The floor creaked as Grant’s feet stepped on the rug in front of the door. Blackness mixed with sprinkles of brightness from the street light wafted itself through the cracks of a curtain.
His hand traced against the wall in search of a light switch. The protruded patterns in the wallpaper grooved through his fingers. He stepped forward, still in pursuit of light. A plastic wall plate met his grasp, and he pushed up.
Hardwood flooring with occasional boards sticking out slightly laid as the flooring. Looking to his left, within the same room sat an oven and a fridge. A kitchen island stood in the center of the room, stains scattered upon the surface. Two stools with torn cushions were pushed into it.
To his right, the home sank downwards with two steps leading to a big open room; two couches and a chair rested amongst the living room.
So far, he was off to a decent start. Sure, it wasn’t the best place, but the state of the house was good enough to live in.
Not only that, he finally achieved what he set out to accomplish. Freedom. He could act as a ruler in his own space now. Most people would feel unimpressed at stained surfaces, but Grant felt the opposite. Never in his life did he have the luxury to see such a messy mingling area. Disorganized spaces left him energized.
His impression of Lyros on the other hand, gave him the opposite feeling. He had heard things about the small village at Ocean’s Ray, but that wasn’t what made him worried. Rinari knew of this place, and knew of Lars, which left him with lingering doubt. Not only that, but Kale’s eerie demeanor reminded Grant of a folktale that most children were told in Nhaja.
The Knight Gardener.
About 300 years ago, a royal family from Montria, known as the Zelks, hired a gardener for their crops. Their fields were massive as they stretched over land as wide as the old Nhajan castles.
The pay left the gardener with only enough money to feed him and his family. He was also provided a shack on the outskirts of the field for them to stay in. Even if that permitted him to survive, it was only a life of serving.
In the beginning, the gardener hated the royals just as much as the commoners did. Many people starved within the capital due to royalty stockpiling more food than what was possible to stomach; food would often spoil and be thrown out.
When night arrived on his first shift, an unusual occurrence happened. Or so he thought it was unusual. Many people snuck into the fields, attempting to pick crops to bring home to their families. They roamed through the acres of vegetation like zombies. On occasion, kids also came, trailing behind their parents as they all scavenged for anything edible.
The gardener however, had a job to do. He too, having a family to feed, protected the fields, as well as the garbage, which few people dug through. Initially, he felt bad for denying the poor. Over time however, the royals became pleased with his work, more so than past hired gardeners, as most of them would give into the begging mobs.
He became desensitized to starving families, giving an eerie, almost too friendly of a smile to intruders as he ambled over to them. His expression alone caused most to flee, and if the unnerving crease of his lips didn’t scare them, it was the rake he brandished, stained with red.
The more fear he could strike into the masses, the more food and money he would receive. Some had witnessed the gardener murder those who refused to return the stolen goods and refused to leave the premises, dragging their bodies inside the mansion gates.
The gardener worked the job far longer than any other had managed to stay, and on one night, all of the commoners of Montria joined forces and stormed the gardens. They were wielding daggers and knives, a few even started fires within the fields.
The crowds were too big for him to fend off alone, so in one hour, everything was lost. The fields burned. His family perished. And he was tied to a wooden pole and left to burn, with his mouth stitched shut.
He would never eat again.
What was the need for all old stories to always be so dark? He understood the message, but being as this was a common story told to children baffled him.
Grant still felt bothered about his encounter with Kale. If Grant could see his smile, he feared it would be the same smile he envisioned that the knight gardener had. He avoided looking out the windows in his home, fearing he would be out there staring. After a bit of time, perhaps it would be safe.
If there was one thing he could feel grateful for, it was the fact he did receive his keys tonight. But, what if they kept an extra one? Grant thought to himself and tried to shake the idea. There would be no reason for that.
Upon another thought, he did find it odd he was allowed to stay in the trailer for the night, being he hadn’t paid anything yet. If Jack talked to Lars about Grant, then maybe they felt it would be okay to let him stay in there for one free night.
Continuing to tour his home, Grant opened a door placed on the side of the kitchen, revealing an empty pantry. His initial thought was to place his Bloodline Beasts comics in there and arrange them on the shelves. He wasn’t one for stockpiling food.
He still had to unload his belongings, because of Kale’s presence he left everything in his car. For now, he might as well look around his new surroundings. After a thorough inspection he could debate venturing outside again.
At the other end of the kitchen, a hall led to the rest of the trailer. Grant followed the dark path until he found the light switch. A narrow hallway led all the way to the back of the mobile home.
The first room consisted of an empty bedroom with carpeted flooring. It was completely empty. The second room appeared to be another bedroom, furnished the same way, however, this one had a lone rocking chair resting inside.
The chair gave him a slight nostalgic feeling. He had seen the spiral patterns that etched into the wood and cushions somewhere before.
When the third room’s doorway came into focus, the hallway widened, providing enough room for a washer and dryer that sat on the floor. The bathroom was located across from that.
There was one final door at the end of the hallway. This room appeared different than all the rest, the door was shut. The previous homeowners must have instinctively shut it on their way out, or Lars gave it an inspection before Grant came.
Grant grasped the handle and twisted. The door opened, bearing almost no weight at all. Besides the living room, this seemed to be the biggest room in the house. A king sized bed, dresser, and giant mirror sat inside.
In the corner of the room, a closet door was shut, with a small hole at the bottom of the door. Chipped away, as if something gnawed at it for years. The hole appeared big enough for Grant to poke his index finger through it.
Grant opened the closet door, curious if they left anything else inside. Nothing was inside. Empty coat hangers on a metal pole were all that remained in the narrow passage.
Figuring Kale would have retreated back inside his house by this point, Grant decided to collect his belongings from his car.
Grant stepped out onto his deck. He glanced across the street, but felt no threat anymore. Human eyes did not stare back, although, small animal eyes from different directions gazed upon him.
Cats did not scare him though, he grew up in a neighborhood that had a few strays. The eyes stayed distanced, and not one grew closer as Grant walked to his car.
He opened the back door to his car, and from underneath a gray blob shot out from under the car, hissing. The cat’s voice sounded bigger than its size. Grant jumped back and the cat continued running away from him, now howling, with a voice deeper than the cats he grew up hearing, like a miniature lion.
He turned around and faced the escaping feline. It sat in the middle of the road, already calm, staring.
Grant stepped back up to his car and started unpacking his things. He grabbed a handful of comics and looked back to the street. The cat jumped into Kale’s home through an open window.
After finally unloading all his belongings into his new home, he pulled up a stool that was placed under the kitchen island. Stacks and stacks of comics, as well as his bag rested atop.
His eyes grew heavy as he began to lean forward. The time displayed on the oven was four in the morning. It felt about that time, but he wasn’t sure if it was correct. Regardless, he made his way to the bedroom and plopped onto the bed.