Chapter 16 - Cages
Two weeks went by. Grant grew a bit more comfortable around the people he lived in proximity to, although most of the time he still kept to himself. He had gathered with the others two more times for bonfires in these two weeks and had encountered the others on multiple occasions as he went about his new life. His suspicions still lingered around this place, but everything he thought was abnormal when he arrived, became his new normal.
His bouts of anxiety and madness declined each day. He saw no more illusions of vulthos. He had no more reason to believe the cats had super strength, he forced himself to believe the previous incident was due to dead wood. No more malicious feelings were directed towards Kale, only uneasy thoughts remained.
The most important thing however, was that for the first time since his brother’s disappearance, Grant felt free. Free as the cats on these lands, being able to wander wherever he wanted, no one harking on him about his duties.
Working at the leech farm was starting to become second nature too, it wasn’t as bad as how he first imagined it. Lars was an excellent easy-going boss, and he felt himself starting to become closer with Rhett. His first friend in how long? Grant felt uneasy about it, but felt it was a step in the right direction, recovery from a shackled mind.
Grant laid in bed, the muggy air swelled around him and he wiped the sweat from his forehead. Rubbing his clammy hands together, he sat up and looked towards the window. An air conditioner would really make this heat more bearable, he thought.
He got to his feet and headed for the kitchen to pour some water. He sat down at his chair and stared at the picture frame that was set on the counter, a memory he wished he could go back to.
Being Grant’s day off, he decided he was going to venture out into the big city of Montria once again. In his two weeks of staying here, he hadn’t returned there. Surprisingly, Nha-Stop had everything he needed to get by on a day to day basis.
The thick of the summer was arriving however, and the temperature was only projected to get worse. It was already getting harder for Grant to sleep with the heat. Buying an air conditioner was a necessity.
Grant readied himself, left the trailer, and walked towards his car when he noticed Rhett crouching in front of his own trailer, setting another tortoise in place. He positioned it back and forth, as if to make sure that every angle was covered by their line of sight.
“Oh, hey Grant!” Rhett noticed Grant watching him and turned around. “Was just propping up my new piece I finished. What’re you up to?”
“I was just going to head into Montria, I need to buy an air conditioner.”
“Do you wanna just come with us? Me and Ambri were actually planning on going out into the city to grab some things as well.”
Grant really just wanted a day to himself, but they knew the city much more than him.
“Yeah… That sounds good.”
“Okay cool, I was actually just about to grab Ambri if you wanna tag along.”
Cats scurried across the ground as they walked along the street towards Ambri’s trailer. Her home rested on the end of Lyros, in the opposite direction. Many residents sat on their decks, waving to Grant and Rhett as they passed by, giving smiles.
Grant knew quite a few of the residents now, throughout his time here he had given at least a greeting to every person. They seemed to all keep a close watch on Lyros, like they were guarding a treasure buried within the vicinity.
Occasions would come where Grant felt uneasy, but they never personally looked at Grant with those stern, defending eyes. Their expressions would lighten whenever they spoke to him, so he brushed it off. He felt welcomed.
Ambri’s trailer stood at the very edge of Lyros. The shape of her home matched all the rest, although her skirting had a bit more cracks and tears. Eyes peered out from within the man made cave, watching Grant and Rhett approach her yard.
“Is that her out there?” Grant asked, looking into the uninhabited fields past Lyros.
A figure stood, hunched over toying with metal contraptions. Cats wandered around the three large cubes of steel that were placed around the land, and a wave was given from the person.
“Yeah! That must be her. She told me yesterday she might be out working on something.”
They headed out towards her and the cats left Ambri’s side and fled past Grant and Rhett back into the heart of Lyros.
Grant came to the realization of what she was working on. Cages. Giant metal cages. What for though?
“Oh, hey guys. Did you need anything?” Ambri asked and took a drink of water.
“I was going to see if you were about ready to head out to Montria. Grant said he needed something there as well… Anyway, what are you working on?” Rhett leaned to the side and inspected the insides of the cages.
Grant followed, and saw two bowls placed in each cage. One for food and one for water. Was she planning on catching animals? These cages were more than half the size of Grant. Did she want to try to take hold of the lions?
Ambri noticed Grant and Rhett’s expressions and sighed.
“The roars from the lions seem to be getting closer, I just want to do what I can..”
“You think they will fall for a… cage?” Rhett stuttered.
“Yeah, I do. I plan on placing fresh meat in here during the night. There isn’t much wildlife out here, so I think they will come and feast. And more than anything, I will do anything to protect our cats from these beasts.”
Grant continued looking within each cage, casually listening to their conversation as he walked cage to cage. When he approached the third cage he noticed a stain inside. A dark red stain. Why would a bleeding animal be trapped in here? Grant thought to himself.
“Have any animals ever been caught in these cages before?” Grant asked, while examining the mechanisms that were in place to slam the cage shut.
“Yeah, we’ve caught a few stray coyotes that wandered into the village. We’ve also transported a few animals in these before. They are really sturdy structures, nothing has ever escaped once inside, and I don’t see lions breaking out either.”
“What if some of the cats get trapped in there?” Grant asked.
Ambri paused. “Well, I guess that could happen. They’ll be fine though, I’ll just let them out in the morning if that’s the case.” She rubbed her hands across her jeans. “So, are we ready to go to Montria then?”
“Yeah, sounds good to me!” Rhett said.
“I’ll drive,” Ambri said. “I feel I know the way around Montria the most.”
They walked back towards Ambri’s trailer and all hopped in her car, Grant sat in the back seat. The interior of her car was the exact opposite of Lars’s. A pleasant smell wafted through his nose as he sat on the clean seats; no garbage was found anywhere. No dirt either. It was as if no one ever rode in her car, it reminded him of Jack’s apartment.
“So what’s the first stop for today?” Ambri asked.
“Well, Grant just needs to buy an air conditioner, so I figure we can go to Zenall Plus to grab everything we need,” Rhett said.
Grant instinctively sighed and then apologized.
“What? That’s no good?” Rhett asked.
“No, it’s fine.”
“Doesn’t sound fine to me, we can go to the place next to it if you want instead. It’s called Knairez.” Ambri laughed.
“Ah, it’s fine we can go to Zenall Plus, it’s really not a big deal. I just used to work at a Zenall.”
“Nope, now I want to go to Knairez. I just remembered they have their mini fair in the parking lot that’s going on right now. We’re gonna go there instead.” She smiled as she drove the car out of Lyros.
Grant’s mind froze. The fair-like atmosphere he witnessed when he was parked in Ocean’s Ray flashed through his head. They were heading there. His breathing became erratic.
Rhett turned to him with a concerned look. “You all right man?”
“Y-yeah, yeah, I’m fine. T-that sounds good.” Grant took in deep breaths.
“Okay! It’s settled, let’s go grab our stuff and go on some rides! Fair food sounds so good right now,” Ambri said.