The Medicine Girl - The Second Day

Submitted into Contest #99 in response to: Write a story about characters going on a summer road trip.... view prompt

54 comments

Adventure Teens & Young Adult Speculative

The Kingdom of Georgia’s oppressive heat made stripping stiffened corpses all the more difficult. However, most of the dead men’s blood had pooled in their lower extremities, making any necessary cutting much easier. At least these carcasses aren’t bloated yet, the Medicine Girl thought. She would never get used to the feel of skin slippage and the smell of purge fluid. She made quick work of looting anything of value, expertly sizing up a dead body close at hand before moving on to the next. A new pair of oversized black boots hung over her shoulder, tied together by thick laces. 

The gleaners had been there earlier, as she watched from the woods outside of Attapulgus, before the militias ran them off, catching very few. It was a capital crime to pilfer from the dead; extrajudicial sentencing was summary and swift. Executions were painful and gory, loudly celebrated on the scrapping fields by a militia’s distinct call-and-response chant, punctuated by battle cries. Deep into the night, the Medicine Girl could hear them, making the hairs on her arms prickle. 

The remaining citizenry minded their own business as most things were capital crimes. Especially being an escapee from the free range penal colony of Florida. Especially a girl with a bounty on her head, offered by her father who’d survived her poisoning attempt, although paralyzed on one side. The Medicine Girl kept powdered black cherry leaves on her person just in case she was captured. She had heard too many stories, witnessed too many things. She was prepared to die in as little pain as possible, since her father knew all the ways to prolong it. 

She needed to get to the Republic of Crimson Tide as quickly as possible. 

🜋 🜋 🜋

Long before being betrayed by her father, the Medicine Girl’s mother had taught her all she knew about life and death, how the body knows what to do as either one approaches, how a tea or a broth or a piece of bark can aid the body to do what it needs to do. All we can do is prevent suffering, her mother said, whether helping a Floridian warlord’s wretch give birth or hastening the death of an old one, the ones who still talked about electricity. 

Always find ways to help someone out of misery, her mother advised, showing the Medicine Girl how to cull seedlings and extract oils with her deft hands. The Medicine Girl needed to be shown only once before becoming proficient at a task. She learned quickly mainly to garner one of her mother’s rare smiles.

🜋 🜋 🜋

The Medicine Girl still had her mind set on walking to the State of United Dakota. It was 1500 colony-miles from her father’s lair in Tallahassee, meaning a month-long walk, cutting up the midsection of the United Authority, critically weakened by local militias. Especially the Militia of the White Crosses.

Walking eased her mind, especially when the summer nights cooled a bit, enlivening her senses. She disappeared, as nimble as a spright, quickly into trees and bushes and rock formations when others appeared. 

Generally, militias were easy to spot from afar with their young men leading and little boys following close behind, pulling handcarts full of weapons and provisions. The older men brought up the rear, calling out commands and making raucous remarks. 

Watching the procession, the Medicine Girl thought of her dead maternal grandfather who had studied history, back when those things mattered. He had talked of endless war—wars and rumors of wars—and the old lie: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country. The Medicine Girl had seen enough of death to know it was neither. 

Sometimes when one of the older militia members walked off the trail to relieve himself, the Medicine Girl would use twenty colony-inches of fishing line to garrote him. It was quick and silent. She’d count to fifty in Latin, like her grandfather taught her, until the man’s eyes bulged out and his loins loosened. She’d count to fifty again just to make sure. Nihil. Ūnus. Duo. Trēs. She purloined a leather satchel, several knives, and a small machete that way. Even a pistol with two bullets. Even her father did not possess a gun. 

As the sun set, she stopped to study her hand drawn map on a piece of corrugated cardboard. Perhaps she could skirt Lake Seminole and head north on the Eight Four to Dothan? 

She rearranged the items in her satchel, retrieving a strip of dried squirrel she had taken off one of the militia men, chewing thoughtfully as she journeyed on. 

🜋 🜋 🜋

Another Georgian field covered in bodies, gore, death. With a practiced eye, she saw that the gleaners had left precious little. As was her custom, she waited, observing the abandoned area, far and wide. It was quiet, especially in the years since all of the frogs had died. 

As dusk fell, she heard a low moaning by the perimeter, just at the edge of the clearing. She lowered herself to the ground, making her way through the overgrown wasteland. After waiting a considerable time until she was sure there was no danger, she stopped, peering over the landscape. 

A small movement came from the same direction near the despairing sounds of a person in great pain.

It was a young man, dressed in the robes of the Militia of the White Crosses. He laid on his back, right leg hopelessly impaled by a crude weapon made of rebar. Somehow the boy managed to tie a tourniquet around his upper thigh to stanch the bleeding. She cautiously approached him.

“Drink this,” the Medicine Girl said, holding out her flask of water and crushed mint. He took it, draining it entirely.

“Thank you,” he replied, handing the flask back to her. He laid back down, exhausted by the effort. 

“Your leg is putrefying. It needs to come off,” she stated matter-of-factly. 

“Can you do it?”

“I need flint.”

He reached into his shirt pocket, retrieved a flint stone, and threw it to the Medicine Girl who caught it with one hand. She gave him the remaining squirrel jerky and watched him eat it far too quickly. 

She busied herself by making a small fire, sterilizing her knives, extinguishing it quickly when the job was done. She laid out her tools and made rags from a dead man’s shirt. She handed the young man a thick stick to bite on while she worked.

“I don’t need it,” he said, looking her full in the face. 

The Medicine Girl shrugged and began. 

🜋 🜋 🜋

He jolted awake, grabbing her by the throat. When he realized it was the girl nursing him, he released his grip and melted back to the ground in a pool of sweat.

“You passed out,” she reported.

“Did I cry out?”

“You were as silent as these others,” the Medicine Girl said, motioning to the dead all about them. She silently ate the wild raspberries that she’d found by the lake. 

“Thank you,” he said. She responded by giving him a handful of the tiny fruit.

“Do you have people to care for you?”

“I belong to the Militia of the White Crosses.” 

“Will they come to collect you?” she said, looking around, fully on guard now. 

“Yes,” he said, reaching out to touch her arm. “But I carry a Universal Pass. Take it with you. You will be given passage in any part of the United Authority,” he said reassuringly, reaching deep into his pants pocket. 

He felt nothing. Panicking, he began to frantically feel his other pockets. He looked up in time to see the Medicine Girl’s small smile. 

“Travel well,” he said.

As she started to leave, he looked down to see a new black boot on his remaining foot, perfectly laced into a bow. 


June 18, 2021 23:19

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54 comments

22:11 Jun 22, 2021

I love this series so far! Great work, compelling characters.

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Deidra Lovegren
22:57 Jun 22, 2021

Wooo hoo! Thanks for the compliment. Jet fuel for the writer's soul :)

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Ruth Smith
05:03 Jun 22, 2021

I really liked this second installment. I hope you can continue the story.

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Deidra Lovegren
08:03 Jun 22, 2021

Thanks, Ruth! Very fun to write!!

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Beth Connor
22:44 Jun 21, 2021

I'm loving Medicine Girl, she seems to live in between light and dark- and is strong as heck! I will add my voice to the chorus of "please write more about her!"

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Deidra Lovegren
23:10 Jun 21, 2021

I think we'll make her in a novel. There's a lot there to play with. I'm working on "The End of Days" now with my crazy religious serial killer kid.

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16:37 Jun 21, 2021

The plot thickens! Again, no critiques. This was amazing (as always). The Medicine Girl seems to flow through life, choosing to care for some and disregard others. The fact that she handed over that one boot at the end...that says a lot about her. She's the kind of person that I'd want to be friends with--if only because I certainly wouldn't want to be her enemy (but of course I would want to be her friend!). Please write more of these. Please! I want to know if the Medicine Girl ever makes it to the State of United Dakota!

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Deidra Lovegren
16:39 Jun 21, 2021

I'm thinking she just met her love interest. She'll probably have to rescue him again and again.

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16:45 Jun 21, 2021

I can't wait! :)

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Kimber Harps
15:20 Jun 21, 2021

Oh my gosh! and I thought the first "Cold war" couldn't be topped!! This was fantastic! You really need to make this into a book....and send me the first copy ;P Please continue writing about the medicine girl!

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Deidra Lovegren
15:31 Jun 21, 2021

I'm thinking that's a good direction to go. I was writing "The End of Days" since the creepy religious serial killer kid Malachi was so fun to write. However, I'm getting awfully fond of our Medicine Girl.

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Kimber Harps
16:55 Jun 21, 2021

Both sound like they would make great books and I'm sure with your talent they one day will! I hope that you're planning on keeping the man at the end of this in your next few stories cause although he was only in for a little while I thought he was pretty cool. :)

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Deidra Lovegren
17:01 Jun 21, 2021

He'll be the love interest for sure. We love who we serve.

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Kimber Harps
21:12 Jun 21, 2021

Can't wait! :D:D:D:D:D

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Phil Manders
11:19 Jun 21, 2021

Is there no end to your talents?? Maybe it’s time for you to quit the day job and focus on a novel. Seriously good.

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Deidra Lovegren
12:51 Jun 21, 2021

O to have the time and space. You know any little British cottages an American can hole up in and shut out the world?

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Rayhan Hidayat
09:16 Jun 21, 2021

It's a sin not to read this series from the beginning. I love this. It gets better and better. The bow bootlace tie is a callback to the previous story, isn't it? Or maybe I'm just imagining things. I really want to see where this goes, what colorful characters she'll meet along the way, whether her pursuers will catch up to her. I want to see her square off against a big bad militia leader, Walking Dead-style, and win in style. Would 100% pick this up if it were a novel. Eyes peeled for the next one, don't slow down Deidra! :)

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Deidra Lovegren
21:42 Jun 26, 2021

Rayhan, your encouragement is like flint (necessary) and wild raspberries (refreshing) in my dystopian hellscape. Perhaps I’ve lived into Florida too long — but none of this seems implausible in the short term. Canned goods and shotguns for all 😜

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Rayhan Hidayat
21:48 Jun 26, 2021

I’m not American but it seems a Florida man pops up in the news every now and then after doing something drastic 🤔

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Deidra Lovegren
21:51 Jun 26, 2021

If by “drastic” you mean incredibly selfish and stupid, then ✅

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01:00 Jun 21, 2021

:0 two days late! a sin indeed... hope this comment makes up for it! i loved this part two! your sequels are always fantabulous. it was just so wistful and ribboned with cricket-song and ~ m a g i c . ~ can't explain it, but i know it's great :) critique time! mainly the minor, nitpicky grammatical errors... yours truly can't resist being a member of the grammar police. put'cha hands up! when it says, "at least these carcasses aren’t bloated yet, the medicine girl thought. she would never get used to the feel of skin slippage and the smell o...

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Deidra Lovegren
21:38 Jun 26, 2021

Thank you Dr. Mengel — you are amazing with the feedback. I’m traveling so I’ll make your comments to my personal copy. I appreciate you and your zest for life so much 😎🤩🥳

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I loved all the detail in the story! But..why did you have to kill the frogs?

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Deidra Lovegren
00:52 Jun 21, 2021

Frogs 🐸 RIPbit

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Biyoni Malwatta
14:53 Jun 20, 2021

your stories are simply awesome.. I love to read those..

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Deidra Lovegren
17:07 Jun 20, 2021

I love that you read them. :) Thanks for all the good wishes.

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Biyoni Malwatta
16:49 Jun 21, 2021

u are most welcome... for sure, I'll be reading your stories.. hoping some more & more from you..

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H L Mc Quaid
10:23 Jun 20, 2021

Why did you have to kill all the frogs?? 🐸 Great sequel, worth the wait. Quick Q: why did she crawl on her belly to the battlefield only to stand up to her full height when she was in the field? She thought 'something didn't feel right'...so I was expecting some kind of drama about her being watched/caught, but then she lit a fire and spent hours fixing the militia man, and there was no more hint of danger. and I'm like, false flag, man false flag! Good story, well-told, with a fascinating character I'd like to see more of.

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Deidra Lovegren
13:45 Jun 20, 2021

Poor frogs. Environmental toxins working themselves up the food chain... Totally on point with the "It didn't feel right" exposition. I was going to go in another direction, but I wanted this one to end with her living up to her mother's directive. Hippocratic Oath and ethics even in an upside-down world... Hopefully I fixed all the fake foreshadowing. You were 100% right -- it didn't square. Thanks for being such a good editor :) :) :)

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H L Mc Quaid
14:02 Jun 20, 2021

My pleasure, it's just the way my brain works, for better or worse. And yes, the MG's behaviour makes more sense now. No more false flags. ;)

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Deidra Lovegren
17:08 Jun 20, 2021

I'm totally paying you to be an editor if I ever finally finish a novel... You are EXCELLENT at this stuff :)

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H L Mc Quaid
17:21 Jun 20, 2021

You can't see it but I've pricked my finger and made this a blood deal. 🩸 Your first born novel belongs to me. mwah hahahahahah ahahahha (also I'm editing another Reedsy person's novel and I'm enjoying it waaaay too much)

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Deidra Lovegren
17:29 Jun 20, 2021

Just be a literary agent while you are at it. You'd probably make an excellent lawyer as well. (Doctor, too?) Dr. H. McQuaid - writer, editor, attorney-at-law

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Jon R. Miller
00:16 Jun 19, 2021

Great story with wonderful world building. I'm interested in reading more of the Medicine Girl's adventures.

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Deidra Lovegren
21:39 Jun 26, 2021

Thanks Jon! She will meet you on the scrapping fields, maybe next week?

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Jon R. Miller
23:03 Jun 26, 2021

Oh that's awesome!

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Keya Jadav
06:12 Jul 03, 2021

Wow! The melted talent on the sheets of paper really found everyone locking their eyes on the screen, picturing the whole event like a short movie. Well done friend. These few paragraphs are enough to inspire one and welcome them to the world of excellence.

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Deidra Lovegren
14:51 Jul 05, 2021

That's quite a compliment. I'll take it :D YAY

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Keya Jadav
16:07 Jul 05, 2021

You're worth it :)

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Shirley Medhurst
14:02 Jun 28, 2021

Great dramatic build-up in this story. I haven't read any of your writing before... I like the fact that you don't give 'the Medicine Girl', her family members or any of the other characters a name. Fabulous final line, showing us she does have a heart. Keep up the good work.

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Deidra Lovegren
14:17 Jun 28, 2021

Thanks, Shirley! I am a fan of your bio. You are definitely living the life :) I just posted the third installment, in case you want to read anymore about my little badass. Appreciate your comments. I'm looking forward to reading one of your stories. Which one should I start with?

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Shirley Medhurst
14:25 Jun 28, 2021

As you like, I think I am fond of my Alternative Midsummer Night’s Dream - not really my usual genre, but I had a lot of fun writing it…

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Shirley Medhurst
14:26 Jun 28, 2021

Tks, Will check it out…

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Deidra Lovegren
14:33 Jun 28, 2021

By any chance are you an English teacher? I am, and I usually infuse my stuff with Hamlet. hahaha

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Shirley Medhurst
14:37 Jun 28, 2021

Yes, sort of… (English as a foreign language) What did you think of it? I’d be interested in your thoughts….

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Deidra Lovegren
14:45 Jun 28, 2021

I left you a note. Beyond charming. :)

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Jamie Harvey
21:41 Jun 23, 2021

So good. Loved the detail about the animals in this post war world. Last story she mentioned the bees and this time the frogs. The works you’re creating is so detailed and rich. 👍🏻👍🏻 Keep ‘em coming.

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Deidra Lovegren
21:44 Jun 26, 2021

Thanks Jamie 🥳 !! I’m hoping to write one more short on her for next week and then convert all to a longer work. (What species should I kill off next? Butterflies? 😳) I’ve taken a liking to my Medicine Girl, placidly walking through an upside down world.

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Jamie Harvey
16:59 Jun 27, 2021

Ooo butterflies fit so well. They do a great deal of pollinating. Did the cockroaches survive? 😳 I like the Medicine Girl too. I feel like people seriously underestimate plant knowledge in survival. I can’t wait for the next installment.

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Ruth Porritt
06:30 Jul 07, 2021

Very, very nice. :) I always enjoy reading your work. In this tale, I especially enjoyed the lovely bits of description that are as refreshing as an ice cold beer in the middle of July. (LOL, it is about the middle of July, but nevermind...) I also noticed that the characters you write about always have an interesting inner life. Anyway, can't wait to read the next installment and have a great one, Ruth P.

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