Native Foreigners

By Naylene Rondon

Action & adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Paperback, eBook

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663
8 mins

Chapter 1

Coming over the hill was an ugly black car. The paint was faded. The front was too long and the back was too low. Plus, the windows were a dingy green. The only reason she knew it was a taxi was because of the plastic white sign on the roof that said so. She pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes as it neared. She had poor experiences with Red Hill’s taxi drivers. They all freelanced, making themselves their own boss. Sadly, Nordaway’s taxi services didn’t go to Red Hill and without a car, she only had one choice.
The vehicle rolled down the hill at a substantial speed and slowed to a halt right in front of them. A man popped out of the driver side of the vehicle. He had messy blue locks, matching eyes and wore a sloppy grin. “Hello there. Are you Jane?”
“Yes, I’m assuming you’re Zeb.” Jane tried to smile back, but she was nervous about how this was going to go. He seemed decent enough.
“Yup, that's me!” He walked towards the back of the car and popped open the trunk. “Can I help you with those?” He pointed to the bulky luggage that sat by their feet.
“Yes, thank you.” Jane smiled. Zeb lifted the heavy bag and placed it inside the car. He then saw another little luggage in the hands of a small girl hiding behind Jane. Her blonde hair was braided back and her eyes spoke of innocence. Zeb smiled and leaned over to the girl.
“May I take your bag?” He beamed. He was just so happy, that the little girl couldn’t have said no even if she wanted to. She nodded lightly and handed him the pink and blue bag. While he arranged the luggage in the trunk, Jane and the little girl sat in the back seat. Jane helped buckle the girl’s seatbelt before putting on her own.
Jane examined the interior. It had beige leather seats and matching carpet. The doors had a faux wood design and a manual crank window opener. The steering wheel in the front was a tad too wide for the compact design of the car. She felt like she was in a car of an older generation.
With a thump, he shut the trunk and hopped into the driver's seat. As he started the car, it made a popping noise similar to a shotgun before properly turning on. When he shifted gears, Jane leaned closer and sighed with relief to see it was an automatic. Then they began strolling away. Jane peered out the window as she saw the diverse city of Nordaway disappearing behind her.
The ride was silent in the beginning. However, five minutes in Zeb began humming a tune. It was light with a sweet rhythm, similar to a lullaby. Jane didn’t say anything because she found the song to be appealing. Then Zeb glanced back at his passengers. “So, why are you guys visiting Red Hill?” he asked.
“We're actually going to Eurbank. Red Hill is just a stop,” she answered.
“Eurbank is a nice city. Why are you going there?”
Jane sighed, “I rather not talk about it. Please don't take it the wrong way, but I prefer the silence.”
“Okey-dokey!” Another quirky smile and he returned to his humming. Jane leaned back in the seat and glanced at the small girl. The girl was just scribbling in her notebook some funny doodles. Jane reached out and lightly stroked the girl's head. The little girl was drawing pictures of deer, her favorite animal. Jane chuckled and kissed the girl’s temple.
Jane then adjusted her position so she could peer out the window. They already passed the city Nordaway's irrigation zone. So all she could see out the window were dry lands with patches of dry grass. The trees were scarce. The only ones left were the natives, which had thin branches and dark leaves. There were also bushes that looked like black grass that were tied up into knots. They stood unnaturally high these bushes. They were taller than the average person.
Her eyes ended up meeting the side mirror and she saw an orange jeep following them. She figured it was nothing, but noticed that the driver's humming stopped. His eyes were darting towards all the mirrors. He noticed that the jeep was speeding, probably more than thirty miles over the speed limit. He bit his tongue and stayed quiet. He didn't want to worry his passengers in case it was nothing.
It wasn't long before the jeep was tailgating them. Then they all jerked forward as the car slammed them from behind. The jeep kept hitting them repeatedly. “What the heck?” Zeb wasn’t sure how to react to such a situation. The jeep was clearly doing this on purpose.
“Jane, what's happening?” the little girl cried.
“I’m not sure, Dill.” Jane then leaned towards Zeb. “What is this about?” she barked. “Are you some wanted criminal?”
“Me? What about you?” he shouted back. Then the jeep pulled to the side of the taxi and hit it again. Everyone was thrown to the back of their chairs as they were being pulled side to side. The car spun out of control, off the road, and into the dry ground.
“Aaaah!” they all screamed in unison until the car finally stopped.
They all sat there for a moment with bobbling eyes. All you could hear was their hyperventilation. Then, they heard a light tap against the glass. There stood a bulky man, with a scar that marked beneath his eye and down to his lip. In his hand was a large gun. With shaky hands, Zeb cranked the window open by an inch. “Get out of the car,” the voice ordered. Zeb saw the gun pointed at his face and nodded. “All of you.” He peered at the passengers sitting in the back.
The two girls’ bodies shook involuntarily as they stumbled out of the car. Another man with a Mohawk pulled Dill by the shoulder. Just by looking at him, Dill clenched her eyes shut and exploded into a sob. “Is this her?” the Mohawk man asked.
“She matches the description,” the scarred man replied. “Let's take her in.” The Mohawk man grabbed Dill and slung her over his shoulder. The girl started kicking and punching, but she couldn’t free herself.
“Put her down,” Jane yelled and moved forward. The scarred man pressed a gun against her chest. She froze as the man removed the safety.
“What is deadweight like you going to do?” A sadistic smile spread across his lips. “I can kill you right here and right now.” His hand went into her pocket and slid out her wallet. With a sly grin, he stuffed it into his own pants. Unexpectedly, he stiffened as his eyes darted to the side. Zeb stood there with an undersized gun pressed against the scarred man’s head. “What do you think you’re doing?” the man growled.
“Well, I think I’m holding a gun to your head,” Zeb answered cheerfully.
“Huh? That’s my job,” he yelled. The man turned around and began shooting at Zeb. Mohawk man chortled as he fired. However, Zeb made small light motions, evading all the bullets. “What the heck?”
The Mohawk man shoved Dill to the ground and began shooting as well. Zeb just skipped up and ran off. He stopped a few yards away and shouted, “You’ll have to do better if you want to hit me.” He giggled and ran off again.
Both men were furious now and began chasing him. They followed him around several bushes and trees; they ran in a circle until Zeb vanished from sight. Yet, there was a quiet rustling from a patch of a tall native bush and both men smirked. One took the right while the other took left as they planned on ambushing him.
He was crouched down while drawing a picture of an ugly man into the dirt. He then glanced up at the scarred man and spoke. “Do you like it? It looks just like you.” Then he glanced at the Mohawk man. “Don’t you worry, I’ll draw you next.”
Both men aimed their guns at his head. They fired simultaneously, but Zeb leaped out of the way again. He did a small roll and aimed his gun at them. He pulled the trigger and squirts of water went right in both men’s eyes. While they fumbled angrily, Zeb ran off towards the taxi.
“Get in the car, get in the car,” he yelled at the two girls. They saw the two men behind him and dived into the vehicle. Zeb hopped in the driver’s seat and with a loud pop, the car went off. Jane looked back and saw the two men stomping angrily as they drove away. She slumped into the seat and held onto Dill.
The rest of the ride was stiff and quiet. Dill shivered in fear while Jane kept glancing back. She was afraid that she was going to see that orange jeep again. Luckily, they didn’t see it again and made it to Red Hill.
The soil here was a vibrant red and the whole city was on gentle slopes that folded over each other. The buildings were short and looked like they were made of recycled pallets. The windows were small and rectangular with a yellow fade from age. The air smelled of compost and beer.
Zeb slowed the car as they reached the center of town. “It stinks here,” Dill whispered. They all stepped out of the car and Zeb leaned against the trunk.
“Hey girls, should I be calling the cops?” Zeb asked. “Because by the looks of it, people want to kill you and that's never a good thing. Though, there might be a reasonable reason, so the best thing here is to ask.”
“Are you insinuating that I’m a criminal? I don’t know or have anything to do with those goons,” Jane growled.
“Then why are you running to Eurbank?” Zeb raised an eyebrow.
“I just have to do something there. People travel all the time, it doesn't make them crooks,” Jane snapped. Zeb stared at her blankly. She sighed, “I have something important to do there.”
“You know I wasn’t obligated to help you back there and they really just wanted her.” He pointed to Dill. “Is she an illegal immigrant?”
She placed a hand on Dill's head. “No,” Jane puffed. “Dill has a rare disease. My doctor told me he found someone in Eurbank that is well informed on it. If I don’t take her to Eurbank, I can risk losing her.”
His eyes became watery. “That's so sad.” He knelt down and hugged the little girl. “I'm sorry for wanting to turn you in.” Then he stood up and wiped his face. Jane dug into her pocket to pay Zeb, when she recalled the scarred man taking her wallet. She opened the trunk and dug into her luggage. She brought some backup money, but it wasn’t enough for this trip.
“Here.” She pulled out his pay. He peeped at the cash in her hand and saw how small it was.
“It’s okay, this one is on me.” He smiled lightly. “Hey, it looks like you’re strapped for cash now since, you know, you were robbed. I know where you can stay at for no charge.”
Jane glanced down at her money. It was a bit much for her to trust him, but she didn’t have many options. “What is this place?”
“Oh, well, it’s a house about five minutes from here. I live there with a nice lady named Maia and her granddaughter. There are lots of bedrooms, so we take in guests all the time.” Jane sighed and accepted his offer. If she had any doubts, she could always change her mind.
Zeb drove them to a hutch looking house that sat between two low hills. It was made of distressed wood that was probably once green. In front of it was a garden filled with native plants of various colors surrounded by a white fence. Down the road was a field of fluffy white flowers.
They all stepped out. Standing on the balcony was a short elderly lady. She had thick black hair that was braided back. Her skin was olive and her eyes dark. A great contrast to Zeb's pale skin and light eyes. The elderly woman smiled and stepped down. She walked up to Jane and Dill. “You must be Maia. Zeb here said…”
“It's fine dear. This is nothing new. I take in guests all the time. In fact, I was the one who took in that goofball there.” She glanced at Zeb who just opened the trunk. “Come inside and have some tea. Zeb will bring in your luggage.” Jane smiled meekly and followed the woman. The balcony floors creaked under her feet as she walked inside. The interior was just like the exterior in charm. It had this old fashion country style. Everything looked rustic and antique. It was like stepping into another age. Maia held the door open for Zeb and gave him directions to which rooms he should place them.
Dill spun around the room in amazement. She has never seen such a house before. There was fabric draping from the ceiling’s beams. All the pans were hung on the wall. The windows had shutters. Then there was a big stone fireplace with charcoal wood on the inside. In the corner was an upright piano. The ivory keys were now a faded yellow and the paint on the wood was peeling. Yet, it still looked so pretty with the sunlight hitting its surface.
She sat down on the old bench and pressed a note. “Dill, you shouldn’t be touching things, this isn’t our house,” Jane quietly scolded. She gave the girl a light embrace and pulled her away from the instrument by her hand.
“It's so pretty,” Dill wailed.
The front door clicked open. Jane first thought was, the men from the jeep found them so she grasped Dill tightly. She glanced over and saw a short young woman with dark skin and long hair. In her arms were two large brown bags. Her eyes met with Jane's and she stepped back. “E-li-si!” She called. Jane straightened up, understanding she must have been the granddaughter Zeb mentioned.
“Hey Nina, let me help you with those.” Zeb popped out with Maia behind him. He grabbed the bags from the woman.
“You’re an hour early,” she pouted, “I was going to make pecan pie, your favorite.”
“You can still make it.” Zeb smiled as he put the bags down on the kitchen counter.
“No, you already ruined the surprise.” Nina crossed her arms. “Besides, I don’t have enough ingredients now. You should’ve called so I could have bought more pecans.”
“Nina, don’t be rude and say hello to our guests,” Maia called Nina over. “This is Jane and Dill. Jane, Dill, this is my granddaughter, Nina,” Maia explained casually. Nina smiled and shook hands with each of them. Dill wasn’t paying much attention since her eyes were still focused on the piano.
“Do you like the piano? If you want you can play.” Nina smiled. Dill bit her lip and nodded. Nina took Dill by the hand and walked her over to the instrument. In just a few minutes, Nina was teaching Dill a small song. Maia told Jane to make herself at home and went to work on dinner. Jane glanced at Dill with a smile. The little girl was so enthusiastic to be playing on the piano. All the worries of the day were gone.
“Zeb, are your hands in the cookie bin?”
“No,” he replied with a muffled voice.
“You're going to spoil your dinner.” Maia slapped him on the head.
“Ouch.” He rubbed the back of his head while slipping one more cookie in his mouth. He walked over to Dill and Nina. He pulled out a few cookies and handed it to them. They all giggled like children. Zeb saw Jane and handed out a cookie to her. “Want one?”
Jane shook her head. He shrugged and stuffed it into his mouth. Jane walked over to the fireplace and examined the photos on the mantel. Zeb was in so many of them. Maia walked up from behind her and handed her a small porcelain cup. The fragrance was like a field of flowers while the taste of the tea was something rich, yet sweet. “Thank you. You said you took Zeb in, is he like your nephew or grandson?”
Maia shook her head. “He’s just an old guest.”



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