Bright light streams in behind my eyelids, bringing me back to reality. I shift my body, trying to get out of the direct beam of light when pain flares in my side. Regretting my decision immediately I shift back, trying to get a grip on my surroundings. The air has the same stench as before, hopefully meaning I haven’t been moved. Is that a good or a bad thing? Also getting shot fucking hurts, like stubbing your pinky toe but a thousand times worse. Moving is definitely out of the question. Whatever I’m on, the ground or a table? Is stiff and unmoving. Sitting here trying not to move pushes my thoughts towards the past. Towards my mom.
“Hey what’s wrong?” She asks, quickly coming over to sit next to me on the couch.
“N-nothing” I whimper as I try to wipe the tears from my eyes. She puts a hand on her hip, and brushes my hair behind my ear.
“You were watching Tv weren’t you?” She says that in an all too familiar tone.
“Maybe,” I snap, clutching the pillow I’m holding closer to my chest. And she laughs at that. A short little chuckle full of warmth and love. Wordlessly she pulls me into a quick hug, planting a kiss on my forehead before letting me go.
“I love that you cry over Tv characters.”
“It’s not my fault! It’s how they write the characters! And then they have good actors and then they start in with the sad music.” I angrily swipe at my eyes again as new tears spring up.
“So you’ve said,” She chuckles again, giving my shoulders a tight squeeze. “Why do you keep doing this to yourself?”
“I don’t!” I almost yell back instantly, “The show writers are to blame.”
“Uh huh sure they are.”
“Oh get outta here!” I snap, playingfully hitting her with my pillow.
“Why did she help me?” the question floats through my hazy and distracted mind demanding answers I don’t have. Distant footsteps make their way to my ears and I open my eyes in alarm, temporarily blinding myself with the unforgiving rays of sunlight. I’m laying in the corner of a small room. It’s floor is a hard concrete that is pressing uncomfortably on my bones. Guess I’m not on a table.
It’s wooden framework has rotted away leaving a gaping hole in the front wall by what I assume used to be the door, which is letting in the offendingly bright sunlight. The walls are faded and have numerous unidentifiable stains each only a hint of the color they once were. The footsteps are almost on top of me as I continue to scan my surroundings. The room is surprisingly bare, only an overturned wooden table and a burned couch along with myself, decorate the room. There is nowhere to hide, not that I’d be able to get very far on my own anyway. I lay helpless as the footsteps come to a stop and a shadow makes its way over my body.
“Oh you’re awake,” Mia mutters through her mask, barely understandable with her quiet voice. My shoulders relax the instant her voice, however muffled, reaches my ears bringing tears prickling at the edges of my eyes
“Yeah,” I manage hoarsely, my voice cracking with just a singular word.
“You should have some water, but I don’t think I have any stashed around here. Anyway our first task is getting you a mask and back to your home,” Mia exasperatingly lists off pinching the bridge of her nose in thought. Home, in my thoughts was sitting curled up on my couch watching the newest episode of some random TV show I was into. Now home is a pitch black bunker that has been squeezed into the cold ground, littered with cardboard boxes.
“A mask?” my broken voice makes its way to my ears before I register my mouth moving, surprising both Mia and I.
“Yes a mask. Did you forget about the whole firing nukes back and forth business? Those bombs weren’t powered by love and rainbows you know.” Mia’s words knock the breath from my lungs, and any thought I may have had from my mind. The radiation, how could I have completely forgotten? I was down in that godforsaken bunker for a year. A year! And I hadn’t once stopped to think about why I hadn’t gone outside or what was keeping me there. My breath comes in short bursts as my mind races to process her words. I’ve been outside breathing in irradiated air and it could be killing me for all I know. How could I forget that?! I sit up sharply, ignoring the flare of pain in my side as I grip my shirt trying to make the air come easier. She’s kneeling in front of me now her hand on my shoulder as I gasp for air, my anger now turning to hysteria.
“I I didn’t… I didn’t...I don’t have,” I gasp between my erratic breaths trying to communicate my distress. She doesn’t understand how bad this is. I don’t have a mask!
“Breathe or I’m leaving you here and not coming back,” Mia orders sternly staring at me with her unwavering gaze. I don’t think I could handle being left alone right now. So I nod and try to focus on my breathing.
“I didn’t have a mask out there.” I finally manage when my breathing is under control. She doesn’t say anything, just lets her hand slip from my shoulder and retreats to the burned couch. I don’t understand her . I don’t understand why she would be helping me when at first she couldn’t care less about what happened to me. Why did I even go after her in the first place?
“You didn’t have a mask out there?” She questions seriously, keeping her back to me.
“No,” I answer meekly
“Not even before Hunter?” The way she almost spits out his name gives me pause but I answer all the same.
“Not even before Hunter.”
“Stay here and if anyone tries to get in here that isn’t me... run,” She says, suddenly standing up and heading for the door. I open my mouth to protest but she’s gone before I can even draw in my next breath. I’m alone again, starving to death just the same as before.
With Mia gone I can finally figure out the extent of my injuries I guess. I look down to my shirt and frown. The majority of the front is stained a deep red with my blood and I’m assuming the back isn’t much better. Running my hand over the battered material brings a few small holes to my attention, but it’s nothing that needs to be tended to right this instant. The bandana that was on my right hand has been replaced with a tattered cloth that looks like it used to be an old towel. My legs are covered in scrapes and bruises, no doubt from the scuffle with Hunter, you’d be hard pressed to find an inch of them that is cut free. My feet are a different story. The same material from before is wrapped tightly around both my feet. Apparently sprinting through crisp dirt without shoes on isn’t the best of decisions.
“I live in a world after nuclear fallout, but at least I have someone looking out for me.” I muse looking around the room again “At least I think I do.” My stomach growls reminding me of the reason I left my bunker in the first place. Plus I really need to get a handle on my pain tolerance. One second it’s lower than stubbing a toe and the next I could get shot and not even flinch. Is this what adrenaline does? If that’s the case then I can get where adrenaline junkies were coming from. Now that my thoughts are a bit less occupied than before I have time to think about normal things again. Like food and water. There’s nothing out in the open as far as I can tell.
“I was smart enough to be in a bunker when the nukes hit, but stupid enough to leave behind my hazmat suit because it didn’t have a mask.” Recounting my actions out loud I rest my head in my hands. I can’t believe how stupid I acted. I’ve watched enough of these types of movies, I should have grabbed the suit. How did I even survive before the nukes hit if I’m this stupid.
“God damn, I think I definitely went stir crazy down in that bunker.” I raise my head out from my hands to look around the room again.
“Well, getting around should be fun.” I think sarcastically staring at my mangled feet. Is mangled even the right word? Why am I a such a wimp?
“On second thought there is no think. I went stir crazy.”
There's a familiar crushing pressure on top of me again. Oppressive in its entirety. And then his breath is hitting my face again, and I flinch away. I can't see anything, its completely pitch black. I just want to get away from it. From him. I rub my hands down my arms, trying to get rid of the pressure, but it persists. Every step and flinch I take backwards does nothing to get his breath further from my face.