Lost in Inclination
Sharon Maria Bidwell
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Copyright ©2013 Sharon Maria Bidwell
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Nickolaus Brevin traipsed through littered streets, the sun sinking at his back. Shadows pursued him down the fast darkening avenue like dogs scenting prey. He needed to get inside somewhere soon, before real canines and their human companions gave chase. He gazed around, noting the few individuals who hung out in doorways. After dark, the protectorate left those out on the fringes to fend alone.
Tonight he was one of many unfortunate strays, but better that than to apologise to his father. Best to face death than to grovel for another minute.
A lie. Bravado. He entertained no more wish to die than the next man did.
The next fellow stepped out barring his way as Nickolaus neared the alley he planned to use. The buildings here featured iron staircases zigzagging up the side of the exterior -- routes designed for escape if a building caught fire. He'd intended to climb a ladder to reach the roof, to seek a bolt-hole, such as a heating duct to curl up in for the night, out of sight.
Walking head lowered, arms hugging his slender frame, allowed Nickolaus no time to take in the man's appearance or to react. He had no chance to act in self-defence, barely found a moment to curse his stupidity. The man overshadowed what remained of the remaining day, and the hand flashing toward him was big enough to cover his entire face. In the darkness, he knew nothing.
Later, regaining consciousness -- aware he hung under someone's arm, his feet dragging along the ground -- Nickolaus made a poor attempt to look around. Overcome with the effort, he slumped. Surrendering, he succumbed, drifting in a sweet void, eventually to lie numb where the man threw him down. He next became aware of a sound: voices. Nickolaus opened his eyes.
He rested on his back staring up into the vaulted recesses of a tabernacle. Whatever his identity, his kidnapper didn't do anything by halves, but reason said such a colossus needed a large place in which to live.
Someone laughed; the idea anyone could made Nickolaus struggle to sit. What he saw caused him to stand. Groggy, he pushed onto his knees, and then to his feet. His coat was missing, and the pockets in his remaining garments no doubt empty. He stood, swaying a little. As his senses cleared, he took in the sight of the ragtag bunch holding him prisoner.
They wore poor clothing, yet had bothered to make their garments seem uniformed. They used zips, chains, pins, anything remotely sharp as adornments. He felt surprised, not by their mien, but by the jovial atmosphere in the place.
Unlike the people, the dereliction failed to amaze him. That a Meliorite church still stood was a miracle in itself. His father had effectively wiped out those who followed the faith of Meliorism: the doctrine that rightly directed human effort could make the world significantly better. That these people would seek... What? Companionship? Solace? Or simply shelter? Whatever their motivation, to watch them lounging about, almost as if they owned the ground on which the building stood, gave him pause.
Nickolaus had his own concerns. He searched his memory, trying to recall whether any of his personal possessions, the documents, or electronic passes disclosed his distinctiveness. Lately, he did not fear dying, but he had no wish to act as a hostage to a father who would let him suffer a slow, painful death. His captors wouldn't believe that until too late, and he refused to contemplate what condition he might be in by then. On the other hand, were their intention solely to rob him, he'd still die, but he'd face a quick end to a chiefly empty life. Yet, if all they wanted were his belongings, why was he not dead already? The thought boded ill.
Standing as he did, Nickolaus was astonished no one had taken any notice over his regaining consciousness. Now, a deep, rumbling, yet warm and appealing voice rang out reverberating from the walls as a bell tolling. "Bring him here."
His captor appeared at his side, causing Nickolaus to jump in fright. He stepped away, moving toward the unseen speaker, avoiding the hand the big man threatened to lay on him. Surveying the behemoth with a wary eye, he was startled someone so large moved nimbly. Whatever technique the giant had used to subdue him had worked quickly and efficiently. Nickolaus felt no worse for the experience either.
Other people in the room cleared a space for Nickolaus to walk through. As he turned in the direction from which he had heard the voice, the huge male caught up. A hand on his shoulder drove him to his knees. The crowd parted. Nickolaus peered up, setting sight on the most handsome man he'd ever seen gazing back at him.