Day Twenty ➣ Part Two

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THE CLIMB SLOWED ON the wet terrain, each of them taking extra caution not to slip as they trudged up the grassy slope. The rain did not ease up, and the wind whipped Raina's hair into her face, sticking it to her cheeks, her lips, her forehead. The raindrops whipped into the rock face, beating against their backs.

The tension remained, but it was deflated, faltering as they focused on their footsteps. Raina looked back. A single mistake would make for a long, bloody fall. With the branch Rance had brought for her after she ran after Finn, she hobbled along in the mud, the cane squishing into the ground.

"That was some speech," Rance said, coming up beside her. "Almost thought you had it rehearsed or something."

"Please," Raina said. "Nothing I rehearsed could have come out that well."

He chuckled and nudged her. "I liked that confidence, though. I take it Arleigh's been working on you?"

"Like magic," she said. Her ankle gave a throb, and she winced.

He watched her, chewing on his lip. "Do you really think that individual thing is true?" he asked. "I mean, you're the historian."

"I'm a storm chaser. Dreams don't count. And not that I don't appreciate how chipper you're trying to be to squeeze past the elephant in the room--"

"Elephants have been extinct for two hundred and twenty years."

"--but I'm worried you'll expend all your niceness on this trek. Then you'll be all grumpy when we finally find shelter."

"Please. I'm never grumpy."

She scoffed, and he nudged her again. She sighed. "I don't know much at all, really. Not like I want to, someday. But that myth of the single person, spread about in some places as if they weren't riding on the backs of a blood-stained origin story, never sat well with me."

"We never seem to be able to let go of blood," he said. "My ancestors were from America. I wonder what they were like."

"I wonder if they're rolling in their graves hearing me talk like this," she said with a chuckle.

"America's a mess. I doubt their graves even exist anymore."

Raina lost her footing, and Rance grabbed her arm, steadying her as she squeezed her eyes shut in pain. He didn't lift his hand until she opened them again, and found his face scrunched in concern, his eyes fixed on her face. The moment passed, and they kept moving. 

"It was only ever a distraction, anyway," Raina said. "To help the top hold onto what they had. It's what killed the planet. But it was easier to go on like that, follow their narrative, until it wasn't." She thought back to the day of the crash, her utter disregard for the power of nature. "It's funny, how we never seem to learn until it's too late."

Rance shook his head. "I don't understand it," he said. "But I guess they would say the same thing about how we live, now."

"I used to never understand them. I thought of them as a different species. That there was no way we could make their mistakes, fall into their greed. Looking down at the surface from so high, it's easy to disconnect. But the only thing that really separates us is time."

He smiled. "You would have made a good historian, back then."

"Please. By the end, in all the paranoia, I probably would have been locked up with the press."

"I would break you out of jail," Rance offered.

She chuckled. "Likewise."

The day wore on, and at last they reached the cliffs. They walked beneath them, searching out the lowest point, and within another hour they were climbing. They worked slowly, the handholds wet beneath their fingers, grunting at the strain of their muscles, the flaring of their injuries. The rain raged on, dark clouds carpeting the sky right to the horizon, promising a long, wet night.

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