[AGttA] Chapter 3.1: Clear Liquids

Continued from Chapter 3.0, here.

Read it from the beginning, starting here.

Axiom 3: Search for other survivors.

“Oh man.  Oh, this is so bad.  Oh, geez.”  I panted these words to myself, over and over, as I scrambled over the rocks and dirt, heading towards where I’d seen my golf ball disappear – and the woman, possibly the only other human still alive, had collapsed.

I hadn’t meant to hit her with the golf ball!  I just wanted to get her attention – and besides, I always hooked my shots to the left!  I couldn’t have known that this one would go straight!

Finally, I hauled myself over one especially large chunk of shattered concrete, possibly the remains of an overpass support-

-and there she was on the other side, sprawled out in the dirt.

My brain froze.  Before, when I’d seen her through binoculars, I’d been hit by emotion like a hammer blow.  Now, seeing her in person, that feeling came rushing back with renewed strength, nearly knocking me off my feet.

She looked young, about my age, I saw as I scrambled down to kneel over her.  As I’d seen through the binoculars, she had dark hair pulled back into a ponytail, strong features that gave her a stern look, pale skin dotted with clusters of freckles.  She wore khaki hiking pants, some sort of shapeless jacket printed in a camouflage pattern, and a large military-style backpack slung over one shoulder.

I peered closely, watching her mouth.  Wasn’t I supposed to be doing something with a spoon, either checking her breath or feeding her or something?  I had a spoon back at the Starbucks, but I mostly used it for eating beans, and it wasn’t especially clean or shiny.

After one heart-pounding second, however, I saw her mouth part slightly as she drew breath.  I sighed with gratefulness.  She was alive.

Now, I considered to myself, I needed to get her back to the Starbucks – and, considering the terrain that I had just traversed, this required me to wake her up.  Even in my most heroic fantasies, I knew that I couldn’t carry her all the way back.

Just to make sure, however, I bent down and tugged experimentally on her backpack.  “Gah, are you lugging rocks around in here?” I exclaimed, letting it drop back down.  It must have weighed nearly forty pounds!

My tugging on the backpack moved the girl slightly, as the backpack’s straps still connected it to her.  She flopped along bonelessly, but I froze, looking down at her with concern.

“Um, miss?  Lady?”  How the hell do I address her?  ‘Fellow post-Apocalyptic survivor’?  “Are you awake?”

She didn’t say anything in response, but I thought that I saw her eyes flutter a little.  She was waking up!  I lowered her backpack down to the ground, tugging at its zipper.  Maybe if she had a water bottle or something in here, I could splash some water on her face to help wake her up.

Her eyes fluttered again, and my groping hand inside her backpack found the neck of a glass bottle.  Bingo, I thought to myself, pulling on it.

The girl’s eyes opened slowly, only partly, and she looked up at me through long eyelashes.  “Who are you?”  Her voice sounded a little slurred and sleepy, still, but also dark and sultry.

It was, I thought helplessly to myself, the kind of voice that a man could fall in love with, head over heels.

Her eyes fluttered again, this time opening a little wider.  “What are you doing with my bag?” she asked, tilting her head slightly to look at where I crouched beside her on one knee, my hand still inside her backpack.  “Are you robbing me?”

“What?  No, no, I’m not!” I burst out, tugging again at the bottle.  I finally felt it moving, coming out of the backpack.  “I’m just trying to get you some water to help you wake up!”

Finally, the bottle came free, and I unscrewed the cap on the glass bottle.  It looked about half full of clear liquid.  Just a little splash to help wake her up, I thought to myself.

Now, the girl was definitely all the way awake, and she wasn’t looking at me with quite the expression that I thought she’d give to her savior.  “Hey!  Thief!  You’re trying to rob me!  When I get to my feet, I’m going to kick your ass!”

“No, I’m not!”  How was everything suddenly going sideways?  

The cap finally loosened in my fingers, and I quickly pulled it off.  No time for subtlety, pouring out some water, I thought wildly to myself.  Just splash some in her face, so that she’ll come back to her senses!

I jerked the bottle forward, sending a generous splash of the clear liquid inside of the bottle forward, onto the girl’s face.

She immediately screamed, clutching at her face – and the smell hit me a moment later.

“Oh my god!”  The girl pitched sideways, rolling away from me, her hands rubbing wildly at her eyes.  “What the hell did you just do to me?  Oh god, why does it hurt so much?”

“Me?  Are you really carrying around-”

I stopped abruptly, lifting the bottle up and giving it a cautious sniff.  Yep, sure enough, it reeked of alcohol.  “Vodka?” I asked in confusion, looking at the label on the glass bottle.  “Why are you carrying around a bottle of vodka?”

“It’s for wounds, you imbecile!”  The girl had at least stopped rolling, although she still pressed both hands against her face, mostly covering up her eyes.  She cracked two fingers on her left hand slightly apart, staring out at me with one baleful eye.  “What the hell are you doing, throwing it in my face?  Trying to blind me?”

“I thought that it was water!”

“Why are you throwing water in my face, then?”

“I wanted to wake you up – you were unconscious!”  I considered telling the girl that she was unconscious because I’d accidentally hit her with a golf ball, but decided that maybe this particular bit of information could wait until she didn’t look quite so homicidal.  

I took a deep breath, trying to let go of the creeping panic that threatened to overwhelm me.  “Look, let’s take a step back.  My name is Jack, and you are-”

“Leaving,” the girl answered me shortly.  

She stood up, reached down, grabbed her backpack, turned stiffly away from me, and toppled forward, face first, back into the dirt.

To be continued…

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