Chapter Ten: Eastward

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Selene started off strong, barreling down the highway with a newfound pep in her step. She gave off a renewed energy, as if she was fully aware that she had found another purpose, another journey. Her engine hummed like she was singing a tune. Kai drummed along to the beat.

The thing about going east was the nagging fact that barely even two hours ago they had been making their journey northwest. There was a metallic taste at the back of Kai's tongue as they made their way back through the ancient lava flows.

There was something about the darkened volcanic dust the second time around. It wasn't sinister, it was...sullen. It sucked the positivity from the passengers, serving as a cruel reminder of a still-too-soon failure.

It only took an hour to get to the other side of the discolored patch on the map, but no one would have argued that it felt far longer than that.

They carried on until they came up on a fork in the road: either continue back the way they came or take a new, unfamiliar path. No one argued when Kai opted for the latter.

Once the rock had all faded away, the scenery returned to wispy swaths of browned grass and a clear view of the horizon. There were mountains in this direction. They weren't steep like the ones in the west, nor were they rounded like the buttes. These mountains had their own character to them. Kai was going to have to spend the next however long getting to know them.

Meredith leaned against the side of the Jeep. "So where exactly are we going?" they spoke up.

"Arcadia, round two," Kai called back. "Subtitled: Maybe We'll Actually Find it this Time."

"I knew that. I meant, how exactly do we know where it is?"

He hesitated. "We don't," he admitted. "But we have a general direction and that has to count for something. If there're workers going around in white suits to other places, maybe we can follow their trail."

Miriam stared out at the road. "That would require us to find another town first. It's desolate out here. It's not much better than the desert."

"At least it's not as hot as the desert," he conceded.

"Not by much," she mumbled.

Selene continued onward as the sun descended in the sky behind them. The endless horizon was a little more bearable painted in the pinks, reds, and oranges of the sunset. As the night crept its way in, they still had yet to hit anywhere inhabited by other human beings.

Kai pulled over on the side of the road as the dark blue pigment began bleeding into the warm sunset. He wasted no time setting up camp, pulling the tarp over the frame of the Jeep and staking it into the ground. Everyone separated for their evening routines without much word.

As they settled in, Meredith reached over to tap on Dani's shoulder. "Hey, Miss Dani. Can you show me the stars again? I think I remember what they look like from the other night, but I want you to quiz me."

Dani gave them a tired smile. "Yeah, of course. I bet you have them all down pat."

The two left the makeshift tent to look at the stars, leaving Kai and Miriam still inside.

Kai sprawled himself out on the ground next to Selene. He stretched out his arms and legs as far as he could until he looked like a starfish.

Miriam leaned over the side of the vehicle and observed him.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

He shrugged haphazardly.

"Alright, I'll bite." She climbed over the side and joined him on the ground. She laid back without spreading out and stared up into the zenith.

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