Axiom 3: Search for other survivors.
When I finished telling my story, I looked up at the girl, waiting for her to say something. Maybe she’d congratulate me on doing such a good job of surviving in this hellish landscape, I considered.
“That’s it?” she asked.
“Thank you, it really was a lot of hard- wait, what?” Okay, that wasn’t what I’d expected.
She looked around at the interior of my little home base. “All you’ve done is sit here, eat canned beans, and just wait for something to happen?”
“I think I’ve still got some cans of tuna or taco meat-”
“Not my point.” She turned and pointed back behind her, at the boarded-up windows. “Don’t you care about what’s happening out there? What’s happening to the rest of the world?”
“It’s the Apocalypse, that’s what’s happening!” I snapped back at her, losing a bit of my cool. “With angels smiting people and everything! I’ve seen what they can do – I don’t want to mess with those!”
“So you’re just going to stay hidden in here?” she pressed. “Until when? A year? Ten years? The rest of your life? What’s your long term plan?”
I groaned, sitting back and rubbing my forehead. “Maybe I shouldn’t have rescued you,” I muttered to myself.
She had sharp ears, at least. “Rescued me? You hit me with a golf ball and then threw vodka in my eyes!”
“At least you believe that I wasn’t out to rob you?” I tried.
She sniffed. “I suppose. But don’t think that means that I trust you. I still don’t know what your intentions are, and I’ll warn you, I’m armed.”
“Can I at least learn your name?” I asked hopefully.
For a long minute, she just looked at me. I had the uncomfortable feeling that she was weighing me, judging me, and I wondered how short I came up.
“Alice,” she finally replied.
I held out my hand. “Jack. Nice to meet you, I suppose.”
“Yeah, yeah. Don’t get any sort of ‘repopulate the Earth’ ideas about me,” she warned me, but she took the outstretched hand. Her fingers felt warm for the brief moment that they lingered in mine.
“Perish the thought,” I told her, as I imagined how it would feel to hold that warm hand of hers again, feel her press in against me.
We both sat in silence for a moment, before I finally cleared my throat. “So, do you have a plan, then?”
“What is it?”
She eyed me suspiciously. “Are you just going to steal it?”
“Um, what?” I blinked. “As far as I can tell, we’re both on the same side, here.”
For a long minute, she just stared at me, before giving in and nodding. “I suppose so. Well, part one of my plan was to search for other survivors. Together, we stand a better chance of winning against one of those things.”
“Right, we should band together- wait, what things?”
She rolled her eyes at me, like I was stupid. “The angels floating around outside, of course.”
“You want to try and fight one of those angels??” I leaned back, as if her craziness was catching. “You realize that they’ve got wings and literal flaming swords, right? And they can make things explode? You want to fight one of those?”
Alice, however, didn’t look like she was going to back down from this one. “Right now, they’re the only ones who can get us answers on what’s happening to the world – and maybe show us how we can stop it.”
“Stop it?” Now, my jaw really was hanging open. “You think that you can stop the world from ending? Alice, it’s already ended!”
In a burst of energy, she surged up to her feet, glaring back at me. “And so what, you’re just going to let it happen?” she shouted back at me, and I felt startled to glimpse tears in the corners of her eyes. “You’re not going to try and save it?”
“How can I save it? It’s already been destroyed!”
At my shout, she seemed to crumple a little. She sank back down into her chair, looking down into her lap and shaking her head back and forth. Although she’d appeared full of fire and energy just moments earlier, she now looked so sad that I almost felt drawn to reach out and comfort her.
“I just don’t know what else to do,” she said softly, still looking down into her lap. “What am I supposed to do with the rest of my life? Just keep running and hiding? I can’t handle doing that any longer.”
I felt my own heart soften. “Hey, it’s okay,” I said, moving over towards her and reaching out a hand. Maybe I could just pat her on the shoulder. “We’ll find a way to get through this.”
“And then what?” she insisted, looking up at me. I quickly withdrew my hand. “Like I said, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life hiding away. I’d rather go out trying to make a difference, than survive by doing nothing.”
I blinked, trying to think of a response. How did I even feel about this situation?
On one hand, I had quite the nice setup here. I had enough books to last me for years, a seemingly endless supply of canned beans, lots of coffee, and a bunch of different options for passing the time. I really, really didn’t want to give that all up to risk life and limb trying to fight against one of these all-powerful angels.
But on the other hand, I could also understand Alice’s point. Even though I valued my own skin very dearly, I didn’t want to admit that the label of ‘coward’ fit me unnervingly well. And maybe she did have a good argument in going after an angel.
I wasn’t naive enough to believe that we could, somehow, find a way to reverse the Apocalypse. The destruction around us had already happened, and I doubted that even the angels themselves could turn back time.
But maybe we could still make a difference for our future.
I groaned, tossing my head back. Alice, still moping, looked up at me curiously.
“Let me just get one thing straight,” I pointed out, before she had a chance to speak.
“I do not want to end up getting myself killed. Whatever plan we make, it’s safety first. Okay?”
Her eyes lit up as she nodded back to me. “Okay,” she said, and for the first time, I thought that I saw a glint of respect reflected back at me.