Away, Chapter 3

Tara Gumpper, Writer

Make sure to read chapters 1 & 2 before reading this! Find them under the name ‘Tara Gumpper’ in the Staff section of the Falcon Press website!

 

Chapter 3

I jolted awake. A stern man with a straw hat loomed above me.

Who is this man? I thought to myself. And what does he want with us getting out of here? Who is he to tell us to get out of here? Nobody owns these woods!

I shook Meia awake. 

“Who is that?” She pointed groggily to the man above us. 

 

“I’m not sure, Meia. But you have to pack up. He doesn’t want us here.”

I quickly stuffed the blankets and pillows into my knapsack.

“Who are you?” I asked the man. Please don’t be a soldier!  I thought to myself. Please don’t be a soldier!

“I’m the person who is guarding the forest.” He said sternly. “The park ranger. And you aren’t allowed to camp overnight.”

“I’m sorry.” I apologized stiffly. “We didn’t know. We will exit the park as soon as possible.” I took Meia by the hand, and grabbed Jenny. “Let’s go.”

“Hold on one minute!” The man said. “I need to turn you over to the town soldiers. They’ll know how to help you.”

I gasped, and Meia shouted, “No!”

A look of confusion crossed the ranger’s face. “The town will give you a good home! Why not?”

“I can’t tell you why we don’t want to go to the town. But we will exit the gardens.” I said. 

Please don’t turn us over! Please don’t turn us over!  I thought. Meia and I had just barely made it over the wall, and here we were! Caught!

The man’s eyes drifted to my knapsack. A small piece of paper was poking out. 

“What’s that?” He asked. “May I see it please?”

“No.” I replied sternly. 

“I promise not to tell anybody what’s on it. I just want to help you get home. I can already tell that you’re lost or something like that, because you’re children. And you’re alone.”

“Just let him look at it!” Meia pleaded.

Wait. What? Why was my little sister taking the side of the ranger? Wasn’t she supposed to be on my side? 

But then again, Meia is a pretty good judge of character. I decided to give in.

“Fine.” I grumbled. “Here.” I handed the ranger the papers – the WANTED posters of me and my family.

“You’re running away?” He said incredulously. “You’re the kids who the government wants to kill?”

Kill?

“Kill?” Meia said, surprised. “I thought they just wanted to take us to jail! That would be horrible, but it’s not as bad as trying to kill us!”

“Yes, the government has rewards for anybody who brings you to them, dead or alive. But the rewards are greater if you’re dead.”

“Please don’t kill us!” I pleaded. “Please! We’re just trying to stay safe. Our parents need to meet us at the Statue of Liberty on July 4th! We can’t be dead. I don’t want to do that to them. For the rest of their lives, they won’t know if we’re alive or not! I can’t do that to them. Please.”

“I won’t kill you,” The man said slowly. “But if you want some help, I can help you. I have money and I can get you a trip to America. It’s on the other side of the world, but I can provide assistance.”

“You don’t need to do that,” Meia said kindly. 

“But I think I do. Here.” The man smiled. He took something out of his vest pocket, and dropped coins into my hand. 

I looked at my palm, astounded. Twelve dollars! That was so much money for two kids and a cat; especially where we lived. 

“Thank you so much!” I said. 

“Now it’s best if you start heading out. Somebody’s bound to try to find you soon,” the man said. I could tell he was being kind, and he wanted us to stay safe. “Now go. If you want, I can give you bikes to ride on.”

“No, thank you,” I said. It would be nice to have bikes when we were walking on flatter ground, but if we were traveling through trees, up mountains or down stairs, bikes would not be a good idea.

“Alright then,” the man said. “Take care of yourself.”

“Thank you again,” I said gratefully. At first, I thought this man would be trouble, but he was actually just a nice person.

Meia and I found a small path that led out of the forest. “Well, we have quite a ways to go if we want to get to the big city. We can use the twelve dollars to purchase a couple tickets for a plane that we can fly to America,” I said.

“But don’t plane tickets cost a LOT more than that? Especially to the other side of the world?” Meia asked. 

I bit my lip sheepishly. “You’re right,” I said. “What should we do? We can’t just snap our fingers and make money appear.”

“We could sell lemonade?” Meia suggested. 

I laughed. “In the city? Where would we get supplies? Where would we set it up?”

“Okay… just forget about it,” Meia said. 

I sighed. “Maybe. We’d better get walking if we even want to make it to the city.” I said. “Let’s go. And we need to take Jenny out. She could be getting cramped.”

“I’ll  watch Jenny,” Meia offered. “You can find the best way to the city.”

“Alright.” I replied. “I just know that we have to walk west.”

“Where’s west?” Meia asked. “You don’t have a compass.”

“I know because of the sun. We have to follow the sun when it sets. The sun rises in the east, and sets in the west. We just have to follow the sun.” I pointed west. “That way.”

“Okay,” Meia said doubtfully. “You have to get us there, though. I’ve never been to the city.”

“I know,” I answered her.

When I was around three years old, before Meia was born, I went to the city. My parents had a presentation, so they took me along. There were hundreds of skyscrapers and thousands of people. And the street food was delicious! I’ve always wanted to go back. But who would have thought that my next visit to the city would be as a way to escape the horrible government?

“Well, we can’t walk along the highway. I know that we went along route 431. Maybe we should walk in that direction.”

Meia and I walked for a long time, decided to cook rice for dinner, and slept under the stars. We awoke the next morning, and started walking more. But safety was a scarce resource — the sound of a gunshot rattled through our bones.

 

Chapter 4 coming soon! Look out for it under the name ‘Tara Gumpper’ in the Staff section of the Falcon Press website!