When he awoke that morning, his head ached from the night before. As he rolled over, the woman’s dark skin against his white sheets caught his attention. It was the colour of dark chocolate and as shiny as silk. “I don’t remember that part… ” he muttered to himself as he pushed the heels of his hands deep into his eye sockets as if it was supposed to make the pounding of his head stop. Alcohol was especially hard to come by post war but it wasn’t impossible. It was usually as potent as the best moonshine and it never tasted very good, however it was what a person needed to get the job done.
All of a sudden his stomach flipped in his body and he ran to commode to vomit. Thinking all the while, “This is what she gets to wake up to, and I don’t even know her name…” He vomited a steaming mess of alcohol into the basin; it wasn’t quiet and he was certain that – unless she was dead – that she was no longer sleeping, and almost certainly awake and disgusted. Just then his thoughts were interrupted as his stomach did another flip which sent him reeling towards the basin again, to allow last nights indulgence fly again. “Finally” he thought “I think that this is over now…”
He slid to sit on the cold tiled floor attempting to replay his evening back to himself. When a memory finally did come back, so vivid he didn’t know why he hadn’t remembered it before… Favan, vomited again… “This cannot be happening…”
Asiya awoke to the sound of a toilet backing up, gurgling from the ground up, water splattering everywhere. As she slowly came to through her dreams and her reality became the only true one in existence again, she realized it was the gentleman vomiting. “Drunk,” she thought as she rolled over and covered her head with the blanket that had been covering her naked body. Another round of vomiting went and she grabbed the blanket tighter around her head, trying to not hear him the best she could.
She remembered having sex with him last night, several times. It wasn’t very often anymore that she came across a camp of this size, let alone one that came with a man like Favan. “He has the same Hardness that Tony had… ” she thought, and sighed. “He won’t meet the same fate that Tony did though, no, he is too smart, I need him…”. The rest of it seemed to be a distant memory now, but she had had no choice. The food and supplies would last longer without Tony. God had told her so.
Favan sat by the creek, a stick whittled down to a spear was hanging loosely in his right had as he watched his next potential meal twist and flip a little too far out of striking distance in the creek. Across the gleaming water was a game path, which Favan had never seen animals use, but for it to be as well maintained as it was, seeing didn’t have to be believing. That was where he saw her for the first time, where they saw each other. It was possibly around noon, or one pm, although time wasn’t told by machinery anymore and he would never be for sure on this. “There, in the bushes” his inner voice had spoke to him, “a bear!” After a few seconds of consideration, he knew a bear could not be that tall… So What…?
That was when he saw her.
That was when she saw him.
Asiya had been walking for weeks, following the creek attempting to get to higher ground. Once in a while she would come to an encampment. Sometimes they would be empty and obviously abandoned. If so, she would loot and the area and then move on, leaving just a few items in case there was that one person left hanging on. Four years post war, she learned that anything was possible.
This time it was different though, this time she had gone much farther than any other time before without seeing much more than a mutant frog. “This is the end” she had thought, “this is where only the strong survive”. The last few days she had been gravely considering that her intuitions were true as she trudged along the game trail, she was going to meet her maker whether she wanted to or not; she was now running on borrowed time.
The trees started reaching out in the daylight to grab her and those intimidating thoughts crept back into her head. She felt as though she was never going to see another human face in her life. She felt as though the entire world was closing in around her, getting ready to suck her into the vortex of foreverness that the war brought on. She heard a harsh breathing sound and it snapped her back into reality. At first she thought it was a mutated mountain lion, wanting to turn her into her next meal
That was when she realized she had started running.
That was when she saw him.
That was when he saw her.
It is entirely possible that they saw each other at the exact same moment in time. Favian, watching fish flipping out of the water out of the reach of the sharpened tip of his spear; Asiya running for her life from the demons in her own head, frantic and alone.
That was when they saw each other.
“It wasn’t a black bear at all, those were her dreads flying through the trees…” followed by, “what could she have been running from?”
Favian was immediately on his feet the spear thrown aside, forgotten. Wild emotions ran through his head, he knew she wasn’t from his encampment, when there were 23 of you, a newcomer stuck out like a sore thumb. There had initially been 26, however the post-war world lacked medical facilities, knowledge and supplies to even perform the most simple medical procedures. Because of this, Favian’s grandfather was the first to go.
Favian stood there, gawking at her.
The man stood up as Asiya realized that there was a man out there. “Life…” she gasped aloud in spite of herself. She was not at all scared, only thankful that she was no longer alone. Other than, of course, the obstacle of the creek, that was.
Favian felt the excitement of a little boy growing inside of him. The woman waved her arms over her head, producing an “x”, then let her arms fell to her sides. She looked beautiful standing there in the afternoon light, and Favian couldn’t help but just gawk at her.
“Stranger….” she yelled to him, “is there a way over?”. This broke the trance Favian had been in, and he began nodding, then answered in a voice that Asiya found harmonious, “one other than my own!” she had thought. “You’ll have to walk a little farther…” he paused, his eyes gently touched her with a cautious consideration. “How about I come with you and help you across. It’s not dangerous or deep, but it’s almost quicksand in places, you need to know where to cross.” He smiled at her, and then added, “I’ll keep you company”.
Asiya was thankful for this offer, “maybe this isn’t quite the end of the line.” she thought, “not yet, at least”. Without any of the consideration Favian had taken with he offered to walk with her, “Yes, please!” she said eagerly, realized how desperate she had sounded then added, ” I mean, as long as you don’t mind…” trailing off sheepishly. Favian laughed a wonderful belly-laugh, pure and genuine. “The fish weren’t biting anyway,” he said, adding “Shall we?” and gesturing as if to say ‘after you’.
The woman stood there, almost frozen in time for a few seconds before she spoke, “I’m Asiya. My husband died last year and I have been on my own since. I have not seen another human being, at least not one with a heart beat, in what is going on at least 8 months…” she trailed off and then sighed. Asiya shook off the momentary pity party she had just had for herself and nervously laughed, “you just have no idea how happy I am to see another living soul!”
All at once, Asiya lost control of the emotions that she had thought she had in check, the ones that she tried not to feel, and she wept. The man stood there, helpless. The creek at this point was far too deep and too fast to cross, but he knew a spot that was safe. When they got there he would hug her tightly, as for now…
“Shall we?” Favian said with a very nervous smile on his face; his hands gesturing in an after you position. This made Asiya smile through the tears, the hurt which she hadn’t felt until now, and the realization that she had been alone for this long. ‘Did I really come this far by myself? I have been walking for at least 7 months…’ she thought.