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There are only two things left in the world that are fast: Foot Notes, and horses. Foot Notes are fast because we have to be. The horses are fast because they want to be. And I find that beautiful.

See, all of the other fast creatures, the squirrels, the falcons, the elk, they died long ago. We kept all the water for ourselves, so the critters who couldn't be raised on a farm didn't have even a chance at survival. And then the cars, we barely have cars anymore. Really, we just have glorified wagons. But even those are rare, since gasoline is like gold. There's no room left for the Corvettes and Ferrari's from the Old Books.

It's nice, knowing I'm one of the fastest things on land. Hell, I might even be the fastest. I'm banking on that actually. If I'm too slow, this'll all be for— well I shouldn't say it that way. I guess if I'm too slow, then that means I gotta try it again.

Ash looked at me funny when I told her that. I appreciate that about her, so willing to just call my bullshit. I'm just happy I got to see her again. It wasn't for long, but I got the closure I needed. She knows what's what, and that's the best I can do.

God I wish she was still here.

No, no. Positive thoughts. Anything to keep me out of a spiral. I need to keep my chin up if I'm going to see those damn horses.

So silver lining… at least Ash took the beacon with her! The beeps and buzzes were definitely getting on my nerves. And now the Foundation can't track me down. It's just me, and the ever expanding plain.

I think the thing people didn't fully appreciate was how empty the world would feel during the droughts. When the wind's down I swear I can see all the way across the coast, to the beaches of the Franco-Spanish Coalition. Just cracked ground for miles and miles, all the way to the horizon. That terrain sure does a number on your feet, I'll tell you that.

Apparently, this whole stretch of land used to be covered in grass. I like to picture it before I go to sleep. No more brown, no more dust. Just lush, green fields. Soft under foot. Damp with dew.

Not that I've ever seen grass like that myself. Only in pictures. But I have a good imagination, and a better memory. Sometimes, if I focus real hard, really shut my eyes and block out the dry heat, I can feel the blades of grass between my toes. I've tried to describe it to Ash but she doesn't quite feel it the same way. I hope I can show it to her instead.

But right now the wind is harsh as ever. It whips dust against my face like a barrage of tiny little bullets. I can barely see ten feet before everything fades into red and brown. Even the sun's having difficulty piercing this dust devil. I barely blink fast enough to keep my eyes from being encased in the stuff. I can practically hear Ash's voice over my shoulder.

"You should close your eyes and rest. Even if the horses showed up you couldn't even see them. Save your strength and sanity."

Which is practical. Pragmatic. A good thought and a smart thing to say.

There is a reason why I'm still out here and she isn't.

I have remained awake and alert for six days and counting. I have slept a grand total of four times since I have stationed myself here, once every seven days. For a Foot Note, this is nothing. I'm not even running. I could go for longer but then Ash would worry about my health so I promised her I'd sleep. But now is not my rest hours. Now I watch from my spot.

I haven't moved from this spot since my tenure here began. Which also confused Ash. Mostly because there's nothing around here. No hills. No cliffs. No collectives. Nothing.

I told her that this place came to me in a dream, which is half true. It did come to me, but it came to me during a much more permanent sleep. For those few hours between when I collapsed in front of the stronghold, until they resuscitated me, I could see this spot. This vast stretch of zilch, zero and nada. And in this place, I saw the horses playing. Whinnying and galloping and rubbing up against each other.

If they're going to show up anywhere, it will be here.

Any minute now.

I start to tap on the canteen that Ash brought me. It's aluminum and fancy and I don't know how much it cost her to bring to me so I keep a hold of it like a safety blanket. And when I feel the need to move (since I'm not running for eight hours a day), I tap it. Play little beats and rhythms. Something that resembles a gallop.

tink-tink, tink-tink, tink-tink


I hear that.


I fucking hear that. It's barely louder than the winds but those are dying down now.

clip-clop, clip-clop

The dust begins to settle. I can hear it. The hooves. Against the cracked ground. It's happening. It's fucking happening.

I clip the canteen to my waste and I ready myself. Starting position. Four points of contact on the ground, head up to watch for my target, legs staggered. Same position I started every message delivery in for the past fifteen years. Same position I bolted from to outrun the marauders who killed my family and burnt my village.

The brown and the red fall from my view. About two hundred feet ahead of me, I see three white shapes. My vision is blurry. I am dehydrated. But they are white. There are three. I heard their hooves. There are no clouds which should be unusual but I don't care I want the whole sky to see this.

The horses look at me.

I put my head down.

And we're off.

My legs move with the form and speed they'd been deprived of these past weeks. Each footfall widening the cracks in the ground, leaving lightning bolts of unnourished soil behind me. It is a race. Me against the miracles. I will outrun them.

I've outrun famine and drought and war, but only today do I feel them nipping at my heels. This cracked and dry world is reaching out to drag me back to the same horrors I have witnessed for decades. It's breathing down my neck. But I can't look back. Only forward. For the white horses.

The equines kick up dirt as they gallop away, obscuring my vision. But I don't need to see. I can hear them just fine. Clip-clop rings in my ears as I close my eyes and keep running.

I can hear myself gaining on them. The gallop growing closer and closer. There's a whinny about ten feet ahead of me. My legs are on fire and my throat cracks like sandpaper but that has not stopped me before and it will not stop me now. My feet are bleeding and that's what makes me know I am alive. I am the fastest thing alive.

I open my eyes again and one of the horses is almost within arm's reach. I don't feel the dust hit my corneas. All I can feel is the wind and the dry and the warmth of the sun. I reach out. My fingers slip through its tail. I feel it. I can fucking feel it.

I close my eyes again and imagine the grass underneath me. So soft and damp I can run for miles. I can run even faster. I can pound my legs into it and there will be some cushion for my forceful footfalls and I gain even more speed and more speed and I am winning. I am winning the race.

The clip-clop is beside me. I am side-by-side with a miracle. I cannot open my eyes or I will lose my speed so I run just a little faster and a little faster until I can


I fly through the air. For a brief moment I am a descendent of the falcons that died many years ago. I should be able to grapple the horse, mount this miracle, and ride off into the sunset. I can steer it toward the strongholds. I can bring the peace and the health and the water and I will see Ash again and there will be a future atop the back of this beautiful creature.

Except there is nothing. I feel nothing. The sound of a gallop ceases and I fall sprawled upon the ground. I open my eyes again and there are no horses.

The adrenaline leaves and my body is on fire. My feet are bleeding, my legs can't move, my torso is scratched and bruised. My body unites in a symphony of pain. I feel like I might die again.

I can picture Ash's reaction. She stands over my body and says, "I told you to rest! Sleep deprivation can make you see things, you know?"

I laugh a bit. She's always right.

I've run myself ragged. The cracked ground and the dust has caught me, hasn't it? After how far I've run, how long I've waited, I'm still stuck with this disgusting, dry earth.

No, no. I'm not going out like that. I close my eyes. If I'm going to die again, I want to die on grass. I want to rest in my peaceful place. I begin to focus and—

The softness comes quicker than usual.

I open my eyes, and this time concentrate on the ground in front of me, instead of the world ahead. Small little stalks that I had ignored start to come into focus. Then more, and more. I force my arms to push me up and now I can see it. The grass. So much grass. It is soft and wet and everything I could have dreamed of.

Then I notice a shadow. It stops just a few feet ahead of me, but it stretched from behind me. I slowly shift myself around, and there's a man, standing over me. He wears overalls and a ten gallon hat and chews on straw.

"You alright there miss?" he asks.

"Wh-where am I?"

The man smiles, "A ranch."

I blink a few more times. Behind the man, I can see the horses. Two of them are galloping and whinnying and rubbing against each other in front of a cozy, bright red stable, while the third stands just behind the man. It trots up behind him and he strokes it.

"I'll be honest with you, don't think I seen anythin' outrun Cesta since Secretariat."

"I was faster?"

"That you were. That you were."

The man squats down and offers me a hand, "How about I get you inside. I can got some soup goin' and you look like you could use a shower."

"Soup? Shower?"

"Do they not have those where you're from?"

Soup is considered a delicacy so opulent it would be a crime to make. I have never taken a shower.

"I— I don't know if… can I really? Is that ok?"

The man smiles, "A workhorse like you deserves a good rest."

I can feel my smile start to grow. Wider and wider. I take the man's hand. He helps me to my feet.

I found it Ash. I found the place where the horses go. Where the air is cool. Where the breeze is peaceful. No more dust. No more dry. It's the greenest place I've ever seen.

Please, hold out for me Ash. I don't know how long I'll be, but I'll return. And I'll bring you here, even if it means running with you on my back.

And if you hold out for long enough, I'll make sure you feel these blades of grass between your toes.

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