Jaak’s House – The Valleys
Jaak lay on his bed, trying and hoping for the umpteenth time to get some kind – any kind of signal on his phone.
Very occasionally as if to taunt him, a fleeting bar of signal might appear for a moment, but it faded just as quickly. Tenzing had explained to him that because of the geological make-up of the valleys and the high iron content of the volcanic rock surrounding them that getting any sort of regular coverage from the Cyanos Tet-Net was virtually impossible. The only reliable way to obtain any kind of internet connection was to install a satellite dish to catch the relay signal from one of the Tets – the huge tetrahedron ship-stations located in a geo-synchronous orbit around Cyanos.
The Tets formed a network of four strategically placed space stations that provided Cyanos with both a satellite communications network and internet relays, but also provided an important part of the Cyanos planetary defense network. Well, the part of it that lived in the modern world with internet and flush toilets – and not the part stuck up the ass end of some technologically forsaken valley in the boondocks, with a can to crap in.
Jaak sighed again. His repeated attempts to connect were in vain. It was no good. No service, and definitely no chance of his Dad installing a satellite dish. “Not in the culture boy”, Altai had chuffed at him on his first day. Jaak sighed yet again this time with an audible woosh. He did love his Dad, but he could be so – damn – stubborn with his annoyingly old-fashioned ideas.
Jaak looked out the window and up towards the trail that led up to the top of the ridge a few hundred metres above the cabin. He had not been up this trail before. Firstly, at the beginning, when he came to the valleys, he soon discovered that any walking in the snow in his prized basketball boots, ended up very quickly in soaked freezing cold feet. Naturally he had tried to avoid this unpleasantness for the first few weeks and had mostly moped at home staring at the few functions that still worked on his phone sans-service. The second reason why he had not been up the ridge trail before, was that his Dad had made no secret of the fact that he thought that Layan who lived in a small cabin at the top of the ridge, was a bit loony. Jaak wondered if it was more to do with him not fitting in with the culture – something he himself was fast starting to identify with. He was trying hard to make the best of his new situation and fit in, but yes if he was being honest with himself, he desperately missed the modern city, his friends and all it had to offer.
Jaak sighed heavily again and swung his feet off the bed and sat on the edge. He looked down at his large paw feet. It was true. Since he had finally ditched his basketball boots the night of the gathering and started going about bare-paw he really had discovered that this was the way to get around in the snow. He took his phone and headed outside towards the trail. If he had a chance of catching any kind of signal it was going to be up high on a ridge.
The trail wound its way up and though the trees climbing steadily. It was well marked and Jaak knew he wouldn’t get lost as long as he didn’t wander off and into the trees. Up and up, he climbed stopping occasionally to catch his breath which was now steaming in bursts of puffy white clouds, and also to check his phone to see if he was getting any signal. Nothing – nada. Zilch. Not even a fleeting fluking bar.
Eventually, as he continued his climb, the trees started to thin a little and he could see what looked like the top of the ridge crest. There were a number of fallen logs to the side and as he climbed on a little further, he could see that right at the top there was an outcrop of rocks next to the trail. Jaak could also see a few puffs of wood smoke curling their way up from behind the ridge, but from his current vantage below the crest, he couldn’t yet see any cabin, a likely source for the smoke.
Arriving at the rock outcrop he indeed found himself at the top of the trail. Jaak could see that the trail continued on down the other side of the ridge, disappearing into the trees once more. He walked over to the nearest rock and sat down to once again catch his breath – and to check for a signal.
Jaak looked at his phone, and with a small glimmer of hope, he saw a couple of tentative bars of service flickering on the screen. He tapped the screen to bring up the video messaging app in the hope that one of his friends from Aoraki might be online. Dieter! Jaak’s friend who was the exchange student from the planet Hundeerde was online. Jaak eagerly tapped his avatar and the app beeped back at him.
Jaak: Dieter! Are you there? Can you hear me?
Dieter’s orange mop of hair and wet nose suddenly filled the small screen in Jaak’s hand.
Dieter: Arrrwoooof!! Jaak! Where you been? I thought you must have been swallowed up by a giant volcano or fallen in a pit of lava poo!
Jaak: Aww Dieter! I’m so glad to see you – anyone actually – you would not believe how backward they are up here! Yup, we have to crap in a can and I just had to climb a freaking mountain to get some phone service!
Oh – by the way – you’ve got a giant booger up your nose!
Dieter snuffled loudly, inhaling sharply and with a shake of his head and the booger disappeared.
Jaak: Eww! You are soooo disgusting!
Dieter: You know it. Pick it, lick it and flick it!
Suddenly the image of Dieter flickered, and he disappeared from the screen…
Jaak desperately tapped the phone screen. He even stood up on the rock and raised his arm up as high as he could. It was no good. The signal had gone.
Jaak: Aw shit.
Dejectedly Jaak slumped back down on to the rock and put his phone back into his pocket. He would have to try again some other time.
How long Jaak sat there he didn’t know. He desperately missed his friends back in Aoraki and even his fleeting call with Dieter had done little to cheer him up. Unnoticed, lost in his own thoughts time began to slip away.
Jaak, suddenly aware of his surroundings noticed that the sun was starting to sink beyond the ridge, casting a warm golden glow across the snow, which then changed to a magenta pink. It was getting rather dark, rather fast. Along with the fading light, came the evening chill and the nor’ lazy wind started to build, dropping the temperature even more – like a stone. Jaak hastily jumped up from his rock and he padded quickly back up to the crest of the trail and looked frantically around him. Just below the ridge he saw the source of the smoke he had seen earlier, a small cabin. He figured it must belong to Layan, whom his father had often spoken of in less than flattering terms. There was nothing else for it – he knew he would never make it back down the mountain trail before the nor’ lazy chilled him to the bone and darkness settled in. There was no full moon tonight.
Carefully he made his way down the hill towards the cabin. It looked pretty much like all the other small cabins in the valley, in fact it was not dissimilar to his own although this one appeared to be a little more weathered from the harsh north winds that often whipped across the valley ridges.
Tentatively and cautiously he approached the cabin. A low light was shining in the window and smoke from the chimney still curled gently upwards. Outside on the wooden deck there was an old rocking chair swaying in the wind and at one end of the cabin, a pile of firewood was neatly stacked. The deck creaked accusingly at him as he walked across it which added to his apprehension – he approached the door and knocked gently.