Alandra stumbled over herself as she made her way to the flickering light through the trees. In her desperation she went clumsily, breaking branches and breathing heavy, forgetting that the light could mean safety, but it could just as well mean danger.
She stopped behind a large rock wedged between 2 old tall pines. “Stop. Slow down. Use your head.” she thought to herself. As she sat, tucked into the space where the rock met the trees, she felt the sweat come hurdling down her forehead and neck, stinging her eyes. “Salt water” she murmured. I have to find the sea, I have to listen for the sea. If I’m not getting closer to it, then I could be getting closer to them. Her heart beat moved to a heavy flutter then settled. “Breathe, just breathe. Calm is the only way to get there.”
A few minutes later, she felt the cool evening air drag a welcomed, feathery gust across her face. “There’s no time to enjoy this.” Alandra thought. “Move.” But as she went to get up, she heard heavy steps crunching across the forest floor behind her. “Stay” said a voice. Her lips went numb, and it felt as though the blood circulating through her body ceased.
“It’s ok, Alandra, it’s me. Stay, don’t run.” She turned to see, Eli, his face and his deep soft eyes holding her in his gaze. She ran to him, and collapsed into his arms. “I thought you were still on the boat. What are you doing here?” she whispered through tears. He let her weep, and settle into his embrace. His own tears fell gently onto her matted hair. “What are the lights from? Mom, dad, Aunt Cora and the others?” she asked, her mouth still dry and stiff from fear.
“Please listen, he said, as he held her still and tighter,
Panic does not help. You were wise to hide here, Alandra. Everyone is waiting for us. They burnt the cabin down and ran across the back of the mountain to get to the boat. Those lights are the hunters, hoping to find some of us who may be lost and wandering. We have to go”, he said. Eli’s mood shifted from warm and comforting to colder and commanding. “But you have to trust me and listen to every direction I give. I’m going to get us back to that boat and away from this place.” Alandra didn’t hesitate. She nodded and began to follow Eli. It was easier to stay calm with her big brother reminding her that everything was okay.
It had been only 3 months ago when the territory came under attack. But for Alandra and her family, it had felt like 3 years. They were farmers to some of the last surviving plant species which were used as powerful medicines for healing human and animal cancers, Alzheimer's, digestive issues, immune deficiencies, and the list went on.
In the year 2025, plant medicines were being packaged and sold to hospitals and medical centers internationally . The U.S. farming industry was going under. The factories that had taken up so much of the land for the meat industry, were now becoming large, lush acres of restorative farming for these medicines. The ground water was decreasing in toxicity, the pharmaceutical industry was losing massive amounts of profit. Collective health improved physically and mentally. Poverty rates went down, and healthy communities grew. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was an amazing, exciting, and beautiful time to be alive. Doctors were basing their practices on wellness rather than illness, and efforts to educate the larger population on nature’s intelligence, as well as the natural intelligence of the body were being integrated into every elementary school curricula.
By 2027, an attack began on the plant medicine practices and lands. No one could pin point exactly who was leading these or why it was happening. For now, there wasn’t time to ask "why". Alandra and her family, had heard that farmers were being taken prisoner and land was being destroyed. These armies of “hunters” they called them, would go so far as to use poisonous gas to evacuate people from hiding, and take them as prisoners, but to where no one knew.
Hundreds of families began preparing for an escape. The news traveled fast that traveling to Canada, 3 hours north, by water, was their best chance. Before Alandra’s family could fully pack bags, they woke one morning to smoke and fires. They managed to escape and begin the long journey to the boats, waiting for them, which would would travel to a safe haven along Canadian shores. As they ran frantically through the smoke into the forests, they were separated from each other. Fearing calling out, and giving themselves away to the hunters, everyone held onto hope and survival, praying to find one another at the agreed upon meeting spot along the shore.
They had gotten through enough of the forest that the waves were now audible. The sound of crashing ocean water meeting the shore restored their strength and resolve to ignore the exhaustion. Both Alandra and Eli became so eager to see the boat, that they became a little too careless in their movements.
As Eli and Alandra started down a steep embankment, Eli’s foot tripped a fire signal to notify hunters that escapees were nearby. As he struggled to regain his footing, he winced in pain, doing everything in his being to not make a sound. As Alandra helped him up, he could barely stand on his ankle which was already swelling. They looked at eachother. Elis’s eyes asked Alandra to run and leave him. “No.” she mouthed. She got close to his face and hissed, “We go together, or we stay together”. Her big brother, the one to usually protect and give direction, was now at the mercy of his little sister’s lead. He knew she meant it. She grabbed a carefully wrapped package out of her back pack. It smelled like home, and those already fading memories of everything that they had to leave behind- the musty roots, dark soil, the bark ,wet and thankful on trees after a nourishing rain.
“No no no, that’s the last of it. We need to start over. We need that, Alandra!” “Relax, I have more.” she said as she continued without hesitation. Eli, in that split second of witnessing his little sister stand in strength and confidence, knew that everything was going to be okay. He felt it in his bones. He saw, at the moment, a leader, a teacher, a warrior being pushed forward by thousands of ancestors.
Alandra moved in haste as she unwrapped the brown bag paper to reach the leafy vines inside. Eli reached his bare ankle towards her. Alandra rolled the vine between her palms like clay. Faster and faster, breaking the plant until the aroma was overwhelming, a sticky, maroon colored sap emerging from the vine. She wrapped Eli’s ankle as quickly as she could, pulling his sock over the crude bandaging.
She whispered, “NOW”. The analgesic effect of the plant was already working. They knew it was only a matter of time before the hunters were within hearing distance. They headed forward as fast as they could, Eli's hand on Alandra's shoulder for support. As the trees thinned out, they could see the ocean spreading for miles and miles to a clear horizon. And at the shore, three boats. In one boat sat their Aunt Cora, their father and their mother, her hands to her mouth so she wouldn’t surrender to the shout of joy and relief filling her entire body.
Alandra and Eli waded through the cold waves, helping to push their saving vessels farther into the water. Once inside the boat, they collapsed and lay, chests heaving, holding each other’s hands tight. A moon bright enough to light the way, but waning enough to dim the hunters’ visibility, floated over them. A splash of sea water fell onto Alandra's cheek, a tear rolled from the side of her closed eyes, her shirt damp with sweat, began to cool and reminded her that she needed to rest for now. Opening her eyes, she murmured to the heavens, “We're going to grow again”. The scent of the last of the vines and seeds from her bag carried into the star-flooded skies.
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I enjoyed the theme of your story and the race to safety. You painted the hunters as vague and troublesome and I think that fits your MCs character perfectly. Welcome to Reedsy, though I'm only a couple stories ahead of you, it's always great to see new people trying to get involved with writing.
You have some great imagery in your story. And, you managed to pack a lot of suspense in. I really enjoyed it!
Hello, Meredith. Congratulations on your first Reedsy Prompts Story! You packed a lot into this story in terms of world-building, and I really enjoyed it. The family's profession of growing medicinal plants was a fun element. I liked the sibling dynamic, too. The last paragraph was beautiful. I look forward to reading more from you.