Carpathia III: Episode 58 - The Weeping Sunset
During the his first meal at Nita's house, Jaze enjoyed a warm atmosphere and friendly chatter as distant memories came to him. Times when his family would gather around the table for dinner. Times when he took his plate to his room to eat by himself, for which he felt some regret now. Nita forbade everyone else from asking probing questions of Jaze, especially about the compound. For this, he was grateful. He was too tired and the memories were too raw. Aside from that, he was too focused on his plate to think about much else. He hadn't had a proper meal since he arrived in Yseri.
After dinner, Jacob took Aten back out to the fields while Nita, Jaze, and Ryuu stayed behind.
Nita: You should rest again soon. Before that, perhaps you'd like to see the rest of the village.
Jaze hesitated before he nodded sleepily.
Jaze: A short tour. I am sleepy.
Nita: Not to worry. We can see everything from the hillside. After that, we'll come back and you can sleep.
Ryuu: You two go ahead. I've already seen everything.
It was a surprisingly short walk. Jaze followed her through a row of trees with succulent fruits hanging from their branches until they reached the edge of a cliff.
From there, they could see much of the village.
Jaze looked out over the vast, tiered valley at the village. It was divided into two halves with the river running between. A somewhat rickety-looking bridge connected the two sides. From the hillside, Jaze could make out people going about their business along the dusty roads. Some carried bags. Some pulled carts. Some were chatting with each other. It was a serene, peaceful scene.
To the east, the sun began to lower. In the distance, he could see it settle in in the center of the river, the water flowing from it like tears. The weeping sunset.
Jaze: It's beautiful.
Nita: We have everything we need here and more. We're far enough from both Zhail and the compound that neither causes us any trouble.
Jaze: So, you said the compound doesn't come here anymore?
Nita: Not anymore. The trench protects us.
Several moments of peaceful silence passed, which Jaze found pleasant and disconcerting at the same time. For so long, he couldn't enjoy the smell of fresh air without thinking more about what might be going on behind his back. He sat down on the edge of the small cliff and took everything in. The sound of the wind in the trees. Watching the water slowly flow past the shore. Seeing all the people tending to their farms. He still felt uneasy, as though he should be looking over his shoulder.
Nita: You said you have a friend who can fly?
Jaze: More Ryuu's friend, really. He has bat wings and he carried me over the trench.
Nita: Really? A bat. Well, that's interesting.
Nita: Bats are usually very solitary. He must be very special if a bat were to be friends with him.
Jaze: He seemed like a nice guy. A little odd though.
Nita: Nobody fully understands the minds of bats. They're flighty and esoteric at best. One trait they seem to share is that they're very good judges of character and are exceptionally picky about who they associate with.
Jaze: I see.
Nita placed her hand gently on Jaze's shoulder.
Nita: I wanted you to see that you're safe here so that you can sleep without worry. We can talk more once you're rested. Let's go back.
Jaze nodded and stood up. Together, they walked back through the lines of apple trees to the house. Ryuu was already asleep, curled up on a chair in the corner like a cat.
Nita: I'll wash your clothes. You can wear some of Jacob's old clothes. You can change in there.
Nita handed Jaze a small stack of neatly-folded, basic clothes. On top was a basic, white tank top and some underwear and, below, a pair of drawstring pants.
Jaze went into the room Nita pointed to and closed the door. He'd have liked to have a bath too, but his body wasn't nearly as dirty as his clothes since he was able to swim in the river several times. Before taking off his socks, he took his camera out of his hiding place. For so long, he'd kept it tucked into his sock and now, for the first time in a very long time, he looked at it. It was covered in untold months, perhaps years, of dirt and grime. For a moment, he picked at it until a prolonged yawn stopped him.
He put down his camera and changed into the clothes Nita provided for him. They were a little loose, but acceptable. He emerged from the room holding his camera and dirty clothes.
Nita: I'll take those old clothes.
Jaze gave her his clothes, making sure to hang onto his camera.
Jaze: I appreciate everything you've done for me, but I would be happy if I never saw those clothes again.
Nita: I understand, dear. I'll just add these to the firepit on garbage day.
Nita noticed the camera in Jaze's hand.
Nita: What's that?
Jaze: It's a camera. I'll show you how it works after I wake up.
Nita: I'll look forward to that. For now, I'll leave you alone. You rest as long as you need.
Nita smiled and left, closing the door as she walked out of the house. Jaze laid down on the same bed where he was sleeping before and closed his eyes. Very soon, he fell into an uneasy sleep.
Jaze found himself somewhere in an indistinct room. He wasn't sure if it was a room at all. All he could see all around him was inky blackness. Someone was holding him. He looked around frantically and found that Thirteen was gripping him around his shoulders.
Thirteen: Stop squirming, you little shit.
Jaze did not listen and continued to struggle against him. Suddenly, he noticed a figure kneeling on the floor.
Jaze struggled harder, but he still could not break Thirteen's grip. Toma slowly and groggily lifted his head and looked at Jaze.
Toma: Jaze... Help me...
Thirteen: Stop squirming, or Pestilence will shoot him.
Jaze stopped struggling immediately. Suddenly, he saw Pestilence standing over Toma pointing a rifle at him. He wondered how he hadn't noticed Pestilence there before.
Thirteen: That's better. Now pledge fealty to Maelstrom.
Thirteen: Do it! Or I'll order Pestilence to shoot your little bunny.
Jaze hesitated for a moment, though he knew there was only one response he could possibly give.
Jaze: I will pledge fealty to Maelstrom.
There was a long pause, during which Jaze's heart felt as though it were going to leap from his chest.
Thirteen: Pestilence, shoot him anyway.
Not even a second later, there was a loud bang, and Toma fell to the floor. Suddenly, there was nobody holding Jaze anymore and Pestilence was gone. Jaze sprinted towards Toma as fast as he could, but no matter how fast he ran, he came no closer to him. All he could do was keep running and watch as blood dribbled out of Toma's head. Finally, Toma faded away and Jaze found himself alone in the dark void. He could see nothing. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to escape. It was a crushing loneliness and all he could do was fall to his knees and weep.
Soon, a shiver went down his spine and the hairs on his arms stood. Someone... or something, was watching him. He looked up only to see the most terrifying pair of yellow eyes he'd ever seen before.
Yellow Eyes: YOU CANNOT ESCAPE ME!
Jaze awoke suddenly, sitting straight up in his bed, dripping with sweat and with his heart pounding like a sledgehammer in his chest. Outside, the sun was down, and the lantern by the window cast a faint light within the little house. Nobody was around. It took him a long time to calm himself as he debated whether or not he wanted to try and sleep again.
All city pictures from SimCity 4