Grant reversed out of the driveway, the shaking of his parents’ garden in the front lawn waved him goodbye. He looked for an extra second longer; he had no plans of ever returning. The handprints that were locked in the cement driveway from childhood caught his eye and he turned his head, shaking off the emotion.
His parents’ house rested on the climb of a hill. His car rolled down it as he quickly shifted into drive and headed towards the peak. What would lie on the other side of the hill for Grant?
Life was ever changing.
Childhood scenes played through his mind as he passed nostalgic locations, set pieces which helped produce his current life. He passed the park his brother and friends would play at, homes where he would celebrate friends’ birthdays, his elementary school where he wished time would have frozen still, and finally a building that evoked a memory that seemed hazy, yet why did it feel so important?
A church. Grant had been there before, but he couldn’t remember what for. In fact, he couldn’t even remember what the religion taught. All he remembered was he and his family went there once, maybe twice. The more he thought about it, the more often he questioned if he actually went there at all. He was only five at the time, after all.
The building itself looked like a big house, worn down with a parking lot big enough to fit maybe twenty cars. There was always someone at the church, or there was always a car there, anyway. A different car parked there almost every day. Grant often wondered why.
In Nhaja, as well as every country, a religion known as Nimalism spread itself around. Many people in the world considered it a cult, yet it was big enough to flourish across the globe. Grant’s parents had a couple of friends who were active members and they used to hang around them when Grant and Elijah were young. This was the only explanation Grant could give himself as to why they would have went there.
During high school, a small group of students practiced Nimalism as well. They didn’t associate with anyone else outside of it, and if they did it was only to berate them, their high egos deemed everyone else unworthy of respect, including Grant. Strangely enough, they were far more kind to animals. Absurdly kind.
It had been years since he last saw any of them, and he was glad. In fact, he felt content not seeing anyone from school anymore. He had a few people he might have considered friends, but even friends might be too strong of a word. Acquaintances felt more appropriate a term to call them.
Jack wouldn’t be off work for another six hours, there were only a few places still open at this time of the night. Grant needed something to pass the time, so sitting in a restaurant for the whole night was all he could think of. That, or try to sleep in his car. The adrenaline that pulsated through him wouldn’t even allow for a nap though.
Clouds in the sky descended as the wind drew to a gentle breeze and created a slight fog visible from dimly lit street lights. They enhanced the surreal night, creating a dream-like blur. The sound of night was a lull of peace that attempted to relax his nerves, but his body shivered. His body refused to calm down.
He made his way about twenty blocks south, driving through misty shadows. Seven cars parked across the parking lot of the restaurant. Truck drivers taking their breaks or night owls wanting to get their late meal possibly? Grant didn’t ever go out this late for food.
He opened the mirror from above his dashboard, his yellow eyes piercing back at him like a cat on edge, unsure if its surroundings were safe. A new chapter was about to begin in his life. He took a deep breath and left his car.
Upon entering, jazz music bounced through the interior. A podium stood directly in front of him with a girl standing behind it, tilting her head, fixating on him.
“A table for one?” She straightened her posture and asked.
“Right this way.” She led him through the diner, passing a few people eating by themselves.
The last time Grant ate here, the occasion was a mandatory dinner party for the employers at Zenall; they had to force him to come. Even then, he was just thankful Jack came, otherwise he might as well have just joined a random table. It would have made no difference to him.
Grant took a seat in the booth placed against a window, he leaned his face towards it. The view of the city through the glass was magnificent as the building rested atop a hill. Dim lights through the sparse fog sprinkled the ground like fireflies cozying up to flowers.
His mind wavered back and forth, but he knew he had to leave Tonim. Perhaps he only even debated those thoughts because these were his final moments here. The painful memories hidden within this land were insurmountable.
He rested his arms on the table, covering the clean, shiny surface.
“Hey, Grant, Grant Seidah? is that you?” The waitress came back to take his order.
“Uh, yeah.” He tilted his head slightly.
“It’s me Lyda from high school.”
Grant scratched his head. Lyda? He didn’t pay attention to many people in school unless he interacted with them, or they forced Grant to interact.
Maybe he had seen her once in school, but he couldn’t recall. The amount of changes people can go through after high school didn’t help him either.
Grant didn’t change at all though. He had the same ruffled blonde hair and weight, he was just as slender as he had always been. Maybe his already light skin was a bit paler? After graduating high school he received his driver’s license and had no reason to walk long distances outside anymore.
“Oh… yeah, right. I remember you,” he lied.
“So, did you hear what happened three days ago? With The Buffalo Boys?”
His tormentors from high school. The cultist boys. Grant had many names for them. Actually, the majority of the school referred to them in degrading ways, no one dared mess with them though. The vibe they gave off, well, to put simply, felt evil. In their eyes held no emotion.
“No, I didn’t,” he said with apathy, showing obvious signs he didn’t want to hear anymore. She continued to speak anyway, and Grant breathed a silent sigh.
“Ty, Narth, and Vance were all found dead in an alleyway…”
Grant’s eyes narrowed and he stared directly at Lyda.
“They all had multiple stab wounds…”
“What about Brax?” Grant said with a slight sudden interest that surprised even himself. The Buffalo Boys consisted of four guys that formed their own “gang,” but she only mentioned three.
“No one knows where he went. Police have been searching for him, they think he could be responsible for their deaths, but I can’t see him doing that...”
“Oh, I see.” Grant returned to being void of emotion.
“Yeah, it’s too scary to think something like that could happen in Tonim, right?”
Lyda adjusted herself and returned to her waitress attitude. “Ah, right, what did you want to eat then?”
Some time had passed and Grant still sat in the same booth. His dirty plate had been cleared away, but refills of water kept coming.
“You really are staying here all night, huh?” Lyda asked as she refilled his glass once again.
“Yeah, I’ll be out of here within another hour though.”
A loud commotion at the door swept Lyda’s attention away, and she rushed over to greet the customers. They were all in uniforms, dirtied from head to toe. Their voices carried around through the whole restaurant.
“Guys I swear, what I saw wasn’t human! I only saw it for a second though and it disappeared!”
“Joe, this is why I’ve told you, you need to get more sleep! You’re always spouting some nonsense. Working without sleeping much isn’t good in the first place, but you, you are a truck driver like the rest of us. It’s not good putting everyone on the road in danger!”
“I swear, I’ve been sleeping fine!”
“Maybe it was some kid dressing up, or maybe you are just going insane!” Another man in the group said.
The other men around bustled about with a roar of laughter, slapping Joe on the back. Their footsteps trailing off as Lyda guided them to a table on the opposite side from Grant.
Grant had finally calmed down since his fight with his parents. His body slugged in his chair with his head leaning back. He still wasn’t adjusted to his changed sleep schedule and it was now around five in the morning.
Grant rose and stretched his arms as Lyda approached him.
“Guess you don’t want to stay and hear about the truckers’ wild stories?” She said with a smile. “It is strange though, I have been hearing weird stories, not just from crazy Joe either. That’s the third time this week I have heard someone mention some kind of thing that wasn’t human, but it’s probably some kid playing pranks.”
“Yeah, probably. Anyway, thanks for the food.” Grant left money on the table, and headed for the door.