Chapter 12: The First Sign
Note: It occurred to me, upon reaching this point of editing, that I have made no mention of cell phones or anything to this point. Dunno if I was thinking this consciously, but it seems obvious to me that the reality warping nature of the setting that they’d be useless bricks of plastic and metal. Is this something worth going back and adding a line or two to earlier chapters referencing this? Or is it something sufficiently implied thus far? Something to consider going forward…
It took a few hours before we finally found a break in the mountain valley’s walls. A brief search revealed a slowly winding route, barely more than a footpath, through the mountains. It was clearly not a well traveled road. Using what few landmarks I had at my disposal, I was able to ascertain that it was closely approximating the path we wished to follow.
We traveled for hours along that well worn path, hoping that each bend and every stone obscured the highway. As we walked further and further with no sign of humanity, I began to wonder. Maybe our fears were justified, back in that abandoned house. Maybe we had somehow fallen backwards in time. It seemed impossible, but no less impossible than anything else we had seen. Besides, anything seemed possible beneath that never setting sun.
As we walked, I watched the rotation of the sun and tried to gauge our traveling time. Roughly every cycle of the sun, so about every 4 hours, I would call for a halt. We would sit, relax, or even take a short nap; though we had grown paranoid enough that we never allowed ourselves to all sleep at once. Instead, when one would nap, the others would study the map and try to pinpoint our location or we would scout the surrounding area for any signs that we knew where we were.
Finally, after roughly five solar cycles, we found the Highway. It was small and cracked. It had not been well treated by the weather of decades, but it was clearly a highway. As previously agreed, we split up temporarily. Rick headed one way and Bobbi walked the other direction. I stayed behind, to watch our things. We had planned to walk for about ten minutes before returning. The mission? Find a sign, some sign, which could confirm which road this was and which way we should go.
Time passed. I tried to count out the time, but I was distracted by the thought of being so close to civilization yet still so far. Finally, I saw Rick returning. With a glance at the sun, I guessed it had been almost half an hour. He waved as he neared, and began speaking as soon as he was within earshot. “Not that way! Seems to be heading the wrong way. Only saw two signs. One said this was Highway 36 and the other said that Boulder was up this way.”
I nodded in response and glanced down the road after Bobbi. Why hadn’t she returned yet? Time was tough to judge accurately out here, so she may simply have lost track of time. We waited there for another few minutes and still no sign of our missing companion. Finally, I huffed and looked at Rick. “C’mon, let’s go. We’ll find her eventually unless she left the road or something…”