The following tale is told by Abigail, the main character in Val Muller’s work-in-progress. It’s a post-disaster sci-fi tale in which Abigail struggles to keep a barren earth from falling into a complete wasteland. You can learn more about Val at www.valmuller.com or www.corgicapers.com, with holiday sales going on at www.valmuller.com/store.
I took it. No trade, no payment. I just took it and ran. But I had to.
The wire coil was in the best shape of any wire I’ve found. It’s just thick enough to do the job, and there’s enough of it. I’m one step closer to the desalinizer now. That is, I’ll be one step closer assuming I make it back. I’m sure Herrity will discover it’s missing soon, and of course he’ll know I took it. But I couldn’t pay him. Not in any of the ways he wanted. I’m hoping he sleeps through to the dawn. Then I’ll be long gone.
See, I’m traveling all night. Can’t afford to sleep on the road—not being alone with no one to keep watch, and not with Herrity close enough to track me. He’s got that awful hound. It’s safer to walk. The moon is full, and the night is still. I will likely hear a stranger approach—and certainly Herrity or his pooch. Pop would be furious, of course. He still thinks I’m with Ryan. But Pop would understand.
Besides, him and Daddy taught me well. Daddy would be proud, too, wherever he is. I learned from him. I travel light. Have to. Which is why I had little to trade. I couldn’t give Herrity my canteen, though he would have traded for that. My backpack is almost as valuable. Thing is, Herrity doesn’t even need anything. His shop has the most artifacts of any I’ve seen. He can trade anyone for anything. He has two backpacks and three canteens. There’s nothing he could want.
I felt his eyes licking my body as soon as I walked in. I’d been warned about him, too. But I’m going to build this machine if it kills me. Still, there’s a limit to what a girl will do. Even in a desert wasteland.
I even told him about the desalinization machine I’m building. I figured he’d understand, want to do something for the greater good. I mean, if I succeed at this, the water will help him, too. You’d think he’d want to help. The wells are going dry. Those left behind are dying. There is no time. The wire to me—it’s time.
But he wanted something too costly.
I had a knife in my boot, and I thought briefly about using it, but I’m not sure Herrity deserved it—even with the reputation he has. Daddy always told me be careful who I judge. So I thought it better to sneak in while he was sleeping. Luckily he’s a heavy sleeper.
I’m still shaking, but the brisk walk helps still my nerves. It was a close call, sure. He could have woken up. And I’m still not sure how I would have reacted. The knife in my boot… or would I have given in? Those rough, crawling hands of his… How far would I go for the desalinizer? When time is not on my side, how far? How far?
I know the answer well. And it scares me to no end.
And so I’ll pick up my pace under the dry pallor of the moon and try not to think about what might have been—and focus instead on what will be, on what I will make become the future.
The Spot Writers- our members:
Catherine A. MacKenzie