Alma lay on the floor of the library in a growing puddle of her own blood. Her hands and arms were covered in the sticky stuff that in the darkness reminded her of maple syrup.
She was no medical expert but she knew this bad. Really bad.
Now she was feeling light headed and the pain was fading away to a dull roar in the back of her mind.
She felt like laughing for some reason.
It was kind of funny in a pathetic, wasteful sort of way. She had traveled through a destroyed United States all the way from Nevada to Virginia to find a brother that mathematically should have been dead a thousand times over. She fought cholos in Salt Lake, FEMA troops in Colorado and fascist survivalists in the Shenandoah.
And then she ended up getting stabbed by some lone freak who followed her across country.
What was the point?
Really, what was the point of anything? God had decided to end the world and now all he had to do was mop up the few stragglers. Why do anything with everything you do God takes as a joke. He was up in heaven looking down on her and laughing.
Of course she hadn’t told anyone where she was going. That would have been the responsible, level headed thing to do. Alex always said her impetuousness would get her into trouble. She didn’t know ‘trouble’ was a shank in a dark library.
She took a deep breath and tried to get up into a crawling position. There was a first aid kit on her saddle.
Her legs felt like jelly and she could barely get them under her.
But then her feet slipped in her own blood and she fell on her face. She would have screamed out curses if she had had the strength.
Then she heard the library door open. She looked around for her gun but it was gone in the darkness somewhere.
It didn’t matter. She was done. She was going to die here in this stupid place. Damn. She was still a virgin. That sucked. Maybe that’d give her a few bonus points in heaven: make up for all her cursing. Was that a stupid thing to worry about or was that actually a big problem? Either way, it really sucked.
A dark figure came around the corner and looked down at her. A second later a painfully bright light blinded her and she turned away.
Then the light came right on top of her and a face appeared. It was a man’s face she didn’t recognize. He was large (as in muscular, not fat) with a shaved head and wore a serious expression. He had a tac-vest covered in pouches and had a scar running down the side of his face.
“Hold still,” he said in a deep voice.
“No problem. I’ll be still enough pretty soon.”
“Shut up and lay down," he said though not angrily.
A hand pushed her head down. Normally she wouldn’t stand for that kind of crap but once her head was down she didn’t have the strength to raise it. She felt him doing something down there, like he was massaging her side where she got stabbed. She heard some ripping cloth and then her mid section was lifted off the ground.
Maybe it just didn’t matter what this stranger was doing. At least she got the guy that killed her.
“At least I killed the guy that go me,” she said.
“I said shut up. Save your energy and don’t move.”
Something tightened up around her waist like an uncomfortable belt.
The man’s face came into view.
“I’m going to put an I.V. into you, okay? Don’t move.”
She barely felt the needle. He placed the bag on a nearby shelf propped between books.
“Stay still and you’ll be alright,” the man said.
That’s what they always said when there was a big problem.
“What’s your name?” He asked.
“You live near here?”
“Out by Lexington, behind the Walmart on the other side of the river.”
“How far is that?”
“I don’t know, man. Two hours?”
“Okay. I patched you best I could for now. Once the bleeding stops I’ll try to sew you up. I won’t lie. It looks bad but you can live.
He said it all in a calm, level tone like someone who had said this sort of thing many times.
“Who are you?” She asked.
She remembered him saying other things but it all faded out.
When she opened her eyes next bright sunlight was poring through the dusty, library windows. The big man, Jason was sitting down and leaning up against a book case. Looked like he fell asleep watching over her.
Alma looked down and saw that her clothes were covered in dark brown blood. She pulled up her shirt and saw several layers of bandages covering her midsection.
It hurt but she was alive. She tried to sit up but sharp pain from her wound shot through her like electricity.
Jason had a rifle in his lap, a FAL with a EOT Tech holo sight and foregrip. Well, at least her mind was clear again.
“Hey, big guy,” she said.
The man’s head jerked up and he was instantly alert.
“How are you feeling? Do you feel any nausea, light headedness?” He asked.
“I’ll thank you if I live. How long was I out?”
He checked his watch.
“Eight hours. I was expecting more.”
“I’m full of surprises.”
He looked at her bandages and checked her IV. Everything he did he did with precise, well practiced moves.
“I don’t have any more IV’s.” He dug through his backpack. “I have salt crackers and canned chili. You need to eat this.”
He opened the can for her with some kind of survivalist multi tool that happened to have a can opener.
She wasn’t hungry but started eating anyway.
“Where you from, Jason?”
“Does it matter anymore?”
“Baltimore. Joined the Marines eight years ago and haven’t been back.”
“It was always a graveyard, but now it’s actually full of dead people.”
“Not a fan, huh?”
“No, not really. What are you doing out here alone?”
“Pretty stupid of me. Don’t you ever just want to be by yourself?”
“Not lately. You’re the first living person I’ve seen that hasn’t tried to kill me long enough to hold a conversation in over a year.”
“Where have you been?”
“I was up in New York when it all went down.”
Before the news stopped she had heard the fighting in New York was terrible.
“Can you draw me a map to your friends and then I’ll need to know the best way to not get shot when I approach them.”
He handed her a pad and pen and she drew a rough map of where they were.
“Just approach with your hands up in the air.”
“Right. I’m going to go find them. Finish eating. I left some water right there and your gun.”
“I’ll just stay here then,” she said.
He didn’t even smile.
Jason stood up and lifted his pack to his shoulders. He paused and looked down at her.
“You’ll be fine,” he said but the tone of his voice told her that she wasn’t as “fine” as she needed to be.
And then like that he was gone out the library door and she was alone.