Previous Chapter: She raised an eyebrow, "Nothing's wrong? In fact, quite the opposite. It turns out there’s a halted train not too far from here, and it was filled with canned food! It should last us quite a while!”
"Oh, honey, that's great! That solves one of our problems since our trip was a complete waste!" George said.
"Not a complete one... we now know to what extent humans will take things," Erik stated.
"... what is he talking about?" Sara asked, confused about what she missed.
Somewhere in Southern Georgia
Saturday, September 29, 2018
Noon - Apocalypse Week 1
The air sat still, not even a small gust could break Ariel’s concentration. She took a deep breath, pulled her arm back slow and steadily, and focused on the tree. Her arm locked in position just as Lincoln had taught her. The arrow loosed, whizzing across the sky, and hit the tree.
"Well done... You finally hit the tree!" Lincoln applauded sarcastically.
"Hey, it's better than the last two days where I would most of the time miss completely! Besides, this means that I'm getting better with the bow," Ariel responded.
"Touché... Shoot again. This time keep your anchor point at your chin and your elbow a little higher," Logan ordered. Ariel did just that, her form becoming more and more reformed each day, and as she did as told and the arrow loosed, it hit directly in the center of the tree. A bullseye.
"Yes! Right in the center!" Ariel smiled.
"Keep that up, and you might be a master bowman."
"Thank you, Lincoln... for so much. Over the last few days, I’ve been training non-stop, and we're getting closer and closer to Savannah."
"I told you I was worth it, also speaking of; your friends Mikael and Tonya? We might want to start training them. You’re going to need companions in battle."
"I will. Speaking of the devil..." Ariel drifted, Mikael and Tonya walked up to them through the campsite. "Hey, guys, what's up!".
"Well, we have some reports to give you," Mikael stated and then looked at Tonya. "First off, we've made great time since Forsyth and should make it to Mikael’s family farm in two to three days."
"Great, what about food and medicine?"
Tonya stepped in and read from her list, "Well... food-wise, we still have an excess amount of food, and it should last us for a month or two. The makeshift weapons we made are ready, but I hope we never have to use them. Also, I see that the bow is now your forte," Tonya heard Ariel smirk before she continued. "Everything is good so far and nothing but smooth sailing ahead."
"Great, thank you... Now, can I please get back to training with Ariel," Lincoln said, annoyed.
"Well, actually, I have to speak to her... like now," Tonya stated, grabbing Ariel by the arm and dragged her away from the site.
"What's wrong with you?" Ariel asked.
"Nothing, I just wanted to know what are we going to do when we get to Mikael’s farm?" Tonya asked. "What's our plan?"
"Well, obviously, we'd have to settle there and find a way to live, but after that, I don't have any idea yet, Tonya. It’s the only place we’ve got,"
Tonya sat there contemplating their situation, "That makes sense, but we don't know the condition of the farm or if it’s even hospitable. It's been a week. Who knows what could have happened in that amount of time."
"Either way, we are going there, and we will make a plan as soon as we get there, and that's that," Ariel said, going back to her training spot releasing an arrow into the tree. Nowhere near the mark, but the action made its statement.
The group was finally back on the road to Mikael’s farm. Ariel sat with Mikael on horseback for the group’s last few days on the road to their new home.
‘There's nothing in our way now,’ Ariel thought.
"Ariel, I just wanna say thank you," Mikael sympathized. "For everything. You've brought everyone together before this, and you still were here for us after it. You've done a lot for us ever since I met you,"
"It’s nothing, Mikael. You're just as important as I am, and you've done so much for me. You're the best thing that has happened to this group and me," Ariel smiled.
Mikael held the reins tight and glanced back at Ariel as she looked at their destination in hope, ‘You're so very important to me, and I will not let anything happen to you, I promise,’ Mikael thought.
"... What's that? Is that a bus?" Ariel asked, squinting her eyes to see further in the distance. A bright yellow school bus was on the horizon. "Why is there a school bus in the middle of the highway?"
"Who knows? It's probably abandoned, so it doesn't matter at this point, does it?" Mikael guessed.
"There were children in there on the middle of the highway. Oh, please, we have to make sure that there’s no one in there," Ariel pleaded out of curiosity, then she heard faint screams in the direction of the school bus. "There's someone in there..."
"What? You're hallucinating, Ariel," Mikael chuckled. "It's been how long, a week so far? They have to be long gone by now,"
"I know what I heard. We have to go check it out. There could be children in there..."
"We don't know that," Mikael rebutted. "It might be a trap or something."
"It's been a week! We need to go check it out. What if someone is hurt!" Ariel said as she grabbed her bow, jumped off the horse, and jogged for the bus. Mikael right on her trail. ‘Please, let the kids be okay,’ Ariel hoped.
Ariel & Mikael reared behind the tattered and weathered bus. Ariel heard kids shushing one another, rustling, and shaking. Her hand pushed the double doors open and slowly started walking up the bus steps. The sound of sniffling children broke the silence in the bus. "Hello, is there anyone in here?" Ariel asked.
"I'm not here to hurt you. In fact, I want to help. You guys have probably been needing food and medicine, huh? It's dark and cold at night too. We have some blankets if you need any," Ariel rambled, waiting for anyone to reply. Suddenly, a young boy with bright beady green eyes and dried tears on his face ran up towards her, almost falling, and pleaded, "Please help us! We're hungry, and it's scary out there!" His dark red and white uniform was dirty from sleeping in it for so long.
Mikael walked in front of Ariel and got down on one knee to the child's height, "Shhh, It's going to be alright, kid. Don't worry; you're alright. We’ve got you." Mikael grabbed and hugged him. The child sobbed and held tightly onto the back of Mikael.
"Who are you guys, and where did you come from!" Another kid said and stood up shaking in fear, looking ready to attack at any time. The girl's height was much bigger than the rest of them and seemed to be around the age of a late junior high student. She had long blonde hair that reached her back and bright blue eyes that contrasted the school's outfit. "How can we trust you? You’re adult strangers that came out of nowhere!? You could be a raider!"
"You’re just going to have to trust us, young lady. We came from Atlanta. Been on the road since the world stopped making sense," Ariel said softly. "And you have an amazing imagination, but no, we're not 'raiders.’ I think those fantasy books have got you confused."
"... Where are the adults that supervise your trip, anyway?" Mikael asked, looking around but only to see frightened children.
"They abandoned us... left for a nearby town two days ago," The older girl said, "I was told to give this to any adult that came by if they hadn't returned in time," The older girl walked up towards them hesitantly and eyed the strangers' gear.
Ariel took the piece of torn-up-and-taped-back-together blue sticky note; it read: Dear whoever is reading this, I am the school teacher/supervisor of these lovely students of Artemis Learning Academy. I have left them to find help and safety for the night in a nearby town. If I am not back by the time you have read this, please take good care of them. They are good children and are kind at heart. ~Ms.Henry.
"How many of you are there?" Mikael said as he strained his neck, looking around the bus.
"Thirty-five... to be exact," The girl said and then commanded. "You guys can stand up now; they’re safe. They won't hurt us."
After the girl said that, a range of small and adorable faces popped up from behind the chairs slowly. Mikael whistled out of amazement, "That sure is a lot of children. Do you think we can take all of 'em?"
"Of course we can! They're just children. We have to, "Ariel stated. "Don't listen to him! Come on, kids. We have food in our bags!". That had a couple of children smile at the thought of food, and some even drooled. One by one, the kids began to walk towards the horses and people in the slow, agonizing wait for a good meal. ‘Sweet little children... The things they had to go through,’ Ariel thought.
"Thank you for coming here. You saved our lives. I don't think we would've survived out here another day," The older girl said to them, her face reaching a breaking point, trying to resist the urge to cry.
Ariel smiled with delight, "We were doing our duty as adults and any type of good thinking citizen during these times. Um, before you go off and eat. What do you know so far about this predicament?"
"Well, I guess since you guys don't look so hot either, not a lot. I was asleep after a long day in Savannah. We were learning about its history and its importance, blah blah blah. Great stuff if you're not a student. On our way home, all of my friends said that everything was normal and nothing weird happened. Their phones turned off and everything else. At night we could see space. It was weird, especially since we're all from the metro area. We've been stuck here ever since and with no help until you guys came along. Do you know what happened? You said you were from Atlanta."
Ariel didn't want to break her sweet innocence, not yet, "We don't know for sure, but it seems just like you said. Nothing's working.”
"Oh really!? Is it that bad!? Oh no, my ma! I hope she's okay!" The girl choked.
"She most likely is. But, as of right now. I don't think you can reach her," Ariel sympathized. The girl teared up and opened the pendant on her neck showing a picture of her and her mother.
"We'll find her one day, but today we have to get you to safety, alright?" Ariel asked. The girl nodded and began to walk off sadly.
"By the way, my name's Laurel but, my friends call me Lau. It's a long story." Lau half-heartedly smiled before she walked towards the others.
"Well, nice to meet you, Lau," Ariel smiled as she walked with the rest of her group.
"Well, they're a nice addition to an already expanding group," Mikael whistled.
"Yea, they are. When we are traveling, they won't see us as a threat at first sight. Understandably more so since we have children with us now."
"That is right," Mikael said, thinking about what that may mean for them now.