1. The Last Resort for Lost Causes
‘Lost cause. A person or thing that can no longer hope to succeed or be changed for the better.’
The boy found himself often wondering whether or not a lost cause really was such a bad thing. After all, the dictionary only states that the person, or thing, has no hope left for themselves to be changed, or to succeed in whatever Oxford Languages classes as succeeding. But to know what Oxford Languages classes as succeeding in specific terms, you’ll want to contact someone known as a ‘lexicographer’, something the boy holds little information and even less concern about.
Such wonders were racing when all he could see was black, pitch-black darkness, eyes shut tightly and refusing to open. It was as if his own body was going against his will, and he didn’t think he was used to that, or that it should be happening to him in the first place.
But he couldn’t be sure. Because he couldn’t remember.
He couldn’t seem to remember a single thing - where he was, what had happened, how old he was - and did he have a name? Everything has a name, doesn’t it?
The pain in the back of his head flashed hard and hot as he attempted to sit up, restraints cutting into the flesh of his wrists and nipping at his ankles, the surface beneath him level and cool to the touch, his fingers tracing fine grooves of a circular pattern. The air pressure was odd and unfamiliar, the vehicle he was in rattling as he heard hushed voices communicating and directing.
The rattling ceased. A gliding motion began.
The boy assumed he was in some sort of plane, or jet, but instead of being sat limply on a cushioned, leather seat, or sprawled on the floor, his fingers worked their way up off the ground to his right and skimmed against fine metal bars, so thin they could be mistaken as wires, tight rows of them in a checkered formation.
He was in a cage.
He didn’t feel like an animal, but then, in a way, he couldn’t be sure.
The jet shook unexpectedly, its wheels pressing down on uneven ground, the cage the boy was confined in trembling in harmony with it. They weren’t in the air anymore, but on land, the jet gradually slowing its pace until it stopped completely.
The cage suddenly moved, and the boy flinched, his eyes still closed resolutely, his mouth dry and body weak. He wondered if he’d ever been this helpless before, as the cage advanced smoothly from its previous place to a different direction. A door slid open, and a fresh breeze ruffled the boy’s locks and brushed his face as the cage trailer advanced down the ramp and stopped abruptly once it ran against the bumpy ground.
Clanking and shuffling could be heard from around the boy, and he tensed, not knowing whether to be relieved or panicked as the door opened up, chains and cuffs clasping his ankles and wrists swiftly undone by whoever was freeing him out into the unknown. The cage tipped from behind, and the boy tumbled out, landing roughly on the ground, flecks of dirt and dry mud getting underneath his fingernails as he let out a quiet groan.
Then the cage backed up, retreating to the jet, and a sharp, minute pierce from the needle of a syringe injected a cold substance into his bloodstream as he winced. Then hurried footsteps left his side and followed the cage, and the boy felt his eyesight recover, the hard black steadily being replaced by a foggy view of browns of the rough, forest-like floor. The door of the jet closed once more, the engine starting up and the wheels of the moving and picking up its pace as it turned, going back to the direction it came from, easing its way up off the floor and back into the air, disappearing into the murky blue sky as the minutes passed.
The boy shivered as the breeze tangled itself in his hair again, and he tried to compose himself, pick himself off the ground from his frail position. But all he had the energy to do was get onto his hands and knees, blinking several times as the blurry sight cleared up, revealing a clearer view of something truly astounding.
Now, when I say truly astounding, I mean something very, very difficult to imagine. You see, where the boy was situated is a very strange and unusual place often referred to as a 'ghost town', which is defined as ‘a deserted town with few or no remaining inhabitants’. But the town he was hunched at the pier of wasn’t much of a town at all. To him, it seemed like more of an island, but not an island with sand and beaches and palm trees - no, an island thick with leaves of all shades of green carpeting the floor and climbing up peculiar-looking buildings above and to the front of him, the faded brown roads bending and twisting into paths of what looked like a small forest area, and skewing off as trails to various buildings.
Where was he?
He raked his fingers through his thick locks, holding a tuft to his face and studying the bronze colour as if he’d never seen it before - which, to some extent, he hadn’t. His skin was a warm ivory and somewhat tanned, and he wore a deep green, oversized hoodie and ripped, black denim jeans, with Converse-style high-tops on his feet. There was nothing in his jeans or hoodie pockets.
Suddenly, running footsteps made their way down the stairs of the hill which lead to the pier, sprinting to where he was crouching.
“Contortess! Nycto! Get over here! They dropped off another one!”
A young girl’s voice called out loudly as she approached him, and she sat in front of his figure, her t-shirt white but spattered with red. Whether it was a paint-splatter pattern or actual blood was a detail the boy didn’t want to investigate. She had a red and white varsity jacket over it and faded white jeans, with crimson running shoes on her feet and a silver chain with ‘ABC’ in calligraphic writing as its pendant.
When the boy looked up warily and caught sight of her face, he found himself even more bewildered and surprised than he was before. Her hair was dark ginger and frizzy, almost red, pulled back into childish pigtails, her big eyes a gooseberry green. Across the fair skin of her nose and cheeks were shocking, bold red freckles, nearly as vivid as specks of blood, but were quite real. She smiled warmly at him, overlooking his expression of anxiousness and dismay.
“Hi! I’m Idie.”
The boy nodded slowly, in something of a weary daze as he processed her words.
“You must be dead tired. They aren’t exactly careful when they bring you here, are they? Once the others get here, they’ll help you get to your feet and let you rest for a bit. Get your energy back - come on, Nycto!”
A couple of others joined Idie then, both of them as odd-looking and questionable as each other.
One was a young woman the boy guessed was in her late teens, though she looked much older. She was dressed completely in black, from head to toe, wearing a jet-black cloak with its hood up that seemed almost theatric, her hair and eyes dark to match and her skin a caramel-brown. Her raven-coloured fringe flopped about her forehead and framed her face, expression melancholy and calm as she observed the boy.
The other was a boy of around seventeen, with sandy-blonde hair and blue-green eyes, a smirk tugging at his lips, confidence and mischief oozing from his disposition. He wore a yellow t-shirt that wasn’t really yellow at all since the background’s shade was practically covered with hundreds of words and adjectives and names in clear, petite black font, all around the front and back and the short sleeves. He wore a long black and white striped under-top, and light denim jeans with a chain hooked in two of the belt loops, which must have been silver at a time, but now a tarnished copper.
“Hello, mate,” the boy said with a nod. “I’m Twist. This here’s Nycto. You’ve already met Idie, haven’t you? Who might you be?”
The boy shook his head helplessly, the pain hammering at the back of his head as he coughed uncontrollably, throat dry. Twist caught on immediately.
“Yeah, they’re pretty rough with their methods. But you’re welcome here, any Lost Cause is, swear to it. This is the last resort for you, after all. Here, give us your arm. Nycto, take the other. Idie, go get him some water, alright?”
Idie nodded and rushed off as the boy struggled to get up, Nycto and Twist supporting him the best they could. As they hauled him off the ground of the pier and up the grassy, worn stairs of the hill, the boy wondered whatever Twist meant by his last resort as a lost cause. And while he did, he limped feebly between Nycto and Twist, into the first building that the trio approached. Into the first building of OminouCity.