|I Owe You One
Author: I Can't Breathe PM
The world has collapsed all around and problems never end. Among few survivors, Josh and Natalie are trying to find peace. They are in love and despite how complicated the world is, one thing remains simple: their love. This is a one-shot.Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship/Adventure - Words: 3,035 - Reviews: 1 - Follows: 1 - Published: 06-30-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3037569
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I Owe You One.
Chaos all around, explosions and fire - you took me off the ground and lifted me higher.
I Owe You One | Lights
The air is humid, my shirt clings to my skin, and the sun is red just over the horizon. I don't dare move and neither does Josh. The sky will soon be dark and we'll be on the move. My heart beats fast rushing with adrenaline and fueled by fear.
This single red brick house in the middle of destruction and disaster stands as if nothing had happened, but many things have happened. Once towering skyscrapers are nothing more than radioactive waste and even the lush green grass has lost it's spark and become the color of pine trees. Everything is a lot darker both physically and internally.
There are plenty of rumors about how this all happened but again, they're rumors and most likely half-truths. I don't think the destruction, the deaths, the diseases, and changes are accidents, but maybe just maybe, I want to believe the lie. Those of us who survived are barely making it but it's easier to keep fighting thinking that we have a future and that we are 'lucky' for remaining alive. I know Josh definitely doesn't think it's luck, but he's a cynic. Quite honestly, I'm not sure about anything but the fact that I'm lucky to have found him.
It is both easier and more difficult to survive when it's the two of us. Easier because we look out after each other and harder because we attract too much attention. The world really has changed, everyone has become more self-centered, grown stronger, but too untrusting.
The first week was the worst, most wanted to form groups, but there were those who thought it was too risky with the limited resources and slowly forced groups to split.
Josh and I attract too much attention. We're young in comparison to everyone else, barely over seventeen while everyone is older than twenty-five. Josh alone wouldn't gather much attention living the way he does with his stoic expression and strong build, but I'm another story. I'm a girl and that alone is the greatest call of attention one can make nowadays.
There weren't many people who survived in the first place, but after the first few weeks, the first plague spread. Children were the first to go, this world was simply no place for them. Then, came the women, the worst part was that unlike the children who became weak and had fever, they had absolutely no symptoms, simply didn't wake up.
No one knew what was going on but it was obvious that men for some reason had immunity to the plague. The theory is that the Y chromosome offered immunity or something like that. During those days, Josh and I went underground. It was a dingy old cave somewhere in Kansas. I barely remember those days. We were entirely sleep deprived after running for days and were barely keeping alive by eating dry crackers and water. All I remember was the need to sleep and Josh's body lying a feet away.
Josh takes a glance in my direction. He's making last minute plans, probably wondering what we'll find and the best escape routes just in case. His face is set in this stony expression with his eyes narrowed and his mouth in a grim line.
It's ironic how we barely used to know back when everything was okay and now all it takes is the smallest twitch or look for me to know what he's thinking.
We met again the second day after everything happened. Someone had organized a shelter in some high school in New Jersey and at the time, it was the best option. I had gone along with a family that I had met shortly after the first earthquake. I knew that chances that any one in my own family had survived were slim. We had lived on the twenty-sixth floor of a skyscraper in the middle of the city, it was too close to the disaster, but I wanted to go back. They had told me that we were going to form search teams by neighborhood, but by the time we got to the shelter all hope was lost as nuclear bombs went off.
For the next two days, we kept moving, from New Jersey to Massachusetts hot wiring cars and trucks, but every time we moved things seemed to get worse. Food was starting to spoil and there were too many of us. The 'smarter' ones had already gone on their own to find resources for themselves. The family I had been tagging along with was getting tired of me, I could tell, and by the fifth morning were gone, and had left me alone.
I was alone sitting on top of an old table scared out of my mind because I knew it was only a matter of time before one of those men 'claimed' me. The sex ratios were never in my favor and I knew I wouldn't be able to put up a fight. There were a few other girls but they were starting to disappear. I didn't show how scared I was and just sat there analyzing the situation. He was sitting there on the other side of the gymnasium where we were staying.
I watched him for far longer than I should have, but then again, I didn't know who he was back then. One by one, girls would walk up to him and sit down next to him. From my side of the gymnasium, I couldn't hear anything and could only see their lips move quickly. He would give them all a shrug and then a short polite nod that meant 'no'. The girls would walk away head held high, sit down by themselves, and then after a few minutes sit down next to another man. The pattern kept on repeating and it wasn't hard to figure out what was happening. He was the youngest guy in the whole gymnasium and strong, most of the girls here were more or less about my age. The exchange was simple, the girls needed protection, and men, companion. It was sick but the reality of the moment.
Just before the day was over, I knew I had to do something. I didn't have anything on me to offer just like the rest, but I knew that to survive, I needed a partner and like the rest, I saw he was the best choice.
I got up but instead of walking straight to him, I went to the bathroom. It was hands down the most dangerous place, but I knew it'd only be one of the dangerous that were to come. It was a communal bathroom, male actually since the female bathroom was 'out of service'. I didn't actually use the bathroom. I found a few paper towels stuck in the dispenser and cleaned my face and ran my fingers through my hair before pulling it into a ponytail. I wasn't all that different from the other girls, just a little taller if anything, but I knew everything they had done didn't work.
The sneaky glances from the men were already starting simply because I looked a little more human and tamed. Trying not to be conspicuous, to keep options opened in case my plan didn't work, I walked out of the bathroom.
He didn't see me coming his way. He was laying on the benches with his hands behind his head and his eyes closed.
One moment he was laying down and the next, he was sitting. It was intimidating but I couldn't let him see it so I kept my expression just like his, stony and cold.
"Not interested." Those were his words. I hadn't prepared for this and didn't have any response. "I saw you looking," He continued "But I'm not interested."
I had to come up with something quickly and said the first thing that came to mind which was honestly the stupidest thing to have said: "I'll arm wrestle you."
He didn't even look up as he laid back down as he had been with arm behind his head and eyes closed. "No."
Looking around, I saw we had already gathered a crowd. The others girls had sat down but here I was standing up in front of him without inhibition. I couldn't back down. "I'll leave you alone if you accept."
He scoffed and turned his head to the side.
"I'm a black belt." The gymnasium became silent, an impossible thing considering how many of us were supposed to be breathing.
That caught his attention and he was up.
"Really?" His eyes trailed over me disbelieving.
I nodded and went along. He dropped to the floor with his elbow on the bench he had been laying on. My hand was shaking as I kneeled across from him. He had the same stoic expression and I was sure my own expression was starting to falter.
He took my hand and I knew I didn't stand a chance. His muscles twitched under his loose sweatshirt and my own hand was so flimsy and bony even more than usually thanks to my new diet of canned food and water.
"One, two," I gripped his hand just praying to whatever was up there that somehow I could defy the rules of reality just this once. "Three."
He was too strong but somehow we went on for about thirty agonizing seconds. I was dying, slowly and painfully just to keep my hand at a 45 degree angle to stop him from winning. He wasn't putting all his force, but suddenly he got impatient and before I knew it my hand had hit the bench.
All I could do was stare at my hand laying there on the bench.
"Fuck." My brother's voice ran in my mind. Silence filled the gymnasium and when I looked up, I knew everything was over. Everyone was staring at me and the guys were smirking condescendingly thinking I was the least classy of all the girls and more likely to do what they wanted.
I got up from my kneeling position brushing my already torn jeans. There was no way I could stay here and the choice had been made beforehand - it was either him or no one. I raised my head and met his eyes. My senses were on over drive and I wasn't really in that room. I forced a smile on my face. "Thank you." Then, turned and began walking down the steps.
"What's your name?" His voice silenced everyone, he had that kind of voice, full of authority. I didn't turn because I was too upset and only wanted to get away.
"Last name?" It felt like an invasion of privacy, but did it truly matter?
"Where's your brother?" His voice didn't change, but suddenly I I knew his voice. I had only seen him in fleeting doses, once or twice, walking along with my brother in the hallways in school, but somehow I knew.
"He's dead." Josh, that was his name. "They were too close to the site."
He didn't say anything and I didn't expect anything to change. In fact, it was another reason to get out of there as fast as possible. People stared bluntly and coldly as I walked away.
It wasn't until I was about a block away that I let a shaky breath willing myself not to break down and stopped for a breath.
"Keep going." His voice was so low that I almost didn't catch it. I had barely had a chance to turn around to see his profile when out of nowhere, there were some of those men from inside surrounding us.
"Here." I gripped something cool and without looking I knew it was a knife.
I can feel my leg falling asleep but don't move. It's going to be twice as painful to get up but I'll manage. The sun gives its last ray of sunlight and disappears completely leaving us in darkness. I wait for Josh to make the first move. He brushes my arm softly. I slowly begin moving my leg. Sharp needles crawl up my skin. I ignore the pain and pick up my bag to sling it across my shoulder. It's empty but if we're lucky I'll fill my bag. I can barely see Josh but that's good. It means no one will see us.
Josh takes my wrist. I keep close but not too close to cover some ground. I make sure to be quiet and fast. Josh footsteps are quiet but mine are inexistent, weight along with practice has made it so. We are lucky today there is a new moon but knowing Josh, he has planned it out. We walk for a few minutes in complete darkness. Josh stops and I know we have arrive.
"There are steps." He whispers very quietly.
I tug my wrist and he lets me go. I carefully climb the steps.
"Should I try the door?" Josh asks quietly.
"Yeah." There's a loud creak that makes my heart stop. I hold my breath praying no one is around.
"Let's go." Josh says. We walk inside. The door closes with a squeak. I hear Josh digging into his bag for a candle and lighter. Soon enough there is a small fire on a candle. I see the vague outline of Josh's face. I begin looking around immediately. I touch the surface of a table. I feel the dust cling to my fingertip.
"It's abandoned." I say in relieve.
"Probably, but don't risk it." He begins walking and I follow. We end up in the kitchen and I don't waste time and run towards the cabinets. Anything edible will be found there. I find a few cans of food, boxes of pasta, instant cup noodles, a box of tea, and a box of crackers. For the most part there are spices, which aren't very useful. I look for a can opener in the drawers and find one.
"You're done?" Josh asks.
"Let's go." I notice Josh's bag is already stuffed, he's really good at finding things. My bag is still light. I need to fill it and fast.
As we head upstairs I open and close drawers. I find a new lighter but that is all. I ask Josh for a candle as soon as we're upstairs. I light it up and head for the bathroom. I find bars of soup, shampoo, conditioner, tylenol, cough medicine and luckily new toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste. My bag becomes a bit heavier. I go to one of the rooms and go straight for the closet. I take the warmest blanket colored a deep blue and thick, a few shirts and jeans that are about the size of Josh.
I run out of the room and into the next. This room is different. I once again head for the closet. It's calm, almost too calm.
"Find anything." My heart stops for a second but I relax knowing it's Josh.
"Not yet." I say. It's mostly girl clothing that is a little too big for but there's no right to be picky. I find a pair of boots, sturdy and only a little worn, and I'm thankful they're only half a size bigger.
I drop to the ground untying these old, ratty sneakers to replace with the boots. "Josh?"
"Where are we going to do once everything is gone?" He towers over me and it's at times like these that I'm thankful he's on my side.
So far we have survived doing this. Taking what we needed from house, but things, especially food are starting to become hard to find, and in very little time things will become impossible to find.
"I'm not sure. For now we've got to make good use of what we have. Perhaps in the fall things will once again growing-" He pauses. "or we'll keep moving."
"Hopefully." I quickly fold a jacket and stuff it in my bag.
"Look what I found." I turn around and see him holding an iPod. He smiles for the first time in what seems ages and sits down at the edge of the bed. I walk over and he runs his hand over the bed signaling silently for me to sit down next to him. He bends down and begins searching through the songs. After a moment, he hands me a bud and I put it on ignoring how awkward and foreign it feels now.
"You'll like this song." The song begins playing. It's a soothing, calm melody. I close my eyes remembering how it used to be. We used to sit and just listen to music without a care in the world. It was bad with all the revolution and power shortages, but it was during moments like these, listening to the hoarseness of a singer's voice with fingers digging into the softness of a bed, that things didn't matter.
"Your brother used to like this song." Josh's voice sounds distant and I'm almost afraid as I slip my hand into his. He gives it the slightest squeeze and in the midst of the dark and gloom, I feel his lips pressing against mine.
I'm pretty sure that this will remain a one-shot but I hope you enjoyed it. I really like this couple for the simplicity of their relationship. Hopefully, you'll review and tell me to write more one-shots.
Thank you for reading.