Chapter 33 - What Rests Inside a Cold Box

Rivulets flowed down the lush green field as Guile galloped with Skell atop his back. Retta and the Krulon continued out into the horizon. Feathers danced in the air, both from Retta and the Krulon. However, the Krulon did not possess wings. Guile had never seen such a creature before. They had feathers, but couldn’t fly.


Tree branches swayed within the sparse forests surrounding them and bugs sang out in unison, a chorus echoing across their stage of grass. The groves offered no space for any Zinnal to hide in, so they didn’t have to worry about Retta losing the Krulon. But, as for them, they lost the two within a few seconds.


“Come on, we gotta go faster!” Skell shouted, pointing his front hoof forward.


Guile quickened his pace. “I don’t think we’re going to make it!” He coughed out, gasping for air.


“Pick me up and throw me!” Skell knocked at Guile’s fur.


“I don’t see how that’s going to work!”


“Just do it!”


Guile grabbed and lifted Skell as best he could with his hands above his head. His body now weighted toward the front caused him to misstep, but he swiftly regained balance and continued sprinting. How far did Skell expect him to throw? The Krulon was an entire field away. Perhaps the Skolorok could crack the ground and extend it far enough out to unleash his sleeping gas? No, the Krulon wasn’t even in sight anymore. Just what could Skell be planning? Guile didn’t argue any further and tightened his muscles and stretched his arms back. He threw his arms forward as hard as he could and let go.


Skell tore through the air and hit the ground tail first, crunching into the ground, then Skell tumbled over like a baby Gurden learning how to crawl.


“…That’s it? That’s all you can do!?” Skell screamed and jumped to his feet. “Hurry and pick me back up!”


“How was that my fault?! You made a tiny dent in the earth and then fell over! What were you expecting to do anyway?!” Guile slapped his own face. How embarrassing. He sprinted a few seconds and leaned toward the dirt covered Skolorok. Skell maneuvered his way back up.


“We need a new plan of attack.” Skell wiped the mud from his horns. “Though I see no way how we are catching up. Guess we just gotta keep running and hope they slow down.”


“We? I’m the one running.” Guile huffed.


“Yeah, but aren’t Gurdens supposed to be sturdy. You told me you guys are the mail carriers of Jalla, right?” Skell sighed. “I think eventually we can catch up, Krulons aren’t known for endurance. Retta should be able to glide in the sky until they stop for a rest. Hopefully, she’ll be able to report their location to us with enough time for us to get back before the Krulon takes off again.”


“Gurdens are sturdy, but you do realize I am carrying you too, right?” Guile heaved.


“Hmm, I suppose that could be a factor in our failure.”


“Why don’t we just stop for now? Retta can tear through the sky to find us whenever she has something important to tell us. There is no way we are going to be of any help even if we caught up right away. I’d collapse.” Guile slowed his pace.


Skell snickered, “I guess, but you don’t wanna know what happens to us if we don’t finish the mission when our time is up.”


“We still have two days. And like you just said, we have Retta.”


“That Krulon will not be coming back to this area within those two days.” Skell hopped off Guile’s back as the Gurden came to a stop. “Just saying, we shouldn’t let Retta do all the work. We should at least make it easier by trying to get close to her. Speaking of which, where the hell is Chya?”


Guile rested in the bright green grass surrounded by pale-colored flowers. Skell joined and stretched out his body in a star pattern.


“I guess a small nap couldn’t hurt,” Skell said.


Guile wasn’t sure how long they sat out in the pleasant breeze. He thought he might have dozed off when the sound of another voice surprised him.


“Well, what do you know? Figures you two would ruin our chances. Just sit back, me and Retta will take care of the Krulon.” Chya threw her hands up and walked out into tall weeds, her own leaf slapping back and forth against the other plants.


“Eh, what can you do?” Skell scoffed, and sat up, eyes glowing bright, even in the sunlight. “It’s not like Retta is going to enact the capture of the Krulon with just you there, anyway…”


“Now what?” Guile watched Chya fade into the scenery.


“I’ve got an idea.” Skell thrust himself up and took off in a jog. “Come on! Retta won’t be upset if we take this small detour if we find something to bring her too.”


With a reluctant strut, Guile followed behind. Skell’s path aimed toward a direction to the side of where the other Zinnals had headed. An area that held a human-made shelter appeared in view after a light trot of fifteen minutes. A wooden fence, broken in places and creaking from the wind surrounded a large tattered building much grander than any structure Guile had seen before. Skell continued his run straight for it, but Guile slowed down.


“Why are we heading toward that? It looks like a human’s home.” Guile said.


“It is a human’s home, but I’ve been around here before. No one lives here anymore, I think. Plus, I’m hungry. There was still electricity and a nice surprise last time I was here.”




“You know, the power that the humans use for most things? It’s how the Parti Tabs work…” Skell scratched his skull as he looked at Guile’s dumbfounded face. “Ah, right. Never mind, just come on. Let’s eat some grub and take some along with us to bring back to Retta… and Chya, I guess.” He pushed the gate, and a board collapsed onto the ground. He laughed.


Guile traipsed through the dilapidated fence, unfamiliar human tools lay scattered and broken in the yard. The door crashed open as Skell pushed through and made his way into the living quarters. Watching his feet, Guile hustled inside behind him. He had never been in a human house before. The most he had experienced were the tents when Stark would drag him inside to be scolded and beaten.


Upon entering, the home spilled out a miasma of sour smells. Perhaps something was rotting? The furniture had tears as if some other Higher Being had made this place their home and clawed up the surfaces. Skell’s gait made it look as if he owned the place, walking around as comfortably as he looked in the campgrounds.


Guile took a small tour of the room and in one corner found something familiar. A shine glinted and caught his attention. He had seen this exact material once before when he was invited to Sarby’s home and toured one of their sacred chambers in the Crystal Cavern. But how did this get here? Guile reached his hand forward to touch it.


“Hey, Guile, help me open this.” Skell struggled to open a large white box. “Come on! Gimme a hand! My hooves can’t grab hold of the handle.”


“What’s inside?” Guile turned from the mesmerizing shine and navigated his way across the trash littered floor.


“Just open it, you won’t be disappointed.”


Guile approached, listening to the large hum the contraption produced. “Are you sure about this?”


“Just do it.” Skell tapped his hoof against the machine.


Under an indent, Guile caressed his paws and pulled. A suction-like sound popped as the door opened and a chill filled the air. A scent followed. A familiar scent. The smell of food that had been fed to him by the humans. Guile looked inside the contraption and his stomach dropped.


“Well, this wasn’t what I was expecting either. A human must have been here recently,” Skell said. “Last time I was here there were just a lot of fish. Let’s see if there is something else behind it.”


Guile gagged and vomited to the side of the cold box. After wiping his mouth, he shut the door. “Why is there a Higher Being in there? And why is it in multiple parts?”


“Still with the Higher Being talk, huh? What do you mean? They just haven’t cooked up that Charthu yet, poor guy, seeing them in that state.”


“How can you be so calm, seeing a Higher—Zinnal in that state?!” Guile backed up to a wall.


Skell flared an eye, confused. “Ah, right, you are new to this human-run world.” Skell let out a deep breath. “Humans eat them all the time. And well, you’ve been eating them along with us since you arrived. What do you think we’ve been eating every day? Sure, not everything we receive from Stark is a Zinnal, there is animal meat mixed in too.” He scratched his skull. “Guile, living amongst humans there are just some things we need to turn our brains off to. I understand your concerns though.”


Immediate dissonance tangled through his veins, bringing Guile a sudden chill. “No.”


“Yes, I know it’s a hard fact to accept. Though, living in the volcanos where I’m from, there aren’t any animals that could survive, so I grew up eating burnt Zinnals that fell into lava. I suppose I am quite different to most of you guys. It’s not like I wanted to eat them though.”


“It can’t be. I would never…”


“Sometimes it’s the only way to survive. We really don’t have a choice with the humans, you know. We can’t refuse to eat what they bring us, that will only cause punishment and starvation. Apparently the meat in specific Zinnals is much more abundant in nutrients and easier for humans to raise and produce than using animals. They feed Zinnal meat to us in hopes we grow stronger faster.” Skell looked down at his own small body. “I know what you’re thinking, but I’m quite younger than you…” Skell shrugged. “Who knows if we can even trust what Stark says, anyway. But don’t let it get you too down, I know it’s not your choice, and you know that too. Try to just throw it to the back of your mind. Now let’s see if there is some fish stored away in the back of this box.” He hopped his whole body into the cold contraption.


Guile didn’t say a word and rushed toward the door, but the door opened before he arrived.


“What are you doing here?!” a blue, bird-like Zinnal said.


An orange, lizard-like Zinnal slithered beside them.