When I was younger, about nine or ten or so, I remember getting a mood ring from one of those vending machines. Everyone was getting them and of course sharing the color of their stone with each other, and I was no different. I recall getting a few quarters from my mom when we went grocery shopping one day, placing them through the rinky dinky slot and spinning the lever. Then out mine popped in one of those tiny plastic containers. I was so excited at the time that I knew when I slipped it over my pointer finger the ring would turn bright pink.
Sure enough, after practically forcing it over my knuckle, it was pink for me and my mom to see. I thought the ring was magic, as did all of my friends, until it started giving me funky colors that had nothing to do with the mood I was in. If I were to test the thing out right now, it would be blacker than coal.
The rest of the time I spent in my house—do I still call it my house?—I felt nothing but angst. And fear. Travis and I didn't spend much time talking after our short, yet deep conversation took place. We went back to the shelter to make sure Emmie was alright and the next hour consisted a couple pattycake games as well as I-Spy, but I could tell the concrete box was already eating Travis alive.
"Getting claustrophobic yet?" I ask him the next morning.
He's at the kitchen table eating instant mac and cheese and glances up from his food. "I don't know how you did it. Must be the food," he jokes. "This might be the first week I don't lose weight."
Beneath that dirty shirt of his is a nice body. You can just tell. His arm are defined from military training; every move he makes shows off a killer bicep flex. I'm willing to bet there's a six pack in there, too.
I make sure he doesn't notice me checking him out by looking away the moment he turns his head. He may be attractive, but he is not my type—not that I have room to be picky anymore. Besides, I don't think I have that desire in general right now. Anything revolving around dating or a future where I'm married and have kids is a lost cause.
"Imagine doing this alone."
He shakes his head. "I wouldn't have lasted a day," he confesses. " It's definitely safe, though. We should try to get used to it down here."
I want to mention how he was the first to leave, but I don't. "We are a ways from the neighbors, so if we want to get out every once in a while, I don't think we'll get much traffic up there. I don't think many more people, if any, will come through this area since it's pretty far off the beaten path. All that's up there though is the barn and the garden."
He shrugs. "Better than nothing."
"Do you have animals in the barn?" Katie asks.
Travis and I exchange looks. Even if I did, they'd all be dead now.
"No, we never raised any animals. Actually, I take that back, we had chickens once, but had way too many eggs all the time, so we eventually stopped doing that. Most of it is used as storage. When I competed in horseback riding, sometimes we would keep my horse in there. There's still a ton of hay left from that."
"I wanna see!" Katie exclaims.
"The hay?" I laugh. "Not very exciting."
Travis looks uninterested, so I don't base my choice to take Katie up there on his reaction. Still, he follows along. I take the keys and lead them both to the barn, a mixture of nostalgia and sadness weighing me down as I unlock the doors. Dad and I spent most of our time together in the barn, whether it be him showing me horse stuff or me watching him tinker with his truck, just like we were the day we got the news.
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OTHERS (Formerly The Scarlet Effect)Science Fiction
The pandemic was just the beginning. After an unknown virus sweeps across the globe, Aurora and two other survivors seek out safety in a bomb shelter with enough supplies to last a few years. Just as she starts to adapt to her new way of life, she i...