Wind Walkers: Following the Breadcrumbs

Wind Walkers: Following the Breadcrumbs

A Chapter by J.A. Marquez
"

The pair of exiles follow the trail left for them by Lydia.

"
They set out with the sun taking care to stay within its rays. Though her injuries still brought her agony Bethany carried Lydia's bag on her back with their precious protection tucked beneath the thick cloth. Gomez gripped the map in his right hand and used the other to balance himself against the wide trunks of the trees.

Neither one had slept restfully. Staying in the cabin more than once had been a calculated risk at best. The intermittent banging of their first night there pailed in comparison to the endless barage of the second. Knowing and thirsty the blood hunters did not rest until the glow of morning forced them into hiding. However, it was not the banging that disturbed Bethany. It was the low and tortured howls that resonated from her predators like a pack of starving wolves.

Exhaustion weighed heavily on them as they pressed on through the thickening foliage. Before long the sun blazed hot and sweat dripped from their bodies like sap. Come nightfall the blood hunters would be on their trail once more. Finding shelter was critical, which left little time for pause.

Captivated by the new environment, Bethany turned her eyes to the great arms of the evergreens which laced together to create the canopy above. Streams of light broke through and illuminated the forest floor. Dust kicked up by their sandals swirled and sparkled bringing an air of enchantment to their journey.

In her wonderment Bethany failed to notice that Gomez had come to a halt. She collided with him and tumbled backward landing in the dirt. His hands shot up, one urging her to be still and the other pressing a single finger to his lips.

Her heart began pumping hard and fast, her blood racing with adrenaline. She froze like a stalked doe. Gomez had seen or heard something

A ways into the trees there came the snapping of twigs. The pair watched expectantly. As automatic as the shortening of her breath Bethany began to slowly reach behind her, her fingers seeking the weight of the gun. Closer now, they heard the sound again followed by frenzied rustling. Gomez crouched low in a defensive stance.

In a neutral blur a rabbit bounded across their path followed closely by a fox. Bethany started and Gomez straightened.

"That was lucky." He said with a grin holding a hand out to help Bethany to her feet.

"I was so frightened." She breathed with her palm pressed to her heart.

Gomez gave her shoulder a comforting squeeze.

"You'll get used to it."

Shaking away her nerves Bethany breathed deep. There was no time for recovery. They had to keep moving.

What came as a surprise to Bethany was the amount of strain involved in their trek. From afar hiking appeared as simple as walking, one foot in front of the other. In reality each muscle in her legs burned as if it had previously gone unused. Overtired and sore, she kept her eyes down focusing all of her energy on moving forward. The heat only aggravated things. Sweat dripped from every inch of her body, her only relief coming from the occasional updraft in her dress. Her thighs stuck together adhered by the sweat and cool air. Soon they were rubbed raw, the pain comparable to the searing in her back.

"I have to stop." Ten miles into the mountains she could bear no more.

Directly above them the sun lingered at its peak. They stood on the bank of a river in a small valley. Bethany slipped off her shoes and walked along the warm stones to the crisp, clear water. It chilled her toes and invited her in. Without a second thought she dropped the bag and slipped out of her dress, wading into the icy stream.

"What are you doing?" Gomez spun around and spoke over his shoulder. "I thought your people valued modesty."

"What people?" She asked him coolly. "I thought it was just you and me."

Bethany paid him no mind. She let the cold envelope her body and ease her suffering. Keeping herself decent no longer seemed like a valid concern. Who was there to tell her to stop behaving foolishly? Despite the morbid nature of it coming about, she was finally free.

"You'll freeze in there." Gomez warned poised at the water's edge.

Bethany ducked under the surface. The melted ice pooled in her ears and made her hair stand on end. The mild current tugged at her, but she surfaced before it could carry her downstream. Poised in the trickling shallows Gomez appeared to let out his own breath.

"Is everthing okay?" Bethany scrutinized as she stepped onto the rocky shore.

Masking the consternation on his face he nodded.

"You should go in. It will refresh you."

He didn't budge.

"We need to keep moving."

Genuine disappointment soured Bethany's mood. They had been walking for five hours and were well over half way to the red dot on the map.

"A quick break isn't going to harm you." She chided.

Unconvinced he picked up her dress and handed it to her. She slipped it on and wrung her hair out over the rocks. Gomez stared at the water as it gurgled up and over everything in its path. His trance like state unnerved Bethany. Such sobriety seemed out of character for him. Searching his face she came to an unexpected conclusion.

"You're afraid of the water." The words slipped out before she could complete the thought.

His pensive brown eyes darted up and for an instant acted as a window into his darkest moments.

"Sorry, I didn't mean -"

"Don't be."

Quickening the pace he started back along the trail. Even with his bad leg Bethany struggled to catch up with him. He pretended not to notice.

"How much further?" She asked, hoping to disregard their brief incongruence.

Barely yielding he unfolded the map.

"It looks like six miles." He said.

"We can manage that in three hours. That should give us enough time to find shelter."

"If there is any." He pointed out, refolding the paper in his hands.

Bethany had not considered the possibility of ending up without shelter.

"What will we do if there isn't?"

Gomez pressed forward and shrugged.

"Hope there's a really tall tree nearby."

It was a dismal prospect, but she had to trust that he knew what to do. Their only weapon carried few bullets so fighting off the blood hunters was not likely.

"And if there is no tree?" She dared to ask.

From behind she could see him smirk, but it was not a comforting gesture by any means.

"Do you believe in a higher power?" He inquired.

"Maybe." Bethany had not given it much thought.

"Well, if there's no tree to climb and no shelter, start praying."

"Is that what you would do?" She asked him.

This time his laugh was audible.

"If I thought it would do me any good. I don't think blood hunters care about God."

Tiny pinpricks tingled over all of Bethany's body. The thought of being aggressively dismantled and drained sickened her. The ground seemed to spin out from beneath her feet as she toppled down. Almost immediately Gomez was by her side.

"What happened?" He demanded.

"I'm feeling faint." She gasped while twigs and pebbles dug into her palms.

"Here, let me help you."

Feeling the raw terror tremble out of her limbs he embraced her.

"Try to focus on the present. It helps."

Bethany tried her best to clear her head.

"I didn't mean to scare you." He said. "I always get agitated when I think about -"

The words tapered off.

"Think about what?"

Gomez kept pace with her and spoke in a low voice.

"Just something that happened when I was a kid."

"Something with water?" She speculated.

"Yeah," He scratched his arm for lack of anything better to do with his hands. "When we were younger and would get into trouble, my dad would make us stand in the freezing ocean water until our legs were numb. He said it taught us discipline."

"That's so cruel." Bethany gasped.

"Not really. I mean it didn't hurt us." He pursed his lips. "Once we got into trouble with our cousin, Quinn. He was maybe ten. We stood there in that water for a good thirty minutes just fine. Then Quinn was swept under and we thought he was messing around. He was splashing and reaching for us. Then he didn't come back up and I started to panic. My dad came to see what had happened and instead of trying to fish Quinn out, he made us stand there twice as long for pulling him away from his work."

Bethany's stomach churned.

"Everytime I go into the water I get this feeling that he's there, angry that I let him drown."

"You can't blame yourself for something that happened when you were a kid. It was out of your control." She comforted.

He appeared to contemplate this. Then smiled slyly at her.

"Maybe you should listen to your own advice, kiddo."

To her own surprise Bethany laughed. It wasn't a full bellied laugh, but a chuckle. She was beginning to appreciate Gomez's candor. He didn't pretend that things were well when they weren't or expect her to agree with him. It was a refreshing change from the square, polite individuals she had grown up around.

They reached the expansive clearing when the sun was about halfway to the horizon. In every direction white peaks towered above them and the trees blanketed the hillsides. At the far end of the clearing was a structure that was indiscernable at such a distance. The entire plain was colored in varying shades of green and gold and speckled with brilliant wild flowers. About two hundred feet from where she stood Bethany caught sight of the familiar bright material of a balloon. It was a tattered strip hanging from the upper branches of a tree.

Bethany darted off in the direction of the balloon. As she came near she saw the wreckage. There were no supplies scattered, but the damaged basket lay on its side in the field. The rest of the balloon was gathered on the ground in a deflated heap. She recognized its two toned pattern and went to the basket. The branches had ripped into it, splintering the sides. Bethany cautiously ducked in, her knees aching as they held her weight. With the flat of her palm she sought out the deviation in the floor and then pried at the crack with her fingers.

"What are you doing?" Gomez asked, winded from chasing her.

"This is Lydia's family balloon. She must have sabatoged the landing to leave it behind for us."

"And what good does that do us?" Gomez said, eyeballing the ragged scene.

Bethany dug harder, wedging her fingers between the woven branches.

"Lydia and I used to collect secret objects when we were small. We would keep them in hidden compartments along with notes and sweets and things."

Gomez got to his hands and knees and joined her in the basket.

"Let me try." He offered.

From the pocket in his hole filled pants he dug out a knife. Bethany backed away, wondering if he'd always had it. He forced the blade into the crack and at last a square section popped open. Inside was a thick piece of salted meat wrapped in paper and a note.

Bethany reached for the note, unfolding it hastily. It was coded, something that they had learned to do during their early pubescent years.

"It says that they're heading north until the harvest. Jonah has chosen Caleb as his successor. She worries that their intention is to attack a weaker tribe for their supplies. Jonah seems to believe Caleb will make them a powerful force."

She fell silent, overwhelmed by the sudden change in her father. Gomez looked as if he wanted to remark on Caleb's effectiveness as a leader.

"I don't understand." Bethany shook her head. "My father was never a hard man. Its as if something's changed in him."

"Something did change." Gomez answered. "You grew up."

Bethany wrinkled her nose at him.

"What do I have to do with his behavior?"

"He was being his best self for the sake of his little girl. When he lost you he lost his reason to be civil."

"Lost me? He cast me out like an animal!" The very idea that it was her presence that tamed her father was absurd.

"Before that."

"I don't know what you mean to say." She sighed.

Gomez stepped into the field and put his hands on his waist.

"When did he start acting different?" He asked.

Bethany reviewed the past few days in her head. She had been upset at his insistence of her marriage, but that wasn't an atypical request. In fact she had been among the lucky few to be allowed to remain single so long. After thinking on it the catalytic event seemed to be Gomez's arrival.

"When you showed up." She said incredulously.

"Exactly."

"But what does that have to do with me?"

Gomez breathed a long and exasperated breath. Confused, Bethany joined him in the open field. He took both of her hands in his.

"You're so innocent for your age."

Bethany felt sweat building on her palms.

"Innocent?"

His hands moved to her wrists and up her arms to her shoulders. Her heart fluttered in a surprised palpitation.

"There," he said, "you felt something just now didn't you."

Bethany blushed and lowered her eyes. It was undeniable that something stirred inside of her whenever they touched.

"I suppose."

"Your father changed when I showed up because he could see that your heart wasn't his anymore."

The warm feeling from her chest began to spread. She felt it in her throat and in her limbs. The urge to pull away was almost as strong as the need to lean closer to him.

"He couldn't contend with the things you wanted anymore, so he let you go."

Bethany was stunned, unable to move.

"It's okay," Gomez dropped his hands. "I'll let you figure it out at your own pace."

He started for the nondescript shelter at the other end of the meadow. Bethany trailed behind in a surreal daze. The tall grass tickled her bare calves and slipped between the spaces in her sandals. They took careful steps, watching always for snakes and small predators. It was nearly a mile to the run down site.

The nearer they came to the weathered structure the more Bethany's heart raced. There was no roof to speak of, if there had ever been one. The door was more like a gate, hanging loosely on it's rusted hinges. The structure itself appeared to be unsound, the thick rotted logs barely holding together.

Gomez reached the deconstructed mess first, holding the gate open to look inside. He shook his head and Bethany's spirits dropped.

"This must have been a tool shed at some point." He speculated. "But it won't do for a shelter. There's nothing to keep them out."

Bethany leaned against the wall and watched as Gomez rummaged through the array of rusted tools. He picked up a hatchet and turned it over in his hands.

"Grab that rope." He said and pointed to the frayed lasso hanging on a nail. "We'll use this to climb."

Bethany swallowed as a shudder passed through her. She had never climbed a tree. In fact she had no idea if she was able to climb. It was lucky that she was accustomed to heights, at least.

Seeing nothing more of value Gomez shouldered the axe and stepped down from the rickety floor. Bethany wrapped the rope around her elbow.

"How do you know which tree to climb?" She wondered.

"Come on, I'll show you." He said and limped toward the western tree line.

By this time it was early evening and the threat of nightfall would soon be bearing down on them. Gomez raised his eyes to the high branches. What he was looking for Bethany was uncertain, but she watched as he passed by several apparently unfit trees.

"This one." He said at last settling on a redwood with its lowest branches about ten feet above their heads. "If you weren't so inexperienced I'd find one with higher boughs, but this will do."

"How do we get up there?" Bethany craned her neck to see the full extent of the trunk.

Gomez walked around the base of it, eying the thick bark. He swung the hatchet into the side of the tree and gave it a firm tug.

"Toss me that rope." He said, still looking up the length of the redwood.

Bethany did as instructed and watched him wrap the rope around the base. Then he pulled taught on the ends of it, wrapping them repeatedly around his palms.

"When I get to the bottom branches I'll tie off the rope and toss it down. I want you to wrap it around you like a harness. Then I'll pull you up."

Disappointment muddled Bethany's expression.

"Unless you want to pull me up?"

With his heel he stepped onto the hatchet and leaned back so that his weight allowed him to plant his feet firm against the tree. Then in alternating steps and swings of the rope he began to scale the tree. Bethany gawked at how easily he hiked up the vertical slope.

He perched on one of the solid branches and strategically knotted the rope in a groove.

"Give it a tug." He called down.

Bethany planted her feet and pulled hard on the dangling slack. It held. She tied it around her waist securely and pried the hatchet from the trunk.

"Use that to support yourself." He said. "Give it a good swing and it should lodge in the wood. Then pull when I do."

Her own strength surprised her as she pulled herself up. By no means did she match Gomez in agility, but she was easily able to support her own weight. She reached for the branch and straddled it as Gomez had done.

Around them the forest was darkening. There didn't look to be any blood hunters in their immediate area, but soon they would pick up the scent of the two travelers. Gomez led the way up the branches, assisting Bethany where the gaps were too large.

"How high do we have to go?" She breathed heavily.

"High enough so that they can't follow."

"Follow?" Bethany shuddered.

"Some of the more lucid blood hunters can climb. We have to be high enough to stay unseen." He grabbed another branch.

"Have you ever been followed?" She asked, allowing him to lift her.

"Once," He said, "when I was newly exiled. I thought they were dumb, mindless creatures. Really, apart from the violent cannibalism they're just like soft brained people."

"It must be horrific." Bethany thought out loud. "To slowly lose your mind that way."

"I'm sure they don't know the difference."

They climbed high so that they could barely see the ground through the tight knit boughs. It was dark before Gomez was satisfied and the forest seemed to come alive.

"I didn't realize there were so many of them." Bethany admitted as they secured themselves to a high branch.

Gomez wrapped his arms around her, bringing her close to him so that her back rested on his torso. She could feel him breathing and it calmed her.

"There aren't, but they're incredibly difficult to kill and they can follow a scent like a pack of dogs."

Bethany closed her eyes tight, hoping to erase the image from her mind.

"Don't worry." He said softly. "If anything manages to find us up here I'll protect you with my life."

She wanted to say that this was precisely what was worrying her, but she didn't. The night would be long so she settled into his embrace and silently offered her gratitude for his presence.

After a time there was audible movement from below. The rustling grew louder, nearer. She squeezed Gomez's hand tightly. He squeezed back. Then the sound stopped. In the moment of stillness that followed, a deep sense of foreboding planted itself in her gut and spread through each cell and fiber of her body. An unfamiliar smell lingered in the air around them. Both of them held their breath, equally aware that something was not right.

Something touched Bethany's leg and before she could stop herself a choked scream flew from her body. The thing wrapped around her and pulled. She kicked at it wildly, shrieking with terror. In her struggle she didn't realize that Gomez had untied the rope. He was perched behind her, urging her to stand. The hand dug into her skin, pulling her down. Suddenly she was weightless, tumbling from the branch. Something caught her and in the moonlight she could see blood red marks down the attackers face. Then there was an impact to her head and the face faded into nothingness.


© 2015 J.A. Marquez


Author's Note

J.A. Marquez
Written on phone. Sorry this is SOOO long, but it's sort of a transitional part of the story. I'm having trouble connecting the final scene of this chapter. If you have any suggestions please let me know.

My Review

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Featured Review

Well...if you want to slow the pace of the story, you could break this chapter in two. Then, add a few more details...but careful, long descriptions are boring. So try and add the details mixed with some action. Like describe a specific object, while a character is doing something with it. Or describe the environment while something is happening in it. But you did all of this...so this wasn't really helpful...sorry. But i still love the story.

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Dani The Unreviewed

6 Years Ago

Yeah, that would add a lot to the story. I've read and wrote messed up stories, where a character is.. read more
J.A. Marquez

6 Years Ago

Hm, not so familiar with gun types, caliburs etc. They have one gun with three bullets left as a gif.. read more
Dani The Unreviewed

6 Years Ago

Well, I'll keep reading, cause i like this story.



Reviews

Well...if you want to slow the pace of the story, you could break this chapter in two. Then, add a few more details...but careful, long descriptions are boring. So try and add the details mixed with some action. Like describe a specific object, while a character is doing something with it. Or describe the environment while something is happening in it. But you did all of this...so this wasn't really helpful...sorry. But i still love the story.

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Dani The Unreviewed

6 Years Ago

Yeah, that would add a lot to the story. I've read and wrote messed up stories, where a character is.. read more
J.A. Marquez

6 Years Ago

Hm, not so familiar with gun types, caliburs etc. They have one gun with three bullets left as a gif.. read more
Dani The Unreviewed

6 Years Ago

Well, I'll keep reading, cause i like this story.
Okay, i finally made it to read your book all the way to this chapter. And... I'm totally loving the story.

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on April 9, 2015
Last Updated on April 12, 2015
Tags: dystopia, fiction, adventure, coming of age


Author

J.A. Marquez
J.A. Marquez

South Lake Tahoe, CA



About
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..

Writing
Unbroken Unbroken

A Story by J.A. Marquez