She was motionless, curled up beneath borrowed clothes. Bitter cold somehow found its way to her pale hands, so she tucked them closer to her body. All was silent, save for the synchronized breathing of two.
It was all alien to her. The walls, she couldn’t recognize. The faces, all foreign. In the week following the fire, her feet never once stood still upon the earth. She needed to feel it; something constant beneath her, something continuously in motion, something that wouldn’t fall away like everything else.
It was all gone. Her home. Her family. Her life.
Heavy lids flickered open, revealing once azure eyes, now glassy and bloodshot. Hannah stared out the sole window in her colourless room. At least the stars will always be the same.
She carefully slid out of the white sheets, wincing as the cold marble floor met her bare feet. Beside her, snoozing away in a small basket, was her only companion. Bundles of white and orange fur gently rose and fell as it breathed, mirroring the golden fields that Hannah once called home. A smile spread across her face as she caressed her feline friend.
I understand now; how it feels to be a stray. There’s never a destination, a home to return to. Just… forward. I guess it’s just us now. Two strays trying to find a home.
As if it could hear her every thought, the cat slowly awoke, its eyes meeting hers. Two golden orbs, they shone in the faint moonlight that seeped in through the room’s window.
It felt like the world had suddenly disappeared, and a new one – a hostile one – had taken its place. Everything seemed to spin faster now, and Hannah had barely been able to keep up.
She needed to move forward.
“Hey buddy. We should get some fresh air, don’t you think?” Her partner mewed in agreement, pacing towards their bicycle.
She rode into the night, swerving past the oak trees that encircled those untouched paths.
The young man strode drearily onwards, keeping every footfall parallel to the bollards that led to the heart of town. He sighed for the umpteenth time, eyes occasionally wandering onto the suitcase that he had held for so long, it had practically become a part of his arm.
Night after night, town after town; searching endlessly for – if anything – a destination. Nothing mattered anymore, he needed to find his brother, or what was left of him.
In the very least, he needed to know. Without closure, without an ending to the story, what was he really? Another shell of a man?
What now? Where now?
Underneath a lone lamppost, the wanderer lay his suitcase and inhaled the post-winter air. It felt like the world had begun revolving unimaginably fast, and he could only cling on with cold, cold desperation.
Worst of all, he’d come to realize, was that he was alone in his fruitless search. Nobody would even notice if he were to simply vanish. The man realized, he was among those many, many souls that were simply lost.
To town, said his aching feet. He stood up and took a step forward. Then another. Then another.
The distinct rattle of bicycle chains met his ears. The ringing of rusty bells came next.
In a single fleeting moment, a 15-year-old girl, a 30-year-old man, and a 5-year-old cat became a single bundle of shrieks, squeals and mews.
It was then that the worlds of these wanderers collided.