Colby-Jack wiped the sweat from her eyes for the millionth time as she removed two more crusty loaves from the oven. The morning rush was frenzied and she was doggedly determined to catch up for the lunch rush. Although, judging from the sun, it should’ve started already. She cursed and remembered the rude city watchman who’d told her to clear out a few hours ago. Did he put a sign or something on her door? Better investigate. That son of a…You have the presence of mind to tell someone off one time in a position of power and they-
Bodies littered the street outside her door. Dead eyes open, uncaring, staring into the abyss of the sun. Well this doesn’t seem like it was the watchman’s doing. She waved her hands in someone’s face for a moment, but there was no reaction. His eyes didn’t even twitch. She pulled him bodily away from her shop; she didn’t want to be disrespectful to the dead, but she couldn’t have these people dying all over her livelihood.
Colby-Jack spent a few minutes investigating the streets a few up and a few down from her own. As far as the eye could see, rivers of motionless citizens polluted the pathways, lying face-down and face-up, however they fell she assumed. She retreated back to the store to gather some supplies. If there was a plague after all, then she’d better get to that East church. She wrapped up as much bread as she could comfortably carry and stowed it in a travel bag, then attached leads to Parmesan and Cheddar. The two cats were not pleased to have been awakened, and meowed grumpily.
“Get on with it, you lazies. It’s not like you’ve actually done anything that would necessitate the need for a nap in the first place.” She briskly walked the streets, the two cats keeping pace easily. The streets were devoid of any moving body, so it was relatively easy going.
The further East she got though, the more she found herself being forced to step over the bodies as they grew more and more densely populated on the city streets. “Jeez I bet the rich people probably just all rode carriages, the good for nothing-” Colby’s eyes narrowed. She scanned her surroundings quickly, looking for splashes of color, or at least clean clothes. All the souls surrounding her now were dressed in tatters and smocks, workman’s clothing that was shredded and dirty as sin.
She huffed once, turned herself right around, and marched West. “I’ll bet those cheeky bastards are beside themselves right now, sitting around and sipping iced wine or reading a book about working or something. Ugh!” Grumbling to herself more for the noise than any actual anger she felt, she made good time and found herself back at the city center before long. The rich folk were all locked up in a walled section of the city, but surely one of them needed a new baker while everyone was dying in the streets?
“What’s an ankle like you doin’ in a shoe like that, girl!”
Colby stopped short. “Ex..Excuse me?”
An old guy with a smaller pack stood hunched over in the street, examining her footwear.
“Y’got no arch support. Where’s the cushioning? Your shoes ain’t got no sole. Eh HEH HEH!” The old guy rubbed his hands together greedily while he chuckled to himself.
“Ugh, who are you?” Colby-Jack took a few healthy strides, taking care to hide her cats.
“Ol’ Fenton Shoemaester, at your service. I’ve got a 6 at my place with YOUR name on it missy, let me take you home right quick.” Grunting with oldness, Fenton heaved himself to his feet and started leading the way East.
Colby noticed they weren’t actually the only two walking around – she must’ve been more distracted than she realized.
“Uh, thanks Fenton, but no thanks. There’s a bit of a situation happening right now in town, not sure if you’d noticed. Nobody with fancy clothes is lying around so I figured those guys are holed up behind their wall, living the high life. I’m heading that way so I’m afraid I don’t have time for shoes.”
Fenton gasped in reply to her sacrilege and opened his mouth to reply.
A sweet voice drifting over the breeze shut his mouth before his reply, however.
“Have either of you seen any of the officials around? I was hoping to get some information that might help the congregation at THE LORD’s church. Everyone is so sick, I’d heard there was a cure.” A young lady in the soft layers of a church’s apprentice approached tentatively.
Fenton’s eyes did some wandering while Colby spoke up. “Nay girl, I’ve not seen anyone coherent until this man here started talking about- GET AWAY FROM THERE!” The baker brandished a baguette, beating the old man’s grubby hands from the poor girls’ feet. “She’s been through enough without a wackjob trying to get her out of her shoes so early in the day, Mr. Shoemaester if you please!”
Fenton guffawed into the quiet streets as he allowed himself to be shooed away. “Now now baker woman, either we’re all going to die, or we’re going to be on our own for some time. It would be nice to have some comfortable shoes either way – wouldn’t it? Make ya feel better. Give you spunk! My place is right on the way to the rich folk, c’mon let’s swing on by and I’ll prove it.”
An hour later, the two women sat in his small sitting room atop comfy chairs.
“Old man, I’m a bit taken aback. It’s like walking on air.” Colby paced the room in the new boots, somewhat at a loss. “Did you have to put these giant holes in the sides though? It feels a might chilly to be wearing things like this around.” Glancing to the younger girls’ shoes, she wasn’t surprised to see it cover even less.
“Fenton they’re wonderful, how much do they cost?”
He waved the young lady’s hands from the laces. “Don’t be silly, don’t be silly! It’s the apocolypse, I wouldn’t dream of charging you. These weren’t for sale anyhow, I was just waiting to meet the right feet. What’s your name, anyhow?”
“Tess Prees, from the church of THE LORD by the north wall.”
“Lovely to meet you Tess.” Colby stood and moved to the door. “I was just on my way to make the rich people let me stay with one of them. If the cure is anywhere, it’s going to be holed up with those fools, not distributed to the poor people now conveniently as far away from the wealthy district as they can be. Don’t you agree?”
It did make more sense than the Vitsuata church handing out tens of thousands of antidotes for free. “I suppose you’re right. So you think they’ll listen to us though?”
“I don’t care, that’s where I’m going. Come along if you like.” With that, Colby-Jack whisked out the door, cats in tow.
“Okay sure, might as well try something.” Tess hurried out the door after her.
“Wait for me!” Fenton snatched up the sketchbook under his desk and shoved it into his bag as he rushed after them.