February 28th, 2034
Early this morning I went with Dan and his eldest son, Jarrod, to cut firewood and haul it back to camp. Along the way we came upon footprints, human footprints. They appeared to be fresh, – the storms of the past few days hadn’t degraded the impressions much at all, and as such, they were easy to track.
All told there were four distinct sets of prints.
Two adults and two children, Dan pointed out, And, they are moving slow. He walked ahead, inspecting the footprints as he did so. They were tired, he surmised, looking at how the front tip of random steps dragged and shuffled across the ground. His conclusion – these folks were in bad shape.
We figured they couldn’t be much further ahead. Chances are they were still in the immediate area and we followed their path hoping to catch up with them and lend a helping hand.
We caught up with them fifteen minutes later. We found them hanging from a low-lying branch on an old oak tree. One by one, all four lined up on one sturdy branch, swinging gently in the morning breeze.
The fight was over for them.
They had hung themselves.
We cut them down, – a father, a mother and two small girls, and laid them to rest. Dan and I each said a few words over the shallow graves, while Jarrod marked each one with crosses he’d fashioned out of twigs and twine.
None of us spoke more than two words between us on the way back to camp.