Cloaked in their school robes and fearful of strangers, the children of Hillam set fort with purpose, yet with every step that they took doubts began to cloud their minds.
What if the tree that the salesman had brought was in fact a new tree after all? With such limited experience with other trees and after dealing with such a devastating blow, it would hardly be surprising if they saw a few similarities between their fabled heart tree and this new replacement. As the miles wore on and night began to slowly draw in, the group of young separatists began to dwindle in numbers. The youngest was the first to leave, eager to return to the arms of his family and the familiarity of the village. He was then then followed by the next youngest, a boy with a newly frightened look in his eyes.
He beseeched his partner, a lanky girl of 14 with a fierce look in her eyes, “How can we go further on?”, he cried. “This road could travel on for days, we have no provisions left and if we do not make a bid to return soon, we are sure to perish on the return journey.”
“Leave then. I have reserves in my body and the drive to discover the truth about the tree, our village and this world. I am fuelled by my thirst for knowledge, if you cannot join me then go back to Hillam. Go back to our prison and tell them that I have left to find out what really happened to our sacred tree.”
The young boy stopped in his tracks, quickly looking back to see if the other deserter was still in sight. The youngest lad was an ever diminishing speck on the horizon, a speck that was growing ever dimmer as the sun dropped lower in the sky. He screwed his face up, clearly at odds with himself, torn by his innate curiosity and his desire to be wrapped up in his warm bed. He took one step further away from home, before shaking his head, blurting an apology and then dashing in the opposite direction, back to Hillam.
The girl stood for a while watching her compatriot disappear into the encroaching darkness, joining his young friend back in Hillam, back in the past. In her head she knew that she would never return. Even if she discovered the truth about the tree, even if she found that her entire village had been deceived by a man with large sun-glasses, she would not return. Hillam was a prison and she had not intention on handing herself back in.
Not today, not ever.