265 Days Until Disaster and the Uncertain End (part 1)
Heia had been the one to decide that Evester was to be allowed to explore LakeLost. Having him confined to the main compound gave her a feeling of confinement herself. Even if he never complained, the idea of being trapped bothered her. So she let him go. If he were a liar, she’d know based on how he interacted with the world.
The look that Evester had given Heia when she had told him that he was free to move around was that of boredom. It didn’t seem as if he were particularly invested in being free. It almost seemed as if he believed that she wouldn’t hold him anyway. It was as if he believed that she would follow him and try to learn more about him and his mystery.
Which she was.
It was difficult for her not to be curious. After all, this man had showed up in her life, declared himself there to stay until she left with him, and had only given vague excuses. He was a tight wrapped secret filled with stories that he would not give. A man who smelt of Aralax blood, sweat, and iron. He was a mysterious Circle, who had showed up looking for her. There was a sense of familiarity about him in the way he walked, talked, in his eyes. How could she not want to know more?
So she was following him.
Through the city remains of LakeLost, she followed him as he examined the city with no particular direction in mind, leading her down streets she had not traveled in years. Reminding her of little feet and little clothes, wide eyes, and days when she believed she could become anything. Before the wars of humanity, before the wars with the monsters, before The Catastrophe, before the LowerLand’s Night of Oblivion.
Heia remembered her school and school yard. They had played all sorts of sports and were taught basic schooling. They were taught that they could learn trades and if they wanted to move up in society they could go to the Towers. If they wanted to farm they could move to the LowerLands and work sky side. She was taught basic math, how to read and write, how to spell, how to love learning. Heia loved learning then.
Heia remembered Mr. Listal. He had worked there every so often in his dojo, teaching the children martial arts. Many of the parents believed him priming the children for the wars at the hands of the Circles who wanted to subject others. However Mr. Listal wanted her, them, to learn how to survive in their world where the Circles destroyed them and AntiLove was focused on Yasloughve instead of the people. That was back when there was a chance that the water could be contaminated. When food could be bad based on how much they could afford with their parent’s jobs.
Heia had never been particularly rich. Her family had managed to keep ten mouths fed, but only just enough. She wanted to go to school and learn more, but knew she’d end up working a job for just enough to live off of for her whole life. Mr. Listal had taught them how to survive. He’d taught them how to barter, how to determine the freshness of food and water. He had taught them to defend themselves, how to steal if necessary, how to lie, how to see if someone was lying. He’d also taught them to defend themselves, in all sorts of different ways. It was the practical skills, not the fighting, that the parents hated it. The city of LakeLost had closed down Mr. Listal’s dojo and he’d disappeared. She remembered him showing up in the shadows to give her tips and tricks to survive and to help her family survive.
Then she hadn’t understood, but now she wondered if he had been training them for The Catastrophe. Back then those skills had no purpose other than they were fun tricks that she could use to boost herself up as knowledgable. These days it was those skills that had saved her and her family’s lives.
If the ground shook, get sky side. If the ground shook, be careful of gas and electricity breaks. If the ground shook, be careful of buildings. How to avoid fires. How to survive the first winter without electricity. He had been teaching them to survive The Catastrophe. He had been a member of the Yasloughve Project Research Team, and it had made her hate the project even more.
If he knew, why hadn’t he taught them all? All the kids? All the parents? Everyone? Why hadn’t he warned them all? Why hadn’t they been better prepared? Why did so many have to die? Or was it that he was saying the words and that no one was listening. AntiLove and MAY had worked to shut down the only warning they had without listening. Heia wasn’t sure she wanted to care for the truth about him. Not anymore.
Not when it didn’t matter.
What mattered was survival. What mattered was keeping her family and the kids alive. What mattered was finding out what this man, Evester, was after and why he wanted her. What mattered was finding out if he was a good or bad person. Five days was enough. It was time to figure it out.
Turning around an alleyway, they came to the schoolhouse that was abandoned for the one closer to the inner working city. This was far away and a hideout for undesirables.
“We can both stop pretending that you aren’t following me.” Evester turned to face her. “What do you want Heiphillia?”
“Nothing.” Heia stepped out of the shadows. “I’m following you.”
“Who are you Evester. What do you want?” The name tasted sour on her lips. Why? Who did it remind her of? Why?
“I told you.”
“Cut it with the lies.”
“I don’t have time for this.” He grumbled to himself as he looked to the rock ceiling and paced in place.
“What don’t you have time for? Two Hundred Seventy? Was that a countdown?” She remembered the number well since she had heard it last. “Or a list? Of people you have found and killed. What are you? No Circle I know would come here.”
She hadn’t wanted to believe he was a monster in the skin of a human, but anything went with how evasive he was being. Holding her gun out she watched as he stopped pacing to stare at her.
“Two Hundred Sixty Five.” He spoke solemnly.
“What does that mean?” Why had the number changed. Was it a countdown? Truly?
He glared at her as if to say she wouldn’t believe him if he said anything. He was trying to figure out how to get out of this. Mr. Listal said that if you needed information you needed to force it out. So she shot at him, missing on purpose. He blinked concerned. “Who are you Evester?”
“Evester Igalistal, Circle and son of Maverin Igalistal, last scientist of the Yasloughve Project.” As he spoke the words something clicked in Heia’s head. She had heard the name Maverin Igalistal before. She knew it from the papers and news of AntiLove when the Yasloughve Project fell. She also remembered the news that he had accurately predicted The Catastrophe, and The Night of Oblivion and a date called The Uncertain End. She did not know much other than that. She knew that no one knew how to restart the project or how to get his notes on the exact details.
Something was off, with his explanation. It explained everything about him. Why he was so jumpy, wasn’t he being hunted? Hadn’t she heard rumors that the great scientist’s son was a runaway and wanted? However there was something else at the tip of her tongue. The feeling would not go away, and she wondered if he could even answer her if she asked why it was.
Heia’s eyes traveled to Evester’s bag. “Two Hundred Sixty Five.” The date was weird making her skin crawl at the sound of it from her voice.
“Days until the Uncertain End.” Evester answered, stern look in his eyes, only happy as she lowered her gun.