posted on Jan, 14 2016 @ 04:53 AM
Her teeth shut together, and the tears returned. Her hands covered her face, and she wanted more than anything to keep Ryujin from seeing her cry, but
she couldn’t hold it in any longer. A sob escaped her, then another, and soon, her cries were pouring out of her like a waterfall. And as the
emotion broke out of her and as Ryujin gently patted her on the back, she became certain that she, herself, wasn’t the reason for her despair. It
wasn’t her fault that things hadn’t worked out, and she wasn’t incompetent. She’d been imagining her flukes. In reality, there was only one
regret in her thoughts that was real, that was solid, and that refused to leave her be.
Sandra had failed her uncle.
Dorian was missing, possibly hurt, possibly dead. And all their lives leading up to this point, she never cherished the time they had together; she
only ever made him feel like a failure of a parent, made him feel like she didn’t care about him, made him feel like she didn’t love him at
That regret would never be gone from her.
It made her feel like the scum of the earth, like she was less than nothing.
How could she have treated him that way? Her loveable, bearlike uncle, with the broad grin, the big arms all too perfect for hugging, and the sort of
loyalty that was far too rare in friends and family anymore? How could she have taken his love, his trust, and his devotion, and thrown it under the
bus with no regard to how he felt? What sort of a monster did that make her?
Something appeared in her blurry vision. It was a round, red thing, something that Ryujin was holding.
Ryujin had picked a red flower, and was handing it to her, giving her a faint smile.
He was strange. Ryujin spoke like a samurai would about morals and compassion, and now, he was acting so understanding, so supportive, and it
didn’t make sense to her. Nobody was like this in real life, were they? So noble, so sweet? What made him this way? Nobody had ever treated her so
“’M’ sorry.” Sandra choked, taking the flower from him.
“Don’t be.” Ryujin said. “I’m surprised you stayed composed for as long as you did, what with everything that’s been happening.”
Sandra found it hard to keep her eyes on his. What was left of her makeup was definitely running down her cheeks by now, and with her hair screwed up
and her expression one of pathetic defeat, she must have looked downright pitiful. Despite her worry, though, Ryujin didn’t notice any of it.
“We’ll be alright.” Ryujin assured.
“Yeah, I know.” Sandra said, wiping her eyes. “I just… my uncle. I always treated him like nothing, and now… he might be dead, and I might
never get to… make it right with him.”
“I haven’t always treated my brother wonderfully, either.” Ryujin replied. “But all we can do is pray that we’ll get to see them again, and
act in a way that would make them proud. I think we’re doing well so far, all things considered.”
“We are.” Sandra agreed. “It’s the best we can do.”
They were quiet for a moment.
“How close do you think the blast was to Las Nueva Era?” Ryujin asked her. “We ran from the mushroom cloud, but when we went outside, the town
was still intact.”
“I think it just skimmed the town. Might have caused a panic, made everyone evacuate, put a little radiation in the air, but it was just far away
enough not to damage the town.” Sandra guessed. “I held my thumb up to the blast, and the cloud was just a little bigger than my thumb. My uncle
said that when a mushroom cloud is bigger than your thumb, you’re too close to the blast zone. I guess it was just far away enough not to kill us.
If the blast happened even a mile closer, we would’ve seen a lot more from it, up close and personally.”
“That makes sense. You know, you have these doubts about yourself, but you have tidbits of knowledge that the rest of us don’t have.” Ryujin
said. “Your uncle taught you things, and a lot of it stuck. That’s dead useful, I think.”
“I hope so.” Sandra mumbled.
It’s true, she realized, fiddling with the scarlet flower pedals. My uncle basically trained me for this. I really am the one who should
be in this position. I’ve gotta stop running from everything and own up, just like everyone else does.
Sandra opened her mouth to thank Ryujin, but when she turned her head, she spotted movement behind her. The others had arrived at the water’s edge
as well, all of them looking to finish the conversation they’d started. Caitlin and Declan stood at the front of the group, and to Sandra’s
relief, Caitlin appeared a little less angry than she had before.
“I’m sorry.” Sandra said to everyone. “I just needed a minute to gather my thoughts, you guys. I’m sorry.”
“No problem.” Declan responded. “But we still have a lot to talk about.”
“Cool. Let’s talk.” Sandra spun on her butt and faced them.
The others began to find seats on the ground or on the roots of trees, forming a crooked circle. Maxi was the only one still standing, leaning on a
tree and listening with the same surveying face as Caitlin.
Sandra took in a deep breath. Her pessimistic thoughts had left her as quickly as they arrived, and now, she was ready to tackle the group’s
problems head on. That’s what Dorian would do in this situation, after all.
“Hunting might become the norm for us. But we’re not gonna have to kill everything we eat, not if we come across stores and stuff.” Declan
said. “We need to figure out what’s between here and Sanctum, what’s on the way. If we have places to stop and grab food, we might not have to
hunt at all. That’s if we’re extremely lucky, though.”
Caitlin replied to this, saying something about her hometown, Eureka, but Sandra stopped listening for a moment. A light went off in her head; she
remembered something her uncle had said a long time ago.
Sandra wasn’t sure how old the memory was. She remembered that she and her uncle were standing at the bottom of the hill beside their house, next
to the entrance to the bunker. Dorian had been staring across the field, towards the trees and the desert, towards the general direction of
“Directly northeast of here is Alamo.” Dorian had told her, extending his hand as if gesturing to the towns they could not see. “And north of
Alamo is Ash Springs. If we went a little ways east off the backroad on our way north, we’d reach Alamo or Ash Springs if we needed to. Can’t
underestimate the value of a still-put-together town. It might be too dangerous to sidetrack into a town depending on the situation, but if something
happened to our car—that is, if we had to make the journey on foot—the trip to Sanctum would take a lot longer. In a car, it takes about an hour.
But on foot? It’d take days. Maybe weeks, if the situation is bad enough. We’d need to plan our stops accordingly. We’d need to stop for
supplies wherever we could.”