I don’t know what I was thinking when I left, but I do know I didn’t think everything through. That first night of walking went decently well, but by morning I had to stop to give my legs some rest and to eat. It took a few hours but I finally started moving again, my pace significantly slower with more breaks. I figured it would be fine since I’d no doubt hit the capitol soon but night fell again and worse still, no one had even passed me on the road so I couldn’t exactly ask for help, not that I would know how to anyways since I figured I was lucky Ma and Pa knew English in the first place. I tried walking through that night but during one of my breaks I ended up passing out against the tree I had used for support. The following morning I ran out of food and, still thinking I’d be fine, I set off again.
It wasn’t until late the following afternoon that someone finally passed me on the road. I didn’t notice at first, battling with dehydration, hunger, and fighting to stay upright whenever my legs gave out under me. I had barely made progress from where I woke up, shuffling my feet along, heavily leaning on my cane and squinting to keep my vision straight, that the only alert was their carriage flying past, leaving me in a cloud of dust. My lungs tightened and I started hacking, the force buckling my knees and sending me to the ground. I caught myself on my hands and knees, body shaking not only from the dust, but the impact with the ground as well. My mind was filled only with the buzzing of my ears and the pain in my body, eyes registering only the sky when I rolled over, the deep blue and sunlight adding to the registered pain.
It felt like years had passed as I lay there, heaving with my eyes closed, unable to handle the light, before I dully felt my arm being nudged. I tried prying my eyes opened, but gave up with a groan, deciding to simply roll my shoulder. My ears registered noise outside of the now booming ringing that consumed them, but what registered as words from a person’s mouth held no true meaning, making it extremely easy to ignore as I laid there. My arm was nudged again and I groaned, the vibrations in my throat causing pain that resulted in a full body coughing fit with the feeling of my lungs trying to escape my chest. My eyes finally managed to force their way open a crack, though they took a while to register that the blue staring back was a pair of eyes as opposed to the sky. The eyes widened after making contact with my own, and my eyes registered the buzz of a voice again, though the meaning remained lost. My eyes slid closed again, resulting in a few sharp jabs at my shoulder by the other being. This time I remained unresponsive, focusing more on breathing and clearing my head than anything else, but it felt like my mind was clogged with sap and oil, until my entire system was shocked by the feeling of being hit with cold liquid. My mouth opened in shock, the resulting gasp being rewarded with my lungs filling with water, causing another fit of coughing. The flow of liquid stopped and I forced my eyes open once more, this time wider.
I forced myself to sit, fighting with the wave of pain and nausea that accompanied the movement of my lower muscles, and was rewarded by a support being put against my back and a water skin held in front of my face. My throat constricted and I tried to bring my arms up, but my muscles protested and I groaned, upper body shaking. There was a chuckle next to my ear and the water skin was pressed against my lips, allowing my to drink. I refused to let myself stop, even when my chest tightened at the amount of liquid suddenly in my body. I only stopped when the water skin was pulled away, and my eyes followed its retreat, coming to rest upon the face of a young boy with vibrant blue hair and near translucent tan skin. His lips pulled into a smile, deep blue eyes squinting and crinkling at the corners. He opened his mouth and unfamiliar words came out, my brain still refusing to even try and understand any of it. I rotated my head in a mixture between a shake and a nod, going to stand up, though my knees buckled as soon as I put weight on them. The boy caught me, shaking his head before trying again to communicate with me, the words sounding slightly more familiar than before, but still foreign. I shook my head and the boy huffed, gesturing towards a riderless cart with weird, obviously impatient lizard goat looking things taking place of where horses would have usually been on Earth. The boy started leading me towards them, and I dug my feet into the ground as much as I could, surprised by the boy’s strength as he drug me a bit before stopping, looking at me expectantly. I looked around, unable to find my cane, which worried me as I wouldn’t be able to properly walk without it. The boy tugged at me again and I pulled away enough to show I wasn’t moving, but to where I was still being supported by him.
"My cane," I started, but shook my head, realizing the person probably had absolutely no idea what I was saying. To my surprise though his eyes light up and he nodded, pointing to the carriage. My hopes of him understanding died with that and I shook my head. "My cane, walking stick, uh, shit," I grumbled, trying to remember what it was Pa had always called it. "It starts with a v, no, a t. Tim… tom…" I groaned, shaking my head. "T something m something something itio. I swear it was a vowel." I ran through the options in my head, the remnants of the headache making it harder to focus on remembering the word. "Damn it, it was tewmroitio or something like that. I don’t know, do you understand that?" I asked, looking at the boy who looked puzzled for a bit before half-shrugging.
"Twomquirito." He tugged me towards the carriage again and I relented, allowing him to lead me to the driver’s seat. He made sure I was sitting stable before walking off, coming back with my cane in his hands. I sat up straighter, reaching out for it, but he pulled it back, giving me a stern look. He pointed at the carriage and I nodded.
“I’m not moving, trust me you are a saving grace.” He stared at me for a few beats before sitting next to me, placing my cane on the opposite of him before grabbing the reins attached to the lizard things, making a clicking sound with his mouth before barking out something, the lizards responding by starting to move, falling instantly in sync with each other.
I sat back and watched the road pass by, the beauty of the grassy terrain finally hitting. I found myself leaning to the edge of the seat, trying to get a closer look at the trees as we passed. The foliage reflected the sun in an almost gemstone manner, sparkling and shimmering as the angle of the light changed, changing the color from a sacramento green to an almost yellow green, the bark on the trunk ranging from hickory and gingerbread to a peanut, tawny and even a brunette mixture. The colors looked almost unreal paired with the sapphire sky, as if I was looking at a photograph as opposed to real life. We passed by grain-like stalks the color of ginger and I reached out, running my hand over the tops, which were shockingly soft. A laugh bubbled out of my throat, and I got a child-like glee out of touching the plants, the softness ticking my work hardened hands. I heard the boy let out a noise that sounded like a quiet chuckle, and I felt my face heat up at there being someone else around to witness my childish behavior. I pulled back and sat upright in my seat, eyes set forward on the dirt road.
The trip was quiet for a while, the only sounds being from the world around us and the grunts from the weird lizards. We hit a fork in the road and the lizards moved to go right but the boy barked a command, yanking the reins to the left. The lizards seemed to protest, but their feet followed their heads, going left. I looked between the boy and the lizards, with the boy looking ahead and possibly annoyed at the lizards instance, but he held the reins tighter now than he had the rest of the trip. The lizards on the other hand kept trying to change directions, but were strangely unable to go a different direction than their heads were facing. The boy looked at me and shrugged, saying something I couldn’t understand but gestured at the lizards in a way that made me think it was about them. I shrugged and he laughed, turning back to watching the road as the trees nearby began to clump tighter together, the higher branched reaching over the path in a dome-like pattern. I looked in amazement, studying the patterns the branches made as they laced together. Some of the branches stretched distances that seemed impossible if not for the support of the other trees, and they all seemed to flourish together. I tilted my head up, watching as we passed between dark patches and spots where the sun shone through, warming my face and temporarily blinding me every time, but I couldn’t find it in me to care, simply enjoying being surrounded by more nature than I ever thought possible.
On the ship we were taught about how Earth was, how we as a species demolished it in greed. Classes regularly took trips to the nursery to try their hand at caring for the plants there, but it was a limited space with just enough to keep the ship fed and oxygenated. The trees were short and uniform to keep waste down, and to make harvest easier, bearing fruit systematically so that there was a group of trees able to be harvested at all times. None of the branches overlapped and the vine plants were kept growing vertical to allow easy access. It was completely different from how wild everything grew in the seemingly endless expanse of trees around the road. None of the trees seemed to have any fruit on them, and the lower plants grew everywhere, some lying over the road. It was systemless and wild, but in the same way, it made sense. The lower plants flourished under the cover of the trees but was scarce outside of the encasement, meaning they didn’t get along with the sun very well. I tried to identify any of the plants but they all seemed foreign, which didn’t actually surprise me.
I looked over at the boy to find he was watching me, and he smiled, holding a lumpy, round violet fruit the size of my palm out to me. I tentatively took it, rolling it in my hands to test the firmness of it. The boy watched, seeming amused as he pulled out a second one, holding it in one hand as if he wanted to see what I did with it first. His waiting annoyed me, but I ignored him, going back to inspecting the fruit, which was firm, but had a velvety skin. I dug my nails into it, the skin taking a bit of pressure to break, but the inside gave quickly and easily, hands becoming quickly covered in a sticky blue juice. Soon after the fruit was punctured, the sweet smell of it filled my nose, the smell of fruit sugar delightful. I took a bit of the fruit, the juice instantly dripping down my chin, and I had to hold my other hand underneath, causing the boy to laugh. The skin was tart, the fuzz an odd texture in my mouth, but the insides were sweet and slightly crunchy, tasting similar to a plum but feeling more like a bean. I smiled, taking another bite as the boy took his own, though he bit from the top, making the fruit more of a bowl. I followed his lead, turning the fruit so that where I bit was on top and the boy nodded, continuing to eat the fruit but keeping the opening at the top, and I followed suit.
The fruit was more similar to a plum than originally thought, even containing a pit that the boy tossed ahead of the lizards, who upon reaching it, temporarily fought over it, with the one on the right winning the battle. The boy held his hand out to me and I handed him the pit, watching as he disposed of it in the same manner, but this time the right looked away, easily allowing the left to take the pit.
We sat quietly for a while longer, sharing more of the fruit before the trees finally broke, a large castle poking over the wall surrounding it, and I couldn’t help but stare. Never in my wildest dreams could I possibly imagine seeing a place that was so magnificent and huge. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what lay beyond the walls, and I looked over at the boy who smiled at me, gesturing towards the palace.
"Handuxo quke Eskyae."