The Other City
by J.S. Bangs
The man stumbled through the gates of Salem with a bundle in his arms. "Let's eat him," the
boys said and scampered down the grassy hill to the wall, hooting and hollering and grabbing
sharp sticks and stones as they went.
Jeska picked her way carefully down the slope, and got to the bottom just in time to say, "Wait."
The man cowered beneath the thirty-foot iron wall that guarded Salem. He clutched the
blanketed bundle to his chest. The boys threw stones, but held back when Jeska scolded them.
They knew to respect her fifteen years. But Little, a boy too young to have earned a real name
yet, could not restrain himself, and he threw one last rock that glanced off the man's forehead.
"Ow," the man said, and jerked back. He jostled the bundle, and it let out a plaintive cry.
"Look what you've done," Jeska scolded Little. She smacked him on the cheek, but lightly.
Little was her favorite. She walked up to the man and peered over his shoulder at the tiny, pink,
"Where did you get that?" she asked.
"Leave us alone," he said. He fussed with the child to try to calm it, but it only screamed the
"Can we eat him?" one of the boys called out.
"Quiet," Jeska snapped. The man did look like good food, with a healthy face free of cancer and
parasites, straight limbs and unscabbed skin. He had a little fat around his waist, which Jeska had
never seen before. But he was much taller than Jeska, and looked strong. She could never take
him down with the boys, unless they surprised him when he slept. She was more interested in his
soft clothing and the belt of precious leather at his waist. And she wanted to hold the baby.
"Do you know the mother of that baby?" she asked.
"Of course I knew the mother of the baby," the man sad. "It's my child."
"What do you mean it's 'your' child? Are you going to eat it?"
"I'm not going to eat him!" He gaped at her with a red, horrified face. The baby wailed.