Chapter Two

She walks along the dirt road, her sandals scuffing against the loose dirt. She stops as a cloud of dust blows into her face and makes her sneeze. She had been hoping that she would know where to go, or at least, that it would be easy for Sa to tell her where to go. But the road in front of her is still empty, and the mountains are starting to get closer. She would walk into the mountains if her life was a week ago. She could walk into the mountains and hope that she will be able to find the rest of her family.

Most people would say that she is lucky to be alive and lucky to be free. But she does not feel lucky. She cannot be lucky. Even when she was young enough to hide underneath her desk in the tiny schoolhouse with wide boarded wood floors, she was not lucky. Most people would call her cursed. Even Marie had to hide her disgust at times. But she did not mind, she knows what she looks like when she is turning around in circles and trying not to let saliva drip out of the corner of her mouth. The circles are her choice, but she could most certainly do without the saliva.

She is lucky that her parents have always been understanding, they never ask her why she gets up latter than everyone else in the morning, or why she always does her homework when no one is looking. Marie has always tried to understand her, and she supposes that that is more than she deserves.

She stumbles on a rock and swallows back her tears as her toenail is bent back underneath her. She does not want to cry at a bent back toenail when she is sure that she will find worse when looking for the rest of her family. She blinks as her head starts to spin and her vision becomes fuzzy; she can barely keep herself from stumbling to the ground as the dusty dirt road roars with the beat of a drum and march of ore clad soldiers.

Generals ride in front of them with horses that kick up almost as much dust as the soldiers behind them. Flags attached to poles in their hands tremble and snap as they announce their arrival. The sight is gone as quickly is it arrives, and she stands panting as she struggles to stay on her feet. She did not turn in circles that time, but her hands are wet and her eyes are glazed over.

A car rumbles in the distance as it hurtles towards her. She looks towards the side of the road with her heart beating faster and faster in her chest with fear. She cannot move her legs when her body has been detached and then put back together again so quickly. She should have known better, she should have known that she cannot walk along the road. But she was so desperate for a sight that she did not think of the consequences.

She leans to the side to try and pull her feet away from the churning dust and dirt that marks the arrival of a car. The wind has picked up enough that she can barely see, and she hopes that the driver is having the same amount of luck. It would be better for her to be hit than found. Especially now that her family has been chosen for their debts, and she is their oldest daughter and the only one that has survived beyond her very first years.

She did not even see the world that she lives in for the first few years of her life, she lived in the sights that she saw. She was shocked when she finally saw the house that she lived in and her parents faces. Her mother told her that she had seen everything multiple times, but she could not explain how nothing had been real. Even now, she cannot be sure what is real.

She is almost thankful that her sights hit her body so hard, it marks the fact that she is seeing something that is not real. But she still has her doubts as to whether she can feel her own hands. Especially now that she can almost see the car’s tubular bumper through the razing dust and wind. It gets closer to her, and she is sure that she could simply straighten one of her fingers and touch the rusted paint. But her feet suddenly take their long awaited command, and she jumps to the side as the car runs over the place where she was standing.

She wonders if her body is still in one piece as she breathes heavily and brambles dig into her arms. The skirt of her dress is torn beyond repair and the fabric of her thin chemise is in shreds. She gets back to her feet and wobbles back towards the road. She tries not to glace over her shoulder at the mountains as she heads back towards town.

Sa must be in a good mood today to bring up her sight, but she does not know how what she saw would relate to finding her family. She can only think that they must be in town. She must try. But she could simply be making things up, her sight often does not show her anything related to her life or a current situation in the world. What she saw could be completely random.

But, if that is the case, than why does she feel like stones are rolling around in her gut? Thinking of the men in her sight makes her feel nauseous, and that should not be the case if it was a harmless vision. Perhaps she feels sick because she was almost run over by a car. But she was not afraid when she saw the rusted bumper in front of her.

She was not relived either. She was simply thinking of the laundry that she had been hanging while Marie argued with her mother in the kitchen only a few days ago. She had been hanging a pink shirt that she had not worn for years, but still managed to stay in the house, when she became dizzy and saw imagines of a car pulling in front of their house with the exhaust pipe punching half burned fuel out of it in short bursts. She could feel her feet trembling underneath her as the engine of that car growled.

The sight had pulled the image away from her before she could see more then a silhouette stepping away from the car and towards their house, but it was enough for her to know. She had spent that night staring at the ceiling as she wondered if she should tell her parents. But she had tried for so long to pretend that she did not have sights, that it seemed sacrilegious to say anything.

Now, she wishes that she had.

But she had learned a long time ago that wishing she had done something does not make it reality. Although, she has never been able to have a very good grip on reality in the first place. She often seems to forget that she needs to sleep or eat and drink; she can barely be sure that what she is seeing is real. She supposes that it is simply an old habit. Something from her childhood before she saw her mother’s face or the bus that would carry her to school with rusted door handles and flaking blue paint that might have been pretty a few eons ago. The last time she saw it, it was sitting in a dump yard with weeds growing out from between the pipes of its engine.

She never thought that bus was pretty. But she missed it once it stopped coming to pick her up each morning. It had been like the leaking faucet in their kitchen sink: not pretty or new, but necessary and barely functional.

Now she wonders if that is what their entire town is becoming. Outdated and small. Rusted just enough to deter anyone away, and perhaps a little bit more. The thing is, the town is not nearly as outdated as it looks, it is filled with the usual gangs and abductions and killings. Their town is actually managing to stay in shape with the usual actions of any town like theirs.

Sometimes progress is not nearly as nice as everyone hopes. Theirs certainly is not. Her parents have always managed to keep on the edge of the fray, at least, until a few days ago. But she supposes that everyone gets what they deserve at one point or another. Although, she cannot be sure why her family would deserve to be debited. Perhaps because of the simple fact that they happen to live in this town.

She reaches the burned brick street that runs through the center of town and kicks a can out of her way. It jumps away from her as she turns to the left to walk in between two shacks that could hardly be called houses. Laundry is hanging on behind the one on her left to dry, she glances towards the screen door at the back of the house before snatching a pair or pants and a shirt that looks like they could fit.

She ducks back into the narrow space in between houses and changes without thinking about modesty. It is not like anyone cares. And it is not like anyone is around to see. She snags a pair of boots off of the porch of another house and tosses her torn dress and chemise into a trash barrel. Someone will find them eventually no matter where she dumps her old clothes. That is one thing about their town, things never stay buried.

You could dump your trash into a two mile long hole and cover it with a pad of cement, and you would still find someone digging through it in a day or two.

Clouds gather on the horizon, until they are no longer clouds but think wedges of black soot. She has never loved this town, but she has never hated it either. It seems to be in the same sort of limbo that she is in, and there is a certain sort of camaraderie in that.

She wrinkles her nose as she passes a garbage bin that must have been used for a dead device at one point or another. The plastic edged metal stinks like ammonium and car sludge. Love is not a word that she would use to describe their town. She turns down the street that her grandmother’s house used to be on and wonders if she has ever heard anyone use the world love. It only takes her a few steps to realize that she has not. It must be a word that she read in one of those crappy novels that her cousin would bring for her when he came in town every few years.

He always seems to think that girls like to read about romance. She would rather throw the books he brought her into his face. But sometimes books are books, and sometimes you have to deal with what you get. She stops in front of a sewer grate and sighs. It looks like that is exactly what she is doing; dealing with what she has.

She drags the heavy stamped sewer grate out of the way and grimaces as she steps onto the first rung of the slimy latter underneath. She pauses for a second to yank the grate back into place above her, and hope that she will not pass out from the fumes. It seems as though no one has bothered to clean the sewers for at least a decade. It is not like it is a job that anyone searches for.

Her hands become sticky with something that she does not want to think about as she relies on her feet to find the rungs on the latter. She is about to tell herself that she should not merely rely on her feet when they miss and her hands are ripped away from the side of the latter by the force of her body in gravity.

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