We stood there for a moment, hand in hand, gazing up at our only way out of the woods. The wolf was getting ever closer now and I’d lost my little red riding hood.
The boy swallowed, his Adam’s apple jumping up and down, “Only one of us can go. Here, you stand on my shoulders,”
He pulled away from me and folded his hands together for me to step into.
I shook my head, “No, I’m not leaving you,” That wasn’t me talking though.
It was the frightened girl trapped inside screaming for the parasite that perched in her brain to leave. I was slowly killing her, and I didn’t really care. I lunged forward and grabbed his hand, squeezing it tightly.
“I’ve lost a lot of men before, but I’m not losing you,” My voice dropped half an octave, quiet as the wind.
His eyes grew wide for a fraction of a second, darting back and forth as they tried to read my face. I was a pro at hiding my emotions. I had been in both lives and that wasn’t changing now.
“There has to be another way,” I told him, keeping my eyes level with his.
He nodded and bit his lip. Oh be still, my beating heart.
I am a man. I am a man. I breathed deeply and let go of his hand, trying to steady my bucking bronco of a cardiovascular system. Damn teenage body with female hormones.
“What if we pushed a chamber underneath it,” The boy’s voice was so quiet and withdrawn, I had barely heard it.
My eyes fastened onto his, a spark of glee rising in my chest, “Alex, that’s brilliant!”
He frowned, “Alex?”
Where had that come from? Was it the boy’s name or something I’d made up?
“I…I think that’s your name,” I breathed.
He shut his eyes for a moment and tilted his head to one side. Then he nodded. I was right. I was right.
“Well, that’s one mystery solved,” He opened his eyes and chuckled.
I smiled and walked up to one of the chambers.
“Come help me move this,” I ordered him, using my best do-what-I-say-or-I’ll-make-you-do-twenty-push-ups voice.
Together, we worked to push the huge human refrigerator over.
“One, two, HEAVE. One, two, HEAVE,”
It fell with a crash. The glass in the front shattered outward, spraying our toes with the shards. I heard the body hit the cement with a sickening wet crunch. Blood pooled out from beneath the chamber.
“Oh God,” I gasped, realizing what we’d just done.
“He wouldn’t have felt anything,” Alex attempted to reassure me.
I shook my head and looked away from the red gore and glass oozing out from beneath the metal casket. We’d felled a tree and now the forest bled.
“Here,” He took my arm to steady me while I scaled the carcass. The metal was cold and dry beneath the soles of my feet. I grasped Alex’s other hand and pulled him up beside me. We held each other, staring up at the blackness of the ceiling.
“The sky is blue…right?” Alex asked.
“Let’s hope so,”
The hatch hit the ground above with a thump. Daylight stung my eyes. Birds chirped in agitation. Forget this shit, I’d rather have hell. I climbed onto the grassy knoll and collapsed. Each blade poked into my skin like a million soft porcupines. A number of curses came to my mouth but I uttered not a single one of them.
Alex lay down beside me and twined his fingers in my hair. What was happening between us? It felt so natural and right like we’d been this way all of our lives. To be fair, Alex’s life – as much as he could remember – had been the last forty eight hours. To him, we had been this way all our lives.
I rolled over onto my back and brushed the dirt from my breasts.
“Demi,” He pointed to the sky.
I frowned and looked up. At first, I couldn’t tell why he was scared. Then I opened my eyes just a little wider and realized.
The sky was orange. Our premonition that it would not be blue had come true. I stood, keeping my eyes trained on the strange infinity above us.
“Why does it look like that?” He asked me.
I dredged up long forgotten information from my adult mind, “Probably the result of a nuclear disaster…”
We exchanged worried glances. It had to have been widespread if it had stained the sky tangerine. My thoughts instantly went to Margaret. How long had I been sleeping beneath the earth in the icy forest of flesh? I longed to know her fate.
“We have to get moving,” I announced, pushing my self to my feet.
I suppose the birds singing were a good sign however, as was the healthy green grass. Life carried on, with or without humanity. We would survive. Safe.