Mark Ethridge’s Picture Choice: One
Title: The Whole World Went Insane - Part 9
At sunrise on the third day after we left my home town, we broke camp, and got ready to continue our journey. Beth could walk on her own, and was looking much healthier than she’d looked when Kelly and I rescued her and the others.
Since the day we found my home, they’d walked with Kelly and me. We took our time, letting them rest, and heal. They all looked better. I wished I had more food, and more water, so they could eat more. But there was only what we found along the way.
As we started finished gathering up our few possessions, Jessica walked from the trees, into the little clearing we were in. Three wolves were with her.
“Welcome home, Frank.”
I hugged her.
“You were gone a while this time.” She looked at the others in the clearing. “It appears you made a few friends along the way.”
I wished I could explain how relieved I was to see her. At times, on that journey, I wondered if I’d make it back. I’d lost count of the times I could have died. The times I probably should have died. “It was a long trip.”
Kelly asked for everyone, “Who’s she?”
“Everyone. This is Jessica.” Then, I pointed at each woman, “Kelly, Jenny, Sally, Mary, Gina, Suzanne, and Beth.” Each signaled who they were.
Jessica studied each, not speaking, her eyes seeing every detail of them. “You had a rough trip.” The wolf next to her walked through the group, sniffing the air. He stopped when he reached Beth. She looked terrified. I could understand that. I knew what I’d felt the first time that big wolf stared me down.
The wolf licked her hand, and then stood next to her, his side gently pushed against her leg and hip. Jessica laughed. “I see you’ve made a new friend.” The wolf let out a playful “Yip!”
“Well, Frank. Let’s get you home.” She headed into the trees, “Valerie’s been a wreck for weeks now.”
She led the way. It wasn’t long before I started to recognize details in the trees, and spot hidden pathways through the brush. The others didn’t say anything, “You know, it’s OK to talk.” I poked Kelly’s arm. “This is where you’re safe.”
“Where is this?”
“I have no idea, really. It’s not like I have a map, or something to tell me where we are.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
Jenny giggled, “Silly man.”
“This is the camp. Or village. Or whatever you want to call it.” I smiled at Jenny, “I just call it Jessica’s place.”
And so I wound up explaining who Jessica was, how I’d met her, how the little group had started, and been growing, and why I went on expeditions to find anything I could to help us survive.
We talked, and walked until the sun was high in the sky. That’s when we reached the camp. Home.
I didn’t say anything to anyone. I ran to my makeshift house, and found Valerie, outside, tending the gardens. She spotted me, leaped to her feet, and met me. I have to tell you, it was the sweetest, biggest, best embrace I’ve ever had. And the best kiss I’ve ever tasted.
I’d missed her. Lord, how I’d missed her.
Beth pointed to the edge of the trees, and started to laugh. The others joined in. Soon, they were all laughing. Valerie and I didn’t have to look. We knew what they’d found.
The old Volkswagen Beetle body, still on it’s wheels. I’d found it, abandoned, on a road. Valerie decided she wanted to make a flower garden out of it. It’d been a bitch to get that sucker through the woods to the camp. We’d gutted it, left the motor, and as much else as we could where we found it, and moved the body. We’d removed the trunk lid from the front, and filled the interior, and the trunk with dirt. Valerie’d planted flowers.
“This,” she said, “shows how we’re building something beautiful from the ashes of what was.”
That’s what we were doing. Trying to grow something from the ashes of the world. A world we’d all seen die. Trying to start over. Trying to build a town. A small part of a new civilization. Where people took care of each other.
In a world that 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.
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