I was right to remain silent earlier. My lips flap moronically when I try to make the words. I glance at my expensive, liberated watch as if late for an important meeting, and resist plucking the urine soaked pants away from my thighs.
“Wait up! Uhhh, you got somewhere safe to stay? What’s your name?”
She’s desperate. I stall.
“Oh. You mean Sam?”
There’s something about the intimacy of exchanging names. I sigh deeply.
“Are woo awone?”
I draw the line at running a hostel!
“Am I...alone? Yeah. The Creepy people came... we had a house near the Stadium...they were everywhere.”
She shudders at the memory.
“I... I... panicked. I was looking for Shanna or George. Now Ben’s dead and it’s all my fault.”
I didn't ask for a disjointed life’s story, dammit. And now she’s crying. I have no comfort for her. I’m totally bereft of compassion inside my own world of pain.
“Hokay, come wiff me if woo wan.”
I must sound like a little kid.
Charitably, I undo my belt and toss her the sheath for the knife she obviously intends to keep. She catches it awkwardly.
“I don't know. You’re kinda weird.”
For fucks sake! If she expects me to beg her to come she’s mistaken. Slightly hurt by the judgment, I stalk away.
“Wait! I’m coming. S’pose you can’t be worse than the Creepies.”
Jesus! Thanks for the vote of confidence.
I give the old woman’s corpse a wide berth, resisting the urge to kick the body for causing me so much trouble. Kristine walks a few paces behind me, moaning about her ear, the lump on her head, the dirt and goo in her hair, chattering nervously and non-stop.
“There’s less of them over here, I only saw two yesterday. I was going to stay near here, except you started World War Three down the road. You shouldn’t make a lot of noise like that you know? The Creeps hang around for ages.”
The sarcasm is lost on her.
I flip up the visor.
“Where were woo hidin’?”
She screws her face up while deciphering my speech and examines what she can see of mine unnervingly.
“That Crawly thing really did a number on your lips, huh? Clawed you up good.”
I roll my eyes at the understatement and whack the visor down to stop her looking at me. The bright sun was ripping my eyes apart anyway. Kristine keeps talking, unfazed by my rudeness.
“I was in the bread shop. When you tried to break in I jammed the door with the dough mixer. You scared me. I thought you were one of them cos you were acting weird. You’re not a psycho are you? You don't talk much.”
I flip the visor up and emphatically stab a finger at my chewed, puffy lips, then slam it back down again.
“Oh, yeah. Sorry. Maybe it was Fate? Fate wanted us to help each other.”
Oh God, a new age weirdo who can’t shut up. What did I ever do to deserve this? Thank you ‘Fate’.
Realistically speaking, it had been a smart move on her part not to show herself back there. I would have shot anything that moved at that stage.
“Do you have seizures? You looked like you passed out back there. You sick or something?”
I grunt. Explaining my lapses and the causes thereof is a little too personal at this point of our relationship.
“Anyway, I thought it was pretty dumb when you started messing with that old Creepy’s body.”
Gee, you think? She’s starting to piss me off with these nuggets of wisdom.
“S’why’dya hewp me? Woo got no weapons, no armour, no nuffin.”
“When the Crawly got on your face... I didn't really think about it... I just couldn’t let it get in you.”
She mutters this as if regretting it.
My shrivelled, black heart cringes. If our roles had been exchanged I’d have ducked, closed my eyes, and put my fingers in my ears until it was over. Self-preservation is the main-stay of my religion.
Without warning a wave of nausea roars up my throat. I fold in half, remembering to flip the visor up at the last moment before spraying chunks. How embarrassing.
Oh yeah, don’t be alarmed, I always vomit uncontrollably.
Semi-dissolved Dexedrine tablets float in watery vomit. There’s nothing of any substance left to come back up. Leaving the pills lying on the ground is very wasteful. Any other time I might have fished them out and swallowed them again. Damn woman. She’s only been with me for five minutes and I’m already changing my habits.
Four factory fresh Ritalin capsules make up for the loss. Chewing them gets the drug into my system faster; a precaution in case I throw up again. I rinse the revolting paste into my sore stomach with a slug of Vodka from the squeeze bottle.
Kristine raises an eyebrow instead of asking for some directly. I offer the bottle , neglecting to say it isn’t water. She takes two large gulps before the fire hits her throat. A coughing fit ejects most of it. I avoid her angry eyes and quickly snatch the bottle from her before she can throw it at me.
She quietens down a bit, either dwelling on the Vodka incident or thinking of a way to show her appreciation for saving her arse. Either way the silence suits me fine while I consider my dilemma.
Normally I would criss-cross suburbia; going to ridiculous lengths to avoid chance meetings with Kristine’s aptly dubbed ‘Creepies’. That route is an epic obstacle course of fence hurdles, roof-top crawls and over-grown park jogs. Exercise I can’t sustain in this present poor state of health.
I take a more direct route. Even so, an hour’s march later only closes the distance by half, and a much needed breather finds us squatting in a BBQ enclosure at the centre of a children’s’ play-ground. The crackling of a blister pack and another swig of Vodka precedes a judgmental comment as Kristine rescinds her silent treatment.
“You cannot be serious! You take those pills like you’re eating Tic Tacs! You drink Vodka instead of water, and you’re so out of shape I doubt you can even run! Dunno how you’ve survived this long.”
Her summation is stunningly judgmental for someone who has only known me for an hour.. If I could articulate my irritation I’d deliver a thousand defensive reasons for my inadequacies; but I don’t bother.
Maintaining a hurt, stony silence, I make a show of studying our surroundings until she grows uncomfortable and changes the subject.
“You ever seen a Crawly wandering around on its lonesome?”
I fearfully wrench my neck in every direction at once in case her question was not rhetorical.
“No? Neither have I.”
Bitch! Thanks for the scare.
“You OK? Should we get going? It’ll be dark soon."