Smoke in the Forest, The Runaway Series

Smoke in the Forest

You have to understand something important.

I climbed through that gaping hole as myself. I didn’t transform into an enlightened hero with the spark of adventure.

I saw a way out, a way to move forward. I needed to get further away from that gilded city, away from any temptation to return.

I needed to make it nearly impossible to turn back and give up on a better life.

Plumes of smoke rose from the dense copse of trees below. A good sign that someone else was out here in the wilds. Whether they were friend or foe didn’t cross my mind at all.

The steep slope was riddled with pebbles, rocks, and dead tree roots. …and it had little space for footholds. I resigned myself to the bruises and cuts, sliding down the slope with little grace. It was a miracle that I didn’t break any bones as I tumbled into the tree line.

After picking myself up from my tumble, I realized that it wasn’t smoke rising from the trees.

It was fog.

I had read about fog, obviously. ‘A grounded cloud’ was how my teachers had explained it. But they never knew how it tasted or smelled. It looked similar to the smog that hung in the lower levels of the slums.

But this fog smelled of the woods, not ash and decay.

It was novel. A city girl, out in the wilds, amazed by the fog and sweet smell that reminded me of pine car air freshers.

I nearly squealed in pure excitement.

It almost distracted me from the loneliness.

I walked through the thicket of trees for at least two hours before the path branched into three directions. My compass couldn’t stay steady on any particular direction, so I suspected that the sliding down busted the device.

Exhausted, I settled to camp at this crossroads for the night.

I dreamed of the ocean that graced our school textbooks and novels.

The warm sand stretched forward towards the glimmering waves. Blue sky and the faraway horizon, with the sun blinding me from my place on the shore. Peace, satisfaction, contentment.

I awoke with the ocean brine dissipating from my nose. A tinged blue blanketed the forest and myself, the fog thickened. For a moment, in my half-asleep mind, I thought myself transported to another world.

I jerked my head to the path to the furthest right.

Blue moonlight shone onto the path, leaving the others in voided darkness.

…including the path I had taken to arrive to this point.

I took a few deep breaths and packed up camp.

It was time to take the blue path.

To be continued…in part 3: A Path of Blue Ember.

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