He might have said months, but he would have preferred it to not take that long. However, like everything else in his life, he was constantly reminded that he had to languish and yet be cursed with unbridled passion and energy. He started to tally the days on the wall after this third visit to the mine, which would have been two weeks, at least, and even then there were sixty scratches along that line he made so long ago. Sixty-one as the new day dawned, and where was he? In Rylo’s room. Still.
However, it was no longer just the two of them.
Goshu Nex; he made a special tally back on day... thirty-nine for her, when she decided to butt into their lives and ruin their camaraderie. He remembered it was a clear day, a treat after the monsoon they had for the last two weeks around that time. The traders finally arrived to town, which was a welcome boon in its own right. They had run low on wood, which apparently came from Olshao. Seeing it untreated, Nick deduced it was part of the oak family, but that’s as far as he could tell. For instance, he doubted oak could regrow itself even when cut into segments, without any rooting or soil to replenish it. He dubbed them zombie trees, and it was a slow process from what he gathered. He was shown the “tree farm” hidden behind the falls on day... seventeen.
Sadly, the old husks could not give any more branches and were tossed into the flames of the kitchen... as the first wave of the monsoon hit. Nick was in awe with how quick it came on. It was a quaint, clear day. He was in charge of one of the fields of horrible vegetables, but at least it was the one he could mostly stomach. It was very much akin to brussel sprouts, but had almost a fruity finish thanks to its very toxic heart. Rylo stopped him from eating it once, gestured to his chest and then slid his hands apart, but he never had any heart issues as he ate them. It was the only way he could, too, so... that’s a problem for future-him to deal with.
He was sowing a new row when he heard a rumble on the wind. It was soft at first, so much so that he thought it was his stomach grumbling. Problem was his stomach was rumbling but was not from it. The wind practically sucker punched him right in the gut as it raced across the fields, making the grass shriek in its wake, as if screaming at his fall onto the soil. The second rumble he knew was thunder, heralded by the long fork of black lightning across the sky, illuminating the pale blue sky quickly being taken by sickly green clouds.
He clambered to his feet in time to be hit by the second gust, but this time he held his ground. Only just, though, and he heard something else behind the wind, behind the thunder. He looked out towards the waterfall, and it was as if the sky was falling, a solid sheet that erased all in its wake. As he looked upon it, as it came ever closer, so did the sound, a mix of static and a million flies all buzzing and growing louder. It soon became agonizing to hear, but it beat the yelling around him. He got it; he was already running, fighting against the wind. What more did they want from him? If they were expecting him to go back for his hoe, they were very much mistaken. He was not throwing his life away for any old hoe or any hoe for that matter. They all were filthy, and he could always get a new one for far cheaper... The rake, though, was debatable.
Rylo met him on the path. He pulled Nick against his side, aided him up the path as others ran passed, but they made it into the mound in time. And just in time. The cave roared with the onslaught and anger of the water that came over it, washing down the steps in thick streams and making them slick as the world outside was not but white fuzz. Nick slipped a few times going down the steps; the rest of his clothes might have been completely ruined and discarded, but he was keeping his shoes. They were the one item he splurged on: true, genuine, Italian loafers. The only way he would be departed from them was if they fell off when he was bone held down in a river by another set of cement boots that slipped over them. The rest he really couldn’t care less about... except his boxer briefs. Turned out none of them knew what underwear was, and were even confused why he had on not only a pair of leg coverings but a smaller pair underneath. Not that it mattered now; he had accepted the latest fashion, wearing a soft, blue tunic with his raggedy, browned boxers.
Nick slid into the room, Rylo closing the door behind, and he was surprised to find the room, aside the water they brought in, was bone dry. Nick looked back at the door, around its frame, and saw that no water made it in. He would find out later that there were “ducts” to lower levels that lead to the rivers below, but, in that brief study of the door, he came across a rather... amusing detail. But he would keep that one tucked back in the corner of his mind, though he knew he would make very good use of it soon enough. For now, though, he looked back to Rylo, panting, leaning against the wall beside the door, and holding a large satchel.
Nick approached him, offered his arm, and, though he simply wanted the bag, he guess he would help Rylo over to the basket, as well. Some people can be so demanding, but Nick was a giver, a hard-worker and a truly loyal slave. He aided him over to that basket before the window, and set him down in it, looking out upon a white-washed world, a drowned world. Though he knew the power of the wind, the glass did not shake nor rumble. Not once; not even during the powerful blasts of thunder.
Rylo finally took a deep breath, and snapped his fingers, getting Nick’s attention fully. It never left, but it was ultimately always divided between the other threats, nuisances, and annoyances. Rylo opened the satchel at last, and showed a bevy of dried fish, dried snake, dried- well, everything, all in that bag and all reeking of salt. He gestured out to the storm and held up four fingers.
“Four what? Days? Weeks? Months... Years?” Nick pressed, but didn’t get an answer as Rylo drifted off to sleep. It had grown quite chilly, cooler than normal. Especially at nights; Nick found out that these things could shiver, and they did so violently. That poor basket rattled like a sifter, the bedding flying out from how forceful he shook, but, come morning, he was still again, fine as can be. He didn’t stay asleep the entirety, either, but was too groggy, too tired from his nightly wrestling with demons to truly talk.
So, for as long as the monsoon was around, Nick was alone with his thoughts, and he had a bit of introspection to do. For instance, his health and physique. He had a “dad bod” before all of this, before he arrived on the planet, but all the hard word had lead to him bulking up and shedding that old exterior. This was not a good thing, not to him. Considering his hairstyle, he looked like one of those old karate masters from anime, but he didn’t want to look like an action movie star so he didn’t shave his head. That seemed to be the stereotype and he did not like it. Not one bit.
So then what could he really do? He couldn’t, exactly, regain that body. He didn’t have access to junk food anymore or lots of sugary drinks and candies. All he had was fish, fish, more fish, snake fish, and poison vegetables. He was even eating a ton of that but gaining from it. His days of a comfy body were long gone... truly a shot to his confidence. He liked his hair, for as little of it that there was. It was his signature look, his pride and joy, something he worked on since he started to notice his thinning hairline since he was eighteen. He even had a nickname when he was on the rifle team: gunslinger monk.
In fact, he remembered a time back during his junior year. It was spring, the final tourney was ending. One of the women from another school, Sue Yong, came up to him and heard the stories of the gunslinger monk. She made a little wager: If he could hit every shot leaning back instead of towards the rifle using his “bad” eye, she would... Well, let’s just say he probably had a kid in South Korea. He made it very clear: No matter how hard or specific the shot, he would make it... So long as he had all the information.
He remembered being quite proud of that feat, both in the tourney and after... but then his roommate started to be problematic. He was annoying before, always trying to invite him out to the pub or to go get food, but he pushed it too far when he brought his latest squeeze home. Tanya’s personality rubbed his the wrong way when he first met her in biology freshman year and was forced to be her lab assistant, but it had only compounded over the years as she believed she was becoming important. More than once he wanted to simply blurt out that her social anthropology degree was nothing special, that there were quite literally thousands of others all wanting, and owning, the same thing. She was becoming just another speck in that world, as they all were in their own respective biomes, and that, until she actually was in it, she should shut her mouth.
But he never did, and she only got worse. She compounded in other ways, as well. She took the “freshman twenty” and almost quadrupled in the two years she was in college. Her once... okayish short brown hair was butchered when she shaved her head and tattooed it pure red. Pure. Cherry. Red... Yet she frowned upon piercings, saying, “they stuck out too much.” Some people and college; they should not mix... and neither should his roommate and that crimson whale. He always touted he was a “chubby chaser” as a joke, but there was only so long you can ride that moped before people no longer think it’s meant to be ironic.
He never did find out what happened to Tanya after he set that plan in motion, but he knew his roommate ended up in jail a year back for mugging. Guess after you were caught with a meth lab in your car on school property, there was no going back to a normal life. He should count himself lucky; he could have gone with his other plan of forging false identities and getting him on that. Instead of serving ten years for the mugging and breaking parole he could have had several life sentences, but Nick still held a soft spot for him and showed mercy.
Ron, however, he killed him in his sleep. Snored, obnoxiously, masturbated while he was in the room, always invited his buddies over to play video games; he had such... catharsis when he pulled the wire of the retro controller around his neck and watched him flail... then go soft. In more ways than one. The tricky part was stopping just before he died so he could finish it when he hung him with his sheets. Not too perfect, though. It had to look like he struggled. And he still kicked, weakly, as Nick left for the store for an hour.
Nick will always hold a special place in his heart for Ron; he was his First, and he helped him pass his senior year with flying colors. Good thing, too; the capstone was a nightmare. If Ron didn’t “commit suicide”, he would have most likely only passed with a C. The RA, though, one of his friends, dogged after him for a while. He never did seem to like Nick, especially after the fiasco with his other roommate, but now was looking for any excuse to get him. The dirty shouldn’t be looking for dirt on others, though, and the police did bust him for over a hundred different counts of identity fraud. He was building that case for years, his final gift to that university, and he made a bit over three-grand on the settlement for each of the students housed that were housed there and abused during that time... and another five before he completely closed down all the accounts.
He learned a long time ago that people were not meant to be trusted. People are selfish, conniving, will always seek a way to put you down, especially those that called you friend. “Friend” was a way for them to get closer to you, to discover what made you tick, but, for the most part, what would hurt you the most. “Friends” were but enemies waiting for you at your lowest point, when you were the most angry or sad, the most vulnerable... then really sink the knife in and twist it as much as they could before leaving.
All Nick was doing was cutting to the chase. He took what he learned at face value, as much as he could at face value, and aimed to make them as miserable as he could... or as content as he used them before he simply... let them go. He found it to be the more admirable approach; why waste time building bonds when it was plain what both parties wanted from the start. Nick never lead anyone astray. He made it quite clear that he only ever wanted to move on with his life, go to bigger things, yet those sympathetic, simple-minded cretins had to latch on in some way. They had to think he was a working stiff, just living day-by-day. They had to “look up” to him when he never even considered their existence outside of the air they wasted around him.
Even in college, the women tried to talk to him after, tried to ask him out for food or a movie when he just wanted the easy lay. It was college; love was plentiful, and cheap. There was this one, Harriet, which, beside the notable, historic name, was so hellbent on calling him “hers” that she started to send death threats to every girl in the classes he took... Then there was Karen, and all the jokes about Karen held up. She was so demanding, so needy, saying he “owed” her for the lackluster doggy they had out in the parking lot after class one day when he was simply looking to get his rocks off.
There was only one girl he ever gave his heart to... The monsoon, the white wash on the window; after so long, he heard it falter. After God knows how many d- twenty-six days, the constant sheet finally broke. It wasn’t only the rain but the sound as well, quickly lowering to a pattering then a soft breeze before even that went still. Nick stood before that window, watching it roll over the grasslands, seen again, freed from that ion curtain, continuing until it passed through the mountains –not over; the mountains were too high even for those clouds, so they had to break apart to continue on. The suns shined, showing it to be midday, and the mound quickly warmed to its normal heat.
Rylo stirred, waking from his fourth nap since the day started, and was bright eyed and bushy tailed as he hopped out of the basket, smiling at Nick. The entire mound came alive with the sound of people rising to meet the day, and the thunder returned not from the storm but from feet hurrying up the steps. Nick was swept up in the excitement, dragged along by Rylo as they joined the mob, cheering as they welcomed the full embrace of the suns... Meanwhile, Nick was baffled at how they could be so cheerful with the carnage and desolation before them. The trading stalls were little more than broken foundations, the cloth that once covered them long since gone, but it was the kitchen that broke his heart. It was simply gone. The tables, the blood around them, the water troughs, buckets, carts, the stone griddle, the husks of the vegetables, the knives, the plates and wares; none of it remained. There wasn’t even a hint of any of still left after that downpour. Even the trenches where the bloody baskets once sat, once stained red, was washed clean.
Rylo sighed, and slapped Nick’s back, telling him it was time to get to work, and they all chipped in. It wasn’t only the mound that was desolated, after all. The fields needed tended to, the bridges to the falls –which ended up a surprising bounty. Snakes from on high had made a pilgrimage to the lower lands, the rivers, but they had grown weak from the lack of remoras. By the end of that day, those that were in charge of fishing had brought home forty of the snakes. The temporary, stone tables were bloodied well, the new stone griddle given a true maiden voyage as it served all forty of them to very hungry, and very weary, denizens. Even Nick was feeling a little tired, but not enough to need to sleep... A nap wasn’t out of the question, though. For the first time since he got there (and wasn’t knocked into it), he did rest.
The next day traders finally came into town... Nick wondered how they survived all this time. They had to have been out on the road when the storm hit, but all that worry faded to obscurity as he saw one had brought more salted fish sticks, taking the entire lot. He munched away on them as Rylo continued his trading... and was too complacent to realize that trouble had come along.
That was when Rylo met Goshu.