She was tired.  Her bags hung off her shoulders and too far down her back, but she kept going.  The nagging in her foot had blossomed into a full pain complete with throbbing, which kept time with her staccato pace, but if the throbbing became a tearing or bleeding pain she would be finished.  Her deep breath brought her head up, and her eyes focused on the familiar sight of the horizon. 

Game one she told herself…factoids.
Did you know the average person walks at a rate of three miles per hour? Did you know the average person takes 2,000 steps for every mile walked?
Game two…math.
If I want to be greater than average but not more tired than average how many steps should I take per hour?
Answer….don’t fall to the back of the line.

It had been over a year since Tess had played this game with her father, over a year since he had dropped to the end of the line.  The worst part was the not knowing.  Tess averaged 1760 steps in a mile while going swiftly, without extra exhaustion, putting her well in the middle of the line, and slowing down enough to see if her father still struggled at the line’s end sounded like suicide more than it rang of curiosity.  Still she thought it would be nice to know if the creeping darkness had him now, if given enough time she would lap him not even knowing his grave, or if he had stopped and taken up the smaller life of the stationary few. 

Walking was hard, but being still was much worse.  Scrounging for warmth, or water, or food in the cracks of caves sounded like a fate beyond her worst nightmares, not that there was ever enough time for those anymore.  Alone she couldn’t get far enough in front of the night to really sleep, all she could hope for was to make it to 10,000 steps in less than an hour and a half so that for every three hours walked she could take an hour.  Tess liked to hold off as long as possible hoping for more than two hours of rest before moving on staying ahead of the falling dusk and the wide eyed creatures that came with it.

As she faced her never ending world of day her shoulders drooped, all her worldly possessions fighting for position, and she wondered just for a moment what it would be like to look back…and linger.

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