August 4th, 2016
You are tired. You are hungry. You are thirsty. And you are still clueless at what to do about it.
For four days, you, Leala Zopafoff, Bryce and Arthur have been wandering the desert.
Five days ago, everything you and your family had owned was washed away. You, Bryce and Arthur had lived in Colma, California, the most unknown town on the coast. You had lived on a small dirt-packed street in a small-but-packed house. And a few nights ago, a flood in your hometown changed everything. At first you were mad. Then sad. Then helpless. Then over-realistic. Then the cycle repeats.
You had emergency packs filled with a first aid kit, food, and some water, but at night, years ago, you and your brothers would go to the corner store where they kept them and take from them for secret midnight snacks. Now, you would do anything to go back in time and change that choice.
But you think, There’s no point in regretting the past, and get back to walking.
Your emergency backpacks, minus all the stuff you ate, have six gallons of water, two apples, one bag of jerky, and a bag of long-ago-used-to-be-frozen peas. Plus the first-aid kit with a few band aids, cortisone cream, and Tylenol.
You frown. This isn’t enough, you think. You quickly do the math. Two days, 79 miles. To make it with everyone, your group could each have two cups of water, one jerky, and two apple slices per meal.
Bryce decides to speak up, interrupting your thoughts. “Leala, what do we do now?” he asks, basically speaking out loud, because even though he’s the youngest, you know he knows you can’t answer that question.
You’re the oldest in the group, and you have always taken care of your brothers because your father is away so much. When your mother died when you were four, she told you to take care of your siblings. And when your father was at the hospital after his fatal car accident, he whispered for you to stay safe—and keep the others safe too. How? you think. How?
You decide that you are going to let Arthur and Bryce have more food than you. They need it much more than you do, you think.
The sun is so hot. It’s beating down on you, making you wish you could collapse and hide behind a cactus. But it’s only a bit past noon, so you have seven or eight hours of walking on the deserted highway left.
“I’m really hot and hungry. Leala, when’s dinner?” Arthur moans. He has a special lung condition, needing heparin to be inserted into his body once or twice a day. You only have so much of it, so you have to conserve it.
You glance at him. He does look a little pale. “How ’bout we break in ten minutes?” you call.
Arthur responds first. “Yes,” he says, “please!”
Ten minutes later, you stop. You have some food and water. It kinda seems like he needs it, but you also have to save it. Should you give him some heparin? Or save it for later, if he needs it more?
If you give Arthur some heparin, turn to page 5
If you save to heparin for later, turn to page 3
After Arthur has a break, food and water, the color returns to his face. It makes you so happy you double over laughing.
“What’s so funny?” Bryce asks, staring at you weirdly.
“Nothing,” you reply, laughing even harder.
Now your face gets pale. Your eyes roll back into your head. The heat must be getting to you because you feel like you’re gonna faint. But then you remember your mother’s words: Take care of them, my Leala.
If you let yourself sleep, turn to page 4
If you make yourself keep going, turn to page 6
You have arrived at your grandfather’s house. You are showered with food, water, kisses and gifts as you get there. You scold your brothers for being rude and greedy, but your grandfather silences you, though you can tell you’re his favorite. You live there till your father finds you and you live as a large family for the rest of your happy life!
The Happy End
After you wake up, you feel so good! You feel so recharged you think you could walk twenty miles. Then the adrenaline disappears when you remember today you might have to walk that much. You groan. To get to your grandfather’s house in two days, you need to walk . . . an impossible amount.
Your mouth starts watering when you imagine his fresh eggs or perfect fruit waffles.
You keep walking through the beating sun.
Eight miles later, you’re getting weary again. Your brothers are sunburned and when you feel your neck, you flinch. It hurts.
You stop to give Arthur a shot of heparin.
This is going to be a long day.
You stop after ten miles. Your arm now has nineteen tallys on it, meaning you’ve walked nineteen miles. Sixty-six miles left.
You have dinner: a split apple, two jerky, and two cups of water each. It’s more than you planned on eating per meal, but you know your group desperately needs it.
After, you walk more. You come to a split in the road.
If you go left, turn to page 8
If you go right, turn to page 7
After the heparin is injected, Arthur instantly looks better. But, hours later, he needs more urgently. You used all of it before, so there is none left. You call for help, walk for hours searching for someone or a store, but you find nothing. An ambulance comes by, finally, and Arthur has to stay in the hospital the rest of his life.
You make yourself get up. “I’m fine,” you say, not believing it yourself when a few minutes later, a sandstorm comes out of nowhere. For a few seconds you protect your kin but within minutes, you and your group are all blacked out on the desert ground.
You choose right. You regret that choice when you see bears on the side of the road, though. Not sure what to do, you and your siblings roll into balls on the ground. Scared to death, you resist the urge to scream. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! You’re thinking. After what seems like an eternity, but was really only about five minutes, the bears walk away peacefully. You breathe a sigh of relief! That was terrifying, you think, knowing you’re going to dream about this tonight.
Turn to page 5
Bears eat you.