is blocked with red.