“Show me how to fight.”
Reese looked at Daria. There was a fire in her eyes that was beginning to match his own. In the short time that he had known this mysterious woman, he had seen her dark skin grow thicker and her demeanour grow rougher. He wouldn’t have described her as naive when they met, but he wouldn’t have imagined seeing her become this.
“You think you’re ready for that?”
“I don’t have a choice, Reese. Do I?”
After a long, dramatic pause, Reese clenched his jaw and gritted his teeth. “No. No you don’t.” He had seen what happened to people who didn’t learn how to fight; to people he let not learn how to fight.
She had been travelling for weeks. She was tired, worn down, skinny. It was painful to watch her try to muster the energy for a proper fight. If she was attacked alone, she was a goner. Reese tried not to let his fear for her show, but after the eighth time she hit the hard ground, he insisted they move on to target practice.
“Where’d you come from?” he asked as they loaded their guns. He had meant to ask a long time ago, but couldn’t.
Daria shrugged, avoiding eye contact. “A bit of everywhere, I guess.”
“And the sickness?” That’s what Reese really wanted to ask. He didn’t care where she grew up, where she came from, or where she was going. He just wanted to know if the sickness had spread; if it really was taking over the world.
“What about it?” she asked coldly as she raised her gun and aimed at her target: a dirty, broken bottle.
Reese shook his head. He could feel an angry heat rising in him. Why did she have to make everything so fucking difficult?
Daria shot. The bullet knocked over the bottle, shattering it from its centre.
“It’s everywhere,” she whispered, eyeing her handy work.
Reese wiped the sweat from his forehead. He used to burn in the sun, but after months of living nowhere, scrounging for food, killing to not be killed – he had adapted. When he caught his reflection now and again, it made his heart skip a little. It was unfamiliar, his tanned skin and hardened eyes. It was all so unfamiliar. He looked at Daria; her lips pursed as she re-loaded. He barely knew her, and yet he pitied her, knowing she too would soon enough jump at her own reflection.
© Shyla Fairfax-Owen