Autumn leaves falling in a flurry of red and orange covered the ground in a mat of color. Silva is a beautiful place in the Fall. All the trees, all the forest, they make for a great scenery. Pure silence, it’s the closest thing to heaven on earth.
I took in the familiar sight while awaiting my prey. A flash of brown just barely caught my eye, my gaze traced its movements. I knocked an arrow into my dusty old bow and drew the string. Take aim. Take a breath.
My arrow speared the animal through its center of mass and snapped on impact.
“There goes a good arrow.” I mumbled to myself.
There wasn't much doubt that it died within seconds after impact, so I walked to the dead rabbit. I picked it up by the broken arrow that was stuck inside of it and removed my breakfast from the arrow shaft.
“You my friend.” I said to the dead rabbit, “are going to be delicious.” I picked up the back end of the arrow that had snapped off and observed it. “Damn.” I held it by its feathers and chucked it into the woods. “Could have left something a little bit nicer behind.”
I had a long day ahead of me and this rabbit was going to have to satisfy my needs. Kevin was getting the crew together in town at 3:00 to tell us some “big news”. I had no idea what he wanted, but hey, I didn't mind hanging out with a couple of friends. The only part that confused me is the sudden excitement that he got, that wasn't very common.
I started a fire to get the rabbit cooking up. I gut and skinned the morsel, then the meat was good to go. My eyes were directed to my 6 o’clock when I heard the sound of leaves crunching and sticks snapping.
A lone wolf, and a hungry one at that. I could see his ribs sticking out of his grey fur, it must have smelled the cooking rabbit and wanted a piece. Why was he separated from the pack and why was he so skinny?
He had a ferocious look in his eye that told me that he was the dominant one in this situation. An arrow instinctively fell into my bowstring in case of an attack. My eyes averted back at the rabbit for a split second and understood what needed to happen.
“Alright.” I muttered, “You can have it.”
I grabbed my things and took the morsel out of the fire for him. He probably needed it more than me, and I didn't want to have to fight a hungry wolf.
On the walk home, I couldn't help but wonder what “big news” Kevin had for us. Not much came to mind when I thought about it, he was probably overreacting about something little that happened. Maybe he finally got a girlfriend, but I doubted that.
My thoughts as well as my movements were cut short by a fallen tree in my path. I looked at it for a little bit and broke a branch from its source. It took a bit, but once it was off it looked like it could be a nice staff or walking stick, maybe both, so I kept the branch. It was straight and sturdy, I could guess it was made out of cedar. I snapped off the smaller branches from the side of it so it was a bit cleaner and would be easier to shave the bark from it. It had a sort of bulb on the end that held a bit of the weight. It was kind of like a handle, or maybe a striking point if need be. Sort of like an Irish sheleighly.
“I'm going to call you Amanda.” I said to the stick. She was a pretty stick and I was going to treasure her with all my heart.
I saw the clearing of trees that showed my house. It wasn't much, just a bedroom, bathroom, a living room, and the kitchen. Most of the land was open to things that had yet to be built. Despite it not being much, it was one of the only things I have from my parents.
It wasn't dysfunctional, but it wasn’t a luxury. The roof was caved in over what used to be a garage from one year when it snowed a couple feet (I still need to find time to fix it). There wasn't much in there except from some tools that I used to use for hobbies and whatnot. From the outside it might have looked like a crack house because of the rugged paint and broken shingles, but on the inside it was fairly homely. Pretty much perfect for just me and maybe the occasional visitor. I stepped through my back screen door that creaked as it opened and shut.
There was an old leather couch that could maybe fit three people, though it hardly ever needed to. There was a wall that separated the kitchen from the living room. It was a simple cooking space, just a stove, an oven, and a microwave that me and Kevin had dug up from the nearby high schools trash. I also had a mini-fridge stuffed in the corner (that also came from the school trash) and a pantry where I kept all sorts of canned and snack foods, and a sink with a drying rack off to the side. I kept all my pots, pans, and bowls in the lower cabinets. I probably had way too many kitchen utensils for one person, though I planned to forge out some of the silverware into knives and other assorted tools. Some bread and cereal were always left on the wooden counters that my dad had installed when I was little. The walls were painted a dark navy blue with the occasional scratch and scuff from moving around the furniture or me being reckless when I play around with my equipment.
I put down my bow and quiver along with Amanda to go eat a bowl of cereal. I would have liked some meat, but I could deal with a generic American breakfast for today. I looked at the clock on the wall.
It was about 2:00 in the afternoon.
I didn't have too much time until I had to meet Kevin, so I ate quickly and grabbed my wallet. Before I ran out the front door, I grabbed my pocket knife and Amanda along with an extra shoelace I had lying around.
So with my miscellaneous things, I walked into town. It was a ten minute walk up a hill and over a bridge down Mildred street.
I was early, but that just gave me time to rest my mind. I leaned against one of the columns holding up the gazebo in the middle of the Town Hall and closed my eyes.
I must have fallen asleep because I woke up to Yormun yelling in my ear while he threw his oversized leather jacket at me.
“MASON WAKE UP.”
I sprung up and whacked him in the gut on instinct. He doubled over in pain, clutching his stomach.
“What was that for?” he said laughing a little bit.
I just looked at him with an annoyed look and picked up my stick. I don't know why I hung out with these guys, but I couldn't help but crack a smile. He was a tall white kid, he was lanky but definitely not weak. He had hair enough to cover his forehead, but it wasn't a whole lot by a long shot.
After the pain subsided he spoke up, “Do you know who Kevin is inviting?” He stood and put his jacket back over his lanky arms.
I was confused, “I didn't even know he was bringing other people, he just said the crew was coming”. I didn't think that Kev knew many people other than us, but I guess I was proven wrong. I'm not really sure why he didn't tell me, but I guess it’s whatever. “I don't know who it could be.” I told him. “I mean Kev isn't the most charming of folks, I don't know who he’d know other than us.”
“I have no idea, but let's just hope they don't cause any trouble.” Yormun said almost sounding worried.
I picked up Amanda and began shaving the bark off of her with my knife while we waited for the rest of my friends. I took the shoelace out of my pocket and tied the string around either end of the stick to make a sort of sling. I looked up and saw my red haired friend walking to the gazebo.
“Look, here comes Cadwell.”
Cadwell strolled down the sidewalk and started to jog when he realized we were already here. He was a redhead and his underlying temper would definitely agree with his hair. He was tall and buff, I'm pretty sure he took at least three martial arts and did pretty good at them to say the least. He got close enough that I wouldn't have to yell.
“Yo Cadwell, do you know if Kevin is bringing someone else? Yormun says that he is, but I don't think that Kev really knows anybody else.”
He chuckled lightly at my lame joke, “I don't really know.”
“Alright, well let's just hope it’s nothing bad.” I said as I heard the patter of footsteps coming from behind me.
I looked at my watch.
Kevin was finally here and behind him were two guys. One of which was tall, dark, and muscular. He grew a small stubble on his chin and I couldn't see his hair beneath his beanie. He wore a thick green winter coat, seemingly a bit over exaggerated for the weather. The second guy was a small kid, maybe 5 foot 5 at the highest. As small as he was, he walked like he knew exactly what to say to any questions I threw at him. He had on a brown trench coat that would have had me believe that he could have been two small children if he wasn't already so short. Not much visible muscle on his body, but I didn't see him as someone I'd be able to just push around. Overall, he seemed to have a sort of structure to him; both physically and mentally.
Kevin spoke, “Hey guys, this is Cyrus” he pointed at the big guy, “and this is Cole.” he pointed at the smaller dude. “I met these guys the other day while I was heading into town, they seem like your kind of people. They've got some things you might be interested in.”
“Sup.” We all said in unison towards the two new arrivals not completely sure what to think of this sudden entrance of new bodies.
I shook hands with Cyrus and Cole, “I'm Mason Nama. This is Yormun, and this is Cadwell.”
If there's one way to know about a person, it was through their handshake. Cole had a very firm grip. He was confident, a leader by nature and professional as all hell. He wasn't going to be a pushover like some of the people I've had to deal with. Cyrus had a soft grip, not a strong one in proportion with his size. It wasn't lazy, just soft. He was silent, but strong willed, loyal to those he found trustable and empathetic.
Yormun was giving them a creepy stare and Cadwell was making himself as big as possible even though he was already strong and tall. “What's up?” I said trying to spark conversation.
Cole spoke up, “I'm doing well and good, getting a little bit hungry. You guys care to talk over lunch?” His vocabulary was strange, but none of us protested to get some food it since we all hadn't eaten much.
We went into the grocery store and got a six pack of IBC cream soda, a tradition for years. Alongside the cream soda, we bought some chips and nacho cheese to fill our stomachs.
Cole offered to pay, but I couldn't let a guest pay. He insisted to we split the bill.
We sat down and all of us cracked open our cream soda except for Kevin who had already gotten halfway through with his.
Cole spoke up, “I'm quite confident in saying that you haven't really seen me or Cyrus around town too much.” He was right, I hadn't really; that is considering that I don't come into town often. “The reason for that is we don't really live in town.” Cole said with a confident tone. “Me and Cyrus have a ‘team’ similar to your own that your have here, but much larger. To be exact there are 73 of us.”
“73?” Yormun broke in, “How do you fit that many people inside one group of friends! I can't even get that many people onto my contacts list!”
Cole ignored the comment. “Well I wouldn't call it necessarily a group of friends. More so like a small town.” his properness was fading, probably just to initially impress us.
That was just enough to confuse me. How do you just have a village with 73 people in it? Where would you even be able to set up a place like that? I asked about my thoughts.
“Where in the world is this place? How do you just have a town with 73 people in it just hanging around?”
“Well if you want to know you're going to have to take a leap and trust us for a little bit. I understand if you don't want to trust some random guys you just met, but if you just trust us we might be able to make your life a whole lot more interesting. Plus, there are some things I think you all will find relevant to you. Why do you think your friend Kevin is so excited about it?” coaxed Cole.
“Make our lives more interesting?” Yormun questioned, “My life is quite interesting as of now thank you very much.”
Cole ignored Yormun again and continued, “If you're interested speak now or forever hold your peace, we won't come back later. I know this is out of nowhere, but this is the easiest way to ensure security.”
I felt like he spoke to me individually. There was a gleam in his eye, like he needed someone like me. Possibly even they needed someone like me. I really had nothing to lose, but as for my friends I wasn't sure. They were sure to follow whatever answer I gave them, so I didn't want to make the wrong choice for them. I looked back at them and asked,
“What do you guys think?”
Cadwell just looked at me, I guess he didn't really care. He didn't care enough to think about the risks. Yormun spoke,
“I don't know Mason, I mean I won't stop you guys, but should we really trust some random guys?”
He had a point, I looked at Kevin who was smiling in anticipation. He had already made his choice. He was going to trust them, in fact I think he already did.
I spoke to Cole, “When you want us to trust you, what does that include? We get to come home after this right?”
Cole responded, “Yeah yeah, but anything you see or hear has to be kept secret. We don't tell people about this place unless we are recruiting. That means you can't tell anyone. Not even your own mother.” I could tell by the way he looked at me that he wasn't kidding. If I took this leap there was going to be a risk, and if I saw anything and told anybody we were in for some big trouble. I didn't want to be against a gang of 73 or more. All that plus the possibility that this could be some sort of cult or gang that we could be joining.
“One more question before I make a choice.” I paused for a second. “Why do you trust any of us with this information? I mean you seemed to pick Kevin up out of nowhere and you're just trusting his word that were good people?” I figured it was a fair question, they seemed awfully trusting and it was a little bit spooky.
Cole gave me a little bit of a reluctant look. “We have a couple guys in town that survey the populace for any new recruits. They’ve seen you guys hang around and they say that you're cool. I'm not going to tell you who they are, but I know that some of them are your friends. Once they've suggested you, we have a couple people watch you for a bit and then we eventually come and talk to you ourselves.” He took a breath and waited for our reaction.
“That's a little creepy.” mumbled Cadwell, and I could agree.
I wasn't sure how I felt about that, but I guess it’s done now. We can't really do anything to change what they know about us.
Yormun spoke out, “So like how closely do you watch us? Because I might have somethings that I didn't want a whole lot of people to know about…”
Cole reassured him, “No one was watching you while you were in your house or while you slept, I agree that would be going too far. We just watched for little ticks in public, what you did on the daily, lonesome treks into the woods.” He looked at me when he said that.
I figured he saw the thing this morning with the wolf, though I don't recall seeing anyone watching me.
“Alright, let me think for a minute.” Cole and Cyrus both backed away for a minute as I pondered.
I understood the gravity of the situation and asked for a minute to think. What could I lose from this situation? I don't have much, but still I have my friends. Cadwell could handle his own if we got into a fight and I'm sure Yormun could take down at least one guy. Kevin seemed like he trusted them, but he wasn't one for making good decisions all the time. All these thoughts running through my head and I wasn't sure what to think, but I'm pretty sure my mind was made. I grabbed my stick and made up my mind. I finalized my decision with Yormun and stood up.
“Yormun,” I said “I'm doing it.”
Cole looked at Cyrus who was standing like his bodyguard, and smirked while Yormun showed a slight annoyance. Cadwell showed a sliver of excitement, he was probably hoping that I'd say that. Yormun spoke up,
“Well I guess we do things together, but if we get into a bad situation I'm gonna say I told you so.”
It seemed that everyone was in a majority of agreement, I guess we all wanted a little more excitement in our lives.
Cole looked like he had won something mildly impressive and said, “Well I think you've made the right decision. Let's get moving.”