Two Worlds

Some of Cedar’s earliest memories are of unhappy occasions when people from the village failed to return before nightfall. She cannot recall any one of them who was seen alive again. The Hinterlands are dangerous, especially so at night. The village does provide a measure of security but no place can be made inherently safe. Even within the compound walls, people remain inside buildings or in shelters beneath the buildings after the sun disappears taking daylight below the horizon after it. With the absence of sunlight, the Hinterlands reflect a wildly divergent landscape rife with a host of beasts foreign to those that dwell during the day. It is not a place somebody like Cedar should be caught wandering about. Regardless, today has been a day of exceptions.

Her vehicle provides protection enough for one or two days and nights of operation before it must enter into a self-charging cycle. From what limited data she had been able to salvage upon finding the machine several seasons ago, she has inferred that it was an advanced technology even for the old world. However, many of its intended functions remain inoperable mostly due to missing infrastructure rather than any malfunction. Although she does not entirely comprehend the concept, this machine is capable of “speaking” with other machines. There were many others in storage alongside this one. She has searched for the location again numerous times but her memory regarding the facility’s whereabouts has become inexplicably muddled.

Cedar steals a glance behind her into the compartment where she had stowed the injured man along with his weapon and headgear matching the shell protecting his body. He has surfaced from unconsciousness a few times; twice in alarm, calling out unknown words and then calming again after likely having pieced together his situation. Cedar allows her mind to wander some as she operates the vehicle, trying to imagine what manner of place he had traveled from. She has explored deep into old world ruins; to places even the beasts avoid. She has stood atop ancient towers and crept into the verge of the highlands. Never once has she encountered anything like the man now laying injured behind her.

Standing atop those towering ruins as a child and observing a larger world for the first time was life-changing. Since that moment, Cedar has memorized every aspect of the environment visible through the far-looking artifact. How much more exists beyond what she has surveyed? She has often wondered where the nomadic people go after they pass through her village. They travel on foot and subsist in the wilderness with no village walls to keep them safe. How are they able to manage?

In striking contrast, Cedar is limited to traveling no further than one day in her vehicle before needing to return to the safety of her village. Once depleted, the vehicle’s self-charging cycle requires several days before it is able to function again. A thing once viewed as the source of her freedom and mobility has, ironically, become a constraint on her necessity to see more. Why are nomadic people able to move so freely while she remains confined inside the bounds of an unseen box. What about the man? He traveled, seemingly on foot, from a location she is unable to see from the tallest ruined tower. What sets them apart from her and the people of the village? Could the answer be so simple as “they are not afraid“?

The injured guest did not simply spring into existence with his silly, white shell and powerful, concussive weapon. He originated from somewhere unknown. Until today the entirety of her world consisted of her village in the hinterlands, the old world ruins, and the highlands. Why has it taken her so long to emerge from such naivete? The elders have instructed her to find a village that will accept her. It is her intention to do exactly that. She will return with this man back to his place of origin – presuming he lives through the night.

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