I don’t know why I even bother helping people anymore. It’s not like they have anything I want, hell what’s to stop them from coming after me? When I got out of that bunker, the kid looked dead. When I finally got closer and she freaked out I didn’t know how to respond, she looked so scared and just defeated. That place was completely empty except for the hazmat suit that now rests comfortable at the bottom of my bag, and if I had to guess I would have to say that’s where she’s been staying this past while. I readjust my pack on my shoulders, it’s heavy weight dragging it down with every step. She’s not going to last long on her own, but she’s not my problem.
“Damn thing,” I mutter to myself as I keep walking towards what remains of the town. It used to be called Baskerville I think, the sign has long since faded but I can see the ‘B’ and ‘ville’ so I assume I’m close. I never know who comes up with these town names anymore, I mean Ohio has some pretty weird names but this is a little much. Even though I’ve checked the town before, it’s worth another look. You never know, maybe someone passed through and left something behind. The sun is close to boiling, not that I expected anything different. If I had an egg I would try to cook it on the sidewalk, I bet it would work too.
My stomach growls at the thought of food and out of habit I place a hand over it. I have a single energy bar left somewhere in my overflowing pack. I sigh, pinching the bridge of my nose, trying to relieve the stress I can feel building.
“Even after the end of the world, my luck is still shit.”
Saying this town is small wouldn’t do it justice. When I passed through it the first time I was surprised to find only a single cafe and maybe two fast food restaurants, all three right next each other. Across the street was what I assume to be the bank and some kind of hardware store, at least that’s what they looked like. Other than that it was just suburbs, the houses either burned downed or emptied of anything of use, I checked. Not even a freaking hair brush was left in any of those houses, I mean did everyone think that when they left they had to take the hair brushes? Were they thinking,
“Oh no! How am I going to keep up my appearance during the apocalypse? I know, I’ll grab my hairbrush because there will still be people I need to impress.” I shake my head as the back entrance of the bank comes into my view.
“Well at least I can sit in the nice bank chairs to eat my last meal,” I think to myself as I pick up my pace, excitement to at least get out from under the boiling rays of the sun radiating off me. Just before I reach the back of the building a scream fills the air. On instinct I run forward hastily pulling my gun from my pack. I take a few steps before the smarter side of me takes over and stops me in my tracks, almost toppling myself over in the process. I can’t just go rushing in there, this could just be a trap. Not everyone was a stand up person before the nukes fell, and something tells me it’s only gotten worse. My own bad experience aside I keep my gun out and aimed in front of me as I slowly make my way towards the front of the building. Halfway through my cautious walk, a memory makes its way to the forefront of my mind. I almost took off in the other direction when I came through here the first time, a woman and a child were just hanging out of a window. I know I should have cut them down but I just didn’t have the heart, or the stomach, to get close enough.
“I can do the rest myself.” A voice reaches my ears and I stop, my body shaking with adrenaline. My breath comes in quick gasps at the unexpected harshness in his voice, and part of me has to remember that he doesn’t know I’m here.
“You try to even breathe without my say so, and I’ll shoot you in the head and then take what I want,” He commands, and I can hear the anger and intimidation rolling off of him just through those words alone. I can’t let him do this, it wasn’t okay before nukes and it’s not okay now. The fact that so many people chose to change themselves just because the world went under still continues to baffle me. I bring my gun up as I stop at the corner marking the front of the bank.
“Now, turn over and face me, real slow like,” He says so low that I almost can’t hear him. I crouch down as low as I can get before peaking around the corner gun trained ahead of me. The girl in the maroon shirt is on the ground, and he’s standing over her. I aim my gun right for his head as he steps closer to her, intentions clear. There’s not many things people do without pants on nowadays.
“Now you’re going to stay there,” He has his gun trained on her, and I don’t think I would be able to get a shot off without him either purposefully or accidentally firing on her. “And you’re not going to fight me, because if you even move an inch, I will not hesitate to shoot you.” Something drops to the ground and I don’t connect that it’s his belt until his pants are on the ground with it. And suddenly I’m not crouched around a corner anymore. I’m back in a hauntingly familiar house, with people in it and there’s pressure holding me down. An unwanted and familiar voice whispering vile things in my ears. Lips pressing against mine.
But then the girl is pushing him off her grabbing something on the ground. I aim my gun again, for his torso this time, a bigger target is easier to hit even when it’s moving.
“Bitch!” The man yells bringing his gun down and without hesitation I fire, my arms going back a bit with the recoil of my gun.
“This way!” I yell to the girl coming out from my hiding spot as the man goes down with a moan. She doesn’t move at first and I wave my arms in the air in a desperate attempt at getting her to start moving. It works and as soon as she spots me, she is flat out sprinting in my direction.
“She’s going to make it,” I think to myself as she gets closer. We can part ways and everyone will be happy. The thought is wiped from my mind as the man raises his gun again aiming in our direction.
“Shit,” I mutter bringing my gun up and firing, as another shot rings out. She’s not safe out there; not alone. My mind kicks my feet into gear and I take off towards the girl, wind ruffling the suit around me. She’s swaying from side to side as she keeps running towards me quickly losing speed, he must have hit her. I force myself forward faster, trying to get there before she falls. Everything is falling apart, it shouldn’t be like this she was almost safe.
“No don’t do this,” I want to yell as she hits the ground. Only a few more feet and I can get her out of here. It’s not a soft landing, but I bring my attention back to the man. He’s clutching his side, trying to reload his gun with one hand. I have a chance and I take it, quickly checking the girl over as I fall to my knees next to her. There’s blood on the ground next to her side, and her eyes are closed. I have to act fast, there’s so much blood for such a short time.
“Just don’t die on me okay?” I mutter quickly forcing my gun back into my pack. She moans softly as I force her into a sitting position and her eyes flutter open for a brief second locking on mine. I don’t have time to think; I wrap my arms under her’s, sticking my head through the convenient ring her’s are already in before I pull up with a burst of strength.
“What are you made of lead?” I groan, trying to get a better hold of her before she slips back to the ground.
“Mia...” I hear next to my face. I quickly turn to she her eyes fluttering open again, maybe she’s still lucid enough to walk. I stop wasting time and start us forward with remarkable ease. Blood has already soaked the front of her shirt, and I don’t have anything to stop the bleeding right now. Her feet give out around step four and I nearly drop her with the change of weight.
“You’re not making this easy, you know that,” I huff, dragging her, the crisp dirt cutting at her feet. I chance a glance behind us and see the man still struggling with the clip, his hands visibly shaking from here. We don’t have time to waste we have to go now. I look towards the girl again as panic starts to overtake my actions, her eyes locking on mine through my mask.
“This is yours,” She huffs lifting the object in her arms slightly, before going completely limp. On instinct I drop my arm from around her waist down to her knees and lift her into my arms bridal style, before she can crumple to the ground.
“All this just to bring me a sleeping bag?” I grunt shifting her in my arms as I pick up my pace to a light jog. Running with my pack is no big deal, I’ve gotten used to it. But running with my overfilled pack and a person in my arms is torture. It feels like there are cinder blocks tied to my arms dragging me down from both directions. My only thought is to get us both away from that man, before he can manage to reload his gun. In fact I’m surprised it’s taken him this long to do it in the first place. I look down at the girl in my arms that bounces slightly with every hurried step that crunches in the crisp dirt. Her hair is a mess that looks like it hasn’t been brushed in forever, and her eyes are crinkled in pain. I grimace a little bit, knowing the jostling from my jogging isn’t helping matters. Her shirt seems drenched in her own blood, although the similar color doesn’t help, and I push myself into a full on run.