Brad’s feet began to burn. He forced himself to run at a faster pace, despite the rough ground and tough grass. Although he only perceived it, he felt as if everything beneath his feet pierced his soles.
An hour passed as the pain in his feet lessened in his consciousness. Brad refused to stop, fearing that if he did, he might not be able to go on. A wind picked up as he smelt the scents carried on the breeze; dry, like wheat, obviously the dry grass field he was about to enter. Other scents also accompanied it, making him detour the dried stalks. The smells may have been rats, or giant snakes, or even something worse. He would have to familiarise himself with their scents another time.
Small stones, embedded in the ground’s surface, jabbed at the underside of his feet, making him run awkwardly. Pausing a moment, he took two gulps of air and pushed on. The sun felt as if it slapped him around the face. Still running, he took off his shirt and mopped his brow before slipping the garment into the hemline of his shorts. Only a few hundred metres now separated him from the two trees on the hill. Barely more than a walk, he jogged on, coming to a halt in the shade of the two trees; their branches reaching into each other.
He cursed under his breath as he stared ahead. A few kilometres on he could could make out dense bushland; double the distance he previously thought. At the closest extreme, he noted drooping trees, much like willows. As far as he understood, willows thrived on the edges of bodies of water.
Limping, then gritting his teeth, he forced himself into a reasonable jogging pace. The pain seemed so much worse this time, but he pushed on, determined to beat the sun reaching its arc. He didn’t endure out of any notion of self worth, nor did he seek Teyata’s approval, but to do God’s will. To succeed in this task would take him another step closer to the mountains.
His suspicions proved correct as he breached the first of the willows. Water did indeed exist here as huge puddles. Brad splashed into the first of them, feeling the soothing effects; cooling his feet. Lifting one leg, he turned over his foot. It appeared red as if severely sunburned. Small black lines showed all over the soles where the ground had pierced the outer dermis; not cuts as his suffering suggested.
“You haven’t got time to stand around in the water,” called Teyata.
If not for her swishing tail, Brad would not have noticed Teyata laying on the branch of a nearby tree. Her fur and faint stripes blended almost perfectly with the foliage. Brad splashed deeper among the trees, trying to remain either in the puddles or on damp earth as it made for softer ground. He became aware of different colours. Flowers and fruits of varying hues showed among the trees, but none of which, he needed.