The incident began in late October. Camille was taking her usual early morning walk around the lake just west of her family’s farm. The walk had been a habit of hers since she was old enough to be let out of the house alone. She found comfort in the sameness of each trek. She knew the feel of the dirt on the west side close by her father’s barn, the sharpness of each rock on the north side, and the swish of the knee high cattle grass as she crossed the pasture on the southern slope of the lake. No matter what time of year it was, whether the crystalline quiet of winter or the waiting silence of spring, the only noises were the sounds of her footfalls, the whistles of the wind through the grass, and the songs of the grasshoppers.
The cows had been gone since before she was allowed out on her own. Everyone in town scratched their heads at a farm-wife who was afraid of cows, but Camille’s mother had barely survived a stampede in her teens—as soon as Camille was born, the cattle were sold. She knew her father wasn’t much bothered by this. The main source of the family’s income came from the fields anyway. Camille’s father, Harold Grover, put love into his crops, and that feeling gave them flavor. You could tell when a farmer didn’t care about their produce—a certain blandness always pervaded the vegetables of those who were simply out for a profit.
The smell of the pumpkins seemed to wrap her in comforting arms—her father’s love protected her here; the farm knew she was his cultivation as much as it was. As Camille started down the western rise of the three square mile lake, she was thinking rather strongly of her father’s love. He had known from his early childhood that his Gift was a love of growing things, vegetables in particular. His parents had purchased this farm as soon as the manifestation was confirmed by a Placer. They hadn’t been exactly pleased with the route they knew their son’s life was going to take, but they had accepted it because it was such a rare thing for a child’s Gift to reveal itself before the child reached puberty. Camille was turning seventeen in less than a month and her Gift had yet to reveal itself. The whispers in town now spoke more often of this than her mother’s fear.
Occasionally, children were born Giftless, but it was such a rare occurrence that they had only just now started wondering if she was Giftless. Camille wondered what it would be like to live her entire life without a Gift. Her mother’s Gift was weather prediction and her brother was already showing signs of being a veterinarian—he was only twelve. Camille tossed her hair over her shoulder as she rounded the curve of the lake and started across the gravel laid down for the railroad on her left.
Today, she couldn’t take comfort from the sold impact of her bare feet on this rough terrain. Each sharp edge felt like the questioning stares of the townsfolk. Camille swerved to her left and walked in a line with the railroad rather than the lake. She felt exhilaration at stepping apart from certainty. She had never felt the contours of the railroad against the pads of her feet before. The metal felt cool but strangely alive. Settling into an easy rhythm, Camille decided to walk the railroad the three miles it would take to reach Bell’s Sound. Each step she took was silent, and this silence was the reason she decided not to return to the house for her shoes. Today was Saturday, so she knew her family would wake only long enough to eat and check on the fields before going back to bed. After all, a farm run by a man with a Gift practically ran itself.