Carpathia III: Episode 62 - The Persistence of Melancholy
The Outlands, Nita's House
Light flowed in pinpoint rays through the tattered curtains of Jaze's new room at Nita's small shack. At night, especially, the walls felt uncomfortably close. Except for the ramshackle, wooden walls and large window, his room bore an uncomfortable resemblence to his small cell in Nekramentia. It had been another restless night, full of bad dreams that felt all too real and the yet another appearance by the yellow-eyed entity that terrorized him in nights before.
The dreams were tiring, leaving Jaze feeling like he hadn't slept at all. Wearily, he sat up in his bed and rubbed his forehead, wishing there was such a thing as aspirin on Yseri. Desperate to avoid making a habit of sleeping late while everyone else was working, he struggled to drag his feet out of the bed and onto the floor. With a grunt, he rose from the bed and slowly stepped across the creaky floor to the kitchen. His new room only had a curtain in the doorway for privacy. He brushed it aside and entered the kitchen.
Nita: Good to see you awake. I've got a nice, big breakfast for you.
Jaze pulled a chair and it groaned loudly as he dragged it across the floor. He sat down at the same time as Nita gently placed a plate of meat, eggs, and fruit, along with a cup of water, before him.
Nita: Be sure to eat everything. You need to get healthy again.
Jaze stared at his plate, thoroughly examining every detail of the simple, yet hearty fare that lay before him. He thought about Mitani and how he did nothing to save him. He thought about Mirage and Jump and all the others who were still at the compound while he sat comfortably in a chair, preparing to eat a meal lovingly prepared by a kind woman to whom he'd been little more than a burden thus far. He wiped his eyes and tentatively began to eat his breakfast.
Jaze: Thank you.
Jaze's voice cracked as he said those words and he hoped Nita didn't notice. Nita, however, looked at him with kind, caring eyes.
Nita: Give yourself time, Jaze. Nobody expects you recover right away.
Jaze: I don't want to talk about it!
Jaze didn't understand why he blurted out those words, nor did he understand what he was feeling. Guilt, sadness, anger, and a range of other emotions that he didn't know how to describe. He put down his fork and rubbed his face with his hands.
Jaze: I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that.
Nita tilted her head and smiled sadly at Jaze.
Nita: It's okay. Just focus on getting healthy.
Jaze picked up his fork again and continued eating while Nita puttered around the house, tending to various little tasks. He ate his fill, and more, heeding Nita's advice to put on some weight and to avoid offending her in any way. When Jaze's plate was clear, he started thinking about what he was going to do in this village. He knew he couldn't be a useless lump forever and, he thought, doing something, anything, would take his mind off of Nekramentia.
Jaze: Can I help out with the cleaning or anything?
Nita took Jaze's plate and cup and placed them in the wash basin.
Nita: There's nothing left to do around here. Jacob is clearing a patch of land for some fruit he wants to grow. Why don't you ask him if he needs some help? I'm sure he'll have something for you.
Jaze: That sounds good. How do I get there?
Nita: Just go around the back of the house, through the gate, and straight through the trees. You'll find a little bridge over the irrigation ditch. Turn left after you cross it. He shouldn't be hard to find after that.
Jaze scooted back in his chair, nearly falling backwards when one of the legs caught an irregular piece of wood. Recovering quickly, he stood and pushed the chair back under the table.
Jaze: Is there a time I should be back?
Nita: Jacob usually eats dinner here, so he'll know when it's time. Just do what he does. I'll be attending the village council today.
Jaze: Okay. Thanks for breakfast.
Jaze put on his boots near the front door. Once they were tied, he walked outside and around to the back, as Nita instructed.
Jaze found the gate behind the house and walked through it and then straight through the trees. Finally, he found what he guessed was the "bridge" to which Nita was referring, but it was little more than a pair of planks across the canal. Jaze stepped carefully across the wobbly boards and turned left.
It was only a short walk before Jaze spotted Jacob hunched over in an open field. There was nothing of note around him except for a cart full of rocks.
Jaze: Hi, Jacob.
Jacob stopped whatever it was that he was doing and stood, giving his back a solid, lenghty stretch, before turning to Jaze.
Jacob: Hi, Jaze. What brings you here?
Jaze: I was wondering if you could use some help.
Jacob: Aw, you're gonna regret asking that. I'm clearing the rocks out of the field.
Jaze: Heh. Not a problem. Just tell me what to do.
Jacob leaned down and picked up a rusty spade and handed it to Jaze. As he took it, the blade wobbled in its handle and he could tell he should be careful holding it, lest he get splinters.
Jacob: I've already gotten most of the rocks on the surface. Take this, and jab it into the dirt. If you hit something, dig it up and throw it into the cart. Simple! It also helps till the dirt.
Jacob picked up his own spade and gave it several quick jabs into the soil until they both heard a distnct "clink." He then cleared the soil away, revealing the rock. It was a small one, so he again used the spade to scoop up the rock and drop it in the cart.
Jacob: Just like that.
Jaze: That's easy.
Jacob: Easy, but boring. Enjoy!
Jaze smiled, liking the sound of "boring." Everyone he'd ever known in his life had, at least once, complained about their boring life, their boring city, their boring parents, or some such other boring thing. Adventures, he thought, were nothing like the glamourous tales in storybooks. Adventures were miserable, unpleasant affairs and he wanted no part of one ever again.
Jaze took his spade and, like Jacob showed him, started jabbing the ground with it, looking for rocks. There were many to find, and soon, his mind started making a little game of it. In his head, he divided the lumpy field of dirt into irregularly shaped sections, with borders formed from the tiny valleys between the lumps. Every rock, he imagined, was a treasure from a tiny, ancient civilization that resided within those borders. He gave points to each rock he found, based on its size, before throwing it into the cart.
Working his way outward, Jaze didn't keep score of each individual "nation." All he had to do was remember which was the highest score and replace it when one bested it. Jacob never bothered him during this time and soon, Jaze lost all focus on anything that was going on around him. He forgot about the oppressive heat, the blowing wind harrassing some leaves on the nearby trees, and the water gurgling by in the irrigation canals. He was cognizant of none of that.
With another corner finished, Jaze looked around to see if he missed any areas. Suddenly, he noticed that one spot that he had churned up now resembled the spit of land on which Nekramentia was situated and, with that, he felt slammed back into reality. He looked around for Jacob and found him carrying a large rock from the area where he was working over to the cart.
Jacob: That's me.
Jaze hesitated, unsure if he should ask his question.
Jaze: Nita mentioned that you were at the compound. Do you remember any of it?
Jacob dropped the rock into the cart and it landed with a crunch amongst the others. Scratching the side of his head, he grunted thoughtfully.
Jacob: Hmmm... I was still quite young when I escaped. Not much older than Aten, I think. I don't really remember anything special. Nita took me in when I got here. It took awhile for me to get used to this place. I was very aggressive for a long time. I eventually found, what do you say, my inner peace?
Jaze: Were you ever taken to see Maelstrom?
Jacob: I don't think I ever met the guy. I heard plenty about him and none of it was good.
Jaze was both disappointed and relieved at the same time. He hoped he could have someone with whom to share his feelings, but, on the other hand, meeting Maelstrom was something he wouldn't wish on his worst enemy.
Jaze spotted a rock that he missed, poking up from underneath the soil on the edge of the small field. He leaned down and pulled on it. It was heavier than he thought, the bulk of it being underground. With a few strong yanks, he managed to wrestle it from the ground. It was medium-size, compared to the others, just big enough to require two hands but not so heavy as to be a burden.
Jaze: It's good that you didn't see Maelstrom. That's something nobody...
Jaze suddenly stumbled on the uneven ground. As he pitched forward, he dropped the rock and it landed directly on a smaller stone with a loud "crack." A hot rage welled up within him as he thought about how he would have to bend over again just to pick it up and put it in the cart.
Jaze swung his foot back and then kicked the rock as hard as he could. Despite the robustness of his boot, it didn't absorb the entire blow and his toes took some of the force. The pain was minor and he did his best to hide it, feeling intensely foolish from his outburst. If Jacob noticed, he paid it no mind.
Jacob: I think we've got enough rocks out. It's time we headed back to Nita's for dinner. I'll take the cart to town tomorrow. We always need more rocks for building stuff around here.
Jaze: Have we been here that long?
Jacob: Yup. The sun's starting to go down.
Jaze looked for the sun and, sure enough, it was nearly ready to settle down on the river. At the same moment, his stomach started to growl.
Jaze: I guess I got hungry and didn't notice.
Together, Jaze and Jacob strolled leisurely back to Nita's house, both eagerly anticipating what sort of meal Nita and Aten were preparing this time.
All city pictures from SimCity 4