Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Teddy shifted into second gear as the pickup crested the hill, her forearms burning from the long climb and having to fight a leaky steering pump the entire way.

“I don’t understand why you disabled the power assist Teddy, you make things so much harder-”

Teddy cut her passenger off in mid sentence. “I’ve told you Max, the controller on the power steering system was misbehaving, I couldn’t trust it anymore.”

Max’s attention darted between Teddy and the road ahead, fingering his seatbelt nervously as Teddy fought with the old truck to stay between the trees. In a flash of blinding sunlight, they burst into a clearing. Teddy reflexively stood with both feet on the brakes to bring the truck to a halt before they drove over the edge she knew was there but couldn’t see through the glare. When the truck had come to a complete stop and the dust had settled, she threw it into park and killed the engine. The sudden shift to silence unnerved them both.

Max dropped his head and reluctantly unbuckled his seatbelt. “Teddy, I-”

She cut him off again. “Shut it Max, you know I need to do this.” She unbuckled her own belt and pushed open the door to climb out of the truck. The front wheels sat barely a foot from the edge. “Might’ve been my last trip too,” she breathed, “damn.”

She pulled on a set of heavy work gloves from the door pocket, walked to the side of the truck and started pulling pieces from the pickup bed. First she hefted a microwave, carried it over her head to the edge of the drop and threw it into space, counting the seconds until she heard the satisfying crash that reassured her it was broken beyond repair at the bottom of the hole. She followed the microwave with a toaster, then a coffee maker, a flat screen television and a laptop computer. For the next hour Max watched her as she tirelessly launched DVD players, clock radios, electric mixers and digital scales, calculators and automatic vacuum units off the edge and down into the hole.

“You could give me a hand Max, you lazy shit.” She yelled across the truck at him, not pausing to look.

“You know I can’t Teddy, I’m sorry.” His shoulders dropped, and he kicked absently at stones on the ground, unable to look at her.

Teddy kept emptying the truck.

When the last piece had rattled off the rock floor of the great hole before them, she walked around to stand beside Max.

“You know what this is about, don’t you Max?” She looked sideways at him as she spoke. “You know why I have to do this?”

Max stared at his shoes.

“Yes Teddy, it’s about the virus. I understand.”

“You’ve been my best friend for as long as I can remember Max,” she took a few steps back, produced a large calibre handgun from her coverall pocket, and leveled it at Max’s head. “I’m sorry Max, but you don’t know you haven’t been infected, or that you won’t be.”

Max raised his head finally to look at her, and she saw her own reflection distorted in the chrome of his flesh.

“If you loved me Teddy, you’d find a way to-”

There was clap of thunder as the slug tore Max’s head nearly in two, the force throwing him back against the fender and then off into space.

She listened long after his body stopped making noises below.

“Love,” she talked outloud, turning the window crank to close Max’s window before slamming the door shut, “for a second there Max, I thought maybe you weren’t sick after all.”

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