She grimaced as the gnawing pain radiated from her stomach to her extremities, becoming impossible to ignore. None of the vendors had left any food as they packed up for the day. Unfortunately, that meant she would likely go without food for the night.

Looking up at the sky, she estimated she had enough time for one more pass. Hunched over, she stepped through the garbage left on the dirt streets. She found an empty cup here and some packaging for food there, but nothing that would fix the ache in her stomach.

Once she finished the final loop around the empty market, she stood up, closing her eyes. Her stomach groaned. She couldn’t help but whimper, hand on her empty belly. She snapped to attention when she heard the familiar shuffling of a large creature roaming through the market. It wasn’t sunset yet, but she’d seen people jailed for less. She turned and sprinted in the opposite direction of the footsteps.

Once she had tucked herself into a shadow-filled alley, she collapsed to the ground, letting her chest heave, hoping to refill itself with air – running was torture for her.

A new set of feet stomped the ground, making their way past her alley. She held her breath to keep her presence hidden, unwilling to let any of the much-needed air into her lungs. She barely dared to move her eyes as she watched a bear slowly make its way through the streets. Only when the bear was gone did she allow herself to breathe again. Tears flowed from her eyes when she allowed herself to move; her legs aching, her stomach still gnawing at itself from the inside.

She had missed many meals before but the homeless girl was now beyond desperate for food. Possibilities, both rational and not, ran through her head. Could she be caught purposely by the police? Surely they’d feed her? Would they let her out after, though? She couldn’t be sure and didn’t know if she wanted to risk rotting away in a cell for a night’s meal. At least out here she had some semblance of freedom. The girl stood, choosing to go with plan B. She crept through the streets, hoping she remembered her destination’s location.

Several twists and turns later, she arrived at a small hut. She had managed to dodge a couple of patrols on the way. Finally able to exhale with relief, the girl hesitated before knocking on the door of the hut. She heard mumbling from two faint voices coming from inside. The girl fidgeted, hoping to be out of the streets before another patrol or hunger pain doubled her over.

The door creaked open, a small sliver of light seeping out behind the figure’s eyes. Then, a gasp leaked from the entryway, the door opening wide for the girl.

“For Rayon’s sake child, it’s been years,” the man in the door whispered, eyes wide with confusion and disbelief. They both heard a growl of an impending patrol approaching. The girl snapped her head from the general direction of the sound and looked at the man with pleading eyes. The wiry man glanced into the empty street and pulled the girl inside, shutting the door as a pair of animals loped into view.



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