For the time being, I’ve made the decision to keep the story going exclusively on Reddit. I still plan to announce and link each chapter here, but would like to spend the extra time copying it over and arranging the chapters on writing other work instead.
We shared the rest of the wicked – restless, light, constantly on edge. There was no way for us to just shut it all out and get the sleep we really needed.
We longed for Annie, for normal days, for the end of war.
There was no doubt we were heading into a war greater than we’d faced before – we were finished just surviving, we were heading to a fight with Harvey and whatever zombies lay between us.
Jay started from his uneasy sleep beside me, and was ready to go immediately. He twitched the curtains aside, then turned back to me, his mouth set in a grim line.
“It’s just getting dark.” He said quietly. “We should make a move.”
Morning came after a long, restless night with little relief from the worries that plagued us. Finally we gave up on the attempts to rest and found ourselves sitting in the dining room, waiting for the others.
“I don’t think they’re going to go for it.” Jay murmured, interrupting the silence.
“Would we? They have to protect Toby.”
“We wouldn’t let anything happen to him!”
The tension in the air felt palpable as I withheld my response from Jay. We both knew what I was thinking – we’d never let anything happen to Annie, either, and look how that had ended up.
By the time we woke, nighttime had settled around us and we fumbled around in the poorly lit room, gathering our gear and heading downstairs to leave.
Nervous energy bounced between us, gnawing at our stomach, leaving us in a hurry to get going and skip any kind of meal. The glow of excitement had worn off a bit, and we were seeing our plan for what it really was – a rough idea, a dream in need of serious work.
We left the house with few words spoken between us, but Jay took my hand and we walked back to the bikes, choosing to push them through the worst of the overgrowth around the house.
Music is the soundtrack to our lives. – Dick Clark
A couple of years ago, I was sent to work a roster out “on site”. At the time, I was really excited to be heading out there.
I still remember why: the excitement of leaving my comfort zone, the hope I could leave my anxieties behind, the chance of maybe growing as a person and developing some good real life skills out in the wild.
So I boarded the small chartered plane and took a bumpy flight out to a remote Australian work site, where the only signs of civilisation were the work camps that had been built out there. The one I stayed at housed literally thousands of workers at any one time, and walking from one end to the other took ten minutes (and I’m a fast walker).
In truth, I can’t remember when it happened. I think I was okay for the first night, but very quickly a few things took a big toll on me. Namely the 4am wake ups, with a rush to get breakfast, get to the field vehicle, and get driven to site by 6am. Then being there all day, in a cramped, uncomfortable office for 12 straight hours.
I often say the 12 hours wouldn’t have been a problem if I’d been busy, but it became apparent almost immediately that their “need” for me to be out there was taken care of in a matter of hours, or involved tasks I couldn’t complete without comms. (And that site had comms for maybe a solid hour for the entire day.)
The combination of sitting in that office, with a cramped back, completely isolated (being the only female on the site), having no tasks to do, and knowing I was there for 12 hours quickly became too much for me. I should probably note, there was no female toilet on site, and so any time I needed one, I had to ask someone else to drive me to a different site so that I could use their facilities. (By the way, it’s just awesome to have someone loudly ask, “Do you need the toilet?” in front of a group of men you barely know at work.)
After a few days, I was that miserable I got to the point where I was on the verge of tears all the time, I wasn’t talking, and I physically couldn’t eat. I was running on empty both emotionally and physically – I was homesick, my anxiety was spiking severely, and I felt this deep physical need to just escape.
I was warned it could cost me my job (and in fact, maybe it did a year later), but I really had to try and get out. Because I have anxiety, I try not to back out of things unless I need to. Forcing myself out of my comfort zones is the only way to take my anxiety head on. That said, I always give myself an allowance. If I need out, then I will get out if I can.
In this case, I needed out.
I approached the manager on site and told him (honestly) that there were, realistically, only a couple more tasks I could even attempt, and that I could have them done the next morning. I pointed out he needed some vehicles gone, and I could drive one back to the city (about a 7 hour drive). I don’t know if he knew there was more going on, or simply agreed with me, but he gave me permission and I went to bed in my depressing little camp room almost crying tears of relief and joy.
The next morning everything looked brighter. The reality of being able to leave hung just in front of me, just out of my reach, but I knew I’d be able to grab it soon. Sure enough, after a few hours of waiting around for vehicle checks, I was given permission to leave.
With no idea really where I was going, I drove out of the site, signed out, and hit the open dirt roads somewhere in outback Australia.
I felt like my soul was on fire. It was such a feeling of freedom, of ultimate relief, or release.
Unable to get the vehicle to pick up my phone’s music stream, I resorted to moving my way through various random and crackly country radio stations. A few hours in to the trip, I landed on a station that played Wildfire by Michael Martin Murphy.
It’s a song I’d heard, a song I knew, but never really paid attention. It never really clicked with me.
That day, though… That day it was like it was my own personal anthem, a song the station had played just for me. Every word, every surge of music, spoke to me about the freedom I’d just found, about the misery I’d left behind at the camp, and the happiness that lay out on the open road in front of me.
It’s not a moment I’ve ever forgotten, and Wildfire is still the song I find myself at when I need a reminder of freedoms, of general, unabashed wildness.
She comes down from Yellow Mountain
On a dark, flat land she rides
On a pony she named Wildfire
With a whirlwind by her side
On a cold Nebraska night
Oh, they say she died one winter
When there came a killing frost
And the pony she named Wildfire
Busted down it’s stall
In a blizzard she was lost
She ran calling Wildfire [x3]
By the dark of the moon I planted
But there came an early snow
There’s been a hoot-owl howling by my window now
For six nights in a row
She’s coming for me, I know
And on Wildfire we’re both gonna go
We’ll be riding Wildfire [x3]
On Wildfire we’re gonna ride
Gonna leave sodbustin’ behind
Get these hard times right on out of our minds
Music is the soundtrack to our lives, but how often do we miss a song that really talks to our soul if it’s not in the right moment? Is it pure serendipity when the right song comes on at the right time, or something more?
She ran calling Wildfire…
We’d gone to sleep throwing ideas back and forth, our excitement growing, dulled only by the exhaustion that beckoned us.
The ideas we exchanged were mostly lost to the night, our words becoming gradually more slurred and the suggestions more fanatical as we struggled to stay awake.
We slept more soundly than I can remember us sleeping since this whole thing started – the deep sleep of people who felt peaceful and craved energy to put a plan in motion the next day.