Author : K. Pittman
Sometime before midday’s full blaze, Susan threw down her skein and stopped walking. Georgia broke pace steps later and trod back, face flattened, hat shadowing her glare.
“I want milk. I’m tired of water.” Susan half-turned and looked from whence they’d walked.
“There’s no more milk. Those jackasses pinched our stashed powders before trying to rape and/or rob us, remember? It got ruined in the fight.”
Susan’s hands moved towards where pockets would have been, finding: many canvas belt pouches, some part full, all cinched tight: a sun-warm firearm, holstered, secured: pack ladders and buckles, floating taut on taut webbing – she folded her arms underneath her breasts, drew a deep breath, exhaled deliberately. Dropped her arms and swiveled towards Georgia-
Whose weapon was in her hand, its burnished muzzle trained on her. “Do you want to die?” Georgia’s look was unwavering, and exhausted.
“I…I don’t understand.”
“Exactly.” Georgia took a few steps forward, wrist steady. “Pick up the water.”
“What are you doing?”
“This,” said Georgia, wrapping her free hand onto the gun and centering it onto Susan’s head, “is an object lesson. Your first and your last.”
Susan stepped back into a defensive stance, staring past the gun, into hat’s cast umbra, locking eyes with Georgia. “Stop pointing that gun at me.”
Georgia’s eyes locked back. “Pick up the damned water.” The gun never drooped.
Finally, Susan knelt, costive, to the scrub, arms bent out and away, and picked up her skein, gradually attaching it to her belt. She looked down, to secure it fast, and heard Georgia’s heels turning in the sand, her steps away regular and fast. Susan scrambled to catch up, and wordlessly fell into formation two steps behind, two steps to the left, her footfalls in a ragged echo of Georgia’s rhythm.
Georgia spoke out of the side of her mouth. “Next cache is in 12 klicks, near water, and Ray’s old trading outpost. A bullet or two’ll get us new powders. Maybe a short stay. Might be some sort of small civ near, within a days travel maybe. Maybe. You can opt out there if you like.” Susan’s abstruse stare looked past her shoulder. “Fine. When we get there, we’ll hit the flask, and you can bitch me out, but I don’t wanna hear anything until then. I just saved your fucking life.”
“You’re my only…my last fucking friend, Susan. I’m not letting you chump out of this one. There’s no fucking safety net. There’s no exit,” and silence and steps and silence and the sun across the sky on a long hot afternoon.