I had never been so thirsty in my life. Sure, I had a backpack full of peanut butter and water bottles, but I couldn’t bring myself to open any of them. I would need them later. I shouldn’t drink them. If I drank them now, I’d regret it later. Over and over again like a 6 second video. Don’t drink them, you’ll need them later.
I would only take a drink when I couldn’t go any further without one, and as thirsty as I was, I hadn’t reached that. I knew I had a few more miles in me before that.
I hardly felt my legs anymore. I thought walking the perimeter on patrol was hard before? The amount of miles I had walked today made that look like crossing the front yard. I would have to stop eventually and rest, but I was afraid that if I sat down, I wouldn’t be able to get back up. And that was not an option.
When I wasn’t telling myself to hold off a second longer on the water, I was thinking about Mom and before I knew it, I saw her in front of me. Not her whole body or anything. I wasn’t crazy. Just her face imprinted so strongly in my optical memory that I saw her there in front of me, felt her there, in every way except the most literal sight, telling me to go east and live.
I had to live. I had to live. I had to carry on the name of Countersink, I had to move forward as the last member of our family. I had to kill Ashby. I had to go east. But first, I had to live.
I stopped and took off my backpack. I pulled up the Velcro and pulled out a bottle of water. I’d just drink a little bit, and then I’d be on my way again. I’d always be on my way.
Texas is a bigger state than you would think and there’s no better way to nail that fact into your head than by trying to cross it by foot. The scary thing is that Ashby’s house wasn’t even in western Texas, it was in Dallas. That’s like the middle of Texas or something. It had taken me a week of walking and half my peanut butter just to cross half of it. I had just started entertaining the notion that Texas would never end when I saw the “You Are Now Leaving Texas: Come Back Soon!” sign.
At this rate, I wasn’t sure how far east I would be able to go. The US was bigger than I thought it would be. And hot. It was very hot. I spent most of my energy sweating out all the tentative sips of water I had taken. If that wasn’t bad enough, I was getting sick. Probably sunstroke.
I was beginning to lose hope. I wanted to stop somewhere and call it east, but I didn’t know what would be east enough. Was Arkansas east enough? I sure hoped so.
As much as I wanted to stop in Arkansas and call it good enough, I couldn’t. It was only one state over from Texas. That was practically next door to Ashby. If Ashby caught me, my mom would have died for nothing.
I kept walking. I ran out of water and peanut butter. I filled my water bottles in a creek I crossed.
Just a mile or two over the Mississippi state line I saw a shed in a rocky, grassy expanse. The field looked like it used to have crops and the shed used to be a house for seasonal workers. But by the look of the land, there hadn’t been crops for decades and no one had entered the shack for just as long.
I approached it cautiously, or as cautiously as I could in my sickened, hungry, ultra-exhausted state. I peered in the broken out window. It looked empty.
I tried the door but it was locked. No problem. I took off my backpack and used it to break off the glass shards still stuck to the window. Then I tipped it inside and climbed in.
The house was so much cooler than it was outside. It was cool enough for plants to grow in the corners and on the walls. I peeled off the sweatshirt I had been wearing to keep the sun off my head and tossed it onto my backpack.
I drank some water and then set to making myself a bed on the table. I knew better than to sleep on the floor of a cool dark place in the south. I only vaguely knew how to treat a poisonous snake bite and I didn’t want to test it.
As I went to sleep, I didn’t think about how to get food the next morning or whenever I would wake up. Instead, I thought about what I would do to Ashby and how I would do it. I also thought about Mom; the realization that I would never see her again began to suffocate me. I let it drown me.
A/N: Is it possible to cross a state and a half on foot with a backpack full of water and peanut butter? Probably best not to try this at home.
Who is Ashby? He’s who you know as Mr. Sato from the prologue. I did some major outlining for Countersink and decided I had a better role for Mr. Koichi Sato. So Ashby gets to kill Luis’ mom instead.