After spending the night at Uncle Albert’s, Sylvia was eager to continue searching for the other stones and unravel the mystery of what happened to her village. There had been no question in her mind that Uncle Albert would join the hunt given that her mother was likely in danger. Instead, he chose to remain cloistered away in his home, offering only petty excuses as to why.
“But Sylvia, I simply can’t go with you,” he’d argued that morning, his voice echoing from within the confines of a giant pea-shaped metal container. “I’m a zombie now dear, I would only slow the rest of you down. Having that Seth fellow lagging behind is bad enough, I’m sure. Besides, suppose you do find your mother and everyone. I couldn’t bear the idea of her seeing me in this state, I’d be far too ashamed.”
This coming from the man who once greeted the family at his door wearing nothing but a sandal on one foot and a colander atop his head. Uncle Albert had later excused his dress, or rather lack thereof, on being victorious in attempts to try his hand at making wine and subsequently celebrating a bit too much with the fruits of his labor the night before.
In the end, arguing did nothing to sway Uncle Albert in his decision to stay behind. She couldn’t help but feel disappointed that tinkering with inventions and curious novelties took precedence over trying to find the rest of their family. The brief visit felt like a waste of time now and perhaps would have been if not for the information gained about the stone fragment he’d possessed. This and Uncle Albert’s vague knowledge regarding the origin of his former apprentice, a small village on the western border of the desert. Since it was only a few hours travel from his home, she and her group of odd companions reached it before midday. But Sylvia all at once felt an uneasy sense of deja vu once they arrived.
Deigen whirled his head about at the eerily empty homes. “It looks like Caleb isn’t the only one who hasn’t been home in a while. Where is everyone?”
“Probably wherever the people in my village were taken.” Sylvia flinched as something moved out of the corner of her eye. She stopped the mule and turned to look behind her but only saw Seth standing his usual distance away. But rather than attempting to play catchup, the zombie appeared more interested in a nearby tree. He froze as if the tree had called his name and tilted his head to gaze up at it. “What is he doing now?”
“How knows?” Bastiick shrugged, stopping his horse as well. “I’m trying to figure out why he’s still with us. He told us in chapter seven he’s from a small town in the direction of the East Desert. Doesn’t that mean we should have passed it already?”
V rolled his eyes, shaking his head at him. “Bastiick, give the author a break and stop asking silly questions. This is, after all, the first draft.”
Bastiick snorted out a chuckle. “Apparently small towns are prone to move a bit in first drafts.”
Seth continued his staring contest with the tree, seemingly oblivious that his friends were patiently watching him. Then he raced up to it, proceeding to flail his arms and kick the trunk. The spectacle gave another feeling to Sylvia that events were repeating themselves, having been the one stuck up a tree during his last attempt at climbing. She hoped her spell and Uncle Albert’s appetite suppressants were not deciding to fail now.