Chapter 3: Up The Coast
There was a strong headwind slowing the ship down, and Cylas caught up to it with ease. He grabbed onto some netting along the side of the boat and finally regained his breath. Upon turning his head around, Cylas shivered. The view of the Docks was one he had never seen before, and every second it grew further away. He was quite uncomfortable hanging there dripping with cold ocean water and didn't dwell on the thought of it. The old rope he clung to was frayed and it wasn't long before his forearms became sore. He knew it wouldn't be safe to climb onto the deck, even though there were no voices or even footsteps coming from above.
The ship was a common speedboat. A few black numbers and letters were painted on the side, with a sort of golden crest above them. Cylas slowly made his way higher up the net, trying to stay quiet. He lifted himself just enough to peer over the edge. The boat wasn't very large, as it was made for one person. There wasn't much to look at other than a few boxes scattered about. A tiny control room was at the far end and he couldn't tell if anyone was inside. Without much choice, Cylas pulled himself over the edge and dove behind one of the crates. He crouched in the same position for quite a while, waiting for something to happen, though he was unsure just what.
At last Mr. Chaverse emerged from below the deck. A small set of stairs in the middle of the ship led below to a storage compartment. Cylas froze as he feared being discovered, yet there was really no chance of it. The man walked over to the bow and continued into the control room.
Time passed as slow as ever, leading Cylas to wonder how long this trip was going to take. Night came and he still hadn't eaten. Staring across the dark sea grew boring very quickly. The view never changed, except for one time when Cylas thought he noticed a small light not too far off. Maybe it was another ship. He turned the other way, trying not to think about it or the growling of his stomach. It finally reached a point where Cylas was almost positive that Mr. Chaverse was not paying attention, and even if he was, Cylas was hungry enough to risk moving below the deck. They had to be nearing the mainland soon, and then there would be no turning back.
After rummaging through some boxes and cabinets for a few minutes his search became careless. He stopped replacing things neatly the way they had been and made quite a commotion. Then he saw it. In the back corner of the room, not very obvious due to the lack of light, was a refrigerator. Cylas ripped the door open to find three plastic containers neatly sealed in some sort of wrapping. Along the wall of the refrigerator there were several soda cans aligned. Now that his search was over he came back to his senses and glanced over his shoulder. Will he notice if one of three meals and a soda are gone? Most likely. But there's really no choice.
Cylas took one of the containers, the three of which were identical, and his selection of soda. He returned to his spot at the stern of the ship to eat. For the rest of his life he would attest to the fact that it was the best meal he ever ate. It was simple, some pasta salad, yet it tasted surprisingly perfect and at that moment was just the thing he needed. And so he sat with the moonlight, eating and anticipating his arrival in Mizela.
Cylas fell asleep without much difficulty, but kept waking every so often. He didn't enjoy boating much. One of the few weaknesses of Cylas Trelm was his tendency towards seasickness. Lights from the mainland could now be seen in the distance, though it appeared that the ship was simply traveling along the coast for the time being.
One time when he was trying to fall back asleep, Cylas felt sure that someone else was there, watching him. He rolled over to make sure that it was no more than the paranoia of his wandering mind. The sight he found made his heart skip a beat. A dark figure was leaning against the railing, staring straight at him.
Cylas slowly inched backwards, terrified and breathing fast. The man had his arms crossed and his face, which was clearly not that of Mr. Chaverse, angled downward menacingly. His back was to the moon, leaving a mysterious silhouette. The most intimidating part about him was his eyes. They seemed to glow brighter than they should be given the amount of light present. The two glowing rings in the darkness pierced into Cylas's soul.
It was clear that the man wasn't going to speak after a minute of silence passed. Cylas found the courage to whisper, "Who are you?"
A grizzly voice replied, "Considering that I'm not the one hiding on the back of a ship on which I'm not welcome, I should be asking you that question."
Cylas didn't reply. The man in turn said, "Call me Dryst."
"And what are you doing here?"
"Hitching a ride to Mizela."
"And what are you planning on doing once you get there?"
"I want a job at the company Mr. Chaverse works for." Dryst leaned forward at this. He pulled out a match and lit it in front of his face. He had dark brown hair and a short bristly beard, giving him a rugged appearance. Strangely, his shirt seemed to be soaking wet.
"What makes you think they'll hire you?"
"I'm not sure. I think it's a special kind of company. I don't think they want to just hire any average person who comes from any old place. They want something else. And whatever it is, I have it. I'll pass whatever tests they want me to take."
Dryst smiled and gave a weak laugh. "Maybe I underestimated you."
"People often do."
"And if you fail?"
"Mizela's a big country. I can find somewhere else."
Dryst nodded with a thin smile. Curiously, Cylas continued. "You wouldn't happen to be involved with the company, would you?"
"No, I'm sorry. But I like you, Cylas. You remind me of myself when I was younger. Impress me, go this company you seek. I'll give you a tip for if you face any trouble getting in. Let me think…" He ran his hands through his wet hair for a moment and finally said, "Ah! Listen to me carefully now. Remember what I'm about to tell you word for word!"
"Good. Now if I've any advice for you, it's that one can accomplish anything they put their mind to."
"No, let me say it again: If I've any advicefor you, it's that one can accomplish anything they put their mind to."
"Thanks," Cylas said, a bit confused. "So where do you come from? You don't work for them?"
"No. Many wonder about me. I travel alone, you see. Always alone. I don't really come from anywhere, always traveling. Underwater, of course, because no one ever looks there, and they will never catch me there either. People always think to look on the ground or in the sky. It's silly, really. My home, if I were to go there, is in a land far away. In Farland, to be exact!" He laughed and glanced at his wristwatch. "As a matter of fact, I should be heading on now. I'm sure I'll see you again someday Cylas." Without missing a beat, he produced a sort of mask from out of nowhere, pulled it over his head, and jumped over the side of the boat into the sea once more. Cylas watched a glowing object speed away underwater. Only one small light protruded from the surface, just the one he had seen before.
It was early in the morning when land he first laid eyes on the shore. Cylas had slept on and off throughout the night and occasionally glanced ahead to see if anything was happening. One time he awoke to see Mr. Chaverse standing, the first time he had been in many hours. His back was to Cylas as he gazed longingly into the distance. Cylas squinted his eyes to see for himself, but had to duck behind a crate as Mr. Chaverse turned around to go back in the control room. Within an hour they began to approach the shore. Cylas had made up his mind a while ago that he would jump ship before they docked. He wanted to do it far enough out that he would not be seen, yet he did not want to lose Mr. Chaverse in the time that he was swimming in.
After waiting for the ship to get sufficiently close, Cylas was able to make out the bay clearer. "Perfect," he whispered, a smile spreading across his face. It was an amazing sight, the many boats parked in the inlet, and each of the buildings along the waterfront, including the little beach shacks, were seemingly greater than any in all of Loneland. Before he realized it, they had nearly pulled in. Without thinking twice he dove over the side, keeping his limbs vertical to avoid making a loud splash.
Cylas stayed under water as long as possible in case Mr. Chaverse noticed anything. He was capable of holding his breath for a remarkably long period of time, and by the time he came up the ship was nowhere near. It wouldn't be long before it docked and Mr. Chaverse left the area, so he began to do a quick breast stroke, trying not to draw too much attention to himself.
To his surprise, Cylas reached the shore at about the same time as the ship. He looked up at the rocks along the edge, the first part of that land he would ever touch. He reached up and hoisted himself out of the water. After climbing all the way he came out in a small patch of trees, for he had made sure not to go near the dock where he would be seen. He smiled, thankful for his safe arrival and reveling in a moment he had always dreamed of. The ground became less rocky and consisted more of sand and dirt the further into the trees he went. Eventually it came out to a deserted dirt road. Cylas walked down it, keeping to the side in case he saw anyone. A little ways off the road every so often were some massive houses that he wished he could look at closer.
In no time he reached the entrance to the docks. A large wooden sign read "Grey's Wharf." Cylas ducked into the bushes to wait for Mr. Chaverse to leave. As he waited Cylas took in his surroundings. The air was cool, yet much warmer than in Loneland to the south. He wrung out his soggy black hat and didn't dare check on the status of his poor wallet. There wasn't much to look at there aside from seaside flora, but it was still interesting to him. He began to wonder what sort of animals inhabited the area. Cylas thought back to what he had learned in school and seemed to remember hearing that there weren't many animals left in Mizela anymore, mostly small harmless ones.
As he looked out of the bay, it was clear that they were somewhat inland. Across the cove, past the many fishing boats in between, the land wrapped back around along the southern shore. Their exact location within Mizela was a mystery to him. Weren't they supposed to be heading to the city? Perhaps Cylas had expected too much.
Mr. Chaverse emerged at last, striding down the road in the direction of the few buildings in sight. Apprehensively, Cylas followed. About a mile away, around the corner, appeared a small train station. Crowds of people swarmed around it, coming from who knows where. All of the human traffic for miles around must have been centered at this one location. A train was evidently prepared for departure, one that the majority of the people present planned on boarding. From a distance, Cylas watched Chaverse step into the queue. He knew his next objective: get on the train.
As Cylas posted himself at the back of the train, the only thing standing between him and the last car was a flimsy wooden railing, which only opened at the entrances to the passenger cars. A lone guard prowled the area, in search of people like Cylas trying to sneak on. Entering the back door would be a foolhardy idea, as it was nearly inaccessible and potentially locked. That left very few options. He approached the door to an arbitrary car and got in the line of people boarding it. They brandished their tickets mockingly. Cylas could have attempted to buy one, though it would be quite risky, given that he had a limited amount of money, and time. The line moved quickly, and at last the lady in front of him was showing her ticket to the man at the door. Seizing his last opportunity, Cylas bolted past them into the car. Calls of, "Hey! Get back here!" followed him down the aisle, but he never turned around. Upon reaching the end of the car, he opened the door and continued toward the back of the train.
No one chased him at that point, leading him to stop and ponder where to hide. Other than taking a seat, the only place to go was out the back door. As there would most likely be ticket checks amongst the people sitting, the decision was clear. Cylas slid open the back door of the train, a few wandering eyes of passengers following him. "Just getting a breath of fresh air," he assured them as he exited. Once standing in the back, he immediately climbed the ladder onto the roof of the train, his reasons unclear to even himself. Not long after, they disembarked.
If it wasn't for the protrusions in the top of the train that made convenient handles, Cylas would most certainly have been flung off the roof. They flew through the countryside at incredible speed, through mountains, forests, and small towns scattered about. Freezing wind ripped at his face, yet it was an incredible experience nonetheless. For some hours, he watched the land he had always dreamed of visiting rush past his eyes. Riding northeast, darkness began to set in. Cylas turned around to face the direction of his home. The beautiful orange sunset stared back at him, not only marking the end of the day, but the end of his time in Loneland. By the time it was night, Cylas was half asleep, his hunger and exhaustion taking the best of him. His mouth had never been so dry, and probably never would be again as long as he lived. If they didn't get to their destination soon, he might not make it.
At last a glowing spectrum in the distance woke him from his daze. Cylas leaned up and gasped in disbelief. The city before him was greater than anything he could imagine. Towers were ten times as high as any he had ever seen. Cars flew down eight-lane highways. This city must have been home to more than a million people. For several minutes, Cylas did nothing but stare, mouth agape, questioning if what he was looking at was real or not. The train pulled into a little station on the outskirts. Cylas clambered down the ladder he had ascended to reach his hiding place, this time with much greater difficulty. His arms were nearly useless, and his whole body ached. At the bottom, he sluggishly crawled over the railing onto the platform. Many people looked onward, but that didn't matter anymore. He hobbled away from the crowd and leaned against a wall aside from the chaos of people leaving. His mind was intent upon finding two things: Chaverse and food.
Everyone in the bustling crowd seemed to know exactly where they were going and wasted no time getting there. Feeble as can be, Cylas found himself pushed vigorously back and forth and eventually herded through a set of turnstiles and down a corridor that exited the station. He stood on the tips of his toes searching hopelessly for a familiar face. When the hordes of passengers began to thin out, the lone Lonelander was extricated from the rest as he was thrown to the ground. He rolled over onto his stomach, looking down a road that evidently led into the city. Chaverse was nowhere to be seen. For the moment, all thoughts of the man escaped Cylas's mind and he had eyes for one thing only.
Above his head, on a magnificent arching sign, read the words: WELCOME TO ALTINE, CENTER OF THE WORLD.