Another day in hell.
I grabbed the sling from my belt with shaky hands. No food in two days, and the damned rabbit wouldn’t stand still. I muttered a prayer to whatever god would hear it. “Keep the rabbit still for a minute and I’ll stop cursing you”. More a threat than a prayer, but it seemed to work. My stomach grumbled. The rabbit froze. Then dropped. I was getting good at it.
I retrieved it, put the sling back in my belt and looked for the pebble. There weren’t that many to be found around here, and those with a good shape were even rarer. It took about twenty minutes of fumbling around, but I found it.
Rabbit in hand, I went back to the cave, where Percy welcomed me with a grin and a hug. New thing, hugging. Not that I minded, it was just surprising. We were getting closer, I suppose.
“Rabbit!”, she said. “I can make stew.”
One thing that always baffled me about Perceneige was her ability to be happy about anything. Rabbit? Happy. Cave? Happy. A river to wash in? Happy. That woman delighted in the smallest, weirdest things.
I built up a fire to cook on while she prepared the rabbit. “I found wild onions today, and a big ass potato growing on the trail over there” she pointed with the knife, apparently not bothered that it was dripping with guts. Mine churned at the sight.
I looked away from the gory mess Percy was making and started peeling the potato. Might as well make myself useful. “It’s gonna be a tasty stew. No other news?”
For the hundredth time I wished we had better equipment. The small knife was getting dull. I should probably have been grateful we even had knives, but I had spent the day trying to find food and was too tired to care. Before I could grumble, Percy answered. “Nah. We’d need to get closer to civilisation, or what’s left of it.”
Civilisation. The word resonated in my memory, but didn’t mean shit anymore. We had all turned into savages. The Madness had reduced most of the population to braindead killers, and the rest into fugitives. Like us. Running from cave to cave like gods damned bears, hoping to find a place we wouldn’t get killed on sight. And a fucking bath.
Oh gods a bath. How long had it been? Felt like years, but really, I’d met Perceneige barely a few months before. Complete strangers turned lovers by circumstance. The cliché made me choke.
True, though. The Madness had struck fast, and been deadly. We’d found each other at a meeting about it, back in our town. The mayor was spewing bullshit about how to keep things going while the world was losing its mind when I felt a nudge. Percy. Her big black eyes were full of contempt. “Move over, honey. I need a better view.”
Without thinking, I let her move past me. She was small but her demeanour left me incapable of refusing her. She made it to the front of the crowd and listened for a while.
When the orator asked if anyone had questions, she made her way back to me and said, “let’s get outta here, honey. The whole town’s gonna blow in fifteen minutes tops. Grab some essentials while you can and meet me at the end of Main Road, by the fields.”
I smiled at the memory. She hadn’t considered for a second that I wouldn’t follow. Neither had I. And she hadn’t bothered to give me her name. I met her there on time, and she led the way into the wilderness, not once looking back.
And here we were now, in a stinking cave full of batshit, making stew. Fuck, if I’d known things would go this way I’d have brought cleaning supplies. But at the time, essentials had been clothes and a blanket. A toothbrush. The apple I didn’t remember buying. A pack of tea. That was it, really. I hadn’t even thought of knives or matches.
“You know, maybe we should get closer to other humans. See if anyone survived. Find some better food, sleep in a bed, that sort of shit.”
Percy snickered. She didn’t mind sleeping on the floor, or washing in a cold ass river. I dreamed of a steaming shower. She never stopped teasing me about it. “You and your dreams of king sized beds with satin sheets. Aren’t you happy here with me?”
I was happy with her, but not here. “Percy. Can we just pretend not everyone is a wildling? Let’s move North tomorrow, see if there’s people over there. Please?”
By that point, we had water boiling in the pan over our fire. Percy had finished gutting our dinner. We cut it into bits, did the same to the potato and onions, and put everything in the water. Then she looked at me, all serious. Started to speak. Didn’t. Nodded. And that was it. We were moving the next day.
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