We lost the baby, and with it I worried that we’d also lost hope. But there would always be hope. As long as we had each other, we would survive.
I stayed with Maizy at the camp for the next few days, and let the other two couples deal with the burden of hunting and scavenging while I maintained the camp. Maizy mostly slept, and sometimes cried softly.
We met during our flight from the city out into the wilderness where it was still safe. Dan and Marissa had joined us shortly after—they were good hunters, and knew the woods. We had met Ben and Sarah a year later, holed up in a collapsing old cabin rotting on its foundation. They weren’t outdoorsy people, but they were educated, and good at fixing things.
Maizy whimpered again and tossed in her sleeping bag. I wish I knew what to do.
She was weak, and had lost a lot of blood during her miscarriage. Her body was spent, stretch marks and loose skin across her abdomen, and sagging breasts that leaked to feed a baby that wasn’t there. But I was most concerned for her mind, and I was worried that she might give up. I couldn’t continue without her.
Ben and Sarah arrived at the camp first. They didn’t look pleased with themselves.
“No luck today,” said Ben.
Sarah plopped herself down exhausted beside the fire, her mess of tangled blonde hair evidence of how long we had been outdoors.
“We’re too far from the roads. If we can’t find a road we’re not going to able to find anything,” said Sarah, running her hand through her hair. “God, I’d kill for a bar of soap.”
“You know the roads aren’t safe,” I said.
Ben rubbed his temple. “Well, if we go another day without food we won’t have a choice. It’s find something or starve.”
He was obviously agitated, we all were. I think they were unhappy that I had stayed in camp with Maizy as long as I had. But they were right. When we first took what little gear we could muster and escaped to the woods we had venison for the first few months, then raccoon and rabbits, and then squirrel, and now nothing.
Even before the event I wasn’t much of a meat eater. If it wasn’t for spicy chicken sandwiches I may not have eaten meat at all. But as the climate got colder we noticed the decline in the wildlife around us, and even the trees began to turn gray and slump sorrowfully as the earth beneath them died. It was nearing the point I would eat anything.
“What’s to the north?” I asked looking to Ben.
“There’s a stream, we can follow that,” said Ben. “But we’re going to have to risk the roads eventually to resupply. We can’t go on like this indefinitely.”
I looked over to Maizy. I wasn’t ready to risk it, not yet. We’d be safe out here.
Screaming broke my focus and I panned the trees surrounding us, lifting up an old camp shovel to defend myself.
It was Dan, his bright red jacket stuck out between the green of the dull trees, and he had Marissa in his arms.
“Jesus, help us!’ He screamed as he weaved through the branches towards camp.
I froze and watched as Ben retrieved an old blanket for Marissa, and Dan laid her down on it. She was shaking, and slick with blood.
“It was an Ambush, man. A goddamn ambush,” cried Dan, his face red and eyes swollen with tears.
I was nearly knocked down as Sarah blew past me with the first aid kit, and fell to her knees, tossing the kit to Ben.
“How did this happen?” asked Ben, his hand on Dan’s shoulder.
Dan ran the back of his bloody hand across his nose, sniffling and in a trembling voice said, “There was a bang, like a bomb went off, and she got hit. Save her, man. Save her.”
There were nails, many bent and rusted, driven into her side from her chin down to her waist. As Sarah and Ben began removing them, Marissa cried out.
“You need to keep her calm,” pleaded Sarah. “They’ve pierced her lungs.”
Dan went quiet, and shut his eyes hard, forcing out tears, and he pulled back Marissa’s bangs, smearing blood across her forehead, and kiss her gently. He whispered that she was going to be okay, that she was going to make it. I had never seen him lie to her before.
She passed out not long after, and Dan kept a vigil with her the rest of the night as she slipped away.
I buried her while the others packed up camp. Her grave had to be shallow because the cold ground was too hard after a few feet. Once the camp was packed we met at her grave and Sarah said a pleasant eulogy, and then we took turns saying something nice about her. I said she was an excellent runner. I should have said something better.