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The Dusty Road

Getting writer’s block and I’m only a 1,000 words in. Thoughts? Good, bad made you want to stick a knife in your eye? All reviews are welcome, except bad reviews.

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The Dusty Road

The sun had set long ago over the dusty land; the darkness would reign supreme for many howls of the desert wolves. Aki tugged on the fur of the wolf that lay beside her. She wore a coat of tarbh wrapped tightly around her thin bony shoulders. Despite it, the cold crawled up and nestled close to her, drawing out her warm. She could nearly see its human form hugging her in a vicious and deathly embrace. Her parched violet eyes, a result of her high exposure to the radiation that flooded the land, glanced up at the woman perched across from her. Ucani was viciously breaking twigs from a thick reddish branch and throwing them into their pathetic fire. Her brows were knitted tightly together, the scars that decorated her forehead glowed softy in the moonlight.  The fire didn’t look like it would cower to Ucani’s violent gestures and hardened expression. It was a losing battle to ever try to keep a fire alive in these parts. The oxygen in the air was precious little and the winds blew heavy sandstorms frequently over their land. She liked to say it was their land; everywhere they went to. If no one else was around it, it was theirs in that moment. It made her feel quietly protective of those sands she trekked over though they didn’t stay long. They couldn’t anyway. They were travelling in search of a land that was spoken often about by many travellers they had crossed paths with, and the people in the shanty towns. It was an oasis that the sickness had not been touched by. Many thought it was only a myth, tutting when questioned “foolish child, nothing has escaped the poison untouched”. Yet some, like Ucani and her believed it to be true. Ucani had said to abandon all hope was to welcome death, death would have to fight bitterly if it wanted her. Aki, idolising her sister as many younger sisters do, was immersed in her sisters’ faith and followed her slavishly across the desert. Many people in the shanty towns had said the journey was foolish, suicide. They had glowered at Ucani, accusing her of being irresponsible and selfish for bringing Aki with her, but Aki had wanted to go. She trusted her sister. It always emboldened her when her sister had replied to those who doubted her that it was better to do battle with death then to sit back and let it idly take you. They, she said, had equally signed their death warrant by remaining in this land that was slowly killing them. At least Aki and her were fighting. Ucani had always been the brave, stubborn one. As a young girl Aki saw bravery, pride and stubbornness as complimentary traits, not as the dangerous companions they often were.

Feeling heavy and restless, Aki decided to make her way over to the shallow stream that flowed nearby. Her braids were dirty and oily and their tightness was beginning to give her a headache. She unbraided them as she walked, winching now and again from the pain which simultaneously, brought her relief. Her scalp felt hot and itchy; she prayed she didn’t have those creatures that lived in her hair again that Ucani called ‘lice’. They had driven her to the point of insanity the previous time and had taken several washes to remove all the eggs. She had never thought she would be glad of the radiated water which destroyed them. Katcha was quick to follow her, unwilling to let her master out of her sight for long. She rubbed herself affectionately along Aki’s torso as they crossed to the stream. Uncai had not been happy the first time she had brought the wolf, injured and in need of care, to her. She had told her ‘that thing’ would eat them before sunrise. But Aki sensed a kinship with the animal as if she could almost communicate with it. The creature’s vibrant eyes had struck her first. They were violet; an even deeper and more vibrant shade than Aki’s. The wolf did not devour them that night. In fact, they awoke to find it had killed a coyote that had crossed their path, intent on feasting on them. Still Katcha and Ucani never seemed to become very friendly so it was Aki who had to beg her sister to let the wolf stay with them. Since then it had protected them numerous times and remained glued to Aki’s side.

The water looked almost opaque with a greenish tinge. It looked lumpy but it failed to bother her anymore. Though she couldn’t drink it, she had discovered that she could wash her hair and her limbs with it without any adverse effects; that she could see anyway. She had to wash herself. She had gotten so used to the smell of rancid flesh that had not been washed for months, she smelled it only faintly now, it was more to prevent her becoming sick. Katcha sniffed at the water and let out a short concerned growl. “I know, but I have to”. Crouching down she threw her neck forward, her sparse hair tumbling down, aching for the water. She scrubbed it quickly. Rivers were vulnerable places; for humans and animals alike. Though she had a makeshift knife and Katcha to protect her she was still wary. Katcha could only protect her from so much and the bandits and animals that roamed the desert both travelled in large packs. She sensed that Ucani was actually glad they had found Katcha as it meant she didn’t have to accompany Aki places as often. Still, she always warned Aki that if she became outnumbered by bandits she was to kill herself before they could take her. She’d even shown her the quickest way to do it. Aki had  to her shame she felt, been momentarily shaken by her sister’s harsh words. “Aki, some things are worse than death. Those men would be merciless towards you. They would do unspeakable things.” She hadn’t needed to say anymore, Aki had seen those bloated bodies discarded not far from the slave camps; women and young girls that looked like they had been ripped with a blunt object from their private parts to their neck. It was hard to tell quite what had fully happened once the maggots got to them. But Aki knew it was a slow and tortuous death. The sight had made her retch violently. She wondered how individuals could be so horrendously cruel. Her sister had told her that they especially loved young girls as they were often “untouched”. Aki wasn’t quite sure what this meant and Ucani seemed uncomfortable when Aki had attempted to ask. But from the grave look in her sister’s eyes, she knew it wasn’t a good thing.

A noise in the water startled her; she had been daydreaming again. Her eyes and mind, shunting back to the present, meet the aggressive and cunning ones of a crocodile just below the water’s surface. Aki quickly felt a tug on her shirt pulling her back as the jaws of the crocodile rose up in hope to claim its newest victim. With a thud she landed back on the river bed, Katcha barking unceasingly at her and the creature that waddled with impressive speed towards them. The overgrown creature looked severely ill; huge boils covering its orangey scales and maddened eyes that had yellow spores sprouting from them. Its teeth however remained as sharp and deadly as ever and grazed the length of skin on Aki’s leg before Katcha snapped at the creature and Aki stumbled to her feet and ran. The sand felt slippery as she desperately tried to gain a foothold. But despite her mediocre survival skills, that caused Ucani to sigh and shake her head disappointment or to growl in anger, Aki was an impressive runner, something that had saved her countless times when she had been daydreaming and found herself caught off guard.

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