I stood up a little straighter. The sound of the gate closing behind me cut the final leash that had held me in check, and I felt the weight of my heart ease a little. For the first time in a long while I could breathe easy. I was alone, and glad of it.
I was scared, but determined.
The early morning light was muted, and a light, cool wind moved the desert sand in small waves around the cacti and scrub plants. The heat of the day was yet to come, and there seemed to be an anticipation in the air, as if the world had been waiting for me.
Which way to go? I did not want to walk forward into the desert, where nothing but sand could be found. That way lay death, I knew, even if there was a town on the other side. To the right of me, off in the distance, stood a forest, a green blur on the horizon. A mystery--no one I knew had ever been to the forest. It was an unknown. To the left, tall mountains, their tops covered in white. If I headed into the mountains, I knew there would be water. Rivers
flowed from the mountains, my mother had said. Animals would come to
the river to drink, and I could eat them for food.
I looked in both directions again. As I turn to to the right, something bright caught my eye. Something shiny? I had always imagined a forest to be dark, the trees preventing sunlight from entering. What could that light be? I hesitated. I wasn't used to making my own decisions; I wanted to be sure.
But what was sure and true appeared to be more fluid than I had ever known. Maybe I would have to settle for good enough, since I had no one to rely on but myself.
The forest beckoned, at least five days away by horse, skirting the fringes of the desert. I had no idea how long it would take me to walk. Water would not be as sure, but berries and other plants would be plenty. The bright light in the distance shined again, like a mirror catching the light, and I was a moth.
I started walking.