Flight by Susan Vittitow Mark

Response to Writing Prompt Ninety-Seven: A kayak, a tent, an endless horizon and yet...

Flight

A kayak, a tent, an endless horizon, and yet the tall towers of the city shimmered before Laura's eyes where there should have only been the endless waves of the Pacific. Whispering pines were drowned out by honking taxicabs and the shouts of street vendors. The sand under her feet grew hard and hot like the asphalt of summer. She spat out the taste of diesel fumes, sour garbage, and stale urine. The scent clung to her hair.

She blinked and it all vanished. The forest lay unbroken behind her. A cool breeze blew from the sea. Waves lapped gently over her feet where she'd stripped off her boots and dug her toes into the welcoming sand.

If she had to remember the city, better to remember it as it was when it was alive rather than how she left it. Better not to remember the screams of the dying, the stench of corpses. 

A seagull landed near her, cocked one eye. She laughed. “Got nothin' for you.” Her stores were little enough for the long days of paddling and not enough to share with a garbage eating bird.

Dinosaurs. Birds were damn dinosaurs, or what was left of them. Scientists had looked at the DNA or something and discovered T-Rex's great-grandbabies were in the fried chicken buckets at the company picnic. They ruled the world once. So did humans. Once. What will be left of us? she thought.

“You heading up north, too?” The seagull turned its head. “If you are, can you take a message to Chris for me? Tell him to stay safe, stay put. I'll get there somehow.”

The black eye stared at her as if some ancient intelligence lurked there. The bird flapped its wings twice, took off and soared straight north. Look for the cabin, she thought, as if her mind could reach the bird's. It's along the Oregon coast. He's there. Tell him to stay there. Tell him he shouldn't try to find me.

She watched as the seagull became a tiny dot and then vanished. I must be cracking up, talking to birds. She sighed, stretched her aching arms. At that moment she would have killed for an ibuprofen, a cup of coffee, and a roll of toilet paper. Those things would all be in the past now. Maybe she and Chris would tell their grandchildren how it once was. If she could find him. If he hadn't gotten it into his fool head to come find her in the burning city.

Laura sat and laced her boots. She broke down the tent, stashed it in the kayak with the last of the food and the water purifier. She pushed off from shore and willed tired arms to paddle. She turned north and followed the seagull.

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Susan Vittitow Mark co-blogs Writing Wyoming with Lynn G. Carlson.