Used to, Brecha would have waited until her family was asleep to come out into the apartment and rummage around for whatever had been left that she could make use of. Used to, wives would leave things on purpose, in return for the little things that might happen in night. But that was before the water.
Before the water, life was different. Maybe better, maybe not. It was hard to remember how it really was, when things changed too much.
When their families left the fair land and came over the water some of the ùruisg came with them, finding places to tuck themselves in and be useful. The new land was a wonder and a terror, and so much louder and busier. Even so, the old ways remained and gave them purpose.
But human lives are so short, and memories even shorter.
It hadn't been that way in the fair land. The knowing of the ùruisg had continued without fail or fade since before humans had found time.
Something in the new land changed that, and the knowing had died away like flowers under an early frost.
In the now, the best time to be unseen was in the brightness of day. Homes emptied early and stayed so until late in the day. Even venturing outside posed no real risk when humans had forgotten to look anywhere but toward their destination.
Brecha stood quite still at the gap between two cupboards in the kitchen, more out of habit than need. The tiny apartment was empty, but never silent. Machines in every room, humming and buzzing and rattling through the day and night. It was a wonder to her that humans didn't go mad with the noise they endured.
"Linsa, come now or we'll be last for certain." Brecha looked over her shoulder and waited for her friend to gather up their contribution to the meeting.
"We'll not be last. Feran is always last, and had naught to eat or drink with it." Her voice was little more than a wisp and matched the tiny frame that produced it. Linsa was fading, nearly matching the plastic grocery bag she wore as a dress.
Brecha turned away and smoothed the brown paper bag she preferred to wear, and tried not to worry. They couldn't die - not as humans did - but they could fade into nothing, or the next thing to it. Linsa needed a new family to care for, a family to replace the one that had left, but Brecha feared the news she brought to the meeting would wither that small hope. Bringing it to the other ùruisg and the king was the only solution she'd been able to think of.
She reached for one of the soda caps Linsa was trying to lift, and nudged the smaller woman toward the opening. "Let's get going, we're meeting at Belvedere Castle in Central Park and that's no little bit."
They moved fast. Fast enough to be mistaken for bits of trash blown about in the wind that howled and growled through the steel and glass canyons of the city. Dodging feet - humans, animals, the all-too-frequent oversized bug - made keeping the liquid in the caps they carried a challenge.
Linsa brightened when they crossed under the trees and into the cool, green calm of the park. Brecha deliberately slowed her pace a bit, drawing out the pleasure of the crossing and delaying the moment she was dreading.
"Are you listening, Brecha?"
Her friend's voice penetrated the dark thoughts that had crept in, and she forced an easy smile. "I was thinking about green things, Linsa. My apologies."
As they neared the castle they were joined by small groups of other ùruisg. They came together as they always had, chattering and singing, sharing the things they'd brought. Their bottle caps of strong spirits were most welcome, and quickly shared around.
She was amused to note that Linsa had been correct: Feran was again the last to arrive, and did so empty handed as usual.
Less amusing was the state he was in. The sock he'd fashioned into a tunic was worn and threadbare, the deep creases in his ashen skin taking up where the lines in the fabric left off. He lived in a building not far from theirs, and had lost his family much as Linsa had.
The feasting was ending when their king stood on a large rock and called them to as much order as they ever managed at one of their gatherings.
"Brecha has news to share, please attend," he announced, pitching his voice to be heard over the small crowd and motioning her up to take his place on the rock.
Looking out over the faces turned up to her, Brecha wished fervently that she didn't have to be the bearer of such disheartening news. Still, she supposed it was better to know and prepare than to be caught unaware.
"I know a number of us have lost families recently, and we've hoped that more families would move in as they have before," her eyes scanned the crowd and came to rest on Linsa and Feran's faces, and she took a deep breath.
"That's not going to happen."
The gasps and cries of dismay at her bald declaration buffeted her.
She raised her hands, "Please, listen!" Waiting for them to quiet gave her time to steady herself, and she was glad of it. "My family had a visitor. All of the buildings on my block and the next two are to be torn down, that's why the families have been leaving."
At this there was silence, more heartbreaking than the tears, and she hurried to finish.
"We have to move. We have to find new homes, new families."
She waited for the king to step forward, to take charge and guide those faced with losing their home, to guide her. He stood, staring at her in a way that made clear guidance would not be coming from that quarter. Fear swamped her.
Brecha watched Linsa pale and shrink, losing all the color she'd gained on the trip through the park, and suddenly the fear she'd felt was engulfed in frustrated anger.
"We have moved before," she started, then started again, her voice harder than the stone she stood on. "We crossed the water, when we had no way of knowing what would meet us. We found families, and homes, and made our lives."
The crowd quieted and turned to her, waiting. She wasn't sure what they were waiting for, what they expected, but she knew their survival depended on giving it to them.
It was so much simpler before the water. Before humans changed, got busy, and started forgetting...
Unless it wasn't the humans who were forgetting.
"We are ùruisg. We existed before time, before seasons. We are part of this world, and we are strong." We will find a place for ourselves, we will make a place."
She took a breath in the silence.
"We are ùruisg!"
Cheers shook the leaves in the trees overhead, raining gold and red on the men and women below. Brecha watched groups form and break apart as plans were made and felt hopeful for the first time since the visitor. They were ùruisg, and they would make a place.