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30th October
posted by amber

Scrub Spruce

I’ve never seen a forest like this. Dense spruce, all jammed together, thin and misshapen, some with no needles except for a grotesque ball at the top. They grow so close to each other, I can’t get between some, even by turning sideways. And where they keep a short distance apart, our way is barred by prickly balls of red willow, the branches catching and dragging at my skirts like reaching skeletal hands.

We’ve been pushing our way through this hell for five days now, ever since we forded the river and left the grassy plains behind. I hadn’t expected to encounter forest until we reached the mountains. We’re not even in the foothills. This monotonous scrub spruce continues flat and unvarying, broken only by tiny meandering watercourses set so deeply into the mossy floor that I don’t see them until I step down a good foot more than expected and bury my boot in brackish water.

I scout the route and Dan cuts a path, the patient mules moving forward step by slow deliberate step. Our belongings on the wagon – those basic essentials we planned out and purchased three months ago.

Last night, I made a new list – the essentials we can carry on our backs and pack on the mules. Not what we need to start our new life – what we need to vouchsafe our present lives, whether we dare the mountains or turn back.

I know Dan isn’t ready to hear my plan yet, but one more day of scrub spruce will certainly make him more receptive.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section of any story.

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