Tris jumped out of her bed. Realizing she overslept, she put her clothes on as fast as she could. She didn’t bother to take her time to put matching socks on and her hair was still ruffled.
She looked at herself, decided that she enough clothes on her and dashed outside.
“Tris,” her mom shouted for the door, “stop by your aunt’s place on your way home, she said she would send us some bread.”
“Sure thing mom,” Tris answered not bothering to look if her mother heard her.
Autumn mornings in Havonbourgh were cold compared to the rest of the kingdom. Luckily, the town was very small and one could get across the whole town in no time.
In the past, Havonbourgh was a larger town, but after the curse, the population dwindled. Although, people like Tris considered themselves blessed, rather than cursed.
Tris rushed for the old man Gamor. Living on the outskirts had its good sides and bad sides. The news traveled fast, and those on the outskirts were the first to hear them.
“You’re late, young girl” Gamor smiled, showing all his five remaining teeth.
“Were there any news today?” Tris ran up to the old man. She put her hands on her knees trying to catch her breath. Running straight out of bed was not her brightest idea. Judging from the man’s smile, the news today was big.
“Yeah, there was some big news,” the old man said. “But they were here more than an hour ago.”
Tris expected that the news would evade her. Her unruly hair danced on the wind like the impish flames. It told anyone who saw Tris that she overslept.
The news traveled fast throughout the whole kingdom. But in Havonbourgh the news never stayed in one place. Due to the curse, as soon as the news passed from one person to another, the bearer of the news would forget them.
Havonbourghians soon learned to live with it. They even turned it into a game of their own. It was always exhilarating to hear the news, and they were never bothered by its contents.
If the news passed old man Gamor more than an hour ago, Tris concluded that they would already be in town among the craftsmen. Havonbourghians agreed upon the rule that the news goes among the elderly before it would be passed down to the workers.
But there were misfits in Havonbourgh who loved to mess with the rules.
“Have a nice day,” Tris smiled and dashed off towards the town.
Craftsmen, who participated in the game of chasing the news thought highly of themselves. If one would ask which group is the best at the game, craftsmen would always boast how clever and unpredictable they were.
But Tris figured them out a long time ago. Craftsmen still had to work, and they all behaved differently if they already heard the news. Once they heard the news, they would commit to their work and make different sounds. And if the whole area heard the news, then the sounds of that area were different as well.
Tris memorized the sounds of each area and could tell if the news was still floating around or not.
Tris hoped the news didn’t get too far. If they were bad, she could be in trouble. The good news traveled fast, but bad news flew through the town.
As Tris entered the town, the noise of hammering overwhelmed her. Everyone at the entrance was already hard at work. The news went further in.
Tris headed for the tailor’s workshop. No matter how the news traveled, she knew that they’d end up at the tailor’s place in the middle.
The eerie silence troubled her. If nothing was heard in the area around the tailor’s workshop, it meant that the news already went by. This doubled Tris’s fears that today’s news was bad and it would be hard to catch up with them.
Tris hoped that she was wrong and that the news didn’t come by the tailor already. “Hello,” she entered the workshop.
The silence greeted her.
If the tailor heard the news, she should be by her table and sewing quietly. It was unusual that she didn’t answer to Tris.
Tris walked further in and realized that no one was in the shop. She completely forgot that the tailor would be out of town today.
This ruined everything. Tailor never went out of town. That meant that today, the news traveled differently and there was no way to figure out where they would be.
The only option Tris had was to visit Karth in the marketplace. In most cases, he was the last adult to receive the news. Tris hoped that the news didn’t reach him already, for that would mean trouble.
As Tris arrived at the marketplace, the usual noise of the vendors trying to sell their goods surrounded her. The marketplace was the trickiest to figure out the sound if the news were there.
Vendors chattered regardless of the news arrival. The difference was how many of the vendors tried to outspeak others. If the news was gone, everyone was trying their best to sell their goods.
In case that news was still in the market, one or two of them would try to get the news instead in a slightly lower voice, compared with the others.
The tailor’s absence troubled Tris so much that she didn’t bother to listen to the sound of the marketplace. She went straight to Karth.
“Good morning little miss,” Karth said. “Did you come to buy some of my goods, or are you only interested in that which I cannot sell to you?”
“You know why I’m here,” Tris tapped her foot on the ground. It annoyed her that Karth would always ask the same question, even though he knew very well that Tris comes to buy something only once she got the news.
“Don’t be so hasty, my dear,” Karth said. “Good manners will get you far when you want to get something.”
“I’m sorry,” Tris apologized immediately. She knew that if she protested, it would just turn into an hour-long lesson from Karth. And she didn’t have time for that. If he already heard the news, that meant trouble.
“Can you please tell me if you heard the news,” Tris said.
“That’s more like it,” Karth smiled.
“And here you go being impatient, the moment I commend you,” Kart said.
“I’m sorry,” she apologized again.
“Sometimes I feel you just say that even though you don’t mean it,” Karth scolded her.
“I know. But I want to know if you hear the news already,” Tris pouted. “It feels like today’s news is big.”
“Oh, they felt big. But you know that we forget them as soon as we pass them to someone else. So I can’t tell you what the news was about,” Karth smiled. “What I can tell you is that the news was bad. They zoomed through the town in no time.”
“Oh no,” Tris felt her stomach curl. “This is bad. If everyone in town heard the news, that can mean only one thing.”
The news was among the children.
Adults thought highly of themselves, but the real devils of the game were children. The elderly had their rules on how the news would go among them. It was more of a pastime for them.
Adults were trickier and made it more into a game. But they had to work, so they would always be in the same place. Tris knew where to find every one of them.
Children were the masters of the game. After all, the curse bothered them the least. Even if they forgot the news, they enjoyed the thrill of hearing something new.
The whole town and its surroundings were the children’s playgrounds for chasing the news. And there were no rules among them.
Some of them even broke the rules of the elderly and made the whole game chaotic. Tris was one of the main offenders in that regard.
Tris paused for a moment, trying to figure out where the news would be. When one of the children got the news, Tris’s knowledge would no longer be useful.
They could be anywhere. Considering that she didn’t pass by any of the other children in the town, she guessed that they could be in the woods or on the meadows.
Tris ran off to meadows since they were easier to rule out. On the way through the town, the smell of baked bread reminded her to visit her aunt to get the bread her mother asked for.
As she approached the town’s gates, she could pick up the laughter and screams in the distance. Tris was in luck. Her search for the news came to an end.
The only thing that remained was to catch them.
As she ran towards the others, a group of children headed for the town.
“Hey Tris, nice hair,” one of them laughed.
“The news was big,” another widened its hands.
“You’re late,” the third one said. “Leery has the news, and has already headed for the woods.”
Leery was one of the older boys and quite fast. There were only a few who would manage to catch him. Luckily, Leery made the game easier for others after a while and would enter into woods or head back into town.
There, slower children could get him by surprise.
Tris changed her course and went for the woods. She would have better chances to catch Leery by surprise if she got into the woods before him. The only problem was if someone else caught him first.
Then the news could get back to meadows, and Tris wasn’t feeling like she could run for much longer. Waking up late was bad. Especially on the day when the news was bad.
Tris slowed down as she entered the woods. Making too much noise would give her position away, and catching Leery was possible only by surprise.
She listened to hear the noise from other children, but everything died out. That meant everyone was in the woods.
Tris walked carefully, trying not to stir the wildlife around her. Otherwise, she would give her position away. A mistake those younger than her often repeated.
After a few minutes of walking, Tris arrived at her usual scouting tree. It was an old willow, with the perfect width for hiding behind it. And the surrounding trees distanced themselves from the willow. Tris had the perfect view of the woods.
And the view was great this time. Leery was just heading towards Tris.
Tris stilled herself. She even stopped breathing. She was afraid that Leery could hear her breathe, and then he would just run away from her.
She could hear his steps getting closer, but he wasn’t close enough. And the breath she held in became harder to hold. All the running tired her out.
For someone who runs so fast, you’re an impossibly slow walker, Tris got annoyed as her breath started to give out.
She tried to breath out as slowly as she could. She clenched her stomach and pushed the air slowly out of her lungs. Even she could hear the air flowing out despite it moving inside her head.
The only problem was, she needed to breathe in as well. She lacked air. Before she managed to breathe it all out, Tris started breathing in the same way.
All the focus was on controlling her breathing so that Leery wouldn’t hear her. She was so focused on it, that she forgot about Leery’s footsteps until a twig snapped right next to her.
She screamed in surprise, and Leery jumped back.
He dashed in the opposite direction.
Tris ran after him, breathing fully once more. She was angry at herself that she ruined such a perfect opportunity. She doubted that she would manage to catch Leery, but she had to try.
Tris ran as fast as she could, but Leery was slipping away. Their running stirred every animal in the woods and soon the whole woods were awake. With it, the screams and laughter of other children revived.
Leery stopped out of nowhere, realizing the screams were coming from the direction he was running in. He looked left and right, trying to figure out where to run, but the noise surrounded him. He had nowhere to go.
Tris sped up to get to him first.
The voices grew closer and closer. She could even see some of the boys running towards Leery.
She had only a few steps left.
Not wanting to risk someone else getting the news before her, Tris jumped at Leery. Both of them fell and Tris grabbed his hands.
“Tell me,” she smiled, “What is today’s news?!”
The joy overwhelmed her. It was finally her turn to hear the news.