I try and take on board what Mrs Edina said about the scholarship. But that doesn’t mean I’m not waiting for the weekend. I’m going back to the city to try and find my Uncle, Mazwell. He sounds like someone I want to know, and maybe he will take me to his home village, without me needing to ask my Dad anymore questions. I take notes, answer questions, try and forget about the pocket watch sitting next to my bed. As hard as that is. Somehow the week does dawdle to an end. And I’m free to finally have a day to myself.
I walk downstairs, knowing my Dad will already be running the shop.
“Good morning, Ny. Bit early for you on a Saturday.”
“Oh I wanted to go for a walk. Thought I would go and read somewhere else today.”
“Really? Okay, just don’t be too late coming back. I’m making dinner today.”
“Thanks, I won’t be, promise.”
I leave the shop, waving as I shut the door, and head of towards the wall. It’s a clear day, with a stale air hovering around me. I can already make out the wall between the houses in front of me. Lingering there in front of me, calling to me. The usual stale smell of the village follows me as I walk through it’s maze like patterns. Dodging around houses, nodding at other passer-bys, keeping my eyes on the wall at all time.
Soon enough the stench, the mud, and the village itself is behind me and I’m standing in the small no man’s land between the village and the Eastern City. As usual there is a guard standing just outside the gate. Standing there today and forever. They even have a night shift. I suppose they want to stop any attackers, but where is our wall. Surely someone could attack a village. He spots me walking towards him, but doesn’t falter from his spot.
“Good morning,” I state.
“I need to get into the City.”
“What’s your business there, Miss?”
“I want to see some family. A photographer for a magazine.”
“I’m just going to do a quick search, stretch your arms out.”
We didn’t have to do this before, but I suppose that’s my Dad’s influence. I follow his orders and he quickly pats me down. He then opens the gate and lets me through, and I’m about to start the long walk to the city.
It seems to be quicker this time. Soon enough I reach the actual buildings, and realise I have no idea what magazine Maz works for, or where I would find him at all. The City is a big place and I can’t just knock door to door. And hope that photographers are well known and Maz is in the well known bunch.
Stupid stupid girl, I shout at myself. Silently, or course, I don’t want to bring too much attention to me.
I start by aiming towards the Shopping District. At least there I can find a magazine, maybe I will be lucky and there is only one magazine, or better yet, the magazine will just be called Maz, and an address will be printed right there on the front cover. I’ve only ever looked at magazines that people have left in the shop, and somehow didn’t think to have a look at any of them this morning before I left to even get a name of the magazine Maz works for. I was so focused on my Dad not finding out, that I didn’t actually think of how I was going to get there.
The streets are bright, and colourful. The clean pavement underneath is near perfection. No leaves, or litter spoiling the perfect level cleanness. Just perfection in every direction. I’m pretty sure just living on the streets here would be nicer than most houses in the village. But I know that isn’t how it works. They will just eject you from the City and back to one of the villages.
The City all looks the same, and yet every street looks fresh new to me. I have no idea where I’m going. Just rambling, aiming for the cafe and hoping to find a shop near there that sells magazines. If I can just get a short look at a few before anyone notices, maybe I will just find his name somewhere. He wanted to expose the poverty of the villages to the City, so something like that is where I should start looking. I just don’t have any money, so I can’t do much. I have to be quick, or people will think I’m stealing. I’m probably gaining attention right now, for just what I’m wearing. Dull, boring cheap cloths, that looks like they’re about to fall apart. They loosely fit me, and that’s about all I care about. They’re not going to fall apart on me quite yet.
I turn a corner, expecting just another random street, but this time I actually recognise something. It’s not the cafe, but I’m close, I quicken my pace, knowing shops are going to be just around the corner.
The first shop that looks like it sells magazines, I just jump straight in and head for the racks. They’re full of them. Showing pictures of exotic landscapes, or people wearing impractical clothing. Nothing that looks anything close to what Maz would work with. Everything here just seems to be about how brilliant life here is. The Top Ten Things That makes the Eastern City Great, Top Ways You Could Improve your Love Life, How to Make the Most out of Visiting the Other Cities. It’s all pointless. Waste of time just looking at them. Even the one with the article, Everything You Need to Know about Life Outside the City, just seems to be glorifying the farm work people do. Pictures of sunsets and happy working faces. It’s all fake, all of it.
“Is there anything I can help you with?” A voice from behind me.
I turn to see a well dressed man, in a buttoned down shirt tucked into black trousers. Even a belt. His sleeves rolled up to above his elbows. Short, brushed hair. Not just bunched and tied up like me. He didn’t look completely judgemental, just curious.
“I’m looking for a magazine. I’m not sure which one. My Uncle. He’s a photographer. For one of them. I know he works in the City. Mazwell.”
“Hmm, I’m afraid I can’t help you. I haven’t heard of anyone of that name. And I’m not too familiar with photographers, I’m afraid. Sorry. Is there anything else I can you with?”
I know that’s my queue to leave. I turn on my heals and head towards the door. What now? Just try that in as many shops as possible in a day, and either strike it lucky or go home. Sounds about the best plan I’ve got. I turn to head down the street, hoping to spot another shop.
I turn to see someone jogging out of the shop behind me. He’s just as well dressed as the shop keeper. Black trousers, but a blue t-shirt. It looks comfortable. I wish they knew how lucky they are to wear stuff like that. I constantly feel like I’m being looked down on, even in the village.
“Hey,” he says again, even though I haven’t moved. “Did you say you were looking for Mazwell? The photographer?” I nod. “I know him. Well of him. He works for Opaque. The fashion magazine.”
“Really? Thanks. Where is their building?”
“I have no idea. I just wanted to help.”
“Why not? Come on, I’ll help you find the building.”
“Thanks. I’m Nymia, but people call me Ny.”
“Nice to meet you, I’m Randell.”
He stretches out an arm to shake mine, I follow suit.
“So which way?” I ask.
“I’ll just go and buy one of the magazines, that will have an address.”
“No, I can’t ask you to do that.”
“I was going to get one eventually anyway, I get them every month. What’s the difference between today and tomorrow?”
I don’t say anything, and he runs back into the store. Should I follow him? And show my face inside there again? No. I’ll stay here. But why is he helping me? Just because? That makes no sense. Everyone has an agenda of some kind. That is just how the world works. Everyone wants something for something.
He comes back out, with a magazine in his hand, he flicks it open in silence and flicks through a couple of pages.
“Here. The address, it’s for the submissions and enquiries. So it’s where we’ll find him.”
He hands me the magazine. It’s nothing like what I was expecting. Pictures of heavily made up women and men posing in stupid positions. It almost makes me feel sick looking at the pictures. Disgusted, after what he set out to achieve, this is the result. I only knew what make up was because of the vile customers who came into the shop. From the City and looking down on us, pathetic. I now understand why Dad wouldn’t want to live in here. No matter how in demand he was, everything here is just fake. Completely blind to anything else going on, completely ignorant to what’s going on just outside their doors, but that’s okay because this dimwitted woman wears sunglasses and pouts like a spoiled child.
“You okay?” Randell asks.
“Yeah, just not what I was expecting. I was told he came here to show the horrors from the villages.”
“It’s not always that simple. Once you get here, that’s it. You have to fight to cling on. No one wants outsiders here. They’re happy, and hearing about the outside world will just tear that away from them.”
“They can’t just ignore us though. How can they?”
“Because that’s the way they want it. Believe me, I know. I’ve tried telling people, tried making it more well known. But that hasn’t done anything. I try to be a good person, but there isn’t much I can really do. If I give all of my money to villages? It might help a little, but no where near as much as I’d like. And then I can’t help at all. I’ve been trying to set up a charity, to send funds to the villages. Kind of like the scholarship, but not just to bring a couple to the City, and then leave them lost. No, I want something set up to actually help people. If everyone in the City gave just a quarter of their income to it, then everyone outside of the village will have a better life. It’s just that simple.”
“Really? Is that all it will take? Surely if we just told them, then it will all be better. People wouldn’t need to compete for the scholarship, just to survive a decent life. Maybe we could all be happy.”
“That sounds about right, you sound just like Mazwell.”
“You know him?”
“Yes, of course. He’s one of the main fighters for the cause. I’m trying to help him start the charity. I heard you, and wanted to make sure you were who you claim to be. But you sound just like him, he must be your uncle. I can take you straight to him, I’m sure he would love to see you. He doesn’t mention his family often, and I’m sure he misses you.”
“But, what about the pictures? This magazine?”
“That’s what he does to make money, it’s a quick job here, a quick job there. Just to survive, and then every other waking moment he’s trying to do something to spark change.”
To be continued…
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