~As the Sun Peeks Through the Trees~Chapter Five~

I continue to scowl at Koda as we walk in a direction I assume is towards our destination. How could he do this to his company? How can he follow a scribble on a peice of paper? It’s putting everyone in danger! He looks so embarressed that I amost feel bad. Almost being the key word. I stare at the map more intensly with each step that soon my eyes hurt from looking so hard. Koda places a hand on my shoulder. I whip around.

“What?” I ask almost too harshly. He winces and again I almost feel bad. Almost.

“Look. I know you think I’m an idiot-” I cut him off.

“I don’t think your an idiot but I do think that your naive and slightly desperate but…” I trail off.

“Ok but please don’t be mad, we need to work together.” He pauses and licks his chapped lips, “I think you know that.”

“I’m not mad either,” He gives me a look that tells me that I’m not convicing. “I’m just trying to figure things out.”

“Can I help?” He licks his lips again.

“Fine, and stop licking you lips it just makes them more chapped.” I give him the map and he traces his finger along one of the lines.

“I think we need to go in this direction.” He points North, I nod. We change our direction and soon stop to rest. I know that since we will be walking through the night that we will be needing to take frequet stops.

“What are we even trying to find?” I ask Koda. He looks at me with his dark eyes and his lips almost go into a smile. It makes me itch with curiostiy.

“It’s a rebel camp, for the Foxes.” His eyes almost dance and I don’t understand why. “They have food and clothes for refugees and then we can help take down the government.”

“Oh.” I realize why his eyes dance. He’s excited to take down the government and to be some sort of a hero. I’ve seen this is almost every boy at the training camp when I was preparing for war. I guess Koda isn’t much different from all those other boys. But something whispers in the back of my mind, telling me that Koda is very different from all those other boys. “Well I can see why we’re trying to move so fast.” This is all I can come up with. And I know he’s starting to realize what my problem is with our plan is.

“Why can’t you just trust me?” He mumbles, his eyes no longer dancing.

“Because I’m not a blind hopeful dog begging for srcaps!” I glare at him with furstation.

“Well neither am I.” I huff in disagreement, he looks hurt, “I just have a little bit of hope let in me.”

“Right. Why don’t we just always say the recklessness you are showing is hope.” He buries his head in his hands and then freezes.

“Do you hear that?” I arch my eyebrows.

“Right because I’m going to believe there’s a no-” He claps his hand over my mouth and I stop to listen. He signals everyone to be quiet and finally I hear it. It the sounds of an army. I pull his hand off my mouth. “We need to move.”

“LET’S GO!” Koda screams, his voice shaking. The fears in his dark eyes is overwhelming. I lick my lips and wait as everyone runs past us. I know I have to wait for them, Koda does too. It’s kinda of like a way of saying ‘We will wait for you because you are more vulnerable than us.’ Or maybe it’s just a thing leaders always do. He stares at the horizon and I notice how quiet it is. Except for the racing of my heart, the quiet tromping of our company and the pounding of the army in the backround. There are no other sounds. Everyone runs, but keeps their mouths shut, they know not to scream, even the children. You can see the pure terror in their eyes. I see Livy pass, she’s holding one of the babies, trying to keep it from crying. After everyone has past me and Koda start running, we stay at the back and I keep tripping over things, I just so scared I can barely see straight. Koda grabs my arm as I stumble for the millioth time.

“Just take a couple of deep breaths. You’ll be ok, just breathe.” I take a couple of deep breaths but he doesn’t let go on my hand. He’s squeezing tight and I know he’s just as scared as I am. We run as fast as our swollen feet can carry us but I can hear the army gaining on us. We start to run into the tees and we split up. We stay in small groups of 10 or 15, then the army won’t be able take us out in one blow. But soon we are all in a group again, Koda lets go of my hand so I can run faster. But I stay in the back, making sure the children don’t fall behind. Then I hear the shots. Gun shots. I feel a scream of terror rise in my throat but I shallow it back and keep running. Many other screams rise up throughout the camp. We find a new burst of speed and soon we have no formation whatsoever. We push and shove, trying to out run the men on horse back, but the men still gain. Soon people around me drop, shot by the bullets. The ground is covered with blood because the group is moving so slow. I see people I know drop dead or scream in pain as they fall. The almost puke at the sight of how much blood there is and I look for Livy or Koda who I lost in the horde of people. Then I feel a sharp pain my my leg and I find myself falling amoung the dead and dying. I feel the bullet firmly lodge itself in my thigh. I gasped I realize I’ve been hit too. The pain is overpowering and spots dance before my eyes. I feel something wet under me. Thinking its water I splash some in my mouth. I choke when I feel the thickness of it. It’s blood. I puke right there, all over myself. I’m laying in people’s blood! I want to die, just lay down and die. Running from the goverment is too too much, it’s so exhausting. I know that this is what the government wants me to think this but I don’t care. I quit, I just want to dieSoon the pain is too much and I fee l it takin over my mind. I can’t think about anything else except the bloody hole in my leg. I lay there moaning and screaming until I become unconscious. And I let the blackness overtake me.

~As the Sun Peeks Through the Trees~ Chapter Four~

 

After crossing the river I haven’t been able to get warm. I continue to shiver and shake. Somehow Livy gets the meat cooked without a huge fire so I know a couple of children will eat tonight. The children always eay first, then the older women then the youger woman and finally the men. I usually eat last since I know certain men eat very very last. By certain men I mean Koda. He puts on such a bravado that I think he might not be human. I section up the food and hand it out to some of the familes. I know of one mother with four children, she struggles to keep them alive and I wonder how she does it. She seems to magically finds ways to keep them fed and surviving. I hand half of a rabbit to her. She nods and gives a weak smile of thanks and I give her a sad smile back. How are we still alive. That seems to be the ever present question. I believe most people don’t ask themselves these questions until they are so close to death they can practicly hear it coming. I walk up to where Livy sits huddled with another group of people.

“Give this to someone who needs it. Someone who really needs it.” I hand her some of a squirrel and she nods with a look of importance on her face. Our company has stopped for a few minutes so we can take a short break. We will be traveling through the night. I split the meat up into a couple more pieces and hand it out, you can see the hunger in their eyes. My stomach growls loudly every now and then but I decide it’s worth to make these children somehwat happy. I go back to Livy and she cofirms that she’s given out everything. Then I take care of the animal pelts, these are almost as helpful as the pelts because they can keep you warm. I’ve been working on figuring out how to bind different pelts together but with no such luck. I usually just wrap them around feet that are almost too swollen to walk on or I make hats out of them. Excpet for hunger and this is our biggest problem. We have had people freeze to death many times. Thrist has never been a problem because there are plenty of fast flowing rivers going through the forest. I’m afriad thrist migth be a problem when the waters will freeze over. As I sit with Livy my skin has goosebumps all over it and my hair is still soaking wet.

“Who were you working for?” Livy asks suddenly.

“Oh, um I was working for the Dogs, I don’t think I would run away if I was fighitng with the rebellion,” Dogs was what the soldiers called the government, the real name was something I never learned. Those working with the rebellion was often called the Foxes but there were so few of them that it was hard to tell what their real name was. “Who were working with?”

“Same as you. Did you have a war number?” Everyone had a war number, every group had 600 soldiers and the first group was  numbered 1-600, the second group would be 700 to 1300 and so on.”Mine was 708.”

“Mine was 509.” I almost say Zellie’s was 355 but Livy knows nothing of my first and only friend. I guess Livy is now a friend but I really don’t know her. Livy’s number means she was in the second group, I was in the first group. You got new number when you became an adult, after you have served for 15 years. Therefore you were usually 18 when you got your new number unless you were like Livy or Zellie and you got to stay in your home until you were 6. I’m not sure how you got that lucky, to stay at your home for three extra years but it must have cost the parents something. Then a call comes from the front, it’s my name. “Be right back,” I murmur to Livy. I walk to the front of the company and find Koda waiting for me. He beckons for me to sit with him on a fallen tree trunk. I slowly sit down and watch him. Why does he want me?

“Why did you do that?” He pauses, “You didn’t have to.”

“Do what?” I furrow my brows with confusion.

“Why did you get in the water?” His lips are starting to return to their normal color but his skin still has a tint of blue. He has put his shirt back on which makes it eaiser to focus.

“Because I didn’t want you to die.” My brows stay in their confused state. “If you died then our group would fall apart and even more people will die.”

“Ok, well it was smart of you.” He pauses again. He looks so uncertain that it makes me uncertain. “I was really cold.” Then he blushes a bit. This boy is confusing me.

“Is that all you want? Because I have some stuff to do-” Koda cuts me off.

“I have this feeling. I know that sounds weird but bare with me. I have this feeling that you would make a better leader than me. I think maybe you should take my place.” He says most of this really fast and all in one breath.

“Me?” I scoff. I shake my head, “A leader? No thanks. I won’t make a good leader, your feelings must be wrong.”

“Fine. Then can you at least help me? I don’t even know what I’m doing anymore.”

“What do you mean?” I ask him as he runs his hands through his thick chocolate colored hair.

“I mean that I suck at leading, I used to know what to do instantly but now… Not I’m just constantly second guessing  myself. I need a second in command or something.” He stares off in the distance as if thinking really hard.

“But why me?” I murmur.

“Like I said I have this feeling in my gut that’s telling me that you would make a good leader.” He shrugs. I don’t what to say. I guess I could help, I mean if it makes him feel safer and more secure.

“Ok fine.” I sigh. I really don’t think this is right but he is my authority even if he’s pig headed and stubborn. He gives me a look that makes my heart jump a little.

“Thank you so much Poppy!” He smiles and that makes my heart jump even more. Is this the feeling his gut had because it just feels wrong to me.

“I need to go hand out the animal pelts.” I get up and walk back to where Livy is examining the pelts. She turns to me and smiles.

“Do you have a needle?” I shake my head, she frowns.

“Do you have a knife?” I nod and hand her a rusty old hunting knife. She takes the knife and grabs a short stick from a tree. Then she begins to widdle a small point on the stick until it’s sharp enough to pierce human skin. Then she takes a peice of twine and starts to bind the pelts. Suddenly I have an idea.

“Hey Livy? Would you mind being the food and resources distributor?” Since I’m now going to be part time leader then I should probably find someone else who can distribute food. She nods with a even bigger smile. I wonder why she smiles so much.It must be her way of covering her pain up. “Ok I’m going to go talk to Koda.”

“I’ll see you later.” Her voice is strong but her face shows anger or something like it. I just ignore it and run up to the front.

“How can I help you?” I ask.

“In which direction should we go?” He bites his lip as he pulls out a battered old peice of paper. He unfolds it, it shows a vaugue path trough the trees in smeared ink.

“This is the map we’ve been following the whole time!?” I scoff, Koda looks at me. He’s clearly surprised. “It’s just a few scribbles!”

“It’s the only thing we have and I was desperate at the time when I found it.” I twist my lips in thought, this makes me a little mad. Koda has been leading us the whole time on mere guessing, it makes me see him as childish or naive.

“Fine. How do we read it?” I give in, we don’t have many options.

“That’s what I’m asking you to do.” He smiles sheepishly and I realize Koda was never the leader I thought he was.

As the Sun~Peeks Through the Trees~ Chapter 3~

 

We started walking again, as we walked’ Livy talked. She told me of war, which I already knew about. And she told me about family, which I had barely knew about. She talked of how she knew her sister and her mother, her father was fighting when she was young. She told me about how she used to run in open fields with a smile. It sounded wonderful. She said that her family had only had a  small shack but she was happy all the same. I asked her about things over and over again. I hadn’t been so interested in anything since… since Zellie. I feel my eyes getting wet at the thought of her happy-go-lucky character and how she made small jokes up to keep me happy.

“You ok?” I nod quickly when Livy asks this. Then she keeps talking. After a while we come upon a large river crossing our path.

“Everyone stop!” Koda yells with a frown. I had been keeping to the front of crowd. It made me feel safer to be with a leader in sight. He stares at the river, you can see his brain thinking of a way to cross it. He knows that if we get wet then we could die of cold. “Does anyone know if we can cross this?” He asks, still thinking. Livy steps forward.

“We could build a bridge of some sort?” She suggests. She wears a long dress that looks like it used to be the color blue, now it’s just a brownish but… It’s still pretty. Much prettier than my dirty baggy shirt and ripped pants. I wonder if she can fight in it. I find myself adjusting my hair so that falls slightly in my face and I straighten my shirt. Then I find Koda staring at me with a funny look.

“Can you do it?” He asks.

“Do what?” I start to blush, I must have missed something he was saying.

“Can you go hunting while we build a bridge?” He repeats. I nod and I take his bow and his quiver from him. There are only a couple of weapons in our group, they are only used for hunting. I take it and push my way through the leafless trees. The leaves fell quickly and it makes the woods seem lifeless. Our company is going to be in trouble when the animals go to hibernate. I watch the trees carefully, watching for any sort of movement. I see a branch move and quick as lightning I have an arrow notched. I see a small squirrel and I let the arrow fly. It hits the squirrel in the eye. I smile with pride. I usually hit the squirrel but not usually in the eye. When you hit it in the eye you save some of the meat because you’re not damaging it with the arrow. I had to practice with bows and arrows while training. It was brutal work. Mostly because they beat us if we didn’t get it right. I used to hate training. But now it’s more sport, a little bit more satisfying. I soon have three furry creatures. I go back to camp and bring them to Koda. He’s waist deep in the cold water.

“What are you doing?” I shout, “You’re going to get yourself killed.”

“Did you get some meat?” He grunts as he places a large log into the firm river bed. He’s shivering and his lips are blue. So are his hands, ears, face and everything else.

“You didn’t answer my question,” I demand. “What are you doing?”

“Livy said if we get in the water the work will go faster,” He shrugs.

“You are going to get sick,” I glance at Livy, she’s helping one of the woman with a child, “Livy come here.”

“Yeah?” She smiles and glances at the bridge, “Yay! We’re almost done!”

“Why is Koda in the water? It’s to cold, he’ll die if he stays in there too long.” I use hand movements that don’t even match with what I’m saying. One of my nervous habits.

“Sorry. I just thought work would go faster.” She smiles again and I start to get angry.

“Why don’t you think of someone else?” I sigh. I know Koda won’t get out of the water if I tell him to. He must think he’s being brave or something. Or maybe he’s just going to listen to whatever Livy says. I whisper to Livy so Koda won’t hear, “Tell him to get out of the water.” She nods.

“Koda get out of the water.” She turns to him with a loud commanding voice.

“Nice try Poppy. I’m fine,” He’s shivering so much that he studders when he talks.

“Fine. I’ll help.” He whips his head around. I think I’m surprised as he is. I don’t want to get into that cold water but… It’ll get the job done faster. I pull my hair up with a loose piece of string and step into the water. It’s freezeing and the current is strong. I go deeper in and I’m not sure how Koda stood the icy water for this long. I wade until I’m where he is. “What do you want me to do?”

“Help me get this piece of wood to the other side.” He looks slighty bugged with me but I ignore it. If it gets him out of the water faster, then it’s worth it. I grab the wood, it’s rough in my hands. I pull it to the other side and firmly implant into the mud of the bank. I test it and it sticks. Then I walk back over to Koda. They must have found  the wood from a fallen tree. I wait for him to give me instructions. He looks handsome in the water, he tan skin is almost glittering the weak sunlight and muscles seem to bulge out of his skin, he’s shirtless. I remind myself not to stare and that he has other things to think about than about people and how they look. We spend another ten minutes of moving wood along and soon we have a bridge. It’s a little wobbly but it works. Everyone crosses over it and I grab the meat. Then we destroy the bridge so thar it didn’t look like we were here. Then we walk. I shiver and my teeth chatter. My hair hangs in stringy strands around my face and my hands start to turn purple, Koda doesn’t look any better. We walk and my feet get muddy and Livy walks up to me with a smile.

“I know a good way to cook those.” She nods.

“Can you cook them for me?” I ask.

“Of course. I’m so glad  can be helpful!” I nod slowly as she takes the meat from me. I try wrapping my long shirt around me tighter, it just makes me colder. I walk up to Koda.

“How are we going to make it through the winter?” I ask, my voice worried.

“I don’t know, I really don’t know…” He murmurs.

As the Sun Peeks Though the Trees~Chapter 2~

 

When we wake up we start walking again. The sky is overcast and the air cold. All the trees have lost their leaves and they crunch beneath our feet. My feet are swollen and scabby. My hands are numb from the cold. My long ginger hair is a tangled mess. When I first came I tried keeping it in a neat braid but now I leave it be. My light brown eyes are watery and tried, making things blurry. But I continue to trudge on. As we walk I can hear the children’s whines and complains. Soon I too wish to complain. But I have no one to complain to. So I stumble in silence. Suddenly we stop. We hear a voice call, our leader’s voice, telling us to halt. I push my way to the front to see what is happening. I remember someone once told me that our leader’s name was Koda. No one knew what it meant or why it was given to him but that was his name all the same. He has brown hair that was short and swept to the side He is extremely tan and his brown eyes look like chocolate. I’ve never tried talking to him. He seems so above my thoughts and yet… he looks the same age as me, therefore he can’t have much more wisdom can he? I watch as he holds up his hands and looks around as if listening. I listen too, just in case I’ll be able to hear something he doesn’t. All of a sudden he calls out.

“Who’s there?” His voice is strong but uneasy. Does he sense something I don’t? “We won’t hurt you.”

“Unless your’re apart of the government.” I mutter. A girl steps out of the bushes. She has long, brown hair that falls past her waist, some of it is woven into small braids. Her eyes are so blue it looks like I’m looking into a cloudless sky, she has long lashes that are black. She’s skinny, like the rest of us but she make it looks good. Koda stares at her.

“Who are you?” He whispers. She suddenly burst into tears.

“I’m sorry, I was just running from government when I saw you guys last night. I’ve been following you ever since. Please don’t hurt me!” She covers her eyes with her hands and wipes them.

“Don’t worry. We’re running too, you can come with us.” Koda picks up her hands and looks into her eyes. His words are soothing and his hand gentle. She nods and he helps her get up.

“Thank you so much!” She smiles with straight white teeth. “How can I repay you?”

“No need. I will give you an escort if you have any questions.” I wonder who he will assign to this girl. I guess he would call out one of the older women but he surprises me, “Poppy can you come here?” I duck my head through the crowd and walk towards him and the girl.

“Yes sir.” I nod.

“You can call me Koda.” He smiles slightly, at what I’m not sure.

“Yes sir.” He smiles a little bigger and then I realize that I called him sir again. I smile a little at that with him.

“Take care of her. And find her food if you can.” I nod to the girl and she starts to follow but Koda stops her. “What’s your name?”

“Livy, sir.” She adds with a smile.

“Welcome to our company Livy.” I lead Livy back to our group, we walk in the front and I can hear the whispers from behind. Sure a new refuge added to our group but when they do come it’s rare. And every person has a story, they probably just want to find out hers.

As the Sun Peeks Through the Trees~Chapter One~

We have been walking forever it seems. Yet I feel as if these trees are familiar. Have we been walking in circles? I do not know. All I know is that my feet hurt, it’s cold and that my heart is holding on by a thin line. It’s breaking quickly and if it doesn’t mend, I too will soon be broken. The trees surround us like walls of a maze and the air is thick with fog. The ground we walk with bare feet on is damp and squishy, often rocks stab my feet. I walk on unknown grounds with complete strangers. I know they are only trying to get to safety, as I am. But a girl can’t help wondering if they have bad intentions. This mob of homeless, dirty, heartbroken people are all running from the same thing. War. We are the ones who have been scarred and destroyed by this evil force. Many more have been hurt in this way, but they were too sacred to rebel against. We are running because we want to be free. Because we want to live a life free of fear. But we still worry that this dream may never come true. Many children are apart of this group. They are skinnier than the rest of us. They have no innocence left in their eyes, they have seen reality and it’s crushing their young, pure souls. Their spirits have been trampled on.

My name is Poppy. I often think why my parents named me that. But I never got to ask them. I was sent to serve for the war at age three. It was by government. I never knew them. Instead I knew the harsh sound of the whip that came down on children’s backs when we did something wrong. I grew up with a soldier as my mother and a captain as my father, I grew up with war training and nothing more.

I made one friend. She was one of the luckier ones, she wasn’t transferred until she was six. She talked of her house and of her parents; and I was jealous. Her name was Zellie. Her soldier number was 355, mine was 509. That was what the captain called us. We used our real names for each other. Then we were sent to the real war, we didn’t last for long. A whole lifetime of training is not enough for the terrors of warfare. She was killed. I was not, yet I wish I was when I returned to the base. Then when I was sent out again, I ran. Far away, then I found this group and joined them.

There is one man who leads, I admire him with respect. He makes the decisions of where we go and when to stop. When I joined we had many but now… because of the sickness and hunger. We have only a hundred left. If we were attacked, we would have none left.

I often wonder if my name came from the color of my hair. It’s orange, that could be an inspiration. Name’s were given for reasons, but I do not know the reason for mine.

We walk on and on and then we stop. We take a rest for the night. Most of the times we travel through the night but since today sky’s was predicting a cold night, our leader told us that we would stop for the night. We huddle together to keep warm and try to sleep. We don’t dare light any fires for danger of telling our pursuers where we are. A fire would be like a beacon. Soon we are a shivering bunch of skin and bones. Winter is coming on fast and soon we will all freeze.