Authors: L.M. McCleary
A novel by
Copyright ©2015 L.M.
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Table of Contents
Journal Entry #1,
The sun beat down harshly, causing my already cracked and dry lips to beg even
harder for hydration. But I couldn’t drink just yet. My supplies were low –
much too low – and I couldn’t justify using more every time my mouth was sore.
Besides, I just left the only piece of civilization behind me; there would be
no scavenging on this trip.
Or so I thought. Thinking of it as nothing more than a mirage on the horizon, a
shadow appeared ahead, its image wavering in the heat. I barely paid attention
to it; I just wanted to sleep the day away at this point, to force my hunger
and thirst from my mind for a while. My horse, however, continued on
relentlessly, as he always had. His head swung low and his gait was jagged as
his hooves dragged through the sand around us – yet he did not stop. I don’t
believe he has at all since we left. I patted his neck gently, rubbing the
small, smooth hairs that ran across his skin. Specks of sand stuck to my
fingers from the gesture;
was covered in a
fine layer of it. I started to dust him down, hoping I could keep my mind
time I looked up, however, I knew it was no mirage ahead. The dark silhouette
of a town had appeared through the blowing winds, although the buildings didn’t
look quite right.
I said to my horse as I straightened my back
to peer over his head. “I thought we were the only ones? Please don’t tell me
we went around in a circle…” I groaned. That would be just my luck.
continued on towards it, the vision of the town spreading out before me like
open arms. Something was definitely wrong, though; its silhouette only grew
darker as we neared. It wasn’t my hometown; I could see that now, and what a
was. A smile passed my lips in spite of the sudden eeriness,
and I decided to nickname the town ‘Salvation’, as we would most certainly be
able to restock here.
Or so I
the hell…?” I mumbled, staring at the decrepit buildings that now stood a few
small feet away.
wasn’t the silhouette I had seen; it was the buildings themselves, charred
black by some long-lost fire. Their foundations were crumpled in upon
themselves, with stray beams and furniture sprawled across the remains of a
stony trail. A few stray doors still stood intact in their frames, the wind
blowing them gently against what remained of a staircase in one house, or a
busted dresser in another. Everything I saw was a deep black and covered in
soot, their ashes blowing into the wind and spiraling around me in its escape.
So much for salvaging.
what do you think happened here, boy?” I slid off my horse’s back, leaving a
reassuring hand upon him as I gazed at the ruins of a town I never knew
much larger than my own hometown, with rows of houses and the hint of a
cobblestone street lying deep beneath the sand. A broken beam lay at my feet,
and with a small kick of my foot its front end crumbled into dust. “This must
have happened a long time ago…” I thought aloud, “…otherwise that surely would
have been touched and disintegrated before we came along.”
of course, ignored me but that didn’t stop me from continuing. “Of course it
happened a long time ago,
. The Reckoning
destroyed everything. Although I never heard of it starting fires…”
what had happened here? Did the Reckoning really cause all this? Honestly, I
have no idea; it all took place before I was born and no one would talk about
because they know just as little as I do.” I muttered.
believed that as a child, but it became obvious as I got older that my parents
weren’t just hiding something; no, they were completely oblivious. Even if they
wanted to, I doubt there would be anything they could tell me.
“God’s punishment for our sins,
mocked the voices of my old neighbours, a preachy couple who spent most of
their time locked up indoors. The only time they spoke was to shame us, as if
they were somehow excluded from the Apocalypse Club. “I wonder how true that
” I guess it was possible. But what do I
from my horse jolted me out of my thoughts. He was prancing beside me and
before I could utter a sound he took off down the path, farther into Salvation.
I stood there momentarily in shock before calling after him. Using up what
little energy I still had, I followed him and ended up in what must have once
been a Town Square. There was an empty fountain in the centre and grass dotted
the cobblestone around it. Houses circled the area, opening up into different
pa--- wait a minute, grass?
was already there, eating what remained of the yellowed flora.
Most of it was long-dead, its leaves brown and mushy underfoot. But there
enough decaying ones to feed my horse, and I was at
least thankful for that, although a little confused.
guess it does exist.” I sat down on the edge of the fountain and watched my
horse, thinking of the stories my father used to tell me about the world
before. A world full of water and trees, birds singing overhead and fields full
of flowers; he used to paint the most amazing pictures of it all. I never
thought there’d come a day when I would actually see such a thing for myself.
you now?” I kicked at the sand, my heart heavy
with the thought of him. I was already exhausted; I didn’t need to feel
had slowed in its onslaught, its sound almost a distant memory. With it having
blazed in my ear for so long, I was surprised that I heard it – water. I looked
around me with a frantic sweep of my arms, feeling for a wet spot upon the hot
stone until I found a crack in its foundation; a crack that zig-zagged towards
the earth and spilled out small speckles of water onto the yellowing grass at
its side. Without hesitation I grabbed my near-empty canister from my hiking
pack and held it out beneath the drip, watching the slow but hopeful process as
it trickled its way inside. It would take hours, but I didn’t care; we needed
my way down the side of the fountain and plopped into the sand, holding my
canister steady beneath the falling water. I rested my head against the stone
foundation and rested my eye on
, who happily
darted from one withering green to the next. I hadn’t expected this trip to
take so long and the toll it was taking on my only friend had hurt. I wouldn’t
have gotten this far without him, sure, but this wasn’t his journey to make.
Did I really have to involve him? In the end, I think I was just more afraid of
losing him, too. That’s why I brought him along; I couldn’t handle this trip
sun’s rays now gentle on my skin in the slight shade, I closed my eyes and the
image of home immediately jumped into my mind. I tried to squint away the
thought, but I knew there would be little fighting it here. This fountain, this
Square - even the cobblestone – was exactly like the one from my hometown. The
local hangout spot; Kay and I spent a lot of our time there.
I had spent most of our days sitting at the fountain, checking out the books my
dad had managed to nab for us from the library. I got him into books, I think,
as I can vaguely recall a time when he had no interest in them. I guess that’s
why he was so drawn to me over the years; no one else in town really cared
about stories. The girls would rather gossip than read and the boys only cared
about roughhousing and women. Kay and I were much too involved in fantasy
worlds and history to really care about anything else and we would get lost in
our imaginations or the painted worlds that our books opened up for us instead.
I remember one story lent to us that we tried to read at the fountain. It was
an informational book about oceans and all these great critters that lived
within it. The book was in worse condition than any other, though…half the
pages were gone and more were falling out! It left us frustrated and wanting
if we had an entire ocean in this fountain! How incredible would that
” Kay had exclaimed.
I smiled at his enthusiasm but I was a more grounded girl, just like my mother.
“I don’t know much about oceans, Kay, but it sounds like it wouldn’t fit in our
dinky little fountain.”
“But what if it could?” He would always grin wildly at me while encouraging my
“Then we’d never go thirsty again!” I laughed. “Can you imagine a whale
swimming about? They sound so huge!”
“I’d love to see one someday; I doubt they’re as big as the book says.”
I could only shake my head at him; we had had this kind of conversation before.
“How do you expect to find one? Good luck.”
Kay shrugged. “Who knows? Maybe there’s one out in the wasteland somewhere? You
never know what could be out there!”
“The great, elusive desert whale?”
We both laughed.
“You never know though…” he said softly as our laughter faded, staring down at
the crumpled book in his hands, “There could be a beautiful world out
there…full of colour; full of life. With whales, and horses…” he beamed at me;
his smile was contagious, “…and birds and trees. There could be someplace so
much better than this.”
I nodded. “It would be so wonderful…”
“We should go find it! Let’s go there together.” He fumbled with the book as I
looked over at him. “I, uh, don’t mean now or anything…but someday?” He
stammered his words out, speaking almost nervously, “would you go there with
“Of course I would.” I looked at him fondly, “once we’re eighteen, we should go
It could be our own private world…our
place.” He smiled softly at me then; he did that a lot during his last days,
too. I never thought I would miss a simple gesture so much.
I awoke with a start, swirling my head around in a panic before I realized what
had grazed my arm; it was my horse, nudging me lightly with his nose as he
attempted to gather water between the falling droplets and my canister. I
patted his head with a smile.
I slid up from my position. “Of course
you are; you’ve worked so hard since we left.” I had barely gotten to my feet
moved in, his back end forcing me farther
from my position next to the fountain. I couldn’t help but laugh. “Alright,
take what you need, buddy. I think it’s about time I took a look around
huffed in response as I looked around the
Square, deciding my next course of action. There were multiple paths, of
course, but most appeared to be obscured by debris and rotten buildings. Only
one direction seemed possible to journey down, and so I headed north.
I had wandered down appeared empty and the line between houses seemed to become
larger as I journeyed on, eventually opening up completely to the wild desert.
My eyes rested lazily on the sweeping sand in the distance as I noticed a
slight ache ripple across the insides of my stomach. I had assumed it was from
hunger, although it was not a hunger pain I had ever experienced before. I
rested my hand on my stomach and rubbed it gently, knowing how futile the
action was but briefly remembering a time when my mother did the same for me as
a child. It was a comforting feeling and that was enough for me. I made my way
towards a home to my right, standing rather sturdy in the crumbling remains of
Salvation. As I neared it, however, I scrunched my nose up instinctively and
exhaled sharply; a strange, acrid stench was in the air and it singed the
inside of my nose. As the scarred yet still standing door of the house was
within my grasp I started to realize just how upset my stomach seemed to be.
What was once a slight gurgle had erupted into a roar, making my mouth feel dry
and my head had started to spin. I felt something bubble up in the back of my
throat and I fought to keep it back. I stumbled away from the home and back
towards my horse, hoping that water would help assuage my sickness. I should
have stopped to rest before exploring, I supposed. It was strange, though; by
the time I reached
, I felt almost completely
better. How could nausea just dissipate that easily? I sat precariously on the
stone fountain, my sickness dulled to a slight throbbing and it continued to
lessen as the minutes ticked by. I focused my gaze on a speck of dirt on the
ground before me as I waited out the churning feeling in my stomach, taking
slight gasps of breath as I rubbed my belly and willed the entire ache away. A
sudden nudge at my arm showed
concern and I
leaned against his muzzle, my eyes drowsily blinking in the sand that swirled
up around us in sudden bursts of wind.