Flash Fiction: Outside the Walls (274 words)

Tanna had been awake so long, exhaustion no longer weighed on her. A few hours ago, she had been made of lead, tripping over stones that barely poked above the dirt road, shoulders aching, skull pressing down too hard on the column of her neck. Now, she wasn’t sure she owned bones, or if something had hollowed her out. She too light. Unsteady. Her hands shook in the breeze of her own pulse.

The wagons rumble behind her. The horses beat the ground in front of her. The rest of them walked the wide road, safe between them. Tanna glanced at the boy beside her, a little older and a little thinner. She listened to the others’ trudging footsteps, and considered looking at them as well.

Yesterday, they had all been strangers. Today, they were still strangers, and most of them were lost, following the two or three riders who had taken this road before. But the dirt taste in her mouth was growing familiar.

This was not how she imagined running would feel. But no one could call it crawling.

“Do you think we’ll ever go back?” someone behind her asked.

She didn’t look over her shoulder. No one else did either. They all held their silence, and it was easy, weighted comfortably with the answers they all knew.

Just to be sure, Tanna formed the word on her tongue, clear and clipped: “No.”

Then, for the next thousand steps, she wondered if there was a word for this sort of lost – not knowing where she was, not caring where she was, certain that she had escaped where she didn’t want to be.

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