[font courier [b x] ran away from home, with nothing but thirty dollars and a backpack containing all of her worldly possessions.
[b she’s] picked up by a group of teens who are on their way to a Atlanta, Georgia where they hope to find the commune known as Utopia.
[b along the way] relationships are tested, loyalty and trust a gamble, and secrets unveiled
[#2a4e6f ☯] 2 para. min.
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[font "Times New Roman" It was like a break from reality, being up in the treehouse. The hairs on the back of her neck were standing on end, anxiety sending a rush to the nerves in her fingertips. Something about this was so [i lovely] but so off. It was too... nice. It was too homey. It couldn't be abandoned.
There was an ample amount of food left. Nobody in their rights minds would leave food behind unless they couldn't carry it. Judging from everything else in the treehouse, whoever left hadn't carried much. They'd left behind a sleeping bag.
[b "Whoever's stuff this is is close,"] she told the other woman, going through random empty cans while Brandy smelled a scarf. [b "No reason to leave. Didn't take food or sleeping gear. They're coming back."]
"We should take what we can."
Jaffe nodded her agreement, tossing a few books into the bag Brandy was holding. She judged all of them by their covers to see what might help pass the time; the books gave no hints as to what their owner was like. It seemed mostly like they were random things someone had picked up along their travels. A self-help book, two cookbooks, a few novels... The choices sucked, but it was better than staring at the sky all day and waiting to die.
A whistle cut through the woods and fear blossomed on Brandy's soft features. She moved faster, saying they had to go. Jaffe was nonplussed but not uncooperative, figuring it was likely that the boys had stumbled upon the tenant/s of this treehouse.
She wondered how far down the road they were from where the group had picked her up. How long would it have been until she found this treehouse? Would she have ever made it there at all?
They hightailed it out of there, speeding through the woods back to the camp. She felt overwhelmed with energy as she ran, her legs extending fluidly under her. The freedom that came with running was... unparalleled. She couldn't help the smile that came over her face as the wind flowed through her hair. Thinking about it made her feel self-conscious, wondering if the old her would've ever associated with the new one. Would Old Jaffe have thought New Jaffe was alright? It was a given that she didn't feel as pretty anymore. Constantly dirty and hungry, aesthetic hygiene wasn't really a priority. Yet being alone, she didn't have to worry about self-esteem as much.
[i How much does behavior change in the absence of other humans? In the presence of them?]
They broke through the treeline some odd yards away from where they'd entered them to go towards the treehouse. Jaffe was more tired than she'd thought she was going to be; how weak near starvation left her paired with the heavy pack and weapon, she was a little out of breath. She shook off the lightheadedness that plagued her, sighing out as the women came up on the truck.
[b "What does... the signal mean?"] she asked Brandy between shallow breaths. [b "Are we leaving? Is it safe?"]
“I’m not that easy to negotiate with.” Brandy said with a smirk. She watched as Jaffe carefully inspected the resources made available before she chose the ladder. Brandy was a bit nervous, if something went wrong and she got seriously hurt there would be no way she could talk Carter into letting her stay. In his eyes she would just be dead weight and holding them down. Once she was inside, Brandy chewed on her bottom lip nervously, waiting for some kind of sound. She actually did hope there was something of use inside of the treehouse. Though, she imagined it had to belong to some kids – so how lucky would they be really? Unless a couple of punk teens had made it their own clubhouse. Jaffe’s exclamation though told otherwise.
“Shit!” Brandy exclaimed as she walked a bit closer, leaning over and watching Jaffe writhe in pain from the fall. It hadn’t been that high, but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt like a bitch she was sure. “Maybe this isn’t the greatest idea” If the ladder couldn’t hold up how stable was the foundation of the treehouse. Though, it didn’t seem that Jaffe was going to let her fall stop her and immediately was back up.
“Hey, is it my fault that you’re so eager to please me?” She teased back. Jaffe really was athletic, not to say Brandy didn’t believe she could get up there herself. But honestly she was still feeling a bit weak after not eating dinner the night before, had she fallen that would have been the end of her she was sure. She waited as she heard the sound of creaking once Jaffe made it inside, as though she expected her to fall straight through the floorboards and back where her ass landed the first time. There was relief when she saw her grin slathered face, her eyes from even this far seemed to sparkle; jackpot! She was nervous, but there was no way she was going to be embarrassed and cowardly in front of Jaffe. She was unsure why it mattered so much; maybe because she was just a bit bolder, a bit stronger it seemed than her. Brandy couldn’t be that way if she tried.
She thought for a moment before her hands wrapped around the rope. She could already feel the blistering bound to happen as for the most part she had strayed from much physical labor. Brandy was careful on her way up, her shoes slipping her first step and bark ripping from the tree, falling onto the dead grass. She was persistent though and with a grunt had managed to get herself inside finally. Her chest rose and fell, that uncomfortable twist of from being nervous yet to have left her stomach.
“Wow,” she said. The outside definitely was deceiving. Whoever had been here certainly had made a home for themselves. Where were they now she wondered? That didn’t sit well with her. There was smore food there than usual at abandoned sites. Whoever had been staying here had to have a healthy resource to which they stocked up on.
Brandy rifled through a box, finding a few tattered bits of clothing underneath. She pulled out a scarf, withered but it was nice, soft with a floral pattern. She brought it up to her nose, it smelled of stale perfume, but more so the old scent of rotting wood quickly overpowered.
“We should take what we can,” she said then, gabbing a knapsack used as a pillow and immediately shoving the items inside. In the distance she heard the sound of a whistle, Carter’s signal. Someone was coming. “We got to be quick!"
[font "Times New Roman" "You think there's anything in there?"
The Spanish-speaking woman shrugged, her mind racing through the possibilities on how to reach the top. They could risk scaling the tree branches, but Jaffe wasn't too prideful in those abilities. Hanging from a small platform of the treehouse was a rope that was probably as old as the treehouse was. Embedded into the tree was a ladder of old wooden slabs, but who knew how rotted those could be?
[b "For five songs? I'll go. Even though I feel like I should negotiate for more."] Jaffe grinned as she took the challenge. Her eyes were trained on the ancient structure as she put down her makeshift weapon and shed the weight of the pack. She lugged it everywhere, even somewhere just a few yards from the truck, because she didn't trust they wouldn't either rifle through her bag or just steal it. She'd made that mistake once.
There was at least [i some] solace in how vulnerable Brandy left herself in comparison. Jaffe didn't know if the girl was trying to earn her trust in order to pull off some huge con or what. But it didn't matter. The facade Brandy put on was nice.
Jaffe decided to take the wooden ladder. They were nailed into the trunk of the tree precariously, but that didn't deter her. She made it at least 4 rungs up before the one she was balancing her weight on gave a dangerous cracking noise as if threatening to break under her.
[b [i "Holy] fucking shit,"] she exclaimed, clinging closer to the tree as she regained her balance. It wasn't like she was too far from the ground, but she'd rather not fall directly on her back.
The soccer player reached for the next rung up as the ladder gave out from under her, dropping her on her back and winding her. Jaffe made a smothered groaning sound as she writhed on the ground, obviously in pain. Her eyes bulged in surprise and hurt before her composure slowly returned.
Her recovery was relatively fast since she hadn't fallen from too high up. The sense of determination was higher than ever as Jaffe rose back to her feet, instead deciding to jump straight onto the rope hanging from a platform on the treehouse. It pulled taut but didn't break under her weight, making the woman sigh in relief.
[b "If I fall again, I'm blaming you, you know,"] she grunted as she struggled with her grip on the rope. [b "Since I'm doing this for [i you]."] She teased the girl lightly, pulling herself up to the platform after a long minute of struggling.
Jaffe's footsteps were careful as she tiptoed around the small structure. She was gone for several seconds before she peeked back over the edge with a smile lighting up her features. [b "You gotta get up here!"] She disappeared once again, her footsteps thunderous against the silence of the woods. Her giddy laughs could be heard as she uncovered more and more pieces of the history. It was like people had been there recently... maybe a couple of weeks before them.
There were a couple of cans in an old cooler. A can of apricots, a can of black beans, and a can of corn. Next to them was a box of rice, five packets of dry oatmeal, and half a bottle of rum. It looked like someone was planning to return. There was a sleeping bag with a pillow rolled up nice and neat in the corner and what looked like art supplies to help the days go by. It was a nice setup. By all means it looked like it could be a permanent place to stay.
Jaffe had to bend to fit inside, but she didn't mind. She was fascinated with the things she found. A broken flashlight, an old Rubik's cube she immediately picked up. It was truly exciting.
[b "Someone might be coming back for this,"] she muttered as she rifled through a box of books. None of them seemed particularly entertaining; two were law textbooks.
It was strange to see this microcosm of humanity in such a secluded pocket of the woods. It was refreshing and homey inside, on one hand, but Jaffe couldn't shake the intense loneliness that came with it. There wasn't anything in the treehouse that indicated an intention for company.
They could stay there. Jaffe liked Brandy enough. It could work.
She chided herself as soon as the thought crossed her mind. [i Wishful thinking.] Because at the end of the day she knew this group wouldn't last very long at all. This was only a prolonged means to an end.
Carter had looked up to meet Jaffe’s eyes. Her presence was pretty alarming, especially with her toting that stick around. She seemed ready at any point to drive that blade through his neck it seemed. Of course he didn’t trust her. brandy was naïve, she was foolish and still believed for some reason there was some good. He didn’t believe that them going to Georgia would save their souls, but he figured eventually the city would be burned out and they might as well go somewhere that had already began to prepare for this day. Will promised that they had sustainable living situations, a society that was growing from the ashes of the old and rebuilding after this disaster. That’s all that mattered. Not this fairytale that everyone still seemed to believe in. if there was a God, why didn’t he just fix everything instead of making everyone suffer for what? The like third fucking time? Yeah, they could keep that bullshit to themselves.
Carter was tired though and as much as he didn’t like Jaffe, she made a good point. If he didn’t get any sleep, it wouldn’t be good for any of them. He grabbed his pack and placed it on the ground, bundling up, with the gun tucked beside him. It took some time before he allowed himself to eventually drift into slumber. When he awoke the flame was dead and Jaffe was nowhere to eb found. Though he tuck was still there and he could see Will in the distance taking a piss. He slowly got up, heading toward the truck, upset to see Brandy gone, but he knew they were still upset with another and this time Brandy didn’t seem like she was giving in.
Brandy groaned as she felt her body being jostled, before finally blinking and turning to see Jaffe. It was a bit cold for the morning, early morning as the sun had just come up. As much as she wanted to sleep, she knew they had to keep on the move. She sat up and wiped the sleep from her eyes, her hands reaching up for a stretch. Brandy turned her head then in the direction of Jaffe, just a small gap separating their faces. She grinned at her words.
‘Something cool?” She repeated. After folding the blanket and shoving it into her pack, she followed Jaffe in the direction of the lake, seeing that Carter was still asleep, though she believed he would be awake soon enough. There was a bit of anxiety as they stayed away from the site, but she could trust Jaffe she felt like. Finally they reached a clearing, Jaffe pointing upward to the remnants of what looked like a treehouse. It looked like danger honestly, but somehow still attracted her.
“You think there’s anything in there?” she asked Jaffe with a grin. It was unlikely, but maybe there as something of use. Scrounging for materials was not looked down upon during this time. “Five songs if we do.” She commented. She looked around, there had to be a ladder of some sorts that they could use she would imagine. Someone had to get up their first though.
“You or me?” She asked, Jaffe was the athlete of course, but Brandy could be nimble.
[font "Times New Roman" 'Dreaming of You' by Selena... Selena, Selena, Selena... Jaffe tried to jog her memory of the song, listening intently to Brandy's humming to see if it was a song she knew. She didn't want to ask her to sing the words because it was a fun challenge to try to decipher it from just humming. But it was her rapt attention to the girl's voice that was the final nail in her coffin. It was too hard to tune out because it was... soothing. A better adjective would be '[i lovely].' It was welcome. And as much as she hated to think it, the soft humming made her feel at least a little safe. Of course, there was the overarching fear of Carter taking the situation into his own hands. She was just more tired than anything now.
Through the night she ended up tossing and turning, eventually losing her grip on her weapon and cuddling closer to Brandy to conserve warmth. Jaffe slept fitfully, her dreams muddled by nightmares, until she woke in a cold sweat. Brandy was still sleeping peacefully next to her, closer than Jaffe could remember getting when they'd fallen asleep.
The long-haired brunette rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, sitting up and pondering her next move for a long minute. Brandy was still emitting heat and it would be nice to just lay there and leech it off. The outside air was cold, but there was a refreshing bite to it. It felt bracing, like waking up by being pushed in cold water. She tentatively detached herself from the other woman, taking her weapon with her as she dismounted the truck. The sun was yet to come up but it wasn't pitch black anymore. She walked in steadily growing circles around the camp for what felt like a [i long] time. It wasn't like she could tell from the darkness of the trees. It got easier when the night started fading to make way for the day.
Carter was still sitting by the fire. Jaffe wondered how long it had been, since all he'd said was that he was taking first watch. Maybe he'd decided to take all of them. There was probably a lot on his mind, all things considered.
Lithe legs stalked over to the smoldering flames, standing beside the seated man. Her mind's eye showed her an image of her killing him faster than he could even realize, slitting his throat and stabbing him and dragging him off to never be found.
But all she did was watch him. Then, [b "You don't have to trust me. But I can take the rest of the watch. It is in [i my] best interest for you not to get robbed while you sleep."] She let her words hang in the air for a minute before adding, [b "And besides, nada es peor que un exaltado que no puede dormir. Be smart."] Rather than waiting for a response, she began busying herself with walking the edge of their makeshift camp. It was reassuring to know all the paths of escape at any given time. The exercise woke her up and gave her racing mind a small distraction.
[i --nothing is worse than a hothead who cannot sleep.]
As she stared into the woods, she thought back to the flash. The night before, they'd put one of their teammate's beds in the pool. It was certainly a group effort, but it was a rite of passage for newbies to get pranked.
[i That was the last time I had human fun.]
Thinking of the smiles they'd all shared brought the ghost of one to her lips now. Not all of them had stayed together at the beginning. It was quite the pastime to speculate where they could be, if they were anywhere. It was impossible to know who had gotten taken in the actual flash and who got killed as an immediate result of it. Planes crashed, boats sank, cars ran off of cliffs... It was a shitshow.
[i And I remember you. You left right in front of me.]
Realizing where her mind was steering, Jaffe shook her head as if it would rid her of the thought. She didn't want to deal with how upset reminiscing on her loss was going to make her. It was like getting her heart broken all over again.
She paused her pacing in circles around the 'camp,' sighing heavily. Tilting her head back, she stared at the sky like she was looking for a sense of meaning in it. [i I'd like to think you'd be proud of me] [b "--pero estarías tan confundida,"] she mumbled to herself.
[i --but you'd just be confused].
The sun rose on her back as she continued to serve her watch. It wasn't like she could go back to sleep with those nightmares waiting for her.
[i Enough of this sad girl routine.]
Carter was already awake when Jaffe went to go check. She acknowledged his presence with more wordless staring, eyeing him from head to toe as she proceeded to the back of the truck. Safe to say everyone should be getting up, then.
The woman banged her fist lightly on the truck bed as she came around it, her knuckles rapping along to the rhythm Brandy had been humming the night before.
[b "Wake up."] She tapped Brandy's shoulder lightly at first, then a little harder so the girl could tell she was trying to rouse her to full wakefulness. [b "Let's go brush our teeth."] With an easy, knowing smile, she whispered, [b "I found something cool."] She jerked her head in the direction of the lake, further down the road in the direction they had come from. [b "It's back there."]
The former athlete didn't wait to see if Brandy was going to follow. She'd waited for enough hours in the night because she thought Brandy might get a little satisfaction from it. She didn't have the restraint to wait any longer. Her stride was long and measured as she sauntered off into the woods then wandered off probably a quarter of a mile down the shore of the lake. From there, she turned directly into the woods, and a few moments later, pointed high into the trees with a goofy grin on her face. [b "Look! It's a treehouse!"] As she stood looking at it in better light, she couldn't help wanting to see inside it. [b "It looks a little fucked up, but I think we can get up there. What do you think? You probably owe me, like... five songs. Maybe five [i playlists.]"]]
Carter had seen Brandy around of course as they lived in the same apartment complex. He was going to UCLA for Engineering and as far as he knew she did something in music. They honestly hadn’t really talked until after the flash. He’d awoken after hearing a loud bang which as the result of two cars crashing into another he realized when looking out of the window. That’s when the panic began, but he had no clue still what was going on. Nothing seemed to settle until he bumped into Will. The two had a few classes together and he considered them friends, but more like the type of friends that only associated on campus. Carter honestly thought he was a bit queer, but he was smart and despite his crazy conspiracies, Carter didn’t think that Will was a terrible guy.
As they headed back to his apartment to gather some things Will was explaining what was going on and while the truth of the matter was playing out right in front of his face, Carter still couldn’t find it in him to believe that the world was actually ending. Maybe it had to do with the fact that he wasn’t that religious of a guy. Brandy was just coming out of her apartment, just as confused as they were and he didn’t know why but he just asked if she wanted to stay with them until they figured everything out. According to Will Georgia was the safest place to be when all this shit went down and he was talking crazy still; antichrist this and a hell of a war that was to play out. Apparently there were people like him that had anticipated this moment, claiming to have visions of this day and they were already prepared, creating some kind of safe haven to which they would cleanse themselves and hope that God would take mercy on them this second time around.
They stayed in the apartment until the water eventually cut off and the electric. Food became scarce and they finally decided it was best they get a move on. The city was a whole different place by then. A dangerous place and they knew they had to get out if they expected to find some sense of society. They found Baxter.
It had been a good thing for a while, food and water. They even had their own rooms. Baxter was good to them, until he wasn’t. He still remembered how Brandy came crying to him the night before, finally admitting what he had done to her when they were in the shed getting food. Carter hadn’t thought twice about killing him, didn’t even flinch. Even when they buried his body in a shallow grave, he felt nothing. They stocked up on as much food that they could and the last of the water supply which lasted them for quite a while. It was a thirty-two hour drive to Georgia, but they had all decided that was where they needed to go.
He could hear the sound of the girls whispering, looking over his shoulder then to see just outline of the truck of course. his eyes looked down toward the gun he had in his hand. Only three bullets left and he had to make them count. He’d only been shooting twice with his dad and both times he hadn’t really been into it. Seems like. It would have come in handy now.
[right [pic http://i.imgur.com/nLgopNF.png]] Brandy couldn’t fall asleep. Her conversation with Carter had greatly upset her and now she was finding her appetite again. Though she just did her best in not thinking about the hunger which the humming seemed to help with. Yet, it seemed like it was causing issues for Jaffe. Something about her voice comforted her. She knew that maybe she wanted Jaffe around more so for herself. Sometimes Carter just didn’t get her and Will – well he sided with anyone and by anyone it usually came down to Carter either way. He was the one who was in charge. He had protected them this far so why not trust him? Though after the incident with Baxter Carter just seemed much more callous. She understood you had to be hard in this world now, but something told her that they had to retain to being as [I human] as possible and that meant showing some compassion.
“Sorry,” she said to Jaffe with a chuckle. She sat up a little, propping her head up with her hand in a close fist. “Dreaming of You by [I Selena],” she responded with extra emphasis causing her to chuckle a bit. “You know you can sleep right? Carter is not going to do anything. I made sure of that,” Brandy said. Carter needed Brandy to be willing to do what he said and that meant compromising. If she was going to be helping in the case of getting fuel or any other kind of supplies then he owed it to her not to go ditching Jaffe in the middle of nowhere. Something about that didn’t sit well with her, besides with four people didn’t that make them stronger? Brandy yawned then, her eyes weighing heavy and she hadn’t even realized that she had fallen asleep until the morning came and there was the jarring sound of someone banging on the truck which woke her up.
[font "Times New Roman" “Are you doing this accent thing on purpose?” he followed it up with a bashful laugh, but Jaffe latched onto it. She offered a light, probing grin.
[b "Why? Is it making you shy, papi?"] She'd met plenty of men who fantasized about women like her. In fact, she'd capitalized on it more times than anyone could count. They liked the prospect of foreign women. They liked the power that could come with saying whatever you want and thinking the person you were speaking to didn't understand it. It was hilarious. [b "Mothers think love and God can fix everything. I guess instead, we have Brandy y Carter."]
She didn't look away from Will. It was proving entertaining to analyze him. He seemed just as soft as Brandy, and a little anxious and uncomfortable. A strong approach would probably fluster him--would he like the kind of partner that could dominate him? Maybe a teacher? Or would he like to feel in control of someone to contrast his sensitivity? She couldn't tell yet. That would take time.
Carter was easier. He was obviously dominant. And he was obviously unhappy with Jaffe's addition to the group.
Brandy, Jaffe already knew would react best to a soft, vulnerable approach. The only problem with that was that the soccer player wasn't very good at faking it. [i That] would take more finesse.
Finished eating, she directed her attention to her weapon. It was crude in and of itself, simply a knife attached to a broken hockey stick. Three types of tape secured the weapon, and there was more cloth and tape for a makeshift grip. It was dirty and obviously used, but also obviously wouldn't last forever. Sooner or later, she'd have to either replace the blade or come up with another weapon. She busied herself with beginning to remove the tape around the grip, planning to replace it. Brandy and Carter returned before she'd gotten the first piece of tape off.
Her jaw tightened as Carter addressed her, but she didn't argue. There was no point in it. The energy shifted, a stiff silence between Brandy and Carter cluing Will and Jaffe in on the fact that they must've had a disagreement. Jaffe didn't have to guess what it was about.
Brandy wordlessly pushed her bowl towards the woman, causing Channing to hesitantly stare at the food for a long minute. Had Brandy lost her appetite or was she trying to be nice? With how withdrawn she was acting, it was safe to assume the former.
The former soccer champion's stomach grumbled almost pointedly. She took the food gratefully, whispering her thanks, though riddled with question marks. Brandy had thought this through before just handing her rations out, right? She would be fine... Yeah, she would probably be fine.
Jaffe ate slower this time, with more poise. No one seemed to want to talk anymore. She would've assumed Brandy would be trying to bring everyone together with her friendly demeanor, but there was only the sound of the fire and the woods.
She followed after Brandy to the back of the truck. It wasn't a thrill to find out they were sleeping there, but it was a step up from the side of the road. At least there was less fear a wild animal was going to try to eat her face off.
Will locked himself in the car as Carter sat by himself at the fire. Jaffe's mind traveled back to that gun. She couldn't stop thinking about it. Were there actual bullets in it? There had to be. They had too much faith in it for there not to be. Unless Carter hadn't told everyone else that there were no bullets in it? Could he even shoot it? When was the last time it was cleaned? How is his aim?
Brandy began setting up her blankets, prompting Jaffe to pull her own sleeping bag out. She set it up for them to sleep under once it was fully expanded since it seemed warmer than Brandy's blanket. Brandy bundled her bag under her head and Jaffe did the same, though she didn't lay down. She honestly didn't trust Carter for a second. She especially didn't trust that he wouldn't put a bullet in her head as soon as he could [i if] the gun had bullets.
The brunette sat her back against her bag, using it as a prop as Brandy got closer to her. Her pulse jumped at the sudden physical contact but she relaxed after a moment. It had to be to conserve heat... The nights could be brutal, after all. She ended up slouching a bit to make it easier. The warmth was more welcome than she knew.
Brandy's humming was making her doze off. Her arms were crossed over her chest, her brow low in determination, but the soft voice of the girl next to her was getting past all of it. She was still so tired. It was [i impossible] to get a comfortable sleep anymore. She was too goddamn scared.
Besides, it wasn't like Brandy could do much to stop Carter. If he just decided to blow Jaffe's brains out while Brandy slept next to her, what the hell could she do? Scream at him? Tell him she'll never forgive him? Comical.
The hockey stick began falling against her, jerking Jaffe awake. She tightened her grip on it, rubbing the back of her neck to stimulate some kind of wakefulness. [b "Ay, cariña, stop it, you're making me fall asleep,"] she yawned, smirking at her predicament. [b "Sounds familiar. What song is that?"]]
“What’s going on?” Brandy asked Carter. She knew how he could be, incredibly paranoid now after everything they dealt with on the farm.
“I don’t trust her.” he simply said with a shrug. They were standing near the car then and Brandy saw as he looked in the direction of Jaffe who was eagerly enjoying her bowl.
“Well I do.” She said to him. “Look, she’s with us – have you even thought that maybe four is more useful than three of us. We all know that Will would pussy out of a situation if you didn’t force him into it.” She could still picture Will crying as they dragged the lifeless body away.
“We barely have enough food. Another mouth to feed is just going to make our lives more difficult.” Carter said to Brandy, his finger pointed at her. He could see how she leaned away, that small twitch in her eyes when she got nervous or afraid. “Look Brandy, we can’t save everyone.”
“Well I saved you.” She said. “From her and from every single motherfucker we needed fuel from. I think I’ve sacrificed enough to have a say in who stays!” She wasn’t usually so bold, but for the longest Brandy ha felt more like a commodity and with Jaffe she felt somewhat [I human]. She didn’t want that feeling to go away.
Will was no stranger to arguments between Brandy and Carter, though usually it revolved around other things. Most of the time it was when Carter was in the mood and Brandy wasn’t. Truthfully, he identified with Brandy, though it seemed they hadn’t come across one person who as eager to get him straddled over a sticky 7-Eleven counter. That said, Brand had given up a lot for them and Carter owed her, though they all seemed to play some part in this weird system they had created; a system that was now a bit disrupted by Jaffe. Though, there was something about her that was different. She had a feistiness to her, something that had made him scared when she edged her sharp weapon into their faces. Had she been a true [I savage] Will had no doubt that Jaffe would’ve killed them and taken everything. But she didn’t, that’s aid something about her as well.
“Are you doing this accent thing on purpose?” Will had to ask and he couldn’t help the chuckle that came out of his mouth. It was a foreign sound, not only because of the silence , other than the sound of the crackling fire, but also because their hadn’t been much to actually joke about.
“They picked me up on a corner, saved my life honestly. I’ve always thought this day would come, just didn’t think it would be so soon. Though my mother always told me if I kept on with my satanic ways and dint marry a good catholic girl, I’d be left behind. Guess she was right about one thing.”
Brandy and Carter had soon returned, both not really in a pleasant mood.
“Brandy and [I you] can sleep in the hatch,” Carter said. Brandy hatred not to meet Carter’s gaze, honestly she like staying out and looking up at the sky, but night was a bitch and so was the cold. “I’ve got first watch,” Carter grumbled before taking a seat. Brandy sat beside Jaffe, her knees drawn to her as she pushed her bowl in Jaffe’s direction. Some things were worth risking and giving up.
Night soon came and Carter sat near the fire, weapon in tow. Will made his way into the vehicle, doors locked, but key in the ignition should they need to get away. Brandy climbed into the back of the truck, laying out the blanket that would hopefully keep both women warm. She bundled her bag under her head, the best pillow she could ask for at this time. Brandy hadn’t really been thinking too much into It as she bundled close to Jaffe. She closed her eyes, trying to bundle enough to secure her warmth, humming softly the tune of ‘Dreaming of You’ by Selena.
[font "Times New Roman" Brandy's imitation of her accent drew a chuckle out of the woman. Jaffe was American, after all; she'd gone overseas to play professionally because that was the only way she could make money as a teenager. It worked well for her with a dual citizenship. They'd been in the States for a string of tournaments on the coast when the virus just... fucked [i everything]. She hated to think about it too long because it only reminded her of everything she lost. That train of thought led into everything she became since then and she couldn't stand it.
Jaffe took the offered can and eyed it for a long moment, waiting for everyone else to eat some of theirs before taking a bite. It was obviously a strain on their rations to give her any. She didn't say anything about it. If they had a problem, it would have to wait. She dug into the food in the can hungrily, scarfing it down as Brandy walked off with Carter. The hunger turned her into an animal as soon as the restraint left her mind. She ate curled in on herself protectively, as if she were afraid of the food being snatched from her. When she was done, she relaxed.
Her attitude became more apprehensive in the absence of the one person she'd become a little comfortable with. She wiped her mouth as her eyes moved to Will, who was striking up a conversation. She couldn't tell if it was because he genuinely interested or because he didn't want her to have any room to eavesdrop on Brandy and Carter.
[b "Si. Soccer."] Her dark eyes took him in from head to toe, unembarrassed to be openly sizing him. Only after she was done did she answer him. [b "I come from here. Arizona."] She considered being dry and stopping there, but decided against it. If she wanted them to feed her, she probably had to try to fit in until she could feed herself. [b "When I was fifteen, I got really popular for being good at the game. I got interest from Spain, so I went there and started playing professionally when I was sixteen. I was in California for some tournaments when the world ended."]
It reminded her of the jokes she and her teammates used to share after it all happened. They used to say they brought the apocalypse with them by touching down in the States. That, and it was God Himself sparing their competition from the way they were going to get crushed. It made them feel better about how hopeless it all actually was.
The woman peered after Brandy, wondering where she could be since it was definitely out of her eyesight. What was more, she wondered what they were talking about. Was Carter telling her that they'd just given Jaffe a last meal because they couldn't carry her weight?
There were too many variables. It was screwing with her anxiety. Trust was a hot commodity in the new world.
[b "What about you?"] She stretched her arm out to give him back the can she'd eaten from. [b "Brandy not, hm... Say much about you. More Carter. She say they picked you up along the way."]
“You show me something cool mami?” She said with a smirk, trying to imitate Jaffe’s tone. It was nice to know that Jaffe had skills, skills that undoubtedly could come in good use of it came to defending oneself. She had admired the woman’s body, toned and an identifiable sense of strength in those muscular calves. There was a softness to her, one that kind of retreated once they came in contact with the boys. It was understandable, it was hard to trust people now and though Brandy didn’t want to say it aloud, sometimes she too had fear when her presence would become too much of a burden. It had been easier ahead of time to just latch onto Carter, thinking maybe he would take much more of a liking to her to have some loyalty to her. He wasn’t as bad as he came off to with Jaffe. She knew he was still dealing with what had happened on the farm.
“I am starving,” she said in agreeance. Those raisins hadn’t been enough to hold over and she had been starving herself of water as well. She knew that they had food, more than they would tell Jaffe about out of fear she would attempt to hijack them again and leave them for dead possibly. Unless Carter shot her and Brandy wasn’t sure she could handle that. She knew it was pointless to try and get close to someone during this time, but it was nice not being the only girl anymore. She wasn’t sure if Jaffe was just pretending to be in good favor during their conversation in the water, but she hoped maybe she wouldn’t see her as the enemy. She had saved her life once before, but Brandy wasn’t sure she would do it again if Jaffe became an obvious threat.
“Canned pork and beans and spam,” Carter said. “The modern day steak.”
“I’ve been keeping track, well I was until we left the farm,” Will said which garnered him a look from Carter.
Brandy cleared her throat then and looked toward Jaffe as she took a seat on the ground, her hands stretched back to keep her up.
“We had a living situation threatened but while there we were able to access a radio – there’s a few people who have been dropping pinned locations. People making their way to Georgia. No where’s safe, but I guess sometimes you have to have [I some] kind of faith right ?” Brandy sat up then, her hands falling to the cross necklace around her neck. She knew maybe it was a bit stupid to still have the belief that they would be able to make it and that maybe God or [I whoever] would save them from the misery they were left to deal with.
Carter had then just begun to start portioning out the meals. Brandy could sense his hesitancy, there had always been just the three of them. She gave him a look then, knowing that he wasn’t going to make this arrangement easy, but what else was there to do? Kill Jaffe for no reason? He’d scooped some of the food into an empty can and handed it over to Jaffe before motioning toward Brandy to follow him out of distance to talk.
Brandy was apprehensive but still got up. Will sighed out, turning down toward his food and licking at his fingers of the salty remnants from the spam.
“So . . . soccer?” Will said then as he watched her. “Where’d you come from anyways?”
[font "Times New Roman" It seemed a lot of people were just lumped together with whoever was around them after the flash. It was a hazard of proximity, had to be. When you went out into the streets screaming for some kind of help or human companionship, you were extremely likely to end up traveling with the first people you found.
Whatever. Her past didn't matter. No family, no friends, nothing. She didn't need anybody but herself. Well, to be completely honest, it wasn't like she had much of a choice. She was alone.
Jaffe finished washing herself a minute or two after Brandy, crawling out of the water and drying herself off tentatively. She made an effort not to linger on Brandy for too long this time.
[b "If you still remember it, just sing it for me, mami,"] she joked with her companion lightly. She couldn't remember the last time she'd heard some damn music she wasn't singing herself. It felt like she could never remember the right words. Sometimes she wondered if she was confusedly splicing songs together.
She began redressing in one of the more worn jerseys she'd set out before getting into the lake. It was a convenient time for Brandy's question; Jaffe found herself chuckling at the coincidence. She packed up her bag outside of the loose sweatpants, soccer jersey, and shoes she was going to put on. Once dressed, she turned and pointed out the name 'JAFFE' in print on the back of the shirt.
[b "I guess to some people. I was a professional soccer player. I like to think we were pretty good."] A bittersweet memory tried to push through to the forefront of her mind, but she shoved it back down to where it came from. That life was gone. She was reinvented now. [b "I could show you something cool if you tell me more about that playlist of yours."]
She figured it was best to leave the subject of Carter and Will alone until she knew more about them. Everybody had to do what they had to do to survive, and she should've been the last person trying to judge them. On the other hand, she couldn't help that she instinctively didn't like them.
Jaffe followed behind Brandy as they began making their way back to the makeshift camp. Smoke from a fire drifted through the trees. It was a dangerous thing, to make a fire. It was a broadcast to everything and everyone in the area exactly where they were. There was no telling whether there were living things in the woods around them. The fire also ran the risk of scaring away potential food.
Whatever. It was their choice to make. Jaffe just considered herself along for the ride and trying to fade into the background.
She kept her pack and weapon with her rather than stashing it back in the car. That would undoubtedly be more comfortable than carrying themaround; it was just that there was the matter of trust. She didn't even trust Brandy--but some part of her wanted to. She could see it happening.
[i But I can't.]
[b "Is it just me, or does seeing a fire instantly make you hungry?"] Jaffe continued toward the fire, excited to feel the warmth on her skin. The days were scorching hot, but the nights were impossibly cold. This was a welcome contrast to that.
Maybe they had cans of something to eat, or maybe the boys hunted something. She doubted that. It didn't seem like they had enough time to hunt something big enough for them all to eat--then again, she was operating under the assumption that they were going to feed her. What would be the point in bringing her along to starve while they ate next to her?
[b "If you have never been to Georgia before, how do the boys know of all these stops along the way? How are they sure it is safe?"] She was feeling much more natural with talking now, the former stiffness fading away with every sentence. [b "This isn't a truck stop, but they still knew about it. I am... confused."]]
Working at the Mexican restaurant was the last thing that Brandy wanted to remember. She had dealt with a crazy boyfriend who worked as one of the cooks. Still, despite all that madness e had been one of her most passionate lovers. Still, she was not going to fall into the whole realm of living in a toxic relationship and with hat, she had decided to stop working there. That didn’t stop Julio though. He wanted to marry her, give her babies, but there was more to life than that despite how on her back her mother had been. Brandy wanted her to know that she was still young, that she had a future where children would all in all get in the way. That said, to wasn’t like she didn’t want to have kids. That dream seemed farfetched now; who could raise a child in this type of environment?
“I stopped smoking years ago,” she had confessed. “What I wouldn’t give for a fucking Newport though.” It was a nasty habit, only picked up during her relationship. Afterwards she had decided to go on this big healthy kick and that included eating well and working out. That lasted about a week, just like her vegan diet plans, but she had never smoked again. Eventually as clean as she could get, she had started to head back to shore. She handed Jaffe back her toothpaste, appreciating her offering it without expecting anything in return. At least she hoped so. Water dripped from her nude body, and she was quick to get a new set of clothes on, knowing getting sick during these days was just as bad as death.
She wondered who Jaffe had been before all this or the group she had been with. She clearly was avoiding the topic, though she knew just as well as anyone that there were some things that no one really wanted to think about since the flash. It was odd, thinking how she had thought she had reclaimed some part of her sexuality back. After that night she had felt o fear, acting out in any way possible and now every time a stranger was inside her it just reminded her that she was vulnerable. Was she only further damaging her chances of getting into heaven? Was there even a heaven? What if this was all some kind of delusional state she was in after a chemical bomb had been dropped?
Once could never trust the government, Will would say.
“Carter lived in my apartment building and Will just joined along. They may not look like much, but I mean they’ve been good to me.” She simply said. She shivered then, thinking about the smell of blood in the air. Her hand reached for the necklace round her neck then.
“Did I matter?” She asked with a chuckle. She was stuck on this miserable planet just like Jaffe. “I finally got a chance at my dream job: music. I undoubtedly had the best playlist, some grifter jacked me for it though when the boys were taking a piss.” “And you?”
Before long the men were coming over. She could see a small fire in the distance, risky but it meant that there was the possibility of hot food.
[font "Times New Roman" Jaffe pushed handfuls of water over her shoulders and arms as she treaded water, slowly becoming used to the lower temperature. Her mind drifted to how soft Brandy's hands were in her grip before they'd parted ways--no callouses meant no hard work. Brandy probably wasn't a killer, either. She was just surviving day by day.
The slight show of Spanish knowledge prompted a rise out of Jaffe, making her chuckle lowly. She worked her fingers through her knotted hair until some of the loose waves were released, making her look less like a ratty sewer kid and more like the shell of the woman she used to be.
[b "You? Watched telenovelas?"] she laughed a bit louder. [b "You remind me of my grandmother. All you need is a rosary and a nicotine addiction."]
She waded back to the shore, grabbing a brush from the light collection of personal belongings. It wasn't difficult to find them anywhere, as odd as that was to find out. Soap was a little bit harder. There were a million brushes, combs, and ponytail holders, but good soap and running water to use it with was a miracle. Hot, fresh food was like sex with Jesus.
She glanced up as Brandy defended her poking into Will's function to the group. She thought about it for a moment as she rubbed under her jaw and behind her ears, convinced there was dirt the water alone couldn't get off. What was making her so talkative was lost on her--it felt like every time she thought about it too hard, she lapsed in the conversation and found herself playing catch-up. She hadn't had anything to say to Will or Carter this entire time, even when she was handing off the toothpaste to Brandy right in front of them.
[b "Ah? Will is well-versed on apocalypses?"] A light scoff followed. [b "Funny how conspiracy theorists and UFO guys were freaks before the rapture or the devil or whoever proved them right."] The sentence hung in the air as if even Jaffe were considering the weight of it before she just lifted and dropped her shoulders in mild annoyance at the memory of the moment everything changed. Lithe fingers rubbed out taut muscles and traced over freshly healed scars on her sides and back.
"So what are you doing alone? It’s unusual for one to survive this long by themselves."
[b "Is it?"] Of course, that was a fact everybody knew. It was something Jaffe herself had preyed on when hunting. [b "I had something worked out with a couple other... haha--[i undesirables.] My friends. I haven't been on my own since the beginning, just the last..."] She shrugged, forcing the brush through the tangles in her dark mane. [b "What's up with Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum? Being alone is meh, but it might be better than being, like... a lure. Or whatever. Groups suck."]
A pang of guilt shot through her chest. Had it really only been about a month since all of that went [i so] downhill? The scars were healing nicely... She was even gaining some weight back after knocking on death's door for a week.
Honestly? She wished she had the courage to die.
[i Is a month enough time to change who you are? Is there a time limit on worthiness? Forgiveness?]
Jaffe finished detangling her hair, turning back to Brandy instead, splashing her lightly. [b "But fuck all that. Who'd you used to be, when it mattered? Other than a hardworking telenovela watcher, of course."]]
Brandy was eager to get into the water, the small bit of cold shocking in a pleasant way as eh dipped her toe into it. She eventually knew she couldn’t wait any longer and continued to walk into the water, her hand losing its grip on Jaffe’s. She was soon submerged up to her breast, dunking down then and coming back up, thick braids now heavy with the water. It felt good, it felt refreshing and yet she hadn’t even begun to clean herself. She just wanted to float, to pretend for a moment that things were okay when she knew very well they weren’t. But they would be.
They’d only known about this whole revival of faith because of Will. He was one of those guys who believed that the FBI was listening to your every phone call, the Flint water problem was no accident and of course, the ever famous staple of every conspiracist: the world was going to end. He had been prepared, to some extent for its ending, but he’d never thought it would have anything to really do with God and morality. That said, she was also Jewish. Though not practicing, still, in his mind he figured he didn’t have much of a chance. Especially if all those raging homophobes were true in their belief that God didn’t stan for gays. Either way, there had been some chatter and about Georgia, home to those seeking forgiveness in order to be welcomed into the gates of heaven if they were deemed good enough.
Either way, sticking around and starving didn’t seem to appeal to either three of them. Brandy didn’t know what Georgia had planned for them, let alone if they would actually make it there. They’d already been stopped by Jaffe, she knew all too well there was smore evil out there lurking and waiting to take on them as their newest victims.
“Poquito,” she said as she looked to Jaffe, cocking her head to the side as she noticed Jaffe’s pensive expression. What was going on in that head of hers she wondered. “Not more than enough to understand why Hilda Abrahamz is not afraid to give a good bitch slap.” She teased. “I watched a lot of Spanish novellas when I worked for this Mexican restaurant,” she explained with a blush. She ducked under the water again before finally trusting her body to relax, lifting almost then before she could feel herself floating. She wondered if his was what it felt like for those who had been taken during the flash. It was nothing like the movies, where they all lifted in the sky, instead more like disappeared in silence. How strange. Sometimes she had nightmares about being on the plane: she dreamed about being the last one left.
“Will is a lot more useful than you would believe. He knows a lot about this kind of stuff,” she defended, frowning at the comment Jaffe made about her. It distracted her and she felt herself submerge. God she wanted to scream. She came back up for air. Wiping roughly at her face, her neck where his hot breath seemed to stain her skin. ‘So what are you doing alone? It’s unusual for one to survive this long by themselves.”
[font "Times New Roman" It had been a long time since she'd heard anybody laugh. It'd been longer since she'd [i made] anybody laugh. It was weird, and it looked like it caught them both off guard, Brandy covering her mouth in surprise and Jaffe's brows shooting up in a delayed response. Still, it brought an easy grin to her lips. It wasn't an unwelcome sound by any means.
She let Brandy lead her through the clearing, past the few tall trees, and to the shore of the lake. The water was mesmerizing. Looking at it, the woman's mind was overcome with how much she wanted to drown in it. It wasn't that she wanted to kill herself so much that it looked like... an escape. A brief rip in the fabric of the sweltering, decayed world they knew now. Of course there was a little fear with what might be lurking in the lake. But there was solace in knowing there was [i nothing] in there that was worse than what walked the earth.
[b "Of course I speak it, mami, do you?"] She set her pack down on the ground, moving around a few big rocks. There was no sand here, just rocks and dirt and twigs. It certainly didn't make for a beach getaway, but it was better than being on the side of the road for an indefinite amount of time.
[b "Carter sounds muy... resourceful."] Jaffe held her tongue with her true assessment of him. In her opinion, men were simple. They liked sex, and though they tried to make it seem as if they were picky about who it was from, they weren't. Carter could put a bag over his head and pay for the gas himself if he gave a fuck. But that petty thing called pride and dignity... When it came down to it, at the end of all things, women were stripped of it. Seen less like partners and more like commodities to be traded when the circumstances were right.
Looking at Brandy, Jaffe could see why Carter would keep her around. Not only was she a woman, but she was pretty. Very pretty indeed. As she stood admiring her, Jaffe couldn't help but run the numbers in her head, estimating height, body measurements, idly noting hair color and eye shape...
[i Stop it.]
[center [size20 ---]]
[i I never killed anybody. But I made plenty of people wish they were dead.]
It started humbly, just as a trade. It was the end of the fucking world, for God's sake. And even though she'd been saved, still went to church like her good Catholic grandma had taught her--when she felt like it, of course--and she got [i left there]. So fuck it. Fuck the rules if following them all her life didn't save her.
It was Jaffe and a couple of her teammates that got left behind. She couldn't remember who pitched the idea. But it got big. Too big. And Jaffe's head grew with it.
There were a good amount of survivors in her city, and then there were also travelers they preyed on. The travelers were better because then the locals would have something new on the rotation. Usually they'd lure them in with promises of room and board, but some wanted other things, like--of course--sex. It was easy.
Jaffe could still hear her own voice in her head, all the terrible shit she really said. It haunted her. Sometimes she could see the words hanging in the air in front of her like warped subtitles.
[i [b "You fuck him, we get food, you understand me? Or you're on the street, so help me God."]]
Money didn't matter anymore. Sometimes people wanted companionship, sometimes just shelter--where, if they couldn't pay in goods, they paid in services--sometimes they treated the operation purely as a brothel, it didn't [i matter]. Jaffe was swimming in this new world's money and she didn't have to pay for any of it. She had the equivalent of slaves that did it for her.
To call her a pimp would be too nice.
[center [size20 ---]]
Channing looked up, broken out of her trance, to see Brandy almost naked, stripping off the last bit of her clothes. The woman choked on her breath, a blush warming her cheeks. It wasn't that she was honestly embarrassed at having accidentally stared for so long, but more that she couldn't believe, even after all this, that she couldn't stop thinking of those goddamn measurements.
[b "Oh--fuck."] She jumped into action, pulling at the t-shirt and sweatpants she'd been wearing. Some of the clothes she had now were things she'd stolen or found along the way. Her most prized possessions were soccer jerseys with her name on it. There were two in immaculate condition and five that were more worn than others; it was obvious she wore them more in her rotation. A lot of her clothes were university garb she'd managed to raid from a bookstore.
Tentatively, the lightskinned woman walked toward the water, avoiding rocks and twigs along the way. She shivered when her feet entered the water, bracing herself against the cold as she walked further in. Once she was in to her shoulders, with her arms wrapped around herself as her teeth lightly chattered, she turned back to Brandy with a quizzically raised eyebrow.
[b "So... Carter's the map. You... are the wallet. What does Will do, look pretty and frightened?"] She dipped her head under the water, pulling out the loose ponytail in her hair and running her fingers through its tangled masses. [b "Oh, I forgot he makes jokes. Maybe he's the comic relief, huh?"]]
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