Authors: Laura Franklin
“But…my weird was me in a frilly dress.”
“My weird was me as an old guy, walking down the street behind a Model-T!”
“Yes!” Mick mimicked the way I just blurted that out.
“Well, hell Mick. You didn’t see me there?”
“See you where?”
“On the street?”
“Nope. You tellin’ me you were there?”
“Yeah, did you get a look at yourself?”
“No, I just saw my hands were older and my body felt stiffer.”
“I saw you, you were you – but different. You had a different face, different hair, even a different body type; but your eyes were exactly the same.”
“Yes, and we know each other, I was younger and you were a guardian or something. We weren’t…well… whatever we are now. But we liked each other, we were friends.” I finished quickly, it was too soon for the “L” word, but I almost said it. I think I saw that Mick knew. He was smiling at me.
“I wonder if that is like the others, a flashback? That would mean we lived before. Or if it was just a sweet dream this quartz is giving us both?”
“I don’t know what’s going on, but how can we of lived before? That is so flipping not real. I don’t think I can get my brain around some theory like that.”
“But you are our Super Brain!” Mick was laughing at me.
I stuck my tongue out at him and we plopped down to eat with a small group of our caravan who were also up early and watching us like we were the morning news.
“Father Polus! Father Polus!” Kim called from the back of the group. Steve actually heard some of the others groan out loud. He better not make this loud so the others could overhear and be even more angry with Kim.
“Ok, everybody. Go ahead and take 5.”
This was the fifth time that Kim had whined to call the group to a halt that day. She was getting more and more annoying. Steve had hoped she would be toughening up each day, instead she seemed to be slipping.
“Kim, we need to really keep going. Make it quick.”
“Yes, Father. But my foot, I have a blister and I need to just rest it for one night. We should stop here.”
“Kim, we have at least 3 hours of travel light left. We have to keep going.” He wondered how she managed to keep that light golden hair in such good shape.
If she would only concentrate that much on the journey!
“Father! I’m in pain. Don’t you care about me?”
“Kim, of course I care. But this is not some hike we’re on. We have to get north to that lake before winter hits. Look around you. Most of the leaves have turned color now. Only a handful of trees still have their green leaves. I don’t know if you pay attention to the natural world, but that means we only have a few weeks before all the trees are bare. Only a few weeks before it starts to get really cold out here. We have to really get moving!”
“I’m only asking for one night. Just stop now and give my foot a rest, that’s all.” Kim tried to smile and look helpless. She watered up her baby blue eyes. That helpless look is what broke his self-control.
“Today it’s going to be one night for a sore foot. What will it be tomorrow? A hangnail? Get up and start moving with us – tuck an extra sock around your foot. You are going to keep moving with us or you are going to be resting your foot all by yourself!”
“What!? You can’t leave me alone out here. There are still criminals roaming around.”
“Kim, I don’t
to leave you. But there are others here who are also walking on blisters. This is the way it is. I am not going to risk their lives so you get a rest for a sore foot. Up and move, or sit and be on your own.”
Kim was staring him with disbelief and hatred. She started in on how he was a priest and it was his duty…
She found she was talking to his back.
“Take a deep breath, people. Just a few more hours for today and we’ll make camp.”
The group heaved to their feet. Steve saw he was right, many of them were powering through pain and blisters and exhaustion. Even solid old Glenn was exhausted. They were all powering through it without a word of complaint. As they moved away he could hear Kim yelling at him.
“I have to rest! You better settle everyone else down and come back for me. I can lean on you and we can walk like that and catch up…”
He closed his ears.
God, please forgive me for turning my back on a sister. I have many people who are counting on me to get them to safety. I trust in you, my Lord, please give me a sign if you disapprove.
Steve had no intention of going back in the dark to try to find her. He knew it was almost a death sentence for her out there. He pulled his robes tighter around him as if to take comfort in the rough fabric.
Kim did not for one second believe she was being left behind. In fact, she figured that Father Polus was just trying to frighten her, that he was going to walk just out of sight and wait for a little; then come back and get her.
Kim said to herself,
I guess maybe I am the softest person here. But I never was into the outdoors or stuff like that. I’ll try not to complain out loud when he comes back for me.
She settled in on a log to rub her ankle and wait for her fine-looking priest to come back and save her.
The first hour Kim relaxed and enjoyed the day. The sun was shining, it was warm on her face, a little cold on the side of body away from the sun. Basically a perfect fall day.
The second hour she started to hear things, and the cold started to sink in as the sun was almost set. Fear was rising in her, she felt the panic taking over. When she heard a whine coming out of her own throat, she bolted as fast as she could in the direction her group had gone in. But panic blinded her mind. Less than 100 steps into her desperate run she snagged her foot in a branch and
down face-first in the forest. She had just knocked herself out cold.
She had also made a lot of noise. She didn’t have to think about that, it was explained to her quite well as she was coming out of her blackout tied to a tree and hearing a greasy voice.
“Can you believe this chick?”
A sniveling laugh was the only answer.
“We’re going to have some fun with this one, she’s pretty. She’s a little thing too.”
“Yeah. So little and she made as much noise as a fucking moose!”
Now two voices were laughing.
Kim knew what she was facing now. Terror flooded through her body. She felt a flush start in her stomach and radiate out until her whole body felt like it was on fire. She had no idea what she could do. But her time was running out.
“You go ahead, Billy. I’m finishing my dinner. I like ta watch anyway. Gets me ready.”
Kim could feel the movement as one of them came closer. She had no plan! She forced her body to relax and pretended to still be unconscious.
“Hey babe, wakie wakie. Time to have some fun.”
Why do they think this is fun?
She held still as the ropes were cut; using every bit of self-control to stay loose. She had never in her life had to focus on something as single-mindedly as this.
“Yo, Moe, she’s still out.”
“That matter to you?”
“Guess not. Time to party with my pretty blonde.”
Billy’s hands were on the back of her neck as he put her on the ground. He was kneeling over her, but stood up to unzip. He turned over his shoulder to say something clever to Moe.
The blood rushing in Kim’s ears kept her from hearing what was being said, but she pulled her body just clear of her attacker’s legs using every ounce of strength in her arms. Then she flipped over into a sprinter’s starting position. And she used it. She was gone into the darkness in a flash. This time, she was keeping her focus. She could just see outlines of trees and rocks in the cloudy moonlight. She leapt, dodged and sprinted like a deer. She heard them calling to her, but none of it was sinking in until finally she realized that the voices were very far behind her.
Kim slowed to a walk. She checked the moon and tried to figure out where north was and head that way. Inside she was saddened and still. She had not had the imagination to realize this could really happen. She now understood she was the only one in her group who had been fooling themselves. They had known, they were trying to get to a zone of safety, a zone that Father Polus said he was being guided to. They were all walking on blistered and sore feet.
She allowed her mind to reach down to her foot. Oh, yes, it was there and throbbing. She closed the pain off from her mind and kept walking. Now there was no pain. This is what the Father was trying to get her to do for days. She couldn’t keep a sob from breaking out of her.
Wandering alone in the night. She would never have believed it. Now she had to decide if she wanted to sleep and go on in the morning; or walk all night.
This is crazy; my life could depend on how I decide this.
In the end, as the moon was setting and she was shaky and exhausted; she crawled into the corner of an old barn and covered up with hay. She had learned the hard way not to bull her way through the forest.
~ ~ ~
As the moon rose that night, Steve said a prayer for Kim. He was disgusted with her. He did not like her; but she was not an evil person. She was just self-centered and had been taught to value things that were ultimately meaningless. He did not hate her and felt he had failed because he had been unable to get through to her. He had not been able to show her this was no joke, that lives were cheap right now and they had to look out for each other.
The rest of the group seemed to feel the same. They were not celebrating that Kim was gone, but no one said a thing; certainly not about going back for her. There was not much talking as they settled against a cliff overhang far back from the road they had been traveling. No one mentioned Kim as they mumbled quietly through their dinner and the mood was somber. It was a very long night.
Ferrisburg was a town clustered along Rt 7. A tall man in a Smokey Bear hat stood behind a barricade of a big truck turned on its side. Mick was riding up. He brought Lady to a stop, leaning forward patting her neck. Meanwhile, using these few seconds, Mick took in those broad shoulders, the ragged beard. The man was standing with his legs apart and solid with a stone expression on his face. He was tall too.
Oh, boy, this could be trouble.
“Who are you and what are you doing in my town?”
“I’m Mick. We are just traveling north. We’re heading to Burlington. We don’t want any trouble, we just want to follow the road so we don’t get lost.”
The sound was low and full of disbelief. Mick was searching his brain for more to say. He didn’t want to come out and say he was, or had been, in the army. He didn’t know if this guy would think it was good or bad.
What a frigging tightrope.
The man moved his rifle to his other hand. The movement brought Mick back to full attention.
“Um…” he started and was interrupted.
“You all come up through Middlebury?” The voice was a growl that matched how he looked.
“Oh.” Mick paused. Again, what should he say?
Doug did it for him, by hanging his head.
“You seen them hanging then?”
“How’d you sneak through there?”
“We…we didn’t, we ran right into two college boys and had, well, it was nothing but a shootout.”
Hat Man nodded. “Good. Maybe some of my people will head south now and look for family.
“You look properly bad about killing, so I guess you are decent. I’ll get this thing dragged off the road. You can pass through, but I’ve got people in the buildings, they’ll shoot you if you do anything out of line.
“Name’s Jay. I was the town cop, now I guess I’m called Sheriff Jay.”