Stick Your Neck Out

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My phone rings. It's the alarm clock. I forgot to turn it off, even though I only start at ten. There's no helping it: when I wake up like that in the morning I'm just completely unable to fall back asleep. It's like daylight tapes my eyelids open. A very comfortable feeling.

I get dressed slowly while scrunching up my face. If I had a mirror now, I'd probably look like an old paper bag more than anything else. I groan. Three hours with nothing to do. I don't want to spend them here, at my parent's place. I've seen enough of my mom for a while. Perhaps I could go check on the available rents in town. There are around four or five real estate offices around and I don't have a computer. Let's go check out the prices, at least.

Before I go, I grab a couple bread slices and I sip some coffee. It's bad enough that Dave had to pay for yesterday's meal. I don't have a dollar on me and I'd rather go hungry than to ask for pocket money. Bread is good enough. I guess I will also make full use of the HappyBroiler catering's stock of cheap fries.

Shit, I really can't wait for the paycheck to fall on my lap. Why are we only the 26th? There's almost a full week left before August comes. I'm not sure how much more in the red my money can go. I've never been really good with these things: I guess I'll know when the ATM doesn't let me withdraw anymore.

I get on my bike and go towards the town center again. Climbing that hill daily could count as training for the Olympics. I didn't really factor that in when I thought of cheap transport. I'm going to get bulky muscular thighs or die trying, with better odds on the second outcome. Oh well.

Luckily, the ATM is not completely sick of me yet and I manage to withdraw a couple twenties. They feel warm in my pocket and I'm confident about life again. The things two pieces of paper can do!

I circle the streets looking for the real estate offices I remember. It's not like I'm gonna go in and ask about apartments, looking at what's on display is good enough for me. I'm worried if I go inside I might get conned by one of these people you see in ads with impossibly white smiles.

Thing is, there ain't that many offers on displays and not many of them are in my price range. Do a lot of people use Brooding Peaks as a resort or something? Sure, we have a beautiful view and a nice old town center but that's about it. These prices are not only annoying, if they are in any way representative of what it cost to get a flat here, I'm doomed to stay at my parent's place until I inherit the thing. Fuck. I'm starting to understand why Tig and friends chose to share a house with two other people so far from the center.

I hesitate a moment, thinking about how Tig and Leon said the others were barely there anymore. There might be a place for me there. Then again, it might be very selfish to think that way, but am I strong enough to get Tig back on her feet, everyday if she needs it? I'm not sure about that. Shrugging the idea off, I resume my search. I'm pretty sure it would be worse to commit and end up failing her.

Time goes by fast enough that I have to get back on my bike before I've found anything relevant. Another time. The factory and its pleasures are waiting for me.

Approaching the mountain, I realize how much the way I see it has changed. Do I really want to believe what Domenica and Dave are talking about? Energy, spirits, curses or whatever? It's hard to swallow.

I still get a chilly feeling on my back when a turn on the road gets the looming shape of the mountain behind me. Shit, I'm such a pushover. A beautiful woman tells me all about ghosts and monsters and I get scared of a magical mountain.

After a good deal of exercise, I get to the factory's fence. The doors are wide open today. A bit worried about the hail, I lock the bike on the side of a building, where it's less likely to end up all wet and dented. I can already see two or three people lining in front of the administration just like yesterday. Leon doesn't seem to be there, he probably signed the contract already. I think I'm gonna eat at the catering here today and try to find him. Same with Rodrigo. I could really do with a couple more friendly people around here, even if that means eating bad frozen fries and nothing else.

The changing room is as empty as last time. I feel another small tremor while I put on my boots. It's a daily occurrence here, apparently. I wonder why we can't feel them from the other side of the river?

When I come out of the locker room, Dave's waiting for me and we go back to cleaning the concrete floor with water and squeegees. Today we should be done with this first coop. How many did he say we had to clean? Twenty? That's when I remember Domenica's request.

"Hey, Dave?" I say. He's been taking care of a particularly grimy corner with a sort of metal blade on a stick. He turns to face me.

"Yeah?" he says.

"I got a friend who's an archaeologist, she's currently studying the mountain and it's... energy... readings? Anyway, I told her you had a lot of lore and knowledge of this place and she'd really like to meet you. I think you'd probably really hit it off."

Dave looks grumpy. He's apparently pretty unhappy that I talked about him to someone else. It might not be as easy to convince him to meet Domenica as I thought it would be. Around the coop, wind picks up and I feel the air getting colder, announcing hail again.

"I don't get too friendly with scientists," says Dave, put off. "We don't go along, that's all. Either they don't believe me or they see me as a lab rat. You can just tell your friend that you were mistaken. Tell her I'm a lunatic."

"But she believes in the same stuff you do," I say. "And I owe you an apology. I'm not saying that I believe you know, but believing in different things than I do doesn't make you crazy. I'm sorry I overreacted yesterday."

Dave puts up his hands. "You already apologized for that," he says. "Plus, I know what it sounds like when I talk about reading energy flows. Your reaction was not surprising."

"But it was pretty judgmental. Listen, Domenica is a great human being and if you have something to tell her, she'll listen. She's awesome that way. I mean, for someone who so doesn't want to get involved, this supernatural shit is literally the first thing you talked to me about and now there's someone out there ready to believe you! Isn't that a good thing?"

Dave scrapes the floor for a while without answering. "Fine," he says, "you can give me her phone number. I'll call her, but I'm making no promises. If she's just an obnoxious little know-it-all or if she wants to 'scientifically test me', I'm out."

I have no problem agreeing with him. They're adults. They'll sort this out by themselves. We can just go back to talking about the weather while scrubbing things. Now that I've gotten into the rhythm, things go pretty fast. We're almost done with the coop by the time the lunch bell rings.

I wave Dave goodbye after he warns me again about how awful the catering is. The mission: finding Leon, maybe Rodrigo if he's already back, and sorting things out!

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