Don't Eat the Foliage - Part One
Being blindfolded wasn't the highlight of Brand's day, but it did get rid of the sudden onslaught of light that had bombarded his eyes. He and Buba were lead away from their former occupancy toward a new home to call their very own. The path was uneven and several times Brand nearly twisted his ankle on small rocks.
Once they finally reached their destination, they were abruptly shoved inside. A rather large and hairy man whose odor was strong enough to nearly make Brand gag removed their blindfolds. That unpleasant beast of a man then made his way out and they were left alone.
Brand tossed down Megan's backpack and slowly scanned their new location. A few candles burned at random intervals throughout the tent, giving it a dim, moody lighting. Toward the back, three cots were arranged in a row, each with their own wooden chest at the front. There was really lack of much at all. The only other furniture present was a large table in the middle of the tent, which was surrounded by six chairs. The outline of a guard standing watch was visible through the front of the tent, the sun high in the sky in front of him.
"So..." Brand murmured, still looking around.
Cautiously, Buba tipped open one of the chests and peered inside. "Brand, come and look at this."
As he made his way over, Buba knelt down and scratched at his stubbly chin. Brand stepped up beside him and said nothing as he gazed into the chest and saw several piles of clothing, some worked-in-but-otherwise-healthy boots, and a dozen small bottles that reminded him of the alcohol bottles served on airplanes.
"Someone seems to think we are planning to stay here." Brand said.
Buba glanced up at Brand. "Someone seemed to know we were coming."
Before Brand could reach into the chest and grab one of the bottles, Megan stepped in through the front of the tent. She slowly walked toward the table and sunk down into a chair with a heavy sigh. Brand and Buba were up and at her side in the blink of an eye.
"You okay?" Brand asked.
"Just dandy, Brand."
Mr. Smelly stepped in again, before they could ask Megan anything else. He looked over the three then spoke in a deep, mumbled voice. "What you all need?"
Such a loaded question, but Brand bit his tongue. He shrugged at the man. "Food and water for starters. Answers would be nice too."
"And a razor to shave with." Buba piped in, scratching at his stubble once more. "Can't stand hair on my face."
"I have the answers," Megan said to Brand, "Sorta."
Smelly nodded faintly at Brand then took out a rather large knife that was at least a foot long and wider than Brand's fist. He stabbed the knife into the table and nodded to Buba. "Shave with that." And then he was gone.
The unpleasant odor left behind following the departure was hard to ignore, but they tried for the moment. Brand and Buba took seats at the table, turning their attention to Megan. "What happened?" Buba asked. He looked at her; his eyes scanning her body, searching for any kind of damage that may have been inflicted. Not finding any was a relief, but he still watched her with a concerned expression.
"Don't even know where to begin." Megan chuckled quietly to herself. "I'd almost bet this was some kind of practical joke, almost. Something is very wrong here, very wrong Brand." She looked toward Brand, slowly shaking her head. "According to this chick I talked to... we are here to save the world or something. She seems to think we have been prophesized for a long time and now we are here."
"You told her we just came for a book, right?" Brand asked. A look from Buba was all it took for Brand to reconsider his question. "I mean, we aren't here to save nobody. We just came for the stolen book and then we are out of here. So what is all this talk about? Surely she's mistaken, right?" It wasn't any better, or so Brand assumed when Buba sagged back in his chair.
Megan shrugged. "She knew an awful lot, Brand. Like the tattoos& she knew about those. I mean specific detail, too." Buba absently reached up and rubbed his shoulder at the mention of tattoos. Megan continued. "She knew other things too, Brand."
"Like?" Brand asked.
"Like, you know. Things she shouldn't know. Things that only you and I know. Those kinda things."
"What're you talking about?"
"The baby." Buba said.
Megan looked at Buba for a moment, then glared at Brand. "You told him? Without telling me you?"
Dumbstruck, Brand blinked. "Oh... yeah. Well, I figured he had to know for all of our own safety. Given this situation and all. You weren't around and-"
Megan waved a hand at Brand to shut him up. "Whatever." She looked back to Buba and smiled faintly. "Are you mad?"
"Why would I be?" Buba asked. "Disappointed, maybe a little. But now isn't the time to talk about this. What's done is done. We should think about now, now."
Brand glanced down at the table, shaking his head. "I'm going to lay down." He stood and headed back to the cots, then dropped down on one and rolled onto his side, covering his face with his arm.
Buba watched him go, looked back to Megan and shrugged faintly. He scooted a couple of chairs closer and lowered his thick voice. "You feeling all right?"
She nodded, looking back toward Brand quietly. As she turned her attention back to Buba, she murmured softly. "He's so moody sometimes." She sighed. "Yeah, I'm all right." She reached out, gently touching the blade of the knife sticking out of the table, tracing along the outline of the flame of a candle reflecting in the surface. "We were going to tell you, Buba. We just... we didn't know how to tell you without letting you down. Brand was going on and on about how this is just another thing for you to add to his screw-up list. He was scared to tell you."
"Sounds like Brand." Buba smiled at Megan. "I am happy for you both, no matter what. You know that, right? It's going to be interesting. I don't know how much I like the idea of a little Brand running around, but in the end, I'll love it just as much as you two do."
Her gaze returned to Buba's and she smiled back at him. Her muscles relaxed as she absorbed his presence. He always made her feel at home and even now, in this strange world, that was no different. "Thanks, Buba. It means a lot."
He patted her hand, glancing back at Brand before he leaned back in his chair. "Course, naming it Buba would be a great honor."
"Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves now, all right?" She winked.
"You still have that picture of us all?" Buba asked.
"Sure do." She slipped out of her chair and knelt down beside her backpack. For a moment she shuffled through the main pocket, then pulled out a photo and handed it to Buba.
It was a plain picture, taken at some local department store. Megan stood in the middle of Brand and Buba and they were happy. As Buba looked at it, he could remember clearly the day they had it taken. Things had been going so well then, nobody was in trouble, all three of them were happy, and life was perfect. Shortly after that, Brand nearly ended up in prison for several years, but the moment in question always gave Buba a smile.
He reluctantly handed the photo back to Megan, but she refused it. "You keep it, Buba. I have other copies at home."
He looked at the photo again, then nodded to Megan. "Thanks." The smile that crossed his lips spoke volumes to Megan. She rubbed his shoulder, then started to head toward the cots but stopped when Smelly stepped back in. Buba and Megan both looked toward him at the same time.
"Food will be served at sundown. Until then, you are free to do as you wish. Even leave and meet the people, explore the camp, anything you please." And with that, Mr. Smelly once again left.
Megan glanced back at Brand, still sleeping, then turned to Buba. "Well, want to let him sleep and see where exactly we are?"
Buba stood and nodded. "Okay." He started for the door and Megan stepped up beside him, slipping her arm through his and walking with him as they journeyed through the tent opening and out into the unknown world beyond.