“What gate did you use?”
“From the other side, it opened onto a long winding path through a forest with trees arching over the pathway. It went on for what I though might be several miles, but wasn’t really that long.”
“So where are your friends now?” I asked.
She winced as if she thought I was suddenly dangerous.
“I’m not going to hurt you, won’t even touch you,” I assured her.
She sat on my somewhat depleted backpack. “I don’t know. I woke up several days ago and was alone.”
“None. I guess I should’ve expected it since I was the fifth and they were two bonded couples.” She looked at me, eyelids half closed. “I need rest.”
I nodded and pointed at the pack. “Use that for a pillow.”
“What will you use?”
“I’ll sit against the wall. I’ll be fine.” Before I found a spot that looked semi-comfortable, she was asleep.
Thunder lessened during the middle of the night. My companion cried out several times as if some inner pain or conflict gnawed at her dreams. I started to go and comfort her, but stopped wondering how she’d feel about a stranger doing so. I was about to remind myself that watching others suffer was not something I’m comfortable doing, but when I thought it, the past few months reminded me what I was instead. I walked away from them and they died.
How long can I do this without proper sleep? I leaned back listening to the storm fade and finally faded myself.
The sound of a sweet female voice singing woke me. I opened my eyes to find she’d changed clothing and was cooking something over the fire in the fireplace. As I stood, I cleared my throat. She glanced over her shoulder and said, “I found some eggs at the abandoned farm behind us. In the kitchen there I grabbed what I needed to cook and stuff for us to eat with.”
“That sound fantastic,” I said and stretched. “I’m gonna go outside a few minutes, be right back.” Outside the ground was damp, but the sky cloudless blue. I relieved myself, squatted by the lake and used the cold clear water to wash my hair and face. I shook my head hard to get the excess water out of my hair and went back for breakfast.
She was sitting eating, nodded to a plate she’d fixed for me. I grabbed it and joined her.
“Where are you going from here?” I asked.
“Don’t really know yet. Before the storm I was following an old brick wall that wound back and forth in curves. It cuts deep into the forest but I could not find its end. Then the rain started and I was lost so I ran back here and, well, you were here.”
I refused to respond to her emotions. Any kind of commitment right then was seriously unwelcome. “Why did you choose the wall?”
“To follow?” She glanced up. I nodded. “The others I told you about went that way.” She shrugged. “Didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t believe they left me behind and thought if I caught up I might rejoin them.” Se shook her head, took a bite of eggs, swallowed and drank water. “The rain changed those plans.”