Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta cabin. Mostrar todas las entradas
Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta cabin. Mostrar todas las entradas

sábado, 15 de octubre de 2016

Change of pace

   Nicole had been watching birds professionally for about five years. Before that, she had been working in some laboratory where she helped create many types of perfume. But after so many years, she had grown very annoyed by the smells and also the tense environment in the workplace. Not many people would think that working creating the world’s most delicious scents would be tense but it was and she wanted out but didn’t know how to do it. She couldn’t just quit because she could lose many benefits but working there longer was not an option.

 As she decided what would be her alternative path, Nicole decided to take advantage of a two week paid vacation leave that she hadn’t used during her time working for the lab. She thought the best place to go was a quiet one, where people would not be all around her asking things and talking all the time. Nicole certainly did not appreciate that at all. She looked it up in the Internet and soon discarded going to a grand European capital or to one of those luxurious seaside hotels. Too many people in both. Instead, she chose a retreat in the forest, more private and adequate to her needs.

 Nicole arrived a Friday afternoon to the retreat and realized she had chosen the right place to go and relax. Even the staff of the hotel was gentle and not scandalous. The man in the hotel’s reception told her that they owned almost thirty cabins all around the forest and that they were all connected through dirt paths. A young man grabbed her suitcase and put it in a golf cart and helped her to her assigned cabin. It was beautiful, very small but very cozy at the same time. She had asked for a one bedroom one and it was just perfect.

 It had a small bedroom, a very modern bathroom and a living room with a small kitchen space, which worked on electricity. There were not television sets, radios, phones or any type of Wi-Fi connection in any of the rooms. The only place from which a person could do any of those things was the reception structure. As the boy left after leaving her suit case in the cabin, Nicole checked and realized she was really disconnected from the world: her cellphone had no signal whatsoever. She finally felt free and seemed very excited for what may happen.

 As she had arrived in the afternoon, it wasn’t a good idea to wander around the forest, as darkness would be upon her soon. Instead, she decided to use the bathtub and enjoy it thoroughly with hot water and the relaxing sound of the wind among the trees. After that bath, it was very easy for Nicole to just get into bed and fall asleep in a very short time. She never did that back home but she felt so tired from the road trip to the hotel that she fell asleep right away. She had a dreamless sleep that lasted for several hours.

 When she woke up, it was ten past ten. When she saw the time in her watch, she got scared for a moment but then remembered she was on a holiday and not working in the laboratory. She could sleep for as many hours as she wanted and waking up at six in the morning was not mandatory anymore. She decided to check out the kitchen and, just as the brochure said, you could pay for it to be fully packed with things from day one of your stay. So she decided to cook herself a scrambled egg breakfast with some orange juice.

 As she ate it all in a small table by a window, she heard the forest: there was no silence but a magnificent amount of sound coming from every direction. She wondered if that would help her think or would come against her at some point. Nicole decided to take a walk after eating and wandered around the paths for several hours until she realized she didn’t quite now where she was. She had not been smart enough to borrow a map from the reception and asking someone for directions didn’t seem to be a real possibility.

 It was just then when she heard a whistle and the distinctive sound of a photography camera. There was someone near her. She walked around trying to identify the source of the sound but she couldn’t find anyone. Growing a bit desperate, she stepped into some rocks and her feet glided over them ass the moss covering them was very slimy. Nicole stumbled to the ground, hitting her behind hard against the ground and one of her legs being seriously hurt. It wasn’t long before a bearded man, about her age, appeared very close.

 He didn’t ask her anything. He just grabbed her as if she was weightless and carried in a jog to the reception, where they had the infirmary. The doctor there told Nicole she had twisted her ankle but that it wasn’t too bad. She could prevent swelling with a special cream and should prevent movement at all costs. He offered her some crutches to use around but she declined, saying she did feel like she needed them. She would rather enjoy the rest of her stay by just being careful and resting a bit for the next couple of days.

 Nicole wanted to thank the man that had carried her to the doctor but he had left in a huff. Apparently there was something much more important he had to do than checking if the person he carried was all right. Nicole tried not to think a lot about that, instead just been taken to her cabin in a golf cart. There, she decided to rest in bed for a while. When she about to fall asleep, she heard something like a whistle again. She hadn’t solved that mystery before and she wanted to know what was it.

 She stepped out of her cabin once again and tried to hear where the sound was coming from again but there was no more whistling. Instead, she could perfectly hear the wind passing through the trees, which was a very soothing sound. Breathing slowly with her eyes closed, Nicole realized how precious it was to be in a place where the sound of the wind could take you to so many places at once. It was the best experience ever. She had never been in any trip where she could actually distance herself from her life but this time it seemed different.

 The next day, she was lucky enough to stumble upon the man with the beard. She found him reorganizing some things by the main path. Nicole thanked him for his help and tried to shake his hand but he didn’t even look at her. He seemed immersed in something she couldn’t understand. When he finished whatever he was doing, he left the path immediately and started walking towards the deepness of the forest. Not really understanding why, Nicole decided to go after him, almost having to run in order to not to miss him among the trees.

 She finally reached him in a clearing where he sat down on the floor and, with a gesture, asked Nicole to be quiet. He grabbed a camera from his backpack and waited, apparently only hearing the sound of the woods. She heard them too, trying not to make a sound. Then, the man whistled in a very specific manner. When he did, it seemed to be very precise. And it was. Out of nowhere, a flock of small birds flew over the clearing, some of them landing among the dried leaves. The man took several pictures before the birds left.

 When she realized she could speak again, Nicole asked the man how he knew what sound to make in order for them to come and what was he doing in that place. He told her he was a ornithologist, a bird expert and that he was creating a complete catalogue of every bird in the forest. He told Nicole that it was a very difficult job but that it was very rewarding as birds weren’t as selfish and evil as men. He confessed he didn’t really like people. After he said that, he looked Nicole straight in the eye and stretched her hand to hear. His name was Quentin.


 That day, and all the following days in which Nicole had decided to remain in the woods, Quentin would tell her all the tricks to get the best pictures of the birds. He would also take pictures of other animals and of the trees. He found nature fascinating at it most simple. Nicole was so enthralled by all of this that she decided it was time to make her next move. When she came back to the city she quit her job and applied to one in the university to be Quentin’s assistant. The pay was better making perfume but her life felt so much lighter and improved in the forest, in peace.

martes, 6 de enero de 2015

Trans-Siberian

   Niko handed Natasja with an envelope, telling her to read its content and then destroy it. He also gave her an umbrella, saying it was raining a lot in Vladivostok. He finally wished her a nice trip and promised to see her in two months on a plane to Japan, if all went well.

Natasja then boarded the train and looked for her seat. To make things less suspicious, she had bought a seat in a four-seat cabin. Getting to know other passengers and playing cards with them would make her less of a target for people watching, looking for odd behavior.

She found her seat and realized the compartment was still empty so she took the seat by the window and looked at all the faces outside: family members of the travelers, the travelers themselves giving advice about unimportant things, police officers and station guards, providing weak security to the building and even tourists. It wasn’t uncommon to see them, especially in the summer, but people around these parts noticed them always.

Sure enough, a tourist couple sat in front of Natasja and an older woman besides her. About fifteen minutes after her finding her seat, the train began to leave the station. The young woman leaned back, clutching hard on her envelope, thinking this should be her last assignment. She was so fed up with this job, always moving from one point to the next, never really having a place to call home or someone to actually care for her.

The older woman pointed something through the window and the tourists smiled and talked to her. Natasja then remembered she had to do exactly the same, blending in and trying not to look too strange among the fairly common passengers of the train.

She proposed a game of card, which they all eagerly joined. They played for well over an hour, laughing and learning each other’s name.

The couple was composed of Marisa and Tommen. She was French and he was German. They had boarded the Trans-Siberian in order to get to Lake Baikal, a place they had always wanted to visit because of its landscape and fishing possibilities. Every couple of minutes, they would say something about a fish or some sea creature they had captured while fishing. They could get annoying if Natasja or the older lady didn’t change the subject.

The older lady’s name was Katya. She had been visiting a sister in Moscow for a month or so but now she needed to go back to her home in Irkutsk. When asked why she lived in such a harsh city, especially during winter, she answered her father had been one of the first colonists to exploit oil in the region, by settling near the city. And she had always loved it there so there was no way she would leave, even if her old bones couldn’t cope with the cold as well as they did before.

Natasja introduced herself and told her cabin companions that she had been attending a specialist in Moscow. When asked if she was sick, she answered she had been attending chemotherapy, because of an odd tumor the doctors had found in her lungs. She had lived in Moscow for the time being but now that she had being deemed healthy enough, she had decided to travel to her family in Vladivostok.

She learned the story so well; she had started believing in it. She even gave precise details about the procedure, her family at the end of the line, her house and a dog named Flo, who she claimed was waiting for her in the Vladivostok train station.

But the truth was far from that nice story, which had nothing to do with her.  After playing for some more, Natasja excused herself and told everyone she had to go to the ladies room and to get a drink of water. She even asked everyone if they need something: Katya asked her to buy a water bottle to drink her pills with. She agreed and exited the compartment calmly.

Outside, however, she was impatient. She had to get to the nearest bathroom and read the documents Niko had given her in the station. No one, or so she thought, had seen her come out of the cabin with the envelope. She walked for a while until she found the restaurant wagon. There, she asked for a bathroom, which she found easily.

In there, she read all the papers. They were only two, detailing what she had to guard so carefully and instructions about what to do if the object in her possession became lost or was destroyed. This last thing was preferable than see it taken by someone else. In any case, it was imperative she got it safe to the Pacific and gave it to another person in the train station, at her arrival.

When she finished reading, Natasja soaked the papers in the toilet and then saw the ink falling, as it was made of some strange liquid. After a couple of minutes, all the letters had “melted” from the two sheets of paper. She threw the two empty papers into a trash bin and then came out of the bathroom. An annoyed tall woman was waiting outside. Natasja excused herself but the woman didn’t even care.

She went back to the restaurant wagon and bought the water bottle for Katya who was very happy to see it when Natasja got back to the cabin. They were all fed up with cards so they just started talking until they all fell asleep. The first day of seven had finished.

The next two days were all the same: playing cards and seating all together for breakfast and lunch. Natasja excused herself from eating dinner, as she had never really liked to eat at night. Her body never responded kindly so she preferred to stay in the cabin and read one of the books a kind lady rented every passenger for a couple of pennies.

The truth was that Natasja didn’t want to get too far from the cabin. The object was there, and it would be madness to leave it alone but also to take her with her everywhere. It would make her too suspicious and, somehow, she knew someone watched her everyday.

She felt it first during lunch in the second day, when she stared a little bit too long at the window and suddenly she felt everyone in the restaurant was looking at her. She was probably being paranoid but it was better to be paranoid than not to be careful.

Sure enough, her cabin companions had asked about her papers and she suddenly faked she had no idea where they were. They even called one of the train’s guards to help them look for the envelope but it was all in vane, of course. Natasja told her new friends they were only the results of the last blood test, affirming she was now well and free of any cancer cells. She just wanted her parents to see it, to make them happy.

This, somehow, made Natasja the subject of unwanted attention all over the train. She couldn’t go the to panoramic wagon or to the restaurant without people telling her how brave she was and how young and beautiful they thought she was. The young woman started having a problem with it, because some people even broke in tears and confessed they had suffered from cancer too. After all she was human and it was disheartening to see people open like that, for no real reason.

On the fourth day, at night, the train arrived in Irkutsk. So she had to say goodbye to her cabin companions. They even hugged and Katya shed a tear, handing Natasja a bottle of lemon juice she had bought in the restaurant. She said it was good for the cells and that it was the only thing she could have bought as a present. That little present made Natasja actually happy, as friends were not easy to be found, not for her at least.

They all exchanged phone numbers and then parted ways. The next day, just one more day or so to her final destination, Natasja went alone to lunch and thought of her life. She had never known a real family, having been abandoned by her parents in an orphanage. From very little she had to fend for herself and there was no space for love or animosity with anyone, not in the streets. When she got older, she was recruited by an intelligence agency from abroad in order to work inside of Russia, dealing with different kinds of jobs.

But she was tired of it. At night, alone in the cabin, she decided that this time it was her time to be herself. Not Natasja, or anyone else but only her. After handing the umbrella to the agent in Vladivostok, she would leave that world of secrecy behind.

When the train finally arrived to the Pacific coast of the Russian Federation, the police found Natasja’s body lying right in the spot she had decided to be free. After thorough investigation, they deemed her death a murder by poison, probably related to a bottle of juice found besides her. She had no possessions with her as nothing was found on the cabin besides the bottle.

Someone extracted the umbrella, just after she had died or fell asleep. But the identity of that person remains a mystery to this day and it’s very likely we will never now who called agent Natasja.

sábado, 1 de noviembre de 2014

The woods

No one dared take the road through the woods. Although much shorter than the others, people tried to avoid it if possible. It had been built almost a century ago but it was only widely used for a couple of years before the wood grew darker and thicker and much more dangerous.

So an alternative road, by the side of the mountain, was built to avoid the forest. That road had a lot of curves, cliffs, and almost doubled the other one in length. It wasn't uncommon that, on a harsh winter or on rainy days, the door got blocked by mud and rocks falling from the mountain. The two towns would then be disconnected and all trade or travels between the two had to be postponed.

On one of those bad days, Sammy, a young woman looking forward visiting her family in the other town, got with her car to the mountain road but soon realized it had been blocked by big boulders. She went back home and , sadly, sat by the television set and thought of her family.

It was going to be a surprise visit but now it couldn't be done. Although... She went to her studio and grabbed a map of the region. The map marked the mountain road as a primary road. Meanwhile, the one in the woods had only a few segments drawn as people had no idea of its current state.

Sammy knew the road wasn't good for cars, only for small vehicles, motorcycles or pedestrians. But none dared enter the woods. What she noticed was that if she got out in the middle of the day, she could get across the woods in less than 3 hours. The journey normally took seven hours and that was not an option now.

So the next day she decided to dress properly for a hard walk and got to the point where the woods started. It wasn't strange no one was around as she begin, walking by the old road, covered in dead leaves and puddles of mud.

With her she only had a backpack with clothes and food, her cellphone and the map folded inside. That was it. She wore hiking boots and a thick jacket and thermal pants. It had stopped raining in the morning but she knew she had to walk fast in order to get there soon.

The first hour was incredible easy. The road was plain and almost no rocks or trees where lying across it. She could almost imagine the old carriages and horses going through the woods.
However, the place was really creepy. She knew it was around midday, but the son could almost not be seen. The foliage was thick and the trees had grown in all sorts of shapes. Almost no flowers grew there and she heard no animals in the vicinity.

When half of the walking was done, she realized the road ended and two different paths began from there. At that point she got her map out and spread it on the ground. It was hard to make a choice but she thought the best option was the clearer path, the one in the left. The map seemed to confirm it. So she began to walk again.

After just a half hour, she was walking through trees. The path had finished a few steps ago and now she only saw thin trees with big treetops. She felt lost but knew that the only option was walking in a straight line. The forest had to end at some point and it was likely the town was not far from there.

But when she started walking a cracking sound stopped her. She gazed around but so nothing. As she but one foot in front of the other, the cracking sound came back. And again and again. So she turned around.

Nothing. She decided to walk faster. After a few minutes she arrived in a clearing and there was a cottage there, the kind a lumberjack makes. Now Sammy was petrified. No one had gone to the woods in almost a hundred years so why was there a house in the middle of it?

She was very curious about it but decided not to investigate further. She continued to walk but now she heard as if someone tap a window. She turned and so no one there.

Now she was almost running. Sammy was not an athlete so her feet where killing her already but she knew she had no time to waste.

After a while, the trees began to feel more and more separated and she could see the sun, pale and cold but bright enough to make her feel safe. She decided the town could not be very far so she walked with a smile towards the edge of the forest but then rain started falling. As if someone was pouring buckets and buckets of it.

Then the cracking sound again and, in the middle of the downpour, Sammy felt someone touched her shoulder. She screamed and ran for her life. She only stopped when she felt the day had gotten brighter.

She removed the hoodie of her jacket and realized the rain had stopped and that she had arrived at her destination. She could see the tree line. Sammy was on a hill and from there one could see the town. She smiled but then she heard a laugh and turned instinctively.

There, by the nearest tree, there was a small boy. He only smiled and waved at her. And Sammy waved at him. He turned his back to her and she did the same and each one parted.

Sammy got to her family's house but did not share the story with them. She invented some lie and kept the strange smile of the kid in the woods for herself.