Day 14: Serfs in the City

Bleedin’ ‘eck!” yelled Mat­thew as he wandered into the centre of the road, “these build­ings are all bloody tall, aren’t they?”

Huge. ‘ere, do you think we’ve died and gone to ‘eaven?” asked Paul.

Nah. There’s no angels. Gotta ‘ave angels in ‘eaven, ‘aven’t you? Oth­er­wise it’s not ‘eaven, is it?”

S’pose not.”

Now, whatya think those lights are?”

Look like lanterns.”

Yeah, that’s what I thought. Strange col­ours though.”

Strange, yeah.”

And those things by the side of the road?”

Carts, I reckon. They’ve got wheels, see?”

Yeah, that’s what I thought too. Carts,” Mat­thew looked up and down the road, “no horses to draw them though.”

None, no. This road is funny too. It’s got stuff painted on it and it’s all covered in this black stone.”

Looks like lots of little stones melted together.”

Yeah. How’d you melt stone though?”

Dunno. But how would you make build­ings so big either? Or those weird carts?”

There’s a lot of strange stuff here.”

Lots of strange stuff, yes.”

Paul and Mat­thew walked down the roads, look­ing for some­body that would be able to answer their ques­tions, but the streets were deser­ted. Even the strange carts that covered the roads were com­pletely free of people. Nobody was in any of the huge build­ings either, so Paul and Mat­thew got bored of wan­der­ing around out­side and began search­ing inside the build­ings themselves.

What if the people come back and find us in here? They’d think we were rob­bing them!” said Paul.

We’d just tell them we didn’t know where we are. Or say that we were try­ing to find some­body to ask for directions.”

We are, aren’t we?”

Well, yes, but there’s no harm in hav­ing a look either, is there?”

I s’pose not. I just don’t think that they would like us being here.”

No, but we’d hear them com­ing any­way. Remem­ber the noise those doors made? We could run.”

Where would we go?”

Out one of the other doors! There’s lots of them!”

I s’pose you’re right, but what if they come in all the doors at once?”

How many people do you pos­sibly think could be here, Paul?”

It’s quite big.”

But have you seen any­where to sleep or eat? It’s just full of these strange win­dows and all these bottles and jew­ellery and things. The beds must be in another room and there might not be very many of them.”

They must be very rich, though, the people who live here.”

Yeah. They prob­ably wouldn’t miss a few things, right?”

That’s not what I meant, Matthew.”

No, I think you’re right. We should take some of these things. We’ll never have a chance like this again, Paul!”

Before Paul could object again, Mat­thew picked up a chair from in front of one of the glass boxes and smashed it through. Instantly, a loud, blar­ing noise star­ted wail­ing up and down.
“What’s that?” screamed Paul, cov­er­ing his ears.

I don’t know, but it sounds angry! Run!” Mat­thew grabbed a few neck­laces from within the glass box and then took off after Paul. They ran straight back to the entrance. Once they were back on the road, they jumped behind one of the metal carts and peeked over the top, star­ing towards the door from which the sound was still blaring.

Do you think it’s a guard dog?” asked Paul.

It’s not like any dog I’ve ever heard.”

Me neither.”

They stayed still and the noise kept on wail­ing. Even­tu­ally, Mat­thew stood up.

What are you doing?” hissed Paul.

Well, nobody’s com­ing. We can’t just stay down there all day.”

We could wait until the noise stops at least.”

What if it doesn’t stop?”

It has to stop sometime.”

It could be ages though!”

Bet­ter safe than sorry.”


Mat­thew walked off down the road whilst Paul con­tin­ued hiss­ing to him. He didn’t bother look­ing back and, after he’d got a reas­on­able dis­tance from the wail­ing sound and noth­ing had happened, he could hear the sound of Paul’s foot­falls as he ran to catch up with him.
“I don’t think that this is a good idea. It could just be call­ing oth­ers for all you know. Like wolves howling.”

I don’t think it’s an animal.”

What else would make a noise like that?”

I don’t know, but it’s not an animal. I think it might be some­thing some­body made to scare people away and it sounds like a strange animal being angry so they think some­thing has been let out after them.”

If you’re so sure of that, why don’t we go back and you can stuff some more of those neck­laces in your pockets?”

Mat­thew scowled at Paul. They car­ried on walk­ing down the road.

What are we doing now?” asked Paul.

Find­ing some­thing to eat and drink. I’m hungry and thirsty and that’s what we’ll need if we’re going to stay here. We might even find other people when we do and maybe they can tell us what’s going on.”

And how to get back?”

Maybe. I’d like to get back. I don’t think I like it here very much.”

They car­ried on walk­ing until they found a shop full of bread and cakes and much, much more. Paul didn’t object to leap­ing over the table that cut the room in half here, and they even found some bottles made of a bend­able glass that were full of water. They stayed in that build­ing for a while and talked about how they had got there and where every­body else was, then went back out onto the street and star­ted look­ing around again, hop­ing to find some­thing that would let them know where they were. They had filled some bags, made of incred­ibly thin parch­ment, with some of the bottles and bread and took it with them, occa­sion­ally break­ing into another building.

When the sun began to set, there was still nobody there.

Mean­while, the entire pop­u­la­tion of New York City found them­selves stood in the marshy wil­der­ness of a 15th cen­tury village.

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