1

The soil ground of the forest beside the shore felt damp under my naked feet. I was walking into the forest towards the way the black cat ran away to. The sky was getting darker but my eyes could see everything well inside the dark. I have walked for a long way, from night to day, but the cat is no where to be seen. I began to wonder if the cat I saw was just a hallucination but I denied that thought immediately. The loneliness I felt after the cat left felt too real.

Suddenly, my foot stepped into something softer than the soil ground of the forest and something instantly wrapped around my arms and lifted me up from the ground. I glanced at where the roots wrapped around my arm came from and saw a gigantic man-eating flower-shaped plant. Its mouth with layers of sharp teeth opened, ready to put me into it as its meal. I gave the plant a kick with my mechanic right leg and the plant gave out a yelping sound as if in pain and its roots dropped me back to the ground. I ran away quickly from it, thinking that plants in this generation has evolved a lot compared to the last time I saw them. Before I realized, I fell down into a deep hole in the ground and hit my head in the process. I heard voices whispering words to each other above the hole. And that was before I lost my consciousness.

* * *

Where was I? I was walking alone in total blackness. I heard sounds of bells chiming near me. In front of me appeared a black cat, the same one I saw on the shore. I spread my arms open welcoming it to come to me. It turned away from me and ran into a gigantic man-eating flower. The flower gnawed on the cat with its teeth. The cat's blood dripped down from the mouth of the flower. The instant I realized I was dreaming, my eyes opened. I could feel the movement of the carriage I am inside of. I glanced at the front of the carriage. It is led by two horses with two men driving them. My hands and feet were tied up with vinyl plastic. There was another human being in the carriage that is being tied up like me.

"You woke up," the girl said, "You've fainted for hours."

"Do you know what they are going to do to us?" I asked her.

"For me, they'll sell me to the slave market. As for you, they'll probably take off your robot limbs to sell for a good price first before taking you to slave market. Anything technology-related stuff here makes a good price for selling," she said in a way that makes you feel like she's used to these things already.

I didn't get up from the shore to get my limbs taken off from me to sell, I thought. I started searching for something sharp in the carriage to cut off the annoying vinyl plastic. The only thing sharp in the carriage happened to be a splinter on the edge of the seat. There's got to be something, I thought. I looked out to the two men driving the carriage. One of them have a glass bottle of beer at one hand.

"You think I haven't tried looking for anything to cut these off? There's nothing in here that can do that," the girl said after she noticed that I was searching for something.

"I hear ya' talking! You girls plan to do anything, you'll know what I'll do to you! You'll become like this!" the man holding the bottle of glass said and then raised his hand and threw his bottle into the carriage. It broke into pieces inside the carriage. The man turned back to the horses' side.

I silently got a piece of broken glass and started rubbing it against the vinyl plastic. The girl stared at me. After I got my hands free, the girl picked up a glass piece too and did the same. It didn't take too long before both of us got ourselves free.

"Count on three then jump,' I said quietly.

I held up three fingers and counted them down to one before jumping off the carriage with the girl. We both fell hard onto the ground. Some of our skin must be wounded but we didn't care much because we both started running from the two men.

"Wait!" the girl said. Her knee was injured severely and blood was dripping out from her wound. I turned to her and held her up. We ran to where there were tall bushes so that we wouldn't be seen easily and ducked inside the bushes.

"Where are they?" the taller one of the two men said.

"Somewhere. They can't be far," the shorter one answered.

A snake slithered up next to the girl beside me. The girl saw the snake and almost let out a yelp.

"They're over there!" one of the men yelled and pointed to where the girl and I were.

Instantly, I ran out of the bushes and ran to the opposite side of the girl. Both men ran after me to the other side. Why did I do something so stupid? To save another person instead of saving myself first, I thought. I ran with all my might to a place that I don't even know where it heads to. I don't know where the two men are already but I just kept running until I can't see them. I found myself near the opening of a cave. Hands came out from the cave opening and grabbed me from behind. The two men came out from the cave and pinned me down onto the ground. The taller one slapped me hard on the face.

"Wouldn't guess we would be here, eh?" the shorter man said, "We know this place the best. I bet you are the first time coming around here."

"Let me go," I said calmly.

Both men laughed. "You wish!" the taller one said.

If a fight is what they want, then a fight I would give them, I thought. But before I even moved my body to free myself of their grip, one other person from the cave moved like the wind and cut their throats with a piece of sharp obsidian. The two men's eyes are still wide open in awe as if they still didn't know that their last minutes of life has come to them. Blood spilled out from their necks and then both dropped to the ground. My eyes flew over to the stranger who just helped me kill the men. He was tall, has dark hair, and his facial structures were deep. One of those faces that would make any women say "yes" to his requests. Any women but me.

"Thanks,"I said.

He glanced over to me and said, "You don't need to. I didn't do it for you."

"Then why did you kill them?" I asked.

"They saw something they're not supposed to," he said.

The next moment, his obsidian is placed in front of my neck.

"And did you see what they saw?" his deep voice said very closely to my ears which sent chills down my spine.

"No, I didn't see anything," I honestly answered.

He looked deep into my eyes as if trying to search for the truth inside of my mind then let go of the obsidian on my neck.

"Next time, try not to wander around anywhere here by yourself. Girls like you are the perfect aim for slavery trade in this region. Take care," he said.

"I will," I said. I wanted to ask him if he had seen a black cat around here but, before I did, he already left off to somewhere else in the woods.

I followed the road in the woods to a place I'm not familiar with. In fact, I am not familiar with the whole world in this generation except for the shore which I lied on for hundreds of years. Near one side of the road, there is a small two story house-like building. On the side of its door, there is a sign that read "Bonnet's Restaurant". On the bottom of it, there is a paper sticked to the wall which read "Hiring". The door of the restaurant opened and a girl came out of it. The same girl who ran away from the slavery trade with me hours ago. She threw a bag of garbage in her hand to a garbage can on the side of the restaurant. She noticed me on the road, her face brightened up a bit and she ran towards me.

"Hey, I'm so glad you're fine. How are you doing?" she said with a smile on her face.

"I'm okay. I've been looking for a black cat before I got kidnapped. Have you seen one around?" I asked.

"A cat? No, I don't remember seeing one. Is yours missing?" she said.

"Yeah," I replied. I didn't want to say too much about myself.

"Why don't you come inside? I'll make you some tea," she said.

"Okay, thanks," I said.

I haven't eaten or drunk anything for a long time and that long time I meant hundreds of years. Because I am half robotic, I don't need to eat or drink to live but I can still digest them, even though they won't do me any good or bad.

The building seems to be a restaurant on the ground floor and home on the second floor. Most of the customers of the restaurant are travelers having a break at the restaurant.

"I'm Cody. What's your name?" Cody asked me. Her brown eyes looking curiously at me.

I saw a sign hanged on the door of the restaurant that read: "Open till 2 A.M.". From 2 A.M., I got the name Zan.

"Zan. My name is Zan," I told her.

"So where are you from? Please sit," she asked me as she placed a cup of tea on a table. I settled myself on a chair next to it.

"From the shore," I said.

"The shore side? But that's the Restricted Zone. No humans are supposed to be there except...," she said. Her eyes wandered to my mechanic arm then she understood and said, "Sorry."

I said it was okay and asked her to tell me more about the world now. According to Cody, the place that I lied on for hundreds of years is a landfill to throw away all sorts of technology waste, like robots that no one needs. The forest around it was full of dangerous living things planted there on purpose to prevent people to go into the landfill, but sometimes there are a small amount of people who still goes into the restricted zone to steal the technology waste in it to sell for a good price. She said that the world was divided into 5 zones. Only one of the zones is allowed to have anything technology-related and only people from the same bloodlines can live in it, the other four has no technology at all and has to do everything by their own hands. The zone having all the technology is called Zone 5 and the rest Zone 1, Zone 2, Zone 3, and Zone 4. This restaurant is located in Zone 4 and the Restricted Zone belongs to Zone 5 but was not in Zone 5.

As if she knew that I didn't want to talk about myself, she didn't ask too much about me but said a lot about herself. She told me that restaurant is run by her family which consists of her parents and a little brother and that the day she got kidnapped was when she was curious about the woods and went into it for a little adventure. They rent rooms on the second floor to travelers sometimes but only to those that they trust. Her little brother came down from upstairs, yawning and rubbing his eye. He was about 5 years old and had brown hair like her sister does.

"Who are you?" he asked me when he saw me.

"I'm Zan. How are you?"

"Hi, Zan. I'm fine. You are so pretty." he said and hid behind his sister's legs shyly.

I smiled unconsciously. What a cute kid, I thought.

"You should smile more. You look prettier when you smile, " Cody said.

"Are you hiring someone?" I asked.

"Yeah, we're looking for some helper to help with the kitchen and serve the customers," said Cody.

"Can I take the job? I don't need much money paid but I just want to find a place to live in at the moment," I said.

"Of course you can. You saved my life back there. If you need any other help just ask, we'll be glad to help you. You're hired," said Cody.

After a while, Cody took me upstairs to the room available for me. It's small but neat enough to live in. There are three empty rooms left for travelers. There aren't many travelers around here so the job is pretty leisure. Cody's parents came back from outside and I greeted them after Cody introduced me to them. Three weeks of working in this restaurant has passed. Cody's family has been warm and welcoming. They treated me like a part of their family. Time felt fast to pass while being with them. I have not given up on finding the black cat. I heard a cry downstairs while I was absorbed in my own thoughts. The voice was Danny's, Cody's little brother. I went downstairs to see what happened and saw Danny holding his own arm and a kettle with boiling water in it was on the ground. Auntie Sarah, Cody's mother, went next to Danny with a first aid kit and put on some purple medicine onto Danny's reddened arm. Danny was still crying out loud.

"Oh, poor Danny. It hurts, huh? Auntie Sarah said while hugging her son.

"It hurts, it hurts, it hurts," Danny cried.

"Well, I know a magic that could make the pain go away," Auntie Sarah said then she leaned down and gave Danny a kiss on the cheek. "Better?"

Danny nodded his head and sniffed back his cry while Auntie Sarah wrapped some gauze around his arm.

"Is Danny alright?" I asked.

"Oh yeah, he's okay. The wound isn't too serious so we don't need to go to the doctor yet," said Auntie Sarah.

"I see. Get well soon, Danny," I said.

"I want Zan to make my pain go away too," said Danny.

"You are getting ridiculous now, Dan," said his mother.

"It's alright. Wouldn't hurt anyone," I said. Then I went to Danny and pecked him on his little cheek. "May all the pain go away."

"Yay, it doesn't hurt anymore. Thanks to mom and Zan," said Danny.

"Can't stand you anymore," said Auntie Sarah as she laughed.

To make myself busy, I went to the trash can in the kitchen and took out the garbage bag inside of it, just like every other morning. I opened the restaurant door and went outside to throw the garbage bag into the other garbage can outside of the restaurant. My eye caught something moving in the bushes not far away from the restaurant.

"Who's there?" I said aloud.

I moved towards the bushes but didn't see anyone there. I moved my gaze downwards and saw a black cat with a red ribbon around its neck. There is a long wooden splinter on its leg and the cat just lied on the ground as if unconscious. My heart was beating faster and faster. This cat was the same one as the first living thing I had seen with my own eyes back in the shore. Quickly, I went back inside the restaurant to get the first aid kit and went back to the cat. The splinter cut deep into its leg and slowly, I tried to pull it out of its leg.

"Meow," the cat called out. It woke up and looked at me cautiously.

"I'm sorry if I hurt you. I promise it won't take long," I said, and pulled out the splinter. Blood trickled down from its leg. Immediately, I sanitized the wound with the medicine from the first aid kit and wrapped the gauze around its leg. The cat looks like it's in pain and kept meowing softly. I didn't want it too feel painful so I brought its head to my lips and gave it a kiss on the head, just like how Auntie Sarah made Danny's pain go away.

Suddenly, dreamy electric blue light flashed out from the cat and blinded my eyes for a while. I raised my hands to block the light from my eyes. My eyes peeked out at the cat a little and saw its front legs transforming into longer human arms and hind legs into human legs. Standing before me is a fully grown up human being instead of the black cat that I looked for. Or rather, in simpler words, the cat has just turned into a fully grown human being.

The thing is, I recognize this person, out of the few people I have met after I got up from the shore. He looked the same as the man who killed the two kidnappers before I did.