My bag resting on its wheels, the handle extended and my baby strapped to my torso, I once again felt terribly
vulnerable as I grasped the bag and moved forward on unsteady legs. I walked roughly three more hours before
coming to a deep valley. The angle of decline was extreme but I continued onward, digging my heels into the asphalt.
My bag kept clipping at my ankles so I pulled it out in front of me, its weight pulling me off center. ‘Don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall…’ I repeated aloud. It took an enormous amount of concentration to finally arrive safely at the bottom of the valley. But it was at the base that I felt the most insecure. Looking down at my feet, I saw that I was standing in a small stream. The water was still, the banks had flooded from what must have been a torrential downpour similar to that which chased me from my well. A ripple hit my ankle, approaching from my right. Then a second later, another. My
heart lodged in my throat. There was absolutely no wind in the valley. It could be another animal, I surmised, perhaps
a frog, or small fish that had survived in this muck? But my gut told me it was something else, someone else.
Not wanting to look up and confirm my fear, I kept my eyes on the water. The ripples became more frequent, followed
by the sound of legs dragging in knee-high water. I reached into my waistband slowly, fingers wrapping around the handle of the pistol and gingerly pulling it free. I looked to my right, straining to see what the fates had thrown at me
this time. The sound suddenly increased in volume and speed. I turned to face the noise with my pistol raised and ready.
Two men mere moments from tackling me stopped dead in their tracks, their arms raised over their heads automatically. One was much older than the other. He looked eighty-five but probably was no more than sixty. The
other man, who appeared to be in his early twenties gestured wildly in surrender, backing away. The old man
produced a long knife from his sleeve and turned it in his fingers.
“Now, now, pretty lady. All we want is what you have.” He inched closer. The young man eyed him.
“What I have is my own,” I retorted. “You come any closer and I’ll shoot you!”
“Now, now,” he continued as he slowly stepped up onto the road. “You don’t want to shoot me. You’re a nice little girl.”
At that I cocked the hammer and again he froze in place.
“I’ve killed men before.” I cleared my throat so as not to seem so terrified. “I’ve killed before and I will kill you where
you stand.” Trying not to let my hands shake, I thrust the gun further in front of me.
His head cocked and his brows rose. “Oh, I don’t believe that.” His mouth widened to a smile under his unkempt
beard. “I doubt there are even any bullets in your gun. Mine hasn’t seen a bullet in over a year.”
“I’m not kidding. I will shoot you!” I shouted. My voice was shaky. Had I changed the magazine after I took down the clown? All this time I’d just assumed the gun had been loaded. My heart pounded angrily in my chest, my face flushed, my eyes narrowed to slivers.
“I think you’re mistaken,” he said, resuming his approach.
“Only one way to find out,” I said with what confidence I could muster. The man’s eyes widened and he lunged
towards me, arm shooting up to bring the knife down. I fired twice. To my attacker’s amazement, he fell backwards
as each bullet caught him in his midsection. He landed with a splash in the knee-high water beside the road and
sank to its filthy bottom. I trained the gun on his young friend next.
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