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Where the Sidewalk Ends (the story) - Part 2

A little further

By Heather Zieffle Published about a month ago Updated about a month ago 5 min read
Top Story - June 2024
DALL-E 3

Note: This is part two, please click on the link below if you would like to read the first part. Thank you!

Bowden leans back on the rickety stool he’s been sitting on for the past hour and stretches his cramped muscles. This part of his daily routine was his least favourite.

Rubbing his eyes, he turns away from the table of instruments he’s been monitoring to take a long pull on his canteen. The frantic chirp of a sensory alarm nearly has him choking on the water he just swallowed.

His gaze whips to the little screen flashing red, the viewer showing something he hasn’t seen in nearly two years. A person emerging from Pinnacle’s north sewer.

He starts when someone pulls the tent’s flap open; the noise making a snapping sound. “Is that what I think it is?” Einith, this camps leader, asks.

“Yup. Looks like someone’s finally escaped Pinnacle’s steel clutches,” Bowden mumbles, turning back to the screen.

They both stare at the tiny image as the kid hurls rocks at the city, his rage palatable, even without audio. Einith blows out a breath when the kid flops onto his belly to stare lovingly at a flower.

“Gods, he looks young,” she remarks, leaning closer to the screen to see better.

Bowden slants her a glance. “He might look young Einith, but you know he ain’t, at least not on the inside.”

Einith just nods, knowing he’s right. She had also escaped the walled city when she was young, but her heart and soul had been decades older.

“Look, he’s following the path!” She says, jabbing a finger at the screen.

“Humph. So, he is, and he looks right determined about it,” Bowden acknowledges.

Not everyone who finds their way out of Pinnacle stays out. In the past, others have hastily retreated, preferring the safety of the familiar instead of uncertain freedom.

“Yes… yes he does. He might be exactly who we’ve been hoping for,” Einith says, a sad sort of hope lighting her lined face. “We should head out to meet him and introduce ourselves.”

****

Kayden’s eyes keep straying from the broken path he’s following as he takes in this new world around him. The tall grasses that stretch out to the horizon soon give way to spindly trees that crowd closer together the further he walks.

His pace is unhurried, and he stops often to examine the exotic limb of a branch or the fascinating shape of a leaf. The amount of plant life is nearly overwhelming.

The schooling he’d received had briefly touched on the hydroponics section of the city—the area where they grew much of the city's food—but it hadn’t interested him much at the time.

Now he understood why so many of his fellows coveted work details to that area. The sense of peace that this green lushness instills in him is heady.

Bird calls also have him scanning the foliage in wonder, his eyes widening in awe as he catches sight of the flying creatures. His amazement is so great, that it doesn’t occur to him to be afraid of them. Animals were rare in the Warrens, and only used as tools in some working conditions.

Gradually, the trees change, becoming bigger and taller. The sunlight dapples the ground and Kayden realizes the ruined sidewalk had disappeared some time ago.

Halting, Kayden looks around, his sense of self-preservation finally catching up to him. “What are we doing, Jace?” he whispers.

Beyond following the map, Kayden hadn’t thought about what his next steps would be. Looking over his shoulder, he contemplates going back.

Go back? Back to the smog? To a steel and concrete world that blocked out sunlight and didn’t allow even the smallest of flowers to grow? The thought made his stomach churn.

“I’ll take my chances out here, bud. If I die, at least my last breath will be sweet.” Resolute, Kayden picks out the faded dirt path and turns to follow it.

Less than ten minutes later, he faces three trails branching off from the one he’s following, and he stops to consider which way to go.

The one to his left disappears amongst dense shrubs, and the one in front of him angles down sharply several feet in. Deciding on the path on his right, Kayden takes several steps forward.

“That way’s going to lead you through a patch of poison ivy.” A light feminine voice says, making Kayden spin around so fast he nearly trips over his feet.

Kayden crouches, his heart pounding as two figures emerge from the bushes.

The woman, her brown hair streaked with grey, stops several paces away and holds out her arm to halt the large man that’s following her. “Sorry, we didn’t mean to scare you. We saw you emerge from the city,” she says, offering Kayden a warm smile.

Narrowing his eyes, Kayden scans the area, trying to decide if he was quick enough to make it past them. They were adults and bigger than him, but he was fast.

The woman must sense his intention because she holds up her hands and takes several steps back, nearly bumping into the blond-haired male. “We aren’t here to hurt you! My name is Einith, and he’s Bowden. Consider us your welcoming committee,” she says with an awkward chuckle.

“I’m not going back! You can’t make me,” Kayden blurts, slowly standing and positioning himself to dart past the duo.

The woman, Einith, shakes her head and Bowden frowns. “Kid, we ain't from the walled-city and we’re not here to take you back,” the man clarifies.

“That’s right. We’re part of what we like to call the Free People. Our lives are simple, but free from Pinnacle’s clutches. We’d like to help you,” she adds.

Only Kayden’s teachers and some of the dorm masters ever called the city by its proper name, Pinnacle. To the workers, it was the city, the Warrens or Old Town.

He was still wary of these two, but nothing about them reminded him of the city’s personnel. Besides, it stood to reason that there would be others who had escaped as he had. Still, he hesitates to believe them.

“We’re here to invite you back to our camp. We have food, water and shelter. It’s difficult trying to figure out how to survive outside the walls,” Bowden grumbles, seeming perturbed by Kayden’s caution.

“Where’s this camp?” he asks, his voice laced with suspicion.

“Over the rainbow and through the turnip patch. What does it matter what we tell you, kid? You wouldn’t know anyway,” Bowden huffs.

Einith jabs her elbow into the man’s side, making him grunt. “What? It’s true,” he says, looking hurt at her sharp blow.

Einith ignores him, turning to address Kayden. “It’s not far. Just a few minutes along the path that angles downward. We’ll lead the way, and you can follow at whatever distance you feel comfortable with.”

Kayden hesitates a second longer, but really, what else was he going to do? At his nod, Einith grins and even Bowden offers a tilted smile.

“Alright, kid. This way.” Bowden points, turning to take the lead.

“Kayden. My name’s Kayden,” he mumbles as he moves to follow them.

*Author's note: Please let me know if you would like to see more chapters. I'm trying not to make each one too long, lol. Thanks for reading!

FictionDystopian

About the Creator

Heather Zieffle

I've been writing for a few years, and I'm grateful to have found my passion! I've self-published several sci-fi romance novels on Amazon, but want to branch out into fantasy soon. Any feedback is welcome!

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Comments (10)

  • Dr. Jason Benskin26 days ago

    Congratulations on having your story featured as a top story on Vocal! This is a remarkable achievement, and it's clear why your work has received such recognition. Your storytelling is truly exceptional. The narrative was not only compelling but also beautifully crafted, holding my attention from start to finish. The way you developed the characters and plot was masterful, making the story both engaging and thought-provoking. Your unique voice and perspective shine through, setting your work apart. It’s evident that you poured a lot of passion and effort into this piece, and it has certainly paid off. I look forward to reading more of your incredible stories in the future. Keep up the fantastic work! Best regards, Dr. Jay

  • Imsatisfyingwith28 days ago

    Beautiful article I hope you like my stories

  • Dana Crandellabout a month ago

    I'm a bit late to the party, but very intrigued and hoping you keep it going! Congratulations on TS!

  • TahimaAniabout a month ago

    next please! this is awesome 😍

  • Randy Bakerabout a month ago

    I'm glad to see you continuing this story. Like the previous installment; well done! I look forward to seeing what's next.

  • Katarzyna Popielabout a month ago

    Good to see that you're continuing the story. Please give us more!

  • ROCK about a month ago

    This is unwinding fabulously; look forward to more! Drudgers as in drudgery? Love the nature of this fantasy.

  • Matthew Frommabout a month ago

    Great work as always! I loved the idea of him “touching grass” and appreciating the wildness of growth after the sterile environment he left

  • John Coxabout a month ago

    More please!! Loving this!

  • Lamar Wigginsabout a month ago

    Excited to see a second part to this. I'm with Davina. Hoping he is making the right decision by joining them. Seems legit, lol. But... of course, writers always have tricks up their sleeves 😅.

Heather Zieffle Written by Heather Zieffle

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