(Concept sketch credit: Justin Gleghorn)
Barry crested the rise of the covered bridge, the stifling claustrophobic air already so hot this early in the morning. It would normally be cool and rainy and it wasn’t even June yet. Was a sign, but hopefully not one that read disaster for the caravan heading West to Alton A.
It was on his descent that he spotted the other man at the mouth of the cavernous river crossing, seemingly filling that space with all of his perpetual bulk.
“He’s never early. And it’s barely past nine.” Barry mumbled with trepidation.
He was a hulking behemoth of a man. Corn-fed and well bred, as big as a horse and could eat like one, too. He would eat one at that, had it been on the menu. There were five extra teeth in that massive head of his and though there weren’t any cases of him knowingly using them on his victims—there was always that possibility.
Quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, but boy when he did… Arms like tree trunks and hands like stumps and long thick roots of fingers reaching out for his prey. Grizzled beard and wild look of an ogre, who, if he wasn’t feral already, would turn on the unsuspecting wretch who would infer that is where his name came from.
"Trip. Trap. Trip. You're late." the man grumbled.
Yet his eyes were blue pools of goodwill, reflecting the purity he could see in everyone.
Barry hopped off his bicycle, only to be forcibly grappled by the monstrosity that was Ogethan. Bones cracked audibly, which was normally the case. One could always judge how happy Ogethan was to see you by the number of vertebrae protesting ‘yays’ and ‘nays’ from within Barry’s back, assenting or dissenting approval based solely upon the fact that it hurt so good.
“Big day, huh, buddy?” Ogethen inquired of Barry.
“Ouff.” was all he could reply for the moment. He straightened himself and Barry looked to him briefly, as if the trip one last questioning. Barry nodded committedly, as if every today was going to give him one last chance to back out.
“Word.” Barry responded.
“Word to your mother.”
“And your mother, too.”
Left hands on each of the bike’s handles, rights launched into a secret handshake so complex (not to mention secret) that it can’t be written about here. Ogethan hefted his rucksack and Barry wheeled his bike down Water Street as hot dust drifted up from its place at their feet. It moved lazily beneath their footsteps.
They stared down their future like the barrel of a gun making their way through the park. The cannon guarded Haven from ancient foes of a long time forgotten, the veteran’s memorial park one of their last bastions of hope. Though pointed towards Barry’s home, sedition had since been reconciled, and the five counties of Clint now worked together as a whole.
They both walked in unusual silence, of which Barry was quite content. Ogethan would normally be re-enacting some of the previous night’s tomfoolery. But instead, rolled himself a cigarette, and had yet to offer any of it by the time they were halfway down the block.
“You know those things’ll kill ya, don’t you?” Barry offered.
“Barry, my boy, I’m only living til I’m forty, ‘cause you’ll have killed me by asking the same old questions over and over again.” Ogethan protested. “Smoke?”
They stopped at the street corner, and Barry nervously switched his packback from shoulder to shoulder. Half a block away was Sally Fallon’s School for Exceptional Children, where Barry had boarded on and off the last five years of his life. Though he would be glad to leave it behind, there was more than a lingering regret to be abandoning this place.
Barry’s apprehension was palpable, as thick as the heat and the humidity of the morning air. Hadn’t Barry been wanting to be rid of this place for as long as he’d known him? Ogethan fished into his pocket, coins jingling quietly for the lack thereof.
“Say, I’ve got a few coin…want to head over for a farewell breakfast of sorts?”
“Yah, my grandfather game me some money before I left…” muttered Barry, tearing his gaze from The Fallon House to Ogethan before he realized the error of his ways.
“Well then, it’s settled—breakfast’s on Pap.” Ogethan remarked as he made a left down a comfortably tree-sheltered Grove Street, with Barry quickened his pace to keep up.