The Children's Crusade

The Children's Crusade by Carla Jablonski Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: The Children's Crusade by Carla Jablonski Read Free Book Online
Authors: Carla Jablonski
set her to coughing. The air was gray here, almost chewy, compared to the bright clean world of Free Country.
    Where are they all going , she wondered, and why are they all in such a hurry? Women in slim short skirts with matching jackets strode purposefully toward stairs that descended underground. Men hurried along carrying newspapers and leather cases.
    Daniel was right—people had little boxesattached to their ears with wires. Others spoke loudly into small devices they held up to their heads.
    Marya had seen a city before, though she’d been in Free Country for so long that she wasn’t accustomed to such bustle any longer. But this city was nothing like St. Petersburg or any other city she’d seen before. The fountain in the center of the square and the cobblestone side streets reminded her a bit of her old home, but everything was crowded and close together. And there were so many people.
    And those vehicles! Where were the horses and the carriages? Strange-looking metal carriages with rubber wheels growled and squealed around her. People shouted at one another from windows of the cars and on the street. It was overwhelming.
    Marya took a few steps backward into the protective shadows between two towering shiny buildings.
    â€œLissen you,” a gruff voice growled at her. “Get offer me ’ouse.”
    Startled, Marya glanced around but saw no one.
    â€œGet off!” the voice shouted.
    Marya realized the voice was coming from below her. A head suddenly poked out of the largecardboard box behind her, like a turtle emerging from its shell.
    â€œThis is my ’ouse, and I’ll have none of yer lot running me out,” the man snarled.
    Marya stepped off the cardboard flap she’d been standing on. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t realize.”
    The man squinted at her as if he were trying to decide if she were sincere in her apology. His thick face was covered in stubble and dirt.
    What kind of world is this? Marya reached into her pouch and pulled out one of her apples to give him. She must have been more nervous than she realized—the apple fell from her hands.
    The man stared at the apple, then at Marya, then back at the apple again. With the quickness of a striking cobra, the man snatched the apple. He pulled himself completely inside the box.
    â€œBreakfast?” the man muttered inside his strange little house. “Lunch?” Marya heard a crunching sound: The man must have taken a bite of the apple. “Brunch!”
    Satisfied that the man no longer deemed her a house thief, Marya went on her way.
    â€œTimothy Hunter, come out, come out, wherever you are,” she chanted in a singsong voice. Her bare feet made no sound on the pavement. She took care to avoid the stickiest, dirtiest spots. Nowthat she was here, she wasn’t quite certain how to begin her mission.
    After the first shock of the chaos had worn off, Marya could see why this place had fascinated Daniel. The shop windows were full of such amazing things. She couldn’t imagine what they were for or what they did. The people looked so interesting, their faces displaying every conceivable emotion, their clothing clashing in wild disharmony. There was so much movement, so much to see.
    Marya watched an unlikely pair of women cross a street. One wore thick, dark face paint, with black rings around her eyes. Tattoos covered the bare arms revealed by her black sleeveless shirt. Next to her was a woman dressed in bright colors, her blond curls pulled into a bouncy tail on top of her head. What struck Marya most was that the woman in black had a big smile on her face and the perky-looking one was scowling angrily. As they crossed to the other side, a young man on a wheeled board veered between them. And a man with exposed knees, white socks, and sandals nearly backed into them as he held a small device in front of his eyes and clicked, pointing the box at a tall

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