It was that time of the year. Spring had dressed the world to dance and summer was tuning its instruments, eager to start playing. A bright afternoon sun shone down on a little train making its way east across the plain near the forest's edge. In one of the cars, by a window, Enar sat looking out, thoughtful but happy.
Enar was in his early thirties and, by anfylk standards, rather average. Perhaps he was a little rounder than what was perfectly healthy, but so were a lot of people these days. His hair was dark and unruly but respectably short if not recently cut. For the trip he'd dressed comfortably in a sweater, jeans and his favorite gardening boots. A heavy coat hung from a peg on the wall next to the window by his seat.
On the other side of the glass, to the north, the Lower Vil fields stretched out as far as the eye could see. A vast expanse of nothing but the greenest grass and wildflowers.
To the south, on his right, grassland dotted with trees and bushes stretched for about half a mile until the vegetation became dense and high enough to be called a forest for real. Deeper into the woods hills rose, higher and higher, further and further away. Enar knew, but couldn't see, that the forests and the hills eventually gave way to the Lachland Mountains, a small out-runner to the enormous Snaggfell range in the west. There would still be snow on its peaks even at this time of the year.
Above it all the sky went on forever, endlessly blue and with not a cloud in sight. Starring up at it from within the little train Enar felt very small indeed.
The forested hills on his right and the wide open plains on his left stood in stark contrast to each other. Through one window he could see one world and through another an entirely different one. Enar couldn't help but feel it was symbolic in some way. The two worlds on each side and him in the middle pretty much summed up his life as it was at the moment.
On the one side his past, well known and familiar with his sick mother and full of worries and concerns. On the other side the future, unknown and secretive but full of opportunities. As he thought more about it he couldn't quite decide which side was which, the symbolism could work both ways. He mused on this for a bit but eventually decided it didn't really matter. The main point was that he was in the middle, apart from both past and future, in a little train taking him to his first vacation in years.
The train really was very little. It was the first anfylk adapted train he'd ever been on. The seats were sized for his people; the doors, the windows, the entire cart - everything was smaller than on regular human-sized trains and it fit him perfectly. He didn't have to reach uncomfortably high to open the doors, he didn't have to dangle his feet or sit on the edge of the seat. He could put his bag up on the shelf above the window without having to stand on the seat or ask a human for help. The car was old and worn and nearly full. Most of the passengers were locals on their way home from the farmer's market in Hemsfil but a few were tourists like himself.
Enar glanced at his watch to check the time. It was getting close, according to the timetable they'd arrive in less than ten minutes. Outside the window the fields drifted by. Compared to the modern bullet trains that had taken him from Kul Viller to Hemsfil this one was a clumsy old dinosaur. Slowly and laboriously it made it's way across the landscape but the shaking and rumbling actually made it feel as if he was on a journey. The smooth, silent ride of modern trains was more like sitting at a nice little cafe than actually traveling somewhere.
The route from Hemsfil to Irnrad in the East Hemsfil Anetacht was the only one in the country running anfylk adapted trains. Humans rarely, if ever, travelled this route and when they did they just had to make do with the smaller scale. It wasn't as if they didn't make the anfylk adapt to their scale everywhere else. Enar had deliberately bought a third class ticket for this leg of the journey just to experience the atmosphere. It had been suggested in the brochure from Roots Travels that this was how the locals travelled and that it would lend the trip an air of authenticity.
It did feel very authentic. There was an abundance of locals all dressed in old-fashioned traditional garb and speaking in a funny accent, just like in the movies. As far as he'd seen they were all barefoot with feet and legs unshaven. There were cages with hens and chickens and someone had even brought a pig on a leash. It was quite noisy. The little cynic within him had suggested it may be a trick of the travel agent's designed to fool naive city folk. He'd considered it for only a short while before dismissing it as too much effort for too little gain.
Most likely this really was how the fylkin of an anetacht dressed and travelled when they left their village homes to visit the city. An anetacht was a place where anfylk lived according to the old ways; like they'd done since Anna created them. They didn't have electricity or television. There was no running water or cell-phone coverage. In an anetacht you didn't live in apartments and you didn't work nine to five in an office to earn your living. The anetacht in East Hemsfil was the only one in the country that accepted tourists. It was also the only one that was serviced by train and easy to get to. The other two, one in the forests north of Roed and one in the mountains between Mols and Tels were far more remote and less eager to welcome casual visitors.
Enar was very much looking forward to his vacation. He'd lived in the city all his life and he'd barely been outside of it since his mother got ill, nearly a decade ago. Kul Viller was a big, modern city and living there you had everything you could possibly need - and even more you couldn't - within easy reach. In an anetacht that wasn't the case. Here people lived in burrows in little villages. You lived off the land and you made do with what you had. It was very different from city life and Enar was both excited and nervous about trying it out for a week.
One of his colleagues had recommended Roots Travels and the vacation packages they offered after Enar had mentioned he was thinking of going somewhere but couldn't decide where. He'd poured over brochures and read up on life in the anetachts and eventually he'd decided on an all-inclusive first-timer's package. It was the safe, easy and comfortable option which, after all, was exactly what he wanted. The package had him stay as a guest in the guest burrow of a family in one of the villages. His hosts would see to it that he was fed and taken care of and they'd make sure he had a relaxed and pleasant stay.
It was possible he may be offered, or asked, to assist with chores around the house or in the village. He wasn't required to help out, but the brochure had made clear that it was part of life in the anetacht and part of the experience; you helped out with what you could when you were needed. It had also gone to great lengths to explain that he wouldn't be asked to do something that was dangerous or complicated or even physically challenging.
It all sounded perfectly reasonable to Enar and he didn't imagine he would have any issue helping out with whatever tasks his host might set him. He was even looking forward to it. He pictured himself chopping up firewood with an axe or hammering away on roof that needed mending. Spending most of his days in an office shuffling papers some fresh air and a little physical activity would do him good; maybe he'd even lose some weight.
Anfylk were meant to be a little rounded, but there was a difference between being round and being overweight and Enar was squarely on the wrong side of that divide. Working at the Kul Viller police he had access to exercise facilities for free, but what with his mother being ill and all he'd rarely made use of them. It wasn't as if working as an archivist was very demanding physically and he hadn't really had much time to worry about staying fit.
Enar sighed as he contemplated the need to try and get in shape and glanced at the watch again. Five more minutes to arrival.
Continued in Day 1 - Scene 2.
Back to Enar's Vacation.