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Temptation: Part 2 of The Journey

In the Wastes between Safehouse and Sanctuary, there are many dangers

By Natasja RosePublished 3 years ago Updated 3 years ago 6 min read
Temptation: Part 2 of The Journey
Photo by Food Photographer | Jennifer Pallian on Unsplash

Read Part One: The Safehouse here

By Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

The Chocolate Cake was the first warning.

Not the cake itself, exactly, but the fact that a pristine chocolate cake sat on an equally pristine china platter, in the middle of a barren plain of ashes and dust and charred lumps that no-one wanted to think too hard about.

Friends had been rare for me, growing up, so books had been my main companions. Right now, every fairy tale I'd ever read was screaming alarm sirens in my brain. The Old Woman’s words came back to me; “There will be dangers, some obvious, and some more subtle.”

This had to be a trap.

I exchanged looks with the other children, all of whom seemed to have come to the same conclusion that I had, and were eyeing the cake as though it were an unexploded bomb. A boy, with skin only a few shades lighter than the frosting, glanced around. “Is anyone going to test it?”

I scoffed, “Oh, come on, no-one would be that –“

We all ducked for cover as the cake became a pillar of flame, incinerating the poor fool who apparently had been that stupid. Or trusting, or desperate, or ignorant, or even just far too curious for their own good. Stupidity wasn’t always the motivation for disaster, despite my grandparents’ grumblings about the Before Times.

Just the most common. I tried very hard not to wonder what the Death By Chocolate Cake said about the other charred lumps scattered across the desolate landscape. The wind seemed to echo with mocking laughter, as though the trap had simply been for some powerful being’s morbid amusement.

After a few moments, we turned to leave, keeping a much sharper eye on our surroundings. Perhaps it seemed heartless, but there was nothing we could do for the dead, and we couldn’t stay here indefinitely. At the very least, we needed to find shelter for the night.

With a collective shudder, our group moved on.

By Jordane Mathieu on Unsplash

Less obvious than the chocolate cake were the other dangers we encountered on just that first day.

For all that the ground looked like a flat expanse, it was not, turning out to be filled with pits and hollows filled with lightly-packed dust or ash. More than one person suddenly found themselves knee-deep in an ash-filled hole. Chest-deep, even, on one memorable occasion that would have been far worse if a child had been the one to blunder forward.

More chocolate cakes were scattered here and there, but we all kept a very safe distance. The boy from earlier nudged me. “At least we’re going in a mostly straight line. Can you imagine if we had to try and read a map to pass through?”

Somehow, I managed to laugh. “With what landmarks?”

He grinned in response, and was about to reply before stopping and pointing off to the side. “Is that a first-aid pack?”

It was. Two of them, even, lying several metres apart. Medical supplies were worth more than anything except food, but after the chocolate cake, we were wary. No-one wanted to get too close, but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity, either. I toyed with the bone pendant the Old Woman had given me – wait!

I grabbed the length of fishing line that I’d kept with me since we left home, though we’d not yet found a use for it. We wouldn’t dare get close, but maybe something else could. Knotting one end tightly through the hole in the pendant, I threw it at one of the medical packs.

I missed by a long shot.

Reeling the line back in, I tried to ignore the muffled giggles, and kicked an older boy who sniggered too loudly. My occasional conversational partner had produced a length of woven cord and several pieces of wire twisted into a hook, and aimed for the other pack as I threw my pendant again.

This time, we both hit our marks. The pack I aimed for exploded with enough force that I had to dodge my own pendant as it came flying back at me. My companion’s pack didn’t react, though it took a few more tries to actually hook it and drag it over.

A wide circle suddenly formed around the boy as he opened the pack. It was battered and dirty, as if it had seen much use, repaired and restocked over and over before its owner either left it behind, or was no longer in a condition to use it. The contents were sparse – various bandages, a few bottles of disinfectant and hand sanitizer, and a pack filled with a strange, brightly-coloured gel – but clean and sealed in small plastic bags.

Behind us, an adult groaned. “Well, it looks like we’re just going to have to test everything we come across.”

We did. Most were traps, but we came across the occasional useful item. Filtration sponges and papers, a container still in good repair… little things, but useful ones. I wondered how they had come to be there.

The uncertainty bred hypervigilance and stress in everyone, which did nothing for the general atmosphere as the sun began to sink toward the horizon.

By Umesh Soni on Unsplash

Finally, we reached the end of the plains, and came across a small range of foothills.

It was just in time; the sun was beginning to set, and this was the first hint of shelter we had come across in the Wastes. By silent agreement, we continued to stay close together, even though tempers were starting to fray. The first passive-aggressive sniping was just about to come to blows when one of the participants slipped, rolling down a small incline and vanishing into a shadow.

From the loud swearing, they weren’t too badly hurt.

The other children and I formed a chain of hands, edging slowly down the incline, each ready to pull the next back at the first sign of danger. The Old Woman had cautioned that our greatest strengths would be friendship and community, and she hadn’t been wrong yet. I was nearly at the shadow when the swearing died down. “It’s all right! It’s a cave, though I don’t think anyone’s been here for a while.”

Well, hopefully the former inhabitants didn’t choose tonight to come back. We trickled in slowly, still alert for any tricks. None came, yet, but the adults chose to set a rotating watch, anyway.

We children were settling down to sleep when my foot bumped against something.

I lifted up my solar torch, which didn’t shine as brightly as it usually did, having gathered less sunshine than usual. My eyes widened, “It’s a box!” Something crinkled as I crawled closer to get a better look, and I picked up a scrap of paper. “And a message ‘for those who follow after’. Should we open it?”

My boy pulled me away. “Wait. If it explodes or turns into something else, I’d just as soon find out in the morning.”

By Kobby Mendez on Unsplash

Thanks for reading part two of The Journey, my Summer Fiction Challenge series! Tune in next week for part two, "Suspicion"...

Young Adult

About the Creator

Natasja Rose

I've been writing since I learned how, but those have been lost and will never see daylight (I hope).

I'm an Indie Author, with 30+ books published.

I live in Sydney, Australia

Follow me on Facebook or Medium if you like my work!

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  • Cathy holmes2 years ago

    great story, interesting series.

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