As the night progressed she began to lose some of the feeling of victory, but not all of it, it had only faded. She was more concerned with the growing cold. Her clothes were thin and provided little warmth, she had never noticed before how badly the clothing insulated someone. Of course most of her time was spent indoors which would hide the bad quality of the clothing. She moved slowly and carefully through the woods, most of the forest floor was covered in old leaves and broken branches. Her original plan had been to circle around to where the road was and follow its general direction from the woods but in her excitement she had forgotten about it. It had blocked almost everything out for a good hour, after that the cold started to hit and she begun to wonder where she was actually walking to. After all she didn’t know the area, for all she knew there could be nothing but woods in this direction for miles and miles. Despite this fear she didn’t want to angle off either. She wasn’t sure which direction the road had been and there was no guarantee that it hadn’t already branched off or turned from her path. She had considered returning to the compound and regaining her bearings but not only would she have lost three or four hours of walking time, she wasn’t entirely sure what direction it was in either. Sure she had started off in a straight enough line and had intended to continue that way, but she was sure she had gotten turned around a bit at some point, not enough to be going back towards the compound, but enough to have been walking at an angle. She had started to set goals for herself, looking in the darkness for something to walk to, a tall tree, a weird mound that turned out to be a rock. It seemed to be helping her keep a straightish path. She had convinced herself that if she kept walking, only a little more, she’d find someone or something. She would find salvation, she would have to. She was slightly surprised at how strong her faith in this idea was, but she didn’t question it too much, fearful that should the faith break she would be left, sitting alone in the woods until she starved to death. The sounds of the forest were not frightening to her, she could hear birds moving and things rustling in the undergrowth. It might have scared her before, maybe not even a week ago she would have been frozen with fear but that was the old her. The new her was incredible, invincible and unstoppable. She had gotten out, how many others could claim the same? Not many since the compound moved, since people were prevented from leaving. Not only that, but she had gotten away so sneakily, they wouldn’t even notice she was gone, not for a long time yet. She was one of the few who had gotten away and she knew they would never take her back. Not in life or death. She was free and she intended to remain that way.
She wasn’t sure how long she had been walking for, all she knew was that it was still night, there was no watch to signal the passing time, occasionally the moon would be revealed but she could never quite see it, only seeing the silver light and the shadows it cast. Sometimes the glimpses were brief, other times the clouds seemed to part for hours, when that happened she was able to move much faster. She was growing tired, her breath came in ragged gasps, her calves and shins ached steadily. She took occasional breaks, but it didn’t seem to be enough. On her last break she had to convince herself to stand, it took almost half an hour, then she had to convince herself to start walking. Sweat was dripping down her face, making her colder. A gust of wind would occasionally blow through the woods, causing her dress to cling to her body, its damp fabric stealing warmth. She had drank about a quarter of the water she had been given, wanting to ration it. She could last longer without food than without water. She didn’t know if there was any stream or river in the woods and even if she stumbled across one she had no way of cleaning the water. She had nothing in which to boil it and though she knew vaguely how it could be filtered, she had no containers that could be used. She hadn’t eaten yet and her stomach growled and complained every so often. She was hungry, but she wasn’t sure when she would be out of the woods, she didn’t know how to set snares or traps, nor how to hunt. She realised she didn’t have anything with which to protect herself, no knife to cut with, no way to start a fire. She thought she would be able to do it if she could find some flint, but finding it was the problem. She had no idea what it might look like. Her pack was getting heavier with each step and she feared the straps might give way. She didn’t notice when it started to get lighter, the change was so gradual that she realised she could see when she stepped over a small rock that was blocking her path. She had been walking almost the entire night. She looked around for somewhere to sit, then realised if she sat down she would probably fall asleep. There was no shelter here, nothing she could use to cover herself. It wouldn’t be safe. She sighed then kept walking. Her feet were sore and she expected blisters. Up ahead she could see a rock, it was just a little taller than chair height and was smooth, she could rest on it for a few moments. A few moments rest was all she needed then she could keep going. She reached the rock and sank back against it, sighing gratefully. Her eyes were tired and sore. She dug in the bag and took out the bottle of water and took a swig, she took a smaller sip and rinsed it around her mouth, then she put it back in her bag. It wouldn’t do to finish it all too quickly. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply and slowly. She would get up now in a moment, she just wanted a moment to sit and rest. A group of birds were startled from their tree, exploding upwards in a swirl of feathers and raucous caws, admonishing what ever dared interrupt their rest. She gazed over to where they had taken off, wondering what had startled them. One of them probably got spooked by something and set the others off. She listened, wondering if maybe it was a person, but there was no noise. She looked away, scanning the trees around herself carefully. What if The Lambs had followed her? Maybe they tracked her down. She took another breath, that was stupid. Of course they didn’t, they didn’t even know she was gone. She was just freaking herself out. Despite her constant reassurances, she continued to scan the tree line. She was about to stop when something caught her eye. It was a dull colour, the colour of old bricks, but it wasn’t natural, she was sure of it. Maybe it was a house or a cabin, a holiday home even. There could be people in there, people that would let her rest or just use their phone. She stood again, the pain almost forgotten and ignoring the dull throbbing she hobbled forwards, towards what she hoped was salvation.
It was a small holiday home, at least that’s what she thought it was, the roof covered in slate, she walked up to the door and banged on it, not caring that she might be waking someone. Despite her efforts, there was no sound inside, no one appeared to be home. She banged against the door again, this time in frustration. She looked around the clearing, it looked a little overgrown, like people hadn’t been there in a while. She had been so close too. She closed her eyes and rested her forehead against the door, leaning forward. No. She wouldn’t be denied. Inside was safe, it was protected from the elements. She dropped the bag on the porch and looked around before seeing it. A rock, round, jagged. Perfect. She went to it and picked it up. She returned to the porch much faster, the thought of being able to rest on something soft spurring her onward. She looked around guiltily before using the rock to smash one of the small window panes. After knocking out most of the shards of glass, she reached in and groped for the handle.
The place smelled old, musty. It hadn’t been aired out in a while. She hoped that meant no one would be back anytime soon. There appeared to be a dirt road from the clearing, that would hook up to a real road and from there she could get to civilisation. She dragged her bag into the cabin and closed the door, it was marginally warmer inside. She was tired, so very tired, but there was things that should still be done. There were logs stacked haphazardly by the fire place, the cabin wasn’t cold, but it wasn’t warm either, she went over and knelt down, crawling on her hands and knees she moved into the fireplace and awkwardly turned to try and look up the chimney. A fire would give her some warmth, but she didn’t want the smoke coming back into the room. She could see the sky, it was clear. She leaned back out and looked around, there was a box of matches on the mantel and after a few moments, she found some kindling, she put it in the fireplace and stacked the logs around it. After a few attempts with the matches she got it lighting, she crawled from it, not wanting to stand again. The couch was old but comfortable looking, she pulled herself onto it and laid across it, not bothering to check if the fire had started properly or not.
She woke slowly, her body aching. She wasn’t sure how long she had slept but it was still daylight, at first she feared that she had slept an entire day and night, but the fire was still going, its flames starting to die out. That was something at least, she didn’t think she had been asleep for too long. She pulled herself from the couch and shakily stood, then she went to the fireplace and added more wood, the cabin was much warmer than it had been. Her feet and legs were still sore and despite her tiredness, she decided she would stay awake the rest of the day. She looked through the kitchen cupboards and found some cans of food, they were in date, but the date was getting close. She wondered how long they had been sitting in the cabin. She would have liked to have had a hot meal, but she didn’t know how to start the stove and after some attempts of getting it going she decided that it must need electricity to spark it or it was out of gas, she wasn’t sure which. The food wasn’t too bad, a can of peaches, sealed in syrup and a can of beans. She ate slowly and once done, felt completely full. She went back to the couch and sat down, she felt as though she should explore the rest of the cabin, but she was too tired. She decided that she would in a little while, but first she would rest some more. A sudden breeze caused her to shiver, she looked around the room for the source and saw the broken glass pane. She looked at it guiltily for a moment before deciding she would need to cover it with something. Sighing, she stood again, now was as good a time to explore as any.