Hey! I hope you guys enjoy this story. This takes place after Among the Enemy and before/during Among the Free.
I do not own the Shadow Children series.
Tiny beads of water kissed Emeary's lips, lingered, and then fell away. She stood still, embracing the moment. She felt the raindrops run through her hair and down her back.
"Charity! Charity, come inside. The Population Police are here!" Emeary's breath caught. She recognized the urgency in her brother's voice, the message hidden in his words. Neil's figure raced toward her through the rain. He grabbed Emeary's arm and silently dragged her toward the barn. "What's going on? Do they know?" Emeary whispered, her voice shaking with fear. Neil shook his head warningly.
Neil pointed to the ladder once they reached the tiny two-stall barn. Emeary climbed wincing at every creak of the rungs. There was nothing in the loft except for hay used to feed the goats, Patches and Lady.
"They don't know you're here," Neil whispered in Emeary's ear making her jump. "The president has ordered raids of every house in the country."
Emeary knew there had been a new president. It was a terrible night. Mother, Charity, and Neil had stood paralyzed around the radio as the head of Population Police made his speech as the new president, but strangely, Emeary wasn't scared. It had seemed so far away. What did it matter if someone else was in charge? Nothing had changed. Not really. But it had changed. The Population Police were in her home. The people who wanted to kill her were barely ten yards away. The very thought made Emeary shudder.
"In the hay. Don't you dare leave until I come. And don't. Panic," Neil finished while shifting the hay to make a spot for Emeary. She climbed in the hole resting her back against the rough wood. Neil covered her with clumps of hay. Piece by piece, the image of the loft disappeared into golden straw.
"I have to go. I love you," Neil said. And then he was gone.
Emeary imagined her brother going back to the house. He was probably making up some story about how he thought Charity was outside, and he had gone to get her. It was ridiculous, really. Charity would never be out in the rain. It would mess up her hair, and that was all Charity seemed to care about lately.
The sweet scent of hay and pine began to work on Emeary. The drum of rain against the roof pounded like a lullaby. Emeary's eyelids began to feel heavy. No, I must stay alert! She thought as she blinked hard.
"We're going to search the entire area. Protocol," said a gruff, confident voice. Emeary guessed it was a Population Police officer.
"Do you have to search the barn? You'll disturb the goats, and they are our way of life." said a softer voice. Emeary recognized this one and instantly felt comforted.
Smack! The air erupted in cruel laughter and whimpers. "How DARE you question my authority!? I will do as I wish! I could have you arrested!" Anger surged through Emeary like poison as she realized Neil was the one whimpering. She wanted nothing more than to tackle whatever officer that had dared touch her brother. But if they didn't shoot her for assault, they'd shoot her for being the third child in a family.
Crashes and booms punctured the air as the officers "searched" the barn. The splintering of wood blended with the bleating of Charity's goats. Emeary tensed as she listened to her only home being torn apart.
"Dixon! Briny! Search the second floor!" yelled the gruff voice. The second floor? Sometimes the city people could be so stupid. A barn doesn't have floors. There's only the loft.
The loft… A cold steel hand seemed to take hold of Emeary's heart. They were going to find her. They were going to find her and take her away. Then they would shoot her. And she would die. She, Emeary Rose Reich, would be dead. Emeary wanted to scream. She would not go quietly. No matter what, she would fight.
"We have nothing to hide!" shouted Neil's desperate voice.
Then Emeary's world began to shake. All around her the hay rifted from its spot as four steel prongs stabbed continuously. Emeary prayed the merciless pitchfork would not find her. What would be worse- to be shot or stabbed?
"Al'right, you've proved your point," said a new voice. The pitchfork stopped, and Emeary breathed a silent sigh of relief.
"I'm just trying to tell you we have nothing to hide," said Neil unnaturally loud. Was he talking to Emeary now? Had she not been in danger? Was Neil behind the pitchfork the whole time?
"The next house, men!" shouted the gruff voice. A stampede of marching feet stormed until they faded into silence.
Emeary waited for Neil to come and get her. The chill in the air told her it was past dark, and it was getting worse. The hay that had once been so soothing now itched and poked her. Where was Neil? It sounded safe. Maybe she could just leave.
But Emeary never found out if she would have left, because just then the hay was pulled away. "How's it going, Re?" Emeary blinked in the sudden light of Neil's candle. "I'm tired, sore, and hungry. But what can you expect when you've spent half the day in a pile of hay!" Emeary replied bitterly as she eagerly climbed out of her spot. She hugged her brother's neck as all her fear left her.
Neil chuckled, but without any real humor. Emeary let go. "We did pass, didn't we?" she asked anxiously. It was a stupid question, and she regretted the moment the childish words left her mouth. If they hadn't passed, they wouldn't exactly be standing there talking about it.
Neil grabbed Emeary's shoulders and looked her in the eye. "We passed, Emeary. It's okay. You're safe"
But she wasn't safe. She never would be.