Chapter 7:

007 ┃ Dawn and Spud

The Isle of the Forgotten

The boy was walking about two meters behind the girl along the trail. Every time he tried to quicken his pace to walk side by side with her, she would distance herself by the same length he had walked, like a skittish cat. That same morning, it had been at least four meters, so at least things had somewhat improved.

Surely it had been thanks to the delicious stew they had managed to prepare with the potatoes he found that morning. How many more stews would it take for them to become friends? He couldn't hunt, fight, or light fires, so for now, it was best for him to get along with the girl who had saved his life. He wouldn't be able to find a way home if he were dead.

"Hey, how did you find me yesterday? I thought you didn't usually go out at night," the boy asked, trying to strike up a conversation.

"I heard the bell," she simply replied without looking at him.

"Really? That was the last thing that occurred to me when I was desperate. I guess it wasn't such a bad idea after all."

He waited a few seconds for a response, but it never came. Instead, she gifted him with an uncomfortable silence.

Good heavens, it was difficult to talk to this girl. Her responses so far had almost entirely consisted of 'I don't know' and 'Shut up,' which didn't give him much room to maneuver. At least when she insulted him by telling him how annoying he was, he didn't feel like he was talking to a wall. But he wasn't going to give up. He was going to become her friend, no matter what it took.

"By the way, I haven't thanked you for yesterday yet," he mentioned, trying to be polite. He tried to establish eye contact with the girl, but he could only look at the back of her head.

"It doesn't matter," she replied tersely.

"No, no, you saved my life. I thank you from the bottom of my heart... uh..." The boy paused and closed his eyes to think hard. After a couple of seconds, he opened them, bewildered. "Come to think of it, you haven't told me your name yet."

"I don't have a name."

"What? How can you not have a name?" He laughed, leaves crunching under his feet.

"I don't have one. I forgot it because of amnesia," she explained.

"That doesn't make sense. Your name is something personal, it defines who you are. You can't just forget it like that," the boy argued, trying to get a little closer to the girl so they could speak more directly. To his surprise, she didn't move away this time.

"Oh, really? Tell me your name then, genius." She glanced at him sideways.

"My name? Sure. It's..." he began to speak carelessly, but his mind went blank. A few seconds passed during which he started to get nervous. He put a hand to his head while his gaze went blank. "Oh, no. You're right. I don't remember."

"Mhm," the girl nodded, amused by her companion's identity crisis.

"How are we going to call each other then?" the boy asked with concern.

"'Hey, you' works for me." She shrugged, unconcerned.

"No, I mean proper names. Something with which we can identify each other..." he explained while scratching his chin, thoughtful. Without realizing it, he had ended up walking level with the girl, though she had moved away again with a murderous look. "I have an idea. Since you're going to be the one calling me and I'll be the one calling you, the most logical thing is for us to name each other. If that's okay with you, of course."

The girl turned her head to look at him and looked at him over her shoulder.

"Sounds good to me. Then I'll call you 'You'," she decided without thinking too much about it.

The boy unconsciously walked again until he was next to the girl.

"That doesn't count. It has to be something unique and cool, like 'Wolf' or 'Thunder' or something," he complained, looking at the sky to think of ideas.

"We have arrived, Thunder," she announced, leaning her large lance on the ground.

"That was just an example. Please, don't call me 'Thunder'," he asked as he followed her through the trees.

They emerged from the grove and the boy saw a familiar landscape of ruined houses.

"The village? Is this where you wanted to bring me?" He looked around and felt a chill.

The last time he had been there, a disgusting stalker almost sent him to a better life. It was logical that he didn't have the best memories.

Even so, he couldn't help but notice again the desolate atmosphere in the place. The day before, he was too worried to appreciate it, but there really was a very gloomy aura in that place. From some of the houses devoured by nature to the destroyed doors and windows, everything in that place had the word "death" written all over it.

He couldn't help but notice the house where he wanted to spend the night, now completely ruined because of the damage the stalker had done. Even though it had been the day before, now the house fit perfectly with the rest of the village, as if it had always been destroyed.

"Come," the girl ordered. She walked among the rubble, carelessly kicking a rotten door piece, until they both were on the main street of the village.

The boy remained expectant as his companion walked without stopping. They arrived at what once must have been the main square. From there, one could appreciate the different intersections and streets that the town had, which made it seem much larger than he had initially thought.

"That over there is the armory." She pointed with her lance at a small display case with shattered glass. "From there I got the lance and the bow."

The boy listened carefully, not fully understanding the girl's intention.

"That is the inn, where I slept the first few nights I arrived on the island. That's the restaurant, the tavern, the tailor shop..." She continued pointing out several important buildings in the town until she stopped at the large bell tower. "And that's the church. Now you know as much as I do, so you better stop bothering me with your questions again."

The boy spent a few seconds observing each of the places she had pointed out.

"Wow, you really know a lot about this village," he expressed.

"I spent a lot of time here before moving to the cabin. I used to hide in the closets of the houses at night so they wouldn't hear me. Plus, I've been here for a year. If I hadn't had the village to explore, I would have died of boredom."

The boy listened to her attentively, fascinated by the girl's anecdote. He was glad that she had finally decided to tell him something on her own initiative, but he couldn't help feeling bad for her. He had found someone to talk to on his first day of arrival, but her? With a year living there alone, it was strange that she hadn't gone mad.

"It must have been horrible."

"It was."

They remained silent for a few seconds, the boy glancing at her. She had her eyes fixed on the village as if she were recalling moments from the past.

"You know what? I think I've come up with a name for you." The boy broke the silence, making her look at him with curiosity.

"Oh, really?"

"Yes, and it's pretty good, if I may say so. You were the first of the two of us to arrive here, right? Well, the first time of the day before the sunrise is… Dawn. Your name will be Dawn," the boy concluded, satisfied. "If that's okay with you, of course."

"Do whatever you want," she replied after considering it for a few moments.

"Great! I actually quite like it. Dawn... Dawn... Nice to meet you, Dawn." The boy offered his hand, but the girl just judged him with her gaze.

"Now you're making it weird. I take it back, you can't call me that."

"Wait, wait. Okay. Sorry," he said, trying to fix his mistake. "I promise I'll use it appropriately."

"You better." She started to walk calmly down the main street, followed by the boy. With his gaze fixed on Dawn, he waited a few seconds, expectant.

"Well? Do you have a name for me?" he asked, with an excited smile on his face.

The girl sighed.

"Well, since you found potatoes this morning..." She paused for a long time. "I'll call you Spud."

"Eh?" exclaimed the boy, not very impressed. "Spud? Really?"

"You can name yourself if you don't like it," Dawn suggested, clearly amused by the boy's disappointment.

"No, I was the one who proposed it. Actually, it's not that bad. I like how it sounds. Spud," he repeated, trying to convince himself without much success.

"Well, Spud, we've arrived," Dawn stopped, causing Spud to almost bump into her.

"Where?" he asked, directing his gaze at the building in front of them. It was much larger than the rest of the houses in the village, so much so that he wondered how he hadn't been able to see it the day before. It was made of grayish stone and Spud thought that it once must have had an imposing presence. Now, a considerable part of the building was ruined and one could see part of the destroyed interior as if it were a shell of what it once was.

"I told you I was going to take you to a place you'd like, didn't I?"

A. Hoshino