Mark Ethridge’s Picture Choice: Two
Title: The Whole World Went Insane - Part 14
How do you find someone without a GPS, a map, or a phone? I wanted to talk with Jessica, tell her of my plans, but I had to find her first, and I didn’t know where to look. I settled on South and East, the direction toward the stables Kelly and I’d found the others.
But I found no sign of Jessica. I did find what was left of the stables. The bodies were gone, but the burned out building remained. I didn’t waste time there, and headed more toward the south. I didn’t keep track of the days. I searched for books. Libraries. Homes. Anything I could find on guns. How to use them. How to clean them. How to make your own ammo. I didn’t expect to need ammo for a while, I’d found plenty on my walk, and knew I’d find more.
I stopped every day, and practiced. Just a couple of shots. As I studied how the guns worked, how to aim them, how to hit what I wanted to hit. Turned out, that’s how Jessica found me.
I woke up one morning, staring at a wolf. It growled, and barked at me. I got the message, grabbed my backpack, and followed it. I left everything else.
The wolf led me through the woods, over hills, across streams. I didn’t notice the scenery, until the wolf stopped, got behind me, and pushed me toward a waterfall. “What?” The wolf got impatient and snapped at me. Yeah. I headed for the fall.
As I got closer, I noticed a cave behind the fall, hidden. Jessica stepped out. “Frank.”
I didn’t like her tone. “Jessica.”
“Valerie misses you. Kelly too.” She looked at the wolf. It left. “Why?”
She didn’t have to ask what. “Beth.” I watched the waterfall, the unending splash it made in the pool of water at its foot. I didn’t know what else to say.
“Snakes die, you know.” She watched the fall, then stood next to me. “When it’s their time, they die.”
“But I have to do something!” I hadn’t realized how strong my emotions had become. My frustration. My anger. “I can’t go back, and let this happen again. And again.” I wanted to scream. I wanted to beat my fists on the rocks until they bled.
“Then do something. Find more stables. Find more people, more Beths to help.” I felt her hand on my shoulder. “Don’t run off and get yourself killed. Frank. I need you too much. Kelly needs you too much. Valerie…”
“Would be lost without you.” Her hand squeezed my shoulder. “She cries herself to sleep every night. And prays you will come back to her.”
“I miss her.”
“You don’t have to.”
“What should I do?”
She waved at the trees. “Live.”
The big wolf came out of the trees, four others came with him. Several hawks landed on a nearby tree limb. “Hunt the stables. Free the women. Like Beth.” There was an edge in her eyes I’d never seen. “I could use your help. There’s lots of them.” Her hand on my shoulder suddenly felt heavy. “The snake will die. It will starve to death.”
We talked. We ate nuts and berries. “Jessica. I think I miss food the most.”
We laughed, “Peaches. Oranges. Oh, how I’d love some of those.”
Jessica thumped my shoulder, “Chocolate.”
“Oh, God. Don’t go there.”
After a few hours, she waved at the animals, “They’ll go with you.”
I nodded, and spoke to the wolves and hawks, “Thank you.”
“You’ll have a lot to learn,” she poked me, “they’ll have to teach you to understand what they’re saying. And Frank. Be careful with the guns.”
The wolves led me back to my campsite. I spent the day there, and the night. It was my first solid nights sleep since I’d found Beth’s body. “I tried, Beth. I tried.” I closed my eyes to sleep, and saw her in my dreams.
“Frank. It’s OK.”
“No. It’s not. I wasn’t…”
“You were, Frank. You were.” She had a beautiful smile. “You freed me. You rescued me, and Gina, and the others.” She hugged me, “It wasn’t your fault.”
“I wasn’t there to stop you.”
“Frank,” Beth shook her head, “You made my last days happy. You and Kelly.”
I woke up as the sun rose. “You made my last days happy. You freed me.”
I packed my tent. I looked at the wolves. “Let’s go hunting, guys.”
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Mark woke up in 2010, and has been exploring life since then. All his doctors agree. He needs to write.