A Next Island Love Story by Pope L’Brung - A new arrival searching for the Haruspex girl that ran off with his heart. Told in first-person narrative by a recent arrival to Next Island.
Toulan. It was the final day of the Festival. We decided to meet at a cafe called The Enchanted Forest. She said she liked the name because it reminded her of home. We sipped some tea and discussed our mutual love for animals, botany, and songs with a good hand clap.
“Write me something pretty,” she asked.
I grabbed a cocktail napkin and scribbled how I felt.
The air itself is jealous of my adoration for you, That is why I become breathless.
She read the note, giggled, and pulled me closer to her. “I’m going to miss you.” We held each other and kissed.
I didn’t want to think about her leaving.
As we drank more tea, we laughed and shared odd, morbid confessions. Like how she’d received the recent burn on her hand. I admitted to her that I was 27 years old before I realised what the yolk was in a Berycled egg. She teased me about it and we both started laughing.
According to a flirtatious bet we’d made the night before, she would owe me 10 ped (and a dance) if her favourite song, “Woodland Chance” played during lunch. When she wasn’t looking, I attempted to bribe the bartender 20 ped to play the tune on the jukebox but quicky abandoned the mission when he made a nasty comment about the two of us sitting together.
“Is everything OK?” she asked from our quaint booth by the door. I just nodded and brought over our fresh pot of tea.
I was booked for an afternoon warp flight back to Calypso. She wouldn’t tell me how she intended to get home to Next Island.
As lunch ended, she handed me a book of Haruspex poetry. “Read this over the winter,” she whispered and lightly kissed me on the cheek. I looked down at the worn paperback and saw the edge of a 10 ped note sticking out. That’s when the song came on.
Chapter 2 (3 Days Earlier)
I had waited for months to attend the Kindness Festival on Toulan. It would be 3 days of art, music, and culture shared with a diverse collection of peace-loving beings from across the Entropia Universe. A musical celebration of kindness and compassion toward all.
I am Pope L’Brung. A miner from Calypso. Raised by my colonist parents on a small ‘hippie’ commune farm near Shinook Jungle. They were thrifty but not poor. They taught me to conserve rather than waste. None of our community were rich but we all shared our bounty with each other freely and gratefully. I was shown how to harvest from the land. I studied terrain and I studied soil. I had a talent for finding resources. Times have been good to us.
I was now aboard a mothership headed from Calypso to Toulan. My family had suprised me on my birthday with a ticket to the Kindness Festival. They knew how much I loved music and that I never would have purchased such a thing for myself. I was grateful and humbled. And excited.
I checked my Mesage Center to review the Festival schedule. I would arrive on Toulan at 18:05 and the first music act of the night was scheduled for 18:30 - a reggae band from Monria called Secret Cave. I’ve heard some of their stuff before and it was pretty good. I definitely wanted to see them perform live.
18:05. I thanked the Captain and the crew for the free warp and hitched a ride down to Toulan. I checked in at the Information desk and then made my way to Guardian Village. People were already starting to gather and mingle. There was a great vibe in the air.
I spotted a vendor that sold tea and approached. Wow. That was the first time I saw her. She was stunning. Her eyes were like…portals. She worked at the small booth that sold organic teas. She smiled and asked what I wanted.
“Tea, please.” I answered.
“Let me guess,” she said spryly. “Haimoros, right?”
Of course she was right.
She introduced herself as Jihkanna and said she was from Next Island. I could tell she was Haruspex by the way she looked and spoke.
We chatted about the Festival and she asked about my interests. We had identical taste in music and I suppose that’s when I knew I was hooked. She was absolutely mesmerising.
Luckily for me, her shift at the tea booth was just ending. I desperately wanted to spend more time with her but I was too nervous to ask.
Faint heart never won fair lady.
I took a deep breath and asked her if she’d like to join me to watch a few of the music acts. “I’d love to,” she smiled. She held my hand as I sipped my tea and tried to keep my cool.
I suppose the next few hours were a blur. We listened to music and danced and laughed. Periodically, we snuck away from the crowds to talk. She told me about her home, Next Island. She spoke with such pride about it. We flirted and giggled and she made me promise to never call her a “sprite.” She told me it was a derogatory term and it wasn’t really considered cute or complimentary. I made a mental note.
I told her that I was a miner from Calypso. I tried to impress her with my tales of bravery about stealth mining in toxic zones and avoiding detection. Jihkanna just smiled beautifully and touched my cheek. I could not stop staring into her eyes.
Toward the end of the night we found ourselves sitting on a blanket listening to a mellow, psychedelic band from Arkadia Moon. She pointed to the sky and showed me how to identify the constellations. She told me about Ancient Greece culture and her family’s roots. It was an amazing experience just to be with with her and I already didn’t want it to end.
Jihkanna and I met up at the Festival grounds the next morning. She wanted me to see an art exhibit that was scheduled for viewing. “Good morning,” she greeted me with a small kiss and a big smile.
“I saw you in my dreams last night,” I shyly confessed.
“I know,” she replied with a clever wink.
She took my hand and led me to a group of small tents that housed various art exhibits. One of the tents featured an artist from Rocktropia that recreated famous album covers on face masks. I then followed her into a tent of Haruspex art. She stood between two easles that held framed mosaics. It was the most intriguing art I had ever seen. One depicted a boar piglet outside of a fence line. A mosaic made of tiny crystals - thousands of them, various colours, all delicately cut and intricately positioned. It was titled ‘Freedom’. The other mosaic was a monkey sitting crossed-legged in a stone temple. It was called ‘Sebastian’.
Jihkanna stood beaming and proud. “What do you think?”
I noticed in the bottom right corner of each mosaic was a small ‘J’ for the signature. This was her art. She wasn’t just beautiful and clever…she was brilliant.
I hugged her tightly and told her that I thought her work was amazing. I continued to look at each of the pieces, drawn in by their detail and lustrous compositon. I asked her a million questions about them such as, “How long did it take?” and “What type of material did you use?” She answered each inquiry proudly and even let me run my finger along the mosaics, feeling the smooth finish of the colourful crystals.
I was fascinated by her. Everything she said and everything she did was enchanting. This was more than a school-boy crush. I was falling for Jihkanna.
Can you fall in love in 3 days? Of course you can.
The Kindness Festival was wrapping up. The stages, stands, and booths were being dismantled as various vendors were loading their gear into special storage containers designed for space flight. The crowd had thinned out. The last of the Festival goers were hugging and saying goodbyes to each other as they all prepared to return to thier respective home planets.
Planet Toulan had been a perfect host and now it was time for me to return back to Calypso.
I was dreading this moment. Time to say goodbye and part ways with the most beautiful girl in the universe.
Jihkanna and I finished our dance in the cafe. I tucked the book of Haruspex poetry into my backpack and walked outside with her. We held hands as we walked through Guardian Village to the organic tea booth where I had first met her 3 days ago. I helped her and her friends pack up the booth and supplies.
“How are you getting home?” I asked, hoping to sound curious rather than creepy. She just made a silly face and told me not to worry about it. She was coy and much cooler than me.
I received my summons from the mothership. It was time for me to go.
I took a deep breath and hugged her goodbye. I told her that I thought she was the most amazing person that I had ever met. I thanked her for hanging out with me and sharing her art with me. I didn’t know what else to say.
She looked into my eyes, kissed me, and whispered goodbye.
The Captain welcomed everyone aboard and called out the warp route to the passengers.
“Next stop is Rocktropia. We will be then be stopping at Calypso, Cyrene, Arkadia, and Next Island.”
To be honest, it was an easy choice. I knew what I had to do.