“The Wood region, 25, Cheltermain – live again! Don’t waste your chance!” joyful children’s voices sounded from the radio.
A tall, slim guy in the University jacket attentively looked around the yard. He was thirteen, more or less – orphans never look their age. The jacket was not his own. A guy like him couldn’t have any chance to step into the diamond city’s University. The branch of the teens seven and nine years old placed next to a concrete wall of the warehouse.
There was a tall guy, Odense – was his name; he was the Head of this group of the teenagers. He carefully watched around, if someone infringed on his authority. He did so much, to get the power in the group. So, he didn’t plan to give it to anyone. But no one looked at his side, the orphans walked around the yard, doing their own things.
“Hey, why are you staring at me?” he asked aggressively, shaking his blond-haired head. The teen whom Odense addressed, was a skinny guy, with thoughtful brown eyes and dark tousled hair. Hedge. He was tall, and a bit hunched as if he was freezing all the time. But his warm eyes always were a bit smiling with a touch of sadness deep inside. He was a quiet guy, lonely, and had got a mind of his own.
Now he just turned away from Odense. He wasn’t much communicative. Odense looked around if someone else dares to… whatever, just dares anything.
“ Cheltermain – live again!” Shouted happy children from the radio. The song finished and the advertising insisted on how delighted to live in Chelter.
“ I am so sick of you!” Shouted Odense and kicked the pole where the radio was.
“ This is a good idea. If you dislike your life, come and get a new one.” Every time this phrase of Yan Elm was said – as the response to the survey about Shelters project, — the silence dropped all around the place. A coincidence, of course.
Firokami – the diamond city-state resolved the problems of homeless, abused children and abandoned animals radically. Just like he did it always. The new senator Ajen Eject created the Shelters. Three types of them. Chelter – Children Shelter, Helter – Homeless Shelter and Aelter – Animal Shelter. They were camps, or even suburbia, villages. The law forbade homeless people to be in Firokami, and Powers brought them to Shelters. All unneeded animals, homeless animals, or if you want to get rid of them – you must bring them to any of the local lodgment, and they will be brought to Aelter.
This government’s project – Shelters – was successful. As any that just one person is responsible for. There is no overload control of services or Powers. It was a big place, like a village, so opposite to other charity projects, there was always free room for the destitute. There was always food – because Shelters got not only the government’s investment, but they had their own gardens, fields, and farming. People who work here taught the needy. Even in Aelter – dogs, cats were trained and took part in the different Dog and Cat shows, went to work as helpers, guides and so on. People could take an animal from here; people could give an animal to here. No one here judged them. The workers didn’t try to foist animals to new owners. If someone has a cat or a dog, and they have a posterity, an owner could just bring the basket with those cute puppies or kitties to a lodgment. Without tossing them under the doors.
With homeless people or people in trouble it was the same – Helter was for women whose husbands were aggressive, for ex-convicted, who couldn’t build their lives, for homeless – moreover, if a homeless woman had a child, she could live in Helter with him, no one tried to take a child from her. Only if she wanted, she could give her child to Chelter. In Helter people got new professions, could stay and help, working there. The teachers were the retirees, the experienced and skilled persons who wanted to work.
And Chelter. Chelter was the most important project. Because not only abused children, orphans, and homeless children came here. Every child, who didn’t know how to live, could come here. If his parents were negligent or violent, if parents were in divorce, and fought all time if parents were against child pregnancy or relationship, orientation, gender, a way of life, if any, any of that could give stress for a child he could go to Chelter. He or she got a room, food, clothes, they were educated, or got some professional skills. And everyone could freely go out from Shelters, anytime, if he or she felt strong enough to be a part of Firokami, well, except animals, of course.
The new law clearly said – all have a right to live. So, if a child didn’t want to live with their parents, in the orphanage or live that life they lived – they could go to the shelter and get another chance to build their lives as they wanted. Now, if a child ran away from home, Powers called to Chelter and asked if a child is in their place. Powers asked if they complained on their parents. And if children said yes, or they were beaten, bruised or something Powers dug under the parents. If a child kept silence – in Chelter no one forced you to talk if you didn’t want – Powers checked the family by themselves. Powers even could leave parents without knowing their child is in Chelter. “Your child is under Firokami’s defence,” said Powers, it meant the child is alive, found and in good condition. But in Chelter he is or in Powers place, or some rich man took him, became his custodian – they couldn’t know more. If a child wanted home – Powers brought him home from Chelter.
At first, children were afraid of Chelter, homeless people were fearful of Helter, but then, they see, that Shelters weren’t any kind of forcing centre. Shelters were really the shelters. You can live, eat, have a rest there. There was always enough room. Always. Just to give you some strength to go further.
Children knew all these horror legends about new Shelters – those rich masters come there and choose sexual slaves among children. Well, some exhausted children even waited for it. But there is none of it. Rich people of Firokami stay away from Shelters. They always know where they could get unfrightened toys.
Just one law and just three places resolved the most problems in society. Firokami always did it. Resolved. Ajen prepared new solvation one for crimes and another one for mentally disordered people. But now Firokami watched how it worked. And it worked well.
A hit played on the radio; some of the Odense’s group danced. Odense was angry with the ad, with the melodic rustling of the coryphaeus. There is no any new life for him. It is bullshit. He lived with thousand other teens in Orphans Home. With all the implied. With rapists and abusers, inedible meal, and stupid, unfair rules.
Senator Ajen said, that if the project of the Shelter would work well, all Orphans Houses were to rebuilt that way. But it was ordinary Orphans’ Home still while.
His green unwinking stare dropped to trash bins on the far side of the yard. They were all closed, and rats, homeless dogs, and cats couldn’t get to it. Odense kicked a bin and knocked off the lock. His guys laughed. He smiled victoriously and kicked the bin one more time. Some trash threw out from the tray to the ground. The wind immediately picked up the pocket into the air.
“ Why do you do that?” Hedge appeared in front of him so suddenly.
“ You! What are you prattling?” Grinned Odense.
“Why are you ruining everything? This lock – it protected us from illness, dirt and things like that.”
Odense looked at his band for the support and said rudely:
“What kind of business is it yours?”
“ I live here, same as you.” Said Hedge.
“ It is not my home!” Spat out Odense, suppressing his fury.
Odense came closer to Hedge. His face was so close to Hedge’s face. But Hedge stayed calm.
“So what? Now you are living here. And maybe you will work here. Maybe as a cleaner.” Said Hedge.
“ I never, never will be a cleaner!” Hissed Odense, closing in on Hedge.
“Maybe.” Answered Hedge calmly, and made a step back from Odense. “Maybe I was wrong. You couldn’t be a cleaner. You like dirt. So, you try to turn everything into a scrapyard. Because there you feel better, like home, yeah?”
Odense threw his fist to Hedge’s face, but he stepped aside, like if he knew what Odense would do. And when. The band dazedly looked at them. Their ringleader seemed not so brilliant as usual, and it meant he would want to take revenge on them for his humiliation.
“What did you say?” Asked Odense with the threat in his voice.
“You heard it.” Hedge walked up to the bin and started to pick up the garbage, which had fallen out from the inside when Odense kicked it.
“Freak,” said Odense, and kicked Hedge, when he turned his back to him.
Hedge couldn’t stay on his legs and leaned his palms to the ground. Odense forcedly laughed, the band laughed too. It seemed all is fine; the things started to go habitually.
“Just go, little pig,” straightened Hedge. “Don’t try to communicate with me; you don’t know how yet.”
Odense wanted to attack the guy, but there was something in his eyes, and the basic instinct dissuaded him.
“I don’t want to communicate with you. Nobody wants.” Odense threw a few papers and other garbage out of his pocket. “Clean it, too, if you love to clean so much.”
“Maybe you are all made from garbage, Odd.” Said Hedge thoughtfully.
“Shut up, freak.” Said Odense through clenched teeth and walked to his guys.
The teens laughed, mocked and threw the garbage at Hedge side. He cleaned it all and fiddled with the broken lock on the bin. Hedge pulled a screwdriver out from one of the countless pockets of his jeans and tried again to fix the lock. Odense felt belated fear. If Hedge had a screwdriver, why he didn’t attack him? If Odense had any weapon… But why this freak doesn’t fight for authority? Odense felt not good. The mood was spoiled. Hedge discontentedly shook his head, fixing the lock.
“Screw him, let’s go, men,” said Odense. He wanted to be somewhere farther from Hedge.
The band followed him. They had only gone just a few steps when Clue appeared next to Hedge. Turquoise-eyed blond, arrogant and handsome. There was gossip he was a lover of the teacher… the teachers. But no one knew if it was true. Perhaps, Hedge knew it. Maybe they two fuck each other, too. Odense turned away, but the angel-alike ways of Clue so attracted him. Clue was like a non-human. He moved so gracefully, and always was so self-assured that you ever want to be near him.
“So, Oddy never waste his chance to make everything his own piggy way?” Asked Clue mockingly.
Odense with efforts turned away and left the yard.
The refined man looked through the window of his office at Hedge, who was fixing the lock.
Today he has got a call from the Senate. Their Orphans’ home will be the first to be changed into Shelter. And when the order will be signed – Kerv, the future Head of the teachers, will need the helper. He thoughtfully looked at these two, down in the yard.
It was dinner time at orphans’ home. The teens were in the dining-room. Over the room was a rumble as if a swarm of bees buzzing in the trees.
Hedge, as always, in his deep thoughts, came in and sat at the table. He started to eat, blindly looking ahead.
The band together with Odense were sitting at the table behind Hedge. Odense waited for the dinner to revenge. He was smart; he had invented such a thing, which would make Hedge sorry for his words. Odense gave a sign to his pals, and three ones from his band stood up. Hedge, of course, even didn’t notice them. The teens pulled a big black bag. They helped Odense to lift it, and Odense emptied the bag onto Hedge.
“Ha-ha, how do you like it? Ha! Who’s all garbage now? Ha?” Shouted Odense, laughing.
Hedge shook off the trash, sighed and stood up.
“Of course, I dislike it, Odd. But I see, why you try to do that. You know you can’t get me, that’s why you try to make the whole world a crap. A scrapyard that is your zone of comfort. But, no. Good people don’t like dirt. Any sort of dirt. Around them, inside them. You try to bedraggle me, as well, Odd. But you can’t. Because I am not of your level. So, you are still all garbage; I’ll take a shower, and wash it off myself, but I am not sure, if there is such shower, to wash out all garbage from you, Odd.”
The whole dining-room fell silent. Hedge always was quiet. No one ever knew what was inside his mind. But everyone knew Odense. And now he attracted overall attention to Hedge.
Hedge went out to the hall. Odense ran after him, but slipped and fell in the trash. Everybody laughed. Damn, that was a humiliation! Odense jumped out to the hall and ran to his room.
When Hedge came back, he took a dustpan and a broom to clean the trash. Clue seldom visited the dining-room, but now, he came. As always, he found Hedge and joined him. No one in the dining-room moved.
“Hey, why are you just watching? Help here.” Ordered Clue.
Clue barely spoke to anyone but Hedge. But when he spoke – everyone obeyed him. Some guys and girls rushed over them, trying to help. One girl, thin, in dark jeans and a dark sweater, came first. Clue up his shining turquoise eyes to the group of guys, which have usually been hanging up with Odense.
“You,” he pointed at one of them. “Come here.”
The guy, Torrence, walked up. He tried to look down, but couldn’t take his eyes off the Clue’s.
“Here. Take it out.” Clue handed him the bag with the trash.
“Ok, I’ll make short work,” Terrence ran out of the dining-room.
“Mi ne volas reĝi tie ĉi, ” said Hedge in a low voice.
“Mi scias, sed kio ni povas fari?” Clue answered. “Vi provis. ”
Adjani, the dark-haired and dark-eyed girl, exactly that girl, who was the first to help, heard such their conversation before. She knew these two said time by time in a strange language. Sometimes, the girl thought she almost caught what they were talking about.
Someday… she will get this language. Adjani thought that they two not from here. Well, at least Clue. Adjani wasn’t an orphan, her mother molested and abused her, so now she lived here. It became an ordinary thing for her to daydream about magic worlds. She was so frightened when she came to the orphanage. She was afraid of everything, and especially, she will be forced to be a sex slave, for other teens, the teachers. But then, she saw Clue. This blond with unusual eyes seemed an angel to her. Every time, she saw him, she knew she is safe. And it was true. No one bullied anyone when Clue was in the room. Clue wore dark clothes (as almost all children here – it was pragmatic), but by some reasons still looked alight. When she heard, him speaking in this unknown language – she assured herself, he doesn’t belong to this world.
Clue discussed something with Hedge, while they were cleaning the dining room.
Hedge answered something to Clue, and he laughed. So happily, and brightly, that teens who were there smiled and laughed too. Adjani knew about this feature of him. People often repeated his mood mirrored. Hedge was warmly and tenderly looking at Clue.
The door creaked open, and into the dining-room stepped Kevr. All teens froze. Kevr was a sarcastic, relentless, but honest and fair teacher. It was he whom the teens suspected to be Clue’s lover.
“Need my help?” Kevr asked, his grey, transparent as glass, eyes looking around.
“Nop, boss,” fearlessly answered Clue.
“Great. Hedge, I would like to talk to you. Come.” said Kevr.
“Ok,” Hedge smiled at Clue and followed Kevr.
Clue watched them leave, then ordered the guys:
“Well, keep cleaning the crap after our guy, who can’t hold his crap inside.”
Tired of Odense’s bullying and bothering, the teens laughed. They were glad to change the alignment of forces. They were completely satisfied with Hedge and Clue.
Kevr rapidly walked down the corridor; Hedge followed him. The teacher opened the door of his cabinet and gestured Hedge to come in.
The orphan felt calm; he freely placed himself on the sofa, looking around the room. It was an exciting room. Kevr collected artefacts from over the world, and the walls of his office were decorated with masks, pictures, things, so was his table and the shelves. Kevr sat down on the edge of the table.
“Have you heard of Shelters?” Asked Kevr.
“The system of the part-self-managing centres for animals, children, and homeless? Of course,” said Hedge.
“Great.” Kevr leaned the table. “You know, Firokami wants to rearrange the rest Orphans’ houses the same way.”
“I heard that. Maybe it is a good idea. I don’t know.” Said Hedge.
“So. Our Home will be rearranged at first.” Said Kevr.
Hedge sighed. He disliked any changes, which he couldn’t manage.
“So?” Said Hedge.
“I will be the Head of the teachers.” Said Kevr.
“It’s great!” Hedge smiled. He liked this pragmatic, logical teacher. “I’m really glad!”
“Aha. So, I need a helper. The Representor of the children. Their voice.” Said Kevr.
“Oh… but I am… I’m not a popular guy, maybe you should find…” said Hedge.
“You shouldn’t be a popular guy. It’s enough to be smart and attentive.”
“Hm… teach, I am not really attentive,” he smiled, excruciatingly, baring his teeth. Hedge rubbed his forehead. “Clue. You should hire Clue. Everyone loves him.”
“Yes, I had this idea, but then I noted, he follows you. Always.” Said Kevr.
“Yes,” smiled Hedge warmly.
“Ok. I will be completely okay with you as the Representor, Clue as your helper, and… you can choose other helpers.” Said Kevr.
Hedge buried himself deeply in thoughts, then rubbed his chin and said:
“I would take Odense.”
“Odense Hill? Are you sure you have time for it?” Asked Kevr.
“Yes, I am sure I can fix it.” Smiled Hedge.
“Ok, three of you, tomorrow at nine o’clock at my office.” Said Kevr.
“A-ha. Thanks, teach. Glad you will be the boss here.” Smiled Hedge.
“Not me. There will be a new director. So… I don’t know who it will be.” Said Kevr.
“Ok, maybe we can fix him too.” Said Hedge.
“Hope so.” Said Kevr.
Hedge nodded, straightened up and went out.
Odense was lying on his bed. He stared at the ceiling. He wanted to die. He’ll never go out of his room. And will not let anyone come in. Seven more boys lived in the place. He doesn’t care. Now it is his room. Damned freak. He must destroy him to take back all his authority. The door sharply opened. Odense jumped out of bed, ready to defend himself. It was Hedge and Clue. The perfect face of Clue looked so indifferent, that seemed almost evil. Hedge looked as always calm, honey-coloured eyes smiling.
“Hi again, Odd.” Said Hedge.
Odense didn’t answer.
“This place will be changed.”
Odense tried to invent, how to overpower Hedge.
“Don’t.” Prevented any attempts Clue in a low voice.
“Odd, don’t be afraid. This place will be a new department of Shelters. Kevr said I would be a Representor of guys. Clue will be my helper.” Said Hedge.
He was waiting for when they start beating him.
“I would like you to be my helper, too.” Said Hedge.
“Wha… me?” Odense couldn’t get, what Hedge was saying.
Hedge sat on Odense’s bed; Clue stood up near the window.
“Yes. What do you think? Could you fix that thing?” Said Hedge.
“Hedge, is this some kind of joke?” Asked Odense surprisingly.
“No. You can ask Kevr. All three of us should be at his office at nine tomorrow. If you agree.” Said Hedge.
“I… Indeed aren’t you offended? I am sorry, I just… why do you need a person made of garbage?” Asked Odense suspected.
“Well, maybe I have a shower for you.” smiled Hedge. “So, are you in?”
“Of cour… Yes.” Said Odense.
“Don’t waste your chance, Oddy.” Grinned Clue.
“I won’t.” All Odense hoped now was the rest of his life wouldn’t be the same garbage as before.
“…Live again! Don’t waste your chance!’ Shouted the ad through the windows.
“This is a good idea…” rustled Yan Elm melodiously.
 I don’t want to reign here (Esperanto)
 I know, but what we can do? (Esperanto)
 You tried (Esperanto)