by Christian K. Martinez
Evens' hobs set fire to the ship, and the Bad Men died.
He watched, rolling six tiny coins between his fingers, each one smaller than the iris of an eye.
It was bizarre that an army would pay its general to work, he thought, looking at the hob-gold in
his hand. If he could call his crabby guard an army, that is, if they were even still alive.
The hobs were clever and keen, kind and mean, terrifying and absolute, foolishly wise. He hoped
the Bad Men couldn't catch them, not like he could. He liked them, and there wasn't too much
he liked anymore. Not since he'd started growing tall.
Evens waited for the Watcher to come, as the boy must. He didn't wait long. The never-'dult
came flying in his arrogant way, with two zigs and a zag and a little hoot in the air, settling onto
the ground with hands on his hips. He looked meaner than usual, in a sword cutting mood.
Watcher wasn't supposed to get afraid of the lost, not ever, but this one made him nervous.
Evens could tell. It was just a sort of twitch, when big old men would be pacing and yelling, but
Watcher wasn't used to being nervous. He didn't understand.
"Gonna get you gone, little Evens, little odds. Gonna take you away and make you say and pay
and pay. I don't like this one bit. Not even one bit and less than that," Watcher whispered, ever-boy's eyes narrowing like little imitation daggers as he sneered -- nodding towards the ship.
Little boys shouldn't sneer, even when they're tall, but sneering came naturally to him anyways.
"I don't like you anymore, Evens, so you've got to go away."
Evens, almost as tall as the Watcher himself now, was a lot calmer than most other boys when
they'd been sent. He didn't fight, or scream, or hide till he slept and the Watcher killed him
anyways. He didn't do anything but stare, and Watcher twitched again.
"Why?" Evens' voice was quiet. He'd never used it for anything but whispering hobs and
shouting at pirates so it had no in between to it.
"You're growing up, almost growed already little mister general with the hobs and the bobs and
his crazy crabby guard. Growed up and leading armies! I'm the only 'body gonna lead anybody,
and anybody saying different's gonna go. The growed up leave. You're growing up," cocky
words followed by crossed arms and a nod, shadow facing in the opposite direction like it had
The strut in Watcher almost faded at that. So? Who'd ask him something like that! Because,
that's so, that's why! You grow up, you leave, and only he stayed forever. Those were the rules.
Or at least that's what Evens saw in his face. Evens liked watching people. He was good at it.
Sometimes he could watch so hard that he almost heard them thinking, but not often. Watcher
didn't bother to hide much at all, sneaky was he, but never subtle like a liar. It wasn't hard to
read him. This time the twitch wasn't nerves.
Evens ran, ran fast as he could and maybe even flew, all the way to the hanging trees past the
dead horse pond and the tomahawk hill. Watcher caught him anyways and Evens started fading.
Fading fast as a flash out of the tattered-lands that never were, till they were a lost-before and he
was found-after. Clutching at the little coins his hobs had given him, he didn't care.