I'm undecided on whether this story really needs another part or not. I personally feel the ending to this segment works as an end, of sorts. Let me know what you all think. :)
Shelter, Part II
When Michelle awoke fully it was still dark outside, or so she thought. Her legs and right side were numb from being curled up on the stone floor of the cellar that had served as her bed for the night, which she had spent drifting into an uneasy sleep and then waking at intervals.
Clambering awkwardly to her feet, stooping slightly to avoid smacking her head against the ceiling, Michelle began moving around as best she could, trying to get the blood pumping back into her rubbery limbs. Eventually the discomfort eased and she hunkered back down to wait for sunrise, or what passed for sunrise during these dull, wintery days. It was mightily tempting to stay here, protected as she was by four walls, a luxury Michelle had not experienced since fleeing the compound, but staying in one place was apt to get her caught. She had to keep moving. That was her rule.
Soft grey light slowly began to filter through cracks in the stone above, revealing that the ceiling structure of the cellar was probably not very sound, another reason not to linger here. When she thought it was light enough, Michelle crawled out through the narrow entrance, dragging her rucksack behind her. As she did so, she thought she caught the faint scent of flowers in the air.
Although her son had never shown anything other than a passing interest in the old world, Michelle’s interest in it had been insatiable as a child. She had once come across a hand-held portable television that had been discarded in a drainage ditch (her father had tutted something about ‘fly-tipping,’ although what flies had to do with chucking out garbage Michelle had never been able to figure out) and Michelle had insisted upon keeping it. She had entertained herself on their travels fiddling with the stiff buttons and trying to picture what the so-called ‘programs’ that had once played on the T.V. had looked like, filling in noises and conversation between the characters where it seemed appropriate. She doubted anything she had conjured up was remotely close to the reality, but the distraction had been welcome – it was better to be lost in a silly fantasy than to be worrying about food and the increasingly nagging questions about where exactly they were going.
Never once had it occurred to Michelle that her mother and father hadn’t had the faintest idea where they were headed, and that their stumbling across the compound was something of a miracle, really. Like all children, Michelle had trusted her parents implicitly.
First order of business: find out where on earth she was.
Michelle had never been this far south before and therefore had no idea where the nearest trading post was, and she would need to remedy that lack of knowledge as soon as possible. Fortunately she still had a few items left that she could trade, though nothing as precious as the batteries. Still, Michelle was reasonably sure she could secure another tent, and that was the main thing.
She began to walk, following the first main road she came to. Every now and then she passed the rusting, skeletal remains of cars. Some of them still contained the grey skeletal remains of their owners. She pressed on, unperturbed.
As she walked, Michelle began to hum to herself, mostly for company. She also found it calmed her nerves some, took the edge off the constant stress and worry. Out here, she was terribly exposed and she knew it - they could be waiting around the next corner for her for all she knew. All Michelle could do was hope that luck remained with her.
Luck proved not to be on her side this time. Michelle was unsuccessful in finding any shelter for the night, so all she could do was keep walking. If she stopped out here she would almost certainly freeze to death. The stump of her missing finger flared with pain, adding to her already considerable misery. The joint had never healed properly. They had forbidden her to have it cared for by anyone except herself. Pain is penance, so went their medieval sense of reasoning and justice. Most of the time the stump only pained her with small twinges every so often, but whenever it was cold or she was particularly stressed it became unbearable, as it was now. It was almost as if it were reacting to her emotional turmoil. Perhaps it was.
It was in moments such as this that Michelle was forced to ask herself the question she determinedly tried not to think about most of the time: why suffer this existence? Her son was gone, his father wanted nothing to do with her (coward that he was), and she was forever marked as an outcast. Surely dying would be a welcome relief, so why continue to fight it?
The answer came swiftly and forcefully, as it always did: David would never have wanted his mother to give up. So she kept fighting. She might not have succeeded in her fight for his life, but she would continue to honour his memory in any way she could.
The scent of flowers drifted in through the open windows, carried on the slightly chilly breeze. They held this festival every year when spring came and the weather, and subsequently their lives, got easier.
With the light scent followed the stronger sounds of the crowd below: the excited chattering of adults, the joyous squeal of children. Michelle felt her stomach knot with sadness and anger. She shouldn’t have to be here! David should not...she pushed such thoughts away.
This would be her best chance to exact her revenge and get away from this place once and for all. She must not allow herself to be distracted by brooding. The objects she sought would not be unguarded even today, just as the medications had been well protected. However, Michelle had succeeded in outwitting those guards then...perhaps she would successfully do so again. She had to.
By the time the Elders realised what had happened and who was responsible, Michelle had already been five miles clear of the compound, batteries tucked safely away in her rucksack and the stump where her finger had once been throbbing not with pain for once, but with a hot excitement.
Whenever things got hard, Michelle brought forth this memory, this triumph, and clung fiercely to it. They had not beaten her then. And they never would.