Anne Friedman ’25
It is half past noon, and the sky is red. That isn’t a good sign. You knew you should have left earlier, but you were busy preparing. You felt bad about leaving and wanted to help the most you could at home before you left. You look out at the plains again, hoping the red was just a vision, that the sky isn’t red. But it’s still red: a murky amber tinged with orange and dark red spread across the horizon. You want to scream, but you can’t. You can’t wake the baby up from its nap. You can’t alert your family to your predicament. They wouldn’t understand. You need to leave without telling them. You’ve spent the last few months writing, erasing, and rewriting your message. You feel guilty, but you know you must leave. It’s now or never.
It is half past midnight, and the house is quiet. You silently leave your bed. After noticing the sky was red, you had gone about your day like it was normal. You postponed your plans until the middle of the night. Quietly standing up, you leave your room, hoping no one else is awake. Some nights people congregate in the kitchen. You pray that tonight isn’t one of those nights. You release a sigh of relief as no one’s there. As you place the note on the kitchen table, you hear movement. Startled, you look to your right but it’s just your cat. Crouching down, you pet the cat for the last time. Then, you stand up and walk outside, breathing in the fresher air. It’s still slightly murky, but it’s more a bright yellow. It’s safer. While white would be the best, you’d stand out more in the plains.
It is two hours later, and your feet hurt from walking. But you can’t stop yet. You can’t be seen or stopped. It’s dangerous until you find coverage. You picked up what you needed from the barn where you hid it, then you headed off on your trek. You have been walking northwards. It is out of your way, but you hid more essentials up in the mountains on many of the errands you had run the week before. Your plan is to go north to grab your extra supplies. Then, you’ll be in the mountains, so you’ll take a break because it’s easier to hide and not be seen. After your break, you’ll continue north a bit, beginning to veer towards the east. You must find the waterfall, following the stream until the desert. At the edge, you will continue to walk east across the divide until you see the large light in the far distance to the southeast. Then, you will have to cross the desert, quickly and safely, until you find the canyon. That is your destination. But it will be a long trek, a while until you make it to the cavern in the canyon and to a new life.
It is five days later, and the desert sweeps out in front of you. You’ve been walking nonstop, too scared to stop. You took a much-needed bath in the waterfall and stream. Now you trek across the divide, hiding in the forest and on the lookout for any patrols.
It is eight days later, and you think you see the large light. It is dark out, so you find a nice stop to rest and stay hidden. The next morning you will get up and look at the light and plan your next move.
It is nine days later, and you’ve just woken up. You make breakfast and pack up your belongings. As you walk to the edge, excitement bubbles up. You’re almost there. You’ve almost completed your journey. However, as you reach the edge of the forest, you look out onto the desert. Your eyes scan across the desert looking for the light. You can’t seem to find it. You swore you saw it last night. You sit at the edge, staring out at the desert, willing the light to show.
It is twelve days later, and you’ve just been waiting, hoping that the light you thought you had seen was real. But it hasn’t shown up again. The first night, it must have been a figment of your imagination.
It is thirteen days later, and you have finally willed yourself to keep moving. Your body and mind sag from the disappointment. You hadn’t realized how much of a toll this journey was taking on you until you thought you had reached your destination.
It is fifteen days later, and you’ve put your disappointment behind you, only focusing on what’s in front of you.
It is nineteen days later, and you are exhausted. You find a hidden place to rest and sleep. You sleep and sleep and sleep. You wake up, drink, and fall back asleep. You sleep and sleep and sleep.
It is twenty-one days later, and you wake up from your two-day sleep. You stretch, standing up. You walk back to the edge, looking out across the desert. And there, right to your left, to the southeast, is a light. You blink, thinking it’s another hallucination or trick of your mind. It’s still there. You’re in disbelief. You’re so happy. Finally!
It is twenty-two days later, and you quickly, quietly set across the desert towards the light. Excitement seeps out of you, but you must remain calm and keep your wits about yourself. You’re not there yet. You’re not safe yet.
It is twenty-four days later, and in the distance, you see a crack in the ground. The canyon, you suspect. The canyon, you hope.
It is twenty-five days later, and the earth stretches out below you. You’ve made it. Your journey has been successful. You find the entrance and climb down. You keep to the shadows as you walk on the narrow pathways, heading deeper into the canyon.
Image Source: BestTime2Travel