Author : J.R. Blackwell, Staff Writer

She fought me again yesterday. It made me feel like a monster. I tried the gentle approach but she refused, so I had to take her by force. It was, as usual, satisfying and depressing.

Afterwards, I hid in the forest and slept. I’m afraid she’ll try to kill me if I sleep out in the open. I tracked her and caught up quickly. If we don’t get back to the compound soon, the others, my people and hers, will assume we are dead. I imagine them dividing our meager possessions.

Today I brought her roast rabbit. Rabbits were rare for the first year after The Fallout, but now I’m finding more of them. Some of them are oddly mutated; missing a leg, or an extra ear, but they are still good for roasting. I left it next to her while she slept. Maybe it will help to mend things a little.

Later, I found her sitting cross-legged on a large rock. She was holding a stick she had chiseled to a point.

“Are you going to try to kill me again?” I asked her.

“I thought about it all day,” she said. “But no. I’m not. I just want to know why you’re doing this to me. Why won’t you let me go?”

She knows the answer, I’ve explained it over and over. “It’s because you’re young, fertile, unaffected by the radiation of the Fallout. It’s because my people have only found sixteen fertile women, and we can’t afford to lose a single one. I want to protect you and the children you’ll have.”

“You won’t protect them. You’ll eat them,” she said, angry, clutching her stick.

I shrugged. “I can’t stop you from seeing it that way.” Then I sat down next to her. I didn’t try to touch her. We were silent, watching the stars. They are clearer now that the city lights have gone out.

“Before all this,” she said, motioning to the diseased trees, “I was a chemist. Now you want me to be a baby factory. I need my life to be about more than that. You have forever. I only have sixty years – less now. Maybe there are other humans out here. Maybe I can find them.”

“I could help you,” I said suddenly. Even if I carried her back I don’t think she’d stay. She’d try to escape or kill herself.

I placed my cheek to the ground and listened. Her heartbeat was loud, little animals moved and the compound, weeks away, was on the horizon on my senses. But there was something else too, in the dessert. Movement. “I don’t know if it’s even human,” I said. “It could be dangerous.”

“Or it could be human,” she said. Her face softened. For the first time, I felt like she actually saw me as someone in need. “I can’t promise that I will ever accept you.”

“Just don’t fight me.”

“I can’t promise I won’t,” she said. “But I can try.” She moved close to me then, and put her arms around my shoulders. I kissed her cheek, her jaw. I was elated. When I bit her, she gasped, but she did not fight me. It was so quiet. I could hear her blood, her breath, the movement of flesh and bone. It was the sweetest drink I had since the Fallout.

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