They sparkled in the distance, much closer now, forming a beacon to lead him home.
How long since he’d awoken alone, his mother nowhere to be found? Three? Five? Afraid to sleep he’d only snatched naps along the way, distorting all sense of time.
It clawed at his throat, stealing the remains of his voice after his shouts for help went answered.
The world was still, as if everything alive slept in unison.
The ground was still warm from the day’s sun as his sneakers slapped the pavement, the radiating heat flushing his face.
He traveled at night now, the only way to be certain he walked in the right direction. It was scarier to sleep in the black.
He squinted, a shape rising as he crested a hill.
His steps slowed as he approached.
The driver’s door hung open, just like the others. The sliver of moon lit its interior just enough to see nobody sat inside. He raced the rest of the way, crawling inside, fumbling for anything left behind. Excitement exploded as he discovered the rim of a cup, resting in its holder. He sniffed the contents, grimacing.
With only the slightest hesitation he choked down the liquid, the bitterness less noticeable than the first time.
Then, he’d spit it out and dumped the contents.
He knew better now.
The cup emptied, he continued his search.
Wrappers. Papers. Tissues. Coins.
He wiped his hand on the seat, disgusted, and opened the glove box.
Two wrapped rectangles hid within. He ripped the wrapper, shoving a third of the bar into his mouth.
A granola bar. With chocolate.
The first vanished and the second followed, his hunger overriding any inclination to savor or save.
More. He wanted more.
He pawed through the glove box again, hoping.
He rolled to the floor, reaching beneath the seats.
Sticky, unidentifiable things greeted him, and he moved to the back seat instead, his head brushing against something.
A car seat.
He fingered the creases, remembering when his sister was small and how his father complained about the mess.
He smiled, finding tiny circles lining the padding, and popped them into his mouth.
Cheerios never tasted so wonderful.
A stuffed animal rested forgotten on the floor: a teddy bear.
He hugged it for a moment, knowing he was too old for such a thing, but finding comfort in the softness.
He placed it on the car seat before sliding into the front once again.
He pushed his fingers against the dashboard, trying to find the magic button for opening the trunk. Keys jangled as he brushed against them.
He struggled to release them from the ignition, then hurried to the back of the car. Choosing the largest key on the ring, he inserted it into the lock and twisted.
The latch clicked and the trunk yawned wide.
He slowed his movements, the memory of cutting his finger in another trunk still fresh.
Metal. Cloth, soft.
A tiny blanket.
He pulled it free and tossed it to the ground.
He crawled into the trunk, reaching for the back where the light couldn’t penetrate, pulling the contents to the front.
A ball. A diaper. A package of baby wipes. Clothes too small for him.
He returned to the ground and pulled off his backpack, shoving the blanket inside, joining a dead iPod, cell phone, and his baseball cap.
He faced the city, his steps lighter than before, focusing on the last thing his mother had told him.
“You are so strong. I love you.”
The most frequent advice I come across for amateur writers is, “Write what you know.”
“What you know” doesn’t necessarily always mean “your comfort zone.” For this week, take what you know out of your comfort zone. Try a new genre, a new time period, a geography you’ve only dreamed of, fantasy or historical instead of contemporary fiction, try the male POV if you usually write women. Or vice versa.
Switch it up. See where it takes you.
* * *
Sorry if you were hoping for Mav and John. The very nature of this prompt meant trying new characters. I think I might write something for them too…