He wasn’t slowing down.

Sam called out again, “please can we take a break?”

Okay, he definitely wasn’t slowing down. The old man scrambled over a large rock deftly if not gracefully and continued on the trail through the canyon. Either he didn’t hear or didn’t care.

Sweat was dripping from Sam’s brow and running down her nose. Her shirt was sticking to her back and the blisters on her feet burned. “Okay. Well,” she panted. “I am. And if you need me for whatever it is you need me for, then you’re going to have to stop too.”

She took her pack off and tossed it down into the dust, collapsing herself onto the ground next to the rock. She sat and tried to catch her breath as she stared off into the blue, cloudless sky. What few trees lived up here didn’t provide any shade from the brutal sun, so the partial cover of the rock was a godsend. “You know, I didn’t even get to grab any water,” she shouted in no particular direction. “We’re both going to die of dehydration up here if you don’t have any.”

It felt like her feet were soaking in a puddle of blood inside her boots. These things were a half size too small, and they were letting her know it. She untied one and pulled it off along with the sock, bracing herself for what she assumed could only be the grim sight of what had once been her foot. But it just looked like her foot. She started pulling the other one off. “Especially you, in that heavy black coat…” Her voice trailed off.

She couldn’t even hear his footsteps in the dusty gravel anymore. Had he really left her here, in the middle of nowhere? She leaned around the side of the rock and saw an empty trail ahead. “Son of a-“

“You need to be quiet.” The old man’s gravely voice was soft but firm, and right above her. He was standing on top of the rock.

“How the hell…” He jumped down lightly next to her.

“You didn’t hear me because I’m quiet.” He produced a stainless steel style canteen from inside his coat and tossed it to her. “Like how you need to be, too”

The water was cool and possibly the most refreshing thing she had ever felt. “Why? Maybe if you’d tell me anything at all about where we’re going or what we’re doing out here, I’d have known that.” She tossed the canteen back to him and started putting her boots back on.

“If you knew, you’d stop following me.”

“Oh, good, well that’s not ominous at all. Definitely makes me feel great about this whole thing.” She stood up and dusted herself off.

Next to him, she was only shorter by a few inches, although his imposing figure made it seem like feet. His eyes were shaded by his hat; she could never tell what he was really thinking without looking into them.

“Time to move.”

She slung her pack over her shoulder and started trudging up the canyon trail behind her grandfather. She knew wasn’t going to stop following him, no matter what.

•   •   •

i also made

January 28, 2023

He was running faster than he ever had before.

January 06, 2023

Being behind schedule isn't the only thing to worry about sometimes.

Showing the Rib
February 13, 2024

It had been nearly three full nights now and his fever hadn’t broken. Meredith did not know if that was better or worse, but she knew it was bad.

April 23, 2023