(A Burned Prequel)
The dirt road was hard beneath my aching feet. It stretched before me, endless and empty. The growl of my stomach broke the eerie silence; it had been days since I had eaten. I kept walking, there wasn’t anything else for me to do.
My legs, weary and shaking with exhaustion, kept moving forward, propelled by my will alone. And that will was strong, but unlike this road, it wasn’t endless.
I was minutes, or seconds, from sinking to the ground, when the growl of an engine made hope grow wings in my chest. Behind me a cloud of dust rose, signaling the approach of a vehicle, a truck by the sound of it. Country music drifted on the wind as it got closer. Thumb out, I hoped that this time would be different. That the people inside would stop, would take me somewhere less empty, somewhere that had food that I didn’t have to try – and fail – to catch.
The truck, a faded blue pickup, passed me by and my shoulders sank, disappointment weighing heavily on my chest, making my next indrawn breath a challenge. Red brake-lights rekindled that flame and burned bright. This time would be different.
The engine idled as they waited for me a dozen yards ahead. Adrenaline pumping, I ran and peered inside the passenger window.
Two teenage boys looked back, returning my cautious gaze, theirs filled with curiosity. I guess they didn’t get a lot of teenage girls hitchhiking in the middle of winter. I bit my lip, my blood pumping faster through my veins.
Don’t be a mistake, I pleaded. Please, don’t let this be a mistake.
I didn’t want to kill anyone else.