There are no books or CDs left in Battery, there is no art nor freedom, but there are smugglers who come and go, passing on messages and leaving notes, the chain-mail in the revolution's armour.
The city is actually colder than the desert, even with all the towering buildings and the rushing bodies and the relentless sun beating down onto hard concrete and gleaming, metal, the large, industrial fans in the foundations of every home, office and shop keep the civic cool and fresh.
However, at night, the cold is sharp, dangerous; creeping up and under the floorboards like a swarm of pins and needles, searching for bare flesh with their pointed beaks, propelled by tiny, fluttering wings, pinching and scratching whenever they find a piece of warm body. It’s another tactic used to keep the bats inside once the sun has died, bodies hidden under countless duvets and comforters, huddled in the dark cold of their homes while the outside frost creeps under their windows.
The Luna smothers too much of Battery City with its lonely, bitter rays for it to be safe for any sain man to step out of his home past sundown.
So most stay indoors with eyes scrunched up and flying sheep, trying to sleep away the cold until the sun comes again for the morn. It’s hard to catch any kind of slumber though, even for Lindsey, tucked up tight in the highest of towers, under the highest pile of woollen blankets. The cold is skirting around the edges of her consciousness as she presses her young face against the pillow, eyes closed but breath quick as she tries in vain to keep the feeling in her hands, balled under her armpits.
She’s humming softly, an old rhyme to keep the kids off of the street. Her mother sings it sometimes, when she’s not too removed, staring into the vanity and fiddling with her pills, her eyes cold and empty. The song reminds Lindsey of her mother’s voice on good days, of the sunlight and the open window streaming light into their small apartment. She curls her feet up and under her and mumbles the words she does remember.
The song is melancholy and desperate, a plea to a loved one or an anthem sung above the grave of a child, a jingle winding its way up the stairs of a haunted mansion. It’s the song of the things prowling through the nighttime streets. The Scarecrows.
They used to protect the city, back when there were things beyond the gates that the bats needed protection from. Birds with horrible claws and black coats, button eyes and scratching cries, ripping children from their beds before their time was up. They were tall, stuck to the ground at their bases but with reaching arms, filled with dead plants and bursting at the seams. They wore funny hats and were stitched at the mouth, their stomachs pudgy with wheat, held together by second hand coats and shirts. They used to listen to the city’s children, catch their secrets and hold them tight. They were friendly before the war, Lindsey’s mother says when she speaks of them, they were their nations gentle giants.
They’re dark things now, woven from black lace and spider webs, shadowy creatures protecting the midnight streets. Lindsey used to watch them from her window, her nightie stretched down over her knees to keep some of her body warmth in her body. She’d creep out of bed while her mother was sleeping to chase the scarecrows with her eyes, following their movements as they darted through the shadow land. They’re sickly thin now, with long crooked legs, scuttling like stick insects up and down the alleyways, protected by their Luna from the icy cold.
The curtains are drawn tonight though, keeping in a little more warmth now that the year’s months have reached their crescendo, falling into even darker, colder nights, the days too chilly for Lindsey to go out without her cardigan. Nights like these are always long, time stretching into nothing, loosing its coherence somewhere within the black of her bedroom. Shadows jump and twist, her forgotten clothes, lying on the floor, creeping up with full limbs and faces, white snapping teeth and yellow eyes. Lindsey spends these winter nights with her eyes crushed shut, wishing away the night and praying in the dawn.
It’s always when things happen, in the dead of a cold winter night; things go bump and houses knock, skeletal hands at their front door, mothers waking to empty nests, their children gone, taken to the family on the hill.
She sings a little, something about running, running far away, bombs and scarecrows, Jack Frost’s long pinching fingers. She closes her eyes and prays for sleep.
Years later and Lindsey is older, as most people are after a passing of time. The nights are still long and cold but her days are more exhausting now, forcing her to sleep, her slumber dark and full of wicked nonsense but deep enough that she can make it through the following day. She is a woman now, not as much of a lady as her mother was, but an adult all the same, with a job and a home of sorts. Next year she will be nineteen and the year after twenty and then it will be her time to create a life with a family and a husband, children she can sing the rhymes of her youth to.
She still feels like the same frightened little girl though, curled up under the piles of her duvet with her mother sleeping just next door. It’s like she grew up without ever noticing.
She works in one of the factories in the heart of the city, it pays as well as any job can and it’s respectable enough for a woman of her age. She works hard; long laborious hours that make her tendons ache and her muscles burn, and though she does her best not to just collapse every night she’s often too tired to maintain any kind of social life.
She lives with a girl who grew up on the hill, the orphanage. Greta has more of an education than Lindsey, but her job is similar; sowing buttons and pressing the uniforms of Battery’s soldiers. She is plane looking, but kind and funny and what her mother would call a good influence. She can read, too, not that there’s much material around in the city. Occasionally they pick things up, stories and songs from their ancestor’s pasts and they make their own adventures, imaginings of far off places and foreign suns.
Like many of the people in the city, Lindsey doesn’t take her prescribed medication.