Street Angel
By: Joey Maxwell

Who am I? Well, I'm nobody important. I am of no worth. I'm just some dirty kid in the street. You know, the one you veer away in disgust because of the smell. I'm not that bad, is it my fault that you Federation-types don't give us kids enough water to bathe, let alone food to eat? Amazingly enough, though, I have a name, and that name is Solo. No, it was not the name my parents gave me. In fact, I don't even remember who they are anymore. Like some far off shadows in a world long lost to me. The street is my only world now. It has been a part of me for as long as I can remember. Including the hunger, the cold, the oppression. I have learned to accept it, to embrace it. As my stomach grew emptier, my hair grew longer, long like the streets, which stretched on forever, that contained every dirty secret and sorrow of the human world. I could see them stretch ahead of me and curve steadilly upward, so that I could see a city both ahead of me and almost completely above me, shrouded partially by the artificial atmosphere. Everything was surrounded by metal. Cold, dead metal, floating isolated and alone in space. Like the cold, dead hearts of those whose souls where crushed by this war, this oppression. But who was I to care? My soul had been lost long ago, like the memories of those who put me into this world.

Solo was the name given to me by the streets. Despite running with the other boys, I was very much alone. Inside I was very empty and barren, much like my stomach, which constantly urged me on to run, to hide, to steal to satisfy its needs and the needs of the other boys, who depended upon my every word and action. Yes, I was always there for them. I mean, who else was going to be there to dry their tears, to fill their stomachs, and protect them from the bitter cold of this artificial world? Everybody they had loved was gone forever. But who was I to go to for comfort? I had to depend solely on myself. I was alone. Or so I had thought. One day, everything changed for me, forever. Of course it had to be forever, for deep inside a clock was ticking, my hour would soon come.

I found the little rat in an alley, rummaging through some garbage left over from a nearby marketplace which the boys and I had just finished stealing from. He had long, matted chestnut brown hair, and large blue eyes that I'd swear could stare straight through me. His cheeks where smeared with dirt, and when he saw us he looked like that pidgeon we had trapped, just before we broke its neck. Hey, a boy's gotta eat somehow. Fortunately for him he wasn't a pidgeon, which was unfortunate for us. Just another mouth to feed. Oh well. There was something that struck me about the boy, so I took him under my wing. I knew, from the first day I saw him, that there was destiny in those deep blue eyes. Something told me that I had made the right choice in taking him in.

The little boy told me he "wandered" here on this colony by stowing away on a ship. Why he even decided to come here to this overcrowded, noisy, disease-ridden hunk of metal was beyond my guess. Oh well, he was probably lost. I mean, what else do we war orphans have left to do but wander? Wander and hope to find someone kind enough to take us in, or perhaps a group like us, who can possibly provide food and shelter. In any case, the kid lucked out on that one. Had I not found him, he would be just another corpse lying in the gutter. And it did not have to be from hunger either. There's alot more than just hunger for us orphans to worry about. There was disease, the cold, perverts, drugs. Sometimes the Federation soldiers enjoyed using us for target practice. We where nothing to them. Like shooting rats in a garbage can. We had no hope, no future. Well, at least one of us did. Certainly not me.

I taught the kid everything I knew, and boy did he learn quickly. He was one of the best thieves out of all of us. And a good runner, too. That was always a plus. I'd hate to think what would happen if the adults ever caught any of us. And it has happened, and its not pretty, either. But then again, nothing that ever happens in the streets is pretty or glamorous. I remember the time the kid and I where looting this guy we found in the street. I mean, after all, it didn't look like he'd have any use for that loose change or those clothes anymore. And the best use he'd be would be for the crows and the rats. Rats like us. There was something in his eyes as we where working. I can't really explain what it was. Guilt maybe, but of what I couldn't say. Sorrow perhaps. Or pity. But whatever it was, he would not reveal it to me. After all, he would say, "boys don't cry". I should have been ashamed of what I was doing in front of the kid, but I didn't. Shame was something I learned to kill in the streets. It is a place where shame no longer exhists. Only hunger and sorrow. But at night it was comforting. Comforting sometimes, to feel his warm body snuggled up against mine. Perhaps he was lonely, too. Like me. But together, we where a pair. A team. Nothing could separate us. Not even Shinigami.

I fell ill one winter. I knew what it was, too. There was a viral epidemic running around V08744. It was a pretty nasty bug. I should know. You see, it ended up taking my life. It started out mild at first. A cough, a stuffy nose. But it progressively got worse as time went on. Soon I was no longer able to go out with the others. My coughing would reveal where we would be hiding. But soon it wouldn't just be the coughing that hindered me. My body grew weak, and food was already scarce due to the cold, which didn't improve matters any. My body was weakened from the coughing, and it was hard for me to breathe. I knew it was too late for me then, but damn was that kid ever ingenious. He snuck out one day, and hours later returned with a large handful of syringes, which he distributed to the other boys, including myself. Despite the fever, I remember feeling his gentle touch, then the sting as the needle entered my veins. Heh, probably the best thing that was ever stuck in those veigns. It did me no good, of course. I was mad at him for wasting it on me, when he should have used it on himself. After all, he was still strong, there was still hope for him. He was such a remarkable kid, it would be a waste to lose him. Not me though. I wish I had gotten to know him better.

But, even in death I was determined not to let him die. I watched him as he curled up to my now boney, lifeless form. He looked as if he had given up. But I stayed there with him, and never left him since. I followed him through church ruins, through battlefields, through space. I was in his mind, his heart, his actions, his memory, his name. I've managed to live on, because of him. I know now that my seemingly worthless exhistence bore some fruit. I've taught him well. I will always be with him. I mean, somebody has to guard him from Death's scythe. Nobody was ever there to guard me from its blade. Yes, fate is indeed a cruel master, but in every death, in every ruin, in every street corner, there is always hope. And all it took was one smelly little kid to tell me that. Little did I know he would bring hope and joy to so many people. In the short time I had left on this earth, he had brought me enough joy and laughter to last for a lifetime. Wandering the streets by his side, I hear a new song and, separated from that stinking pitiful shell, I can finally spread my wings. I am alone no more.