The damp, moldy air was inescapable, just as many things in her universe. She breezed the underbrush, a cloth satchel bouncing along her side. A girl, no less of age sixteen, rested at the thinning forest edge. She wiped the sweat off her brow with thin, bony hands, eyeing her destination.
Yes, indeed the inescapable had come.
The bright aura of the sunset began to dim, and the girl watched as shadows slowly crept into the forest. When the girl, after patiently observing, saw it safe, she bolted through the remaining bushes and trees to find the greenery abruptly halt right where she was standing. A lonely wind whistled through eroded rocks and hollowed trunks, and infuriated the thin dust that could have been moist soil long ago.
The girl shielded her eyes from the dust, catching glimpse of what she had sought. The sundown chased her as she attempted to run the next couple miles. The worn cloth satchel continued to persuade her to ignore the burning in her legs. The pain would always subside, after all, but her purpose would not.
The passage of time was almost nonexistent in this strange place. A place she could never full heartedly accept. Nevertheless, her life was strapped here; her life was bounded to the past it used to be. In her mind, it existed just as in the ancient fables, supposedly non-canon historical documents of a much different, eonic world. The stories would excite the young ones, perhaps even liven the elderly's lives, but the popularity was never permanent. It would soon blow away, just as the serrated rock on the ground. Then, the atmosphere would return to normality, a fixed, set, almost ritualistic process of thinking.
But she could never comply.
The children looked up to her as a person of bravery and interest, and as a supplier of rarities from beyond village borders. Some elders looked down on her, told her that her emotion had blinded her into false faith. She was someone that always seemed to stand out; yet she lived so apart from the reality of others, she, in a weird way, could blend in. If only that mattered when it came to her mindset goals.
The female came to see faint shimmers in the distance, and she knew she was almost safe. A trickling sound reached her ears, and her parched, dry lips intensified in their irritating sting. The stream. It was hot, gritty water, but her deprived body lavished every sip of it. She decided not to stop for a rest. No, her throat could wait. This could not. The small stream continued northeast with her, and the scenery slightly became less desolate. Grass, the all-resilient plant, was growing in scattered bundles. Every now and then, a wildflower, rare as it would be, would bloom alongside the stream bed. Sounds of home could finally be heard. She could hear mothers whipping their children, and their responsive wails of boredom and pain. The village hens ran amuck aimlessly from the rowdy toddlers that chased them. The sizzle of the village bonfire was always welcoming, along with few people that tended to it constantly. She was here. The girl exhaustedly collapsed in front of the bonfire. A couple maidens stopped their duties to offer her cups of water, which she graciously accepted. But it was no quicker that she quaffed the water than she headed straight for the Holy Place, leaving the maidens confused.
The Holy Place was several hundred years old. It was originally made of wood, but that had long decayed. It had been remodeled with layers of hardened mud a few decades back. While the physical restoration was not exactly possible, the spiritual restoration had been upheld for ages. The old, cracked mud smelled of un-natural combinations.
The girl exploded through the building, startling some children, and adults with them. She ran to the back of the building, pounding on the wooden door.
"M-Mim I say! Why the girl returns!" An aged man around the age of forty greeted her.
"A-haa…A-haa…Azen…I…," the girl began, out of breath.
"Come inside, child." She did so.
The room was simple, with a table and chairs weaved of thick cloth and dead tree branches. Few adults sat around the table.
"Ah, if it isn't Mimmie the fowl, always running around pointlessly." A snarky elderly man commented.
"Hush Zeus." An even older woman reprimanded. "Mim does more than most adults in Linkin. That most definitely includes you."
The girl, sixteen years of age and named Mim, stood quietly before the Elders of Linkin Village. She had intense brown eyes, matching her dark brown hair.
Mim fumbled around in the satchel by her side. The Elders tilted their heads, anxiously awaiting whatever was the item to come out. She pulled out a bag of brown soil. It was soft to the touch, and was harvested from the Great Basin several miles south.
"See Zeus? She brought us more minerals from the Great Basin. It's thanks to her Azen can continue his farming." The old woman pointed out.
Mim quickly popped a small red dot into her mouth. It almost went un-noticed. Almost.
"That thieving misfit is hoarding food!" Zeus uproared in his crackly, dry voice.
"Child." The eldest woman probed after rolling her eyes annoyed at Zeus. "What 're you hiding?"
Mim's eyes narrowed towards Zeus "Oh, I'm not hiding anything, Alyssa. Azen shared some of his Orajek berries with me."
All eyes darted towards the quiet farmer in the corner. "No fret, Madam." His quiet voice spoke. "It was my own personal portions to which I granted her."
Mim snuck a sly smile towards the man, and he returned the favor.
"Now then. Down to business." Alyssa spoke. "What news do you bring to us so important that you burst through our door so?"
The girl's cheeks burned a little redder, from her embarrassment and flushed physiology. However, her face turned grave again as she stared the Elders down.
"The Elites. They're closing in. I saw their flagship while I was foraging in the Great Forest. I think they've discovered our existence. Not only do we secretly compete for resources with them, but soon they'll send Legioneers out here…and send everyone away."
Some Elders allowed fear into their composures. Zeus scoffed, laughing best his ancient body could.
"We take advice from a child?"
"Advice that could save your sorry ass, mind you." Azen randomly spoke up.
The old man silenced.
There was some muttering among the Elders.
"Child." Alyssa commanded. Go assist elsewhere. We must converse alone."
Mim politely bowed and exited the room. She dug in her satchel for more berries, slowly passing by mothers and children studying the Elders' ancient Holy Books.
"Do you really think the Elites are closing in on us? Is it true Legionizing is public entertainment in the Hiti Republic? Is it true Legionized people never remember their past?"
All these kinds of questions and more echoed in the village, as well as in her mind.
Mim headed towards the northwest section of the village, a place where trees looked more alive, and the grass seemed taller. She climbed up an aged tree, viewing the night sky. The stars seemed like super-powered beings, high and above the rest who lived below, capable of helping those in need, but staying up in their cosmo thrones instead. The quizzical topics wandered aimlessly in her head, as she worried about the fate of Linkin. The world seemed like an in-escapable game played by the beings in the cosmos. Yes, the in-escapable was approaching. But it was, to her, a more terrifying experience than the Elite's flagships.
"…And they just disappear like that…" she whispered to herself.
"I'd like to know what you're talking about."
Mim almost fell from the tree from her shock.
The voice was low and attractive. She looked around, but could see no one.
"I'm right here." Mim turned once more to see a young man sitting on a higher branch above her.
"You don't seem very observant. I've been here the whole time." A spark of annoyance rose inside her.
This guy was not a villager. His accent was far too defined, too proper. And educated.
"Who are you? Are you an Elite's spy?!" she defensively questioned.
"Hahaha. An Elite spy? I don't even know anyone from the Hiti Republic. They don't seem very fun to be apart of, anyhow."
Mim positioned herself for escape.
"…So. You gonna explain the situation to me?"
Take aback, she shot an angry glare upwards, but the expression was concealed with night.
"Okay. So you're mad. You probably won't say. Too bad. I was bored."
"What's your name? How'd you get here? Are you…are you a Hiti fugitive?"
"Woah now babe. One at a time is what I can answer. But…you're not a beat-around-the-bush kinda girl. You demand answers. I like that."
Mim wished the mysterious boy could see the angry disbelief in her face. But she was quiet.
"…But I'll follow your way of doing things. Name's Karro. K-A-R-R-O. Didn't know if this region's people were educated or not…"
"I got here by foot. And no. I'm not a runaway. Well…I'm running. But not away from anything. More like running towards something."
"…..Do you need to stay somewhere?" Mim's voice leaked sympathy for moment's notice.
"Heh. You're emotions change so quickly. You're interesting. What's your name?"
"Do you need somewhere to stay?" Her voice grew impatient.
"Name?" he further intruded.
Out of nowhere, the young man landed in front of her shining a strange light in her face. She squinted. He was around her age. He had a defined, muscled body; however, he was still tall and lanky, with jet black hair just touching his eyes. She cursed herself for thinking he was handsome.
"What, Mim? It's a flashlight. You've never seen one before?"
"You're pretty cute."
Her face flooded red.
"Who the heck do you think you are?!" The young man's face appeared rather amused.
"So many people have died. But you, Mim, have stayed alive."
What was that supposed to mean? Of course she was alive.
"Well Mim, I have other...things to attend to. I suggest you stay away from the forest. The Hitian Elites will have stationed it by sunrise."
Mim narrowed her eyes. "Get away from me."
Karro let out a calm, short laugh. "You...are amazing."
And just like that, he disappeared.