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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 18 (v.1) - The Mound Storm

Submitted: June 30, 2016

Reads: 119

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Submitted: June 30, 2016



Chapter 18

The mounds stretched on ahead, day turning into night turning into yet another endless day.  With every step the tribe took, there were only mounds everywhere, increasing in size, blocking more and more of the sunlight.  Until finally the mound's shadows, blocked any sunlight at all. 

 They were all such a muddled group since the burned out village.  All shapes and sizes, blending together in a mass, crowned with the remnants of the mounds clinging to each of them.  All this misfit group had was the present, the bleak, unknowing present where they kept putting one foot in front of another, hoping that somehow these twists and turns, were meant to be an essential part of this journey. 

The volume of these mounds were only matched by their disarray.  The piles the tribe had walked through at the beginning of their march were neater, as if the remnants of the throw-aways had somehow been compacted so as not to obstruct the path that was weaving between the piles.  Out here though, with the larger mounds, the compactness of the disintegrated material had itself begun to disintegrate, the mounds seemingly giving birth to smaller mounds which tumbled forward onto the path stretched before them.  With this disintegration also came a ghostly feeling, as if the tribe themselves, were unwitting paleontologists walking quietly past graveyards of dinosaur bones, carefully stepping around pieces of the past which littered their current path.

With every breath the tribe took too, they inhaled the shadowy dearth surrounding them with every exhalation freezing as it came from their bodies, almost as if the air was not wanting to leave the comfortable warmth from whence it had only so recently been. 

Stella looked over at Elizabeth. That gray pallor, which had left her after their time in the cave, had returned. Elizabeth wheezed with every step, as if the grayness surrounding them had climbed inside of her, invading her lungs, finally deciding to settle in her eyes, peering out at everyone, demanding to be taken notice of.

Elizabeth continued to walk though, holding onto the hands of two younger members of the tribe, firm that her charges would not wander.  It seemed as if her little responsibilities were anchoring her to this place and that this trio together, she was determined would continue past the mounds to whatever lay ahead. 

The food situation too began looking as bleak as the tribe's surroundings.  There was still food to a point and there were drops on the way left for expeditionary teams that Elizabeth knew about.  Still the food they had was being stretched further and further.  The tribe, usually chattering away, seemed as brooding as their situation. 

 Stella began to feel a mound storm creeping in and those around her felt it too.  Beautiful little shining specks, increasingly rapid in numbers, seemed to be slowly dancing to earth with every step they took.  As the morning continued, the wind picked up, with additional particles flying through the air.

The only one who seemed animated this whole time was Gracie.  Although almost impossible to understand with her speech impediment and missing teeth, she alone was upbeat, although Stella had no idea why.  Several times during their morning walk, Gracie had pointed excitedly to a mound in the distance with one hand while her other hand firmly held onto her little girl. 

One minute Gracie was there, her child in tow, the next minute she wasn't.  The mound storm came on them that quickly.  Stella called out to the others but her voice was abruptly swallowed by the whip of the wind, which only howled back in response.  Her steps began to falter, wondering if this storm indeed, would mark the end of their travels.

Then in Stella's darkest moment of despair, a hand suddenly poked through the particles.  She knew instantly it was Gracie's.  No words needed to be said.  Stella knew now, that despite the noise and furor of the storm around them, a solid human chain was being formed.  For an hour the tribe went on like this, tugging and pulling, forcing each other to move forward, knowing that the strength of the chain would pull the weakest link through.

Then it stopped.  As suddenly as the storm had begun, the skies cleared.  The sun shone on the few remaining particles which glistened in their evil brilliance as they slowly swooped to the ground. They too soon joining the fine mist of ash embracing the group's every footstep.

When the tribe stopped to have lunch and do a head count, Stella turned to Elizabeth, who had survived but just barely. Her face seemed even grayer and her eyes even more sunken, if that was possible. 

Edward's voice was suddenly heard in the midst of this mid-day din as only a mother could hear it.  He and Ben sat nearby, discussing the status of the homing transponder.  “Nor do I.  So we're just going to have to navigate the best we can,” said Ben.

“With what?  There are no landmarks only these damn mounds, just miles and miles of mounds!” Even the two of them, Stella reluctantly thought, were getting testy with one another.

He and Edward had been trying to figure out what had sent the homing equipment down again with no luck. They both looked at each other discouragingly, knowing they had come so far yet still had no idea where they were, with no end to the beginning and no beginning to the end. 

“Maybe we need a new transceiver wire, “ Ben said.

Edward looked at Ben quizzically.  “Are you sure?”

“Look we've replaced about everything else there is to replace, do you have any other ideas?”

“No, except where are we going to get one out here?” 

Gracie meanwhile, was quietly rummaging in her sack as she hummed. This wasn't the first time Stella had seen Gracie rummage.  Through the whole trip sharp-eyed Gracie would salvage whatever she could from wherever she could.  All the treasures she found were carefully placed in her bag which doubled as her pillow overnight.  Sometimes the saved item, a spool of thread or a piece of cloth, would make sense.  Other times Stella wasn't even sure why she was saving this small piece of yarn or that tiny piece of wire.  At first, Stella watched, fascinated, as useless pieces of leftover items, went into Gracie's already overflowing dirty sack, finally resigning herself to the fact that Gracie’s mound picking, was a part of a habit she would never break, a part of who Gracie was.

The sudden silence of Edward and Ben's voices made Stella glance their way.  They stared back at her, each with a large grin.  Stella quickly realized though that they weren't staring at her as much as past her.  At?  She turned to see Gracie with a wide toothed smile too, holding up what looked like a large wire.  “A transponder wire,” screamed Ben, as both boys bolted toward Gracie.  A weak smile even crossed Elizabeth's face.

 With the makeshift wire attached the transponder was soon working again.  Still with the weather it was hard to tell if anything was getting through.  A sudden bleep broke through the grimness of everyone's dogged silence.  Like a beacon of hope the transponder chirped merrily.“A message! The signal must have gotten through!” said Ben, looking down happily.

“What?” said Edward, “What does it say?”

“’Signal received.  Trust the mound people.  Now what the heck is that supposed to mean?  How do they even know we've got mound people with us?”

“Lucky guess?” said Edward.

Stella instantly thought of Gracie and how hard it was to get her to go with the tribe earlier.  As if..., as if..., she knew something.  Like they had gone in the wrong direction.

Stella glanced over to the nearby mounds, searching for Gracie.  With a glance at the third mound back, Stella found her, as usual, picking for salvagables. Stella waved to her, hoping her bright inkling in this grayness, turned out to be right.  “Gracie, are we going in the wrong direction?” Gracie's face lit up. Suddenly becoming animated, she pointed at the mounds in the distance.  “Gracie, show us how to get to the Others.” 

When the tribe began their march again, Gracie was firmly in the lead.  A half an hour later the tribe was still following her when Gracie pointed ahead.  Stella tried to see what Gracie saw but with the wind blowing, she saw only more glistening ash ahead.  Still Gracie insisted there was something there, with her gestures and her frantic mutterings. 

Elizabeth saw them first.  Through her dry crackling, raspy voice, she started the announcement down the line.  “Trees!”

Ben raced up to Elizabeth the minute he got the word, “ Elizabeth! Did you say trees?  Where?”  She pointed ahead, her sparkling eyes defying her drained exterior.

Stella turned to Ben, confused.  “Trees?”

“The Others!  The entrance is in the trees!”

Stella, mild, quiet Stella, who in a former life had daily pushed papers from one bin to another, now whooped for joy.  There was an end in sight, maybe even today.  An end which might lead to a new beginning.

The word spread quickly through the tribe and magically the pace began to pick up on it's own.  Thoughts of a comfortable bed, food and loved ones, fought any exhaustion they felt. They were almost home and Gracie had brought them there.

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