Sam had put miles in between him and the ranch, in between him and the Bazaar. It had been three days since the cloud of smoke had darkened the sky behind him and Evelyn, but they did not speak of it. They did not speak of much actually. They had not made it nearly as far as he had wanted to, having had to double back twice, once to bypass a pile of rubble that had once been a bridge, and the second time due to a crater so large that it took up all four lanes, both the shoulders and some space into the fields on either side of the road.
“Sam?” She finally asked on the third day since they he had been attacked. “What were you, I mean, before all of this?”
“Um,” He responded. “I was in college. Studying computer science and playing video games. You know what, I probably spent more time playing games than studying,” He smiled. “What about you?”
She opened her mouth to answer but he stopped her.
“I’ll bet you were a princess, living in some mansion on an island somewhere.”
“No, how’d I get here?” She asked.
“Well, the Pennyman brought you, didn’t he?”
She closed her eyes and was silent for a few minutes.
Finally, Sam apologized, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to…”
“You are a princess?”
This brought the smile he was hoping for to her face. “He did bring me to you. I was in fifth grade, we had a project due on dinosaurs…”
“Yeah,” Sam tried to do the calculation in his head, “So that makes you what, nine?”
“Almost, yeah, my birthday is in… What day is it?”
“I, I don’t know,” Sam said, and quickly changed the subject. “Dinosaurs huh? What’s your favorite one?”
“Oh, the archaeopteryx. It had pretty feathers and could fly…”
“Really?” Sam asked. He listened to her talk about dinosaurs for half an hour, glad that he had finally gotten her to come out of her shell.
“Sam?” She asked as they rolled through a small town, nothing more than what remained of a few gas stations and corner stores along the side of the road. “I have to pee.”
Sam smiled and eased off the car off the shoulder in front of a McDonalds. The windows were broken, but inside looked deserted. He grabbed a gun anyways. “Let’s go.” He said as he got out of the car and locked the doors.
The restaurants doors swung open silently and Sam led the way with his gun, but despite an owl sitting atop the coffee machine, the store was unoccupied.
Sam followed her into the women’s room, checking each stall before he was comfortable leaving her alone. He used the opportunity to go himself and when he came out of the bathroom she still had not come out so, eyeing the owl warily, he snuck a look at the store room, but was not disappointed when he found nothing.
A ear splitting scream broke the silence, disturbing the bird, and sending him running toward the bathroom.
“What’s wrong,” He shouted as he slammed open the door to the restroom.
“I’m out of toilet paper,” she said from within one of the stalls.
Sighing rather loudly, Sam took a roll from the next one and rolled it under the door to Evelyn.
“I thought you were hurt is all.” He stepped back outside of the bathroom and waited until she came out.
“Yeah. How much farther do we have to go?”
He tried not to sound like his father when he answered, but could not help it, “Depends on how many more times you have to pee.” He laughed, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it that way.”
She glared at him and then smile, “I know, my dad used to say the same thing.”
The owl eyed them as they left the store.
“Come on, lets try these couple of stores, see if anything is left.” Sam said, motioning with his gun and walking, the gravel crunching beneath his feet. He found a car battery that did not have much corrosion on it and set it outside the door in the first shop, and a few bars of soap in the next one. “We’re striking out big time here.”
Evelyn had stopped and stood still, her eyes large in her head. Sam followed her gaze and saw why. A pair of men had come out of the third store, one, rather obese and carrying what looked like a large pillow case stuffed full of misshapen boxes and the other carrying a gun.
Sam pointed his weapon at them. “That’s far enough,” But they ignored him and kept walking. “I said that’s far enough!” Finally, they acknowledged his presence, looking up from the ground. “Damn,” Sam said, opening fire.
Evelyn screamed again as the one man with the gun lurched, but kept coming.
“Run for the car! Go,” Sam said as the Others walked toward him. Sam fired again, hitting the man with the bag and knocking him over. The other man was close enough that he could see the blank stare, and hear the empty click of the Other’s gun. Shooting once more, the man spun from the bullets impact, but immediately regained his footing and continued to come. Sam heard the car door slam shut behind him and charged the Other, ducking his head and using his shoulder to bowl over the man, tripping in the process.
Both of them grunted as they landed, Sam atop his foe, who began to claw at him. Sam raised both arms, covering his face as he rolled off of the flailing man. Managing to get to his knees, Sam threw an awkward right hook that managed to connect with the side of his opponents head, but not stopping him. “Stay down,” Sam yelled, throwing another punch that did not phase the rising man. Clamoring to his feet alongside the Other, Sam caught a punch in the ribs, sending him staggering backwards, tripping over the fat man and landing on his back. The Other started toward him, blood dripping from numerous wounds in his upper body. Sam had managed to push himself away from the fallen Other but had not risen to his feet by the time the man was standing over him. Reaching for the blade he kept tucked into his pants, he withdrew it in time to be showered in blood as the man’s head exploded atop his neck. Wiping the gore from his face, he saw Evelyn sobbing, the gun still in her hands.