UF Jeff Hostetler and his scabies-infested cronies said that we could stay in the market square that night since there were no traders in town anyway. We parked J-Lo under a shabby canopy and had the luxury of lying down in the dirt to sleep. You know what the truly sad thing about it is? It felt SOOO good. There’s a slippery slope of living uncomfortably – after sleeping in a car for a few days, just being able to straighten out fully feels like heaven. I think there’s a term for that, how back before the apocalypse companies and the government or cults or what have you could treat people like crap and they would thank them for that grungy treatment because those selfsame powerful entities had treated them even worse in the past. Some kind of mental conditioning, like how if you beat your kids enough, they decide they must deserve it.
Sleeping in a car is really bad for your hips I’m learning. It’s all about the hips. Of course if there’s anything that isn’t bad for my health in one way of the other here in the future-present, I haven’t encountered it yet. Pterodactyl-woman and a couple of her pterodactyl friends brought us some soup that looked like Elmer’s glue mixed with rotten sushi that smelled like a burning raccoon. It didn’t taste bad though. Not by apocalypse standards anyway.
When night fell, the non-Northern Lights were so bright the change in ambient light level was barely noticeable. Since the sun isn’t green and purple and amber, the overall effect was very different but the amount of light was almost the same. I started singing “Amber” by 311 but Martialla didn’t appreciate it all. She’s always had serious stick in the mud tendencies and now that her husband (and the rest of the world) are gone, that side of her is really taking over in an unpleasant way. Not that she was ever a barrel of laughs but I’m just trying to lighten the mood, keep a little optimism. She needs some all you can eat Buffalo wings and a bottomless mojito. Also she needs some chapstick and a change of clothes, but that’s for different reasons.
Martialla looked over at me under the bottom of J-Lo “Are you asleep?”
I looked back her way “I just had a serious flashback to childhood slumber parties.”
I could see the crazy colors in the night sky reflected in her wet dull brown eyes as she looked over the car “We should have gotten a car with more clearance, this thing isn’t great at off-roading and I have a feeling we’re going to want to do that a lot.”
“We’ll trade up at the next Ford dealership. Mar, I don’t mean to alarm you but I don’t feel good.”
“Interesting, if anything you should feel better now. In the old world I doubt that it was even possible for a normal adult to ever really feel good. In that world, I didn’t feel good. Nobody felt good. After childhood, it was just a fact of life that you wouldn’t feel good. The reality was that most people got up earlier than we wanted to, and sat at a desk or a cash register or stood at an assembly line or in front of a classroom for far longer than they wanted to, so they could collect just enough money to allow them to stay alive to do it all again the next day. And against that despair all you had was the weekend, where you clean your house and do yard work and run errands, and if you’re lucky, if you’re lucky, you manage to scrounge together enough time to make a single palliative gesture like going to see a movie where you pay way too much for popcorn and watch a presentation of fancy dinners and immaculately tailored clothing that you know you can never afford.”
I couldn’t help but be taken aback “Jesus, was working for me that bad?”
After a moment she sighed “No, it’s just . . . you know . . . everything . . . anyway, you were saying that you don’t feel good?”
“Uh . . . yeah, I mean I’m not puking hourly anymore but I still kind of feel like I’m dying. How is this supposed to work? I feel like between the two of us, we’ve had a total of six hours sleep in a week. How are we ever going to regain our strength? How do they do it in the army? There’s sentries on duty during the night when everyone else is asleep right? But the army is on the move during the day so when do the sentries ever get a chance to rest? You know what I’m saying?”
“Generally an army has more than two people, so I’m sure it works out for them somehow. What we need is more manpower.”
She sighed heavily “Yes, or womanpower. Did you ever see Space Seed?”
I raised an eyebrow “The porn?”
She halfway raised up in outrage “No! The Star Trek episode. They find the SS Botany Bay, a ship of cryogenically frozen people shot out into space. Since it takes so long to get anywhere in space, you have to freeze people so they don’t die of old age on the way. We need to find one of those, wake up some other freezer people to be on our side.”
“Wasn’t that also the plot to Planet of the Apes?”
“I’ll keep my eyes out for any crashed space ships full of human popsicles. That seems like a good plan, very likely to bring positive results. Fuck, marry, kill, Kirk, Spock, McCoy.”
“Hmm, fuck Spock . . . marry McCoy, kill Kirk.”
“Blasphemy, you don’t want to get down with James Tiberius Kirk?”
“No, I sure don’t, that guy has to have a dozen alien STDs at least. What about you, fuck, marry, kill, Picard, Riker, Data.”
“I don’t know who those people are.”
“You were on an episode of Next Generation!”
“Oh yeah, that’s right, which one was that? Was that the one with Kevin Sorbo? Was he the captain of the Enterprise?”
Martialla rolled over to give me her back “Now you’re just trying to upset me.”
Was Pterodactyl Woman a J-Lo song? It should have been.
I think that was a B-side