The dog fell among the carnivorous flowers on the riverside. I saw her glassy brown eyes, her wet nose sniffling with fear, and she whimpered. Greenery wrapped around her and held her tight. Toothy flowers suckled like the hungry mouths of newborn babes. She looked to me with trust in her eyes, with a fading glimmer of hope. I had no choice but to drop her leash and turn away.
The woods ahead were silent. I was alone and lost and scared. The trail was only hinted at, hardly ever used – but still used far too often – and I tripped among overgrown strands of ivy and kudzu littering the forest floor.
A trickle of water gurgled on a nearby granite wall where a small creek had hewn stone into a steep cliff, and I pondered the immensity of time, and for a moment, lost myself in thoughts of the eternal.
Then the sunlight glared down at me through the trees as if to shock me out of my random reflections. I stopped thinking and began walking again. Forward to the village, onward to civilization, or at least the remains of civilization, towards my new home where they would welcome me with open arms as one of their own now that I met their requirements.
At the gate of my new home I was met by piles of bones and the buzzing of flies.
I had sacrificed all that was dear to me, so I was able to enter, but I knew part of me would always remain on that riverside. That part of me was washed away with the eddying currents. I just hope that the muddy river led that part of me towards a world better than this.
Inside my new home I looked around. I touched my hand to the rough walls of the fort. I felt rusted aluminum, a patchwork of salvaged fiberglass, and the drying husks of ancient fallen trees. I looked up and saw a noisy haze obscuring the sky -- a cloud of hungry mosquitoes. I looked around and everyone looked just like me. Distraught, I sat in the dirt and wasted away and thought about how much better everything might have been had I simply retained the mental fortitude necessary to go it alone outside girded walls.
But, in the end, we all must make our sacrifices. Society demands it.
I thought I would sleep better once enclosed in the safety of the fort; I couldn’t have been more wrong.