Nov 19

Keep On

I walk, silent, my fingers sliding across the moist bark, knuckles brushing soft moss, the pads of my feet just barely making a sound against the leaves blown across the ground.

My back aches. My knees creak.

I keep on.

They’re around here somewhere. Don’t fret. A voice in the back of my mind whispers, grating at my temples.

I keep on.

Or, maybe, you were lost for a reason.

I freeze, panting with something that isn’t exertion, my spine ridgid beneath my tunic. I manage to get my breathing under control with a few quick inhales, but my chest is burning, my head pounding. No. That can’t be true. Please, don’t let it be true. Please.

I keep on.

The midnight crowns the trees bare don’t really cover the quicksilver swathes of moonlight dripping through the bending bows, a frigid gust of wind making my toes curl in my boots. The howl of a wolf sounds, just a mile away. My chest is a tingling mass of terrified sensations.

I keep on.

A deer darts past. My fingers absently reach up to grasp my arrows, the last of them bouncing in their quiver. The deer just goes on, too fast for my exhausted limbs.

I keep on.

The brook is cool and crisping sweet when my lips close around the water, my palms cupped as I take small sips, caution reminding me that too much too fast does nothing for the starving man. The wind brays; the rustle of leaves underfoot deafening in the silence of the dormant forest.

I stand up, run my hands over my bow and arrows, grounding myself in the fact that they are there, ready and willing to keep alive, if the need arises. I breathe in, breathe out. Push the hair back from my face from where it had fallen out of my braid, whisper-gentle, still breathing.

I keep on.

Two days later, I’m running solely on water and the simple, tasteless berries I had stashed in a satchel at my hip. I haven’t opened my mouth to speak for anyone for what seems like millenia. I haven’t slept, and my eyes are heavier than the iron sword I left behind. My boots are spider-weaved thin. My hair is matted with filth.

I keep on.

I wake in the middle of a clearing, starlight illuminating the plains of my thighs. I don’t know how or when I got there, and my heart trembles in my chest. I push myself up onto my hands and knees, but I’m too weak. My arms give out, and I fall to the ground. There is nothing else to do except for closing my eyes.

In the only way I can, I keep on.

I’ve lost count of the days I’ve been out here. My food supply is nonexistent; my nails bitten to the quick. My wrists, when I look, are so thin I fear breakage every time they twist, the tendons straining out of the skin, pushing against what used to be muscle, now bone.

My eyes are streaked over with grime, blurring my vision.

I keep on.

The sliver of light at the edge of the glade is my saving grace, answering every plea and whispered prayer, the answer to my unspoken question, the path to asking it, madness lying. Will I make it?

I can see a rush of people, streaming towards me like the sunlight I have only recently been able to see. My knees give out, and as I fall, my eyes slip closed.

Around me, the forest keeps on. 
About the Author: infinitelyinfinite3
Brown person, LGBTQIA+ member, overthinker, and book and music lover. I am not afraid of the Oxford comma. You shouldn't be, either.