Tree Running

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1. Memory Remains

Soft little feet padded down the gravel road. Specks of dust churned up in their path only to lazily land on discarded rubble. A small drop of blood flew up with the dust, silently splashing to the ground. The child's feet paused in their movement but soon continued on; ignoring the gradually increasing pain.

The little feet reached the base of a steep, unnatural mound; and without the slightest hesitation, began the acent. More than once the feet slipped and brought their owner crashing down. But still, they did not give up. When the incline grew too great for the aching feet to cope, two little hands pitched in to help. One little foot after another, palm after palm, the young child kept climbing; determined to reach the top.

A shaky little finger felt the path above level out and the little child looked up. Grey eyes filled with hope as the child dragged herself over the edge of the mound. What lay beyond made mockery of what she had so desperately grasped on to. The child teetered on the edge before plunging head first into the trench of utter destruction below of what she had once called home.

.:-:.

The scene faded from Zath's eyes as she blinked awake. Lifting her weary head, she rolled out of bed and thumped onto the floor. A loud groan escaped her lips. She rubbed her eyes and rising on two wobbly legs, stumbled out of her small makeshift home.

The bright rays of the morning sun shone down on her pale skin giving it an eery, sickly colour. Zath shivered in the cold morning air and strode out into the sunlight, soaking up every drop of warmth she could. Now that the sun had risen, the landscape was doused in her bright, happy light.

Zath scanned the land before her and released a regretful sigh. There was nothing worth seeing out there. As far as the eye could see, mound upon mound of dirt and debris, scattered like splashes of off-colour paint on an old canvas. All sorts of insects buzzed around in the increasing heat, searching for food amongst the lifeless heaps.

"I should have left long ago." Zath whispered, half to herself, half towards the empty expanse of the sky. 

"But your still here, and you've survived." The reply came from the north as a young man picked his way across the rubble, scattered across the terrain. He paused and bent down, fingers diving deep into the crevasse of a rock and returning with a small golden ring. "I mean," the man continued in both speaking and walking, "if you had gone ahead of me, you would've died or gotten lost or sold like many of the other children. But you didn't." He looked up and smiled, "Good choice."

Zath frowned as he ducked under the torn sheet which had now become their roof. The man shrugged his ragged pack off his back and stretched.

"What is it now?" He bobbed down to a crouch to match Zath's height. 

"Rex," She paused, averting her eyes from his, "I had one of those dreams again." Rex stood up and slowly walked over to the corner of their meager home, falling back on his bed. He beaconed her over.

"What did you dream this time?"

Zath fidgeted, opening and closing her mouth a few times before finding the voice to speak, "I was the little girl again, running away from something ... I don't know what it was, but I was scared to death. I came to this really high hill, but somehow knew it wasn't a natural hill. Like I knew what the area around there looked like before. So I ran up the hill and saw ... " Zath gulped and rubbed her hands together. Rex lifted his head and eyed her.

"If you don't want to say it, you don't have to." He propped himself up on his elbow and placed his other hand on her head, flattening her black, unwashed hair. "I know it must have be horrible scene. You don't have to tell me, I know." Zath looked up, her small grey eyes, wide with fear searching for hope in his.

Rex sighed and sat up. He patted the bed next to him, and Zath hopped up, still watching Rex with her wide eyes.

"Does any part of this dream, remind you of anything?" He asked, facing forward. Zath followed his gaze and nodded. 

"The landscape was the same as out there. All the broken buildings and dust. But it smelt different ... like the whole world was dead. And there wasn't even a sound besides my breathing and such. It was, just so quiet"

"So, could it be a memory?" Rex fingered the ring he'd picked up before. The turquoise gem reflected the few sun rays that pierced their thin roofing, and shone triangles of colour across the room. Zath drank in every splash of blue and green and shook her head.

"I don't remember any of it as a memory." Then she paused, "In fact ... I don't think I can remember anything from when I was that young." Her head shot towards Rex's, "Rex?" her voice quivered, "What does this mean? Why can't I remember anything?!" Her voice squeaked at the last phrase. Rex ripped his eyes away from the gem-ed ring in his palm and stared straight into Zath's eyes. But his gaze wandered down towards her left hand. 

Her entire palm was covered in pitch black, the disease was growing. "Black Fire." Rex mumbled under his breath. He stood up and left the dusty bed to step out into the glaring sun. He growled at himself and made a fist around the ring. In one big mighty swing, hurled his clenched fist away, opening his hand just in time to release the golden ring. He relaxed and watched in silence as the ring flew into the sun and disappear in the light. 

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