Please bare in mind that this chapter is the earliest possible version of a first draft, before any editing has taken place. This is not the final version and some things will be changed before Rise of the Sparrows gets published.
A thin white layer, more like dust than snow, had covered the dirty streets of Blackrock over night. Happy and excited shouts from the children filled the cool morning air, while their parents looked out with wonder. It was the first snow of the year. Just like every other year, everyone was excited by the mere sight of it.
For Rachael, it was the worst time of the year. What held a promise for everyone else was yet another threat to her. It was difficult enough to find food during the warmer months, but now?
With a long, tired sigh Rachael set the first steps into winter. It froze her aching feet, but it no longer bothered her. Not as much as it had during her first few winters alone.
For as long as Rachael could remember, she had been on her own. She faintly remembered what it had felt like to have parents – warm, safe, and content – but that was a very long time ago, and the memory faded with every year she was alone. She didn’t remember their faces, their names or why they had left her to fend for herself. All she knew was that they had, and that the struggle for warmth and food was beginning anew.
Blackrock had been a wealthy village once – or so she had heard people saying. Named after its never ending supply of coal, it had been prosperous once. Rachael had often scoffed at the name – the people who had named it had been wrong. The coal had run out. Blackrock was just another poor town full of orphans, sick people and barred up shop windows. There certainly was no space for someone like her.
There was an orphanage, of course – even the poorest of towns had one of those – but most of the children inside were there because their parents had died of the fever, passing on their illness to their offspring before closing their eyes for the last time. It was a children’s hospice more than the orphanage it was supposed to be, and as such didn’t attract most healthy orphans. For Rachael, it was either certain death in there or a chance at life fighting for herself in the streets – and she would have chosen the latter any day.
At first she had hated being alone. She was far from being the only orphan, but she didn’t get along with the others. They avoided her because they believed that she brought death and misfortune everywhere she went, but that wasn’t true. Not really. She just saw things. Before they happened. It wasn’t her fault that these horrible things then became true, was it?
When she had first had those dreams she had tried to warn people, but each and every last one of them had blamed her. Eventually, she had stopped trying to help. And now people were avoiding her like she was death itself.
The older children her age called her a freak. Adults were scared of her, and younger children believed their parents. If their parents had died of the fever, they believed the older children. For Rachael, being alone was all she had left. It was what she had done for as long as she could remember. She was good at being lonely. She knew where to find food, even knew a baker who sometimes took pity on her and could spare a slice of bread or two. Life wasn’t great, but it wasn’t horrible, either. She knew how to survive. Just, sometimes, she wished that her nightmares would stop. Her visions of people dying in terrible accidents, or of newborn babies dying moments after having been placed into their mothers’ arms.
Not for the first time Rachael wondered what it would have been like to have a friend, but just like the many times before she dismissed the idea almost immediately. Some people weren’t meant to have friends. Some people were meant to be alone.
Rachael had accepted a long time ago that she was one of those people.
All content belongs to the author, Sarina Langer.
For all previous updates on Rise of the Sparrow‘s progress, click me!
For Cookie Break’s front page, take a look here.