Tue, 24 March 2009 - 6:35 pm

Diving in

It was nothing dire. Dillon had snapped and was shouting at Masterson. I’m not sure what happened, but it had something to do with Alice – probably one too many crack about the one-eyed girl. The two boys have been separated and Masterson has been told to keep his tongue to himself before he gets it smacked down his throat. Then it was time to move on for the day.

Anyway. Where was I? Oh, the courtyard.

 

I crept over to join the others, and Ben took my hand and held onto it tightly. I didn’t dare to say anything. I think we were all wondering why the crows were just sitting there, why they weren’t cawing. They all seemed to be looking down at us, watching the tiny people move around on the ground. Maybe they were wondering if one of us would die and provide them with a meal.

They didn’t wait long. Without warning, they all erupted into the sky, prompted by some signal none of us saw. It was deafening – the courtyard amplified the sound of wings and crow voices, and all of us covered our ears. They circled once and then dived into the courtyard like it was a great funnel, swirling around and around until they peeled off and dived through one of the open doors. The prison’s dark belly ate them up.

It was over in seconds. They didn’t touch a single one of us, but we were all crouching by the time they were gone, hearts hammering like a big dwarf with a tiny chisel. There was wariness in the way we stood up again, testing our true heights as if it might prompt something else to fly at us. In the crows’ absence, silence swallowed us again, as if they had sucked all the sound along with their wake.

 

“Fuck this.” Masterson was the first one to speak, jolting us all out of our stunned expressions. “You guys can find the stupid kid. I’m gonna wait in the car.”

He wasn’t wrong. Callous, as always, but not wrong. I wanted to say something to stop him, but I couldn’t figure out what.

Matt didn’t have that problem. “On your own?” He wasn’t confrontational about it, just asked the question evenly.

Masterson was already several steps across the courtyard, heading for the exit, when he turned to scowl back at us. He set a pointed look on Sally; she shifted uncomfortably because her feet hadn’t moved to follow him.

“I wanna stay with the group,” she told him, in that voice that hopes he won’t mind, really, because she doesn’t want to cause trouble. To her credit, she didn’t bow to his disapproval or displeasure. She’s learning to stand up to him.

The doctor thought about it for a moment, and then huffed and came back to us. He wasn’t willing to risk being caught alone in this place and I don’t blame him for that. I had hold of Ben’s hand again and wasn’t planning to let it go anytime soon.

 

Nugget had to be somewhere inside, so we had to decide how we were going to search for her. We retreated to a doorway to talk, so that we weren’t standing right there out in the open any more.

We didn’t want to split up because we were safer in numbers. But in one group, it would take hours to search the whole place. We didn’t dare call out to Nugget in case there were other people here, and she wouldn’t call back anyway, so we would have to search the prison room by room. At least the number of places we had to search would be cut down by how much she could get into; it was bound to be locked up inside.

No-one said anything about the potential of prisoners loose in there; we were all thinking it. Even guards weren’t a comforting thought; we’ve seen plenty of good people turned to violence and self-interest, and heard stories about prison guards being just as bad as the prisoners, only with keys and weapons. No, if there were people here, they were unlikely to be friendly or disinterested. They were likely to be armed and ready for us.

We decided to split into two groups. Me, Ben, Dillon and Alice in one; Thorpe, Matt, Sax, Sally and Masterson in the other. We were to meet back in the courtyard in an hour. Then we turned to opposite sides of the courtyard, straightened our shoulders, and went in.

It wasn’t until we were split up and inside that I realised none of us had a working watch. It wasn’t the best start.

 

Time to go. I’ll finish this when I can!

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