Chapter Five ~Maddie~

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I wake up in a panic, hearing voices outside my window. With my entire body shaking, I slowly climb out of bed and tiptoe over to the window. The voices have stopped, but I can hear light footsteps. A twig snaps outside and I tense, screwing my eyes shut, holding my breath. Shit shit shit.

After a few moments of silence, I slowly let out the breath I've been holding in, relaxing slightly. Deciding to brave a peek outside, I carefully peel back the sheet covering the window inch by inch. Looking out, I meet another pair of eyes staring back at me. A scream rips from my throat before I can stop it. It's a deer. "Dammit, damn you!" I yell. Stupid animal. I know it's not his fault, well... yes it is, and I feel like being mad about it.

I heard voices though, didn't I? It was probably a dream. I was half asleep when I jolted out of bed after all. I don't know what I would have done if there had actually been someone out there. I still can't believe that damn deer, he scared me half to death. I smile at myself. In retrospect, it was pretty funny.

I might as well get ready for the day. There's no way I can fall back asleep now, feeling as jittery as I do. I pull on a pair of jeans- another cool thing about this house, the closet is full of clothes and shoes. The clothes are a little tight and the shoes a little loose, but I can't complain. The people who used to live here must have left everything behind, it doesn't appear as if anything is missing. I tear the sheets away from the windows and look outside. The sun is just rising, casting a soft glow across the yard. The deer is nowhere in sight.

After eating a quick breakfast, I step outside onto the back porch and take a seat on the steps, hugging my knees to my chest. It's pretty cold out here for a summer morning. The sound of chirping birds fill the air. The adrenaline and excitement from this morning's events are already wearing off as the loneliness I've become familiar with creeps its way back in. I take a deep breath and let out a long sigh. The monotony of my days is really starting to get to me. Wake up, get dressed, eat, sit on the back porch watching the morning pass, gather food, hang out by the river half the day, eat again, go to bed- that's my day, every day, for the past two months or so. I don't think I can take it any longer. I'll have to pack up and leave soon, I just have to figure out where I'm going. I don't know if I should continue east or change my direction and head north. I have no idea where I should even be looking. I could have passed the free nation months ago for all I know, if there even is a free nation to begin with. At this point, the doubts eclipse any optimism I ever had of the free nation existing, but I'd rather charge into the unknown than continue living in this state of nothingness.

I stand up and head back into the house feeling resolved. I'll only stay another few days; it's time for me to get moving again.

I gather all my dirty clothes and toss them in a duffle bag to take with me down to the water. I'll rinse them and lay them out to dry while I bathe in the river. I throw the bag over my shoulder and leave the house, wanting to switch up my routine for the day.

It only takes a few minutes to get down to the river, and I drop the bag next to me as I take a seat on the ground. I open the bag and dump out its contents, grabbing the shirt at the top of the pile, and inch myself closer to the water. I dunk the shirt, scrub it, rinse it again, and lay it out across the nearest bush. I take my time repeating this process until the pile of clothes have disappeared and are scattered across the greenery to dry.

I stand up and take a look around the open space before stripping off my clothes. I usually go in with a shirt and underwear on, but I'm feeling adventurous today. The deer drama of this morning has me craving more excitement. I back up a few feet, run, and jump into the water with a yelp. The water is freezing, and I start swimming upstream, trying to warm myself up. After a few minutes it seems to be working, so I turn around and lay on my back. I let the current carry me downstream while I float, my arms spread wide, enjoying the feeling of floating free. I do this again and again until I hear something in the distance. I pull myself up and take a quick look around. Was that voices? No, it can't be. It's probably that damn deer again, stalking me. I continue to search the area, trying to spot him. It's quiet again, but then I hear laughter just as two forms emerge from the trees, only thirty or forty feet away from me.

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