A Fallen Star -- The Seventh Valkyrie Volume ZERO

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Chapter 3 -- Me, Myself, and I

Cyrus

I’ll be frank, it took me about 5 minutes to get tired of riding in the wagon.

“Hey Bram, uh, why do I have to ride back here on the floor?” I asked, adjusting for the fifth time as I tried to find a comfortable position. Bram had made it explicitly clear that I was not allowed to sit on any of his produce, which filled most of the wagon, and most of the rest of the space was occupied by a snoozing pig.

“Well, cause you’re soakin’ wet,” Bram said. “And I don’t want to turn that into me being soakin’ wet so.. in the back you go.”

“I’m pretty much dry now,” I said.

“Well... I’m driving,” he said. “No time to slow down and figure out all the details.”

I poked my head out the back. We were traveling a little faster than a brisk walk.

“Hmmmmmmmm,” I said. “Hmmmmmmmmmm.”

“You back talkin’ me with all them ’hmmmm’s, boy?” Bram called back, more teasing than angry.

“I could literally just hop out and run around. We wouldn’t even have to stop. It would be so easy.” I muttered.

Up front I could hear Bram start to chuckle to himself at my mumbling.

He was messing with me.

Well fine then.

“No, not talkin’ back you,” I said, settling down against one of the wagon walls, this time kicking my feet up on the pig. Up front I could still hear Bram chuckling, and crossed my arms indignantly.

I was the victim here.

The pig snorted once which I took as an agreement.

“Yeah, thanks,” I said.

That should have been all that happened between us and Sunsetton. It was not. A few minutes later, a voice cut through the bumping of the wheels.

Cyrus.

It was definitely a voice, loud and clear, but it hadn’t come from Bram. I looked around. Nothing in the wagon but vegetables.

Hey, Cyrus.

I turned to the pig. Surely not.

Cyrus. Cyruusssssssss. C-Dog. C-Money. C-No-Evil. C-Man. Heh. C-Man. That sounds dirty.

The voice started giggling.

Was I going insane?

Cyrus. Cyrus. Cyrus. Cyrus. Cyrus.

“Are you talking to me?” I asked the pig.

Of course I’m fucking talking to you, who else is in here?

...

“What?” I asked. I looked around for the source of the trick.

Look, I understand that this isn’t exactly your everyday thing.

“Yeah, you can say that again,” I commented.

Look, I understand that this isn’t exactly your everyday-

“I didn’t mean to actually say it again,” I told the pig.

Well I wanted to. Fuck you.

“Rude,” I said.

Get used to it. But the fact of the matter remains that I am talking to you.

“Okay,” I said.

There was a moment of silence.

“Uh, how’s it going?” I asked.

Well, I’m about to be brutally slaughtered for my meat. So, y’know, Mondays right?

“Wow,” I said, caught off-guard by the bluntness of his answer. “That’s… uh… god, oh god that’s harsh.”

Well, such is the life of a pig.

“Seriously though, that’s tough,” I said. “Raised your whole life just to be cut up and turned into bacon… oh god, I’m sorry man.”

Well, I like to think of it as a form of reincarnation, honestly. Not too bad.

“Well that’s positive,” I said. “That’s a good way to think about it.”

Yeah but before I get reincarnated I’m gonna have my throat cut until I bleed out and am then decapitated. So, ya know, still pretty fuckin’ rough.

“Oh my god!” I nearly shouted.

Bram heard me.

“Cyrus?” Bram called back to me. “You alright back there?”

“I mean, I’m fine, but it doesn’t sound like this pig is,” I said.

“Is somethin’ wrong with the pig?” he asked.

“Well I mean he’s about to be slaughtered and eaten,” I said.

“But there’s nothin’ wrong with the pig,” he said.

“Uh, well I mean, outside of that kind of major thing I guess not,” I said. I turned to the pig.

“Outside of your impending death are you doing alright?” I asked. “Not feeling sick or anything?”

Doin’ just fine I guess.

“Well apart from that he says he’s doing just fine,” I said.

There was a long pause from Bram’s side of the cart.

“Cyrus?” he asked.

“Yeah?” I asked back.

“Why are you talkin’ to my pig?” he asked.

“Cause he was buggin’ me,” I said.

“Buggin’ you?” he asked. “My pig was buggin’ you?”

“Yeah, he just kept talking at me,” I said. “It got really annoying so I figured I’d at least engage him in conversation.”

There was another long pause.

“Cyrus… well, I don’t know how to put this but… pigs can’t talk, you know that right?” he asked slowly.

“Yeah, you see I thought that too, but this one did. Didn’t you hear it?” I asked.

“No. Not even a little bit,” Bram said.

“What?” I asked. “But…”

I looked to the pig and then back up to Bram, immensely confused.

“Are you sure you’re alright kid?” Bram asked.

I turned back to the pig, squinting my eyes suspiciously. I’d heard it talk. I was sure.

“Must have just been hearing things,” I said. “I don’t know, I’m sure it was nothing.”

“Valgardian kids and talkin’ pigs, now I seen everything,” Bram said, laughing and returning his focus to the road.

I sat back, immensely suspicious.

“You talked. I know I heard it,” I whispered, glaring at the pig.

Cyrus.

“See, you just did it again!” I hissed. “Why won’t you talk to him?”

Cyrus I have something very important to tell you.

“What?!” I whispered.

Cyrus I’m not a pig.

“Ohhhhh here we go. No, don’t you tell me you’re not a pig. I can see very clearly that you are, in fact, a pig!” I insisted.

No, Cyrus I’m not, just listen to me for like three sec-

“I hope I eat you!” I spat.

Damn, calm down dude, the pig didn’t do anything wrong. I’m just trying to explain a-

“Stop talking about yourself in the third person!” I whispered angrily.

Cyrus you brain-dead fucking troglodyte. I’m not a pig, I’m a disembodied voice speaking into your head. Can we get that straight?!

“What?!” I said.

I’m sorry, I was just fucking with you cause I thought it was funny. I’m not a pig. Like I said, I’m a disembodied voice in your head, can we get that straight.

“How does that make any more sense?!” I said. “It made more sense when you were a talking pig!”

I don’t know dude, I’m not the one who writes the rules to this shit.

“Who does?” I asked.

I don’t know, but whoever it is probably gets laid like three times a day, right? I mean come on, can you imagine if you wrote the rules?

“What is even going on right now?” I said, looking around expecting the walls to drop away and someone to tell me it was all a joke.

Believe me kid, I kinda wish it was a joke too. You know how boring it is up here? Nothin’, nothin’ goin’ on in your noggin’.

“You take that back,” I said, somehow offended.

Fine, I take it back.

“Good,” I said, crossing my arms, happy at my victory. After a beat, the ridiculousness of the situation hit me.

Again.

“I’m going crazy right now, aren’t I,” I said. “Who are you, really?”

Shrug.

“Wait, did you just say ‘shrug’?” I asked.

WELL YOU CAN’T SEE ME CAN YOU MOTHERFUCKER? HOW ELSE WOULD YOU KNOW I JUST SHRUGGED?!

“I’m sorry!” I said. “I didn’t know.”

Well... well you do now.

He trailed off with a tiny sniffle.

“Are you… are you crying?” I said.

No!

“Is that… is that a sore spot for you? The fact that no one can see you?” I asked.

There was a pause.

Yeah... yeah I guess.

“Well I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that… it was too far,” I said.

I forgive you.

I nodded to myself, settling back in against the wall of the wagon.

But this is just a thing now. Like, I’m in here for the long run.

“Well, we might as well get comfortable with each other then,” I said.

Ooh, good idea. How about a game?
“I like games,” I said. “What type of games?”

~Ninety nine bottles of beer on the wall, ninety-nine bottles of-

“Oh my god.”

The rest of the ride went terribly until I decided to fall asleep, which managed to get the voice, who told me to call him C, to quiet down. I had weird dreams then, dreams that didn’t make very much sense at all, but at least I wasn’t getting heckled the whole time.

I woke up again when the wagon came to a stop and Bram banged on the divider between us.

“Are we there?” I asked, sitting up.

Bram shook his head, before nodding at something off to the side.

“Nope, ain’t there yet, but we got here just in time,” he said.

“Got where?” I asked, as I crawled over to the back of the wagon and slid out onto the ground awkwardly. My legs were mostly asleep, so I stretched out a bit to wake them.

Bram was looking away from me, down towards the front of the wagon, so I walked up behind him. We’d come inland, with the sea now far beyond us to the West, and crested the lip of a valley just in time to catch a shocking sunset.

The land below us stretched out in a series of rolling hills, flattening as they reached a city surrounded by walls on all sides except one, a harbor filled with enormous cargo barges. But even the huge city in and of itself wasn’t special. What took my breath away was the way the sun hit the city -- the hills, and the buildings, and the ships -- directly from the side, casting everything to the west in warm light at the same time as it painted ink-black shadows on the eastern side.

It was like an impossibly drawn work of art.

“Pretty, ain’t it?” Bram asked. I nodded, not taking my eyes off of the amazing city below me.

“Not sure exactly why it does that, but… I’m always happy to watch,” he added.

I nodded, watching with him silently as the light far to the west dipped further towards the horizon and finally started to turn a burnt orange. That was when Bram cleared his throat and nodded back towards the wagon. It was time to go.

I moved to return to my spot in the back, but a hand on my chest stopped me.

“Now hold up just a second,” Bram said. “Before you head down there you should know what you’re getting yourself into.”

There was a danger in his words.

“Getting myself into?” I asked, turning back to face him. “Should I be worried?”

“Yeah, you should. You’re foreign, and in this day and age anybody that looks as out of place as you is gonna draw big trouble real quick,” he said.

“Out of place?” I asked.

“Well I mean look at you, everything is off-color. Skin’s too light, you got them gold and black eyes and matching hair, and you’re prancin’ around in a silky black jacket and clothes that look like they cost more than what I got in this damn wagon. You go where you shouldn’t, you piss off the wrong people, we’ll be findin’ you gettin’ cleaned out of the gutter with a mop,” he warned.

At my eyes widening he patted me on the shoulder.

“Now I ain’t said that just to scare ya. You stick close to me, keep a low profile, you’ll be just fine. It just… well you should just be careful,” Bram said. He finished and motioned for the wagon, walking past me to the driver’s seat and hopping up again. I followed him, stopping before I reached the back.

“But why?” I asked. “What’s so wrong with being foreign?“

“Our kind don’t forget wars,” he said, and then faced forward. “Even after seven years, we don’t forget.”

I almost asked about it, but he was done speaking.

I hopped in the back.

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