“You can’t drag me around forever. Let go.”
All I’d had left was a phantom stitched together from cherry-picked memories. No screaming matches, no sullen silences with pursed lips, and definitely no willful attempts to steer clear of one another even as we sat around the same small campfire. My ghostly goddess of good times picked out by wood sparks and the wrong side of morning.
“Stop. Just fucking stop.” He batted away the hand I was reaching towards him. “We’re not 20 any more. We don’t have our whole lives ahead of us. We don’t have time to waste. Sad reality is, we never did. And some of us have never had the fucking privilege to sit back and waste what little we had. So now we fucking die. Just like that. Life ends the way it continued to be. We vanish, no one gives a shit, and that’s it. You can’t coast your way out of this one, so get comfortable with it. And don’t you dare bitch at me about what is and isn’t fair.”
Growing, anticipatory terror dripped its way down my spine. I wanted to shout out – to tell Paul to get the fuck out of there, that he’d done enough by trying – but my larynx was fully paralysed with hot tension as the fear dribbled its way to my shoulders, my arms, my guts and legs. My mind was filled with a field of eyes reflecting back torchlight.
“You can come with me and survive. We stand a better chance together. We can take turns keeping watch. Or you can self-destruct and go after them.”
“Come on, let’s think about this!” He clapped his hands. I flinched. “What have we got that we can use? We can’t stay here and wait for them to come back!”
I had enough sense to grab him hard by the arm and yank him with me as I hurtled into the closest tent. Steve was sent tumbling back as we landed on him, the torch flailing about like a disco light in the chaos. In
the riotous war of my pot buzz and the sobering thud of adrenaline, I think I might’ve been screaming.
“It’s nothing to worry about,” he said. Ewan managed a nod. “We’re in the countryside.”
“What the fuck sort of countryside have you been hanging around in?” I asked. “Midsomer?”
Ewan stroked his fiance’s back. “It’s okay,” he soothed. “It’s not the end of the world. We’ve got a couple of bottles in the minibus. From the service station, remember? If the water’s still not working when we get back from the walk, we’ll drive out to the village and get more. No problem.”
I don’t like camping. I think anyone who genuinely likes camping is broken in some fundamental way. Where were you over the last few millennia of human advancement while the rest of us discovered things like houses and central heating?