1. No Time to be Sentimental
The first of the early morning sunbeams that shined through the old rickety doors of my small shack surrounded me like an awkward hug from an estranged relative: uncomfortable, unwanted and unavoidable.
The first few beads of sweat started to pool along my hairline and behind my knees, dripping all the way down to my boots, while I noticed my fingers start to tremble. I wasn't sweating and shaking from the heat; the beginning of a blue sky and the morning breeze signified the likeliness of a very pleasant day. No, my body's reaction wasn't from the weather. It probably had more to do with the mix of fear and excitement coursing through my body. Or maybe just dehydration and overall exhaustion.
Looking back, I realized I had been so focused on executing my plan properly and not alert anyone of my intentions that I had hardly consumed any food or water.
I'll certainly be paying for it now.
I mentally groaned thinking about how tired my body would become from having to trek it through the forest until I reached the gas station a few miles away, but it was too late to start second guessing my plan now. And it was definitely too late to go back to sleep and pretend like I could avoid the harsh reality of my situation.
Im not afraid of leaving the only place I've ever called home. I'm not afraid of entering unfamiliar and potentially dangerous territory -well, maybe I am...but I'm trying not to think about that right now- I simply understand that where I am is not where I should be. I'm not safe in this place anymore.
The Garden, a place for strangers seeking safety and comfort in this dangerous desert wasteland we call home. The place my mother had spent her whole childhood and then left at the age of twenty in search of adventure, only to come back a year later to give birth to me before returning back to the open road. That was eighteen years ago and I hadn't seen her since.
This was the land where I had been raised by my grandparents and neighbors and had the ability to grow up in a community, rather than the chaos that lurks just a few miles outside our land. And this was the home I was now saying goodbye to. It was hard, but I knew when to leave a bad situation before it got worse.
Just as I finish gathering my belongings and filling my canteen with water, I quickly pull my backpack from beneath my bed and begin to fill it with some of my essential items. My uncle had given the backpack to me for my seventeenth birthday, along with a beautiful necklace with my birth stone on it, that was a little over a year ago; that was also the last time I saw him.
He had bought it on one of his last trips to The Dream -which is a convenient nickname given to any land outside the borders of Anarchy- and filled it with old books and records, which at this point I had read and listened to so many times I practically had them all memorized. He said he knew I would appreciate them and that I 'deserved to know what the outside world was like'.
He was a consistent traveler between The Wasteland and The Dream...one of the few. He used to bring supplies and guide those in need of sanctuary back to us. If only he'd known the last batch of men he delivered would be the downfall of our sanctuary and our comfortable life as we knew it.
Noticing the sun was coming up rather quickly, I swung my bag over my shoulder and exited the small shed my grandfather had built for my mother so many years ago. I had spent so many years of my life calling it my own. I looked back quickly, scanning the paintings I had made with my grandfather on those old wooden walls, surprised they hadn't been completely faded by the elements. It's strange how I've unintentionally followed in my mother's footsteps. Leaving a place of comfort for the unknown. But there was no time to be sentimental or thoughtful. I had somewhere to be.
I clutched my necklace tightly, turned back around and started walking southbound along the dirt path. I needed to make it to my destination a few miles south before someone noticed I was gone and possibly alerted the others. Or worse, if I got lost I might become a coyote snack wandering the forest all alone until dark.
I found comfort in repeating the plan in my head. I would walk straight out of our borders without looking back. I'de hike just a few miles south until I reached the local gas station. It was usually a very busy place considering it was one of the few gas stations in all of Anarchy. Our resources were extremely limited in that regard. I'm counting on there being at least one person with a working car in need of gas and a new friend this morning.
From there, I would hopefully be able to hitch a ride with a stranger -cross my fingers it's not a murderer or a cannibal- and be on my way. That's how I would escape The Garden and head as far south as possible, in search of a man who may or may not even know I exist... If only I had realized at that moment that I was being followed.
*Hey, if you're reading this, first of all thank you so much! This is an idea that has been rolling around in my head for a bit and I'm really excited to bring it to life. Second, please feel free to let me know what you think and if you have any critiques or ideas. I want this to be the best version of this story it can be, so feedback would be appreciated. Also, if you're enjoying the story please star the chapter so I can see.