Author's note: Sorry for all the delay. Here it is. The final chapter for By the Sea.
Day Three: Dawn
From beyond the horizon, the sun rose. An eternal process, never ending, never changing and until now, had remained untainted by the presence of the people of the world. The world, as beautiful as it seemed have its twists and turns too. Not all wishes for the best in everyone and not all are willing to put others needs before their own. Some are selfish, willing to do anything to keep their peace, afraid of change and unmoving to anyone who would suggest such things…
She stood by the balcony, her gun left on the small bedside desk. Having decided to not practice her technique today, it left her with quite some free time to look at the sunrise. There was something about this country that attracted her. Something that made her wanted to stay. She watched on as early morning men proceeded to the dock, determined to catch the big one and provide food for their families.
Little children rushed and jumped into the cold morning water, shivering upon touch but grew accustomed to it soon after. Their ever watchful mother monitored them from a distance, far enough to give them their space but not too far as to be unable to protect them.
Hermes was already up or as up as a motorrad can get. "Kino, are you ok?"
"I'm…fine. In fact, this is the most refreshing morning I've ever felt."
"So why are you not drawing you gun?"
She did not know. It was as if there wasn't a need to draw the piece anymore. "I feel quite lazy today for some reason. Do you want to go for a walk Hermes?"
"We're leaving today Kino." Hermes reminded her. "Are you sure you want to go out now?"
"There's no rush. We woke up earlier than usual so why not enjoy a stroll."
"I guess it's ok…"
"We'll leave before nightfall, don't worry." She assured her companion.
She decided not to wear her coat and instead, left it in one of Hermes compartment. Pushing the motorrad to the door, the traveler turned back one more time to ensure not have been left behind before closing the door behind her.
Deciding that the day before, she has had enough of the inner parts of the village, Kino headed for the pier today. Her boots made slight squishing noises as she walked her way on the wooden platform though Hermes wheel made little noise other than the occasional screech of rusted parts.
"You have to oil me more often Kino. I don't remember having so many lousy parts in my body." Hermes complained.
She stopped at the edge of the pier which extended out fifty meters to the sea. The walls of the country at the side extended with it, ending a few meters short of where she stood so the sandy beach was elusive to her eyes. Having already risen above the horizon, the sun now floated smaller than before higher up in the late morning sky.
"I oil you every week Hermes. It's just the sea water. They just don't mix well with metal. You'll be fine once we're leave." Kino reassured him.
"That's a relief. For a moment there, I thought I was getting old. I hope we leave soon."
"Why do you wish to leave so early anyway?" Kino asked immediately as Hermes said 'soon'. "This is a nice place don't you think? Good people, nice environment and all. It's like a little paradise." I wouldn't mind staying another day or two. She mentally noted.
"I know Kino. But this place just reminds me of that other beach we found a few months back." He sounded worried. More than his usual nagging kind of worry.
Five months ago, they came out of a forest path and found themselves on another sandy shore. The sediments there however were red, stained by the blood of all the body that lay atop. Most of them were bones of humans. Smoothness ran over them from the years of erosion that took place. The more well kept bodies attracted flies that buzzed and some were half eaten by maggots.
Further up the shore was a giant wooden wall which stood, casting its shadow over the deceased like a conqueror who stood victory over the battlefield. Upon laying eyes on the ghastly sight, Kino had turned back into the forest, unwilling to thread upon possibly hostile grounds.
"I really doubt this country is like that one Hermes." She tried to make it sound as comforting as possible.
"Don't be so sure Miss Kino." Granny Sugars said as she makes her slow way across the pier towards the traveler. "One thing I learnt from my travels is that nothing is as it seems."
"What do you mean?" Kino asked.
"If you are ready to leave this place Miss Kino, I'll show you."
Kino thought about it in silent contemplation. A few seconds passed before she managed an answer. "I'd like to stay… just a little longer."
The old woman smiled. The same smile she gave her when they first met. "Certainly."
Kino stayed at the peer, long after the old lady has gone and the sun was already setting. She ignored Hermes' pleas to leave and continued to watch the rising of the moon.
"Kino, are you really thinking of staying here another day?" Hermes asked for the tenth time.
"Of course not Hermes." Even though she said that, she did not move from her spot. Truth was that she wanted to stay. The country was a symbol for eternity of peace, just like a fairy tale where after the adventure is over, the protagonist finds a beautiful land and lives happily ever after.
The world is like a book. They tell the truth with lies because the false are always more beautiful than reality. Like a flash of lightning, she recalled the line said by a wise old man she had met just days ago. He was a traveler who loved books and always compared the world to them.
Suddenly, everything felt clearer. The edges of the crescent moon seemed sharper and the sound of the tide seemed closer and more surround than surreal. The world is what a book is not for there isn't any happily ever after here.
The traveler turned. "We're leaving." She said to her companion. The sudden action seemed to have either incapacitated Hermes ability of speech or the motorrad just did not feel like speaking out right then. The wooden platform began to creak and suddenly, the country did not seem as perfect as it once was.
She arrived at the northern gate. It looked exactly the same as the one she came in from except there were more guards, a lot more. Granny Sugars seemed to be waiting there and waved to Kino when she saw her approach.
"Leaving now are we Miss Kino?" She said.
"Yes. I was tempted to stay truth to be told but there's so much more out there I want to see. Besides, Hermes couldn't stand it here any longer." She added a joking tone to her last sentence.
"Hey!" the mottorad finally spoke. "You didn't have to tell the whole world that you know."
The old lady smiled at the bike and then back at Kino. "Well, shall we go?"
Kino was puzzled. "Are you escorting me out Granny Sugars?"
"Something like that."
They proceeded to the guardhouse and Granny Sugars went in. The translucent screen gave Kino a shadowy outline. First, the old woman talked with the guard there and laughed. After another set of conversation, the guard began to cry and hugged the lady, patting her back. He turned away and the gate open and Granny came back out to join Kino.
"What was that about?" Kino asked.
"Oh, I've decided to leave the country. I'm not young anymore and I don't wish to spend the last of my life cooped up in here. After all, I am a traveler."
"I thought you said countrymen aren't allowed to leave?" Hermes brought up. Kino just remembering it looked at Granny Sugars questioningly.
She smiled again. "We can't." They walked out and onto a shore lay with bodies. The same shore Kino came by months ago.
For some reason, Kino wasn't as surprised as she thought she should be. Some part of her had already expected this when Hermes had mentioned the beach of death. The trio continued walking a distance until they came to the edge of the field of the dead.
They all turned to face each other and the old lady said, "I guess this is where we part Miss Kino."
"Before we leave Granny Sugars, I have question." Kino said.
"I bet it's why." Granny replied to which Kino nodded. "The country believes that as long as everything stays the same, simple and without too much outside interference, they would be able to live in peace forever. They are afraid that if word of our country gets out, more and more people would come. That's why the countrymen aren't allowed to leave. Word of mouth travels faster than anything else on Earth you know."
"But what about you Granny?" Hermes asked.
"I don't like to die feeling trapped. Besides, my days are numbered anyway." They could hear the soft 'aim' command coming from the tower of the gate. "Well, Miss Kino, it has been nice meeting you. You reminded me of the beauty of the world."
The arrow flew through the air and went straight through old Granny Sugars' skull and the old lady fall to the sand, dead.
Kino stood there, staring at the body for awhile then turned and got onto her bike.
"Kino?" Hermes asked worried.
The traveler put on her goggles and took a deep breath. "Let's go Hermes." She started the engine and the two ride of back onto the forest path leaving a cloud of sand in their wake.