Small Creatures and Large
by Michael Haynes
Murzah thinks I don't know what he does at night when the rest of us are asleep. But I'm quiet
and I've followed him before, gone to the dirty unused room in our orphanage that he sneaks to
when the lights are out. I've watched him cobble together the bits and pieces of his creations. He
thinks no one has seen the things he makes but I have and I love him for it.
He almost gets caught tonight going through the halls. An older boy, one of Mother Sharna's
guards with his wisps of beard coming in, steps through a doorway which Murzah has just
passed by. The guard will notice Murzah in just a moment. I run my fingernails along the wall to
make a skittering sound, like a rat or some other vermin making its way through the night. The
guard turns at the noise, looks my way. I am deep in the shadows and have crouched down small.
He takes a step toward me. I hold my breath as he peers down the hall.
Finally, he shrugs and lets out a low whistle. Amirala, older than Murzah and I but younger by a
couple of years than the guard, passes through the same door he had come out. He reaches out,
strokes her cheek and runs his hand down her neck, her chest, to her waist. She smiles at him,
leans in and kisses him, but she is looking my way and I see the smile is not in her eyes.
"Come," the boy says as he pulls away from Amirala. "Let's get you back."
They walk closer and I press myself against the wall. I am looking at her, afraid to look at the
boy, and I know that she sees me here. But she casts her eyes forward and they pass by in
silence, so close I can smell the warmth of their skin.
It's been seven years since I came here. My mother died of the Grell Plague when I was five, my
father lost his life in the Ten Nations' War before my first birthday. It won't be many more
months before the older boys look at me as they look at Amirala and the others her age. The gods
surely disfavor me, but I believe they have given Murzah a great gift.
I count to twenty before I stand, then walk as quickly as I dare. I want to see what wonder he
will make tonight.