Rays of Hope: Chapter 35

Vaccinations are at hand. Could that mean we can see the light at the end of the tunnel? Remember back when the President said with no mitigation, we could have 400-500,000 deaths? We’re there now.

Here’s a link to the tool developed by professors at Georgia Tech. Maybe it will help you make the decision to stay home.

My state is #47 in vaccine distribution. I’m on the wait-list. Mom got her first shot.

I wonder how my real world experiences will impact my distopian world.

If you’re here for the first time, and you’re interested in starting at Chapter 1 of Rays of Hope, click here.

Chapter 35

The four of them pedal in silence. This time the pedal master doesn’t challenge Ray’s strength. Perhaps it’s because Marla, Trumble, and Taedan, plus Ray make up half his load. Perhaps he recognizes Ray’s previous tenacity. They pedal silently until, one by one, the other passengers disembark, on their own private missions. The Pedal-about is no slower or more difficult to navigate with half the manpower. Ray wonders about the pedal masters ability to discern who’s really pulling their weight.

At the end of the line, Trumble passes a small pouch to the medal master, places his open palm against his Outsider and makes a hushing noise. Taedan has already turned his bowed head toward their destination. The pedal master nods, pockets the pouch and reverses course.

Of course Ray knows where they’re going. The long walk to her mother’s home seems less long. That’s the way it always is when you know where you’re going, thinks Ray. As much as she tried to memorize what she saw when she was here, what seems like months ago, she questions her memory. Was that roof collapsed? Did that street buckle in the middle? She remembered the little house that Marla called a mailbox, but were there so many when they were here before?

Taedan stops at the end of the driveway to her mother’s home. He kneels and parts the tall fronds of dead grass at the edge.

“Home.” Taedan breathes and genuflects on one knee. He said it so quietly that Ray isn’t entirely sure it was a word or just his breath coming out in the kind of puff grown ups make when they bend deeply.

Ray kneels beside him, hoping to see what he sees. The grass yields to Taedan’s gloved fingers. I wonder if the grass feels the same way I do when Marla does that to me, thinks Ray. She can almost feel her aunt’s relentless hair tugging after a bath. Taedan pulls dead grass from between his fingers in much the same way Marla cleans the hairbrush. He sucks his tongue against his teeth and shakes his head.

“What are you looking for?” whispers Ray. She’s a bit afraid of interrupting Taedan’s thoughts. She bends at the waist and peers into the grass, hoping for a response.

“Signs of life.” He rakes his fingers through the grass again, this time deep enough to disturb the grey, caked soil at the base. Another tsking sound escapes. His Adam’s apple ascends and descends in a deep swallow.

“Any signs of mycelium?”

Taedan smiles and puts one arm around Ray, pulling her to her knees.

“You’re as smart as your mother.”

“At least.” Their heads touch over the grass roots. Taedan’s smile deepens into a chuckle and Ray’s eyes dance in her mother’s image.

Inside the house, Marla restarts the generator. She and Trumble set about preparing a dinner of bean sprouts, adding fresh greens from Taedan’s aqua garden along with a bit of cured bird meat. They dice the bird meat into unrecognizable bits in deference to Ray’s sensibility.

They linger over dinner making plans and telling stories about the old days before the dominoes fell. Ray has little time to ask questions, instead, jotting notes and questions into her journal, flipping pages back and crossing out now-answered questions.

“Tomorrow we head north,” says Taedan. “Based on my hypothesis and observations, we should see changes there.”

“How far must we go?” says Marla.

“We can get at least to the Milwaukee city limits,” says Taedan. “That’s as far as we can go, and have time to take samples and make observations, before we have to head back. It might not be safe to stay longer.”

Marla rolls her eyes up and to the right, then back to the left. She pulls her lips into a kiss and squints her eyes, as if studying a part of her own brain looking for answers to questions she doesn’t know how to ask.

“I hid a vehicle before the authorities came the night I fled,” says Taedan.

Ray’s heart leaps into her throat, Before judgement takes hold, he legs spring up and propel her to the door. She turns the handle just as Marla grabs her around the waist and pulls her into a v-shape. Night air rushes at Ray before Marla swings her around and butts the door shut.

Six adult eyes widen above gaping jaws before they scramble to don Outsiders. As Ray tightens her own Outsider and waits for the home air filter to equilibrate the room, she feels a memory wriggle from deep within her brain to the back of her eyes, ripple through her muscles and tickle her skin. She touches her cheeks where the night air kissed her and she searches for the name for what’s behind the halo in the night sky.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Is that the moon? I’m sure it is. What will they find in Milwaukee. I do believe they’ll see some hope.

I hope you are enjoying Ray’s journey.

Until next Friday, when we’ll both learn more.


Reading is like food for the soul. Writers like to eat biscuits, too.

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