Richard and Doubts
Maria had been walking with the group for five minutes when someone spoke to her.
Richard was a young man, looking to be in his mid-twenties with blue eyes and a light complexion contrasting his fire red hair. A warm, inviting smile crossed his freckled face as he reached out a leathery-looking hand covered in sores and scars towards her. Another victim of the plagues during The Great Purge. She reached out and took his hand. “Hi Richard, I’m Maria. Do you know what’s happening? Where’s everyone going?”
Richard pointed to the thickening black cloud of smoke rising in the sky like a funeral pyre. “To that, I assume. At least, that’s where I’m headed.”
“Yeah,” she said. “Hey, let me ask you something, do you smell bacon?”
Richard looked at the pillar of smoke rising in the sky ahead of them. “I damaged my olfactory nerves during the Great Purge, so no, I haven’t. Did you check with the kitchen at camp? It’s been awhile since we had any. Maybe someone got lucky.”
“Yes, I did. There’s none. Thomas said it might be coming from wherever that pillar of smoke is. That’s why I’m following you guys. Thought we could barter for bacon.”
Richard smiled. The scaring on his face kept the corners of his mouth from moving. “Well, if you find any, I’ll be glad to help out. I don’t have much, but I could help get bacon for the camp. Bacon makes everything better. That’s what they used to say. Better would be nice right about now. It’s getting tougher to survive and find food. Three families left the camp two months ago for the country. They believed they had a better chance than in the cities. I might follow them.”
Maria looked to the West. The world was huge. Opportunities were plentiful for those willing to work hard. She and Joseph had discussed leaving just last night. He wanted to go to the country. They’d find a small, abandoned farm and grow food and raise animals. Joseph knew how to hunt and fish. He believed they could do it. Joseph was convincing. She wanted to say yes. One thing was holding her back – she’d been a city girl all her life. She never learned how to do any of that stuff. Still, it was tempting. It might be time to move on to green pastures.
“Look ahead!” someone from the front of the group shouted. Maria looked past the crowd of people and saw a gathering around a large building on fire. They were shouting and celebrating. The groups pace quickened. “Maybe they’re having a pig roast.”
Richard laughed, “Let’s hope!”
Just as they neared the crowd, a familiar voice behind her shouted, “MOM!”