Richard Karn was just signing off from a rerun of Family Feud as Carly’s eyes began to close when the phone rang. She languidly rose from the couch, eyes on the screen as she answered.

“You hurt or anything?” she greeted. “All right. Give me... fifteen minutes. Okay.”

The tires of her truck grinded to a halt where the gravel driveway met padded earth of the Appalachian Trail as her high beams flashed first over the scan of trees, then a handmade white sign. The sign read, in red paint, “Give up? Call for pickup. 757-8245.” Next to the sign stood a scrawny girl wearing a backpack bigger than she, raising her hand against the beams’ light. Carly rolled down her window and waved the girl over. After heaving her backpack up and over into the bed of the truck, the girl crawled into the passenger’s seat and half-heartedly smiled at Carly. They pulled away.

Driving back down the lonely road to Harper’s Ferry, both girls kept quiet to themselves. Carly never wanted to pry, and didn’t care too much anyway. The girl was crumpled up against the passenger door, head bowed, stifling defeated tears. This was not unusual. Bigger and stronger men than she had ridden in Carly’s truck, unabashedly bawling, mourning the end, having failed themselves.

“It was nice to hear a girl’s voice on the phone, you know?” the girl feebly tossed out. Carly shrugged.

“What’s your name?” Carly offered back, as the girl’s head was beginning to droop back into shame.

“Exodus,” the passenger mumbled. This perked Carly up. If nothing else about this, she did enjoy the guessing game.

“Okay… let me guess. This was your big religious pilgrimage. You’re going to be a youth leader or something? And I bet you named yourself before you hit the trail.”

Growing up in a household where being mean was to be affectionate, Carly never knew the difference. Exodus took the hit heavily and the tears began to flood.

“Yeah, basically. Pretty obvious, huh?”

Carly shrugged again. Quiet.

Then, the idea sparked Exodus and her tears momentarily parted.

“Hey... did you happen to pick up a guy recently? A big guy probably. Maybe a 14 Keen?”

It struck Carly that this girl was probably exhausted, starved, near delusion.


“The past few days I was following a set of footprints—Keen boots, size 14. But I never caught up to him.” Exodus shifted in her seat. “It can get pretty lonely out there, you know? Even with God around. Your mind really gets lost and you start to... imagine what this guy is like. What 14 Keen likes, what he dislikes. Where his family is, why’s he on the trail. Stuff like that and then... then I toss in my head like, ‘Maybe I’m met to meet this guy.’ Right? ‘Maybe he’s the man of my dreams’ or something. You know?”

Carly didn’t.

“Never mind. I dunno.”


“I didn’t pick up anyone for a week now,” Carly offered.

“Oh. Okay.”

“There’s a hostel a little way up the road. You want me to pick you up tomorrow and drive you back to the trail?”

Exodus shook her head. “No. No, I’m done.”

That, Carly understood.

The next evening, Carly was getting ready for her date night, French-braiding her hair in the bathroom while the TV chatted at her from around the hallway. Just then, the front door burst open and Tom strode in.

“Carllllly. Carlllly,” Tom called, in his best Rick Grimes impression—the accent of which was not so far from his own. “If you leave your door unlocked the zombies are gonna getcha, Carllllly.”

Carly called back. “Hey, if you’re going to bust in here you need a search warrant!”

“You know who doesn’t apply for search warrants? Zombies. Also burglars. Also boyfriends.”

Tom swung around the bathroom doorway to plant a kiss on Carly’s head. She turned to him.

“Hey, I thought we were dressing up tonight?”

Tom tucked in the shirt of his police uniform. “Didn’t know we were getting so fancy! But don’t let that stop you from dolling up. That hair twisting you do very sexy. What, are we celebrating something?”

“Yeah. Tonight, I cut the cord.”

Tom put his hand on the small of her neck.

“Really? You serious?”

Carly shrugged and nodded.

“Are you ...ready for that?”

“Sure. We’ll go out to eat and when we get back, I’m going to take the kitchen scissors and chop that phone line.”

Carly finished up as Tom turned off the TV. She emerged, and hand-in-hand, they exited the house. As Carly pulled the door shut to lock, a noise stopped her. The phone rang inside.

“You’re off duty, Carly. End of watch,” said Tom gently as Carly shifted her feet.

“One last ride. Last one. It’ll just take a minute. Fifteen minutes, tops!” she called back, already fleeing inside to catch the phone.

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