Wind Walkers: Exile

Wind Walkers: Exile

A Chapter by J.A. Marquez
"

Bethany's father discovers that she's hidden Gomez. He gives her an ultimatum.

"
Movement in the shared basket stirred Bethany from her sleep. It was the coldest part of the morning just as the sun breaks the horizon. Her teeth chattered violently as she pulled a second blanket up around her head. Jonah was adjusting their course and preparing to land.

"There is a lake here. We will bathe today."

Bethany recalled her bitterness at him and did not respond.

"I will allow you five minutes with the women before the last light feast and then you must go back to your isolation."

Normally this would have been a reason for excitement, but Bethany felt only disdain. Touchdown was rapidly approaching and not long after Gomez would be discovered. She had to get to him, even if it meant breaking her father's rules.

"Can't I bathe when we arrive?" She tried.

"Absolutely not. I will not let you go to the water unprotected."

She hadn't expected him to agree so there was no disappointment to be had.

"I'll bring Caleb." She said with sardonic ire.

Jonah's hands gripped the side of the basket and Bethany could see each blue vein.

"You will do no such thing."

He released some of the hot air and they began to float down. Bethany straightened and looked out over the edge. Below was a thick forest and in the center a clearing. A long beach edged up to a small body of water. As they drew nearer Bethany could make out the remains of old buildings, possibly cabins. Hope bubbled up inside of her. If there were buildings then the men would have to check for blood hunters. While they did she could help Gomez escape.

Sand sprayed up as they impacted with the ground. Each bounce kicked up more until at last they were settled in a small pocket a few yards from the water. Looking out Bethany watched as each basket touched down until they formed the round structure of the common. Without waiting children spilled from them and rushed to the water's edge. Jonah hurriedly secured things and started after them.

"Wait!" He called. "Everybody gather please."

The wind walkers obediently congregated in the common. Jonah stood tall and spoke loudly for all to hear.

"You will all get a chance to bathe."

Pleased murmers rose up among the people.

"Women, you may bathe after your work is done before the last light feast. Men, when we return you can take your turn. Nobody is to leave the common before their alotted time. Failure to comply will lead to corrective action being taken aginst you."

A collevtive sigh came from the children that were gathered at the front of the crowd. As her father attempted to appease them Bethany quietly slipped away to search for Gomez. The balloon was across the common. The only way to get there without beimg seen would be to walk in the open land.

She tentatively scanned the area outside of the camp. They were on a sizable beach covered in golden sand and weathered pebbles. At the edge of the sand started a dense wood that followed the incline of the bordering hills. Blood hunters could be hidden in the trees, shaded from the harmful rays of the sun. The only other way around would be to follow the water's edge. Here she could be easily spotted as the others would be impatiently waiting to immerse themselves.

Against her better nature she started for the trees. Keeping close and low to the edge of the camp she shuffled along it's perimeter. She kept her gaze pointed to the forest all too aware of the danger that could be lurking within.

Inside the circle the tribe's people had begun unloading their supplies and arranging their camps. At one point Bethany had to duck low and stay pressed against a basket to avoid being seen. When the coast was clear she continued on. She was only feet away from the towering trees and her curiosity drew her to pause.

She had never been in a forest. They were unsafe and one could easily be lost within the winding wood. And yet peering in between the pines a deep sense of calm swept over her. The dirt floor was littered with green and brown needles and the occasional shrub. The great branches of the trees laced together to create a shaded canopy of green and just a pale stream of light penatrated their thick cover. Bethany felt drawn into the peaceful scene, but pressed on instead.

Finally she came to the food supply which had yet to be gone through. Before calling to her fugitive she scanned the common to see that everyone was occupied.

"Gomez!" She whispered.

No answer.

"Gomez!"

Again there was silence and panic started to take over. She very cautiously slipped into the basket and started to shift the sacks. Suddenly there was movement and Gomez appeared.

"Why didn't you answer me?" She said, her heart beating wildly.

"I'm sorry. I wasn't sure that it was you." He explained.

"Who else would it be?"

"Someone was here earlier. I think it might have been your husband to be."

Bethany scowled at him

"He is not -"

"There you are."

Bethany froze, her back turned to the familiar voice. It was Lydia.

"You disappeared yesterday. What are you doing?" It seemed she had overlooked their argument.

Bethany struggled to explain herself.

"I'm helping." She said awkwardly.

"I'll help, too." Lydia offered in her good natured way.

She started to climb over the wall when Bethany pushed her back.

"What was that for" She frowned.

"I um, I can do it."

Lydia's eyes narrowed and her lips formed a thin line. Bethany's heart felt as if it would burst through her chest.

"What are you hiding?"

"Nothing." Bethany waved a hand at her.

On the other side of the sandy beach her father was leading them men back from the cabins. No blood hunters had been found. She had to hurry.

"You"re acting odd." Lydia observed.

The jig was up.

"What do you mean?" Bethany tried to remain calm.

Unexpectedly Lydia flung herself into the basket and onto the sacks of grain beneath which escaped a loud groan. A scream erupted from Lydia's throat and then her eyes grew wide.

"What was that!?"

Bethany faked a similar noise and held her stomach.

"Deer doesn't settle well with me." She lied.

It was too late, already several men were running to where they sat and one of them was Caleb. Horrified, Bethany scrambled out of the basket and hid behind it. Lydia, more confused than frightened, followed suit.

"What are we doing?" She whispered.

"Who's there?" Caleb's voice boomed behind them.

Bethany put a single finger to her lips. Together they sat silently, waiting for the men to go. They did not go. Instead Caleb ordered the others to begin unloading the basket. As if the order had come from the chief himself they obeyed without question. There was no avoiding it now. Gomez would be discovered and punished for stowing away and Bethany knew it was all her fault. Beside her Lydia listened as the men lifted off each sack one at a time.

"Woah!" They heard someone shout.

With clenched teeth Bethany prayed that they had not discovered her secret.

"What is it?" Asked Caleb.

Lydia mouthed the same question to Bethany who only gave a her a repentant glance. There was some shuffling and the basket shifted.

"Well, what do we have here? It's Gonzo isn't it?"

Inside her head Bethany scolded herself.

"Hey, it's Carrie isn't it?" Came the response.

Bethany held her face in her hands. What had she done? She heard a thud and a loud groan.

"Learn some respect." Then he told the other, "Take Gonzo to the chief. I'll be there in a minute."

In the next second Gomez was lifted from his hiding place and gasps popcorned through the common. Bethany did not move. She could smell Caleb directly behind her and it sent a chill up her spine.

"Who was helping you?" He grumbled to himself.

Lydia was glaring at Bethany with utter reproach, but she did not give them away. After several minutes Caleb gave up and went to the where the chief would likely be waiting. Both girls let out a weighted breath.

"You are insane." Lydia said curtly.

"I couldn't let him die." Bethany pleaded with her eyes for forgiveness.

Lydia only shook her head, stood and brushed herself off and then stormed away. Ashamed that she had failed Bethany started back with her head down. It had seemed like such a simple and easy idea the night before.

Jonah was waiting for her with deep lines of scorn on his face. To his right was Caleb who was gripping Gomez at the elbow. She froze in her tracks.

"You impudent, ungrateful girl." The chief snapped at her. "How dare you defy me like this?"

Choked with a sickening medley of fear and shame and a hint of rage, Bethany only shook her head.

"You put your whole tribe at risk for one man. One man."

Beside him Caleb dug his fingers into Gomez's flesh. The stranger did not react.

"Do you know how foolish this was?"

Bethany nodded.

"Caleb, take him into the center of the common and set up the post. He will be dealt with harshly for swaying my daughter." He turned back to Bethany. "As for you, I am immensely disappointed. We must discuss your future as chief."

Sour acid gurgled up into her throat.

"What you have done is irreputable." With Caleb gone he slowly sat on a wood crate. "It would be irresponsible of me to make you the leader of these people,"

Bethany opened her mouth to protest, but he did not wait.

"Unless you choose to marry Caleb."

"No, Papa." She felt herself breaking down.

"I know you are not satisfied with him, but it is the only way."

There was no swaying him. Bethany felt as if the trees were closing in. Her breath grew thin.

"As for the fugitive, he will be beaten and sent away."

"No!" She could not withhold herself. "He's already suffered enough. How can you be so cruel?"

"Rules must be followed. It guarantees our survival and success as a tribe."

"I won't let you hurt him." Unpleasant feelings flooded her system.

"If you interfere," Suddenly his voice caught and before he finished Bethany knew. "You will be exiled."

"Please, Papa I am begging you. Let him go." Now she could not control the sadness from pouring out of her.

"I've had my say."

With deep seeded sorrow Bethany watched her father march away. At the center of the common Caleb was roughly tying Gomez at his wrists to the tall beating post. There he would sit and await the hour of the last light feast when his punishment would ensue. Jonah approached him just as Caleb secured fhe final knot. Straining her ears Bethany could hear no more than the faint drone of their voices. Then Gomez said something and they both quieted. With heavy force Caleb swung his arm, the back of his hand barreling into the prisoner's cheek. Bethany winced and wanted to call out to him to stop, but doing this would only create more trouble.

Until the men had left the common and started into the woods for the hunt, Bethany could find no solace. She tried to busy herself, but there was little that she could do without disregarding her father's command to stay put. Individually she plucked blades of long grass from the soil and braided them together to form rope. Her fingers rotated swiftly, weaving each strand in with careful precision so that the fibers were taught. Sunlight was spent and her mind was temporarily freed from the torment of watching Gomez suffer. Instead she wondered what the other women thought of her. While they toiled over cooking fires and dug wells, washed their clothing and tended the children she sat idly twiddling with grass.

Popularity amongst the women had never been a strong point for her. Most of them turned up their noses at her, save for Lydia and perhaps a few of the younger unwed girls. From the time that she was small she was different from them. While they fell in easily to their work and were humble, Bethany had always had a streak of will to her. Often she questioned the roles of men and women. It seemed to her that the women were treated as servants rather than valued tribe members. It was rare that a woman saw the outside of the camp. This opression may have gone unquestioned by the others, but Bethany had always longed for more. She dreamed of hunting and scouting amongst the men and at times she would allow herself to imagine that she was alone in the shade of the trees.

She did not stop weaving until her hands became sore and blistered. Much of the day was behind her, but it still felt as if too little time had passed. The men had yet to return and the women were now congregating into small gossip circles. She could sense the impatience in the camp. It seemed that all of the children loitered as near to the water as could be managed and even their mothers gazed longingly at it's glittering surface.

Then her will gave way and she allowed herself to glance at Gomez. To her embarrassment their eyes met. She whipped her head around before he could see the pinking of her cheeks. She wondered how long he had been watching her. Deep inside of her she felt drawn to him. It was an unfamiliar sensation, both thrilling and sickening. Each living cell within her urged her to go to him.

Loud coughing erupted from behind her.

"Water," He pleaded with each strained breath, "can someone give me some water?"

Before another could react Bethany quickly fetched her own cup from her knapsack and ran for the shallow well dug just a few meters away. The water was a dingy gray until the sediment settled at the bottom of the mug. She brought the water to Gomez and knelt as he drank. He swallowed it greedily and gasped as it soothed his throat.

"Thank you." He rasped, his voice gurgling with phlegm and exhaustion.

She dropped her arms to her lap, the bottom of the empty cup shimmering so that she could see her own reflection.

"You should go before your father returns." He reminded her.

"Let me untie you." She said suddenly, alarmed at her own conviction.

Gomez shook his head.

"Don't bring more trouble on yourself for me. They'll beat me and then they'll let me go. No use, you getting hurt too."

"If Caleb has his way he'll see you dead before he sets you free."

"Then I'll die knowing there was one person who cared. That's far better than dying alone."

Strange and bitter aching burned in Bethany's chest and she felt the sudden urge to cry. She didn't know what it was about him, but she could not stand to see him give up so easily.

"I won't let him kill you." She promised, unsure that such a thing was within her power.

Her father's whistle rang out from the trees. They were returning. She sat a moment longer, hoping that Gomez would change his mind and let her free him. When no such plea came she rose and returned to her place in the chief's balloon.


© 2015 J.A. Marquez


Author's Note

J.A. Marquez
Written on phone. Not quite satisfied with this, but I can't put my finger on what is wrong. Any commentary would help.

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I think it's great. Th twist and turns of the chapter make it very exciting and interesting. Also, the foreshadowing is subtle and suspenseful. Great work!

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

J.A. Marquez

6 Years Ago

Thank you!

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Added on April 4, 2015
Last Updated on April 9, 2015
Tags: dystopia, fiction, adventure, coming of age


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J.A. Marquez
J.A. Marquez

South Lake Tahoe, CA



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If you want to know who I am, read my stories. Many are works in progress, and many are just a few sentences, but each one is a piece of my soul. more..

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Unbroken Unbroken

A Story by J.A. Marquez