Chapter 47 - Alneir
They made their way down to the penguin exhibit. The black and white birds wobbled across the exhibit. A mountain of stones stacked in layers were placed around the habitat with a pool in the front. A glass panel stood before the guests, allowing them a view into the water. Penguins swam through the water from side to side as kids ran back and forth as if chasing them. Splashes of water splotched down the concrete wall protecting the habitat.
“Penguins!” Linn ran and joined the other kids who were playing.
“Linn, wait!” Natch tossed his hand out. “Ah, oh well.”
Grant walked along the path down to the underwater view. To his right was an inclined ramp that allowed view of the penguins that huddled on land. These penguins had much better living space than the ones he was used to seeing. They seemed to be happy as well, from what Grant could tell.
This exhibit had a vast area for them to walk across, as well as a deep and wide pool. Most of the penguins stood in the center of the enclosure on the slick tops of flat stone slabs.
“The penguins are looking as lively as ever,” Saraiya said as she looked into the enclosure, placing her hand against the railing. “Why does everyone love the penguins so much? It was something I never understood. There are many more animals here that deserve just as much love. Actually, they all do.”
“Maybe it’s because they are so unusual,” Grant said. “And it seems like everyone likes watching them swim.”
Linn kept running up and down the sloped path, not able to decide if she wanted to watch the penguins swim or wobble.
“They are pretty fun to watch,” Rhett smirked. “The way they walk like they could fall over at any moment, and then transition into swift swimmers.”
“Yeah, it’s a safe bet that everyone likes penguins,” Natch said. “It also helps that they live nowhere near us. If we wanted to see one outside of the zoo we’d have to go all the way to Alneir.”
“Alneir is much harder to get a visa for than Nhaja,” Rhett laughed. “I was curious and looked at which countries I could get into when I was signing up to be allowed to live in Nhaja.”
“I need to go there someday. That’s where my parents are from,” Saraiya said. “We always planned on going there as a group, but one incident after another kept coming up.”
“Alneir… I went there once,” Kale spoke in a small voice.
“Oh? Really? What for?” Saraiya asked.
“It was for an educational trip. I didn’t like it there.”
“Why not? I’ve heard that Alneir is a great place. Alneirian food sounds so good right now...” Rhett trailed off topic.
Grant had learned a bit about Alneir from school and occasional news stories, but nothing of substantial value. They were most known for their abundance of penguins and other arctic animals. In elementary school Grant remembered watching a documentary on the country, and many people had pet penguins and seals as the most common animals.
“We really didn’t get to go sightseeing, and when we did, it was never for pleasant purposes.” Kale shook his head. “I did meet some interesting people there though.”
“If it was for educational purposes… What kind of fancy school did you go to?” Saraiya looked jealous. “I’ve never heard of any school in Nhaja going over there…”
“It was a private school.”
“Oh so you went to a fancy school growing up?” Grant asked.
“I don’t know if you can call it that, but yeah, it was different.”
Linn was out of breath from running back and forth chasing the penguins. Natch motioned for her to join them.
“I see there is a new exhibit down that way, why don’t we head over there?” Natch asked.
“That must be the buffalo enclosure,” Saraiya said.
The word buffalo alone flooded Grant’s mind with memories of Tonim. Not only because of The Buffalo Boys, but even Tonim’s town mascot was a buffalo.
The group walked forward to a wide grassland terrain encased by concrete and glass walls. Gigantic flat stone slabs were planted about in this cage as well, but not quite as many. Tall grass was patched throughout the area with a pool of water in one of the corners.
Six buffalo stood around with their tails slapping through the wind. They were large beasts for sure.
“They are kind of scary,” Linn said, albeit jumping up towards the railing trying to get a better view.
“This must feel like home to you, huh, Grant?” Saraiya clasped her pen and started writing.
“Yeah, I guess it brings back a few memories. Although, I didn’t see buffalo up close too often.” Grant leaned onto the rail, enjoying the view.
A hooded man approached the railing next to the group and sighed. Grant turned his head around to face him. He wore tattered clothes that had a couple holes. He gave off a suspicious aura.
“Hey Grant.” The man pulled down his hood.
Grant flinched backwards. How did he know his name? Grant wracked his brain, but couldn’t come up with any idea who it was, although there was something familiar to him.
“No, no. Don’t worry, I’ve had plenty of time to calm down.” The man said as he extended his arm out towards Grant. “I want to apologize for scaring you and breaking your window...”
Grant glared without saying anything, realizing who he was.
“Please Grant, I don’t know what to do. I need help. The police are still trying to find me… Let me explain the situation to you.”
He made it all the way to Montria without the police finding him? Why doesn’t he just go to the police and explain the situation? What good would telling Grant be? Perhaps telling the cops would make them come to the conclusion that he was guilty.
“Grant? Do you know him?” Kale stepped forward, peering into the man’s eyes.
The man was none other than Brax, who retracted his hand and stepped backwards.
“Who are you?” Brax asked Kale with a look of terror.