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Arriving back to town there were several women with food trolleys out on the streets, trying to make a quick ribe by selling prepared meals, mostly meat stews and pies. They weren't hungry per say, but the scent of food definitely brought up their appetite and they were soon very much looking forward to the pritta Jimmy had promised them.
There were plenty of children outside at that time too, doing all sorts of things – from playing with each other and helping their moms to polishing shoes and taking care of the horses. Walking down the streets, the town definitely appeared much livelier than before.
During their walk through town several other men of all different ages joined them – Jimmy’s brothers. Tom and James were introduced to a total of 7 men, all Chuck’s sons and of working age.
Their house was newly built – as most of the others in that area – and it appeared barely big enough for a big family such as Jimmy's. There were several children outside, either working or playing, and plenty of women, too. One of the younger girls stepped up, hugged Chuck first and told him “pritta” was ready, then went on to hug her brothers. James and Tom were at the back, and she only noticed them later, pointing her finger at them from some distance, and asking out loud.
“Who are you two?” The little girl didn’t appear afraid, or in need of her father in any way. Even at a young age – probably about 4 or 5 – she was already a born fighter.
“Tom and James,” Chuck had interrupted them before they could answer. “They have just come here and will be staying with us a couple of days. Go on now, go play.” The little girl shrugged and ran off to the other children. “She’s my youngest, Mary.” Chuck smiled. “Always in need of attention, that one. Now come on, you heard her. Food’s ready.”
They’ve just then realized they haven’t seen any pet animals aside from horses that were also used for work. No dogs, no cats, no bunnies, not even stray ones – the usual flea bags of every town.
Instead of going in through the front door, they made their way to the back of the house – there was a huge porch over the entire side of the building, with 6 square tables – that could take 4 people each – arranged in pairs of two down its length and benches on all sides. There were plenty more people in the back, too, especially women, hurrying to get everything done before the men sit down to eat.
They all waited patiently for everyone to get their dish served in front of them by Chuck's wife and his oldest daughter, then held hands with their neighbors, bowed their heads and closed their eyes, waiting for Chuck to say grace.
“I would first like to welcome Tom and James into our home. Blessed be thy souls. I am grateful for making new friends from the outside and look forward to hearing more about your world. I am grateful for this meal before me and for my wife Sophie who prepared it. I am grateful for having finished work and spending time with my family. May all of us be well in this life, and the next. May our king never die!” He finished loudly, almost with a yell.
“May our king never die!” Even the women repeated after him.
“Now let’s eat!” They all let go of the hands of their neighbors, picked up the knives and forks and dug in.
The remarks about wasting red wine they made priorly dissipated instantly with their first bite. The meat was tender and fell apart in their mouths without the need to chew and the sauce was of the perfect sweetness to complement the chicken. They actually preferred the water to whatever other beverage because it was as if each sip of the water had reset their taste buds and had them experience the first bite sensation all over again.
During the meal both forgot all about their extreme exhaustion and talked some with Jimmy and one of his brothers – mostly about the girls outside the dome, the parties, and the good times. They just couldn't pick their jaws up about what Tom and James had told them. Even though they were both very mature for their age – Jimmy's brother, John, was just a year older than him, so 15 – they were still very curious at heart. They wanted to know all about their lives, and Tom and James both had to be very careful not to have their stories clash, or tell too much.
The conversation was going the wrong way completely. It was them who needed information about the inside of the dome, not the other way around, but every time they tried to learn more about the life inside, a new question arose about the life outside. At some point they started to answer their questions merely with a “yes” or a “no”, and blamed it on their exhaustion, so they wouldn’t need to give any more explanations. They had hoped that would make Jimmy and John talk more, but it wasn’t the case. Instead, they all just went silent, and ate.
When they were all finishing their meals and slowly getting up from the table one by one, Chuck called them to join him. He, too, was very much interested in the life outside the dome, and like Jimmy and John he couldn't fathom that they were having fun out there, having parties and drinking alcohol.
At some point James just couldn't take it anymore and asked about what their vision of the outside world was. Surprising to both, Chuck described the outside world as far worse than the life they lived under the dome. They believed that outside everyone worked as a slave to their King with no leisure time at all, being tortured for their King's amusement, fighting in wars just for the sake of fighting and all having to be exactly the same without any possibility of being unique. They believed that outside was a far worse world, and to the question of who told them that, they answered with Fishnick, and then Kirk – who took his crown. Whoever came under the dome from the outside was therefore deemed as much a hero as a refugee, who somehow managed to escape the death grip of the King outside. To the question of why they cannot leave from under the dome, Chuck answered that it was to keep them safe from their own curiosity.
Tom and James had then seen what had been going on. Kirk, as Fishnick before him, had been feeding them lies for long enough for the people to believe him. That was why Jack and Jimmy couldn't believe them when they told them they had fun outside, they had been convinced that they were living the best possible lives on the planet and that they are being treated well – when in fact they were being treated like disposable meat bags.
After a barrage of questions on the matter by Tom and James, Chuck then revealed a piece of very valuable information. Their king had promised them not just a better life if they work for him dilligently, but an even better after-life as well. They have been promised life without work, an abundance of whatever their hearts desire and endless fun, so long as they follow his orders and do as he says.
Tom and James then tried their best to get some more information out of Chuck, but he just didn't have any answers. He didn't know how their King was to deliver his promises. He didn't know why they mined the glowing ore and why it was precious. He didn't even know where exactly the King resided, other than in a town called Berq.
Their talk, however, made him suspicious. He couldn't stop asking about why they came under the dome if it was so good outside. He was either not going to believe them that his King had been lying to them and so life outside was indeed awful, or he was going to declare them spies and likely get them prosecuted and killed. Tom and James weighed their options and opted for the safer route – having Chuck believe they lied to him and his two sons about life outside in hopes not to be treated differently out of pity. They then made up a story about a tyrant King Hurick and how they barely escaped. Chuck soaked their words in like a dry sponge does water and kept nodding the entire time.
It was after their talk that James and Tom understood the grace he said over the meal. It was then that they also understood why there was no mutiny, and why everybody trusted in and followed the system. They have all been brainwashed.
By the time they finished talking they were alone outside – everyone else had either gone to sleep or went to help with the cleaning. Chuck invited them inside to show them to their room, and navigating through the few rooms that they had, they realized the house wasn’t entirely theirs. They shared it with another family, just as big as theirs, and so had to be packed in like sardines when they went to sleep. Bunk bed by bunk bed, mattress by mattress. Saving them was the fact that the men of the two families worked separate shifts and so they could always have the porch to just one family at a time.
Tom and James were brought to a smaller room in which they were to sleep with three of Chuck’s sons, all already laying down and likely also sleeping already. They needed not be told twice to join them in the land of the unicorns – they just dropped down on the mattress next to each other and fell asleep on the spot.
Note: The link will become active once Chapter 8 is written in full.
Disclaimer: This text is part of a work in progress. All content tentative to change.
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