Today was a beautiful day. Clouds loomed over us but posed no sign of rain, and the sun shone brilliantly unto the land. Its rays made the water in the river sparkle like small diamonds flowing through the forest. A gentle breezes passes through my bare torso, and my clothes, hanging on the drying rack, blows calmly with the wind. I couldn’t help but smile and marvel and the wondrous day we were blessed with. It could only mean good things were ahead of us on this journey.
“What’s so funny?” a feminine voice from behind me asks. I turn to see Coja, a red haired girl I’ve known since I was a toddler, lying down on the side of the hill with her legs pointing upwards, and her head pointing down. She looks at me with a quizzical face.
“It’s nothing.” I replied “We just don’t get much time look around, and I just kind of just appreciate these quiet moments.”
“Look around?” she said, her voice sounding slightly annoyed, “That’s all we can do, Strado! We walk from one place to the next, going from this-a-way, to that-a-way. Not much to do but look around.”
“That’s not what I...forget it.” I was a bit at her for saying that. It was clear to me she wasn’t much in the mood to admire the scenery, and explaining what it meant to me personally would be meaningless. She’s not the emotional or symbolic type. No, Coja was always the kind of girl who couldn’t really bear the thought of sticking to one place for very long. A natural adventurer. She would never be able to understand just what made this so special to me. We had been walking for so long, at times under harsh weather such as heavy thunderstorms and through deserts with the scorching hot sun blasting hot winds a our face. There’d even be situations where we wouldn’t have enough supplies to feed everyone, so some of us would have to fast for the better of the group. To be honest, this is the first time I’d actually be granted the opportunity to wash my clothes, a luxury we just never seem to get.
“What are you doing here anyway, Coja?” I asked. “Are you going to wash your clothes or not?”
“Nah, I’m content with the way my clothes are right now.”
My face immediately recoiled in disgust “So you like the fact that your clothes are dirty and smelly?”
“I just really like the dirt I’ve gathered from all this walking. It not only shows that we’ve gone through a long, grueling journey, but it also brings out the color in my eyes. Wouldn’t you agree?” she then widened her eyes and gave me a cheeky little smile.
“Right.” I responded unamused “Well, having a clean pair of underwear doesn’t really the reduce the credibility you had during this journey y’know.” After saying that I walk towards the drying rack and pick my shirt off. I run my fingers through the shirt to check any wet spot. Dry. At least, dry enough to wear, and so I put it on. Next, I take down my cloak, go through the same process, found it to be just as dry as the shirt, and I equip it.
“Where’s the mask?” Coja asks.
“Huh?” I reach down to my waist where I’d normally clip my mask to my belt whenever I’m not wearing it. There was nothing there. Panicked, I look down at my belt only to find that the clip had been torn off, then I scan my eyes through the floor, and still nothing. That’s when Coja began to snicker that devilish little snicker of hers. I turn my head her way and I see, there before me, my bull mask dangling on her finger tips.
“You dropped it on the way over here.” she said through her smug grin. My face was red with embarrassment, and perhaps a dash of crimson from the anger as well. Not wanting her to notice, I approached her, quickly snatched the mask off her hand, and turned around facing the river. I realized she probably saw just how flustered I was with her by the fact that she was giggling even more than before. I didn’t want to thank her, even though I probably should have considering she saved me a an hour’s worth of scolding. I just can’t see myself giving in to what she wanted, and what she wanted was the simple satisfaction that, for once, she was the one who caught me doing something stupid, like dropping my mask in the middle of the woods. Trying to get her mind off the topic, and to stop her annoying chuckles, I asked her something I’d been meaning to ask since she first got here.
“Coja,” I said “why do you always lie down on hills like that?”
“Like what?” immediately (and thankfully) her giggling stopped, and she seemed genuinely bemused.
“You know...upside down.”
“Well,” she scratches her left cheek, a tic she has whenever she thinks whilst talking, “I know it sounds strange, but it sort of gives me the feeling of falling, I guess. Does that make sense?”
“Not really...but why would you want to feel that way?”
“I just like the idea of just being high in the air and falling through the clouds, letting all my worries pass by me.
“Wouldn’t you want to just have the ability to fly instead of fall?
“But flying would mean that I’m doing something. I’d have to concentrate, and put in extra energy to fly across the land. I’d rather just let loose and fall. Besides, if I were to fly, where would I go? I know exactly where I’m going if I fall, and that’s down.”
“But won’t you eventually crash on the ground?”
“We’ll all crash sooner or later. Might as well enjoy the fall.”
Before I could respond, we both hear rustling sounds coming from the bushes on top of the hill. We both look at each other, for a brief moment we could see the fear and surprise in each other’s eyes, then we look back up at the hill as we slowly back away, prepared to run if needed. The rustling seems to be getting closer, approaching our location. Accompanying the sounds of rustling leaves are the loud heavy footsteps this person (or worse, creature) was taking. Coja grabs a rock that’s the size of a grown man’s skull from the ground and raises her arm, but the exact moment she was prepared to throw the rock was the very moment I realized just who it was approaching us. A wooden beak poked through the bushes.