Trouble in Eden
It was quiet. The memory of the empty silence of this place had faded away with all the others, until now. Or maybe it hadn't been this dead; the solitude now was new, in fact, it was liberating. Jet remembered this place when it was alive, when the wide computer screens were brimming with data. When the floor was glossy and the books were new and neatly bound. He remembered the rhythmic sound of polished shoes padding the floor and the smell of the sterile environment.
Jet was seated against the wall in the main foyer of the Observatory waiting for the sun to rise in an hour or so. If it were just him, he would have left hours ago, albeit he wouldn't be here in the first place. But he could tell tire was weighing heavily on Virginia, so he relented and waited patiently as she slept soundly against his right shoulder. He listened every few seconds when she would take a breath and another second when she would let it go. Silently, for hours, he counted each serene breath. And every now and then she would sigh into his ear, absently reminding him of her presence.
Saying this pleased him would be an outright lie. It only reminded him of what he wanted to avoid; being depended on by another, being tied down by someone else's troubles. It stunned him how easily she had done it. But she was relentless; impossible to dissuade and easily persuasive to others. So damned naïve, so blind to her own limitations. Very little negativity would break the skin and when it did, she would pick herself up and it would have only been a second in time.
After a moment, he noticed a distinct difference in her breathing and said, "Finally"
"I wish my father were here," Virginia said arbitrarily as if she had been a awake for some time thinking about it, "He would know how to explain this…"
She must have been referring to the photograph they had found earlier and frankly Jet had no interest in the subject. He had asked many a time about who or what he was and found only a chilling truth and now it lead him to even more question. No, he'd had enough.
Virginia still had her head against his shoulder as she went on, "I wonder what the Ark of Destiny will have to say; Lechek—or Adam—did say he was working for them. We should look into that"
Relentless, as usual.
"How did that picture get here anyway? I don't remember seeing it, do you?"
"It doesn't matter"
"I don't care," that was what he meant to say.
She sat up, probably to give him a reproachful scowl and he took the opportunity to stalk halfway towards the exit. Persistent as ever, Virginia was on her feet, rested and ready to argue with him.
"And here I thought you would be glad to find you weren't just some carbon copy!"
"Why? How would that change anything?"
She opened her mouth as if to counter with a grand argument, but no words came. Sighing, just as she did in her sleep, she added woefully, "I…I don't know, maybe you have a greater purpose than just being a replacement"
Jet turned to her suddenly, ready to snap at her like he usually would have but there she stood, wide-eyed and involved. After a long moment of intense staring, a smile formed on her face and she laughed.
"Your eyes are so bright," Virginia said, "They glow"
"I'm an easy target"
Still smiling, she said, "I don't think so, they're hypnotic"
Jet remained silent, staring at the rusted wall next to him. Clasping her hands behind her back, she leaned towards him and added playfully, "What are you thinking?"
The sun had peeked over the distant horizon and casted a red glow in through the half open door. Radiant streaks of light fell on the young leader's face, bending smoothly over the bridge of her nose, vaguely illuminating her features. Jet admired her calculating, azure eyes as an anxious expression slowly formed on her face.
"Nothing," he replied finally blankly, facing the exit, "let's just leave"
It's all lighthearted play for you, he thought.
"Maybe we should go back to Laxisland," She said with tangible disgust, "or maybe we should take a chance and head elsewhere?"
Stepping into the light of a new day, the duo studied the empty horizon. A sign was half hanging from the fence post; it read "Danger. Proceed with Caution". Of what? Nothingness? Uncertainty? A single crow soared overhead, heading east.
"He's going east," Virginia indicated the bird with an exaggerated finger, "I say we follow"
"That sounds desperate"
Following the ascending sun, they headed eastward in the unsound hopes of finding a waypoint in this twisted world. It was a frightening thought to accept that one may never see the faces of dear ones again. Perhaps they were dead, victims of a crumbling planet. However, one could only press forward and wonder.
With the emerging sun, the horizon blurred and danced, fooling the eyes. The blank slate of a desert offered no refuge. It must have been around midday when Jet felt the journey dragging. Virginia was several steps behind him, fatigued and unable to keep pace with him. Slumped forward, she was evidently miserable. With glassy eyes fixed on the ground she bumped into him, throwing her from her stupor. Sun-sickened, she placed a hand on his shoulder as if to remind herself that he was real.
"Oh, sorry," She said as she absently rubbed her forehead.
"You don't look so good," Jet stated.
Appearing as if she would swoon, Virginia clutched his scarves, "Do you…think it's hotter than usual? I don't remember it being…" Her face turned pale and she slumped against him, both hands squeezing the red and white fabric.
"Damn it," Jet snapped, shaking her, "Hey!"
No good. If he didn't find water soon, very soon, it would certainly be her demise. He couldn't let that happen. Laying his ARM on the ground, he knelt and pulled her flaccid form unto his back. Retrieving the weapon, he proceeded onward. It was rare that he felt fatigue; it was something he had been specifically made to resist. Slouched forward to support Virginia and with the scorching sun beating down on them, it was taxing even on him. She was in danger; if something were to happen to her now, Jet couldn't help but blame himself.
Minutes passed solemnly, giving way to an hour two, he had lost track of the time. Eye fixed on the ground, he did realize the truth in what she had said; it was hotter, much hotter. The ground was dried and cracked in many thousands of jagged plates. The sun had stolen whatever little moisture had remained in the desiccated ground.
A bead of sweat trickled down the side of his temple. It was noticeably true, another one of the inexplicable phenomena occurring. The warped landscape, the time, the heat—and from what he gathered in Laxisland, the citizens wedged in their sorry little towns hadn't even taken a particular notice. Not surprising, the planet always seemed to be on the brink of catastrophe and they could never see beyond the rickety fences around their own shambled lives. The unknown was blissful. However, as a drifter, it was a world Jet couldn't see and probably never would.
With the sun descending its arch over the world, Jet was beginning feel hopeless. If there was a safe haven lying before them, they may never reach it in time. With eyes shut, he couldn't see he path before him, seeming as if he didn't expect anything promising.
He took another aimless step, and another. And something coarse and spongy replaced the stony earth under his feet. Forcing his aching eyes open, he was stunned.
Grass—green and lively. It was sparse here, but as he peered up towards the distance, it thickened. Whats more, trees, at least seven that he could see. Tall and full of life, they grew sporadically across the green expanse that was at least 100 feet wide. At the oasis' center sat a modest cottage that was tightly bounded by an aged fence.
It was remarkable, even Jet couldn't hide his surprise. It was Florina's garden, which should been be hidden in a tall cliff northeast of the Midland Station. However, it was not surprise that even the little Eden had been affected by all that was happening. But, how could their happening upon this place be a coincidence? Perhaps it was, but the unyielding question that something else had been at work here irked Jet.
Remembering the inert form draped over him, Jet proceeded hurriedly towards a small pond near the house. Kneeling, he let Virginia onto the ground; still she was unconscious and dehydrated, but alive nonetheless. Removing his black glove, Jet dipped his hand into the cool water before gently patting her forehead. He repeated the process several times.
With the squeak of an aged door, a young girl emerged from the house. It was Florina, staring in passive speculation with one hand cupped over her mouth. Approaching, her wide and sheepish eyes studied them both in silence then her gaze settled on Jet.
"You, how did you get here?" Jet inquired in a severe tone.
She stared for a long moment before shaking her head.
Remembering the berries she had given him once, Jet added, "Do you have any food?"
Florina stood as if in thought for a while. Then she nodded modestly before turning and disappearing on the other side of the cottage. Jet studied the trees and the fence-line, birds were perched here and there. The crow was among them; settle in one of the trees on the far side of the pond. A cat was settled at the base of the tree, engrossed in its quest to capture one of the birds.
Many flowers of all hues surrounded them, swaying lazily in a gentle breeze. It was a small, if not the only, Eden on Filgaia.
Virginia stirred, throwing her head from side to side for a moment before her eyes finally opened. Lying still, she stared blankly upwards at the canopy of trees above.
Finally, she said, "Have I died?"
Jet almost laughed, "You would have"
Sitting up, Virginia studied her surrounding, unmoved at first then growing blatantly shaken, "Where are we? How did…"
Florina reappeared with an armful of assorted fruit which she knelt and spread out onto the grass. She picked up a simple blue colored berry and offered it to Jet, who crassly declined.
"Florina? How did you get here?" Virginia asked while choosing a berry at random, feeling a sharp pang of hunger in her stomach.
"…I don't know," The girl quietly replied, regarding them with concerned, green eyes, "I woke this morning and I was here"
"I see…" Virginia trailed off as she reached for another piece of fruit.
"It's so hot," Florina went on to say, specifically to Jet. Seating herself next to him, she added, "It's so hot, the flowers are trying to sing, but they're crying. You can't see it, but that's what they told me"
"Not this again…" Jet stated grimly, leaning away from her, but she remained undeterred.
"The land has no water, the flowers are thirsty. If it doesn't rain, I'm afraid they will die," Florina concluded, placing a hand on his shoulder.
Poised to slap her hand away, Jet glanced at Virginia, who had an odd expression of distaste on her face for whatever reason. Perhaps the fruit was sour. But her eyes were fixed on the scene before her.
"…Well, ah, Florina," Virginia replied finally, getting the girl's attention, "We aren't really sure what's on ourselves either…A lot of things have been happening lately"
"Oh," Florina grimaced before looking to Jet again, "Time is running out…"
"Can't you just use the water from the pond?" Virginia suggested, trying to be helpful.
"It's drying up," Florina replied, not even looking at her this time.
Jet, still leaning away from the girl, gave her a harsh gaze as he tried to hold his tongue lest he would get smacked again like the first time they had made a deal with Florina. Obviously, the girl wasn't as sheepish as the first impression of her made her to be. Virginia stood suddenly and brushed off her skirt.
"We'd help, but there isn't really anything we can do for you right now"
Retrieving his glove, Jet rose as well and brushed past the girl as if she hadn't been there. Virginia thanked her and turned to leave with Jet in tow. Florina, if only out of desperation, clasped both hands around Jet's arm and said, "Please, you helped me once and I thank you, the flowers thank you. I don't know what to do…"
About to shake from her touch, Jet turned and studied her face. Anxiety was palpable in her eyes; she was desperate to protect this little Eden. And perhaps that is why it thrived—she cared. If only everyone did the same, perhaps the world in its entirety would be lush with life.
After a long moment, Jet sighed in exasperation. This life as a humanitarian was getting old.
"I'll do what I can," He said, "I'll try"
A small smile appeared on Florina's face and she clasped one bashful hand over her mouth, "Thank you…" She reached into the brown, leather bacg that was hanging from her shoulder and revealed several plump berried, offering them to him.
Sighing again, Jet took them, "I'm not making any promises though"
Still heading eastward, the sun was descending and the day had cooled considerably. With the garden at they're backs, Jet and Virginia faced wasteland once more. Jet gently placed the berries in the pocket of his faded jeans, reminding himself to not smash them. His leader was several feet in front of him, pressing on.
"Do you plan on fainting on me again?" Jet finally said and meaning it quite literally.
No response. Certainly she was angry about something, though he couldn't imagine what. Having to cross the wasteland again or their predicament all together perhaps? No matter, Jet couldn't be bothered.
A minute passed, then another. Finally, she stopped then turned to glare at him.
"…What?" Jet inquired, scowling.
"Where do you get off making a promise like that?" Virginia demanded.
"I said I didn't make a promise"
"You know what I mean, that was just false hope," Virginia snapped, crossing her arms.
"And?" Jet raised a brow, "Hope is hope; she'll figure it out on her own"
She scowled at him for a long moment but eventually, her glare softened. Her gaze lowered to the ground and she said, "I'm sorry…" It seemed she was fighting with her own thoughts.
Jet studied her face before replying, "Whatever. It doesn't matter, let's just keep going"
Virginia turned, still with a dismal expression and took several steps forward, towards the darkening horizon.
Sorry, I had to end it there. I'm tired. I promise, something more interesting will happening next time :) TBC