I've attached a scrambled document to explain where we can meet. You may have some trouble reading it, but you're a smart girl, and I think you'll figure it out. If I haven't seen or heard from you in two weeks, I'll assume something happened to you. I pray that it doesn't.
Sylvan WattsIt took me two days to figure out all the puzzles and get a fairly certain idea of where I was going. I emailed Sylvan back and deleted all our correspondence from the harddrive. The morning we left, I packed up some bottles and tubes, left a note for my grandmother, and we sneaked away, taking with us all the bottled water and canned foods I had earned. We stopped at a gas station where I spent all the cash I had saved up on gas, filled up several gas cans for the trip, and got some more bottled water. The trip itself would take us about 3 hours by my calculations, but we needed to stop and find the pond that Nora had drank from.
The forest that we decided she must have been in was about thirty minutes away, in a place called "Corridor G". We followed the Route 60 highway, drove up a long, hilly, windy road, 119S, til we got to the corridor. It looked awful. All the pavement was cracked, parts of the overpasses were crumbling, it was terrifying driving over the chasm between the many hills and small mountains there. Nora confirmed that she kind of remembered this place a little bit. We were on the right track.
As we drove past little BP's over run by moss and vine, narrowly escaped driving off the edge of the battered road, I could almost remember, almost picture what this place was before. My mother had at one point worked out here. Not on this side, but we sometimes would go down to the forest and hike. Suddenly, I knew the creek Nora was talking about. I pulled off and started going down the old dirt road. It was severely overgrown, but we were able to drive down it a little ways in the jeep before the underbrush and saplings were too dense to drive through or around. I pulled the jeep off the side of the road.
"Dahlia, we'll get stranded, and lost if you leave the jeep behind! And all our food and water!" Nora cried weakly. "And I can't walk like this. I'm too tired."
"It's really not far, Nora. I remember how to get there." I assured her as I shut down the jeep, pulled two bottles of water out of the back seat, and began climbing out.
"How do you know where it is? You weren't there." She whined through her open window.
"Because, I remember being here as a kid with my mom. I know the place you described. It's the old shooting range. Mom used to take me out there to watch people shoot because she missed her grampa and it reminded her of him."
"Okay, but if that's not it, we come straight back to the jeep. I don't want to get lost out here again. You're sure it's not far? I walked around this forest for so long..." Nora's eyes started to glaze over a little bit, so I opened her door and helped her get unbuckled.
"Positive. I wish I didn't have to make you walk, but I need you to confirm that it's the right place, that way I can get my samples. Okay? It's maybe a mile out yet. We can do this. And look, we won't get lost. There's a gravel trail. It's hard to make out, but we got this. Come on, let's get it over with."
We walked for about forty five minutes or an hour and then we got where we were headed. The gravel was really overgrown, but as long as I kicked it up every few yards to make sure we were still on the right track, we made it there without issue.
"Is this the place?" I asked as we got to the stream. Without human interference, what I remembered as a little trickle was now a good two feet deep.
"I think so. I think I was up that way a little more though," she said as she pointed upstream.
"That's fine, as long as we're shortly downstream from where you were, we should be okay. Are we close enough you can see where you were?"
She looked up and down the banks for a moment, then said, "Yeah, I think that rock right there was where I bent in to drink."
I took a few tubes of water and sealed them up. Then I took some dirt from the bottom of the river and sealed it up. Finally, I took a few plants from around the bank. We turned to go, but Nora caught my arm and said, "Dahlia, wait a minute. I want to drink some of the water."
"But it's not clean, Nora. It's not good for you," I argued, already knowing what direction this conversation was going to take.
"I don't care. I'm a dead girl walking anyway. And it made me feel better last time. If there's a chance it'll do the same thing again, I have to try. Please, let me try to feel better," She begged me, her sunken eyes wide and desperate.
"But it could ruin the experiments, it could ruin your blood sample..." I argued weakly.
"But what if the treatment is repeated exposure, like chemo therapy. Please, Dahlia, I can't stand feeling this way. You have to let me try." I could see the tears welling up in her eyes, and for a moment I thought of Belle. My whole body was overcome with this shaking heat, I took a sharp breath in, it hurt. I couldn't say no. Not now. Not after everything. I didn't want her to die. I didn't know what the right answer was, but she had a point. The things obviously helped once; Nora was still alive, albeit barely, she was still standing in front of me, begging to drink dirty water. I couldn't say no, not while I could see Belle's eyes looking at me through Nora's face, not while I was thinking of someone I just lost, who I would give anything back. I needed to stop this train of thought before mom and Drake and my aunt and everyone I ever loved, and every friend, and all that sadness and grief and regret came back to kill me.
"Okay," was all I could get out before the tidal wave began to escape through my eyes. I was so worried for Nora, so sad and angry about everyone I've lost, so tired and done with it all. But Nora needed me to at least get her to a safe place with Sylvan. She needed doctors. After I took care of her, I could take care of me. In this day and age, death was easy to come by, weapons, illness, it didn't really matter at this point. I was just so tired of everything, so tired of wearing a brave face and standing alone to challenge reality. I had a mission, and when that was finished, I would be free to find relief. Just get through another day. So we made it back to the jeep and started driving in silence as the tears poured down my face.