On the rare occasion that Richie fell for someone, he fell hard and fast, even harder and faster when it felt like he was looking in a mirror. And Evan was such a mirror. A mirror with a vicious streak, but that only made it better.
For three days, they drove and searched and took advantage of abandoned places and abandoned things. It was impossible to avoid the scenes of gut-wrenching horror left behind by those less interested in maintaining their own survival than in preventing other people's, but Richie was oddly content.
Evan's growing willingness to rifle through the pockets of the deceased only bothered him the first couple of times before he accepted that it was necessary. This is just the way things are now, he reminded himself. And what they were doing was nothing compared to what they'd witnessed. Neither of them spoke of that though.
Evan didn't ask many questions and Richie had become more and more comfortable with a general lack of answers, increasingly accustomed to the long silences that filled their waking hours.
I don't care if I never meet another living person, Richie thought as they set off from the field where they'd been sleeping, wrapped in stolen sleeping bags in the car. But as it happened, another living person was just around the corner and Richie was about to care very much.
"Shit, Evan, stop! There's a girl!"
Evan screeched to a halt upon seeing the slight figure at the side of the road, changing a wheel on a silver convertible. Another car thief. Another opportunist.
The girl jumped back at the sound of screaming tyres next to her and grabbed a knife from her belt with the hand that wasn't already brandishing a lug wrench.
Richie opened the window wide, not quite trusting enough to get out of the car, while Evan reached beneath the driver's seat for his hatchet, not trusting at all. He was curious but had developed what he considered to be a healthy suspicion of the living, even though the last living person he'd met had ended up being better company than he'd expected.
"Hey, first person we've seen in a while who doesn't look like you're going to kill us!" Richie greeted the girl through the open window. "Where are you headed?"
Evan shot Richie a side-eye that suggested he was being far too immediately open with a total stranger who had a heavy piece of metal in one hand and a blade in the other, but he said nothing.
"Home, kind of," the girl replied, sharply. She wasn't as young as Richie first assumed based on her size. Perhaps his age, or thereabouts, with a defensive air that he hoped his smile might melt. God knows Evan's withering glares wouldn't do them any favours.
"Where's home, kind of?"
"A bit down the road," she said, not hinting at any direction. "Who are you? Where did you come from? Are there others?"
"I'm Richie. I came from...here, or sort of near here anyway. The nearness depends on whether you're walking or driving. When I was walking, it felt like not near at all. But if you're driving, I suppose it's...sorry, Edinburgh. I'm from Edinburgh, but I got out of the city when..." he gestured broadly, "...you know. And there's just me and Evan. Just us. Please, put down the knife and the car fixing thing."
"I'm Sarah," she said, not lowering either of the weapons. "Are you immune?"
"Yes! Or at least I assume so. If I wasn't immune, I'd be dead, wouldn't I? We both are. Immune, I mean, not dead. We're trying to find...I don't know. Somewhere. Something. Food. And water. We're nearly out and everywhere we've been's already been emptied, or everything's gross and crawling with maggots."
"That's a pleasant detail to share. Very endearing," said Evan, quietly enough for only Richie to hear, but accompanied by a facial expression that didn't go unnoticed by Sarah.
Finally lowering the knife, but keeping it in her hand, Sarah set down the lug wrench next to her car. "Yeah, I know what you mean about the food and water situation," she said. "It's pretty grim, right? Especially the water."
"Yeah, seriously grim. Do you need help with the wheel?"
"I can change a wheel by myself, thanks. I was a mechanic. I mean, I am a mechanic. I guess that hasn't changed. And I have food. And water. Not much, but some," she said, softening slightly. "So, on a scale of one to crazed looters wielding planks with nails in them, how likely are you to try and kill me?"
"Zero," said Richie, sincerely. "I swear, off-the-scale not going to try and kill you. I wouldn't even know how to, to be honest."
"I'd know how to," said Evan, barely audible. It was Richie's turn to shoot a side-eye until Evan said, "But I'm not going to. Probably. OK, I'm definitely not going to try to kill her."
"You seem alright," Sarah said to Richie, "but I'm not sure about him," with a tilt of her head towards Evan.
Evan leaned over Richie and shouted through the open window, "I'm a fucking delight. And I talk less than he does, so I've got that going for me."
"You do seem delightful," said Sarah. "And not at all abrasive and low-key threatening. OK, wait until I'm finished with the wheel, then follow me." She still held onto the knife.
She'll offer us food and water but she might still stab us, Richie thought. "OK. Are you sure it's—"
"Yeah, it's fine. I've been on my own for a while, you know? I forgot how to talk to people. Wait. And then follow me."
Evan grinned at Richie. "Well, isn't she just the most useful person in the world right now? Shall we?" He sounded almost optimistic. It made a pleasant change.
YOU ARE READING
Car ThievesScience Fiction
The year 2027. Edinburgh, Scotland. Disease has swept a deadly path through society. A nightlife mogul with a violent past, a sadistic drug dealer, an artist craving companionship, a privileged playboy and a fiercely independent motor mechanic strug...