I leave the car in the woods by the road. I take the keys and lock all the doors before I go, but I already know it will be gone if I come back. I know better than to leave a vehicle to the scavengers. It takes a shotgun to keep them off, not a locked door and missing keys. If I come back, I’ll have to walk.
If I come back. I still haven’t decided if I’ll stay or not. I need a few days, a week of safety to decide that. My family has survived this world far better than most, but only because they are better at hiding than most. I don’t know if I can bear to hide away, no matter how tired I am.
I take the trail into the forest, but I leave it after the first mile. Rain is falling, pattering on the needles, dripping from the branches. Fog rolls down from the mountains, drifting through the trees, settling in the hollows, muffling the sounds of the forest. Dusk creeps along with it, and follows me as I duck beneath the branches. The sun set half an hour ago, before I’d even reached the trail. I set out too late. I should have left this morning, but I’m a coward at heart. I didn’t want to come at all.
The cabin is wreathed in fog when I finally find it. It was built to blend in, to hide among the trees. If I didn’t know it was here, I would never have found it, especially at night.
The windows are black, but smoke drifts from the chimney, swirling with the mist. They’ll welcome me. I swore I would never come back here, never hide the way they do, but they’ll welcome me anyway. In this world, family means something, and blood is as good as a promise.