Back in the garden on the roof, Charlie spent the rest of the day planting the seeds that Harriet had gifted him. This turned out to be a fairly complex process. First of all, he didn’t have any of the necessary tools. He decided he would first need a hoe, which Juno told him was something used for tilling the soil as well as cutting away weeds and creating a hole in the ground for the seeds. Charlie thought that planting seeds involved simply shoving the seed into the dirt and waiting for it to pop up in the form of a plant, but this was apparently not the case.
Using the screen on the backpack, he opened the Basic Hoe creation.
Basic Hoe – Useful for tilling, weeding and planting
– Wood Units x 5
– Rock Units x 2
The wood was much easier to come by now that he was in the garden. There were practically endless fallen branches, sticks and twigs that Charlie could quickly pick up and add to the backpack. The rocks were a bit harder as he did not have a way to break down larger boulders which were set firmly into the ground. This meant that he had to tediously grab small stones from the ground, which were much harder to come by and add them to the backpack. He made a mental note that perhaps making that pickaxe wouldn’t be such a bad idea. At some point, Juno got bored watching him pick up rocks and wood and told him she was going to go downstairs and do some chores around her apartment but to come get her if he needed her. She told him her apartment number and retreated down the elevator.
After collecting enough materials, he selected the Basic Hoe from the menu, created it, pulled it from the backpack, and went to work tilling the dirt where he pulled up grass earlier to make rope. He turned the soil over, haphazardly at first, as he worked to build small mounds where he could plant the seeds.
He decided to keep things organized by creating two five by five grids that were separated by a small path of untouched earth. In one of these, he planted 25 tomato seeds, and in the other he planted 25 lettuce seeds. He used the hoe to turn the soil over, burying the seeds. This was all quite challenging work considering he’d never done anything like it before. The afternoon sun beamed down through the treetops, causing him to sweat profusely. Sweat dripped down his face and his clothes clung to his body. He discarded his jacket first, then only a few minutes later, did away with his shirt as well, tying it around his waste. He used his shirt to wipe the sweat from his face, then went back to burying seeds.
Looking down at his sweat covered torso, he realized just how out of shape he was. He was thin, with absolutely no muscle tone. His pale skin was soft and squishy. His body was that of someone who had never physically worked for anything in his life, and the way his arms ached as he maneuvered the hoe just accentuated this point.
With his seeds finally buried, he looked out over the little mounds he’d created, noticing almost immediately that the dirt looked especially dry. Even without Juno’s help, he was aware that plants needed water to survive, so he decided that the next thing to be made on his list of creations was a watering can.
Basic Watering Can – Holds 1 Gallon of water
Materials Required – Wood Units x 4
He collected a few more branches and created the basic watering can, but realized immediately that it was empty. Obviously, this posed a new problem. He could probably go down to the apartment and get water from the faucet but this seemed like it would quickly get exhausting, dragging water back and forth to the roof. It occurred to him that perhaps there was an easier way. He was surrounded by a forest, a magical roof forest, but a forest nonetheless. And forests typically had some sort of water source such as a river, a lake or a pond. Perhaps, if he looked a littler further in, he could find such a source.
Summoning what little courage he had, he left the safety of his little seed plots and started into the dark underbrush, following what seemed to be an overgrown path. He continuously had to remind himself that this was actually a rooftop in New York City and not a national park or jungle. The woods around him seemed to spread out forever, which was only made worse by the fact that the tree canopy blocked out much of the sun, making it difficult to see in any given direction. He walked far enough that, were this a normal roof, he would have reached the opposite side, but still the trees and bushes gave no sign of ending. Birds squawked above him. Insects chirped and whistled around him. Something slithered somewhere beneath his feet, making him jump and let out a small scream. When he left home this morning, he never could have guessed that he would find himself going on a nature expedition in the middle of Brooklyn later in the day.
He stepped over a large mossy log, using a nearby tree to steady himself, but as his foot came down, it splashed and sunk into a small murky pond. He immediately jerked his foot back but his shoe was already completely drenched.
“Ugh,” he grumbled. Aggravated with the wet shoe though he was, it was still a relief to have found a small source of water. The pond was connected to a thin trickling stream which fed into it further in. He was curious to know where it originated. But that mystery could wait. He had newly planted seeds to water. He laid the wooden watering can into the pond and let it fill up with murky brown water. Once the can was full, he stood and made his way back to his little garden.
One by one, he proceeded to water his seeds, pouring water over each one with care.
By the time the mounds of earth were adequately soaked, his back was aching and every muscle in his arms and legs cried out in agony that he’d ignored them for his full twenty-seven years. They didn’t understand why he only now decided it might be fun to actually use them all at once. The sun was starting to lower and the air was starting to chill. It was time to head inside for the night. He looked over his little watered garden and felt a small sense of pride. He had done this. He had planted these seeds. He had taken care of them. He didn’t know what the end goal was here, but just being able to look out over a task he’d completed made him feel good. And ‘good’ was not a feeling he often had.
He collected his shirt and jacket and went to stand in front of the elevator, pressing the call button. Once it arrived, he entered, turned and pressed the third floor button. As he pulled the gate shut, he thought he saw the pair of round eyes peering out at him from the forest, but as soon as he looked into them, they vanished. He would have been unsettled, but he found that he was simply too tired to be worried about what hid beyond the trees.
The elevator carried him down to the third floor. He made his way back to his room and used the red key to open it. Inside, he found the same dreary, empty apartment. He was filthy, covered in sweat and dirt, so he decided the first order of business was to get cleaned up. He went to the bathroom and fiddled with the shower until the water ran hot. Then he undressed and took what was easily the best and most satisfying shower of his entire life.
He realized too late after leaving the shower that he did not have a towel or anything for drying himself off so he turned on the bathroom vent fan and sat on the toilet with the seat down, letting the air slowly dry him as he quietly contemplated the day. At some point, he might need to go home and tell his mother everything that had happened. Then he might be able to pick up some extra clothes and even a towel or two. But for tonight, he had no intention of making the long trek home. Besides, part of him worried that if he left this place, it might vanish into thin air. He worried that leaving would mean waking up from this dream.
Despite Juno’s desire for him to prove Milo wrong, he still wasn’t sure if Darkmoon Drive was where he was supposed to be. After all, what was he really doing? Planting seeds on a magical rooftop? Making fallen tree branches and rocks into tools? Was this really a step up from what he’d been doing with his life?
But then he remembered that what he’d been doing with his life had led to him standing on the Brooklyn Bridge, ready to end it all. So perhaps this was at least an improvement.
There was a knock on the door. Charlie quickly ran to the bag he’d packed and threw on the one extra pair of underwear, pants, and t-shirt he’d brought. He went to answer the door. To his relief, it was Juno. She stood with a small pile of mixed fabrics balanced in her hands.
“Hey” she said casually. “I went to the garden but you were already gone. Looks like you made good progress though.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Got the seeds planted, and I found a little pond to get water from, which is a super weird thing for a Brooklyn apartment to have on the roof, but I guess you already know that.”
“Yeah. Things are a little different here.” She held up the pile of fabrics. “Good thing we don’t advertise. ‘Spacious Apartment. Affordable rent. Rooftop pond surrounded by jungle. Washer and Dryer not included.’”
Charlie gave a small chuckle at this.
“I brought you a towel, a couple blankets and a few of my brother’s spare clothes. They might be a tiny bit big on you but they should do.”
Charlie reached out and took the bundle.
“You’re brother won’t mind?” he asked.
“Oh,” she said, her eyes darting off to the side. “He’s … not with us anymore.”
“Oh…” started Charlie, suddenly afraid that he had offended this person who’d been so kind and helpful to him all day. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to—”
“It’s okay. It’s been a long time and … he’d be happy to share his things if it meant making someone’s life a little better. He was always very generous.”
“Well … thank you,” said Charlie hugging the bundle tight to his chest and taking in their clean smell.
“I didn’t bring you a pillow though. You can make that on your own and get some practice with your relic.” She pointed at him like a parent reminding their child to do their homework.
Charlie laughed. “Yeah, yeah.” He bit his bottom lip. “I just want to say thank you for today. I really appreciate … everything.”
“Don’t mention it,” she said. “I know you didn’t really know Arty, but he did a lot for all of us. Being able to help you, it sort of feels like repaying his kindness in some small way.”
“I just hope I don’t end up disappointing all of you.” Charlie sighed. “Historically speaking, I am very good at disappointing people.”
“I bet you’re not as bad as you think you are,” she said.
“Tell that to all of my exes.”
“Pro tip,” she said, leaning in conspiratorially. “If they aren’t around anymore, their opinion no longer counts.” She backed away. “Now go get some rest. You had a long day, and I’m willing to bet you’ll have another long one tomorrow.”
“Why?” asked Charlie. “What’s tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow, I’m going to introduce you to all of your neighbors. Or, at least the ones that are home when we stop by.”
“Oh I don’t know if that’s—” Charlie started. As an introvert, the thought of meeting even one new person was enough to send him spiraling, but to meet a whole apartment complex’s worth? That was enough to cause him to have a full on panic attack.
“We’ll take it one at a time,” said Juno. “Besides, I’m willing to bet you’re going to need their expertise before long, just like you needed Harriet’s help today.”
He paused. “So they really all have a relic?” he asked.
“Every single one.”
“Do any of them have one that makes this all make more sense?” he asked half jokingly.
“Silly Charlie,” she said, speaking to him like a child again. “Your relic is the one that makes it all make sense.”
“I was afraid you might say that.”
“Get some sleep,” she said again, before blowing him a kiss and waving farewell.
He closed the door behind her and quickly went to the table and sat down the bundle. He separated out the clothes, towel and blanket into their own piles.
He chose one of the adjacent rooms as a bedroom and laid the two blankets on the floor, one on top of the other. He then selected the pillow creation on the backpack’s screen.
Pillow – Makes sleeping more comfortable
Materials Required – Grass Units x 20
“Twenty!?” he exclaimed, flabbergasted by the large number. Luckily, he had some left over from his rope making adventures. He was very concerned that the pillow was going to be a ball of grass, but was pleasantly surprised when it came out fluffy and soft, albeit green. He laid it on the ground at the top of his makeshift bed, then crawled between the blankets, laying his head on the pillow.
It wasn’t particularly comfortable at all, but after the day he’d had, it wasn’t long before he drifted off to sleep.
He completely missed the figure perched outside his window, studying his every move.
Milo watched as Charlie wrapped himself in the blanket, turned over a couple of times and then finally settled into sleep. His breathing grew slower and deeper until he began to snore softly.
“One day down…” said Milo to himself. He leapt from the window ledge and landed on the roof of an adjacent building. He took one look back before taking off at a run, leaping from rooftop to rooftop as he journeyed into the night.
I LOVE FARMING SIM GAMES! If you haven’t figured that out yet, I don’t know what to tell you! In creating this chapter and many things that will happen on the roof, I’m always playing farming games and thinking, how could this be incorporated? I also researched a bit of gardening for this but I feel like I always end up wanting to go the more gamey route, which I think makes sense for this story.
Okay, but seriously, what is lurking in the forest???