The ground was cold and dry, crunching loudly beneath our steps, interrupting the peace I was anxious to attain. I decided the barren land around us was too ugly to bother photographing, but Thomas seemed taken with everything he saw, his shutter clicking rapidly and aimlessly.
“What are you doing?” I growled, “There’s no time for picture-taking. We need to keep moving, forget about your camera.”
He arched an eyebrow but otherwise ignored my remark. His eyes were trained on the viewfinder of his Nikon SLR and nothing I could say would convince him to stop photographing the journey. It was, I realized, our final journey down this road. And Thomas was meticulous for capturing last-chance images.
I trundled on ahead of him. I needed to keep moving, to keep getting further away from that place we had abandoned. The more land we covered, the more land would exist as a barrier between us and chaos we were leaving behind.
Periodically, I glanced over my shoulder to make sure Thomas wasn’t dawdling too far behind. He may be a camera-toting fool, but he was my only remaining ally across the entire northern tundra. The smoke was barely visible now in the sky behind us, its ashen shade getting swept up among the clouds. I forced myself to turn away as Thomas raised his Nikon to try and catch my steely expression gazing at our once-loved home.
He jogged several steps to catch up with me.
“Beth, you can relax your pace. No one is coming after us. Everyone is gone. Anyone who even knew about us is now gone.” He touched my shoulder and tried again to engage me, to force me to acknowledge the gravity of our situation. I brushed him off and powered onward, determined to reach our destination, wherever it would be, before dark.
And we did. But not before Thomas leapt suddenly in front of me and pressed his shutter one last time to immortalize my profile—rife with fear and stubborn pride—against the quiet, dying sky and the ravaged land behind us that had been our only home.