After - Part 5
David wanted to lay on the ground next to her, holding her tightly against him, but an overpowering thirst together with hunger pangs told him he'd better see to some more basic needs first. There was still plenty of food left, all of it too hot to be pleasant. He pulled the sack out into the shade of the floater, along with the bottled water.
"You want some of this, or go down to that little creek?" Wendy looked towards the small shaded grove that hid the rippling brook, looked back at him and jerked her head in that direction. He gathered a few baby-food bottles and a little food for himself, and helped her to her feet.
"You want to get there yourself? I can carry you if you want." She looked as exhausted as he felt. She leaned towards him and nuzzled his shoulder, which he took to mean, oh, alright, you can carry me just this once.
"Um. . ." His hands were already full. "Here, you take a few of these bottles." He pressed them into her hands, and gathered her in his arms, staggering a little in fatigue as he carried her into the trees and carefully down the short slope to the creek. His intention was to set her down in the creek itself. As soon as her feet touched the water, though, she squeaked and pulled her feet up quickly, almost causing him to drop her as her weight shifted. He stood her on the damp earth just beyond the reach of the water, and reached down to feel the water. It was very cool, almost cold. He didn't know where it was coming from, but runoff from the mountains seemed possible. At any rate it was pretty obvious why she didn't want to sit in it. By this time she had laid down on her side parallel to the edge of the water, and was wriggling closer, eventually thrusting her face into the current to take a mouthful of cold water, gulping with difficulty around the gag. He could see this was another thing she wanted to do herself; shrugging, he knelt next to the water and took a drink himself. The coolness spread slowly through his limbs, and in the pleasure of the moment began to feel for the first time that survival was not only possible, but even desirable.
He sat afterwards with his legs around her feeding her lunch, or breakfast, whatever it was, and had his own after that. The exhaustion of their earlier efforts and a night of little sleep caught up with both of them, and he curled himself around her as they lay back against the muddy bank, and grew less conscious of the hushed swishing of leaves and quizzical twittering of birds, as they drifted to sleep and the rest of the morning passed.
* * *
"Hey! Anybody out there?"
David jerked awake, a little surprised at finding his nose buried between Wendy's breasts after a dream in which people he knew had one by one inexplicably disappeared. He held her tightly against him to make sure she, too, didn't disappear, and felt her stir sleepily against him as the voice called out again.
He felt Wendy stiffen in surprise, so no, he wasn't imagining it. He quietly untangled himself from her and put his finger to his lips. She cocked her head at him and rolled her eyes, opening her lips briefly against the gag, as if to say, you idiot, what was I going to say anyway?
He patted her and whispered, "I'm sorry," and crept up towards the top of the bank to try to catch sight of whoever was doing the yelling. A woman was standing by the floater, her back to it, turning her head to survey the horizon. She was dressed in faded denim shorts, a white T-shirt with a brown vest and a back-pack, her long brown hair parted in the middle, her legs unusually muscular. From where David was she looked about 30 or so, and looked understandably puzzled that a floater should be sitting in the middle of nowhere for no obvious reason. He was hesitant to present himself, since his shorts were, as usual lately, back in the floater. He cursed himself for leaving the door standing open again, and the keys in it. He couldn't see any vehicle she might have arrived in, and from her rumpled, sweat-streaked look she had probably been walking. If she couldn't find anybody to go with the floater she would undoubtedly decide, reasonably enough, that it was hers. Hell, he decided, she's old enough to have seen a few naked men before. At least, he found, he wouldn't be approaching her with a hard-on. He'd had one just a minute ago, and wasn't completely sure what had become of it, but there did seem to be something about the woman that reversed the natural flow of his male anatomy.
He slowly climbed to the top of the slope and stood. The woman's head jerked towards him at the movement, and her jaw dropped, as she looked away for a moment and then back towards him.
"This yours?" she asked, indicating the floater behind her.
"Yeah. Is there a problem? You live around here?"
"No. Been out hiking a few days."
Neither made a move to get any closer, and the conversation took place at about a 30-foot distance. If there was some kind of camp nearby with lots of people around, David imagined it would be nice to know where it was, so he could decide whether to join it or avoid it. Maybe he could get some clothes and get Wendy loose.
"You out looking for other survivors?"
The woman looked puzzled. "Survivors? Of what? That earthquake? How bad was it?"
David shook his head in wonder. Could she have been so completely out of contact that she didn't even know?
"You know about the war, don't you?"
"War? Here? Don't look like a war to me."
His incredulity beat his sensitivity to his voicebox.
"Well, you ought to see what's left of the city if you don't think it looks like a war. Those were bombs, not earthquakes." His voice shook as he remembered everything he'd been trying to forget.
"Probably not much left of North America."
She glared at him. "You're bullshitting. There's never going to be a war. That's all scare talk."
He shook his head again. "You got a cellphone?"
She snorted in disgust. "Damn thing's broken. Can't get anything on it anymore."
"It's not broken. There's nobody to call anymore. It's. . ." It finally sank into him that he was telling someone that everyone she'd been close to was dead. Hell, though, what did it matter, it was too big to grasp anyway. He knew he didn't believe it yet himself.
Her eyes narrowed. "Why're you saying such crap? You a Canuck spy or something?"
He threw his hands up. "Look, I don't know how to prove it to you. You'll find out eventually. For what it's worth, I'm sorry."
"For whatever you're going to go though. It won't be fun, finding out. I'm sorry, that's all."
He looked towards his right, in the direction he thought the city was from there. There was no smoke rising anymore, so he wasn't sure.
David's mind tried to short-circuit the reflex that made him look behind him, failed.
"Somebody back there?" She suddenly pulled a knife out of a sheath at her belt he hadn't noticed.
"Come out where I can see you, whoever you are."
"What's the knife for? Nobody here's going to hurt you."
"Yeah, right. You're standing there talking like a crazy Canuck and somebody else is hiding in the trees, and I'm supposed to think we're all friends here. Come out!"
David hoped Wendy had the sense to stay out of sight, maybe get a little further downstream. He cautiously crept closer to the woman, whose attention was still on the trees. At a closer view she seemed a little older, maybe 35. The woman froze, apparently sensing some movement in front of her.
"You, right there. Stop!"
David felt his stomach churn as he waited for the other shoe to drop. He and the woman both crept forward, approaching the creek bed from different angles. Watching her intently, he saw her jaw drop, followed by a nearly breathless
The woman whirled on David.
"You ARE a Canuck! You got a woman prisoner down there in chains." She glanced back towards Wendy, squinting, then back towards David.
"For God's sake, she's naked too. What was you doing, raping her when I came along?"
She edged closer, brandishing the knife, the edge traveling in tiny circles. David held his hands outward, open palms towards her.
"It's not like that! Wait! Look, you can see I don't have a weapon, so you can afford to give me time to explain, right?" He crept backward, trying to stand his ground yet still somehow manage to maintain most of the distance between them. She stopped, uncertainly, glancing back at Wendy once more, who was standing, trying to hop up the steep slope of the bank by the creek. David started towards her as she lost her balance and fell heavily to her knees, and stopped at a motion from the woman.
"Okay, I bet this'd be worth hearing. Start talking."
He took a deep breath.
"It's all true, what I was telling you. The city got bombed a couple of days ago. Maybe a lot of other places, too. There's a few survivors, not many. Just some of us who were lucky," he grimaced inwardly, "if that's what you want to call it. I walked around a long time, and then I heard Wendy crying for help. She and her boyfriend had been. . . well, I guess this was how they had fun. You know."
He searched her eyes for some sort of understanding. At least now she looked puzzled, which was an improvement over murderous rage.
"So you just decided to keep her that way?"
"Look, I don't think you get what it's like yet. You can't just go out to your garage or the hardware store and get some tools. The toolbox is gone. The garage is gone. The hardware store is gone. Do you get what I'm saying?"
David himself was starting to get a feeling for the enormity of it. I'd better stop talking about this, he thought.
"I've been trying to get her loose .I even got part of it undone. She was worse off that this to begin with. But I haven't found anything I can do with all that metal stuff. What am I supposed to use, my bare hands?"
He looked back towards Wendy, who had wriggled up the bank on her side and was now working herself upright against a tree. He thought about helping her, but realized his only hope of convincing the woman would be if Wendy came over to him spontaneously, as if she wanted to be with him. It had to look like it was all her idea. He tried to somehow pass the thought to her telepathically. He could see the woman struggling with her doubts. One more bit of evidence might help.
"Has your phone been out of order the whole time, or just since. . . well, when did it stop working?"
"Um, yeah, it was working a couple of days ago. I tried calling some friends yesterday. Never got a signal."
She closed her eyes and looked down. Wendy started hopping towards them now. The woman looked up at the sound, and motioned her over to her, but Wendy shook her head and hopped to David's side. As he put his arms around her and she nestled her head against his shoulder, the woman finally seemed to relax. At least until the thought completed itself.
"You mean, it's all true? Bomb, war, everything?" She seemed on the verge of tears.
David just nodded. The woman sat abruptly, her face buried in her hands. David took the opportunity to look Wendy over.
"How you feeling? Did you hurt yourself back there? Any cuts or anything?" He reached down to brush off the mud caked on her shins.
"Do you want to sit down?" She shrugged, and finally nodded.
"Let's go over to that tree. I'll help you when we get there."
He knew by now she'd at least want to travel there under her own power. He could hear her hopping behind him, and turned when he reached the tree to help her sit. She shook her head and leaned back against the trunk, letting her hands slip slowly downward until at last she was sitting, leaning back against it. He joined her next to the trunk, and looked again at their visitor.
"Can I do anything for you? We've got a little food, if you're hungry."
The woman raised her head and took a deep breath, obviously making an effort to appear as if she'd weathered the storm. In a voice a little too loud, she said, "No, I'm fine. Got a lot of stuff with me here." She jiggled her backpack.
"Um. . . say! In that case, maybe you could help us. You got anything in there that would cut through these handcuffs?"
"Lemme check." She shrugged off the pack and started picking through it. After a minute she nodded and pulled something out.
"Would this help? Best I can do, I think." She held a nail file out towards David. He came over and took it, looking it over skeptically.
"Maybe. I'll see if I can do anything with it." He brought it back and showed it to Wendy.
"What do you want me to start on? Feet, hands, or mouth?"
She thought a moment, then bobbed her head, thrusting her jaw towards him, seeming to indicate the gag.
"Yeah, I was thinking that, too. That's the one thing that's really getting in the way the most; it's been hard getting enough food and water into you. Okay, sit still, let me see what I can do." He spent a minute examining the links of the chain running along her cheek. They all seemed about the same thickness. He shrugged and picked one, and carefully started sawing with the file across the outer surface of the tiny loop of metal. He had to avoid jabbing her face with the sharp point of the file, so each back-and-forth motion didn't cover any great distance. It was obviously going to take awhile, if it worked at all. As he worked, he saw out of the corner of his eye that the woman had stretched herself out on the ground, using her backpack as a pillow. She seemed to be shaking her head slightly and mumbling to herself.
After about 15 minutes, his muscles were starting to ache from sitting hunched in one position. He paused to examine his work. The link was now displaying a roughened, flat shiny surface. He sighed in exasperation; at this rate it would take at least another hour. Meanwhile, the upper portion of the file was being rubbed smooth.
"Hey, I'm sorry, I'm kind of wrecking your file. Should I stop?"
She just waved again. Shrugging, he went back to work, using the lower, still-rough surface of the file. After another 20 minutes or so, Wendy shifted as if she just had to move the muscles that were aching from sitting so patiently in one position. She looked at him with a questioning expression and jerked her eyes in the direction of the link he had been working on.
"Let me look again." At a rough guess he thought he might be halfway through. He tested the link with his fingers, trying to see if there was any give that might be encouraged into a break. He carefully thrust the file into the loop and gave it a twist. Nothing yielded, and Wendy grunted and glared at him.
"Sorry. I don't know, maybe another half-hour. Except. . ." He examined the file critically. "I don't think this is going to get us there. The whole thing is starting to get worn smooth. I don't even think it's been doing anything the last few minutes."
Her arm across her eyes, the woman just waved the other one in a dismissive gesture.
He broke off as Wendy squeaked in alarm, her eyes wide viewing something beyond his shoulder. He turned in time to see a backpack swing towards his head. In the split second of consciousness after it struck, he relived the instant of the explosion.
His head ached as he slowly swam back towards consciousness. The thought of the bomb remained with him; that and the confusion of his limbs not functioning the way he wanted them to. The woman was just putting the finishing touches on a knot that left him hogtied on the ground. His field of vision was filled with a slanted horizon and the woman's backpack laying in front of him. Must have had rope in it for rock-climbing or something, he thought, as he jerked against the bonds and twisted onto his side.
She slapped him, mumbling, "Now you know what it feels like. Doing that to a poor little girl."
He spat grass out of his mouth. "I told you I found her like that. You saw me trying to cut through the gag."
"First time I saw you was when you was coming back from raping her. You just now was threatening her with that knife. Loved scaring her, didn't you? You men are all the same. Bet you had a Rape and Pillage class back in Toronto."
"I am NOT CANADIAN, damn it. And it was a file, not a knife, and you gave it to me. Look, you saw she wanted to be with me, didn't you?" About 30 feet beyond her he could see Wendy struggling to get to her feet against the trunk of the tree. The woman must have dragged him over here to get him away from Wendy.
"Guy raped me with a knife once. I swore I'd get him back someday. Never found him, but you'll do." She patted her own knife in its sheath. His entire skin surface felt as if tiny electric currents were traveling over it. This lady was functioning in a different reality now, he knew. Within minutes she'd probably be confusing him with *her* rapist.
Wendy took her first hops towards them. The woman heard her and turned, started walking towards her.
"You come with me, honey. He can't hurt you anymore. . . WHOA!" She backed away from Wendy hurriedly. As she moved out of the line of sight between him and Wendy, David could see Wendy had turned her back towards the woman and was waving the file back and forth at about waist level. The woman was circling her slowly, presenting her hands towards her, empty palms forward.
"I don't mean to hurt you, sweetie. We're both on the same team. Let's go over to the floater and get you tucked away, then I'll take care of this guy."
Wendy, watching her over her shoulder, managed to keep her balance as she turned with little hops to keep her back towards the woman, holding the file menacingly. As the woman continued to circle, Wendy now started to hop towards David, getting herself between him and the woman. The woman stood with her hands on her hips now, a somewhat glazed look in her eyes. David hoped her reality was shifting in some less dangerous direction. She took a few tentative steps forward, as Wendy continued retreating towards David. About five feet from him, she stumbled and fell heavily to her knees with a squeak of alarm, but held onto the file and continued pointing it at the woman. She shuffled the remaining distance towards David on her knees, clearly ready to hold a defensive position there for as long as it took.
The woman began circling again, and Wendy twisted on her knees to keep the file pointed at her. The woman shook her head, her eyes closed. Finally she said softly, "That's a good idea, honey. You watch him and make sure he doesn't get loose. I'll drive into town. I've got friends there who can help you." David sighed with relief and exasperation. The immediate danger was past, but they seemed to be about to lose the floater. He wondered what she'd do at her next reality check, when she saw the city. Probably explain it away somehow. People only ever believe what they want to, damn it.
He watched as she walked around the driver's side of the floater, glared at him and said, "I'll get you later, asshole."
The rush of the engine sprayed gravel and knocked over the grocery bag standing next to the floater as she slammed it into gear and the vehicle hissed away back towards the road. Wendy rolled to her side, finally, her eyes closed, breathing in audible heaves.
He struggled with the ropes a few minutes, and finally said, "Um. . . Wendy?"
"I could use a little help here."
She looked at him, and a tiny giggle escaped her lips. She smiled "Hmm-mmm."
"Come on, Wendy. This is no fair."
She raised her eyebrows.
"Okay, maybe fair's not the right word. But you still need me loose. We can't both be tied up."
With a sigh, she came around behind him and started worrying the knot on the rope binding his wrists and ankles together. As she worked it loose and he straightened his legs in relief, she hooked her own legs around his head and started passing the loop of her legs down his body.
"Wendy, what are you doing?"
Twisting, she made him lie on his back. Her ankles were crossed under his lower back, and he had to prop himself up with his elbows behind him to get more comfortable. Sitting now on his stomach, she slowly slid a little further back, towards his crotch.
"You're not untying me, are you?"
She grinned and shook her head, feeling behind her for his penis. With an effort she raised herself up and over it, and guided it up into her. He closed his eyes as she began rocking in a gentle rhythm on his hips, and he could feel himself growing to fill her more completely.
"You'll untie me afterwards, huh?"
Her own eyes closed, sighing softly to herself, she shrugged.
He stopped asking.
NEXT ....contd Chappter 6
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