Remember the Name - Chapter 75 - Species (2)
Lucid kept his guard up as he was faced with three men, whose appearance was unlike any other he had seen before. He had read and heard about black people before, but having never met one before, he wasn’t sure if this is what they looked like. But regardless of what their ethnicity or racial background was, he couldn’t afford to relax around them. This was an unknown place with unknown dangers, and he had to be wary of the three men.
“Can you understand us?” asked the nasally man again.
Wariness aside, Lucid decided that staying quiet was probably not the best option to take. If he could communicate with them, perhaps they would be able to help him out. After all, Lucid had only just arrived, while the three men appeared to be living here. He would need to befriend them, if only to get to know this place better. Of course, the fact that he couldn’t win against all three of them was another very good reason to befriend them.
“I can,” he said at last.
“Oh, you can! Then why didn’t you say anything?”
The long man hit the nasally man’s arm, his sharp eyes making him look quite irritable.
“Can’t you tell? He’s measuring us up. Look at his eyes. He’s up to something, I tell you.”
Even without prompting, the men were already looking quite intently at Lucid’s eyes, tracking every motion of his pupils as he observed the three men in front of him.
“How did you get here?” asked the man with the rough voice. He reminded Lucid of a long steel pipe. In fact, wouldn’t speaking into a steel pipe make someone sound like that?
“I… climbed over the mountain,” Lucid answered.
“Did you say mountain?”
The three men’s eyes widened in surprise. The steel pipe man was the first to regain his composure, but the nasally man spoke first.
“You’re not talking about that thing there behind you, are you?”
Lucid couldn’t bring himself to turn back and look at what the man was pointing to. He knew what it was even without looking, and he didn’t feel comfortable enough to take his eyes off of the men, in case they were to try something while he was turned away. So, he kept his gaze on them as he answered.
“Yes, I am.”
The three men stopped talking and glanced at each other quite nervously. Was that really such a strange thing? Lucid wondered about this for a moment, and figured that considering the height of the mountain and his own age and size, it was indeed rather strange. After all, it wasn’t something a 10 year old could be expected to climb by himself. The more he thought about it, the more ashamed he became of his own recklessness and ignorance.
“Why did you come here?” asked the steel pipe man. His white eyes were fixed on him, and this unnerved Lucid a bit.
“… I need to find my family.”
“Your family is here?” the nasally man butted in. Looking closely, he had a rather large nose. It was flat and curved, a bit like a deflated soccer ball,”Right here? Why?”
“I don’t know if they are…”
With a deep breath, Lucid explained everything that had happened, making sure to leave out the part about the other world.
“People suddenly disappeared… Huh. That’s interesting! Right?” the nasally man asked, his voice cheery, “Oh! Don’t get me wrong. It’s interesting that a whole town disappeared just like that. The fact your family also disappeared is still pretty sad.”
“Does anyone have something to eat?” the man with a deep voice asked, turning towards the other two. It was the first time he had spoken.
“Why do you think?” the long pipe man rolled his eyes, “For the kid, obviously. Nosy as always.”
Realizing that none of them had any food on them, the deep voiced man turned back to look at Lucid.
“Let’s go,” he said, “you need to eat first.”
Lucid wondered how the man could tell just by looking at him, but he followed along without protest. He really was hungry, and since the man had already begun to lead the way, he didn’t know how to convince him otherwise.
Three men and a child walked deeper into the forest.
The forest was as dark as it had appeared on the outside, but he could still see what was in front of him. It reminded Lucid a bit of walking through the institute hallways at night, after the lights had been turned off. Unlike the institute hallways, however, there were too many things on the ground that got in the way, and the path was much more complicated.
Every step he took was accompanied by the unpleasant feel of wet soil clinging to his feet, and the strange musty smell continued to tickle his nose, but he could bear with it. What really threw him off was that he couldn’t see the three men leading the way. It wasn’t as though they were hiding. The darkness had simply concealed them from his sight, but it was unnerving all the same. At the very least, the long pipe man’s red hair was very visible, even if it did make him look like nothing more than a tuft of red hair floating in the air.
“Watch your step,” said the man leading the way.
The mist covered the forest floor and clouded Lucid’s vision, and he now found himself walking over a vine as thick as his entire arm. If the man hadn’t warned him, he would have tripped and fallen face first into the ground. Lucid continued to walk, following the red haired man’s lead and paying close attention to his warnings, until he realized something felt rather off. He had spend most of his childhood in a forest much like this one, but the more time he spent here, the more strange it felt.
“Excuse me,” he called, but the men simply continued to walk.
“What is it? Are you tired?” the nasally man asked.
“Oh, no. I just wanted to ask something.”
“Ask what? Where we’re going?”
“Well, I’d like to know that, as well, but no. I was wondering if this forest is always so quiet.”
Indeed, all Lucid could hear was the wind blowing through the trees and the rustling of the leaves. None of the typical forest sounds were present, and this struck him as very, very odd.
“Are there no animals here? Or insects?” he added.
“Oh, hey. You must know a lot about forests, huh? What do you want to hear?”
“What?” Lucid asked. He didn’t understand the nasally man’s question at all.
“Animals, yes, or something close. Bugs, too, if you look hard enough,” the man leading the way answered curtly. From behind, it seemed like a voice came out of nowhere.
“Yes, you’ll see them if you look hard enough,” the nasally man added, “I mean, if there was nothing here, what would we eat?”
The nasally man sounded as cheerful as ever, and Lucid couldn’t bring himself to dislike him. What did they mean though, when they said he needed to look hard enough? Perhaps it was due to the dark, but Lucid couldn’t feel anything around him. If he had been alone, he could have been attacked by beasts that he couldn’t hear or see, and he wouldn’t have been able to do anything to fight back. It was a terrifying thought. Thankfully, however, no animals came out to attack them, and no bugs suddenly jumped into sight.
“We’re here,” the man said, “This is where we live.”
After all that walking, they had reached a wide empty spot in the forest, which was surprising considering the fact that the forest itself was just a wild tangle of trees and vines and bushes tightly weaved together. At the center of this miraculously clear area, there was a house, which was another surprise. It was a house in every sense of the word, but it was also not, in the sense that it was more like a tree igloo than anything. There was no way that trees naturally grew in that shape, but surely enough, trees rooted to the ground had curved and bent to form pillars, and the vines and other plants Lucid had seen along the way tangled together to form sturdy walls. There wasn’t a door, so to speak, but two large leaves hung from the entrance, overlapping like curtains. This was clearly not a man-made structure at all, as the tree-pillars seemed healthy and alive, with their roots stretching deep into the soil. Their curvature, as well, was too gradual and smooth to be considered artificial.
The three men entered the house first, and Lucid followed after them. It was more spacious and cozy inside than he had imagined it to be. The walls and roof were tightly woven with vegetation, without a single gap in sight, and the floor was made up of what appeared to be wooden planks. The house was larger than Lucid’s own back at the peasant town, which only served to further fuel his curiosity on how it had been built.
Another surprising aspect of the house was that it was very bright inside. There was a lamp near the entrance, with what Lucid could only assume was a candle burning on it, though at first glance, it looked like just a lit wick stuck to a small, round rock. The light it gave off was quite bright, however, able to light up the whole house from its little spot at the entrance. It almost reminded Lucid of a fluorescent light bulb.
The house itself was comprised of the main area, which was a living room with an open kitchen, and two (judging by the doors) other rooms. The man who had come in first went into the kitched to prepare some food, while the long pipe man with red hair disappeared into one of the rooms, only to emerge soon after holding a wooden stick. Lucid tensed up when he saw the stick, but the long man went into the living room, massaging his shoulders as he went. On the living room floor was a leather rug, and the man promptly lied on it.
“Don’t be nervous,” he said in passing.
Lucid gulped audibly and went to look away, but curiosity got the best of him.
“Excuse me, what is that skin?” he asked, pointing towards the leather rug.
It was black, or perhaps a very dark gray, and it looked smooth and rather thick. Lucid set aside his wariness and fear and ended up asking his question without taking the time to think things through.
“This? It’s whale skin,” the man answered, nonchalant.
“Whale?” Lucid was thrown off by the wholly unexpected answer.
“Yeah?” the man said, confused by Lucid’s confusion. But that wasn’t the answer Lucid was looking for. He wanted to know if the whale the man was talking about was indeed the whale Lucid was thinking of, or if there was another meaning to the word that he wasn’t aware of.
“Yes, it’s the whale you’re thinking of,” answered the man in the kitchen.
Lucid was both awed and afraid of the fact that the man had answered his question before he had even asked it out loud, and he was completely baffled by the answer itself. Whale skin? In a forest?
The man set the plate down on the table. There was something on it that resembled bacon, but based on the smell alone, Lucid was certain that it wasn’t at all bacon. That wouldn’t stop him from eating, however. He was starving, though having been taught proper manners, he waited for the adults to start eating first. The nasally man had also gone into one of the rooms and returned with a small blanket wrapped around his shoulders. It was patchy and patterned just like an animal fur, but the color was all wrong. Lime green and orange? What sort of fur was that?
“We’ll talk after eating. Food first, questions later.”
The man gave the other two men their own plates of food and then took his seat at the table. The long man was still lying down in the living room, which perplexed Lucid.
“I prefer this,” the long man shrugged.
“Yeah, he likes that. He’s always lying down. The definition of lazy,” the nasally man laughed.
The long man glared at the nasally man. He had one hand under his head and, with the other, he reached towards his plate and picked up a piece of meat, gnawing on it as he continued to glare at the nasally man. The latter coughed awkwardly and turned his head, trying his best to not meet eyes with the long man.
Once they had all finished eating, they all gathered around the table, with the exception of the long man. The house was filled with silence for a while.
“I know you have much to ask,” the man spoke first.
“We have also much to ask you.”
“Yes, lots and lots!” the nasally man butted in.
“I don’t,” the long man added, closing his eyes and turning his whole body away from the others.
“Introductions first,” the deep voiced man said, “I’m Diatri.”
“I’m Cinte,” the nasally man said, “And I have the kindest heart. Pretty easy to tell, right?”
“Ahnt,” the long man said, still turned the other way.
Lucid wondered what he should say. Hello? Nice to meet you? But before he could decide on a greeting, Diatri interrupted his thoughts.
“What’s your name?”
The two man sitting across each other, Diatri and Cinte, looked at each other with a strange expression.
<Species (2)> End.