Birds chirped around me in the humid air. From the large, smooth, cold rock, I could just see a few darting around the branches of the trees above my head, some brightly colored and easier to see, yet others looking like moving parts of the branches themselves.
I lowered my binoculars and peeked at my watch, its ticking just audible over the sounds of nature that crowded my ears and filled the forest around me. I sighed. 5:00 already? It was time to head back–I knew Mother won’t be pleased to find me absent for the 5:30 (sharp) dinnertime. I gently placed my binoculars back into their case and snapped it shut, sliding the straps over my head and letting the heavy case drop to my chest. Suddenly, a thought struck me, and I pulled my notebook out of my back pocket, along with my finger-sized pencil, and scribbled,
In the middle
Of the forest
And the beautiful sounds they make.
I re-pocketed the notebook thoughtfully, tucking the pencil into the back of my pants as well as I stood up, heaving myself off of the dark gray rock and onto my feet, and I set off down the leaf-ridden dirt path towards my nearby home.
I was actually very lucky to have such binoculars, when Emeralds hardly ever had anything like that anymore. I had to be careful never to wear them around other Emeralds, for something like that could be traded for quite a bit of goods, and many an Emerald would happily ****** them from around my neck. The watch as well, but I could simply slide it up my wrist, under my sleeve. Both artifacts were very old, both once belonging to my now-deceased grandfather.
My mother saw me when I stepped into our worn-down cottage with the busted roof and single room. “Ah. Spencer,” she said.
“Mother,” I acknowledged.
“Been out in the forest again, have ya?” she asked. “I’d like you to run down to the shop and grab me some bread. Much as I hate it, but we ain’t got much crop this year with the wheat an’ all.”
“No problem,” I responded. Even though I’ve lived with Mother my whole life (naturally) I haven’t inherited her southern drawl. All the Emeralds have basically “let go” of their former lives after what happened fifty years ago, and their accents and abilities just “grew in”. That’s what Father says, anyway. But I guess my secret hope that someday things will be better kept me from falling into those methods. Mother handed me a sack of home-grown carrots and I slung it over my shoulder. Then she gave me the mesh cooler, which I simply held, dangling, in my hand. “Remember what day it is,” she warned me. “Stay in the chambers till mornin’.
I nodded solemnly. I knew what day it was.
I pulled my binoculars off of my neck and set them on the counter carefully before I stepped back outside and slowly closed the creaking door, which was already hanging off of its hinges, behind me.
I started down the path, not the way I came, but to the left. The right led to our farm, and often I stopped somewhere along the trail to listen to the calling of the birds, for tranquility and peace.
“The shop” was not a shop. Nor was it anything like a shop should be. But it did its job–it was basically just a secret market in the middle of the woods where some Emeralds in the area met to exchange goods. That’s why I was bringing the carrots.
I turned off the path, which led to the Scarlet City. No Emerald ever dared go that way, and the few (insane) ones that did never returned. Now the rest of us knew better than to tread that path. But unless we want to travel through the briars, thorns, and thistles in the woods, the path is the easiest way to get to my destination.
Since it was Sunday morning, I knew I had to be especially careful heading to the shop. Sunday, my least favorite day. Sunday, the least favorite day of every Emerald, especially those who remember what life used to be like back when the tribes lived in harmony. We all knew that it was the Scarlet Tribes’ favorite day–when they got to let their bloodthirsty sides take over as they rampaged through the forest and fields in the Outer Provinces, the overgrown area on the outskirts of their town, finding and killing any struggling, surviving Emeralds they can find. Yes, there was a city where Emeralds lived as well, but most of them were only there because they couldn’t take care of themselves in the forest. Every Sunday, the majority of Scarlets would march to the city and monitor everything they did. I was very glad I didn’t live in the city–I’d rather hide and run for my life out here than have my every move be watched by the enemy. And if they found you doing something suspicious? Bam. You were taken back with them, also never to be seen again.
No one knows what happens to those unfortunates . . . like I said, we never see them again.
Sure, the Scarlets are hypnotized, but that was just an excuse. I was sure they knew what they were doing, even if they weren’t the ones controlling their actions. I was sure they took pleasure in what was happening.
It was sickening. It was cruel. It was what happened every Sunday.
Only about one Emerald actually got found every month, but just the very thought that we could be that one was enough to send us hiding for the day, frightened for ourselves and any other Emeralds we know.
Sundays used to be the day when the Tribes could gather in peace. Go to church, even, worship in harmony and happiness.
Now it is the day of evil, the day when all the Emeralds cower with fright and hide, fearing for their very lives.