The home looked untouched. \n\nCobwebs littered the ceiling, but two easy chairs sat against the wall covered in thick blankets. She could see through to the kitchen, with it's old refrigerator and large sink, the wood stove still perched in the space between. \n\nLeaves rustled on the floor in front of her, proof that the door had been opened. Maybe it had been the wind. \n\n[[She walked towards the kitchen.|towards the kitchen]]
The deer is heavy, but she is desperate. She pulls the still warm frame through the grass. \n\nIf Emily can get the deer to the road, it'll be easier going, but for now it's hard to deal with the rough terrain. The deers head catches and thunks like a watermelon against trees, it's body hard to handle on the bottoms of branches. \n\nThe trail of blood follows her to the road. \n\n[[She reaches the road|dragging the dead deer along the gravel]]
Knife raised, she walks towards the deer. She remembers the way her father slit the throats of hogs on the farm, the way their thick blood would run down the back of his hand. Later, she'd hear about more humane ways, about shooting them. \n\nBut he always told her he didn't waste bullets. \n\nHer fingers brush against the side of the deer, and there is a moment of calm. The fur is not as soft as she would've imaged, rather coarse. \n\nThe deer runs. \n\n[[She follows|she follows]]\n[[She gives up the chase.|she gives up the chase]]
<<silently>>\n<<set $firestartattempt = $firestartattempt + 1>>\n<<endsilently>>\nThe flames build weakly for a few moments, but without further tinder, the fire dies. \n<<if $firestartattempt gte 3>>[[She sighs. Another night of cold soup.|fail]]<<else>>\n[[try again.|lit match]] \n[[eat cold soup.|give up]]<<endif>>
<<silently>>\n<<set $firestartattempt = $firestartattempt + 1>>\n<<endsilently>>\nThe fire starts with a brief flash of light, but sputters out in a pile of scorched tender. \n\n<<if $firestartattempt gte 3>>[[She sighs. Another night of cold soup.|fail]]<<else>>\n[[try again|lit match]]\n[[eat cold Spaghetti-Os|give up]]<<endif>>
\n[[She lights the top of the tinder.|top of tinder]]\n \n[[She lights the bottom of the tinder.|bottom of tinder]]
<<if $deerkilled eq "yes">>\nShe slowly makes her way along the road, the body of the deer making every step an exercise.<<endif>>\n\nTo her right is where Mary used to live, just a girl in her school. It was a white double wide, and her mother had always kept it immaculate. \n\nThe front door had been ripped off the hinges. Even pretty little Mary Turner hadn't been saved when it had Happened. \n\n[[She kept walking.]]
<<silently>>\n<<set $firestartattempt = 0>>\n<<set $litfire = "no">>\n<<set $deerkilled = "no">>\n<<set $shottaken = "no">>\n<<endsilently>>\nEmily's breath fogs in front of her. The mountains are barren, the cold her only companion. \n\nShe throws the [[rifle strap]] over her shoulder. The hill is steep, and the ground littered in fallen leaves, wet from the remnats of last nights snow. \n\nThe horizon is lost as the earth bleeds into the overcast Kentucky sky. \n\nIt's been 2 years since it Happened. \n\n[[She is heading home.|divergent homes]]
What is she going to do? Knife the deer? She turns and starts back to the road. She's got to get to her Mamaw's before it's too late in the day. \n\nShe doesn't want to be on this road for too long. \n\n[[She keeps walking|she continues on the road]]
She slipped into the waiting sleeping bag, quilts pulled up to her chin. The nights were only getting colder, and she knew she was soon going to have to go there. \n\nShe hadn't been to her Mamaws since it Happened, hadn't been back in the holler in a long while. \n\n[[She slept, fitfully but dreamlessly. |wake]]\n\n[[She dreamed.|dream]]
He swore, but her nails were so short she had done little to affect him. \n\n"Now that's not real sweet of you, is it?" He leaned in closer, the bulk of his body heavy on hers. Emily was slight, she still hadn't fully matured. \n\n"Now it ain't got to be like that." He pushed her hands to the side, blind to her protests. "C'mon girl, don't make this hard." His fingers tore at her coat and the shirt underneath. \n\n[[She kicked upwards|upward kick]]\n
Emily kicks the fire pit stones, frustrated at her inability to create a fire. \n\nIt's cold and wet, she tells herself. She can barely feel her fingers. But she knows that is also why she needed the fire tonight. \n\nThe sun dips behind the mountains, and she goes back to the relative safety of the mine, excess matches tucked securely into her coat pocket. \n\n[[The can of Spagetti-O's will be cold and unsatisfying, but at least it's food.|sleep]]\n
She hadn't been home since it Happened. It wasn't safe in town, around where people might be. She'd scavenged cans of food from surrounding houses, had been so careful about avoiding contact. \n\nBut her stash of cans wasn't going to last her the winter, and she was painfully low on other supplies. She knew her Mamaw's house, knew the [[holler]] where she'd been raised all of her life. \n\n[[Her best shot was there. |an hour walk]]\n
<<set $shottaken = "yes">>\nShe aimed her gun at the largest part of the deer that she could see, it's hind. \n\nEmily breathed in, and then slowly released the breath while depressing the trigger. \n\nThe bullet hit the deer in the meat of the leg. Startled, the deer began to limp away, blood dappling the gray earth. \n\n[[She follows the deer|follow the deer]]\n\n[[She gives up the chase, and continues down the road.|retreat from the deer]]
She'd been hunting before, had killed squirrels and a slim doe before. But she'd never been this hungry. If she played her cards right, she could take this doe down and eat well for the next few weeks at least. \n\n[[She doesn't shoot|no shot]]\n\n[[She lines up her sights on the does hind|doe hind]]\n\n[[She lines up her sights on the does neck|doe neck]]
<<set $deerkilled = "yes">>\nShe approaches, gently, in case she startles the deer. That was her last shot, but it had to be worth it. \n\nEmily crouches down behind the brush, her eyes on the deer. It's terrified, but it will all be over in moments. Her father taught her right, and the deer is just at the phase where it's bleeding out. \n\nThe deer dies. \n\n[[She grabs the deers head, and begins pulling it down the road.|dragging the dead deer along the gravel]]
[[She hit him again|again and again]]
Her mother had used the same cast iron pan, and when she died, it had fallen to Emily to cook.\n\n[[Corn bread was the only thing she made well.|onward and upward]]
Past this point, the road wasn't even gravel. It was dying grass, gnarled and tall. \n\n<<if $deerkilled eq "yes">>The deer body caught on everything, leaving behind a wake of flattened brush and a thin stream of matted blood. The warmth was leaving the deers flesh. \n\n<<else>>\n\nThe going was hard, and she had to hike up her legs. The grass had never been this tall before, hitting right above her knees. \n\n<<endif>>\n\n[[She knew she was close]]
Emily pulled the plywood across the entrance after her. \n\nThe rock above felt solid, the wood baked black. This was [[home|coal mine room]], however small it may seem. \n\nShe reaches down into a plastic crate and grabs a tin of Spaghetti-Os and a small booklet of matches. If dinner is going to be warm tonight, she's going to have to start a [[fire|firestarter]].
The cast iron was cold in her hand, and she didn't even think. She smashed him over the head with it. He fell. \n\n[[She hit him again.|she hit him again]]\n[[She stopped]]
She remembered coming home from school, the bus stopping at the head of this road, walking home to start dinner. It was like nothing had really changed, that even though it Happened, there was still something left she knew. \n\nAfter her Mamaw had died, her father had moved her to the tail end of this holler, and she'd been happy to call it home. \n\n[[She kept walking.|stll walking]]
She leaned against the counter, her breath ragged. He was still against the ground, blood slowly flowing onto the yellow linoleum, faint in the limited light. \n\n[[She looked at the body|hands and knees]]
There is small pile of leaves, kept dry in her pockets for this purpose. She's done this before, but her fingers are so cold she's not sure she can light this fire. \n\nShe lights the match, the tiny flame flickering to life in her quickly cupped hands. \n\n[[She brings the match to the tinder|lit match]]
She hit him the groin, he swore, but his grip lessened. She slipped it and ran towards the kitchen. \n\n[[He followed|cast iron]]
The road was wild and unkept, asphalt broken by the force of grass. The creek was high from the earlier snowfall. \n\nAhead, a branch had fallen across the road, blocking the way from her sight. \n\n[[But she caught a glimpse. A touch of hindquarters, a flash of black eyes, the dark skin of its body.|the deer]]
[[She hit him again|again]]
When Emily had found the place, some teenage boys had stuck biohazard stickers all over the plywood. Dip bottles and spray paint cans littered the front. \n\n[[back|onward and upward]]
She only had the one shot, she can't waste it, and that deer will keep her fed for a long time. \n\nShe follows after the deer, pulling out a long knife she kept in her backpack. \n\n[[She follows the deer|she is Rambo]]\n[[She gives up the chase|retreat from the deer]]
My Olde Kentucky Home
She pulled his body out the back door and rolled it down the hill. She didn't have the strength to carry him any further. \n\nShe went to the well on the corner of the property, carrying the bucket as she had as a child. The water sloshed in the corners. There was a rag under the sink where she'd left it. \n\nShe got down on her hands and knees, cleaning the blood with heavy swipes. \n\nShe was home. \n\n<<playsound "constantsorrow.mp3">>
The quilts reminded her of her Mamaw's home. That seemed to be a place out of time, where a wood stove heated the whole home and she would be allowed to stay up late to attempt clean stiches with faulty hands. \n\nHer Mamaw would watch, her own stitches practiced and neat against the fabric. Emily had never gotten the hang of sewing before cancer came calling. \n\n[[back|sleep]]
The mine has been empty for a generation, bt she still wouldn't light a fire here.\n\nA sleeping bag is piled in one corner, topped in quilts she's pulled from the town below. The other corner is a short stack of canned food. One can a day and she might make it through winter. \n\nThe only light in the room comes from the doorway, and the tunnel stretches into blackness beyond her. A gas can and generator are on the floor near the door. \n\n[[back|home as good as any]]
There's a circle of stones where she usually lights her fires. She pulls a bundle of sticks from her backpack that she grabbed on her walk today. \n\n[[She makes a nest of tinder.|tinder nest]]\n
Knife in hand, Emily follows the trail of blood through the forest. Ahead, she can see the deer, it's back end caked in blood. \n\nShe can kill it, she knows she can. She just has to get close enough, and then she can take the deer back with her to the mine. \n\n[[She approaches with the knife drawn|approaches injured deer]]
[[She cried. She hit him again.|again and again and again]]
With the way the deer is bleeding, she knows she doesn't have to outlast him for long. \n\nShe's hungry, and she's taking this deer to ground. \n\n[[She follows.|running after]]
The wind howled through the hollow between two mountains, a creek running along the cracked pavement of the road. \n\nThis road, this place, it ran through her bones. \n\n[[She was filled with hope.|hope]]\n\n[[She was filled with sadness.|sadness]]
<<set $deerkilled = "yes">>\nIt's breath is hot and ragged, it's eyes fixed on her in panic. It's a fat deer, its belly round and covered in blood. \n\nShe pulls out the knife and slices it along the deers throat. \n\n[[It dies in moments.|dragging the dead deer through woods]]
The house had been old before she was born. Now it looked like a forgotten ancient world, like the ones she had to read about in history class. \n\nThis was [[her Mamaw's house|mamaw house]], and then her house. \n\n[[Now she just had to get inside.|up the hill]]
<<silently>>\n<<set $firestartattempt = $firestartattempt + 1>>\n<<endsilently>>\nThe embers slowly die as she watches. Sighing, she rolls the cold log off the fire pit. \n\n<<if $firestartattempt gte 3>>[[She sighs. Another night of cold soup.|fail]]<<else>>\n[[try again|lit match]]\n[[eat cold Spaghetti's|give up]]<<endif>>
She slumped against the counter, dropping the cast iron skillet to the linoleum with a thud. \n\nShe didn't look at him, but she knew he was dead. \n\n[[She sat for a few moments, the pool of his blood seeping towards her legs. |hands and knees]]
<<set $shottaken = "yes">>\n\nShe lines up the sight the way she's been taught. Emily had always been an excellent shot. \n\nShe breathes in, and while she slowly breathes out, she pulls the trigger. \n\nThe bullet hits with a wet thump in the deers neck, and it hits the ground. If she's hit the right spot, she's broken its neck. \n\n[[She watches it die.|watch the deer die]]\n\n[[She waits for a few moments before heading over.|walks to deer]]
<<set $litfire = "yes">>\nThe fire is small, but she doesn't need it to be any larger. Since it Happened, she knows better than to attract attention to herself, but the lure of a warm meal is too big to pass up. \n\nFor a moment she sits in the comfort of the flame. \n\nShe prys open the top of the can of food with her pocket knife, before pushing the can next to the fire with a stick. It sits there for a few moments, the paper wrapping on the can curling in the flames. \n\nThe food is hot, satisfying, a boon to her exhausted body. \n\n[[Putting out the fire with a few flicks of dirt and some stomps, she heads back into the mine.|sleep]]
The sleeping bag had provided little comfort over the course of the night, and the quilts left her captured in a coccoon of warmth. \n\nShe kicked herself out of the covers and stood, grabbing her rifle. \n\n[[She had to head back to the holler.|downward slope]]\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n
[[She remembers the morning she left, her red coat darkening from the rain.|remembering darkness]] \n\n[[She remembers the taste of corn bread fried in a cast iron skillet.|remembering lightness]]
The deer is ahead, blood flowing from its still gaping wound, splashing the wood with color. \n\nThe deer falls. \n\n[[She approaches. |approaches dying deer]]
<<silently>>\n<<set $firestartattempt = $firestartattempt + 1>>\n<<endsilently>>\n\nThe stick does little more than dig the embers beneath the remains of last weeks fire. \n\n<<if $firestartattempt gte 3>>[[She sighs. Another night of cold soup.|fail]]<<else>>\n[[She rolls the cold log out of the firepit and tries again|lit match]]\n[[She decides to eat the Spaghetti's cold|give up]]<<endif>>
She only had one shot, and there was no telling whether she would actually be able to hit the deer or not. \n\nShe lowers her rifle and the deer starts at the crackle of concrete beneath her feet. \n\nFor a second they made eye contact, and the deer fled. \n\n[[Sighing, she continues on her way.|she continues on the road]]\n\n
She only has one shot, and following the deer would be ridiculous, no matter who hungry she is. \n\nEmily curses her idiocy. She shouldn't have wasted that last shot on a deer. It's not like she could've dragged the thing up the hill with her. The promise of fresh meat had just been so hard to ignore. \n\n[[Sighing she continues up the road|she continues on the road]]
The gravel catches and builds up like a dam, making it harder and harder to drag the deer. It's body is thick and heavy, but she knows it will be worth it. \n\n[[she continues on the road]]
Emily rolls the can in her hand, before heading back inside. The sun has fallen behind the surrounding mountains, the air cold. \n\nIn the dying light, she uses a pocket knife to pry open the can. Using the flat end of the can opener as a spoon, she quickly consumes the entire can of cold, congealed food. \n\n[[It sits like a stone in her stomach.|sleep]]\n\n\n\n\n\n\n
The tinder catches, and a brief flame dances on the surface of the leaves, burning red gold in the light. \n\n[[She sits back in surprise and watches the small fire|sits back]]\n\n[[She adds some small branches from her bundle|small branches]]\n\n[[She tosses on a log|abrupt log]]
She was stupid for even thinking that this place could go untouched. Even way back in this holler, even tucked as far back between two mountains as people would go, even there it wasn't safe. \n\nShe just hoped there was something left. This trip couldn't be for nothing. \n\n[[She walked inside.|she walked inside]]\n\n
The large log seems to smother the fire, but she catches sight of a few small embers. \n\n[[She pokes them with another stick.|failure stick]]\n\n[[She blows gently on them, adding small, dry twigs.|small branches]]\n\n[[She waits, hoping the fire will ignite the log.|failed ignition]]
It was an hour walk through dead bushes. The wet had finally dried, but it was still cold. \n\nThe chill cut through her red coat, frayed along the seams. She had grown out of so much of her clothing, but the coat had been big to begin with. \n\nShe found the road, the sign paint worn away so she could no longer read it. It didn't matter. \n\n[[This was home.|the road]]\n
Between the kitchen and the living room was a small multi-purpose room with a wood stove. \n\nThe room also served as a pantry of sorts, with short cupboards against the wall. Some of the food was probably old, but some of it was probably fresh. \n\nThe kitchen was dark. The boarded windows kept out most of the light, except for slivers across the glass kitchen table. \n\n[[She felt the movement before she saw it. |shots fired]]
Most girls in town wanted dolls. Emily had wanted a gun. It was the nicest thing she owned, and the strap was black leather. \n\n[[back|Start]]
<<if $deerkilled eq "yes">>\nShe left the body of the deer at the base of the hill. She'd come back for it later.\n<<endif>>\n\nEmily's footing was unstable. The dirt drive had always been unsteady, and they were never able to afford gravel to make it easier. Unattended for two years, it was almost impossible. \n\nShe slipped a bit on the rough ground, but managed to make it to the top of the hill. \n\n[[One of the doors to the house was open|open door]]
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<<set $deerkilled = "yes" >>\nThe deer has passed, the blood still fresh on the gravel. She picks him up by the legs and begins dragging him along the road. \n\n[[The going is slow|dragging the dead deer along the gravel]]
It was a fat deer, plump in a world without predators. It's coat was thick and brown, its eyes bright. \n\nIt wasn't afraid of her. \n\n[[She raised her gun.|gun raised]]
Painted a dark green, the house almost seemed to disappear into the kudzu choked mountains. The windows had been boarded up before she had left, the doors wired shut. \n\nWhen her father hadn't returned from the mines for a week, she knew something was wrong. She'd closed up the house tight before she'd left. \n\n[[back|She knew she was close]]
She was just a dumb kid armed with a gun she'd never shot at a real person before. \n\n[[She hadn't been ready.|onward and upward]]
Pulling out a large orange whistle she'd found in town, Emily blew. The sound reverberated down the tunnel. \n\n[[Silence.|home as good as any]]
<<if $shottaken eq "no">>\nShe fired the gun without thinking, a quick reflex she was sure to regret. It missed him, instead hitting the ceiling. She recoiled against the low cupboard, his body quick to hers. \n<<else>>\nHe was fast, pinning her quickly to the cupboard, the knife lying forgotten against the floor.\n<<endif>>\n"Aw, c'mon sweetheart, I was just trying to be your friend." She could taste the scent of his breath, the bitter bite of moonshine. \n\n[[She scratched at his face.|face scratch]]\n
This had become home when her Mamaw had died, when her father had moved her here to live. \n\nBut it was so different here. This wasn't a place she knew anymore. Not since it happened. \n\n[[She kept walking.|stll walking]]\n
Emily shook her head. She wasn't ready to remember. \n\nShe started up the incline towards where she laid her head. It was a old mountain, cleared of coal long before she was born, back when these hills used to be alive with the sound of coal trucks, the bitter stink of exhaust and the constant rain of coal dust. \n\nUp ahead there was a rough [[doorway|plywood door]] made of plywood. \n\n[[A good a home as any.|the call]]
The holler where she'd grown up was just like any other. The further you drove into it, the poorer the people and the houses. Past the double wides, past where the road went to paved, then to gravel then to dirt, that's where her Mamaw lived. \n\n[[back|downward slope]]
She curled into the warmth that the quilts provided, and fell to sleep. \n\n<<if $firelit eq "yes">>\nIt's Christmas. Her Mamaw's favorite time of the year, when the grandkids came from all over and crowded around a candy cane covered tree. \n\nEmily was just a child, and her Mamaw had picked her up with a kiss and placed her on her lap. \n\n"Look sissy." She pointed a delicate finger at the tree, "Don't you just love Christmas." \n\nEmily burrowed into her embrace, never wanting to leave. \n<<else>>\nIt was a memory, she knew that. Her mother, ill herself, had slipped her into a black dress and shoes that were just a bit too small. \n\nThe funeral home was quiet and the sky getting darker, an open casket at the end of the long aisle. She was too small to see in into the coffin, but she knew who was there. Emily held her mothers hand, but her own grip grew weaker the tighter she held on. \n\n"C'mon girl. Lay down. We've got to get some rest." Her mother pushed her into one of the pews to lay down. "Tonight, we're sleeping with Mamaw." \n\nEmily didn't sleep. She watched the coffin and sung Amazing Grace to herself all night. \n<<playsound "amazinggrace.mp3">>\n<<endif>>\n\n[[The light of morning, sliding through the cracks in the plywood woke her.|wake]]
Carefully, she coaxes a few small twigs onto the fire, careful not to snuff out the flames. \n\n[[She blows gently on the twigs.|succeed]]\n\n[[She adds a few larger sticks.|succeed]]