People in this city are rarely ever seen outside their dwellings, so I am forced to walk the streets all alone, constantly searching for the next person to help on my list. Apparently every person I help gives me some sort puzzle piece, which then, brings me back to this bridge stretching out miles into the ocean. I swear it feels like this road gets longer every time I come here. The eeriness of the bridge makes each step difficult to take with my body being on edge. I imagine this might be how a tightrope walker feels as he knows each step could very well be his last.
Walking down this deserted bridge, void of life, I see a teddy bear sitting on the dash board of a broken down minivan. I smirked at the idea that this thing existed for only one purpose and that was to be loved. So many people in this city yearn for that more than anything else. Yet here on a forgotten road, lays a stuffed bear that has received more love than the inhabitants of Hollow Bastion put together, although in the end, it wound up just like the rest of us, alone.
You see, for many years, I have been completing missions for a certain man, if you can call him that. I'm not sure what he actually is as this city has a way of playing tricks on a person's mind. Yet still, for some unknown reason I obey his command and continue to meet him with each piece I receive. Although I don't remember how I got into this work or when I started, something tells me I've been here doing this for a while. By now you must be wondering who exactly I am; you and me both. I guess figuring out the mystery that is my life, is what compels me to continue on these redundant missions.
I'm not that far away now. Over time I've learned to remember certain land marks to help me judge how far away I am from the rendezvous point; the green Saturn with the stop sign going through the windshield, the large beam of scrap metal leaning against the bridge into the ocean, and finally, the old billboard advertising ladies night at the Java café lounge. My body begins to quiver at this juncture in the road; I don't even know why. The man I am meeting isn't particularly scary, but still, there is something unnatural about him.
Up ahead I can see my destination. The road ends there, as a wall of mist blocks what seems to be the rest of the world, from Hollow Bastion. I have never been past this spot, in fact I've never even tried. My job is here in this city. The orders are given and I obey, never really questioning anything, until now. I stand here now in front of the mist looking at how it forms a wide barrier around the whole city. Tired from my journey, I decide to sit on the trunk of a rusted blue Toyota; maybe the nineties model, and wait. I look up at the hazy sun directly above me, its noon.
Checking my watch for the time brings a smile to my face as I suddenly remember it doesn't work. Although it doesn't appear to be broken, the time is stuck at four fifty two for some reason. I keep it anyway, feeling that this may also be a clue to how I got in this current state. Maybe I'm just grasping at any glimmer of hope, I don't know but it's all I have right now. Lying on the back of the car, I rest my forearm on my face, blocking the gloomy light of the sun.
Minutes turn to hours but still I wait, patiently. Suddenly there is a fluctuation in the wall of mist with lighting crawling in and out of it. As quickly as it started, the disturbance then ceases. Now out of the mist I see something like an old man. He emerges wearing a black suit, white undershirt, red tie, and a black top hat. As he walks with a red, polished cane, his body struggles to keep shape as if he were made of smoke. Unlike any ghost or fairytale beast I've ever heard of in my life, the way this man exists is on a completely different level. To me, he is a mystery bigger and more complicated than Hollow Bastion itself.
"Do you have it?" he asks with an excited look on his face.
"Yea I got it," I say, pulling the golden piece out of my coat pocket as his body slightly distorts from excitement of obtaining a new piece. "The girl who gave it to me needed to find her boyfriend, who went missing in the war," I explain.
"Good work, hand it over to us and we'll make the necessary adjustments," says the mysterious man.
Looking at the shimmering gold piece lying in my palm, I hesitate to release it.
"Before I hand this over, I'm going to need a little information," I say, holding the piece in my clinched fist.
"Ah, so now you're extorting information? This is not like you Jake," He says, giving me a mocking smile as if the thought of me trying to be aggressive was a joke.
I return the same smile as he changes his face looking at me with confusion.
"So my name is Jake, I think I remember being called that before," I say as the man's expression changes to irritated, realizing he accidentally gave me new information.
"Yes it is Jake Streyga, now hand it over," he says with both of his hands fixed firmly on his cane.
It's funny, but somehow learning my name gave me a sense of power. I feel as if I have finally taken one step towards uncovering the truth.
"Ok, next;" before I could finish my sentence, his body immediately solidifies as he gives me a threatening glare.
Not wanting to push my luck, I toss the puzzle piece at him watching him catch it inside his hat.
"Who the hell are you?" I ask, as he smiles at me and puts back on his hat.
As the man walks into the cover of mist, the sky darkens bringing with it a bitter cold temperature. Standing here in silent darkness, griping tightly to my beige trench coat, I can easily see my breath floating in the frigid air. I remain standing still, staring into the mist not really sure what to do next.
"Hollow Bastion still holds many pieces. Collect more and bring them back to me. Who knows maybe next time I'll tell you more about yourself," says the voice projecting out of the mist in a joking matter.
"Liar," I say in an undertone, walking back to the city. My name is Jake Streyga and this is my city.