Christianne opened her eyes to see something like sunshine coming through the window. It cast a grid-like pattern across the wall. She looked toward the window and thought what it might be life to see an unobstructed view of that sky. All the windows were covered with a metal grid shielding. Father had told her long ago that even though they were on the top floor of this 30 story building, he was taking no chances of anyone or anything thinking they could get in. From the screeching sounds she heard sometimes from outside, she didn’t question that decision. Not one bit.
Slowly the girl slid from her warm bed and walked to the window. She wondered what the air out there would feel like on her skin. Father said it was exceptionally dry outside since the Fallling. He said that before, there had been rains that cleared the air and made the grass and trees and flowers grow lush and green. The only growing things Christianne knew were the rows of herbs and vegetables growing in the enclosed balcony off their home.
When she had dressed, Christianne hurried to the kitchen so that she could make breakfast for Father. She didn’t hear him so decided he was still asleep. She started the water for the coffee and brought out the vegetables for steaming. When the coffee was steaming in the mug and the vegetables were filling the kitchen with their warm scent, Christianne went to wake Father. She knocked on his door with no response.
“Father. It is time to eat.” She called in a low voice. Still no response. Carefully, Christianne opened the door and stepped into the dark room.
“Father?” Christianne called a bit louder. She heard him whisper her name so she hurried to his bedside.
“Father? What is it? What’s wrong?” Christianne couldn’t control the tremble in her voice.
“Never mind, Child. There are things I must tell now-before it is too late. So much to say. I need for you to get your notebook and pencils. Hurry, please.” Father seemed to force out the words. Christianne hurried to her room, grabbed the requested items and ran back to her Father. He motioned for her to sit. She sank into the chair next to the bed and poised herself to take notes. Her mind raced with probabilities.
“There is so little time and so much to tell you. I should have told you long ago, but I thought there would be time.”
“What do you mean, Father?” Christianne questioned, but Father waved away the words like gnats.
Father took a deep breath and struggled to raise his head. Christianne rose and put another pillow behind him. Once she was again seated, Father began.
“First of all, the room off the kitchen holds all the supplies you will need. When I am gone, you will have to leave here.” Father held up his hand to Christianne’s objection.
“Yes, you must leave. You must pack a change or two of clothing, but also enough food for several days. You will take the vegetable sticks we prepared. They will travel well and keep you fed. Lock this home tightly when you leave and you will always have your home to return to when needed. You must leave the city. You will walk south. You must travel during the night and hide during the day. They cannot see you, do you understand?” Father raised his voice a bit to which Christianne nodded her agreement. She knew better than to interrupt.
“You are going to move south across the wasted lands. It will be very difficult and it will be a long journey, but you must. You will travel many days before you find the mountains. You must move into the valley between the mountains and you will find it.” Father stopped for a breath.
“What will I find, Father?” Christianne asked in a low trembling voice.
“There is a settlement there. There are people there who will take you in and protect you. The settlement is called Eden.” Father closed his eyes. Christianne was frightened at his sudden weakness. Or had he been weakening for some time and she hadn’t seen it? She didn’t know.
“You see, ” Father continued. “Just after the Falling, we were a group of people who stayed together. The majority decided to set out for the mountains where they were convinced it would be safe to live. I am sorry to say that I did not agree with them. I chose to keep your mother here and, bless her, she stayed. Then there was you. Once we had you, your Mother and I argued about what was best. She was determined you must be raised in a safer place but I retained my stubborn belief that I could care for you better than anyone. I stubbornly maintained that it was then impossible for us to leave. I maintained it was too dangerous to try. I don’t believe your Mother ever forgave me for that. I told you that I didn’t know why she suddenly left us, but that was a lie. Your Mother and I argued again in regards to our leaving here. She told me that if I would refuse to go then she would go alone and find the others. I pleaded with her not to go but she was as stubborn as I am. I eventually persuaded her that you must remain behind in order to be safe. She never wanted to leave you, but she finally relented. That is why she left. It was my fault. I am sorry, Christianne. I honestly thought I was doing what was best. ” Father seemed to tear up for a moment.
Christianne put her hand on his and leaned close.
“Don’t blame yourself, Father. Mother made her own decision. She did what she thought was best, just as you did. I am glad you told me.”
Father nodded shortly then continued.
“Christianne, there are horrible dangers out there. After the Falling, men went crazy with the lack of leadership and rules. They became the worst of humanity and they remain so. Women are especially vulnerable, Daughter. So many were killed in the beginning. They were weak, I suppose, but those men seemed to take some pleasure in killing and they left very few women alive. You will be in so much danger. I don’t know how to prepare you for it. I don’t know how to explain it fully except to simply tell you that you must arm yourself at all times and trust no one! Never go to the outland settlements. They are full of wickedness and lawlessness. Please promise me you will do these things. PLEASE!” Father begged clutching Christianne’s hand in his own. When had Father’s hands become so frail?
“I promise, Father. I will take all precautions and I will do as you ask. I promise.” Christianne’s voice was barely above a whisper.
Father nodded, content with her answer.
“Take the knife from the supply room and have it with you always. I taught you to use it. I taught you self defense. PLEASE do what you must to survive, Christianne. It is imperative you survive and make it to Eden. You will understand when you get there. Promise you will do what you must, no matter what.”
“I will, Father. Please don’t worry. But we won’t have to worry about this for a long while. Just rest and then we will read together. Alright?” Christianne urged.
Father smiled slightly then closed his eyes. Christianne wanted to believe he was only resting, but she knew better.