Mark Ethridge’s Picture Choice: Two
Title: The Whole World Went Insane - Part 5
That night I wished I were a wizard again, and could make a bed appear from the air, so Kelly could sleep on that, instead of the ground. That night, I didn’t sleep much as I woke every time she cried, every time she screamed in her nightmares, every time she groaned from the pain of her injuries. If only I had a bed she could sleep in. Maybe she could find a moments peace.
That morning I wished we had something to eat. Even stale bread would have been delicious. But all we had was water, and not enough of that.
After packing the tent, we resumed our quest to find the camp. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I’d walked fifteen days to find the dead city I’d collected the books from. How do you tell someone they’ve got to walk another eight days or more to get to safety?
“My kingdom for a scooter!” I proclaimed, waving my arm at the forest.
And the world was OK for a while.
We headed west, following the sun. No wolves walked with us. No eagles watched us from above. I led the way, and she followed. I went around obstacles so she didn’t have to climb over them. And I had walking dreams again, of all the ways I’d kill the men that had abused her.
We stopped every time we saw wild berries of any kind. Anything we could eat. I’d even learned which mushrooms were safe, and which ones would kill you, or at least make you wish you were dead. Yes, we were hungry. But we wouldn’t starve.
We proved the stories about people talking and having fun while they hike in the mountains, and through the woods were lies. We walked without speaking. What was there to say? “Oh, look! Another oak! That makes 147 billion today!” Maybe “1, 2, 3, 4, 9,756,286,” as we counted our steps along the way. Honestly. I didn’t want to know how far we walked. It was easier to measure things
We listened to the sounds of the world, birds singing, their wings flapping as they flitted among the trees. Leaves and twigs on the ground being stirred as animals raced away from us. I could almost hear them thinking, “AIEEE! Humans! Run for your lives!” Every breeze or gust of wind rustled the leaves of the trees.
We heard a lot of silence.
At least until I blurted out, “Wait a minute!”
I recognized the area we were in. “I know this place!” I laughed, and waved at her, “Come on!”
In a few minutes, the trees thinned out. I motioned Kelly to be quiet, and I peeked through the trees as I eased forward. There were a couple of out of place Camellia trees ahead, and a split rail fence. Kelly grabbed my arm. I smiled at her. “I’ve been here before.” I nodded, “I’ll make sure it’s safe.”
I meant for her to stay hidden in the trees as I explored the area, making sure no one else was around. But she stayed with me.
The fence surrounded a small field in the trees. It had once been part of a family farm. There was a small barn along the north side of the fence. The animals were long gone, and we couldn’t find any people around. It was as safe as anything got anymore.
The place had a working water pump. I’d used it when I’d been heading the other way. “I know where we are.” I smiled at Kelly, and pointed west. “We’re about eight days from the camp.” We walked toward the barn. I knew a path led from the barn through the trees to a small house. More of a one room shack really. I’d stayed there on the trip out. “You can sleep here tonight. I’ll stay in the barn.”
We went back to the water pump, and I pumped up a stream of cold water while Kelly washed her hair, face, arms and legs. I stared at the ground a lot when she stripped and washed everywhere else. I hadn’t expected that. She even washed the dust and dirt out of her clothes. She hid in the barn while her clothes dried out. I did my best to not look.
Kelly made me wash off too. “And your clothes too!”
“No peeking, you!” I laughed as I pulled off my shirt, and washed it.
I hid beside a windowless wall of the barn while my clothes dried out, and I wished they’d dry out faster, while she hid in the barn.
The garden by the shack was wild. No one had attended it for years. But, some things still grew there. We found some wild beans, carrots, and potatoes in the tangled mass of weeds and brush it had become. Of course, we had no way of cooking them, but raw vegetables are pretty tasty when you haven’t eaten anything but berries in two days.
That night, I put the bed covers from my pack on the cot in the shack, and tucked her in, then headed for the door. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
I found a flat space on the floor and sat down. “Go to sleep, Kelly.”
She did. And I sat on the floor a while watching her. And wondering how anyone could want to hurt her so badly. How anyone could rape her, beat her, and then leave her naked, bruised and bleeding, on the ground, and not care if she lived or died.
The whole world really had gone insane.
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Mark woke up in 2010, and has been exploring life since then. All his doctors agree. He needs to write.