Tony and I are taking our time returning to Bear Country. By now a new tribe leader would have been elected. I hope it was Sheriff Pete. All the soldiers that survived the ambush headed back towards Ft Shasta. Their walk was going to be a long one. I wished them luck in their journey and asked them to be safe. I again apologized for the trouble I caused.
Tony and I didn’t travel very far yesterday or today. We stayed in a hunters cabin last night. It was barely livable but it was better than sleeping out in the open on the hard ground. I have had enough sleeping on the ground to last a lifetime. The cabin was near a stream. Tony was playing around trying to catch a fish with his hands and accidentally scooped a fish out. He spent the next hour in the ice cold freezing water trying to catch another one and never came close. The one fish barely gave each of us three mouths full but it was good.
Today we went exploring. I don’t think we covered more than a couple of miles. Tony and I stumbled across a tribe of naturalist called the Sequoia. Relax they were friendly. Their tribe leader offered us a place to stay for the night. Tony’s out bathing in the creek with the men. I plan to go with the women as soon as he gets back.
I couldn’t take another step. I was thirsty and weak from hunger. After a moments rest and drinking practically all of the water in Tony’s canteen I asked about Yates and the other soldiers. Tony looked at me and shook his head from side to side. He said Yates struggled to survive for a couple of days but that he died yesterday. He had been hit by too many darts and couldn’t recover. Most of the other soldiers died from injuries they had received the day of the ambush. I refused to accept what Tony was saying. I started making plans to find Yates and the others. Tony grabbed me by the shoulders and gave me a shake. He said there weren’t any others. I said there had to be others. We were in a convoy of 4 trucks with at least 30 people. We had guns. General Yates would not have gone down without a fight.
I pulled away from Tony. I called him a liar and said a few awful things I now regret. I knew Tony had to be lying. He was jealous I chose Yates over him and I told him so. I stomped off into the woods. I don’t know where I was going but Tony followed. I stopped at the edge of a cliff. For a moment I considered jumping. Tony asked me not to jump. He said he had something important to say to me. If I still wanted to jump after he had finished he would jump with me. Tony said he loved me and that he only let me go with Yates because he wanted me to have a happy and safe life. The morning the convoy left Bear Country Tony realized he had made a mistake in allowing me to leave.
Tony borrowed a horse from Joshua of the Spurs Tribe. He caught up to the convoy shortly after the attack. Yates and several of the severely wounded soldiers had been left for dead. I was nowhere to be found.
Like the day before and the day before I spent my day digging up rocks, washing rocks and building a wall. Yates’ soldiers did the same. We tried to communicate with each other when the guards weren’t looking. It was a challenge. Getting caught would have meant a beating. I watched the guards dish out punishment without cause time after time. The guards seemed particularly cruel to a couple of slaves that could apparently do nothing right. I felt sorry them. I wanted to help but I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I watched the other slaves go about their work as if nothing cruel was happening around them. No one flinched. The most common reaction was to carefully move out of the way without drawing attention from the guards. I think it’s a coping mechanism put into place after weeks and months of trying to avoid punishment. I found myself doing it.
At the end of the day after the guards had finally decided we had done enough work we were led back to our place of sleep. We were given the same stale biscuits and a drink of water. I tucked myself up against the wall beside a couple of Yates’ soldiers. The wall was one of the safer places to be. The closer to the fire the more likely you were to be harassed by the guards. I don’t remember falling asleep. I woke up ready to fight the moment I felt his hand grab my mouth.