In the previous episode, Celia was warned by the ghost Rupert to leave the caravan when it reached the city. After they reach their destination, readers voted that Celia would take Rupert’s advice and leave.
The doors to the caravan were opened and dusty rays of light poured in. Celia squinted, as the costumes were illuminated, glittering, presenting themselves to the outside world. Celia felt dull and weak by comparison. She slowly peeled the fabric off of her body and allowed Marguerite to help her to her feet.
The driver and overseer, an evil man who had lost everything when he was young and never regained anything but resentment and anger, came through the caravan to check on production. Celia noticed his jet-black hair and the way Marguerite clutched Luca to her breast when he passed by, eyes lowered. Celia herself drew back, long black hair falling in a curtain around her face as she avoided the man’s piercing gaze. Only after everything was checked were the women allowed to exit the caravan at last into the bright daylight, leaving piles of exquisite costumes, layers of ruffles spilling over behind them.
As men, women, and children filtered out of the caravan, Celia was amazed at the difference in their appearances. The chiseled, grisly men who had roared with laughter, tearing meat off the bone with their teeth, now lined up in the clothes of repairmen looking humble and unsure. All the women had their hair covered by scarves, and as they exited the caravan Marguerite swept Celia’s hair up, reaching for a piece of spare fabric and made sure her head was covered. Among the multicolored patterns of the women’s clothing, Celia felt that her plain white dress stood out and so she quickly swiped another piece of patterned material and tied it around her waist.
Celia could see a strange, exotic city ahead of her, with buildings that towered and twisted up, leaning like melting cones, capped with candy colored domes and thin, slightly warped turrets. They were shades of slate grey and stone, with black wrought iron statues and gargoyles. The streets were cobblestone, and people hurried by wrapped in dark cloaks and heavy woolen coats. The group dispersed, and Celia was guided over to a curved, smaller street. There, Marguerite laid out their costumes on the dirty ground and placed a tin cup next to them, sitting on the street and folding her hands without looking at Celia. After a moment’s hesitation, Celia sat down next to her. Luca kicked a stone up the street.
Life in the city was dirty and exhausting. Celia soon remembered what hunger felt like; so long ago seemed the feast in the woods that more than once she wondered if she had dreamed it. The days were long and dreary, and Celia spent them sitting on the faceless sidewalks of the city, their beautiful costumes blackening with filth from the street and the grubby hands of the people who handled them without respect, passing over them with a remark or a nod and then tossing them aside to be handled by the next person. Celia thought she could feel them shivering.
One evening they were counting the megar coins in the can after a long day when Celia looked up and saw, in the fading light, a glimmer against a dirty brick wall. Barely visible, Rupert stood leaning against the wall, smoking a cigarette. Looking ashy and transparent, his hair was falling over his face and his eyes were duller than they had been even on the caravan. He looked at Celia and in that moment she knew – she had to leave. She couldn’t end up like that; it would not be her fate.
That night, as Marguerite prepared Luca’s simple dinner, Celia let her long dark hair down from its scarf, pulled on a dirty fur coat over her white dress and set off down the street into the strange night. Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.