“It doesn’t get easier the second time you do it,” I grumble blinking rapidly in the boiling sunlight.
“Well that’s good to know,” Mia gripes next to me, putting a searching hand on my shoulder. I stagger a few steps forward, my eyes still barely able to open. Everything is so bright compared to the calm of my bunker. I move my hand to rub at my eyes only to be stopped by my gas mask.
“Right, I have my mask on again,” I mumble to myself, trying to make a mental note.
“Come on,” Mia instructed, letting her hand fall from my shoulder as she walked passed me, “We only have so much sunlight.”
“Is it just me or did the day get hotter?” I complain, managing to follow Mia.
“Not that I’m aware of.” Mia calls back, somehow a fair ways ahead of me. I hurry to match her pace, my legs complaining at the increased movement.
“I blame you for my slow pace,” I call ahead towards Mia, raising my voice so she can hear me.
“Oh and why is that?” She calls back, her words a bit muffled.
“Walking through the night ring a bell? Not everyone is used to that much exercise” I complain, as sweat makes its way down my face. The sun only makes things worse, baking me inside and out. I break into a light jog in an attempt to catch up with Mia. After only a few steps, my head gets fuzzy and the world starts to sway a bit.
“Stop walking so fast,” I call to Mia shakily, coming to a stop and clenching my eyes shut tight. I stand there for a moment, my head down the world slowly standing still again.
“What’s gotten into you?” Mia questions concerned, suddenly next to me.
“Lots and lots of sunlight,” I joke weakly, finally able to lift my head up. “I think jogging was a bad idea.”
“Okay, no more jogging,” Mia affirms, taking my hand in hers.
“You afraid I’m going to fall over again?” I question lightly, raising our hands up slightly.
“Well, can you blame me?” Mia jokes, gesturing to me with her free hand.
“Oh shut it and walk,” I chide, taking a few shaky steps forward.
“That’s not a problem for me, as we’ve previously covered.” Mia retorts as I elbow her in the side lightly, my steps growing more confident with each I take.
After maybe an hour of walking we finally stumble across buildings that haven’t completely collapsed in on themselves, or look like they’re about to. Every step now is a struggle. The heat is like an impassable wall. It invades every breath I take with its oppressive relentlessness.
“If we don’t get somewhere cooler soon, I think I’m going to pass out.” I mutter.
“We’re almost there.” Mia answers back, giving my hand a light squeeze.
“And where is there exactly?”
“Okay I lied,” Mia admits a little sheepishly, “I don’t really know yet.” I can feel my resolve to keep going weaken with every step I manage to take.
“I’m not going to make it that far,” I whisper as my legs waver under me.
“Sure you can,” Mia encourages next to me. She doesn’t get much farther as my legs give out and crumples below me.
“Woah!” Mia exclaims, letting go of my hand and jumping a few steps back. I manage to land on my hands and knees instead of completely falling to the hard ground. My stomach rolls and before I can process what’s happening, I’m tearing my mask off and vomiting on the ground.
“Get it all out now,” Mia allows rubbing gentle circles on my back. I nod slightly, looking to the ground as I wipe my mouth I notice little red specks in what used to be my stomach contents. I stay like that for a minute, Mia rubbing my back and panting, trying to keep the rest of my food where it belongs.
“You done?” Mia questions gently, her hand stopping its circles. I nod gently, and she offers a hand up. I put my mask back into place as I clamber to my feet. Barely managing to keep from falling into Mia.
“I feel like I’m boiling from the inside out,” I mutter blinking the sweat from my eyes.
Mia carefully lowers me to the ground, making sure not to let me fall. “I know the heat is bad but you’re going to have to get it together to get somewhere cooler.” Mia reasons. I nod, determined to at least try to get myself together.
“So do you think you can get up?” Mia urges, grasping my hands.
“Not on my own,” I murmur weakly, looking up at her.
“Okay… okay that’s fine, I’ll just have to pull you up,” Mia mutters to herself, adjusting her grip on my arms. “Now this isn’t going to be fun, but once I get you up you’re going to have to try to stay up okay?”
“I think I can do that,” I manage a small smile as Mia readies to pull me to my feet.
“Okay, here we go,” Mia grunts, pulling me up. With the movement the worlds sways, or maybe that’s just because I’m being pulled to my feet. The dizziness fades quickly as my feet touch solid ground again. Mia lets go of my arms and I sway with the small breeze that’s worked up. In a flash my arm is around her neck, and her arm is wrapped around my waist.
“Okay. How’s this? You think you can walk?” Mia asks voice strained.
“I’m fine, but how are you?” I ask, concerned, as we start walking.
“I’m fine, let’s just worry about finding a nice shady spot.” Mia answers obviously strained.
“I didn’t realize you used to be a heavy weight lifter,” I joke weakly, trying to lighten the mood.
“Oh yeah, did I not mention that to you?” Mia responds, craning her neck to look at me, “I used to lift a lot more than just you and this pack. This is just a blip on my heavy lifting radar.” She sighs, readjusting her grip on my arm.
“What are we even looking for anyway?” I grumble a bit confused.
“We’re looking for buildings that look like they haven’t been touched since the nukes went off.” Mia answers, confidently looking towards the buildings that line the area.
“And if we don’t find any of those?”
“Then I guess I’ll let you pick the one you want, and we’ll go in there and look around.” Mia allows, bringing her attention back to the road in front of us.
“If there’s a purple building we’re going in there first,” I declare, without hesitation.
“Of course we are,” Mia laughs as our conversation falls into an agreeable lull.