Author’s Note: Yup, still looking for feedback. If you’re the “reading things in order” kind of person, then before you read this you should make sure you’ve seen “A Test“, “Exploration“, “A Home” and “Awake“. Anyway, here’s part 5.

She laughed. First, she laughed because she was back on the ground; not the unforgiving metal floors, but soft, foot-worn dirt. She laughed next at the absurdity of it all, of planting herself face-first into the dust. She laughed at the sound of her own laughter, filling the air with a curiously new sound. Had it been that long since she’d laughed? Had she simply forgotten what it was like?

She sat up, brushing dirt from the legs of her pants. She noticed that they were blue, wondering if they’d always been that way. Somehow, all the way back to the fields, and to time before that, she couldn’t remember getting dressed. She strained to recall how she’d ended up here, giggling in the road over her own ineptitudes. She was so lost in trying to retrace her steps that she missed the sound of steps growing to her left.

As the shadow fell over her, she regained her senses and turned too quickly, scrambling to regain her balance as she looked upward. A young man, not more than three years her elder, stood above her. She recoiled as he lunged toward her suddenly, his fingers wrapped around — nothing? She blinked.

“Help you up, miss?” he said. There was a genuine compassion in his voice. A welcoming warmth. She reached up, using his arm to hoist herself to her feet. Letting go, she nervously brushed at the dirt that covered her.

“You alright?”

“I’m- I’m fine. I’m okay.”

He was small in stature, but hearty. She was used to standing taller than those around her, so it was nothing new. He was dressed in simple-looking brown clothing; full-length pants, a thigh-length tunic with sleeves that just covered his elbows, and a wide-brimmed hat of lighter material. Tufts of black hair jutted out around the base of his headwear, and a patchy stubble covered his chin.

“Grant,” he said, looking at her as though with a question.

“Dani,” she replied. Her voice, like her laugh earlier, caught her off guard; she smiled to hear the lilt to it. It seemed in harmony with the scent on the breeze, the warmth of the sun’s light, the comical scene she must have presented when falling over herself moments ago. For a moment, she wondered if she’d been expected to say something esle. A palpable silence came between them, and then was gone as he smiled again.

“If you’re sure you’re alright, then.” He let his words trail off, inviting her to ask him to stay. She nodded.

“I’m sure. Thanks, anyway.”

As he turned to leave, he chuckled lightly to himself. She watched him for a moment, then turned and began walking with the long strides of one traveling with purpose. Of course, she still hadn’t puzzled out where she was headed, but for now she’d settled on looking confident. There was some reason, she felt, that it was important to maintain composure even after the scene she’d made.

She followed the worn footpath as it wove between the huts and hovels making up the small village, allowing her legs to guide her where they would. Outside some of the structures, signs depicting the trade or craft of their inhabitants hung; others were adorned with small flowers of purple and blue, while some seemed starkly plain, as though there was no spark of life inside of them at all.

At last, her feet led her to a simple-looking fenced-in garden splayed out in the front of one of these. She reached absently into her satchel — wait, had she had that before? Removing the key from it seemed so natural a motion that she didn’t stop to consider it further. She stepped lightly to the door and unlocked it, stepping through the smallish frame and into her home.

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