Grant had never heard of any lion sightings in Nhaja before. The nearest he knew lions to live in was two countries to the west, Jurai. Had they only recently came up here? He couldn’t think of a single reason, as to why they would migrate here. Jurai was mostly nature filled, with settlements of cities patched between vast amounts of empty land.
“Lions? In Nhaja? Really?” Grant narrowed his eyes, yet he couldn’t quite discredit what he just heard.
“You don’t have to believe me if you don’t want to, but I have no reason to lie. I’ve lived here for awhile now,” Ambri replied.
“I’d heard rumors about it back in Montria. If I could figure out why they came here, and get an article published about it, oh that’d be great! Maybe then I could start my career” Saraiya looked starry eyed into the fire, hands clutching the notebook in her pocket.
“Don’t you think that’d be a bit dangerous, to go out and study them?” Rhett asked.
“Yes, it is absolutely foolish, I will never let you do such a thing.” Ambri said.
“Yeah, yeah,” Saraiya lowered her voice, “I’ll find them someday.”
Ambri shook her head.
If lions existed around Lyros, what about the vultho Grant thought he saw at the gas station. The differences between the two were immeasurable though, lions were real, and vultho were just mythical creatures, legends.
“While we’re on the subject of animals, are there any weird birds around here?”
Ambri’s eyebrow raised. “Weird birds?”
“...Yeah, I thought I saw one with four wings earlier, I guess it could have just been my imagination though. The sun was pretty bright…” Grant’s certainty dropped from the reactions he saw from the others.
Saraiya snapped her finger. “Oh! Maybe you just saw some of the vultures, I’ve been watching them too. Sometimes I watch them while they eat roadkill.”
“He said four wings. Saraiya, And I swear, you need better hobbies,” Rhett teased.
“It’s for research, if I want to make someone feel like they are actually experiencing what I am writing, I need to see it first. I feel like it gives me an edge. And some of the vultures’ wings have two colors that might appear to others as two separate wings.”
Grant came to the conclusion that he was probably just seeing things, no one else had seen it before, and Saraiya’s theory didn’t exactly fit his account.
“Yeah, maybe that was it,” Grant mumbled.
He didn’t dare verbally compare it to vulthos, unless he wanted to be mocked.
“Oh, the banana s’mores should be ready now,” Rhett said as he grabbed skewers from the bag and prodded, leading the s’mores outside the fire pit. The tinfoil logs laid in a line, cooling in the grass beside the border of rocks.
After they cooled down, they each collected their shining reward, along with a fork. Grant unwrapped his as it exposed a gooey concoction of sugar. The ingredients fused together, creating an ice cream like substance with a scent emitting from it at a magnitude much greater.
“I thought I smelled something delicious,” a voice from the direction of the street said.
Kale stood holding Zair, petting the fur on his back with his hand. Zair’s blue eyes appeared brighter than Grant remembered them from the previous night.
The fire had grown to a size twice of what it started as, and the heat felt more intense. The fire’s glow illuminated a warm orange across everyone’s faces.
“Hey Kale, just tell me when you want me to make your s’more, I’ll get it cooking so you can eat it at home,” Rhett said.
“I suppose I won’t be out here too much longer, you can make it now if you’d like.” Kale said and sat down at the only empty chair, observing everyone around him.
“Sure thing man. Also, are you getting sick? Your voice sounds a bit different.” Rhett’s words dribbled out of his mouth as the s’more jumbled around his words,
“I’m fine, just had something stuck in my throat,” Kale paused. “Isn’t it great we have more people to make friends with now, Ambri?” His voice wavered, with a stern face pointed towards her.
Kale’s mannerisms seemed unbefitting of the usual way he would present himself. As if Ambri held some kind of leash around Kale’s neck, dragging him around, making sure he stayed within bounds.
“Yeah, I guess so,” her voice lacked certainty. “It has been a while since almost all the trailers had people living in them, hasn’t it Kale? Just in time for the festivities too.”
Grant, Rhett, and Saraiya all looked at them with puzzled expressions, but only Saraiya spoke out.
“Festivities? What do you mean by that?”
Kale looked into her eyes, orange flames blending within his orange eyes. “Every six months we have a get together of sorts with everyone from the village, and it’s almost that time. You guys will love it. Right, Ambri?” He looked over at her, but his eyes for once, didn’t resemble any emotion.
“Yep, everyone always comes out of the celebration saying they feel like a new person. As if the old version of them was able to let go of everything, coming out stronger.” Ambri ended the sentence with closing her eyes, giving a heartfelt breath. “I can attest to that feeling as well.”
“...Yeah, me too...” Kale whispered.
“Sounds pretty exciting,” Rhett said, while placing Kale’s s’more into the fire. “
Grant stared at Zair who rested atop of Kale, focusing on his paws. It appeared as normal cat paws, nothing monstrous. What had really happened back in his bedroom? The muscles on the legs were that of an average cat.
“Is something the matter, Grant?”
“No, no. Everything’s fine.”
“Oh I see, you want to play with Zair, don’t you?”
“No, I’m fine.”
“Are you sure?” Kale’s tone was ominous.
“He wouldn’t let you anyway,” Rhett said, laughing.
“Not yet, anyway,” Kale said. “Someday, it’s possible Zair will like you, but I hope he never does. That goes for all of you.”
“Kale, be nice,” Ambri blurted out. “The cats will grow to love everyone here.”
A menacing glare pierced through Kale’s eyes into Ambri’s, and the chatter came to a silence, welcoming back to the sound of the fire.
Rhett spoke up relieving the tension. “I’m glad you guys are all here, without us Lyros’s average age would be much higher. I’m assuming we’re all in our twenties, well besides Kale.”
“I’ll be twenty soon, well in two years,” Kale’s piercing glare softened.
Grant was grateful there were others around his age here, he wasn’t sure what to expect when heading down. He did know about Ambri, however.
“So, how’s Jack doing, Grant?”
“Oh, he seems to be doing well. I never hear him complain about anything anyway.”
“That’s good, I’m sure you’ll see him again soon, probably for the festival. He comes down every year for it.”
Grant felt somewhat relieved, but there were many things he was going to ask him about as soon as he came. Jack wouldn’t treat him as being crazy if he mentioned the vulthos and Kale’s cat. Although, perhaps he would grow comfortable around these guys as well.
Kale’s banana treat readied, and he grabbed it and took it home, giving his farewells.
Even after Kale’s disappearance the mood stayed the same. Everyone grew exhausted as the alcohol wore off, and that’s when Grant remembered he told Lars he would work in the morning.
“Oh, Rhett, what time are we working tomorrow?” Grant frantically looked towards the sky to try to determine the time.
“It’ll be around seven in the morning, I’ll knock on your door to grab you, don’t worry. Speaking of which, it is getting pretty late, I think it’s about time to call it quits.” Rhett stood up, folded up the chair, and gathered everything he brought out into a bag.
“Yeah, sounds good to me,” Saraiya stretched, and stood up.
They all helped clean up after the fire, and all headed out on their ways back home. Grant stood in front of the tortoises that guarded the front of Rhett’s trailer when Ambri called out to him.
“Yeah?” Grant turned around as a cold breeze traced on his neck.
“I hope you find what you are looking for here. I’m sure you will.”
He froze at the chilling way she spoke. “...What do you mean?”
“Ah, nothing. I just figure people come here to get away from things. Or maybe they come in pursuit of something.”