Grant took the pizza out of the oven as light smoke bellowed outwards. For how dirty the inside was, it made him question the authenticity of Kale’s statement. Had he really come in here to clean at some point? He could have cleaned it months ago, and that could explain the dust resting on the surfaces when he arrived. However, months without cleaning and no one living here wouldn’t produce charcoal on and beneath the racks of the oven.
He opened the window above the sink to try to air out the smoke. Instead, a haze from outside tickled against his nose with a slightly different scent. The flickering of yellow and orange shadowed around the front of Rhett’s trailer.
No sounds came from that direction though. Rhett did say he was going to stop by and see if he wanted Grant to join them; the party must not have started yet.
Grant sliced his pizza and brought a plate down into the living room and slouched on his couch. The wind was still, and he sat in silence. The night hadn’t arrived yet, although the sun was on its last legs drowning into the horizon.
If he were to make a change in his habits, this night would be the best attempt to get to know the people around him. He battled with the thought of joining them for the fire over the course of eating his pizza.
A knock came at the door.
Grant collected his thoughts and answered the door.
“Hey man, just thought I’d stop by to tell you that the fire is up and ready, and you can come by if you would like.” Rhett said with a smile.
“Uh, yeah, I guess I can stop by for a little…” Grant fought with himself as he pulled the words out. He hoped he could find one person to confide in, and share the details of all the strange events he had witnessed. If he had witnessed anything similar, perhaps he wasn’t crazy.
The discussion with Kale still lingered in his mind, as well as the hole in his bedroom. Not only those, but he swore he even saw a vultho.
“Cool, I’ll be out sitting in my yard, come whenever you are ready,” he said and walked back.
Not wanting to seem like he had nothing to do, Grant waited a few minutes before venturing over.
The sky turned black, with the stars and the moon bringing sprinkles of light. As he walked down the steps of his deck, small eyes watched him.
He approached Rhett’s place and walked next to the front of his trailer. He stopped for a moment, looking at the wooden statues that stood in a line protecting Rhett’s home. Now able to get a closer look, he could identify what they were.
Wooden tortoises stared out onto the street, sturdy and well built. Their shells curved into points throughout, spiked, looking intimidating. Stern gazes looked outwards..
Grant had to wonder if the cats felt threatened by these guardian animals. Tortoises were a symbol of guardians in Kandorr, and being that Lyros was so close to the border, Grant figured he moved from there.
He entered the yard and Rhett sat relaxing in a camping chair. Rhett looked over as the light from the flames danced on his face.
“Hey! Come have a seat! I’ve got all the chairs ready!”
“Oh, I’m the only one here?” A wave of relief splashed onto Grant as he sat in a chair.
“Yeah, Saraiya is working late at Nha-Stop, and Ambri is working at the bar until close.”
Saraiya was the name Kale spoke of earlier, and if she worked at Nha-Stop, could that be the girl he saw behind the counter in the restaurant?
One on one conversations were easier for Grant. He could really focus in these situations, getting a handle of someone’s personality. He really wanted to ask Rhett about Kale, but didn’t know how to bring it up, or if he even should.
Kale did say Rhett and Saraiya both didn’t seem to be warming up to him though. Maybe talking about him would be okay, but what if he was nearby? Watching. Listening. Orange eyes piercing from afar. Light prickles touched up Grant’s back, and a cold shiver ran through. He decided to leave that conversation for another time.
Crackles from the tamed fire filled the silence between them. Sparks drifted off the edges of the flames, looking to spread its heat.
“So Grant, you want a drink? I can make you my special,” Rhett said, grinning.
“Sure, I’ll take one.” Grant couldn’t tolerate his own significant inaptitude for small talk, and if he knew anything, it was in these situations that alcohol was his best friend. He knew his judgement would be swayed from it, but he felt he could still perceive others, as long as he didn’t drink too much.
“All right! I’ll be right back then.” Rhett ran with light feet, tottering up to the stairs on his deck where he almost fell, but quickly caught himself and threw Grant a thumbs up. Lights that stringed along the railings shone on Rhett’s smirking face and he leapt inside.
Grant had no plans to get on Rhett’s level of drunkenness. The only time Grant felt it was necessary to get really drunk was when work would hold mandatory gatherings. With alcohol, he felt he could actually fathom small talk. Anything he talked about felt interesting in those intoxicated hours. By the end of the night however, much of it was a blur.
Grant leaned back and stared far beyond Lyros, into the moonlit fields. The land behind the trailers had about twenty five feet of yard until tall grass towered over, creating a natural fence that swayed with every breeze.
The door abruptly opened and swung against the side of the trailer.
“Okay! It’s ready! But first we need some music. What kind do you like?” Rhett set the drink down on the railing of his deck and set the CD player on the edge of the deck facing the fire.
“Doesn’t matter to me.”
“Oh? It doesn’t?” Rhett nodded slowly with a smirk. “Let’s see what you think about this.” He popped a CD in and pressed play, proceeding to bring Grant the drink.
Rhett walked to the beat of the calming guitar melodies that filled the air. He handed the drink to Grant and went back to his seat as the song grew intense. From the speakers, distorted guitars and heavy drums broke the initial tranquil tone. Harsh, screaming vocals belted out, and Rhett focused on Grant’s expression.
Grant’s head cocked back, eyes darting over to the speaker, he had never heard of this kind of music before. Was it new? The song was so violent.
“So, what do you think?” Rhett asked, leaning forward.
“It’s different.” Those were the only words that came to his mind. He was unsure if he liked or disliked it.
“Hahaha, that’s how I reacted the first time too. Believe it or not, Kale was the one who introduced me to them.”
“...Oh I believe it,” Grant muttered and took a swig from his cup.
Rhett lowered his voice, “Yeah, honestly, if Kale acted the same towards me as he did you when I moved here, all I have to say is give him some time. He really isn’t a bad guy.”
Grant took a big gulp of the drink, breathed in deep, and asked, “If we’re on the subject of him, do you know why he always wears a mask and gloves?”
“He’s got a medical problem, he needs to be careful around germs. Apparently even some of the most common kinds of bacteria can set him off. At least that’s what I have been told.” Rhett said while walking back to the CD player, changing the music to one of a more relaxed mood.
Grant, with both hands clasping the cup, looked down. Resentment welled up within him.
“Yep, he’s had the condition since being a child and really had no opportunities to make friends growing up. He grew up in the hospital, never getting to experience being a kid. So, if he seems a bit childish, that’s why.” Rhett stumbled back over to his seat and sat down.
Grant rested his hand on his forehead, watching the reflection of the deck lights in his drink.
“Damn it, I feel horrible now.”
“Nah, he’ll be fine. Kale is a strong guy.”
That answered a few of Grant’s questions. He mentally prepared his next set of questions in his head when a shadow formed from the below a street light and made its way towards the fire.
A human figure carrying something that resembled a bundle of knives, gleaming under the light.