Jodi was an only child born to loving parents Jane and Bill Hankerson. Although her mother tragically died giving birth to her, enough memorabilia and stories were kept so that she almost felt like she knew her mother. Her father, already a workaholic at that point, buried himself even more into his work as a farmer. His technical job was herdsman but due to the length of time he worked at the farm and his level of commitment, he was made a minority shareholder, not that the farm made that big a profit. Jodi was brought up primarily by her grandfather, who moved in with them not long after Jane’s death. He was strict but fair and enjoyed telling her long winded stories about the past, some of which bordered on the fantastical, about people who did not appear to age or die.


Her father spent as much time as he could with her, often taking her to work with him. She did not particularly like the work that much, but she liked the animals and she tended to have a calming effect on them. Her father put it down to her ‘farmers blood’ and claimed he was the same when he was younger. When he had the chance, he took her for nights out in the forest to learn how to make fires and learn survival skills. Jodi did not particularly enjoy this and out right refused to learn how to hunt and trap animals. He also put her into self-defense classes, which she didn’t enjoy at first but grew to enjoy it. She looked younger than she was and was deceivingly strong, which caused her opponents to underestimate her.


She always felt that her father loved his work more than her, a fear she shared with her grandfather. He told her that she looked like her mother a lot and that while her father did love her, he found it hard being around her at the same time because of the painful memories, but he was trying. He told her the reason for the survival training was not only because it was useful but was her father’s way of spending time with her, sharing with her something he was passionate about. Following that conversation, she objected less and even started to enjoy the nights out with her dad.


While her father always wanted her to follow after him, even insisting she had an affinity for the job, all Jodi wanted to do was draw and paint. It was something she had done most of her life, it calmed her down, although her scores in art at school were average at best. In the back of her mind, she thought it would realistically be just a hobby at best, but her Grandfather had always taught her to follow her dreams and it was something she could lose herself in and express herself creatively. When things got really stressful, she ran. When she ran, she felt like she could go anywhere, be anything, with the bonus of keeping her fit and healthy.


Once she finished school, her father tried to convince her to go to agricultural college while she wanted to go to art school. A compromise of sorts was reached as she went to college to do A-levels consisting of Art and science subjects, including biology.


Once that was over, the same argument resurfaced. She had good scores in the science subjects, while she only scraped through with art, something her father cited as further evidence she should follow after him. While Jodi understood his point regarding art, she had seen how hard her father worked, the long hours and knew that was not for her, either. Stubbornly, she decided she should not give up on her dreams so easily, that she might just be a ‘late bloomer’.


With tensions raised, her grandfather suggested they went on holiday to forget everything for a while. Her father was predictably reluctant, using work as an excuse not to go. When her grandfather wanted to go to Texas, USA because, as he was big into cowboys and Indians films, it was always his dream and he, in his words, ‘wasn’t getting any younger’, an argument broke out. Jodi agreed with her grandfather. Not only would it be nice for him to visit his dream destination, she liked the idea of going to America.


After tickets were booked and arrangements were made, it became clearer and clearer her father would not be going with them. On the night they were to go away another fight broke out, her father claiming that she and her grandfather ‘always ganged up on him’, while she outright told him that he loved his work more than his family and that his job was going to kill him. They left on bad terms, her father remaining at home.


Things went from bad to worse when they arrived in Texas. They travelled a bit and shortly after visiting a place called Arnette, her grandfather grew very ill, very fast with something like the flu. She tried phoning for help, but every line seemed to be busy and shortly after, her grandfather died, before being taken away by what looked like the army. Scared and alone, Jodi hid inside a dumpster until they were all gone, paranoid that she would end up like her grandfather. People were obviously ill in that town and it was catching fast, but somehow through luck and good judgement on Jodi’s part she managed to get out of town undetected. She didn’t really know how she managed it – perhaps as a visitor and not a registered resident, they did not know to actively look for her. So she set off alone, hoping she could rely on the survival skills her father taught her until she could figure out what to do, while at the same time, the dreams started…