Also inspired by a flash fiction prompt, although I sense this one could become something larger if I had enough time or knew where to go next.
The trail ahead of me looked exactly the same as what lay behind me. It was narrow and muddy, covered over with a bower of evergreen trees which scented the air with the coming of winter. The only difference between forward and back was that back was where my horse had died the day before. The poor beast hadn’t had it in him to continue, even though we’d only traveled 237 miles. Two weeks of heavy exertion had destroyed his heart, although I think it was an emotional, rather than physical, collapse. At least the lucky bastard had enough to eat in those two weeks I bitterly thought. Why couldn’t I subsist on grass and pond water? I had packed enough dried meat and bread for 300 miles of travel, but what I really missed was a hot meal beside a warm fireplace.
The only good thing about being in the woods was that I was completely alone, far away from all the troubles of my old life. I didn’t have to depend on anyone but myself, although that wasn’t looking possible at the moment considering how my food supply was starting to dwindle. I had never listened to my father when he tried to teach me the art of hunting. I had always thought it cruel to take another creature’s life, even if it was to benefit your own. Now I wish I had listened. Trudging onward, I took small comfort in knowing I was heading in the right direction. Keeping the sun at my back this time of year meant I was walking north, and most of the villages beyond my own lay in that direction, though I couldn’t say the exact distance I was from any of them. Never mind that, I would run into someone eventually. I couldn’t be the only person in this part of the world.
How had things gotten this bad? Most women on the run would have been fleeing their sacrificial role as dragon fodder, or the abusive husband they hadn’t wanted to marry in the first place. I hadn’t exactly had a bad life, but I wasn’t married, wasn’t allowed to work (it wasn’t seemly for women in my village to do anything outside the home). All I did every day was the chores my parents could no longer handle. I loved my parents but caring for an aging, brain-addled father and physically fragile mother wasn’t what I wanted for myself. I wanted my own voice and nobody would know me if I stayed there. I wanted my presence to be important to the universe, and how could it be when the only things I could do well were the laundry, housekeeping and tilling in the garden? I felt incredibly selfish for leaving them and more than a little guilty, but even if I turned back now, trod the same path I had already walked upon, I wouldn’t be welcome back. My betrayal was too complete for that. Abandonment had to be complete if it was to be had at all.
237 miles and counting. Where would it all end?