Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Audrey Lauryn


Lifeless entities mill around Callum Square. A group of initiates drape crimson fabric from various light posts. Others sweep the pristine cobblestone streets. Finn and I hunker down under the shade of a Sycamore tree and watch the plaza transform.

Just six months ago, the two of us were hunting in the forest behind our home. Now, we sit in Silks’ territory preparing for the annual Callum Gala. The event celebrates the conclusion of the Mirabilis Civil War. After the conflict, the nation was divided into four kingdoms: Callum, Fortis, Opulens, and Primus. Revolutionary leaders rose to power in each of the territories. In 3012, Alexander Aurum was declared King of Callum. Former aristocrats, on the other hand, were forced to labor in factories on the outskirts of the kingdom. Years after the coronation, King Aurum built a stone wall between the two parties. Wealth circulated within Callum’s walls. Contrarily, outsiders were discarded and forgotten. Thereafter, the government mandated all seventeen-year-old Lowlifes to undergo servitude initiation. The obedient were placed in the homes of the rich and royal. The remaining, however, returned to destitution.

Life is not fair. It is a simple fact. At eight years old, my father was murdered. Given that he was an infamous mobster, this was not a shocking occurrence. A heroin overdose claimed my mother the next year. Finn and I lived next door to one another in a tenement building in West Callum. Finn’s father was placed in Lord Carlisle’s residence after initiation. Because of his absent father and working mother, he spent most of his days alone.

One day, after my parents’ passing, I knocked on room one-hundred and seven. A frail boy with dusty blonde hair cracked the door a smidge. From that day forward, the two of us were inseparable. From ages eight to seventeen, we spent our time smuggling goods from the local corner shop and swimming in Felix Quarry.


“You look lovely, Princess,” Josie, a newly hired maid, remarks.

I force a smile. A floor-length, royal blue gown adorns my slim figure. Crystal stilettos accentuate my lanky limbs.

“When will the carriage arrive, Father?” I inquire.

“At the eighteenth hour,” he returns.

A few minutes later, a white horse-drawn carriage arrives outside of the palace entrance. I take a seat next to my father and prepare for the three-mile journey into town. Looking to my right, I observe the familiar saffron fields and olive treescapes. Shades of orange paint the sky above.

Finally, we approach Callum Hall, a grand marble edifice. Decorations adorn the nearby statue of my great-great-grandfather Alexander Aurum. Once the carriage halts, the coach door swings open and guards escort us inside.

Townspeople are gathered at long oak tables in the cavernous hall. Portraits of revolutionaries line the walls of the room. A hush washes over the crowd as my father approaches the podium. I take a seat as he begins his traditional oration.


Clara and I are dressed in black polos and crimson slacks. All of the initiates surrounding us are in matching attire. The dinner service is to begin at the twentieth hour. Years prior, an initiate poisoned the caviar. Therefore, initiates are no longer involved in the cooking process. Instead, we are corralled between velvet ropes in the back lot.

“Let’s go,” I whisper as initiates begin funneling inside.

I slip under the ropes and break into a sprint. Clara’s flats click aggressively against the stone. This plan has been in the works for years. Security is lacking tonight and no one of high wealth or authority would dare miss the annual Callum Gala. Therefore, it is statistically improbable that we will be caught.

We arrive at the steel airplane hangar that serves as barracks for two hundred and fifty initiates. Rows of bunk beds are arranged in the expansive room. In the fading light, I search for Bunk 213. A hefty trunk labeled “Clara Ferox and Finnigan Clemens” lies underneath the structure. Inside, black and crimson clothing conceal the trinitrotoluene and ammonium nitrate I collected from a military manufacturing plant in East Callum. I grab the supplies and head back outside.

“Daylight is running out!” Clara exclaims.

“I know. I’ll assemble it once we get there.” Clara and I started constructing prototypes last year when I got hired at The Plant. Who decided to give Lowlifes access to Callum’s weapon arsenal anyway? A rather irresponsible decision on King Aurum’s behalf. The crisp night breeze ripples through my curls. I smile in anticipation of the night ahead.


“Hello Princess Amari,” Lord Huntington remarks. The dim light illuminates his black beady eyes.

“Hello sir,” I return, attempting to brush past him in the narrow corridor. Clanging plates and lively conversation echo down the otherwise quiet hall.

“How are you enjoying this evening?” He inquires, taking a step closer.

“Just fine,” I murmur.

“Lovely, isn’t it?” He replies. Forcefully, he pulls me into an agonizing embrace and plants a kiss on my cheek.

“I better be going,” I state, suppressing a grimace. Before he can respond, I rush off to the powder room.

I retrieve the crimson trousers and black blouse from underneath the washbasin. After swapping wardrobes, I examine myself in the full-length mirror. My long chestnut hair drapes over the disheveled servants’ uniform. Swiftly, I slip out of the powder room and flee towards the South exit.

The sun dips below the horizon as I sidle into a nearby alley. Despite living here all of my life, I’ve never explored the downtown area. There is rarely a reason to leave our estate. Father detests mingling with the townspeople anyhow. Growing up, I’d often spend my days horseback riding or gardening. Because the palace infrequently invites visitors, the royal staff were my main confidants and companions. However, I desperately desire the love, friendship, and adventure I read about in fiction novels.

I promptly toss my stilettos aside and begin my journey West towards Lord Arlington’s estate. The Callum Gazette recently published a report on the ancient mansion. Before the civil war, Mirabilis’s aristocrats resided in the grand, ebony building. The article, titled “Historical Landmark Transformation,” describes the curious addition of a lap pool and a helipad to the historic home. According to the journalist, August Arlington’s eccentricity equals his affluence.


“Now!” Finn shouts excitedly.

The two of us bolt away from the structure. Once we reach the woods, we stop and wait. Two minutes of silence pass. Suddenly, an ear-piercing screech erupts from the cylindrical bomb Finn constructed. Seconds later, the West Wall transforms into a curtain of fire. Peering around the Sycamore, I marvel at the radiant orange explosion.

“Yes!” Finn exclaims as he pulls me into a warm embrace. “It’s time to get out of here.”

Every year, initiates are flown inside Callum’s walls on a cargo plane. Nevertheless, the vehicle’s current location is undisclosed. Although, it is reportedly hidden in the eastern sector. Finn and I have been fruitlessly searching throughout initiation. Last week, however, I found a solution in a stray newspaper.

Finn and I dart towards the Arlington Estate as the West Wall crumbles in the distance. We stop to catch our breath once the mansion comes into view.

“Carpe diem,” I utter as we hurry towards the back entrance.


I unlatch a postern window and sneak through the small opening. Moonlight illuminates the towering bookshelves that line the room. A dusty copy of Romeo and Juliet sits on a nearby Davenport. Leaving the library, I navigate the corridors of the expansive home. After some wandering, I find a spiral staircase.

Footsteps patter in the distance as I ascend towards the first landing. My heart clamors in my chest with each creak of the rickety floorboards. Calm down, Amari. I continue upwards despite my increasing panic.

Reaching the third landing, I spot two figures across the long corridor. Without a second thought, I duck behind the banister.

“Now, we climb,” one of the individuals gently remarks.

“Hold on. Look around.”

While eavesdropping, I failed to notice the gray smog enveloping the landing. Breathing in the smoke, I cough and sputter. Damn. Once the pair is out of sight, I race down the hallway. Flames lick at my heels and an intense heat sears my skin. I dive out of the agape window and stumble down the slanted roof. The rough shingles scrape my bare arms. I reach out and seize the rain gutter. Holy shit. After a brief moment, I hoist myself up. Gathering my bearings, I watch as a blood-orange phantom frolics on the West Wall.


Impressive. The machine resembles a dragonfly. Callum’s emblem, a majestic Sycamore tree, is engraved on its side. I slide my hand across the cool, steel body of the helicopter.

“Are you ready?” I ask Clara. Heavy smoke grapples with the crisp, night air.


I step inside the cockpit. A map of Callum projects on the windshield. Hundreds of buttons flicker across the dashboard below. This will be fun. Suddenly, Clara lets out a shriek. Looking to my left, I notice a girl in servants’ attire.

Without hesitation, Clara pulls a knife on the innocent-looking girl. “Who are you?” she demands. “Why did you follow us?” The rising flames still pose a threat to our escape. Time is running out.

“Amari,” the girl grits out. “Aurum.” Peering closer, I instantly recognize her dark hair, slim figure, and sharp features.

“No,” Clara mutters. “This is not happening.”

“Clara …” I plead. Smoldering debris flies through the air like a tornado. She ignores me and directs the princess toward the edge of the rooftop. “No,” I whisper. Approaching Clara, I force the weapon from her hands. It clamors on the concrete below.

“Finn!” she growls, spinning to face me.

“We can deal with her later,” I state matter-of-factly. “It’s time to go.” The three of us tumble into the cockpit. I grasp the control stick.

“Do you know how to fly this thing?” Amari asks over the roar of the propellers. I glance in her direction. Let’s hope so.


After a few tries, the aircraft lifts off the rooftop. My ears pop as we gain altitude. In almost no time, Finn pilots the helicopter over the West Wall. Peering out the window, I watch as Downtown Callum’s lights fade away. Darkness conceals the scenery below. A strange hum emits from the machine. Finally, the aircraft descends toward land. Finn’s inexperience shows as we begin to freefall. “Warning! Extreme altitude loss. Warning! 1,000 feet,” the machine repeats.

The metal body slams into the ground. Abruptly, the vehicle catches fire and the three of us scurry out. “This way,” Clara grumbles. I follow her and Finn through the unfamiliar world. Leaving the landing site, we traverse through town. Decrepit buildings sit on either side of the gravel road. Dim lights illuminate signs reading Lana’s Laundromat, Mel’s Diner, and Callum Convenience. Finally, we approach a tall building with lots of windows.

“Is this your home?” I inquire. Finn nods.

A musty smell fills the air as we walk inside. Intense overhead lights spill over the dark green carpet and mismatched furniture. Lovely. “I’m in room one-hundred and seven,” Finn states. “Take the couch if you like.” The studio apartment includes a twin bed, a sofa, and a makeshift kitchen setup.

It doesn’t compare to my previous living arrangements. However, I’m too exhausted to mind. Darkness floods the room once the light flickers out. In no time, I succumb to sleep.


Before Finn and Amari wake, I run to the corner store to replenish supplies. “Hello Edwin,” I cheerfully say to the man sitting outside my building.

“You’re back,” he smiles.

“From Downtown,” I state as I hand him a gold coin.

“Thank you, sweet girl.” Edwin’s blue eyes twinkle in my direction. Age lines streak his face. The past six months did not treat him well.

“I’m headed to Callum Convenience. Would you like a coffee?” He nods.

I missed the smoggy air, obtrusive power lines, and crumbling buildings of West Callum. It’s home. At the shop, Iris hands over two cups of coffee and a loaf of sourdough. “Thank you, ma’am. Any news today?”

“The West Wall collapsed last night. I wonder how many times they’ll rebuild that damn thing,” she mutters. “I assume you failed initiation.”

“You know I’d rather die than serve the Silks.”

“That’s my girl.”


I stare at the girl lying on my couch. Warm, golden light streams through the window and lights up her face. Amari has long, dark lashes, full lips, and high cheekbones. I distract myself by boiling water on the stove and fishing tea bags out of the cabinet. Sitting on the balcony, I watch as the sky transforms. Eventually, Amari joins me. “Good morning,” I remark.

“Hello,” she responds, rubbing her eyes. She sits down in the chair next to me. We sit in silence for a few minutes.

“Why did you leave?” I finally ask. “Luxury, royalty, riches …”

“It’s hard to explain,” Amari replies. “Growing up, I was quite lonely. As you’d imagine, my father devoted his time to politics. I’m sure you know my mother passed away during childbirth. Anyway, I’d often spend my days reading. Stories depicted love, adventure, freedom, and individuality. I guess a part of me dreamed of living like the main characters. When I discovered the Callum Gazette’s article, I seized the opportunity to escape.”

“You’re not who I expected you to be.”

“How so?”

“I don’t know. Throughout my life, I’ve been taught to hate Silks. When I was two, my father was drafted into servitude. A portion of his earnings support our family. Still, my mother works long shifts at the infirmary to make ends meet. You aren’t a conceited elitist like the rest of them.”

Before Amari can respond, Clara slides open the door. “Are you enjoying the glorious West Callum? Not the extravagance that you’re used to, is it?”

“It’s lovely,” Amari blatantly remarks.

“A tour seems appropriate, don’t you think?” I inject.

The three of us venture outside. We pass by the schoolhouse, the infirmary, and the various shops lining Main Street. Finally, we enter the Manufacturing District. “I work right over there at the military plant,” I point out. Looking closer, I notice people in uniform filing into the building. “Strange.”

“What is it?” Amari inquires.

“It’s closed on Sundays.”

“Massive explosion. Missing princess. Why wouldn’t the Royal Guard cross into Lowlife territory for the first time in over a century?” Clara snarks.

“Perhaps things have changed while we were away. It’s possible that The Plant altered their hours and established a mandatory dress code,” I suggest.

“That’s wishful thinking. I’m heading to the pub. Maeve will be there. I’m sure she misses you.”

“Okay,” I reply, blushing. “Gin solves everything, right?”


Clara introduces me to Maeve, a short, slender girl. Dark hair frames her light, freckled face. The four of us knock back shots of cheap liquor. I cough and sputter as the liquid sears my throat. Champagne, my drink of choice, is a delicacy outside of Callum’s walls.

After a few more drinks, we begin a game of darts. On my first attempt, I miss the board by a mile. “No chance to practice Downtown?” Finn teases.

“Maybe not, but I’d surely win in a crochet match.” The group bursts into laughter.

“How did you guys meet anyway?” Maeve inquires. Finn, Clara, and I exchange glances.

“That’s a story for another day,” Clara responds. Despite the threat of the Royal Guard, I feel safe here.

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