On another land, the boy had waited late into the night. Advay had still not returned. He had stood by the balcony since dusk fell and he watched as far on the horizon as his vision could reach. He saw the crowd dwindle at the food stall that had been bustling with people a while ago. He was sleepy and gave up waiting. He went inside and took out two bananas and sat for dinner.
After he had left the orphanage, it was his first time eating alone. He was not too sad though. Advay had taken his clothes out so of course he would not return that night. But he would return the next day, he thought.
That night he felt tired from doing nothing the whole day.
Another day came and went. Advay had still not come.
On the third day, the boy opened the plain book and held the pen in his right hand. But he had not held it right. It was awkward for him to get it right. Finally, he used his left hand to properly place the pen and held it.
He traced out all the letters once and then took a break because his hands were paining. Then, he started tracing again, each letter an indefinite number of times until it became darker.
It was 4 P. M. and it was not so sunny anymore. The only place he had seen Advay speak to people apart from the orphanage and the neighbourhood was…
The security guard at the university gates.
He thought, perhaps if he went there, he could find Advay.
He tried to recollect the way. He closed his eyes and thought deep. All the images from the time when he sat behind Advay as they sped through the roads came to him.
Occasionally he squeezed his eyes in extreme recollection. After five minutes he opened his eyes and he was confident of the way he had to go, of the turns he had to take.
He was mute and he did not know language. How in that case would one remember and think? With visual images. He had developed a great photographic memory since a long time ago.
He would go to his university and find him.
With determination, he put on the new sandals he had not yet used, he opened the door, stepped out and closed it behind him without locking. He had no keys to come back to a locked door.
He started walking and went to the lift, pressed the button, got into the cabin and proceeded down.
“Little boy, I’m only seeing you again today!” The watchman called out to the boy when he reached the ground floor.
The sudden sound startled the boy. He looked around and there was no one. The man had just spoken to him. He quickly turned around and walked faster.
He further walked three meters when he stopped. He suddenly did not know what he was doing. There was fear in him, some amount of guilt and a feeling of uselessness.
Advay had already helped him so much, he felt. Apart from that feeling, what dominated his heart was fear. A terrible fear that was in his bones. He suddenly remembered the night from when he was 7 years old. He had tried to escape and eventually had to come back. He was in no position to seek help, or rather, he had no ability to seek help.
It had been a terrible night.
He quickly turned around and ran into the apartment building.
“Back already?” the watchman asked again. The boy did not hear it being in his own head.
He quickly went up and opened the door to their house, went inside, closed the door, locked it and did a double check, removed his footwear and sat curled up on the sofa.
He burst into tears. He could not help it.
He cried and cried for an entire hour, the reason, not sure himself.
Just like that the day passed. The boy ate some fruits for the night without much appetite.
The next day he woke up late and fatigued. There really was not much for him to do. He washed up, had some milk and sat down looking at the plain book. He took the pen in his left hand and put it in the right position in his right hand. He started tracing out all the letters as he recollected their sounds.
His hands hurt as usual but he did not stop.
He skipped lunch too. And finally at 6 P.M. in the evening he stood up and threw the pen away.
He didn't look like he had much strength and in fact, he did not. But the anger gave him enough strength to break the nib of the pen. Ink splashed on the floor.
He saw the mess that stained the small area in indigo and simply walked into the bedroom and then to the balcony. He stood there and looked at the vast skies for a long time. The colours towards their horizons turned from orange to red, then from violet to a deep shade of blue.
As his surroundings became darker, small lights came up in the neighbourhood.
Then, below, the food stall owner came hurriedly to open the shop.
The boy watched all the scenery. He wanted to eat the piping hot food, not the fruits. He turned around and went inside.
His tummy grumbled and he filled it with the fruits again.
Another night passed.
At the base Advay sat chit-chatting with some friends. Today was the fifth day since his talk with the regiment's chief.
He had taken two full days and made the decision.
He was going to help the boy. If worst comes to worst, at the very least, one person, his mother, who had never once approved of the whole ordeal with the Force, would be satisfied.
Then again, everything depended on the boy's identity and Advay firmly believed fate was with him.
No matter what he told himself, there was a consciousness within him, telling him to think once more.
The next three days, that was what he did. He thought again and made the same decision every time.
He had enough of thinking by now. Once the chief made his appearance, he would go and meet him.
"Alright then, write a consent letter and submit it to me... I promise I will try not to use it unless the situation turns dire."
The chief tried to reduce the worry for Advay, but what he actually did was increase Advay's fear greatly.
"I also hope everything goes fine." Advay said in a weak voice. His enthusiasm had decreased quite a bit over the last five days.
Back in the apartment, the boy rummaged through Advay's books. He was trying to find another pen. After being down for two days, he decided to just keep writing until Advay came back. His books were still here and he hoped those were still useful to him.
After searching for some time, he finally found one among the heavy books. He sat on the floor on the balcony to trace out the characters. From there he could see the neighbourhood through the grills.
And the day went by.
On the other side, Advay was also writing. He was writing his consent form, which would state that he would assume responsibility should he offend the Eastern government.
As he wrote, Aris, who sat beside him commented, "Wow, so that's what education does... Your language has become so polished."
"This is my mother tongue!" Advay said defensively. He would never admit he got better even at his own language because of that professor's special treatment!
"Hey, I'll ask you one more time. Is all of this necessary? Just don't go to that apartment anymore."
"God... You are so cruel, senior. Just go away. Why are you even here?"
When Advay started writing the letter, he was moody. Then Aris walked into his room like it was his own and tried to humour him. The current feeling was very strange for Advay. He wanted to write the letter and yet he was losing his will after writing every one sentence.
"Advay, I will say this again. What you are doing now won't do you any good. But it has enough potential to destroy all your efforts of the last two years."
"Then let it. I'm done thinking."
Aris sighed and let him be.
That evening Advay handed over the letter to the chief. Then, he requested for his travel back to the Eastern Country. He hoped everything was fine over there.
Back at the Eastern Province, the boy had waited five days, hoping to see Advay. But for someone who didn't know to count, the period was indefinite. To him, the wait felt much longer than five days.
So that morning, the boy kept nodding to himself, a way of peptalking. This time he was going to go to the place that had been the only stop in-between when he escaped from the orphanage.
He took an early bath, wiped his neck length black hair and put on a green T-shirt and a pair of brown pants. Then he ate two bananas and an orange before he set out.
He walked out of the building and this time, no one called out to him. He would rather not have anyone's attention on the road, if he could.
He walked slowly for two full hours. Every time he came across a turning or an extra diversion, he stood by the side and thought back in his memory. It was not easy; the chronology of the images in his head was the opposite of the order he needed. At first it was great, but as he went on, he was getting more and more confused and unsure. One time he took a wrong turn. No scene matched the pictures in his mind. He turned back and then tried another path. This time the scenery matched his mental imagery and he willed himself not to lose hope.
He got lost a few times but being cautious, he had not walked too far and could always get back in the right direction and finally reached the university.
He was still a few meters away when he saw the cycle he rode on. There were more like it, in the colour of the clear skies. There were two people sitting on chairs and then there were huge gates with rods in between them.
The boy walked to the gates and he could see the vast space inside. Most of his view had the autumn trees and yellow roads. Far away, there were big buildings.
Then someone tapped his shoulder. He turned around and looked up at one of those two people who were sitting nearby. He felt fear instantly.
An urge to run away overcame him. He looked back through the gates and stood his ground.
"Who are you looking for?" To the security guard the boy looked like a little sibling of a student. The boy's fearful eyes further convinced him. Not many kids came this way; this road only led to the university.
"Who do you want?" Another guard also came to him and asked.
The boy had not thought about what he wanted to do after reaching the university. He did not assume to see Advay right away at the university, he just did not think beyond this.
He was scared. He did not understand what they said, but had to ask them for Advay.
He remembered that he had traced out letters. The first syllable of Advay's name matched a letter. But the rest of his name did not seem to match with the sound of any letter.
He traced out one letter in the air.
The two guards looked at eachother. One of them immediately handed a pen and a paper to the boy, "Write here."
The boy took the pen and did not put effort into holding it the write way. He wrote one big letter on the paper.
The guards waited for the boy to write more, but none came from him.
"What A?" One guard asked.
"He came here walking. He could be someone who lives nearby." The other spoke.
"Are you really mute?"
"We can send information about him then. If he is mute it will be easy to identify and his brother or sister will come to fetch him."
"You don't know anything! You've just joined so stop ordering me around!"
"I didn't mean anything like that!"
"We don't even inquire about him before making a call? You don't want your job!"
The boy stood beside the two and did not understand whatever they said. He kept looking into the university.
The junior guard looked at him with pity. The boy looked helpless. Indeed they could not bother the office arbitrarily.
"Go away now," the other guard said loudly to the boy. The boy kept peeping inside as far as his eyes could reach. To him the recent words were mixed in the background of the two guards fighting.
Seeing the boy not responding, the junior guard quickly came forward to pull him away from the gates.
Startled, the boy took some steps away himself.
However, that was all he walked. "Go away!" the guard shouted again.
All the boy knew was that he was being shouted at.
He walked another two steps away.
The guard was not satisfied though. Beside him, the junior guard tried to persuade him to leave the boy.
The boy was scared to a great extent by now. He ran away from the two but did not go too long. By the sides of the road, there were trees and bushes. He stood behind them for some time.
The sun rose high above his head. The bananas and the orange in his stomach had evaporated before he had reached the university. He was extremely hungry.
Behind the bushes, he was shielded from the guards. He slowly made his way towards the gates again.
He was not accustomed to footwear. He was not accustomed to stepping out onto the road either, so he kept his sandals on. With caution he stepped on the crisp golden leaves in his way.
He was two meters away from the guards and he did not go any further. He stood behind the bushes and waited. He would wait until he sees Advay.
He started to feel tired after half an hour. Hig legs started paining and he was extremely thirsty.
All through his wait, only one person, a woman, had come out of the university.
Unable to keep up with the cramps in his legs, he crouched down.
After another hour, his stomach growled. However, he still did not have any thoughts on going back and eating.
Just then, a loud noise boomed in his ears. It was rather scary with the way the tyres of the speeding jeep screeched on break. The boy was curious and he moved very inconspicuously, towards the gates where the jeep stopped.
The boy peeped through the bushes to catch a glimpse of whoever that just scared him so much.
But what he saw scared him even more.
Hell came down to him.
His heart leaped out of his chest.
His hands flew to his mouth, clasping it tight.
No sound could escape.
He saw the orphanage in-charge with his shocked eyes.
Was he already hunted down? Was she here for him? Had he been followed?
“We’re here for Advay Srnuta.” The in-charge told the guard. The boy was suddenly confused when he heard the word he had tried and failed to say to the guards.
The boy stayed immobile and tried hard to understand the conversation.
“Are you… his family? We only allow visitors if we are told beforehand.” Those people did not look friendly at all.
“This is regarding something serious. I advise you to let me in. I have to speak to your student by the name Advay or even his teachers would do!” A bold voice came from a man who just got down and stood behind the in-charge.
The security guards looked at eachother again. Somehow that day, their job was a little less boring.
“Well then, I will make a call to inform the authority. What are your identities?”
“Tell them we are from the White River Orphanage.”
And soon a call was made. Advay’s name was uttered another time.
“Sir, you may proceed,” the guard said and opened the gates wide for the jeep.
The boy had been watching it all but other than the three mentions of Advay’s name, nothing else registered in his head. The overwhelming fear started to lessen ever so slightly.
He deduced one thing out of it all. It seemed the orphanage people somehow linked his disappearance to Advay. And now they were on a hunt for Advay.
The boy was now worried, equal parts for Advay and himself.
He also did not know what to do next. He wanted to run back to the apartment. Although he had seen the jeep go in and he was sure Advay was inside, he could no longer keep waiting here.
His thoughts were jumbled. He had to be the reason why the in-charge went to Advay. She would meet Advay and ask him if he knew anything. He hoped Advay would not tell them anything.
Advay had been locking him inside the house to keep him safe. The single time when he tagged along with Advay to the food stall, he had covered his face with his own glasses. So he would not tell them anything. After some thought, the boy was more certain that Advay would not give him away.
He waited like a stone for ten more minutes and finally the same jeep came out of the gates with the same rash speed.
The boy did not move or make a sound for another ten minutes. Then, he stood up and walked along the bushes. The fear in his heart came back. He could not get caught. Not that they had gone there, there was no possibility of them spotting him from behind.
But how much safety did that logic ensure? He was scared as he walked by. He wanted to run but he did not want any attention. He didn't even step onto the pavement, but walked through the dusty sides.
He finally reached another road. This time he knew which turns to take exactly. The chronology in his mind matched and it was two times he had seen all the scenes on the way.
The sun was no longer overhead, but it was still sunny.
The boy wanted to reach home fast but he was in constant worry of being caught.
He walked off in a slow pace from one road to the other as the glaze of the sun decreased.
Advay had started his journey back to the Eastern country after breakfast at the base.
Thoughts of the boy bugged him. He hoped everything was fine. He also hoped the boy’s identity was just like any other in a crowd.
The air travel lasted for some twenty minutes and then he was dropped onto a ship. It was a season when people of the Militia who belonged to North and Central regions returned home for celebrations. Aircraft after aircraft dropped people. The ship was packed. He would usually sleep on the ship but this time, either due to rush or the worries in his head, he could not catch a wink.
Once on the Eastern land, Advay quickly boarded a train and then rented a car. It was evening by the time he reached the apartment.
He pulled out the keys he kept with him safely and unlocked the door.
No one came into his sight. He took off his boots and put the luggage aside.
“Oi…” he called out softly. This was no good, he had to have a proper name for the boy, he thought.
No sound was heard. He checked if the bathroom was locked and it wasn’t.
That was it. The house only had two rooms, a balcony and a bathroom so there was nothing left to check. He knew the boy was nowhere inside the apartment.
“Shit!” He cursed and put on his boots.
He ran out of the building and quickly made two rounds around the neighbourhood. It was familiar as he had gone around when searching for the house.
He looked through the people for a fair little boy who had green eyes and a sharp nose.
He finally stopped by the food stall and looked up to their apartment.
Please do not tell him his consent letter was for nothing. He had needed an intense mental activity of two whole days to arrive at the decision. He had to imagine his life to his death in positive and negative ways.
It would drive him mad for two whole days if the boy was really lost like this.