The Taxi Resistance

Some people in Enchanted City said that taxis could get you wherever you needed to go, even in power-outs. Some people said that the City Taxi Company was not afraid of Burners and Breakers and Naysayers—but no one said it very loudly.

The sharp wind moaned through the flop hole where Hero tried to sleep. These lonely weeks in Enchanted City had been dreadful. He was hungry and cold and felt lost. Above all, though he was ashamed to admit it, he was afraid.

No one would give him work, and what little money he had was running low. He had no idea how to sight the King, and the ominous spell of the Enchanter was weighing his heart with laden dread. Hero longed for the daylight of Great Park, for Caretaker and Mercie, for the laughter of friends, for the comforting sound of the watchkeepers crying, “But the kingdom comes!” He longed for home.

Light spilled through the cracks in the rickety shelters of Moire Oxan. The sentry cry of patrols disturbed the slumber of the weary people. Sleep in the light! Sleep in the light! they warned. Hero couldn’t sleep.

Hero feared the wandering patrols. He knew an ugly scar on his cheek was evidence of branding, but he wasn’t sure this Enchanter’s mark would satisfy interrogators. Wouldn’t a Breaker demand proof of identity? Some surer certificate of adoption than the note humming in his heart?

Hero despaired. Where was the King? How was he to be found? And what part was Hero supposed to play in the Restoration?

Nay-nay-nay, nay-nay-nay sounded the dread melody of the Naysayers. Nothing can be done; nothing will be done. Hero tried to hum the tune from the dance of the Great Celebration, but the melody was faint. He kept thinking: I am only a lad after all. The Enchanter is powerful and his league is mighty.

He coughed. The stink of Enchanted City always choked his lungs. Suddenly he heard the dreadful sound that all the people feared. Oo-mb-pha . . . Oo-mb-pha . . . Oo-mb-pha-din. The pounding of the death drums. Another dragnet. He had escaped one only yesterday and been forced to find a different flop hole. Hunting orphans, the Enchanter’s men conducted sweeping day raids in Moire Oxan, waking citizens from their sleep.

Hero could hear the drums and then the Naysayers again, those singers who chanted tunes that smothered hope. He could hear the boot tromp of the Burners and Breakers, the Enchanter’s secret police, running up and down flimsy fire exits. Suddenly, cudgels were hammering on doors in his very building. He heard children crying. They have come for me, he thought. What can I do? Where can I hide?

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