“So,” said Kodi casually, seated by his easel, “how’d it go?”
“That girl,” said Guy in exasperation, “is utterly impossible.” He flopped down onto Kodi’s bed, belly-up. “I mean, it’s not like I didn’t try or anything. I reach out, try to be friends, try to be nice, but one mention of her old friends and BOOM! Emotional explosion.” He sighed heavily. “I mean, I’m not saying trying to be friends with her will become impossible or anything, but it may take a bit longer than I thought.”
“She’s a she– what’d you expect?” Kodi dipped his brush tip into water again. “Girls are naturally emotional, especially compared to us guys, or if they went through something they think is traumatic. But it sounds to me like she was more defensive than offensive; she’s probably used to getting tortured and beat up, so it’s like second nature to her.”
Guy shook his head. Kodi’s natural psychological insight to things like this always amazed him, as well as his normally calm maturity. It was like the kid was his age, instead of ten years old. “But she knew that wasn’t my intent,” he objected, “I could tell by that look in her eyes, she was just beginning to trust me a little. That all she wanted was a friend, someone who cares. Then I had to go and blow it…” Guy huffed in frustration at the ceiling. “I hate to admit it, but the whole situation’s got me pretty curious now… What DID happen to her friends? Why or how did they disappear?”
Another orange streak crossed the canvas gracefully. “If I knew, don’t you think I’d tell you?” said Kodi, now rather grimly. “It’s almost like with me– if I knew who my real folks were, no offense, I’d probably want to go live with them, instead.” He paused, then shook his head as if to clear it. “Speaking of schoolmates, a couple of mine told me where that girl– they said her name’s Wren?– lives. When I’m done here, I’ll be taking this over to her place. Feel free to tag along, if you want.”
“Wait, what?” Guy bolted upright. “Why didn’t you just SAY you were going to visit her in the first place?”
“I wanted you to get a feel for who she is, scope ‘er out a bit, first,” said Kodi, flashing him a sly little smile. “Don’t YOU get mad, now,” he laughed, sensing the irony of the situation. “After all, like you said, we’ve just gotta give this place– and the people of the place– a chance.” He set aside his brushes and closed his palette. “I think that’s enough for one day,” he said, “I’ll let that dry for now and take the rest over to her.” He stood and ambled over to a large collection of rolled up paintings and drawings, set aside on his desk nearby.
“What are you taking those over to her for, anyhow?”
“Maybe I want to help her. Maybe I want to cheer her. Or maybe just surprise her. You never know what kind of effect art might have on others, y’know?” Kodi turned in the doorway to Guy, rolled up artwork still stuffed into his armpits. “You coming or not?”
Guy let his hand fall on top of his face, groaning softly into it while massaging his cheek, his temples. “OK, OK, I’m coming… I might as well since I’m already caught up in all this; it’s not like I can just forget her now or anything. And like it or not, we both need friends anyways, so…” He sat up, leaving his bag on the bed.
“That’s the spirit,” said Kodi with semi-mock cheeriness. “Now let’s move out– gang, we’ve a friend who needs our help– and have a mystery to solve!”
The four shadowy, cloaked figures stood waiting in the midst of an equally darkened cave, all facial features hidden well from view. The Fourth figure huffed. “Where is he?” A young woman’s impatient voice. “He’s late. He promised he would meet us with some sense of progress.”
“You know, you really ought to try shutting up for once,” said the Fifth, a slightly deeper toned voice,”he might actually show up if your big, fat mouth didn’t scare him off like that.” There was the sound of a bubble gum bubble cracking from over in the Fifth’s direction. The Fourth leered angrily. “Look, brat, just because you joined our ranks doesn’t mean you have the right to–”
“Peace, Fourth, Fifth,” said a new voice, as another, newer figure descended from the cave’s mouth. “I come bearing news for us all.”
“What tidings, sir?” asked the Sixth, a young girl’s voice, soft yet anxious.
In the very faint, dim lighting they all read unmistakable traces of a slight smile on the only visible part of the First’s face, the lower half, as he stopped in the center of their circle.”We are making progress. I will say that much for certain.” Keeping the hood lowered, he turned to the Fifth. “Report to our master immediately. Inform him that our plans, which have been planted so many, many years ago, have begun to sprout and take roots deep within the soil of our little society. And soon, quite soon I think, they will begin bearing fruit. Luscious, sweet, ripe fruit.” The First slowly ran the tiniest tip of his tongue over the edge of his upper lip, as if he could almost taste it. The Fifth bowed deeply and hurried to a darkened doorway before disappearing. The others remained fixated on the First. “How long?” the Fourth half-demanded. “How long must we suffer and wait–”
“Peace, Fourth,” said the First softly. “All good things come with the passing of time. No empire has ever been raised, nor has ever one been demolished, in a single day. Now, if you will excuse me… I must retire.” The First left his compatriots to themselves, walking down into another dank, dark hallway… still smiling.
The sweetness of fruity goodness was just within their grasp.
To Be Ominously Continued…
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