The sun rose, turning the grey clouds a pale shade of gold. She drove along until just shy of noon, at which point she came to an intersection and had to wake her passenger so that he might tell her which road to take. He looked at her groggily.
“Where are we?” he asked, rubbing his eyes and further smudging the charcoal.
“That’s what I was about to ask you.”
“Oh.” He shifted in his seat so that he was sitting upright. “Okay. I think I know this place. Take a right.”
She did as told. Ravi opened the glove compartment and pulled out an old, worn map, opening it gingerly.
“Yup.” He pointed to somewhere in what had once been Montana. “That’s where we’re headed.”
“I’ve heard rumors that someone’s set up a refuge there. A rabies-free zone. They might even have vaccines.”
“We’re going all that way for a rumor?”
“It’s better than nothing, isn’t it? Would you rather take you’re chances and live on the road for the rest of your life?”
His voice had lost the aggressive edge of the early morning and now had taken on a weary quality. He sighed and flipped down the sunshield-thing, peering into the mirror.
“God. I look awful, don’t I?”
Cat made an ambiguous ‘eh’ noise that Ravi rightly took as an affirmative. He grimaced, unfastened his seatbelt, and twisted around to reach into the back seat. He returned with a small bag, which he opened, producing a razor. Then, studying himself in the mirror again, he spat on his hand and rubbed it onto his face.
“Ravi, that’s gross.”
He ignored her and began shaving very carefully. When he had finished, having nicked himself only twice, he returned the razor to the bag and took out a comb with which to do battle with the knots in his reddish-black hair.
Ravi tossed the bag back into the back seat. It had begun to pour again; the raindrops clattered like pebbles upon the windshield. He rolled down his window (“Ravi, are you crazy?”) and stuck his head out into the elements, face turned upwards. He stayed like this for several minutes, and when he pulled his head back in and dried his face upon the front of his t-shirt, the charcoal smudges were gone.
“You still need a bath,” Cat informed him.
“Not an option.”
“So will you in a couple of days. You won’t notice it after a week or two.”
“A week or two? You seriously expect me to go without bathing for a week or two?”
“’Til next summer, actually. Or ’til we get to that refuge. Whatever comes first. Unless, of course, you want to take a dip in the creek in this weather. Personally, I prefer filthiness to hypothermia.”
“Couldn’t you heat the water on a fire?”
“No fires. They draw unwanted attention.”
“And the car doesn’t?”
“Ah, but the car provides shelter and transportation. The advantages outweigh the disadvantages.”
Ravi smiled in victory, causing one of his cuts to reopen. He quickly winced and gave up on the effort. “Want me to drive?”
“Yes. Yes, please.”