The light streams in through the windows, casting shadows across the room as Zolf stirs in his sleep, yawning widely. His face scrunches up as he opens his eyes, blinking in the soft golden light. His mind feels hazy, almost like he’s chasing a distant dream, but it slips away from him before he can really remember it. There was something about… he can’t recall, but something about a city? Being in university? Which is just insane anyway, considering that Zolf had never even thought about going to university, before or after his father - well. He doesn’t need to think about it.
It was just a dream, after all.
He pushes himself up and glares at the clock on the end table. Even though it goes off at the same time every morning, he hates waking up at 6am just to get to the mines right when the sun comes up. The bed creaks as he leans over the edge, feeling around blindly to find his prosthetic from wherever he’d dropped it last night, before fitting it around his left leg. He stretches, rolling his shoulders, before standing.
“Seems like you’re finally back to normal.” He hears Feryn say, and looks over at the doorway. His older brother is standing there with an eyebrow raised. “You woke me up by screaming yesterday, thanks for that, and then you were acting super weird.”
Zolf squints over at him. He doesn’t even remember yesterday. “Uh… really?”
“Yeah, it was strange. Haven’t had a night terror in a while, hmm? And then it’s like you forgot how to do your job. Weird.”
“Sorry?” Zolf tries, but Feryn waves the apology away.
“We all have our off-days,” he says. “Hurry up, I’ve got breakfast cooking and we’ve got to leave soon.”
“Oi! Zolf!” He hears Sasha calling his name from down the road and turns back, catching her and Brock wildly waving at him. Or, Brock waving wildly, while Sasha puts one hand up quickly before it shoots back down.
Feryn laughs. “Alright Sasha? Brock?”
“Hey, Feryn,” Sasha says as he ruffles Brock’s hair.
Zolf coughs and nods at Feryn, head tilting up the road in the universal signal for ‘can you please keep going’. Feryn holds up his hands and acquiesces as Zolf hangs back with Sasha and Brock.
“What was up with you yesterday, mate?” Brock asks the moment Feryn is probably out of earshot. “You were all over the place, had no clue where your job was, what your name was?”
“Yeah, it’s like you didn’t know who you were,” Sasha adds.
“Really? Feryn just said I was acting weird…” Zolf mutters, casting a look over at his brother’s back.
“Yeah, sure, if ‘weird’ means having no idea where we are and no clue where the mine is -“
“And also no clue who we were, which is the most offensive,” Brock pipes up, glaring at Zolf.
“Ah, sorry about that, I dunno what happened. Seems to be fine now though, yeah?”
Sasha doesn’t look convinced, but Brock looks happy enough. “Fine. We’ve gotta get to Dad’s anyway,” he says.
Slowly, they head up the road after Feryn, chatting about the upcoming festival and the comet that should be visible over the town on the same night.
There’s a crowd up ahead, and Zolf, Sasha, and Brock catch up with Feryn, who’s watching the crowd chant with a dark look on his face. As they get closer, it becomes clear, and Zolf joins his brother in staring daggers at the man in the center of the group.
Hirald Smith, mayor of Countisbury and Zolf and Feryn’s estranged father, catches them looking at him and gives a subtle shake of his head. Zolf opens his mouth to say something, but Feryn’s hand on his shoulder stops him.
“He’s not worth it,” Feryn says under his breath. Zolf shrugs off his hand and keeps walking, ignoring the whispered comments from the crowd as they all pass by.
Brock peels off after that, heading down the road to his adoptive father’s antique shop. Sasha takes a step to follow him, but turns back to Zolf and tugs on his shirtsleeve to get him to stop walking.
“You sure you’re alright?” she says when he turns around. “Only, look, you were actin’ real weird yesterday, proper strange, and now everything just seems like you’re back to normal?”
Zolf shrugs. “Feryn said the same thing, uh, not really sure what happened. I don’t remember any of it, but. Sorry, I suppose?”
Sasha eyes him up. “Alright…” she says, and then she’s off after Brock, giving him one more confused look before he turns around and hurries to catch up with Feryn.
The sounds of children running around, of cars heading down the street, all vanish as the elevator descends into the mine, replaced with a vast emptiness broken only by the occasional echo of steel on rock.
“Please tell me you remember how to do your job today,” Feryn begs, clapping Zolf on the shoulder. “Or do I need to watch out for you even more so that usual?”
The people in the elevator around him laugh, and Zolf feels his face flush.
“Shut up,” he mutters to Feryn, folding his arms and frowning steadily at the floor. He doesn’t wait for Feryn as the doors open, stalking over to his locker instead.
Zolf opens the locker and squints at the sheet of paper he sees there, stark white against all of the dusty, coal-covered tools and clothes. He glances around and pulls it out, unfolding it gently. It’s definitely not from anyone he knows - the handwriting is completely unfamiliar, and the only three people who would even leave him a note are Feryn, Sasha, and Brock, and they’d all just tell him to his face anyway.
And the message is… not something any of them would have left him.
‘Who are you?’