Aris grunted as he lifted the bucket of slop up over the side of the enclosure and dumped its smelly contents into the tray below. It splashed upwards when it hit the bottom of the wooden container but none of the muck landed near Aris or his clothes. He was quite practiced at this. The pigs that had been idling about the mud filled pen immediately began trotting over to grab some food.
Aris smiled as he pulled the now empty bucket back over the fence. His heart lifted at the animals’ happy snorts and hurried waddling. They seemed so happy to receive the village’s kitchen castoffs. If only his own needs were so simple.
A sigh escaped Aris’ lips as he looked at his surroundings and his own problems came to mind. Around him were the crude wooden buildings that lay at the center of his village. Everything looked run down and dirty, although Aris had never seen them any other way. In fact, he had never seen any other buildings. Behind the buildings the settlement wall could be seen, and beyond that the tall trees of the forest loomed. It was a despairingly familiar scene that made him want to scream. The sight of the trees tormented him. They were a constant reminder of the outside world but also of all the barriers that shackled him here.
He had been born in the isolated village of Shelter over fifteen winters ago, and it was likely that he would die here. There had to be more to life than this! Aris grimaced as he carried the bucket back over to his house. Like every other home in the village, it was a squat structure with a thatch roof. There was only enough space inside for three cramped rooms. He dropped the slop bucket outside the front door before walking inside. His mother was working in the kitchen. There was a table in the middle of the room and she was chopping something up on top of it.
“I’m done with the morning chores, mother,” Aris told her as he stepped through the door.
“Ah, thank you,” his mother replied without looking up from her work. Although she wasn’t young anymore, the brunette was still attractive. She wasn’t slim but she moved gracefully and there was almost always a welcoming smile on her face.
“Is there something else you wanted me to do now?” he asked her as he came to stop in the doorway. There were always more chores to do.
“No, not right now. We can do some cleaning together later, but right now I need to focus on this. You can take a break for an hour or so.”
“Alright, I’m going to go for a walk or something then.”
“Oh, a walk? Are you planning to take it with anyone in particular?” his mother said as she finally looked up and grinned at him. Aris’ cheeks flushed slightly in response.
“Nah, no one in particular,” he replied unconvincingly as he quickly looked to the side.
“Sure, sweetie, whatever you say. Have fun with your walk,” his mother responded smugly. Aris quickly muttered something incomprehensible and then made a break for his room. He loved his mother but she could be so very embarrassing. Why couldn’t she just stay out of his business?