I woke up bright and early the next morning, and peeked out of my tent. I had a little bowl of cereal sitting on my cooler, and watched the world wake up around me. The gloom of the area was growing on me. I loved the mist wafting through the trees. There were a few people milling around the “town square” I could see from my front yard, but I wasn’t feeling particularly sociable this morning. My mind was full of doubts and worries, but I knew I had no choice but to push on now. There was no going back to where I’d come from. I was doing this for Mother.
So.. I shoved those misgivings aside, stood up, and grabbed my old fishing pole and tackle box, and followed the faint path towards where I could hear the sounds of water. Perhaps I could catch something and have something better than cereal for lunch. Then I could feel like I’d at least accomplished something today.
I hadn’t been fishing since I was a boy, and I wasn’t sure the skill would come back to me. It felt like I was starting completely over. Maybe, though, in a way, I was. This place was haunting in it’s beauty.. and the hours I spent trying to not get tangled in my line while still trying to cast gave me a lot of time to think.
I was still at a complete loss as to what I could do to make money, but I knew I would need to come up with an idea soon. My very limited amount of funds wasn’t going to feed me forever.. and what would I do when the weather really started acting up? A tent isn’t anyone’s idea of a safe and secure home if a bit thunderstorms roll in.
My fishing “skill” leaves a lot to be desired, it turns out. I was getting really good at catching weeds. Oh, and a couple of small minnows and goldfish. Why were there goldfish in a pond? .. Who knows. I certainly don’t.
It may have taken all day, but I managed to catch a couple good size Walleye, and find a nice long green stick to fry them on. Fried fish tasted wonderful, though, and my new campfire was completely worth it. Of course, it also meant I had less money… but when needs must…
While cooking, I noticed someone hanging around the edges of my property, seeming to just be watching me.. so after eating my fish, I decided I ought to go say hello. They were probably just curious who had bought the land in their little town.
I noticed some peculiar things about her right away. Why wear sunglasses at night? She also seemed to have a habit of staring at my neck, which made me feel rather awkward. Did I have something there? Dirt from fishing, perhaps?
I tried not to notice, and eventually, I found out her name was Roxanne Church. She was a Vegetarian and Clumsy – so maybe she was embarrassed about a black eye and needed the shades. I supposed I shouldn’t judge her, and she eagerly looked at a picture I had of my mother, but she swore she didn’t remember her. Maybe she just wasn’t old enough. We said good bye for the night, and I headed back to my tent, still feeling a little weirded out by her, but determined to push it out of my mind and get some good sleep.
Breakfast consisted of more cereal, and a rather grumpy me. I hadn’t slept well, and dreams of people with strange glowy eyes kept plaguing me. I wondered if it had anything to do with the woman I’d met and her strange sunglasses.. but then I reminded myself that I’d never even SEEN her eyes, so how could it be about her?
After my dismal breakfast, I decided to do some more exploring in the area around town. This time, I found some wild, harvest-able plants, and took advantage of them. The garlic would be a nice addition to my fish… although I couldn’t fathom what the other plants were.
There was a weird purple tree with purple fruit that seemed to glow. And some venus-fly-trap-like plants… *shrug* maybe I could grow them and sell the produce? So, I picked what seemed to be ripe and headed back to my camp, again having wasted most of the day between gathering plants and some more time fishing.
On the way home, I was stopped by an old man with – get this – strangely glowing eyes. Was this becoming a trend?
He introduced himself as Vladislaus Straud and he seemed very much a Loner. He said something about having known my family, and how it was “good to have us back in town”.. but I felt thoroughly creeped out by him, and excused myself as quickly as possible. I practically ran home, hoping he wouldn’t follow. I didn’t think I wanted to get to know him better, even if he did say he knew some of my family history. There was just something about him that didn’t sit right with me.
Before I could even get home, someone else stopped me. Again with strange eyes. I tried to hide my growing panic as I made small talk and introduced myself, but for some reason, I thought he could tell.
His name was Nobuya Sasaki, and he lived in the area. He mentioned remembering the fire that sent my mother away after her family perished, but I didn’t press for details. So, I gestured to my fishing creel, and said I needed to make my dinner before it got any later… and excused myself from yet another awkward conversation.
The fish was wonderful. Again. Granted, it was also the only decent sized one I’d caught today, but it filled my belly nicely. Sighing.. I used a nearby bush again, wishing for any sort of plumbing. Especially a shower. After two days of wandering the countryside, even I could smell myself.
But that was definitely not to be… and I remembered my plants.. so before bed, I planted the seeds from the fruit, the garlic bulbs, and the seeds from the weird plant trap things. A little bit of water, and they looked cozy in their new home. Perhaps they would even grow.
Morning dawned bright and early. And it was snowing. Wishing I had warmer clothes, I hurried through some yogurt for breakfast, and went to check on my plants.
Amazingly, most of them had sprouted overnight.
So.. I watered them.. and then plopped on my cooler to think some more. I really needed a shower. I remembered the little town I’d passed right before getting to Forgotten Hollow, and I was pretty sure I could navigate back there. Perhaps meeting people there would go over better, and I could find a place to wash up.. and finally feel human again.
My mind made up, I made the journey back to what I found out was Windenburg. I found a gym, and plunked down some of the rest of my cash for a membership so at the very least I could use their facilities for a shower. I’m telling you, a shower has never felt better.. and I swore to myself I wasn’t going to let myself go that long between them again!
There were plenty of people around, so, once I was clean, I made some rounds, introducing myself.
Mariko Yoshida was gorgeous, but clearly not interested in me. I’m not sure, but with her dislike of Flirting, and penchant for stealing things (not that I had anything to steal!), perhaps maybe she wasn’t interested in anyone. I moved on.
After a while, I found myself in a park-like area, with easels set up at random places.. obviously put there for public use. I needed a rest, anyway, so I sat on a bench close by, and contemplated them. I used to be good at art in school… or, at least, my teacher had seemed impressed, but painting for money had never occurred to me. It was certainly on my mind now, though, and with the scant money I had left, I stopped in at a local art supply store that happened to still be open, and purchased some paints, brushes, and canvasses. I also made a point of asking if there was someplace that would buy original artwork in the area, and the clerk excitedly pointed out that the gallery next door was always looking for new talent. She mentioned that they were closed now, but that they’d be there in the morning if I wanted to check with them in person.
So.. with big ideas, I headed back to the public easels.. picking one right by the water. I can’t say my first attempt was great… but neither was the second or the third. I thought I could see improvement, though.. and perhaps someone would be interested in the crude paintings. Meanwhile, I was exhausted. I found a nearby bench, stashed my stuff under a bush nearby, and settled in for a long, hard, cold, nap.
Morning came, like it always does.. and before getting up the guts to go show my paintings at the gallery, I ducked into a local cafe for some real breakfast. I was immediately struck by the beauty behind the counter, and, in one of the moments she wasn’t too busy dishing out breakfast pastries and coffee, I introduced myself.
Her name is Alex Moyer. She’s a Glutton, Lazy, and Materialistic – but I didn’t think I could hold any of that against her. I stayed in the cafe long enough to catch her on a couple breaks, and we quickly were becoming friends. She encouraged me to go out on a limb and try to sell my paintings, but she had to work, so she couldn’t go with me, which was too bad… because I was terribly nervous about it.
Upon entering the gallery, I was almost immediately “pounced on” by one of the sales representatives, and once she found out why I was there, she hurried me into the back to take a closer look at my work. She muttered to herself for a while, then excused herself to get a colleague.. but eventually we settled on a modest price. I had actually just made money. Not much, mind you, but some. My spirits were higher than they’d been in months. I returned to the art supply store, bought some more canvasses, and checked on the price of a cheap easel I could take back to my homestead. No way could I afford it yet, but maybe with a few more paintings…
While I was dreaming big, I also checked the prices on a camp shower at another local store.. and I finally told myself I wasn’t leaving town without both items. So.. there was nothing left to do.. but find another bench.. and get some rest for a marathon of painting.
The next day was bright and clear, a perfect day for painting.. and I set to work.
One after another, I painted until my hands hurt. And then, I painted some more. Mid day I visited that cafe again, but Alex wasn’t working, so I didn’t stay long after my croissant and coffee.
The gallery was pleased with what I’d done, and bought all of today’s pieces without any hesitation. Counting up my funds, I still didn’t have enough.. so I resigned myself to another cold night on the bench.
Between a breakfast from a food stall, and more time painting, I was more than ready for a break when Alex unexpectedly called and invited me to the local city’s Spice festival.
It was a lovely drive there, and both of us had a blast wandering through the food stalls and Farmer’s faire of veggies and fruit. We splurged on some ethnic food, and laughed at each other when neither of us were very good wielding chopsticks. All in all, it was a wonderful day. I didn’t attempt to flirt or anything.. not yet. I wanted to take things slow, and get to know each other a bit better first – but we were sure hitting it off well.
After another day in Windenburg, painting my heart out, I managed to buy an easel and that camp shower. I also negotiated a way I could send my paintings to the gallery through the mail and they would mail back my checks. Finally. I had a way to make money. It was going to be slow going at first, but it was a way.
My next few days consisted of painting, fishing, and more painting. I ignored the people with the strange eyes, and tried very hard to mind my own business. One day, on the way home from fishing, it started pouring, and I was forced to knock on my next door neighbor’s front door to get out of the storm for a few. To my surprise, she was an older lady who gave me no creepy vibes at all. Her house was full of cat furniture, but I hadn’t seen any cats… and we ended up talking for hours. She remembered my mother, and turned out to be a great listener.
Her name is Sonia Broster and I can just tell she’s good at heart. I ended up pouring out my whole tale to her, and she nodded and listened intently. By the time the rain passed, we were fast friends, and it turned out I had an open invitation at her house if I ever needed to get out of another storm.
On Monday, my first check.. and my first bills.. both arrived. I was able to square everything away, though, and “bank” a tidy sum, too. Painting was really starting to pay off. Literally. And for that matter, my garden wasn’t doing too bad, either. I planted some of the produce I’d gotten at the spice festival to expand the garden, and stood back to survey my handiwork. I was making a home here. Mom would be so proud.. I hoped. Things seemed to be looking up for a change… and that night, I went to bed with hopes higher than usual.
Mom had always said hard work and determination paid off.. and I was finally starting to understand, or at least, I thought so. I drifted off to sleep with pleasant dreams of my childhood overlaid with images of a murky, but positive future ahead of me.