Pepper and Mikaela rode into a valley between the mountains. They followed the trail until just before nightfall. The trail had led to an outcropping of red and white rock faces. The area looked as if the land had been broken into pieces and turned on its side. Together they found a small recess in one of the red rocks which would protect them from the blowing cold winds.
Mikaela dismounted from Pepper’s back and gathered some kindling to start a fire. She pulled some dried jerky from the provisions in her pack for herself, then removed the saddle from Pepper’s back. Pepper made his way to a nearby patch of grass, chomping down after a long day’s ride.
Mikaela took a seat on one of the rocks and looked up into the night sky. The stars always caught her eyes. She wondered about other worlds, other lives, other places. As she looked in the night sky, she didn’t recognize any of the constellations. There were no Orion’s belt, no big or little dipper, no cassiopeia. However, the stars were still amazing as they twinkled in the night sky.
As Mikaela reflected on her journey, she realized she was missing home less than she thought she should. Out here, among nature, she felt free. Perhaps she was starting to understand why people chose to stay here instead of running back home. Freedom from responsibilities, freedom from obligations. Anything she could think of, she could make happen here, or so she thought.
In the distance, she heard a rustling in the brush. A small white-tailed deer stumbled out and looked at her. She walked closer to the fire, looking for warmth, and laid down, curled up. Pepper walked up, looked at the deer, then at Mikaela. He started to whinny, but Mikaela signaled to him to be quiet. Mikaela grabbed her satchel, and laid down, settling in for the night.
No sooner did Mikaela fall asleep did she wake up. Song birds greeted her as the sun began to stream daylight. When she woke, she thought it odd. No dreams overnight, at least that she could remember. The deer had left long before, but Pepper was already prancing around in a nearby field. Pepper spied she was awake and bolted over.
Mikaela looked at Pepper. “What are we doing, Pepper? Why am I here?” She no longer understood what this journey was about. This talk of an acushla waiting, the kind people Somewhere, the strange clan of Nowhere. Now she was here, alone, and while free, felt empty.
Pepper nodded his head towards his back, as if to say mount up. Mikaela shook her head no. Pepper stomped his feet, then whinnied for her to get on.
In the distance, Mikaela saw riders coming up fast. She wasn’t sure if they saw her, but she decided not to stick around to find out. Quickly she threw on the saddle and mounted up. “Let’s go Pepper. You get your way one more time.”