Continuing where “In search of the Eye” left off:
CHAPTER 1 – AWAKENING
“Blurry and painful. A heck of a pain in the neck, and dark. Is it night? No, I just haven’t opened my eyes yet. That’s it: Open!” The eyes caught a glimpse of the bright light and promptly shut again. “To bright, and I’m a little tired. Maybe I should just… No, come on, get up! I can’t lie here all day. Lie here? Now where am I?” The boy opened his eyes again, letting them adjust to the streak of sunlight pouring through the cracks in the southern barn wall. He was half submerged in the hay, only one leg and his upper body visible. But no one could easily have seen him unless they climbed up on the attic and shuffled a big ball of hay away from in front of him. He felt kind of safe, yet he had no inkling of where he was.
“Wait a minute, wait.. a… minute… Why am I here? Where am I heading? Where do I come from? What’s my name?” A barrage of such questions were hammering him for what seemed to be lasting a whole meal or so. “I’m hungry”, he muttered. Through all his confusion and weariness, he wanted some of mom’s bread. “Mom? Who’s mom? Where is she? Do I have a mom? A dad, brother or sister? Any friends? Hell, do I know anything at all?” The questions kept coming while the hunger kept growing.
He looked around in the barn. Streaks of light from cracks in the walls. “They really didn’t do a very good job when they built this”, he thought. “Or maybe the maintenance is off.” He brushed off the hay and sat up. The sounds seemed normal enough with birds singing outside and the wind giving the building a little puff in various directions, squeaking ever so slightly.
The boy took a deep breath, swallowed, stood up to jump down from the attic as he heard some noise from just outside. Footsteps approaching. He had already started off his left foot and was quickly trying to figure out how he could halt in mid air and get back where he came from. As he turned around, he got hold of a pole on the attic. First he thought he could hold on, but then he realized he was to weak. The hand let go and he kept falling. At least he landed on his legs before he tumbled backwards and hit the ground.
He was sprawling in the mud, but arms and legs got moving in unison back towards the wall. Someone entered. He saw only a dark silhouette coming through the door. “Friend or foe?”, he thought while trying to decode the situation. He wiped his face as the someone asked “Who is there?” The boy knew his cover would be blown. He might as well step forward.
To his relief, as the silhouette walked through the barn door, it went to the right, whereas he was up against the left wall. “An opening”, he thought, looking at the three feet or so of escape possibility between the person and the doorway. “I got to.” He dashed for the door in a wholehearted attempt to make a run for it. “Damn, I’m slow”. The other person reacted like what seemed as lightning, quickly blocking the way by tripping the boy. He went headlong through the doorway catching a fair amount of dirt in his mouth as he slid his face through the mud outside.
The other one jumped on top of him, wrestled him around and pinned him to the ground. The boy tried to escape, kicking, squirming but to no avail. He was just to tired. And hungry. And weak. He let go of his intention to escape.
“Who are you?” the girl asked. “Good question”, the boy replied. “Are you a thief, an outlaw?” “If I only knew”, the boy muttered. The girl squeezed his wrist harder. “Ouch, she’s strong”, the boy couldn’t think clearly. He was pinned to the ground, unable to move an inch. The girl was quite pretty with long dark hair, dark green eyes and a cute nose. “Nice boobs”, he thought looking down her cleavage. The girl looked annoyed and repeated “Who are you? Answer me!”.
With a befuddled and somewhat irritated expression, the boy answered: “I’ve got no clue. I woke up in this barn only minutes ago not knowing who I am or where this is. You could be my sister for all that I know”. He added in his mind: “Oh no, not my big sister. I must have had a terrible childhood with a super-strength sister like that.” “Eh well, maybe not my sister… Do you know me?” he inquired. “Know you? No! You will not get anywhere with that ‘I don’t know who I am’-story”. “My father will have you thrown in prison for trespassing, theft or what have you. Murder maybe? Maybe you’ve killed someone and are a fugitive from the law? Look at you, you’re covered in mud and you got me all dirty. Sit up!” She moved to the side and the boy sat up, wiping his face and looking where he shouldn’t “Nice boo.. eh.. house”. He pointed at the stone hut with turfed roof just across the small clearing. There were only these two buildings and the well in between. A thick oak forest surrounding them on all sides. Nothing familiar. How did he get here?
The boy realized there was no use trying to get away. And besides, the girl didn’t look like she’d harm him. On the contrary, she was cute and somewhat… hot. He simmered down and so did she. He sighed: “Listen, I really don’t remember a thing. I don’t even remember my own name. I woke up and here I am. I couldn’t have been sleeping much, I’m dead tired. Sorry if I’m trespassing or whatever. If I only could get a bite of something, I will be on my way. I am not here to stir any trouble.” With a curious look, she replied: “Well, I suspect you could not do much harm in your condition.” She held him firmly by the arm and walked him over to a pond nearby. “In to it. Clothes and all”, she commanded.
“A tad bossy. Determination is good, hmm…” The boy made sure he got clean all around, right ear, left ear, hair. He enjoyed the water. So much so that he swam a bit before the tiredness caught up with him. He could swim. He had no idea. “This memory lapse will make a life full of surprises. What else do I know…?”. The girl was sitting on a rock, watching him, ready to save him should he prove unable to swim or just to exhausted. The last two strokes and he got hold of that very stone. He got up on it as the girl moved away not to get all wet. She told him to undress to the underwear. “Yeah, you wish”, he muttered, turning around, twisting his shirt until it was at least fairly dry. Then the pants. All dressed again, he turned back towards her. There was a slight curiosity in her eyes. Or was that wishful thinking?
A small hand gesture told him to come along with her. Before he left the tree-encircled pond he got a good look at his reflection. Short, dark hair, maybe blue eyes, distinct facial features. “Quite handsome”, he thought, pleased while he trotted along. His shirt had come halfway to its original off-white colour. His brown leather pants were a bit heavy from the water.
“Now you will meet my father. His name is Maelor Keesar. Mine is Aila. I am not sure yet if it is a pleasure to meet you, whoever you are.” “I am not sure it is a pleasure to be here, either. If your father can shed some light on who I am or why I’m here, I’d be happy as a Pingle on midsummer’s eve”. “You know about the Pingles? Either you play me for a fool or your memory is returning”, scrutinizing him with a suspicious look. “What’s a Pingle?”, he returned. He really had no idea, the words just stumbled out of his mouth. If she was suspicious a second ago… “Really, I have no clue”, he added “it’s only words to me, no idea where they came from. My subconscious or something”. His honest look and those charming blue eyes did a good job at convincing her. “Ah well, my father will know”.
The little farm was quiet. Just occasional splashes back in the pond, birds singing, wind making the trees whisper. And a barn, the house and the well. “Your family have animals?” “Only two horses apart from me and my father lives here.” Her tone of voice was opening up. He felt he at least got an inch of trust to build on. Damn he was lonely.
A cat made him feel welcome. The little purring fur ball was stroking against his legs making it hard not to trip. “Ok, I got it. You’re hungry”. He picked up the fluffy and looked at Aila. “Got any milk?”. “Inside. She usually fears strangers. You have a way with animals?”
He carefully wiped his feet on the mat and stepped into a small porch. “Father! We have a guest”. Father-sounds were approaching. Sounded like a big father or a weak construction. Floors were squeaking.
“Big father. Bear-like”. He kept patting the cat for a feeling of safety.
“What is your name, boy?”
“Eh… Jamba… maybe”. Aila was inspecting him again like she was expecting some kind of confirmation of her scepticism. “Jamba, maybe? Maybe what?” With a big grin he reached for Jamba’s hand with a big paw and squeezed it like a grizzly. “Come in boy, Jamba. Where did you two meet?” Aila was soon to interject: “I found him in the barn, father. He seems not to know who he is or where he is. I thought that you would know what to make of him”.
“Are you a thief, boy?” still grinning. “Eh, no sir. I am… I don’t… really know, sir.” “So, you could be a thief, then”. “No, I have no intention of stealing anything. I won’t be of any trouble, sir. I’ll be on my way”. The look of the big grinning father made him uncertain. He looked like someone in the know. “You are not leaving in your condition, boy. We will not be responsible for leaving you to the thugs, hungry and frail as you are. You will stay here for a couple of days until you regain strength. Then we will see.” Parts of the grin transformed into curiosity. “Tell me, Jamba, what Do you remember?”
Jamba looked hard and long into his mind. “I think my name is Jamba. And I said something about Pingles earlier and that got Aila reacting. In the pond I saw my reflection. I know what I have seen since I woke up only half an hour ago. Yeah, I know what an hour is, apparently. It’s difficult to get a grip on what I know… Right now I’m really hungry.” He looked towards the kitchen to the left. There was a kettle, boiling. Soup, maybe?
“My name is Maelor, as you know Aila is my daughter. We are hunters and we live an hour or so from the nearest village. By horseback, that is. I wonder how you got all the way out here…”. “Do you remember anything from yesterday? Walking? Riding? Anything?” “No, nothing. Neither is my legs or butt any more tired or sore than the rest of my body”. “sorry, sir, I can’t help you. Or myself”.
“Sir, why would you believe anything of what I’m saying?”
“A hunters hunch, boy, a hunters hunch”.
“Food is ready”. Aila was standing in the kitchen pouring soup into the three bowls on the table. She looked like a maid with that apron. “Deceiving looks covered the huntress… yeah, I feel poetic today. I’m glad I think before I speak.” Jamba smiled and tried to be as polite as he could while the smell of delicious soup tormented his nose and stomach.
Jamba was hypnotised by the smell and the taste. His patience was put to the test as he fought hard to constrain himself. The five minute meal took forever and he never seemed to get satiated. Bowls passed by and only Jambas slurping was heard until finally his belly was full. A loud burp let out. “Oops, sorry”. They smiled. He blushed.
He stumbled over to the couch in the living room and lied down. Legs stretching, belly-heavy and tired he went into a slumber.
Maelor tucked a blanket around him as he was still a bit wet.
The eye watched his every movement. Curious and scrutinising, there was no escape. No hiding, no privacy. He kept on walking towards it. It was like walking to the end of the rainbow. The further he walked the further away it seemed to be. An endless walk. The atmosphere inducing fear, sweat pouring and compulsive thoughts chasing is mind. A hammering headache kept on hammering a manic feeling into his marrow. He screamed to let it out. He screamed until he was out of oxygen. He couldn’t breathe.
Sweating and gasping for breath he woke up as Maelor shook him. A wild look around, Jamba almost hit the old man. Hadn’t it been for the keen hunters reflexes, his nose could have been broken.
“I’m… I’m sorry. Sorry. Ah..eh, sir. Sorry” “You are OK, boy, you are awake now. A bad dream. Just a bad dream”.
Jamba was clearing his mind as Aila dashed into the room. “What was that?”, she asked. “Jamba had a rough nightmare. Could you get him some water?”. Jamba was shaking as he drank from the wooden bowl.” “I’m truly sorry. I never meant to be any trouble.” He felt like shit and the loneliness made him swallow twice.