As Charlie stepped out of the elevator into the garden, he immediately noticed little green sprouts had popped up atop each of the mounds where he planted the seeds. The fact that seeds were producing sprouts was not all that surprising on its own. However he was almost certain that seeds did not grow this fast in a single day.
When he was younger he watched his mother plant a few tomato plants in little green pots she kept on the fire escape landing. Eventually, these plants produced small yet succulent red tomatoes. He recalled vividly checking every day for weeks on end waiting for the seeds to finally break the surface, constantly asking his mother why they were taking so long. She tried to use this as an opportunity to teach her son about patience. Yet in the end, the person who learned the most patience from it was her, for having to deal with his constant nagging.
So to see these seeds already springing healthily out of the ground just one night after being planted seemed incredibly fast to Charlie.
He approached the plots and knelt down. Sure enough, each of the plots had sprouted small leafy greens. The tomatoes had sprouted a small stem with little leaves, while the lettuce had sprouted little bunches of tiny flat leaves. Charlie noticed, however, that the plots were now completely dry. Either the soil was magical or the water was and he wanted to make sure the little plants got whatever they needed to keep growing. He decided the best thing to do was to keep watering them. He’d left the watering can and hoe off to the side of the plants so he walked over to them and picked up the watering can.
He marched into the forest and collected more of the spring water before walking back and watering each of the plots individually just like the day before. This didn’t take much time so he decided to pull up the menu on his backpack to see what else he could potentially do to earn more experience and level up the relic again. The watering can and hoe had served him well, which only made him more curious of how much more he could accomplish with the other tools on his list of creations. Perhaps by making these tools he would be able to gather new materials for the backpack and thus create even more elaborate items.
Level 1 Creations:
Wooden Plank – Useful for creating other wooden Creations
Rope – Starting length: 25 ft. May be made longer by multiplying required materials.
Cardboard Box – A box made of cardboard.
Cup – Good for drinking out of. Beverage not included.
Pillow – Makes sleeping more comfortable
Level 2 Creations:
Basic Axe – Useful for chopping wood
Basic Hoe – Useful for tilling, weeding and planting
Basic Watering Can – Holds 1 Gallon of water
Basic Pickaxe – Useful for mining resources, breaking down rocks
Basic Scythe – Better at cutting grass than your hands
Basic Sword – Low level weapon
Ladder – Stands 6 ft. tall
His eyes traced over the list. The sword definitely sounded the most appealing but so far he hadn’t seen any need for one, save for whatever was lurking in the woods. A scythe, on the other hand, seemed like it would be good for helping to cut the long grass to make more room for new plots. His hands would definitely be grateful since they were covered in sore, red cuts from ripping up grass the previous day. An axe also seemed useful. He’d never cut down a tree before but the trees on the rooftop didn’t have very thick trunks, and really, how hard could chopping down a tree be? You just swung and hit until it fell, right? He decided to make these two items the priority. He clicked on each one
Basic Scythe – Better at cutting grass than your hands
– Wood Units x 4
– Rock Units x 6
Basic Axe – Useful for chopping wood
– Wood Units x 4
– Rock Units x 4
Seeing how much rock was required for both, he remembered that the pickaxe would be useful for harvesting rocks.
Basic Pickaxe – Useful for mining resources, breaking down rocks
– Wood Units x 4
– Rock Units x 6
Charlie let out a sigh. The sword would definitely have to wait.
The pickaxe would be first, he rationalized. There were plenty of fallen tree branches around to help build up his wood supply, but rocks that he could easily pick up and put in the backpack were in short supply. He would have to break down several boulders to make all the tools he needed.
He started into the forest and began collecting fallen branches and loose rocks when he could find them. The sound of rustling behind him stopped him in his tracks. He held his breath as he slowly pivoted around, but whatever was there was gone. This did nothing to deter him from collecting the materials he needed, but it became very apparent after several more instances of rustling that he was being followed. But, so far, that was all. His stalker only rustled and watched. And that, he was grateful for.
Before long, he had enough materials to make the pickaxe. He selected the creation and watched the green bar fill up. There was something about watching the progress that was very satisfying. Upon completion, he reached into his pack. It had a long smooth wooden handle, topped with a sharp tooth-shaped stone. As he lifted it out of the bag, the weight shifted into his hand and the pickaxe dragged him downward. The large tool slammed into the ground with a heavy thud.
“Why are you so heavy?” he asked the pickaxe. He put the backpack on his back and attempted to lift the pickaxe with both hands. It was unwieldy and unbalanced: the handle did not seem to be able to bear the weight of the pickaxe’s head. Still, after shifting his hands along the handle, spreading them further apart in order to get more leverage, he finally felt like he was able to lift it effectively.
He slowly spun around in place, looking out for a large rock to test his new pickaxe on. He hobbled over to one nearby and squared his feet in front of it. After all, he didn’t want whatever was watching him to see him miss such a large target. The creature might deem him weak enough to attack and eat. Or worse, laugh at him, if it even could laugh. He lifted the pickaxe high over his head, feeling the weight of it as it passed over him nearly tipping him over, but he stayed strong and held his ground. Then, with all the strength in his arms, he pulled the pickaxe forward and let gravity pull it straight down into the rock.
There was a loud ‘CRACK!’ that echoed through the forest. Charlie jumped in surprise and dropped the pickaxe onto the ground. He quickly steadied himself and looked to see if perhaps the watcher was giggling maniacally at him, but the beast was nowhere to be found. He turned to look back at the rock which, while not broken, now had thin cracks running down its side. It appeared that the rock was going to take more than one clobbering with a pickaxe to break. He picked up the pickaxe again, this time far more confident than before, lifted it over his head, and swung down. Another loud crack rang out, but this, time he managed to hold onto the pickaxe. He eyed the boulder and saw that the cracks were running all the way down to its base now.
“One more time ought to do it,” he said. He lifted and brought the pickaxe down again and the boulder exploded into several much smaller pieces. “Yes!” Charlie exclaimed. He sat the pickaxe on the ground and quickly collected all the rocks into the backpack. This brought his inventory of rock up to 10. Exactly what he needed to make the basic axe and the basic scythe.
He picked up the pickaxe and brought it over to sit beside the watering can and the hoe next to his little garden, then went back to the forest to gather a few more wood.
Next up, he made the basic axe. He thought this was a solid move since being able to cut down trees would make it easier to make the scythe and anything else requiring wood in the near future. He recalled he also had a recipe for a ladder. He didn’t exactly need to climb anything, but you never knew. When it came to Darkmoon Drive, one could never be sure what they were going to need and when.
The axe was heavy in his hands, but nowhere near as heavy as the pickaxe. The sensation of lifting something weightless out of the backpack and feeling the weight fill into it was very startling, but this time at least Charlie was prepared. With the axe in hand, he walked up to a nearby tree, one that seemed somewhat smaller than the rest. This time, instead of raising the tool above this head, he held the axe to one side and then, with as much force as he could muster, swung the axe into the side of the tree. He felt the hit reverberate through his bones and was surprised to see that the blade didn’t sink nearly as deep into the wood as he’d been hoping. Even worse, he had a very hard time removing the blade from the trunk. He ended up having to put one foot on the tree for leverage and pulled with everything he had to get it free.
Much like with the pickaxe, on the second swing, he made sure to have a much better grip. He planted his feet and squared his shoulders. This helped with the reverberations, but it didn’t do anything for his aim. He cut into the tree several inches above the original.
“Crap,” he said, under his breath. With the pickaxe, it had been easy enough to stand in place, lift and drop. But this required precision, and Charlie was a very imprecise person. Still, he wasn’t about to give up after just two swings. He pulled back the axe and tried again.
Eventually he managed to start grouping his cuts together slowly but surely. After what felt like his twentieth swing, he heard the tree begin to creak and crack softly. He looked up to see the tree swaying and bending before suddenly falling. Falling directly over him! He threw the axe to the side and lunged out of the way, rolling across the dirt just as the tree crashed down atop a cluster of bushes.
Charlie stood and dusted himself off. “Note to self,” he said. “Trees can fall on you.” He approached the fallen tree and walked its length and around, trying to decide how to best get it into the backpack. He supposed chopping it into much smaller pieces would be the best course of action but he couldn’t help thinking about the immense amount of time and energy that would take. He’d have to start with all the branches and then eventually work his way down the trunk. But then point, it was almost more time efficient to just gather the fallen wood on the ground around the forest.
He imagined clearly, Mary Poppins pulling impossibly long, over-sized objects out of her bag, one after the other, while the children looked on in disbelief and awe. Her bag was, in many ways, been similar to his backpack. Of course, she hadn’t had to go chopping down trees in order to make things come out of her bag, but the idea of a bottomless bag was still very similar. And if she could pull incredibly long objects out of her bag, perhaps he could stuff them into his.
He walked to the very top of the fallen tree and pulled the backpack from his back. He unzipped it and placed it so that he could insert the treetop right into the backpack.
“Here goes nothing.” He pulled the backpack over the leafy treetop, fully expecting the bottom or width of the backpack to stop it, but not only did the backpack not prevent the tree from going in, it started to pull at the tree, like some sort of possessed vacuum. Slowly at first, then much faster, the tree was pulled lengthwise into the gaping maw of the backpack, which seemed to shift and reshape as needed to accommodate the odd angles of the trees branches. Charlie didn’t have to do anything at all besides maintain a firm grip on the backpack, which was actually quite challenging since it shook from side to side, practically biting at the tree like a starved animal. Within seconds, the trunk of the tree disappeared into the backpack. Charlie expected the backpack to give a cartoonish burp after its very large meal, but it remained silent.
He held up the bag, noticing a new notification on the screen.
+ 40 Wood Units
Forty wood? That was massive! He hoped he wouldn’t need to cut down more trees any time soon, though there were still plenty so that wouldn’t be a problem if it became necessary. Not to mention that now that he could easily add them to the backpack, he wouldn’t have to waste time chopping them to bits, making it much faster than collecting single wood units off the ground.
He crafted the basic scythe. It had a short wooden handle and a sharp curved blade for hacking away at tall grass. He didn’t need grass at the moment so he decided to wait to use it. Now that he could see all his tools in a large pile by his garden plots, it occurred to him that he hadn’t considered where he’d store all of it.
Now Charlie was not an overly organized person but even he had to admit that looking at all the thrown together tools just laying out there was an eyesore. He’d considered throwing them all in the backpack, but would they be broken down into their material units, much like the chair back in his apartment? He didn’t want to think about it at the moment. It was much more fun to make new things. He grabbed the backpack to see what to make next. On the top of the screen, a notification with a small exclamation point appeared. He tapped on it.
Level 3 Unlocked!
Well this was a nice surprise indeed! This constant sense of progress was becoming quite the addictive feeling. He swiped down the screen to see more information.
New Creations Unlocked!
Wooden Chair – Nicer for sitting on than the ground.
Small Wooden Table – A nice spot to sit things.
Fabric – Soft cloth material needed for some creations.
Paper – Can be written on. Also useful material needed for some Creations.
Basic Fishing Pole – Allows user to catch fish.
Below this, there was a new ability followed by a second list with a different heading.
New Ability Acquired!
Aimed Creations – Unlike normal Creations, Aimed Creations require the backpack to be aimed at their desired location. Aimed Creations will also automatically stick to where they are placed and can be placed in a continuous line, causing them to connect to each other. Pathways and fencing are common Aimed Creations!
To use, simply select the Creation from the menu, then aim the opening of the Backpack where you would like the Creation placed.
Note: Any Creation can be aimed, but Aimed Creations can ONLY be crafted through aiming.
Note: Only Aimed Creations will adhere to surfaces. An Aimed Fence will automatically be plotted into the ground. Standard creations that are “aimed,” such as a ladder, will be projected at the speed required to reach desired target location within 30 ft. (max. 30 ft)
New Aimed Creations Unlocked!
Wooden Walkway – A path made of wood for walking on.
Wooden Fence – A simple fence made of wood.
Wooden Sign – May be customized using paint.
Charlie went over the description a few more times. (It was quite technical.) He would have to try it to fully grasp how it all worked. The screen indicated that there were more notifications so he moved on to them.
New Passive Ability Unlocked
Stasis Storage: You can now place crafted Creations, and other items, in your bag for storage without them breaking down into materials. Doing this requires user intention. Items placed in the backpack with the intention of being materials will be broken down. Items placed in the backpack for storage will be stored indefinitely in Backpack Inventory.
Note: There is no Storage Limit
Actions which grant experience towards Level 4
Craft even more Creations
Craft Aimed Creations
Charlie’s head cocked to the side like a dog who has just heard a high pitched noise. ‘Cultivating livestock.’ Was he supposed to raise animals? He was already concerned that he was going to kill the small vegetables he planted. Now he also had to worry about potentially killing animals also? And there was still the matter of monsters, of which he had yet to see, with the exception of whatever was lurking in the forest.
However, one good thing had come of this new level. He was now able to store things which meant he could throw his many tools, not to mention his collection of rope, into the backpack and not have it cluttering up his little garden.
He walked over to the rope and added it all to the backpack, then did the same with the tools, which were sucked in the same way as the tree. The sun was starting to set and already the forest was growing darker, but before he left for the night, he wanted to give one of the aimed creations a try. He pulled up the aimed creation menu and was happy to find that each one only took five wood units. He walked over to his garden, thinking it would be nice to put a little fence around it. Perhaps this would stop whatever was in the woods from disturbing his seeds. Though he highly doubted that monsters were put off by simple wooden fences.
He selected the Wooden Fence Aimed Creation, then held the backpack in front of him, pointing it just off to the side of the garden. Nothing happened at first, but then he imagined the fence there and, like magic, a single unit of fence, consisting of two wooden poles and two flat wooden planks between them, shot out of the backpack and planted itself into the ground, like it had been hammered in.
“Woah,” exclaimed Charlie, who was quite surprised at the speed with which the fence shot out. It occurred to him that if ANY creation could be aimed, this, or any creation for that matter, might prove useful against these so-called monsters. After all, what fearsome beast could defend against a pickaxe thrown directly at its face at high velocity? He moved a little to the left and shot a second fence next to the first one. Not only did this one place itself into the ground like the first, it also connected. The horizontal wooden planks of each fence combined together into longer planks. Even the grain of the wood lined up perfectly.
Charlie continued around the first group of plots until he made a full square, leaving one side open so that he could still get in and water the plants. Then he did the same to the second group buried seeds. This way, his tomatoes and lettuce had their own dedicated fenced-in areas. He stood back and admired his work with his back to the forest, and he had to admit, he felt quite proud of himself. Never in his life had he imagined building fences, chopping down trees, breaking rocks or growing vegetables. But here he was doing all of them!
For most of Charlie’s adult life, the little voice in the back of his head told him that he was useless, or at the very least, less useful than others. And why wouldn’t he feel that way? He made a habit out of constantly comparing himself to everyone around him. In his worst depressive states, he would scroll social media and slowly slip into a world of watching people who seemingly had better lives than him, and then he’d become jealous of them. He wondered why his life wasn’t more like theirs and then proceeded to do nothing to make his life one that he wanted to live in. There was always something in the way, but more often than not, that thing was himself. But here he was, doing something. And maybe it wasn’t instagram worthy. Maybe it wasn’t luxurious. But he felt in his bones that he was doing something good. Making something special. Something all his own. And that was a feeling he couldn’t ever recall having in his adult life.
To his great surprise, Charlie noticed that he was smiling. What an odd feeling. His usual expression was a scowl, or at least a subdued frown, but he was practically beaming. He felt good about himself!
He took in a deep breath of air, filled with the scents of trees, dirt and plants. He spun in place and looked up at the treetops, the waning sun and the clouds which were just barely visible above. He felt alive.
His gaze slowly fell to the wonders of the forest’s various bushes and greenery. Never did he recall ever appreciating the beauty of nature and all its eyes. EYES!? From out of the bushes, two large blue eyes stared back at him.
Wow there is a lot going on in this chapter! We get to see some new abilities of the backpack, lot’s of crafting and farming, some hints of what’s to come in the garden aspect of this story AND we even get a cliffhanger! In the next chapter we’re finally going to find out what’s been stalking Charlie in the woods! I can’t wait!!!