In my new campsite, it was just like in the Valandian forests, with trees rustling in the wind and a campfire crackling away. However, unlike the forest at home, this one was dead. There were no fireflies lighting up for me. There was no squirrel or bird keeping my company. There was no grandpa looking after me. And there was no buffer forest of quickly growing spruces, instead, half a mile of stumps divided the last village field from the forest. Just like the forest, I was dead inside. I had nowhere to go, no hope to get back, and not enough energy to even cry about it. I laid down and tried to sleep, but the ground here wasn’t mossy, it was full of small, dead and dry branches. Branches that snapped whenever I moved around, and continued to snap rhythmically after I stopped moving.
— Hey, said Lily, — are you still awake?
— Yes, I replied as I got up again. — What are you doing here?
— I don’t know. I guess I wanted to talk.
— About what?
— You. The machine. The village. The world.
— I just don’t know where to go now, what to do.
— Where would you like to go now?
— Home, naturally.
— We could try climbing up
— It would be long and difficult and pointless. Valand is surrounded by water, and nobody has really reached the edge before us.
I told her about my crew, the captain, and the things we had lived through together in the brief time we had known each other. I told her about the view I had from up there, how the land she was living on seemed to survive only on this one stream, and that around it, there only was dead and cracked earth and fiery mountains.
— Fiery mountains? Are they made out of the same stuff you had in your machine?
— I wish I knew. If it was, I’d only need to go there, fetch some of it and come back. Well, “only”. There probably are plenty of opportunities to die on the way there, and I can’t really return to get the fuel into the machine.
— We could meet somewhere outside the village. Here, for example.
— I don’t think that’s a good idea. People would think you’re possessed by a demon eventually, coming to this one place for no reason. Is there somewhere outside the village you go regularly?
— Yes, the market in the city! Every wednesday, I sell dad’s things there.
— Great! And maybe someone is just selling the fuel on this market, so it should be the first place I go. When are you there next time?
— Well, today is monday, so in just two days.
— Fantastic, I’ll head towards the city tomorrow and then see you there on wednesday.
Lily suddenly wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic as she had been when she came.
— What is it?, I asked.
— My parents will get mad if I don’t return soon. See you on wednesday!
And off she went.