David Desiderio is 69 years old and retired, and busy editing and submitting his many short stories, as well as finishing up his second novel.
After the Strike
-SHE woke to daylight, or what passed for daylight. Her head throbbed. Her ears buzzed. Two figures crouched several feet from her, their silhouettes indistinguishable in the murky gray fog. The contents of their backpacks lay scattered on the ground. “These two weren’t worth a shit,” one whined, kicking at some papers. “There’ll be others.” “Hey,” Rebecca feebly called. They turned. One stood hulking over her, staring through ski goggles. “Thought you were dead.” She looked to her partner. “What about the guy?” “No mistake with him.” “Help me,” Rebecca said. * -AFTER Scott twisted his ankle, Rebecca slowed her pace. Broken, she’d have left him behind. They’d made a pact. Staring solemnly into each other’s eyes, they saw the fear, the terror, rising unchecked. Scott turned away. “So it’s north.”
“Yes,” she agreed. Word drifted down that border was still open. There would be help along the way. If the charred sign could be trusted, they had another mile to go. It was vital to reach the border by daylight. No water for three days. Hadn’t eaten for four. Thirty years old and an avid jogger her muscles cramped violently from exhaustion. The searing pain tore white hot branding her flesh. Her body ached to shut down. If she stopped she’d never start again. She prided herself on her endurance, her will. She’d finished every race she entered. But this wasn’t a race. It was a nightmare. It happened, she reminded herself. It really had happened. She turned to find Scott. Only oily blackness without a shard of moonlight to beckon her eyes. “Scott. Scott!” Silence. She cursed him. The acrid, sooty air laid burning on her tongue. She raised her mask. Her joints were stiffening. She’d wait a minute more then continue, certain she could. Something struck the back of her head. Her neck cracked as she slumped to the ground. * -“I don’t help stupid fucks like you,” she scorned. “She don’t get it. Might as well tell her.” “Headed to Oregon, right?” She didn’t wait for a reply. “Border’s shut tight same as Nevada and Arizona. Stopped taking refugees days ago. Can’t handle the numbers. There’s typhus. Contaminated shits like us are shot on sight. I’m doing you a favor.” She drove her heel into the bridge of Rebecca’s nose.