Chapter 38 - Secret Species
“What? White lions? Did you happen to see one out here?” Saraiya asked, although she knew that response was futile. Kale had already whispered to her that he knew where she had been. There was no doubt that he told Ambri too, right?
“No, I haven’t seen a thing.” Ambri smirked. “I’m just making a guess.”
How did Kale even know she was there in the first place? She had never once seen Kale leave for a walk outside the village, and if on the odd chance he went for a drive, she would have definitely been able to identify his car. Was it really possible that he followed her all the way there? If it wasn’t that, did Natch tell him?
Above all, bringing up a white lion could not have been by chance, and then that would mean she didn’t imagine seeing that beast. She really saw a massive white lion, or perhaps it only appeared gigantic. Sometimes in intense situations things could seem exaggerated.
Saraiya’s eyes met Natch’s. His gaze was one of confusion, slowly turning his eyes between Ambri and Saraiya. Surely, he didn’t tell anyone.
“It would be pretty rare to see a white lion. I wouldn’t mind seeing one and getting to do research on it I suppose…” Saraiya was unable to stop her shaking hands so she placed them under her legs.
“I can imagine your name next to an academic paper about white lions, Saraiya.” Kale patted Zair. “It would suit you well.”
That strange sentiment brought no pleasure to her. He was the one who scared her in the first place when he disclosed her secrets. Was he trying to play it off as a casual conversation? Did he really not tell Ambri? No one could ever grasp a clear handle on Kale, his speaking was elusive.
“Thanks… I guess,” Saraiya answered.
“So, do you guys think these lions are anything special? Like, why would they come to Nhaja in the first place?” Natch said. “Jurai is more than suitable for them.”
“They don’t seem any different,” Ambri said. “But, then again, I haven’t seen them yet so I don’t know. I really want to find out though, so I am hoping the cages will show results sometime.” She pointed in the direction of her cage-filled field, even though night had already fallen. In that direction laid nothing but blackness mixed with small dimly lit porch lights.
Rocks crunched from the road as Rhett made his way back carrying the bucket of fish. The sound of sloppy thuds swished against the plastic container.
“Kale! What the hell man? The biggest fish is missing!” Rhett said as he exaggerated his fall into his chair.
“What’d you think? I’d eat the small ones?”
“Did you even have time to cook it?” Rhett asked.
“I cooked it enough.” Kale seemed to be grinning under his mask.
Rhett dug through the fish, placing them onto the table beside the fire. He emptied the bucket of them and then handed it to Kale. “You left all your seashells in here.”
Kale nodded and took the bucket.
Rhett and Grant walked inside Rhett’s trailer to grab the equipment to cook the fish, while the others stayed outside.
“Natch, it is rare to see you out here anyway, isn’t it?” Ambri tilted her head.
“Yeah, Saraiya forced me out here. Said it’d be good to get to know everyone here more.”
Saraiya eyed him. “I just thought it would be a good idea to bond with his customers.”
“Oh, I see.” Ambri gave a half smile.
“I’m glad you stopped by Natch,” Kale said. “It’s always great to have new people.” He leaned forward in his chair, gathering the heat from the fire.
Natch already knew about Kale’s health problem. As soon as Saraiya found out she had told him. He always found him a bit strange too, but never on the level that she seemed to. He wasn’t one who looked into things too deep in the first place, unlike Saraiya.
In a way she was jealous of him, now, more so than ever. Getting to experience the great outdoors in the middle of nowhere because of work, but having the comfort of the city life once the shift came to a close. Lyros was starting to get a bit too strange for her, but at the same time, she felt an odd excitement. There was a mystery she needed to solve, even if she had to fight with the possibility of danger.
Grant and Rhett brought out the utensils and placed them over the fire. Ambri and Kale looked to be in complete bliss from the smell emitting from the flames. It was as if they were entranced on the fire. Upon further inspection, Grant even seemed to be showing a similar emotion towards the smell of the food. Rhett never even got this excited over cooking fish.
“Time to try out some new spices I picked up when we were in Montria!” Rhett sprinkled them over the fish.
Saraiya had been wondering if there were any other abnormalities happening around the village. Maybe something else was going on here that could help her make sense of everything. Why were there lions in Jurai and how did Kale find out? And what exactly was that claw that Grant found? Those were the questions she had been set on discovering the answers to. If she could gain Kale’s trust, she could probably find out about the claw at least.
“Seems like you guys caught quite a few tonight,” Saraiya said. “How was the trip overall?”
Rhett tested the temperature of one of the fish. “It was pretty relaxing, although, there is still one thing that’s bugging me.”
Grant leaned forward. “Yeah, I still can’t stop thinking about it. Kale, you knew about them. What were those birds at the lake?”
Birds at the lake? They had seen animals that perplexed them too?
“What kind of birds?” Saraiya spoke before Kale could answer.
Kale didn’t say a word. Ambri looked over at him as if extracting data from his eyes. After some time, he spoke. “It’s true they are dangerous birds. Just don’t try to come into contact with them.”
Ambri sighed. “I guess if you’ve already seen them that close, there is no use in lying anymore. Lars always tries to calm everyone down who sees them by saying they are just normal vultures, but they aren’t.”
Kale added, “If they ever swoop down and approach you, try to escape as best you can. You guys don’t have to worry though, they very rarely interact with humans or even dare come near.”
“Have you ever been in close proximity to one?” Grant asked.
What were they talking about? Dangerous birds? Were there more questions Saraiya would need answered?
“What are those extra limbs that I saw earlier today?”
Extra limbs? Saraiya’s sanity levels lost focus. This conversation was even more absurd than the idea of a big lion.
Natch held his head up with his hand, slowly palming his own face. “I’m so lost…”
Kale took a deep breath. “They are arms. Think of them like dragons, how they have both wings and an extra set of legs.”
Dragons? There was no such thing. Was Kale serious? What the hell did they see out there?
“Come on, this is all a joke, right? Yeah, yeah, Saraiya told you all to talk like this didn’t she?” Natch asked.
“No, I’m being serious,” Kale said, eyes unwavering.
“I did not tell them to talk about this Natch! Dragons!?” Saraiya began laughing uncontrollably. “You’ve got to be joking!”
No one else was laughing.
“If you say to think of them like dragons… Dragons do not exist, so what is their species name?” She prodded Kale further.
“You’re joking right?” Saraiya scoffed but regained composure and sat in silence, thinking. If everything else she had seen in the last week were true, it was possible this was true as well. If a giant lion species could exist, why couldn’t there be other species hiding out there?