Take Me Home
I want to say I fell asleep so hard and deeply after Dane and Don left but I didn’t. I closed my eyes and tried to will myself to sleep but nothing worked. I was exhausted but my mind wouldn’t let me sleep for more than a half an hour at most. Comfrey was unfortunately on my mind and no matter how much I wanted to erase him my head and heart wouldn’t let me.
Memories of us growing up together ran through my head, chasing Howl through the yard, getting in trouble for climbing too high up in the trees around the community house. I missed that house, the burnt remains are still laying in the old city of Chicago. We were miles away from that now. On foot, it would take me a couple of days, but on the back of Howl, it would take about five hours...
I stood up quickly and watched as Howl jumped up in preparation of an attack but when she saw that there was nothing going on she sat back on her hind legs and looked at me expectantly.
“Wanna take a quick trip?” I asked her and watched her ears perk up. She hasn’t run through the land like this trip would give her in such a long time. Usually, we just keep the peace around where our little village is and don’t stretch much further than that.
She huffed in approval, stood up and shook our her fur before heading for the door. I grabbed a bag and quickly stuffed it with a few food bars I had stashed in my clothes cabinets along with extra clothes and my water blatter I filled earlier yesterday. I shouldn’t need anything else...I ran through a quick checklist in my head and patted myself down to check for the normal set of knives I always had on me.
I pulled on a few extra layers to protect my skin from the heat. Since the great flood of 2708, most of the lands have dried up from the excruciating rays of the sun. We barely had an ozone to protect anymore. This was a big reason people ran to Ba’al’s side. He promised them a long life and safety from the changing world. All they had to do was pledge their undying loyalty to him and drink the blood of humans for the rest of their lives.
I grabbed a scarf quickly and turned towards the front door. Seeing Howl sitting against the wood door reminded me how big she really is. Her head rested against the top half of the door, just under the small sliding window I use to see out when someone was knocking on it. She could stretch her nose up and brush the seeing window if she really wanted to. Her paws were as big as my hands and if she were to stand on her hind legs and stretch up to meet my height she would exceed it by five inches at least.
It was the only reason I could ride her the way I do, she was a massive wolf. Her deep grey coat and white belly reminded me of when she was a pup and it she was nearly all white and had fur like a sheep. Even when she was a few months old she was nearly my size when I was five. Regardless, I would love her is she was a few inches tall or as big as a tree.
“Okay, I’m ready, let’s get going,” I told her after strapping the bag to my body. Two clicks and the bag wouldn’t move an inch while we ran through the barren wasteland that is old America.
It took no time in getting down the stairs to our home and to the grass below. I could hear the hustle and bustle of the people getting to work inside the dome. No one needed to know where I was going, as long as I didn’t come back with any bite marks or too serious injuries, I wouldn’t have to speak with anyone at all. Then Donovan happened.
“Red, where are you heading out to today? You’re supposed to be sleeping.” He told me, with a stern voice that wanted to command more than it could.
“I can’t sleep, let me through please,” I asked him and watched his eyes go wide for a second.
“Oh, it’s serious, you never say please.” He commented.
“I say please plenty of times! Now move!” I shouted and shoved him away making him scoff and follow after me. “That’s the Red I know, now, are you going to tell me where you’re going?” He asked again. Howl trotted along in front of me while I kept pace even with Donovan on my heels.
“I’m not telling you, Don, now just leave us be so I can clear my head and get some sleep,” I told him more sternly this time and looked him dead in the eyes telling him not to keep testing me. I watched him back off as I kept going. I jogged a little bit and caught up with Howl. The moment we hit the gate I put my thumb up to the scanner and heard the buzzer letting us into the middle section before we were allowed to the outer gate.
Once we made it to the outer gate I could feel the heat before the door fully opened. I pulled the scarf around my neck up and over my mouth to protect me from the air that will surround us soon. Howl has never had an issue with the air pollution but being human if I’m out in it for more than a few hours then my lungs begin to burn. If it gets too bad I can always strap on the breather I had stashed in my bag.
We hit the open air and I tried not to breathe in too deeply. I could hear Howl sniffing around before heading in the right direction, she always knew where she was going. I waited for her to take a running start before I followed her and tried to keep pace. Once I got fast enough, she would run in front of me and I would jump into my seat on the back of her.
It was like riding a bike, you never forget how to grab the neck fur of your best friend while she ran right under your hands. I pulled myself onto her back and we were off. Making sure the scarf was above my mouth and nose, I kept my head low while the wind ripped through my hair.
The scenes flew by me quickly, I didn’t even get enough time to see what was laying in the dirt only miles outside of the dome’s area. It looked like a body but with how fast we were going it almost seemed like a pile of branches and clothes.
Ignoring what I couldn’t see I focused on the path ahead of us. Howl flew past the trees that were still standing and onto the stretches of barren land. Her hard paws crushed the dessert like ground and before I knew it we were entering old Chicago. She came to a light trot and allowed me to jump off her back and land on the ground gracefully. My boots kicked up a storm full of dirt. I wasn’t quite sure of where our old house was but once I watched Howl’s nose point to the sky I knew she was on the trail.
She took off towards the east and I picked up the pace to keep up with her. About twenty minutes later we arrived at a very black and burnt house. It was an old three-story building. Not really one of a kind but it held over twenty people, mostly families. I walked closer and closer to the old front yard. I could see where the grass is trying to grow back but wasn’t very successful, even the weeds around the cracks of the old cement were getting very far.
Howl’s nose pressed into the palm of my hand when I was just standing still staring at the old blue door that now had charred marks on it. The last time I saw that door I was running away as it burned down. Technically, I was pushed from the back door by my mother but the path we took brought me around to see the fire fully engulfing the house.
“Well, we came all this way, may as well try and go inside,” I told Howl who was waiting for me to say something so she could go investigate like she wanted. I pulled the scarf off my nose and mouth and took my first steps towards my childhood home.