Prompt 23: The Journey – 501 Prompts

501 Prompts is my attempt at being creative by copying something someone else already has done.

Here’s how it works: prepare an idea, write for 20 minutes, edit, upload it and move on to the next. It’s open to all genres, topics and experiments with storytelling.

Now with only half the existential dread experienced by the writer!

Enjoy this week’s prompt!

The Prompt

Two Frogs lived together in a marsh. But one hot summer the marsh dried up, and they left it to look for another place to live in: for frogs like damp places if they can get them. By and by they came to a deep well, and one of them looked down into it and said to the other, “This looks a nice cool place. Let us jump in and settle here.” But the other, who had a wiser head on his shoulders, replied, “Not so fast, my friend. Supposing this well dried up like the marsh, how should we get out again?”

Think twice before you act.

The Frogs and The Well by Aesop.

My Story

The road had cracked under the heat since the caring hand of civilization had vanished. It was deserted except for a man and a boy following its promise to eventually lead somewhere. Their dirty rags stood out in the yellow, brownish hellscape under the blazing sun surrounding them. The soil was yearning for water, but no cloud had passed the no man’s land for weeks.

The boy stumbled across the asphalt, caught in a mix of exhaustion and a fever dream. The man looked back over his shoulder and slowed down. In fact, he was barely older than the kid. In a time not so long ago, he would have met with his friends at a mall, worrying about the small things in life only teenagers growing up in relative safety could worry about. Now, his stomach grumbled.

A quick look into the messenger back he had slung across his shoulder revealed the truth he tried to forget. A single can of peas, a bottle of water, and two protein bars were all they had left. Their survival was on a clock. For some reason, the knowledge set him at ease.

“Here, drink.” He unscrewed the cap of the bottle and handed it to the boy. A few weeks ago, he had found him in the ruins of a small town. He didn’t speak much. Smiled even less. Life had taken a lot from each of them.

“You hungry?”

The boy nodded. Not thinking twice, he handed his foster child one of the two bars and returned the bottle to his bag. The kid had already eaten over half of it before he stopped, looking at his caretaker. He extended his arm, offering the rest of the food to him, but the man declined.

“I’m good.”

The pair walked next to each other in silence. From time to time, they came across the ashes of the lost world. Rusting car wrecks, abandoned toys, or plastic bags waiting for a breeze to carry them to a better place. Sometimes a broken road sign that reminded of remnants of the past. They didn’t bother scavenging because everything worth taking had been stripped a long time ago.

They almost missed a small dirt road branching off. The man looked into the distance and saw a gentle hill rising on the horizon. Did he see something green? He couldn’t say for sure because of the air shimmering in the heat.

Even standing still, the boy staggered like a twig in a storm. He knew they would need rest soon.

“Let’s check this out.”

As they came closer, the hill rose, and he could make out lush trees and plants across its side. Houses cuddled against the hillside. Even though they were ruins, they looked to be in better shape than most other places. A fence across the path leading up to the small settlement spoke that the area was probably inhabited.

Still, the promise of a place to escape from the burning sun enticed the man. Against his own exhaustion, he pushed himself forward.

The scuff of the boy’s feet behind him stopped, and he turned around. The kid stood still, not moving an inch. He called for him, but the only response was a shake of the head.

“What’s wrong?”
“There’s people there.”
“Yeah. Maybe.”

The man understood. Coming across other people in the barren wasteland rarely ended well. More often than not, the reason for anyone to survive that long was that they took advantage of others. He backtracked to where the boy stood, knelt down, and grabbed him by the shoulders.

“What if there’s plenty of food, water, and a clean bed to share?” He was ready to grasp any straw that presented itself to them and tried to pass the hope on to his foster child.

“What if there isn’t?”
“We have to take a chance.”
“And you think they would share it with strangers? They live off people like us. We’re safer if we return.”

“Return to what?!”
His first instinct was to shake some sense into the boy that it may be their only hope. Shout at him and make him obey his command. Instead, he cried.

Thin arms wrapped around his neck, embracing him in a caring hug.
“Don’t worry. Home is already waiting for us.”

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