The Orphanage at the End of the World groaned in the wind. Wasteful Armed Robert pulled his thin suit jacket tighter around his broad shoulders. His teeth chattered as he moved from room to room. The floorboards creaked under his weight, but no child fled from his imposing presence. He glided from bedroom to bathroom to dusty cafeteria, but no screams of fear or pleasure greeted him.
The Orphanage was empty.
Outside a subway lay dead. He had searched that, too, but it was just as empty and dead.
Robert reached into his interior suit pocket and removed a taper. He exited the building and set it in the open front door, lighting it. Fragrant smoke drifted up as Robert closed his eyes and recited, “In respect to those you mourn.” He addressed the void of empty rooms beyond.
Velociraptor Ninja approached and bowed its head as Robert continued, “You remember what it is to have life inside you. You mourn the passing of the children in your own way. We do not wish to disturb, but help put them to rest. If you have anything to show us, if you have any way you wish to aid us, we beg that you show us now.”
Velociraptor Ninja’s head snapped up, and its slitted irises narrowed. It leaned back on its haunches, watching something that Wasteful Armed Robert could not identify. Finally, it spoke. “The house tells us that its occupants are gone, but when it last saw them, they were still alive.”
“How do you know?”
“The creaks. You could not hear them? The creaks of many children passed by when you asked the house for its aid.”
Wasteful Armed Robert bowed. “Thank you for your aid. Another came searching. We wish to find him, to join him. He is called Jeradice Massimla. Help us find him, and you help us find the owners you mourn.”
Velociraptor Ninja again twitched its head. “They were here. Jeradice, along with something heavy, and something light.”
“We thank you, house. Take the remainder of the incense as my offering to you, and as the joining of my mourning with yours.” Robert stood and walked away from the house to the dark green sandsailboard his ally had used to bring them out here.
The ninja strode beside him. “The incense?”
“The house can have it.”
He shrugged. “It is in my name.”
“No use invoking the subway. They don’t have souls. Orphanages do. The house tell you which way they went?”
The ninja nodded. “Back to Barrelbottom. They found something about what happened to the children and left in a hurry.”
“Well, this was a wasted trip.”
“No. We will find Jeradice. We will slaughter him. And his friends… the house told me with its creaking. The large one. I knew its tread. It was Magisaur, my hated foe. Perhaps vengeance will strike twice before this mission is completed.”
This is a Barrelbottom Story.