Scissoring in from the sixth lair and incorporating a line from a real conversation.
“You’re not the least bit concerned,” the girl with the argyle socks asked the man with the rifle.
“No,” he replied. “Why should I be? It’s a day like any other.”
The girl took a seat on a tree trunk across from him. She folded her legs Indian-style and rested her chin on her interlaced fingers. The man took out a small notebook from the breast pocket of his dark brown leather jacket.
“Even though terrible things have happened to what’s left of this hemisphere in the last eighty-six years? on this day?”
With eyes scanning the contents of the notebook and a right index finger tracing lines of text every now and again, the man with the rifle said, “Sure, sometimes things happen that are beyond your control, but I believe that what happens to a person is his own fate.”
“Hmm…unless his fate is tied to someone else’s–like a servant to a master…or me to you.”
The man stopped his scanning and looked up at the girl. “That’s absurd.”
The girl uncrossed her legs and repositioned herself so that her knees brushed the man’s shins. She put her hands on either side of her thighs and leaned forward. The man waited for an answer; he cleared his throat twice for emphasis. He also blinked.
“You said it yourself.”
And he had…that day when the girl ate that other man’s arm, the man with the rifle barked at her in frustration and reminded her that he could’ve left her on the side of the road where he first saw her. He was headed out of the city and transporting that man to a safe location when a bright mass of fuscous flames caught his eye. The wood had only disintegrated halfway, so he could see that it was a burning schooner. The mast, however, remained strangely untouched. The man with the rifle slowed as he approached more out of caution than curiosity. The road was narrow and he didn’t want to damage the finicky truck. He had just about made it past the fire when he saw bits of cardboard and wet things flying out from the middle of old, rusted cars.
And there she was, the girl with the argyle socks. Actually, he saw the socks before he saw that they belonged to a girl. She was on her hands and knees like a wild animal burrowing through piles of bags and boxes. He would’ve kept on driving. He had a schedule to keep and would absolutely have continued on his way were it some other time, when civilization still meant something, still stood for something. The man with the rifle let the car idle as he hopped out of the truck. He stealthily approached the socks and coughed when he was near enough to be heard.
The girl leaped up and spun around to face him. He asked her if she was hungry. She nodded and wiped her mouth with dirt-dusted hands. The man with the rifle studied her for a few moments. The girl couldn’t have been more than seventeen years-old. Her dark brown hair hung heavily down to her ribcage and her darker eyes vibrated with an intensity he had only seen in warriors possessed by animal totems. A dark blue sweater was wrapped around even darker blue pants of indeterminate material. A faded orange shirt with frayed, long sleeves was underneath her shroud of hair. There was so much of it that he wasn’t initially sure if she even wore a shirt. He wasn’t supposed to make any unnecessary stops, least of all take on a passenger, but something pulled at his throat whenever he tried to get back on the road and forget he ever noticed her.
“I’m going away from the city and, uh, can maybe get you some food …at my next stop.”
The girl didn’t respond.
“Would you like to come with me?”
“You don’t look like the other people I’ve seen…and none of them ever got out of their cars to talk to me.”
The man with the rifle put his hands out in front of him as though he were easing a large piece of delicate cloth to the ground.
“Why should I go with you?” the girl asked.
“Because you’re hungry and I can help you find some food. You’re not going to find any in that–”
The girl turned to look at the metal clutter.
“Come with me, if you want out, I’ll let you out.”
The girl followed the man with the rifle.
The girl with the argyle socks repeated it to him, that he could’ve kept on going but he didn’t. She asked him why but he wouldn’t say. He couldn’t say–he didn’t know. Not yet.