Below’s a practice I wrote for Joe Bunting’s website: The Write Practice.
The number one rule was to never stop walking.
Snow rained down hard on us and the wind blew restlessly, it pierced through our thick clothing and into our skin and into our bones, sapping away what little strength we had left. But we continued on walking. To stop was death.
We shuffled along in a straight line with the captain leading the group. I was positioned in the middle. Home. That’s where we were all headed. But will we be able to reach home? We started out as twenty strong men, a week passed us by and only half remained. Two were taken by hunger, one succumbed to injury, and the rest fell into the wraiths’ hands.
They were there. Lurking at the edge of our senses. Never stop walking. To stop was death. To stop was to be with the wraiths. They were the faint voices whispering to you at the edge of your hearing. You could smell their scent with each passing of the winter wind. They smelled of death and decay. You could see them at the periphery of your vision. Sometimes they looked like a friend you have back home, other times they looked like one of our dead brethren, there were rare times when they looked like themselves—demons of the mountain.
I placed one foot forward, followed by the other one. Each step seemed to be my last, but I pushed on. I pushed on. Then I heard her voice. We all did. It was faint at first but it grew louder with each step I took.
“Keep moving! Do not look at them!” The captain shouted. We moved on.
She was calling me to come to her. She was calling me home. She was calling me to rest. I felt myself crying. My heart wanted to go to my wife but my mind knew it was a lie of the wraiths. I felt so tired. I just wanted to stop and for everything to be over. I closed my eyes.
“I’m sorry captain! It was an honor to fight alongside you.” I raised my voice loud enough to be heard over the howling of the wind.
“Keep on walking, boy!” The captain replied. “Your wife’s dead! It isn’t her!”
I stopped. The ones behind me passed me by, their faces hidden by thick hoods. I looked to my side and there she was. She smiled at me and beckoned me to come closer. I did. I grabbed her in my arms.
From some far off place, I heard someone shouting. Shouts of pain and agony mixed with the winter wind. He had the same voice as mine. He was shouting for help. He sounded like he was in some great pain. I didn’t bother looking who it was. I was home.