Under the delicate arch of the stone structure stood a lean figure with brilliant olive skin that radiated in the reddened light of the autumn's sunrise. Her nose pointed north, casting a shadow over her entire left side. No birds sang in the forest, nor did any animals leave tracks or remains, for she was alone in the dense trees. However, a civilization had been there once before her- a secluded group of peoples whose eyes turned amber in the light, as did her's. Burning coals exploded ablaze against the ebony after she turned once more. She was searching for her people. The last of her people.
She had been cast out months prior. She was seen with a boy who was not one of them, which was strictly prohibited due to their lack of popularity among the other nationalities. She stayed with the boy for a while after she was cast out, in the large city in which the boy's kind dwelled, but soon they fought and he threw her out as the rest of her people had. The next day, her family and the rest of her race had been reported missing. She had been searching for two weeks now and was tracking the trail she had barely found. When her kin shunned her, they stupidly believed that she worked for the boy's kind, which wanted to force integration.
So, the girl ducked back under the stone arch, into the shadow, where her homemade backpack sat. She pulled it onto her shoulders and stepped up, back into the light. She was close to where she believed they had gone- The Canyons. That's where they stored all their extra supplies such as food and books. This was her second attempt at reaching a designated location, as she had already tried their safehouses and found no sign of them there. She would reach The Canyons by nightfall, she believed.
The leaves in the forest were not green, but rather a vibrant orange and crimson, as if they were not dying but waking up. The leaves under her boots crunched satisfyingly and the cold singed the back of her throat. The entire array of beauty around her was breathtaking and yet something inside of her seemed to feel emptier with every stride she took. Her heart was a heavy weight in her chest and her tight boots seemed to drag, the boy filling up every crevice in the dark hollow that was her mind. She shook her head, frustrated with the realization. Had it not been long enough? Everyone had always insisted that the pain would be gone within a week. She had seen her friends get dumped, but she had never been the one to be broken up with although she had dated before. She had only known him for two months and yet she had felt as if they had been together for all of eternity and now a void was left in her life. The void seemed to grow as time went on.
This feeling fueled her, the desperation for something reliable and familiar, as she trudged on into the thick wilderness. At approximately noon, she took a break and sat in the shadow of a small bluff. She rummaged through her worn backpack and carefully pulled out her bread. She plucked off the grimy mold, then ate slowly, savoring the flavorless food. All too soon, it was over, and she was walking once more.
The horizon bled when she finally reached the river that sundered The Canyons from the now vacant forest. The Canyons were an extravagant sight, tall plateaus dipped in red wine. She knew her way around them well enough and there was no way that she was turning back at this point, though fear struck every bone in her tired body. She scanned the area, searching for a way to cross the river. She doubted there was one, and she had doubted correctly. There was no log, canoe, or bridge and she was left to either swim or find another way. Normally, people would just dive right in. The water was not too deep and was not moving too quickly, but not her. She had always been afraid of the water as a child and never learned how to properly swim. And this time, she was forced to result to her pathetic form of a sidestroke.
She sat on the dying grass and peeled her boots off, then copied with her jacket, sweater, jeans, and socks. She stuffed them all into her backpack and after a few minutes of shoving and rearranging, was able to fasten her bag shut. She stared at the foul-smelling water, listening to the torrent against the bank that she stood on. After exactly three deep breaths, she took two strides and then leapt into the rush. She was swallowed by the violent cold for a full three seconds (that felt like an eternity) before bobbing back up to the surface. Immediately, she gulped in air and struggled to keep her eyes open. Droplets flung themselves onto her eyelashes and then from there fell into her eyes. She blinked rapidly, legs kicking powerfully and arms propelling onward. She was making a slow move to her right, shifting with the current. She couldn't feel her fingers or toes and ice shot up her limbs. She gritted her teeth and strained to raise her chin. The flow of the water was quickening, casting her away with it.
Her pulse quickened and her wrists and ankles began to numb. She began to thrash about, struggling to pick up her pace as anxiousness flew through her veins, accompanied by overwhelming adrenaline. She was about five feet away from the bank when her entire right leg suddenly went completely numb. That side of her body sagged and she was rolled onto her back from the current. With a yelp, she twisted back around and stretched her left arm out as she used her one last kick from her left leg. Her entire body except for her arm dunked into the chill and her fingers scrabbled against mud. Desperately, she threw her numbing right arm onto the bank and sunk her nails into the mud. Her face broke the surface and she panted like a dog as she dragged herself out of the icy water. She crawled onto the mud, then got to her feet, covered in goosebumps from head to toe and shivering violently, and waddled over to the dry ground.
Once there, she immediately flung her backpack open and ripped out her clothing. She used her sweater to dry off, then slid into her jeans, socks, and shoes, still quivering from the chilling breeze. She reluctantly put her wet sweater back on and wrapped herself up in her dry and warm jacket. She looked from left to right twice, taking in her surroundings once more. The sky was melting to navy in the east. Impatiently, she walked on, hair drenched, into the wide mouth that lead to the main path through the Canyons.
The ground beneath her was rough and an echo of the roaring river rang through the valley. The air was filled with the scent of the water's frigid spray. She was cautious, keeping her eyes moving and focusing on the monstrous, growing shadows. Adrenaline was still shooting through her body and only increased the closer she got to where the storage was. Her heart was racing.
One mile left.
She felt like her heart was spasming in her chest.
Half a mile left.
Her lungs felt like they were contracting.
Four hundred meters left.
Her hands were shaking, her eyes flickering around.
One hundred meters left.
The cliff was in sight. The storage was a large cavern hollowed out high in the canyons to avoid the floods. There was a large circular stone that was rolled in front of the entrance and covered in ivy as a disguise. However, this time, the stone was rolled to the side and torchlight shone on the small ledge outside of it. After a few seconds of gaping, she broke into a sprint towards the steep ramp carved into the orange rock. Backpack thumping against her back and arms pumping, she ran as fast as she could. She didn't know what she would say or what she would do when they all saw her. She didn't even know if they would accept her or throw her out yet again, but she knew with all her heart that she longed for nothing more than-
It was empty. Her heart plummeted. No, no, no, no! She thought. This can't be! Where did they go?
She searched desperately, but only saw the shelves, torches, and messy tables. Her shoulders sagged and tears filled her once-hopeful eyes. Currently, they were mysterious ebony in the dark surrounded by bright white. She backed up into the shadow of the stone that covered the doorway, blending in. Everything about her was dark minus her olive skin. Her hair was in a dark ponytail that cascaded down her back, as the tears did on her face now. She had known logically that there was a chance that she might not find them, but her hope had skyrocketed when she saw the light. She sniffled and turned around, clutching the straps to her backpack anxiously. Her knuckles turned white and when she opened her eyes again, she was welcomed with another not-so-pleasant surprise.
There stood the boy who had made her betray her family, then promptly tossed her away. Cato Broxton.
Hi! I'm new here (just so everyone knows) and I'm very excited for this story. Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed, please leave your thoughts, and I'll try to continue this soon. :)