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The air was chill on my skin, and my eyebrows stiffened against the chill. That happens when it gets below 20 degrees or so, my eyebrows stand up. So that’s when I pluck them. I know it doesn’t matter what they look like it’s not like anyone sees, but it’s a matter of humanity.
The soles of my boots kicked at little balls of ice that had accumulated from the wind blowing snowflakes together until they stuck to each other, and turned into little icy tumbleweeds that rolled under my boots as I hiked down the interstate, pulling my wheeled sleigh behind me.
It of course didn’t resemble a sleigh in the slightest, but rather a wagon, one of the red flyers wagons that kids ride in, except it has snow tired, and it was attached to a padded rope that was tied around my hips. It’s not heavy, but gripping the rope gets tedious after a while.
I glanced at the digital sun powered watch that I had clipped to the tent’s case. Two in the afternoon.
It was a three-hour walk, to the next town, and a two-day walk to where I was going. I’d been walking for an hour.
I glanced at the mile markers, and groaned for only being halfway to destination. I felt lucky for the oversize down jacket I was bundled in, and for the three sweaters I was layered in. The thermometer next to the watch indicated a scant ten degrees.
That’s just how it was around Chicago though. Freezing. Harsh winters, where show gets stuck on to cars and trees, and shuts the roads down.
At least that’s how it was.
Now there were only a few cars around that could run, and only so much gas that their owners’ could steal, only a few mechanics that could keep a car running without the proper fluids, in this cold anyways.
It was only two in the afternoon, but at this time of year, the sun sunk below the horizon at five. It was at an angle that seared my eyes, but warmed my face between gusts of bitter wind. It howled around me, wailing for people to nip and freeze. Sobbing to me for lost fun.
I pulled my hood tighter.
Still miles to go until I hit town. Maybe I’d meet someone who I could trade with. Food for batteries? I’d been the first to loot the battery store, and I’d taken as many as I could carry.
I had plenty of those.
I needed food if I would brave the three-day trek to where mom and dad were, hopefully. The cold saps energy quickly, and fear that you’ll be stolen from saps the rest. I ate beef jerky almost constantly. Or at least enough that I could taste the greasy, salty taste in my mouth
A rabbit was crouched on the side of the road, beady eyes darting, settling on me for a moment, then away.
It didn’t run.
I pulled the rifle from the top of the wagon, and sank into a crouch, peering through the sights. Don had taught me how to do this one summer, as we lay barefoot and happy beneath the moon.
Shoot in between heartbeats.
Sight a little above, if you’re real far away.
Check for wind.
I pulled a glove off with my teeth, and the wind was miraculously still.
Careful of the kickback.
Pull the trigger slowly.
The rabbit fell with a hole in its breast, and I tugged the release knot around my waist, so I could run over and grab the tiny carcass.
Then back to the wagon, to gut the rabbit with the knife that I kept on my belt, then throw it in with the others I’d shot, so I could have stew, or fresh cooked meat. I tied the harness back on and rechecked the mile markers.
I set off again towards the coming town. At this rate, I could get there, and find another survivor in time for dinner. We could cook up my rabbits, trade, and maybe he’d have a guitar.
Maybe he’d have a spare CB. Mine had broken after a thaw, water had seeped in and it had shorted out. I’d lived in silence since.
Three whole months of walking, shooting and surviving in the spoiled wastes of a once great city.