Chapter 4

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I think I was the only one who was truly aware of the true dangers we were facing. Maisie was curled up in the attic, moth-bitten blanket tucked over her. Mum was staring into space on the chair, her face pale like the heavy snow outside.

I watched her watch the snow. I wondered what she was seeing among the sea of white because she looked so concentrated, as though there was a tiny detail she needed to pick out. I left her there in her silence to go to the bathroom and clear my face up a bit. My eyes were blotchy and red and it felt a relief to see the colour of life again.

Life that would end pretty soon.

I made my way back to the kitchen, dabbing my eyes with a tissue and telling myself not to be such a wimp because there were more important things now than crying. There was finding food. There was finding food. And guess what? There was finding more food. I was the provider of our family now. I was the one who needed to stay strong.

The metal on the floor stopped me abruptly from my thinking. I frowned at the black on the white tiles, eyes trying to figure out what it was. Everything we did now was slowly and carefully. Everything we ate and drank was measured carefully and with exact precision.

I bent down and picked it up, fingering lightly over the trigger. This was a thing of rarity, of beauty, of gold. It was something that would be worth a thousand times more than the very house I was standing in. The man had left it behind. The man had stupidly dropped it on his escape with our food.

It was his gun.

Here I was, staring in awe at this beautiful creature. Mum was staring at the window behind me, not acknowledging anything. She was picking out the details in the simplicity of the world. I was doing that too. I was picking out the details in the simplicity of the weapon but inside I was empty. I was hollow and dark and empty.

I felt so alone.

And there was the hunger coming back. Every few minutes I would relish went down the drain when it came back, rumbling in my stomach as if a reminder of the valuables I needed to input. I needed food. I needed it so badly because there was little time before my eyes would shut down and the world would keep running on. There was little time and I needed to make the most of it. I needed to find food for the roaring beast inside of me.

So, I slowly ambled up the stairs to the room that had once been mine. The rucksack inside looked at me innocently, as though telling me not to do it.

But there was no choice. This was something I needed. This wasn't wanting. This was needing. Food was what we needed, and if that was what cost me life or death, I didn't care.

Oh hell, I did not care.

So, with the last six words in mind, I drew the rucksack slowly from the drawer and began filling it with things for my long and treacherous journey.

Oh hell, I did not care.

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