Part 2 of 3
We made our way
through the miles of flatland that had once been alive with grass and trees but
now was only a desert expanding as far as the eye could see. The living
conditions were so unbearable that even insects were a rarity to find. I
remember how I used to complain about bugs when I was little. When you lived in
the country it seemed, there was always something crawling on or biting you.
What I wouldn’t give now for a fly to zoom by or a butterfly to flap its
colorful wings near me.
We rode for a few
hours longer and soon what remained of a town loomed on the horizon. There were
a few buildings intact and I could see figures walking down the main road.
Going into a town was always a gamble, but I needed to water Michael and if I
was going to find anything to drink anywhere, this was it. Since the event, all
the rivers had dried up and now only the deepest wells produced any water.
The town was
smaller than I originally thought: there were about 10 buildings on either side
of the road and half of those were reduced to nothing more than piles of
splintered wood and crumbled brick.
The road was
deserted, but I could feel eyes watching me from windows and around corners. I
stopped Michael in the middle of the dirt road. “I don’t want any trouble. I’m
just looking for water for me and my horse. I have things to trade.”
“I don’t mean any
harm. I just need some water and I’ll be on my way.”
“What do you have
to trade?” a small voice asked.
I turned my head
to the left and saw a thin girl no more than seven peering around the corner of
a broken building.
“Whatever you need;
food, blankets, clothes - candy.”
“Candy!” She ran
from her hiding spot, the temptation of something sweet apparently outmatching
her fear of strangers.
I smiled at her as
I dismounted. My riding boots hit the dirt and I pulled a glass jar from a
satchel that hung across Michael’s back.
the jar I handed her a bright red piece of licorice.
Her little hands
wrapped around the treat eagerly and she took a huge bite. “Mmmmmm…”
of licorice I was able to make out, “Sandy.”
“Are you alone
here, Sandy? Where’s your mom and dad?”
“Mom and dad died
during the storm.”
She said this in a
matter of fact tone like she was quoting something out of a book rather than
the deaths of her parents. Sandy was skinny, but her fair colored skin was
clean and her black hair was braided into two fat pigtails. It was clear to me that she wasn’t by herself.
“Who do you live
“My sister and
I froze as I heard
the all too, familiar click of a hammer. “Turn around slowly.” An elderly
female voice, commanded, “Put your hands in the air.”
mentally for being so careless, I immediately obeyed and turned to see not one
but two guns pointed in my direction. The first rifle was held by the speaker,
a grey-haired woman, wearing men’s trousers and a white blouse. She was past
her prime but there was a fire and fierceness in her eyes.
The second gun was
shaking a little in the slender hands of a young girl, who had to be Sandy’s
older sister. Their similarities were clear: fair skin, black hair and that
soft look of innocence.
“I’m just passing
through, mam. Looking to trade for water. If theirs none to be had, I’ll gladly
be on my way.”
The older woman
cocked her head to the side weighing her options, “What do you think Sandy?
Should we trust her?”
“Oh, yes,” the
little girl replied. “She has candy!”
“What did I tell
you about staying hidden from strangers?”
“I was going to
but I looked into her eyes like you taught me and I knew she wasn’t like one of
the bad people.”
Mrs. Kelly lowered
her rifle and motioned for the girl next to her to do the same, “You can put
down your gun, Annabel. You’re right about the eyes, Sandy, just wait for me
The woman turned
to me now, “Sorry about all the gun pointing, but I’m sure you can understand.”