Chapter 4

This is being evidently later than my proposed schedule stipulated, yes, but that was a ‘tentative’ one for a reason. I believe a more concrete one will be able to come after a few more updates. Don’t worry, though, it probably won’t be any longer than once per two weeks or so. For now, enjoy.

April / 20 / 2025

Even though I had been walking all day, I thought of the journey as pleasant. The loneliness of the newly emptied countryside– devoid not only of the presence of the sleeping ones, but also of all animals (whose disappearance had actually come about earlier than that of the ones who had fallen unconscious)– came across to me as relaxing, almost therapeutic, as it allowed me to be at complete freedom with my thoughts. I had certainly been in need of such an experience ever since that regrettable attack I had run away from; as much as I appreciated Galven’s company, I felt like I could not be truly honest, even to myself, if there was anyone around. Besides, even during the times when I did not find the solace of my own thoughts very liberating, I reminded myself that it was much better to be alone and at peace than it would be to run into a stray Noisemaker group.
Fortunately, the openness of the fields I travelled made such an occurrence pretty much impossible, so I managed to retain my peace of mind for the duration of the journey. It was this same openness that allowed me to catch sight of a town along the direction through which I was heading. I had never visited that particular area before, but I was undeniably pleased to have found a place in which to rest. Still, the cautious spirit in me made me approach the place slowly and quietly, looking for any tangible sign of Noisemaker activity, but all superficial surveillance revealed the place as being as peaceful as it looked.
I did, however, preserve this caution as I entered the town’s streets, still having a few doubts, just up until I had snooped my way into what I inferred was the town centre. The core of the place, the plaza, was absolutely silent, as had been every street I had passed through, so I finally determined that the place was probably emptier than any other place I had visited. Recovering the same feeling I had felt during my trek through the country, I quickly decided that the best course of action would be for me to find a suitable place to stay the night.
The town being as small as it was, it didn’t take me too long to locate a building whose façade advertised its status as a hotel. Though humble looking, I thought the place would at least contain a comfortable place for me to stay for one night, so I ventured inside. Searching the consistently humble reception and offices, it didn’t take me long to find the keys that I presumed unlocked the rooms themselves, which I headed towards next. Remaining mindful of my safety even then, I seeked to find a room with an entrance that was at least a little out of the way, so I could have at least that much concealment should anyone else turn up in that strange little town.
Since the hallways of the room wings stretched quite further than I imagined, such a task was simple enough. I chose what I thought of as a rather arbitrary-looking room with an entrance that was set far down along one of the least interesting-looking hallways in the place. Procuring the opportune key, I unlocked the door and went inside, being greeted by a minimalistic but well-kept chamber I immediately knew would accommodate me well.
Having worked up a somewhat stinging need for energy from my day-long walk, I gladly cast myself unto the invitingly arranged bed situated at one of the room’s corners. Determined to put the whole of the business with the Chaotics behind me for the time being, my drowsiness quickly grew stronger, taking hold of me in a matter of minutes. As my eyes closed, I began to doze off, then sat bolt upright as I heard a loud knocking noise in one of the rooms nearby.
It appeared to be so close, I thought the sound had to have come from a room immediately adjacent to mine. I thought I would be somewhat safe– I carried with me a small iron staff wich could very well double as a weapon if necessary– but even this reassurance quickly faded away as I realised that such a startling noise was being followed by nothing short of unbroken silence. From the instant I had heard the noise, everything had been so noiseless I even suspected I may have imagined it, but as I did this, I kept realising that its volume and resonance had been too tangible for me to ignore.
After procuring the staff from my belongings, which I had put down next to the bed, I began to creep out of the bed and tiptoe my way to the door. The floor was covered with a thin, garish-looking carpet which nonetheless served well enough to muffle any sound my moving around would make. So slowly did I approach the door, the windlike rustling of my clothing must have been louder than the sounds my bare feet made upon touching the floor. After about a minute of this, I finally reached the threshold, trying my best to maintain my silence as I pressed an ear up against it.
Just like myself, whatever was moving behind there was being extremely quiet, so it took a bit of an effort to perceive the sounds it made. That faint shuffling, however, quickly confirmed my fear as I knew for sure I wasn’t alone. But who could it be on the other side of the door? A Chaotic maybe, left behind to make sure they had found everyone in this town, and to capture any unfortunate souls that may have been left behind? Worry dominated my mind as I tried to surmise the identity of the one I was dealing with. Having all but settled in this pessimistic suspicion, I tightened my grip on my staff, which I had told myself I would absolutely use in such an occasion.
With this determination, I threw my hand onto the door handle, swung it open and prepared to strike my adversary, all in a second. However, this last action found itself hindered by what I saw upon completing the first two.
“WAAAIT! Don’t attack me! I’m–”
The young woman looked as surprised– not to mention as distressed– as I was, if not worse. Seeing how this did not incite her to attack me, however, I decided I would follow in that example, putting down my staff.
“You…” her expression grew grave and unsympathetic. “You’re a Nomad, aren’t you?”
“I am, indeed…” I responded, somewhat confused. “Who are you?”
The woman narrowed her eyes into a glare.”I’m… Leeds.” Her voice had gained some hostility. “At least as far as you’re concerned. When and if you need something to call me, I’m Leeds. What about you?”
“Oh, I’m Idonia, but… tell me, what are you doing here?”
“What do you think? I’m hiding from those horrible Chaotics. You can’t be ignorant as to who they are, right? Terrible people. Awfully violent lot. Noisy, too.”
“I’ve seen my share of them, yes…” Things were starting to look somewhat clearer. “So, you haven’t seen them around here?”
“I haven’t been here too long, but if I knew they were anywhere nearby, I wouldn’t be here at all. Still, it would be unwise not to keep a low profile, and this hotel seems well-suited enough for that. I think it’ll stay that way for at least a night or two.”
“Only two nights? Why do you say that?”
“The Noisemakers aren’t just wanderers like us, Idonia. They have routes. I’ve seen them, and chances are they’ll pass through here before too long. I’ll definitely be out of here before then, though. I’d advise you to do the smart thing and leave as well.”
“Sounds like you’ve seen a lot of the Chaotics as well…” I knew that whoever this strange woman was, she had to have run into the Chaotics far more than I could imagine for her to have gained such caution.
“Far too much for a lifetime. Of course, funny thing is, that saying’s practically become obsolete…”
“Oh dear! You mean they’ve–”
“No, nothing like that. You don’t have to go quite that far to notice nobody can die anymore, you know. It’s just a matter of having keen eyes, and I’m afraid that’s something I simply can’t be without now. But are we going to keep talking like this for much longer? I was sleeping before you got here.”
“Er, no, of course not.” I stopped myself at the resurfacing of Leeds’s rudeness. “But I did want to ask, is there any food around here?”
“Try the freezer behind the front desk. If there’s nothing left there, well, sorry.” Leeds smiled a wry smile and walked down the hallway, to the door I confirmed was right next to mine. Without turning or saying another word, she shut herself inside.
Though that meeting baffled me to no small extent, at least it eased my suspicion regarding the intent of whoever was in that room. With that much having been cleared in my mind, at least I could bring myself to sleep. Based on what Leeds had said, I didn’t even bother checking if there was any food left. Though the hunger was starting to bother me, I planned to leave that town and continue my journey North first thing in the morning, so I was sure I’d find something decent sooner or later.
Though these events had made me rather startled, once I calmed myself down, a heavy bout of drowsiness followed suit. As I had hoped, the rest of the night went without incident, and I awoke just after the sun had started to show its face over the horizon. Making my way outside, I noticed Leeds was standing at the threshold which marked the hotel’s exit, contemplating the sun ‘s rays as they started pouring into the streets. As I approached, she turned to face me.
“Oh. Hey.” She sounded bored, but at least the hostility had left her voice. “Had a good sleep?”
“Yes, thanks…”
“Hey, sorry about last night. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no friendmaker, but I was especially cranky then, you having just woken me up and all. Sorry about the noise, too, the drawers in that cabinet can close a bit too hard if you’re not careful.”
“That’s all right.” Though I hesitated, this change of attitude awoke some curiosity of her within me. “Hey, I’m leaving not too long from now. Would you like to come with me?”
Leeds looked at me, not saying anything for a moment. “Where are you going?”
“North. There’s a pretty consistent stream of populaces in that direction if you know just which route to take.”
Leeds turned back to look at the streets, allowing her head to droop after a few seconds. “Sure, I’ll go.”
“You will?”
“Well, it’s not like I have anything left here. People like us do need to be on the move, after all. Besides, I have a couple friends up there.”
“Are you sure? This may sound nosy, but have you ever considered joining the Keepers? I’m sure they’d take you in…”
“What, and get drafted to fight the Chaotics? Forget it, those fanatics all spell trouble to me.”
“I see.” I felt the small feeling of understanding I had begun to feel for her become stronger. “So, when’s a good time to leave?”
“Whenever. You’re not lugging any big bulks around, are you?”
“No, just the–”
“The thing you nearly conked me over the head with.” Leeds gave a nigh-inaudible chuckle. “Well, neither am I. We could leave now or we could leave in six hours. So long as it isn’t too close to nightfall, we should be all right.”
“I suppose we should leave now, then. After all, the sooner we leave…”
“I know how that thought ends. Good thinking.”
With that exchange, we set out.

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About ikerrivercast

Iker Rivercast is a natural born loner with a knack for writing and programming. When he's not sleeping or otherwise putting off being productive, you'll likely find him trying something new with his written work. View all posts by ikerrivercast

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