Sandra, at long, long last, reached her feet, gazing into the wasteland.
Her hand slid over her hip, over her gun, and her stomach gave a loud, gurgling rumble. Still, she ignored it, hoping to make her food last for as
long as possible.
As she stared into the emptiness of the Mojave, she exhaled, thinking of her uncle.
"Where are you..." Sandra breathed, her nearsighted eyes functioning even worse than usual due to the darkness.
She stopped, rearing like a cat.
Sandra looked to her side, staring at the weeping willow. It took her a few seconds to process what she saw.
From behind the big tree, a small child was slowly stepping out of the night. He froze when he spotted Sandra, his eyes wide and frightened.
He couldn't have been more than five years old; he was very skinny and short, and he had inch-long brown hair slicked backwards and tucked behind his
ears. His brown eyes met her blue ones, and they both remained still for nearly a full minute.
"I'm friendly," Sandra told him, holding up her hands. "I promise."
The child didn't move or speak.
"Who are you? Where'd you come from?" Sandra asked.
The child gulped, attempting to gather his thoughts.
"My m-mom fell down." He stuttered, fighting back tears, although it looked as though he'd already been crying. "She w-won't wake up... w-won't
Sandra looked ominously at him.
"How long have you been out here alone?" She asked him.
"Since y-yesterday." The child answered, wiping his nose with his wrist.
"What're you doing way out here in the middle of nowhere...?" Sandra wondered.
"M-mom said we had to leave... cause... c-cops came to our house a week ago... tried to g-get us... and we ran away... we went to auntie's house for a
few days, and the cops came there too..." He explained.
Sandra knew. Black ops.
"She s-said we had to go north..." He went on.
"Northwest." Sandra uttered. "Your mom was taking you northwest, wasn't she?"
The child nodded, sniffing.
"What's your name?" She asked him.
"James." He said, hiccuping.
"You want to come with me, James?" Sandra asked in a light, kind voice that didn't belong to her. She held out her hand, giving him a small, sweet
James nodded, wrapping his tiny hand around her fingers.
Sandra examined him for a moment.
"You look familiar." She said, glimpsing at his hair, then into his eyes again. "Did you live in Las Nueva Era...?"
"Y-yeah, until the cops..." James mumbled, sniffling again.
"Shhh, don't worry about it, everything's fine now." Sandra told him, hoping dearly that she was telling the truth. "Come on, let's go. And my name's
Sandra, alright? I'm gonna look after you from now on... is that okay?"
James nodded again, tightening his grip on her hand as she lead them away from the tree.
Sandra never would have thought she could bond with a child so well... and she surely never thought she'd be caring for one. Still, lost in an
apocalyptic wasteland, instinct came first... and Sandra's only thought now was protecting the child.
As they headed further north, Sandra had no clue that her friends were right on her tail, less than a day's walk behind her.
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