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A hearts journey

by Gina Solomon about a year ago in Short Story
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It isn’t always about the path...

Photo by Christer Ehrling on Unsplash

Looking out over the land in front of her, Katrine could picture her father’s wagon coming down the path pulling his wagon. The wheels squeaking from the weight of his load. It had been four years now since he brought his last load home. She missed him. He must have gotten killed by man or beast, or perhaps he tired of the family and moved on. She had seen it happen to another family and tried to push the thought from her head. He had always been happy, She thought, he had been more than content when he was home. Her mother always smiled the brightest when he was home. She had not smiled in a long time. It was her turn to walk the path and bring home things of value to her family. Katrine climbed down from the edge of the wall her father had built around their home. She gathered her carry all with supplies. Food and water was essential for her survival so she carried it close to her body. Even with it wrapped up, creatures could smell it and follow her. She would have to be alert and careful the whole trip. She had done it once with her father and then a few times with her brother. Ando had married last month so he now had his own family to forage for. That left Katrine to fend for her and her mother.

“You’re ready, you have prepared, I know you will be fine.” Her mother said as she watched her hesitant to leave.

“I know, it is just being on my own is a little daunting. I will get used to it soon.” Katrine lifted the handle of her small wagon and began pulling it towards the gate opening.

“My thoughts are with you always.” Her mother called out as she closed the gate behind her.

Katrine walked the familiar path watching for signs of others and for animals. Like a tire rut in the loose dirt or a bent branch on some of the growth trying to take over the path. It was not hard to pull her wagon behind her. The ground was hard and well-traveled. In some areas it was like stone worn flat by a great beast that scorched it somehow. But it was broken and crumbled in a way that told Katrine the beast was gone many, many years before.

Katrine walked on until the daylight was beginning to fade. Then she pulled off the path to an area large enough to erect her safety shelter. She propped up the metal sheeting that would protect her and then draped her tarp over them. She ate her small meal and then gathered her belongings into her pack and squeezed herself and the pack into the tarp excess and under the metal structure. She pulled her wagon up and braced it standing on end like a door. Using a hook and latch system holding things in place she could remain safe while sleeping inside the structure, for as long as she needed. She had to sleep sitting up but could lean to one wall or the other without it falling down. It had taken a while to get used to sleeping like this but she had managed and now was trained well in getting enough sleep. This was her father’s design and it had proven to be safe for herself and her brother on a few occasions. A group of men tried to steal from them one night but didn’t get much and failed to be able to pull apart their shelters. Another night it had been a pack of wild dogs. They tried to pull the tarp with their teeth and get through to the food somehow but eventually gave up after leaving a few tiny tears in the tarp, but no other damage.

Katrine continued her normal path for a 2 days and as she came over a hill that gave her a view of the valley below where the gatherers like her all traveled to, she saw that the trees had lost their leaves and the view had changed. Now she could see clearly the areas clumped with coloured metal and things the forest was trying to hide. She knew to one side there were places she had already explored and had found very little. She and her brother had been working through the middle area mostly, but now on her own she was heading to a new area. She could see through to a clump of taller materials around the far edge and it was over grown, but there was a path there once. She pulled her wagon and drew out her knife, it would be harder to get through but she had an excited feeling that this would be worth it.

2 hours later, several thorn cuts later, she was through the worst of it and could now pull her wagon to the area she sought. She knew how to cut the brush and replace it so the path was still covered and until the cut pieces withered and died her route would be safe. That meant she only had one days to seek before she had to be out again or someone would see her path and come to steal her finds. She set up her shelter in a area that was a little hidden and set out to get the most she could of the daylight left. Fires attracted attention and the last thing you wanted was a pack of wild things sneaking up on you in the dark. So you made do with the light there was and slept in the dark safely penned in.

Katrine rounded a corner wondering if her father had ever been through this area when her thoughts were answered. She knew right away it was her father’s shelter. The wagon he pulled was still in place as his door, but the tarp had clearly been pulled on by several animals. What was left were just threads, frayed and torn sticking out from inside the metal sheeting. What had covered it was now just threads of the coloured tarp. A deep blue that looked almost white in areas, bleached and worn by the last 4 years. She knew too that her father was inside. That he had likely died after being injured and getting himself into the structure. She found herself relieved to know he had not abandoned them, but sad too that she now knew he was really dead.

“Well, time is wasten’. I best get this over with.” She told herself as she worked up the nerve to reach in under the wagon and feel for the latch. With the tarp mostly gone it would be easier to reach it and get her father free. She finally managed and the metal creaked and groaned as she pulled the wagon aside. She found it hard to look inside but swallowed down the feelings that tried to well up and take over. She forced herself to keep going. His body was like a shriveled copy of what her father had been. His clothes worn and full of holes, draped on the crouched figure within the metal walls. He was hunched over with his arms tucked into his chest and his one knee up and the other leg beneath him. She thought about how she too slept with one leg beneath her and the other, foot flat and knee bent up. She never knew until now that she had slept like her father. She reached in and pulled at the upright, bent knee. It gave way with a dry snap and fell as though he now sat cross legged. She could see now the shirt was a different colour on her father’s arms and front of his chest. The fabric and skin on his arms were hard to tell where one began and one stopped. He had been badly injured she saw the darkening of his clothes went further and clearly he had bled a lot from his wounds. She hoped his suffering had not been long. She got to digging a hole in which to bury him. She knew it would take up the rest of her day but she couldn’t leave him like this. The whole was soon deep enough as she had pulled metal from the hole as she dug and it had helped her get it deep enough. As she pulled her father’s body free of the shelter and tried to get him into the hole something metal came free from his hands. It wasn’t like the metal she was used to seeing. This was smooth and shiny and in the shape of a heart. There was a ring on it that looked like it was meant to hang from something. Katrine reached into her carry all and found a piece of wine. She took the twine and stretched it out. “It would just do.” She thought and put one end through the ring and she put the twine around her neck and tied it just right on her chest. She would look at it more later when she had more time.

She pushed and shoved the dirt and metal over her father’s body as best she could. She disassembled his shelter and loaded it on his waggon. She hoped she could hide it well enough that it would still be there tomorrow morning. She pulled the wagon towards her own shelter and then walked back towards where he father was buried. She pulled at a pile of metal near by and pushed at the other side until it started to collapse on her father’s grave. It would protect it from animals at least. She would try to sleep and then gather what she had and begin her walk back tomorrow. She had found a few items in what was left of her father’s carry all but She would return before the snow fall and try again.

When Katrine was safe in the dark of her shelter, she felt the shiny heart. She rubbed her fingers over the smoothness of it. Feeling the edges she noticed one edge was not like the other. It had bumps like a cylinder along the side and when her fingernail caught between the edges of the other side it made a slight click. She worked her nail further into the edge and it opened. She could feel the heart was now 2 hearts with a hinge between. The inside of each heart was enhanced with a smaller heart shape like an echo within. She would see it in the daylight, but for now seeing it with her fingers was enough.

The next day began with a quick packing of the two wagons, the second was strapped upside down on top so they all fit together and would be fairly easy to pull. The load was heavy but Katrine was used to the walk back being harder. She started home, the little heart hanging around her neck beat against her chest as she walked. The light often caught it and showed little light glints dancing nearby as she went. It was as though the heart was happy to be free and going home. She would give it to her mother, as she was sure her father would have. Inside the heart was a picture of 2 people standing in an embrace. Their clothes were colourful and strange, from a time before the poisons and the earth fought back. Perhaps mother will know why they looked the way they did.

Katrine found herself thinking up stories about the heart and found by the time she reached home she had forgotten the sadness of what she had seen and done. She was ready to tell her mother all of it. She knew her father was at peace and resting now.

Short Story

About the author

Gina Solomon

Life is an adventure and sometimes the adventure is figuring out who you are and why you have learned so many odd skills years before. I think it is time to share my adventures in stories my imagination has been aching to create.

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