3 - I M P U L S E S

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The sun begins to set over the horizon, morphing the sky's blue hue into bright pink and orange. The tree I'd hidden behind earlier is now a black silhouette in the distance. No clouds are out tonight.

John Smith sets his gun on the ground and settles down next to it. "I like to keep watch at night and clear my head. If I'm lucky, an animal runs on by, though that's only happened twice," he explains, eyeing his gun.

I plunk down on the pokey, dry grass on the opposite side of him, sitting crisscrossed with my hands in my lap.

"So what brought you out here?" he asks as soon as I settle. "Other than, you know, being chased." The small glow of the fire casts a shadow over his eyes, so I can't accurately make out his expression.

"What does it matter now?" I say glumly, hanging my head. "What's done is done."

He rubs his hand along the back of his neck. "Could be worse."

I grimace. "Worse? I'm going to die. How does it get worse than that?"

He scoffs. "Dying is easy. But you're not gonna die. Clearly, that guy wasn't infected and neither are you."

My eyebrows shoot up. "What?"

"It's been what, an hour? By now, you should have spiked a fever so bad you couldn't keep your eyes open. Plus, that cut of yours is all clotted up. Like I said..." He points at me. "Not sick."

The sparks from the fire float upward into the darkening sky and crackle as I mull over his quick conclusion. Naturally, I go on the defense, and glance at my arm where the three-inch abrasion is already healing. He's right; diseased people don't heal.

"That man was hardly human," I reason. "You've heard of the rare cases, haven't you? Not everyone gets weak and dies off. It messes with some people's brains and makes them go crazy. Just like in those made up zombie movies. That's what the radio said."

He scoffs. "I don't listen to the radio. Besides, an apocalypse can make you a completely different person, disease or not."

I grind my teeth. I don't want to be accused of falsely identifying the man. I know what I saw. After all, I was the one the man chased for who knows how long.

"The disease did that to him," I argue.

John isn't buying it. "To each their own. If anything, you should be happy. It means you won't be dying in two days."

Three. The longest case was three days, but I don't bother battling it out with him again.

"So what really brought you this way?" he wonders, leaning back on his elbows. The fire turns his pants bright orange.

I cross my arms. His demanding nature isn't winning him any brownie points.

"It's a simple question," he adds when I don't reply.

I hike my knees up and let my head fall between them as my stomach rumbles loudly. I don't know what to think or what to say to this guy, and as much as I try to tell myself to stay calm, the shakes just won't subside. He's one of the few survivors I've come across, and that truth doesn't sit easy with me. Should I trust him with my backstory?

"I was out looking for my parents," I reveal at last. John Smith sits right up at my words, so I continue. "That's why I'm out here. They left me a week after the outbreak hit the U.S. I guess they were going to..." I throw up finger quotes, "'search for the truth' or something. It sounds stupid, but that's all they told me. Said they'd be back in a few days."

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