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Chapter 8

  • Raymond gazed at the morning view of the city that could be seen from the balcony of his apartment while enjoying the smell of cigarettes which he inhaled deeply to calm his mind. It looked like Hazel was sleeping in her room because he did not find Hazel when he woke up. Seeing the view of the city made him remember the history lessons he learned when he was in school.
  • In the past, the world was faced with a difficult situation due to wars raging in several Middle Eastern countries, most of which were instigated by extremists. As a result, many residents of that country decided to leave their country, sacrificing their property and citizenship status. Looking for a much safer place for the safety of themselves and their families, they fled to European countries to get what they could not get in their home countries: security.
  • At first, the European countries welcomed them with open arms out of sympathy, but over time, the number of refugees increased until European countries began to be overwhelmed and were forced to take action by closing their borders to prevent new refugees from entering their territories.
  • Triggered by the pressure of many parties, the United Nations, assisted by several non-profit organizations that specifically deal with the refugees, decided to buy several uninhabited islands, with the help from some wealthy people who donated half of their wealth because of their empathy for the refugees, placing new refugees who could not enter a European country to live there with a guarantee of obtaining citizenship under the country near the uninhabited island.
  • There are five islands provided by the United Nations for the refugees. Of course, the island was opened to the refugees after basic public facilities such as schools, hospitals, electricity and public transportation were built. With the security guarantees they have longed for and supported by the United Nations, the refugees are shaping their new life there.
  • This solution worked. It has been nearly fifty years since that incident, and now all of the islands have developed into thriving cities. Each island has its own uniqueness. Take Morozov City for example, on the island of Morozov close to Russia. Taken from the Russian language which means frozen, this city has been known as the second New York because of the similarity to the life of New York. Busy and never sleeps. People in Morozov always have a flat face. Since they were born they were required to always do everything quickly and perfectly, so that to outsiders, Morozov would seem full of heartless-robot people. They relied heavily on data and technology and did not pay attention to the environmental damage they have done, even though he heard a movement to save the earth has begun to emerge, mostly initiated by the younger generation who are disgusted by the apathy of their older generation.
  • It was not that their seemingly robotic coldness makes them cold. They would be humble and would not hesitate to think of each other as a family if they began to know each other. That was how he described his old hometown.
  • It was for this reason that he got homesick when he arrived in the Cirillo, a city that has been named as a pilot city for an environmentally friendly future in the world. Located close to Italy, they are completely dependent on natural sources for their electricity source. The people here were very friendly, always smiling at everyone—including people they did not know, making the transition process to his new life in this city not as difficult as he thought.
  • Ah. The exception was the sales property he met when he was looking for an apartment. The person he had crossed off from the list of friendly townspeople of Cirillo he did not want to see again.
  • He took a second cigarette, planning to enjoy the scent again when a hand immediately stopped his action, and he turned his head to find Hazel looking at him with her calm face.
  • ‘It’s enough. No smoking for now. I just left for a while and now you are smoking again?’
  • ‘H-hi. Morning, Hazel…’ Suddenly nervousness enveloped him as he saw Hazel's calm face while she took her cigarette earlier. It was like if behind this woman's calm face had appeared a sickle that would kill him out in an instant. 'How was your sleep?'
  • Hazel smiled, but her eyes said something different. ‘It should be my question. Oh, and if I saw you smoking again, this is the answer.’
  • Mercilessly, Hazel crumpled the cigarette she was holding. He swallowed hard, trembling at the thought that the cigarette was him.
  • ‘Understand? Just hold on for a while, at least until you recover. Is that really difficult?’
  • ‘Er… yeahーI mean no, Hazel. Of course not. Hahaha…' Raymond still could not hide his fear of Hazel's threat.
  • ‘Good,’ Hazel stopped looking at him. Her attention was drawn to the view of Cirillo from the balcony of their apartment. Her eyes wandered far, further away than the scenery in front of her. ‘Yesterday I didn't say anything at all because I didn't want to interrupt your conversation, but from what you said yesterday, it looks like you don't intend to stay here long, do you?’
  • ‘Not really. From the start, I planned to settle in this city. That was just my main intention,’ Raymond chewed his lips, restless because he could not smoke. ‘After all, I quit my job before moving here.’
  • ‘Oh? So what were you before?’
  • ‘Detective at the Morozov Central Police Station.’
  • ‘No wonder,’ Hazel mumbled, more to herself.
  • ‘Why? Worried that you will miss me if I come back to Morozov?’
  • ‘Yes,’ she answered it without hesitation.
  • Hazel's honest answer took her by surprise. He thought Hazel would try hard to dodge his question, or not respond at all.
  • ‘No way. I have no more reason to stay in Morozov…’ Raymond clenched his fists until they almost bled. Suddenly he felt short of breath. Looks like his anxiety attack was coming back.
  • ‘Raymond?’
  • Hazel's voice calling out sounded worried, but he could not answer it. His body slowly sank as his knees were weakening, unable to support his body. His hand held his chest. Flashbacks of his friend's death swirled. It felt like he was in Arnold's apartment right now, not at the balcony of his apartment.
  • The scent of blood that spread throughout the room…
  • Arnold's calm face with his eyes closed…
  • The messy apartment room…
  • Arnold's blood all over on the carpeted floor…
  • Everything was spinning so fast, it almost drove him crazy.
  • ‘...op…’
  • He struggled to make a sound, asking his brain to stop playing the memories he did not want to remember but failed. His nose smelled of blood exactly as he had found it at that moment. Smelling various traces left by people who killed his friend. The smell of the gunpowder coming from the bullet of the person who attacked Arnold. Regret began to envelop him. If at that time he immediately came to Arnold's apartment, instead of being busy queuing to buy food to celebrate Arnold's success being promoted to manager at his workplace ...
  • If at that time he had chosen to trust the intuition that told him something was wrong ...
  • If at that time he realized something was wrong with Arnold's voice telling him not to come to his apartment, reasoned that old guests were visiting him...
  • Arnold's voice sounded strange when he said it.
  • ‘Don't come here yet, Raymond. My place is ... messy.’
  • His breathing grew even tighter as he thought about it.
  • 'Bye… Raymond…’
  • Arnold's last words before their conversation broke off. His body began to shiver, thinking about the ideas that had come to mind.
  • ‘Raymond?’ Hazel now pulled Raymond closer. ‘Calm yourself, okay? Inhale slowly. Everything’s fine. Everything’s fine…’
  • Hazel kept repeating her words like she was casting a spell. Slowly, all those memories disappeared. He was no longer in Arnold's apartment. His body was covered in a cold sweat, but at least, he did not feel as breathless as earlier.
  • 'Still feeling uncomfortable?’
  • Raymond shook his head. Helped by Hazel, he went back inside, toward the sofa chair. Then without asking any questions, Hazel walked into the kitchen, leaving him alone.
  • ***