Chapter Six: Tags

Hood’s words spike me on. I reach out and swipe at the bloody tag. Curl me paw round the metal. It flexes and pounds against me flesh… &… &… this ain’t no ordinary tag… words shoot through me veins and juice up me muscles. Push! Up! Push hard! You! You! Crazy Pitch! Get up! & yer, yerself… push! hard… harder…

Push! That word’s screaming in me muscles, jumpin’ up and down for attention until me lungs burst with it. Chest, legs, lean into the weight of the bike and it heaves off me. I’m up and spring-heeled, thankful to froke, and that’s when I realise it wasn’t just me doing the lifting.

I’m standing face-to-face with the crazy pitch, her fists still clamped round the bike’s frame. She looks at me as if I’m freek of the week. Somethink flickers on her lips and in her eyes. But she looks away sharp.

The skelly army’s on the move, like one of ‘em sniffed a crumb of word somewhere. Yer ever seen ten thousand bags o’ bones all chase after something they can’t see? It’s skittle-skattle desperate. Now they’re swarming round the looney-runes bridge support they’ve all been ogling. Ain’t they looking the wrong ways anyhows? I thought this was The Nameless’ shindig.

But they ain’t got eyes for her and she ain’t got eyes for ‘em. Instead everyone’s looking at the new stars of the show. Two of ‘em, standing on a service platform, little way up the bridge support. One’s a boy, bit older than me. But dressed real ritzy, sharp ‘n’ sleek in a black suit. He’s with an older bloke. This fella’s wearing fatigues. Yer can see, he’s taken licks and hit back pretty much every day of his life. I don’t know him… least I can’t remember him with all the fuzz still in me head. But I know the boy. He’s lit up in this town. Kimiel, the Poets’ Silvertongue. Wot’s he up to hanging out with a commando like the bloke next to him? I ain’t the only one wondering.  It’s given The Nameless a volt she didn’t expect.  “Not him!… the Word…”, she snaps shocked to herself. Then she’s off, bombin’ and bolderin’ her way through the crowd, the living sticks scattering under her stride.

Hood nips in me ear, “Wot the frocking yell are these skin-ribbed Speechies up to?… slag me!… is that her sign?… if these bustwords are her rebels, we really are froked every which way, cabbage!” I look hard. Websy’s right. As The Nameless charges, they raise up straw arms, their claws clutching battered, twisted bits of metal.  All of ‘em form the same shape

– ‘&’ Her sign. Suddenly remember…  that sign ran red with me belly love’s blood too, red ‘cos of wot was stolen.  By me. And the crazy pitch, The Nameless. There’s fear welling up and tears rolling now. Cos Grunty little thief, that I am, what I lifted made her bleed, her who sits in my heart waiting for me to remember.

The Word. Me heart’s suddenly found its way into me mouth. Cos I can hear a murmur spreading through the crowd of peaky bones like wind through dry grass. They’re all speaking at once. The same word.

Read on in Chapter Seven: Exit

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