Chapter Five

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The next morning, I woke up to the sound of wind.

I pushed my back up against the wall, realizing I had slid down during the night. My neck was sore from the awkward position I'd been in. Light seeped in from behind the fluttering blanket, creating sparks of white across the metal walls.

Wind blasted in, too, more ferociously than usual. I was a bit concerned about the weather and if the blanket would hold up.

I turned to my right and saw Asten, still sleeping with his head lolling to the side. I had to wake him up to tell him about the wind, but I wasn't exactly sure how. Finally, I awkwardly shook his shoulder until his eyes opened slowly.

"What's going on?" he asked, sounding nothing like he'd just been asleep for six hours.

"Wind," I muttered as I carefully stood up, despite my bandaged and bootless right foot. The blanket was flapping against the sides of the shelter. I walked towards it and pushed it out of the way so I could look outside.

Snow was flying up everywhere as broken trees swayed in the harsh wind. The sky was barely visible above the snow strewn air, with white gusts spiraling in every direction. There had been other days as windy as this one, but I could tell this was pretty bad. If we were planning on going to the Equator, today would be a hard day to start our journey.

"We need to move," Asten commented as he stood up and came to look outside. "This shelter won't hold." As he spoke, I could hear a quiet screeching that sounded like metal rubbing against metal. Based on Asten's words, I guessed that the noise was the shelter coming apart. Rust and decay had taken their toll, and this temporary home would not last much longer.

I nodded before grabbing my boot and shoving my foot into it. Asten grabbed a jacket and picked up his gun from the ground. He didn't seem to carry food on him. It was a risk that I wasn't willing to take, but that I could understand. The pile of wrappers and a few extra cans would be abandoned with the shelter. I almost considered grabbing a can or two, but realized it probably wouldn't fit in my bag.

The harsh winds rammed into my body as I walked outside, Asten close behind. I turned to him, my light brown hair whipping into my face. "Where should we go?" I asked, nearly shouting to be heard over the wind.

"I know a place...," he shouted back. "It's not extremely close, but it's safe. Somewhere we can stay for a while if necessary."

"Then let's go."

The temperature felt below freezing and my foot was killing me, but we somehow walked for an hour straight through the freezing cold. I kept my arms crossed over my chest, trying to isolate my body, but it didn't work. The cold always found its way in. No matter what I tried to do against it, it always won in the end.

It was how it always had been, how it always was, and how it always would be. Nobody could escape nature.

I could feel my limp starting to worsen as we wandered through a large forest of pine trees. The wind was beginning to die down. The trees had absolutely no leaves and towered over us, looking as though they could crumble on top of us any second. I stuck my hand out and touched the rough bark of the nearest tree, feeling my calloused fingers brush over the coarse surface.

"Where did you come from?" I turned my head to the right, my hair flowing down in front of my chest. My sharp blue eyes locked onto Asten, not realizing he'd been talking to me at first.

"Same place as everyone else. Home," I replied, vaguely. He didn't need to know much about my past, and I didn't want him to. I didn't like to think about it, and I definitely did not want to relive it.

He didn't comment on me omitting information from my response.

I turned back towards the forest, my eyes locking onto something in the distance. My hand fell to my side, small drops of melted snow falling from my fingers. The world was stormy gray, but my eyes stayed staring in the same direction, even though it was getting harder and harder to see. It was one of the main parts of snowing that I didn't like: the fact that you could barely see. It bothered me when I couldn't tell what was coming up behind or ahead of me. But my opinion on it didn't matter. Nothing I thought would change the weather.

Nothing I thought could change anything.

Despite the blurriness of my view, I recognized the place we were walking towards.

My fist came up from my side and was suddenly slamming into Asten's face. I could feel my knuckles slam into soft, vulnerable flesh as I heard a grunt of confusion. I continued to push forward, shoving my body on top of his, placing my knees on his chest, and then pulling back my fist once more just to shove it once again into his face.

My dagger was gone. My hope was gone.

All I had left were my fists.

"What the hell were you planning?!" I shouted at him. The building wasn't just any building, it was a gang trading site. He'd been leading me towards it. I didn't know him well enough to trust that it was simply a coincidence.

His next actions confirmed my suspicion.

He unexpectedly reached up and took hold of my fist that still hovered over him. Then my arm was being twisted and I was on my back, snow dampening my hair as the cold seeped through my jacket and into my skin.

Asten was above me, his face desperate as he tightened his hold on me. His thighs were on either side of me, holding me in place, with his hands keeping both my arms pinned to the ground. I jerked my body upwards, trying to throw him off, but it only caused him to tighten his hold.

I could feel anger and hopelessness beginning to fill me, and with it, the familiar choking feeling in the back of my throat. But I couldn't cry, not in front of him. I would never cry. Crying never helped anyone.

I spit in his face. My face contorted in a grotesque expression of pain, but Asten did nothing to let up his hold.

I expected cruelty in his words, but when he opened his mouth, all that came out was, "I'm sorry...I don't want to hurt you." I didn't understand how he could possibly say such a thing, while knowing what he was leading me towards. Yet, his expression held feelings that I also felt. Hopelessness. Confusion. Fear.

"Then let me go," I whispered through gritted teeth.

He shook his head slightly, like this idea could not even be considered. "I can't do that."

I was tempted to laugh. To just break out in hysterics, but I couldn't even find humor in this. I'd been with someone for not even two days and already had been betrayed.

He was going to sell me.

He was going to trade me to a gang.

I didn't know why. I wished I knew. At least then I would have a better understanding of it. I wanted there to be a reason.

I guess there was a reason that I refused to accept. In this world, everyone betrays you in the end.

I stared into his gray eyes, as he grabbed my wrists and pulled out a zip tie. He wrapped it around them. I just stared, unable to do anything about it. He pulled on my arms, forcing me to my feet.

Snow fell, as my last hope of finding someone disappeared underneath it.

mMp

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