Chapter 25 - Return to the Village
After departing from Ambri, Grant headed back towards his trailer with Rhett. The only words that were exchanged within the group was Grant asking Rhett for help hauling his air conditioner inside his home and setting it up. Other than that the air remained wrapped in the feeling of dread.
Cats eyed them as they walked along the side of the road, their heads following their every movement. The cats didn’t cause them any feelings of concern, however. Something else did. Even though it was night, a large margin of the residents were out on their decks, silently watching their movements. As if Grant and Rhett entered upon the stage of a theater set, waiting for them to perform their lines.
The two looked at each other with darting eyes. All of the citizens shared a similar expression to Ambri. They didn’t smile. They didn’t wave. Just emulated the eyes of the cats.
Rhett smiled and waved to the disturbing faces while walking beside Grant who was carrying the heavy contraption that would soon bring them a cold breeze of relief. The villagers glared in response.
“Okay…” Rhett whispered under his breath.
As if something caught his eye, or maybe his curiosity just got the best of him, Grant had the urge to look in the direction of Kale’s home. He turned his head, but was surprised to see nothing. No one watched from the window or the deck. No lights even illuminated the inside of his home. The whole village seemed to substitute for his curiosity instead.
The floorboards creaked as the two slowly made their way up onto Grant’s deck. Setting the air conditioner down, he unlocked the door.
“What’s going on?” Rhett asked, eyes narrowing.
“I’m not sure…”
After setting up the air conditioner, they both sat in the living room, trying to relax as much as they could. Grant closed his eyes for a few moments, attempting to process any semblance of an idea of why everything felt off. He came up with no answer. Nothing lined up with anyone’s behavior.
“If Ambri saw something out there, what could it have been? And did someone from Lyros spread the news too? They all seem to know something, or be on the watch for something.” Rhett stared blankly at the ceiling.
“I have no idea, but it has to do with that forest for sure.” Grant slumped down on his couch.
Saraiya stood on the edge of Lyros, two white masks laid upon the outer trailer’s deck looking into the endless dark fields. People sat upon their decks watching her make her way down the single roadway. Following her every move.
Saraiya’s eyes widened, and her heart grew to a quick beat once again. Why was everyone watching her? Picking up her pace, she sped down towards her trailer. The residents and the cats gazed upon her with every step.
Did they know where she had been? The stares drilled into her, bringing terror. What other reason could they be acting like this? Ambri was the only one who had been warning her about the forest though, so it wouldn’t make sense for the whole village to be mad. She picked up her pace to a light jog.
She didn’t want to have to keep going down towards the end of the other side of Lyros, so she looked to Rhett’s trailer, but the lights were off. However, she noticed Grant’s lights were on, and the dark presence didn’t surround his home the way she felt from all the others.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Grant and Rhett sprung to their feet, staring at the door.
“You think it could be Ambri?” Rhett whispered.
“Maybe… Let’s hope she came to diffuse the situation. Or maybe even explain what is going on.”
Rising to his feet, Grant took a breath and proceeded to the door as a second set of knocks came.
“Please open the door, it’s me Saraiya.”
She wasn’t with them on their day long trip, and judging by her voice she seemed to be in her normal mood. Although, he couldn’t quite tell. He opened the door, and the light from the inside cast down on a worn out looking Saraiya.
Two cuts lined her right arm and her blue hair was muddied and in knots. A few specks of leaves were tangled within her hair, but her overall mood resembled the one he knew from her.
“Are you all right?” Grant asked as Rhett followed behind him and looked out the door.
“What happened?!” Rhett rushed ahead of Grant.
“Shh, I’m fine. Well, fine might not be the most suitable word. Can I come in?”
Saraiya joined them in the living room as she sat in the chair beside the couch. She seemed a bit out of it, carrying a blank expression as she listened in on the conversations.
“...And this is what we came back to.” Rhett finished describing the events of the day.
“...Oh, seems like you guys were busy.”
“Now are you going to tell us what happened to you? You don’t seem yourself at all, no matter how much you try to fake it.” Rhett leaned in towards her.
“Hah, yeah. Well, I just happened to fall out of a tree I was climbing out by that lake, you know, the one that Lars fishes at. It’s no big deal. I’m more nervous from all the looks I was getting, I feared it had to be because of you guys.” She stammered on her words.
“Why because of us?” Grant asked with his voice quavering.
They hadn’t done anything in particular all day that would have affected Lyros. If anything, it had to do with what Ambri saw. There was no other explanation.
“Maybe your bonfire got out of hand or something, I don’t know…” Saraiya muttered.
“Psh, like I would let that ever happen,” Rhett said.
“Yeah.” Saraiya’s gaze periodically rotated around the room as she moved her lips with a slight motion.
“Oh well, as long as you’re okay. Why don’t we go out there and try to calm ourselves with a bonfire? Maybe we can make this one get out of hand to really give them a reason to be upset.” Rhett gave a light laugh. “It has to be a coincidence that everyone is outside, maybe we are just psyching ourselves up.”
“Well… I guess it wouldn’t hurt for the three of us to go out there together. If they are still out there watching us, at least we will be in a group.” Grant convinced himself and rubbed his eyes.
Saraiya sighed. “I should probably go back to my place, shower, and head to bed.” She brought herself up from her reclined state. “But, I don’t want to.”
Something was clearly bothering Saraiya, and it didn’t seem to be from her falling from the tree. Things didn’t line up with her actions and words.
“I gotcha guys. Don’t worry, you’ll both be glad we had this fire.” Rhett smiled.