Dorry Zhao

The miles just kept rolling. The boy and the father kept on walking. Night was about to fall.

Shadows lengthened. They passed by a forest, dead, with leaves crunching underneath. The boy paused, panting.

"Dad?"

"Yes son?"

"Can we stop?"

"Sure, we'll stop for the night."

Exhausted, the father and the son pushed the cart together into the woods until they reached a clearing and were out of sight of the worn road.

The father gathered some wood for a fire, while the son ruffled through the cart for some cans to eat. Before long, the son announced the grim news,

"Dad, there's only 2 cans of peaches left."

"Only 2?"

"That's not good."

"No it's not."

However, soon a bright warm fire was crackling, giving them warmth, light, and hope. They opened the cans of peaches and had begun to eat. The father gave many of his own peaches to the boy, who simply ate ravenously. However, there was a distinct 'crunch'.

crunch

crunch

crunch

The father immediately scrambled, pulled out his pistol, and checked that the one remaining round was solidly chambered. He and the boy hurried towards the tree line, and hid behind a particularly old, large, and knurled tree.

A silhouette appeared, and started walking towards the fire. The boy held his breath. The man constantly put pressure on the trigger of the pistol. One tiny movement could send its payload of death soaring towards the ominous silhouette. That person-shaped piece of darkness continued moving towards the cart. It moved alongside the cart. Only when it turned to shuffle through the cart did the father and the son see the identity of the shadow.

It was a 18 year old girl. She wore nothing more than rags, shivering in the cold air. She looked into the cart, then gave a small exclamation of surprise. In her hands was an old tin of sardines, apparently missed by the boy. She looked around nervously, and appeared to be torn between leaving before the camp's inhabitants arrived, or searching for another treasure. Too bad for her the camp's inhabitants had never left, and her eyes widened when she saw the pistol pointed at her head.

She fell to her knees, begging for her life. She cried out for help, for any help at all. She begged for mercy, just one sardine, as well as her life. The relentless eyes of the father, however, pierced her soul, and she fell silent. Then her eyes moved over to the son.

"Don't let him kill me. Don't... please."

"Don't kill her dad."

"She was going to steal from us, son. It is the only thing we can do."

"No dad, please don't kill her."

The father sighed. He saw one solution to the problem. The father took the can of sardines from the girl's hand, ignoring her desperate pleas for mercy. He took off the girl's ragged excuse for a shirt, and tied it around her head. The girl now shivered even more, her now apparent nipples shaking as she quaked in the cold. The father spun her around so many times she was dizzy, and she fell to the ground sobbing. The father then led her out of the camp, away from the road. After about half a mile, he spun her again, and shoved her in a different direction. He quickly covered his tracks, and made his way back into camp, ignoring the desperate cries for help from the girl, that echoed away into the distance, and in time, faded into nothing.

As he walked back into the campsite, the boy was hugging his knees and sobbing. The fire was out, and night had fallen. It was too dark to risk looking for more firewood, so the father snuggled with the boy under the blankets, and wiped away his tears. The boy's face was wet again in an instant.

"You killed her didn't you."

"No I didn't."

"Yes you did. Don't lie to me."

"I simply... led her away from here."

"You killed her."

The father let it lie at that, and watched the boy fall asleep. He quietly stood watch, to ensure there were no more unwelcome visitors, hoping they could help themselves to the treasure of the shopping cart.

When the boy woke up to the light of dawn, his guardian was still watching over him.