Well this took me long enough. I’d say I was busy being lazy but actually I was reading a lot. Most days I listen to audiobooks while I play games or do something else that requires little brain power. It appeals to my desire to multi-task. So much so, in fact, that I have found it difficult to stop. I had to force myself not to turn the audiobook on this morning and write instead because it’s ridiculous how long I’ve gone without writing.
Luckily I was able to finish today’s installment before I had to leave for errands. Since I was carpooling, I didn’t have a choice as to when I went. It was all good since it forced me to sit and write rather than stare off into space or turn on the audiobook.
Here’s the 12th installment of PM.
======== The Path of Moonlight ========
“You really have lived a sheltered life,” the man said.
I turned to find him staring at me. I recognized the look on his face. It was the same one I had when I first began to wonder about his sanity.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“If names were of any concern, I would have asked yours when we first met,” he said then swept his arms wide as if to encompass our surroundings. “You are free of the forest. My part here is done, though why I have helped you I still cannot say. I congratulate you on your escape from your guardians and hope that you have a plan for your future.” His look as he spoke said he doubted I had thought that far ahead. “I must leave you now and so farewell.”
“Wait!” I said as he began to walk away. “You’re just going to leave me here?”
“But I don’t know where here is.”
“You should have thought about that before you ran away,” he said, not stopping. I had to run to catch up to him. His strides had lengthened since leaving the obstacles of the forest and he was at least a head taller than I was. I wasn’t considered short in comparison to the other girls my age but neither was I tall. Standing next to this man, however, and having to crane my neck to look up at him made me feel my lack of height.
“Can you at least tell me where I am and point me in the direction of the nearest city?” I asked.
He pointed ahead across the waves of grass and rocks.
“That way about ten leagues.”
“What’s a league?” I asked. Desperation welled up in me. If a league was anything like a mile, I was in for the worst day of my life.
“A league is a league,” he said. Several steps later, he stopped with a disgruntled sigh. “You have no food, do you.” It wasn’t a question. I shook my head. He handed me some weathered strips of meat from a pouch I hadn’t previously noticed. “You won’t get far without food. Do what you want, go where you want, but don’t forget that the closest town is in that direction.” He pointed ahead of us again. “Your best chance of getting more food lay there. The town is called Louse. It’s not much, but it’s your best chance of finding food and shelter.”
Despite the despair growing in me, I couldn’t help but wonder at the town’s name. “Louse?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
A smile crept over his face as if he too saw the ridiculousness in wanting to name your town after a bug infestation. “Like I said, it’s not much but, come the first storm or the first winter, you’ll be glad of a roof over your head no matter what your bedding is like. And if you’re hard working you’ll be able to get food and drink. I don’t suggest drinking the water though. Not unless you want a belly ache.”
A dismayed sickness was growing in my stomach as I watched him get smaller and smaller until he was too far for me to see. I looked around me, not wondering what I should do or where I should go. I knew there was only one thing I could do and only one place I could go. Louse. Who would name their town louse? I shuddered and scratched my head, imagining it itching from hundreds of bug nesting in my hair.
When I sat down I was careful to face the right direction. Each way looked the same, except for where the forest loomed. Tears stung my eyes. There was no one around so I let them course down my cheeks. When my nose started running, I didn’t care that I had to wipe it on my clothes. By the time I got to Louse, I should be dirty enough to fit right in with the people there. If the stranger’s attire was anything like the rest of the area, my clothes would stick out but perhaps if I was dirty enough they wouldn’t notice.
The sun had moved a fist’s width across the sky by the time I got over my regret and self-pity. I had no water, only a bit of what looked like beef jerky, and a long way to go before I reached any kind of civilization. There was no point in bemoaning my predicament and wondering where I was. It didn’t matter where I was. If I wanted any chance at all of survival, I needed to get moving again.
======== End of 12th Installment ========
You may ask, “What the heck kind of town name is Louse?” Well, my answer to that is this question, “What the heck kind of town name is Zzyzx? Or Nowhere for that matter?” By the way, Zzyzx is a real place in California in the middle of nowhere. But not the town Nowhere. That’s in Oklahoma.