It took most of the day to be within sight of the old village. The others had moved closer to the coastline to see if any help came from foreign origins. There was little hope of that now. The rough grey village was very imposing. More than it was when I first came here. Then, I was afraid because I knew nothing about it; now the ruin seemed to hold terrors behind every grey stone corner. The chemicals in the bombs however had killed off many of the animals at a minimum. Humans though had managed to carve out an existence in this new and murky world. I passed around it, giving quick glances through the dirty streets, checking for some unknown and to be honest unlikely danger, but already depressed by this solitude.
No sound came from the murky ways and all I could hear was my own unsteady breathing. As I reached the opposite edge of the ash hamlet I was startled by a small crash, my heart raced as I looked around, wildly searching for some attacker but see nothing, everything was silent, still. Untrusting I tear away from the place, pure adrenalin fuelling my dash toward the great wood. A forest really, I thought as I reached the edge, panting. Even my woody childhood playground seemed menacing though as I took a step under the red green canopy spinning quickly to look at my giant, half-working umbrella. I looked out to the village, not so far away and, satisfied that no one or thing was following me; turn and walk into the dim, damp, leafy smelling forest.
I only stopped to camp only when I actually had to feel for the ground in front of me, exhausted, in the very thick of the wood. Only sat on a blue man-sized tarpaulin, a layer between me and the sodden ground. I grimaced at the thought of more camping and looked through the autumnal canopy to the almost full grey-silver moon, tracing the outline of the glorious full in my head and curled up still dressed under another layer of tarpaulin, uncomfortable and footsore; but happy to be on my way to my beloved little brother. The one I had promised to find. I keep my promises.
Some days passed, drifting through the woods, constantly paranoid that some one or thing is following me. Like the ghost I used to imagine chasing me up the stairs as a child. Yet I had seen nothing. Not a sign of life anywhere except for the small, multicoloured tarpaulin throbs of shelter villages. Most were better built than ours using stone and in some even cement somehow. My group had been unusually large and each of these had about forty survivors, but usually less. The first was petrifying.
I was walking quietly through the dead trees thinking about Ayden again. I was completely consumed by a need to see him. Just once. I was almost about to turn. To run back to him, but a childs shriek pierced my eardrums, shattering this new goal. Survival kicked in and I ducked behind a grey bush to watch a young blonde girl run past giggling. People didn't take kindly to visitors these days, there was little trust left to the world. She must have been around eight years of age, and then she went out of sight. A young man jogged someway behind her looking exasperated. He came to a stop just metres away from my hiding place and I froze. He looked around him and I held my breath in my chest; tense. His eyes focused in on me. I couldn't move. He looked shocked then worried and began to chase after the girl faster, leaving me in the bush. He probably thought there were more people around and that he needed to protect his daughter. But what would have happened if his daughter hadn't been here?