Verdant

Normally people worry about deforestation, global warming and carbon dioxide levels rising astronomically throughout the years. But they never consider the other side of the spectrum where carbon dioxide levels are in decline while oxygen rises and trees are over populating the planet.
People don’t fear trees.
But they should.
They are what really started the apocalypse after all.

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7. Day 1,165

Six

Day 1,165

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program to bring you an important message from Lorna’s front tire.

Hiss.

Spit.

Pop.

Thank you.

“Mother fudge!” Lorna says, fingers drawing sharply against the brakes to come to a screaming, furious stop. But even as her tires grab at the road it skews suddenly sideways. The rubber squeals loudly against the pavement, and the frame tips angrily to the side, throwing Lorna forward. In one smooth movement she leaps off the bike, arms akimbo, before her feet slap the ground furiously, taking her down the road at a sprint. She makes it twenty feet before letting loose an angry string of made up words and coming to a clumsy, hopping stop.

Drawing around the woman, Harley glances from her bike to Lorna and then to the bike that she had loaned her for the mission. “What happened?”

“I ran over a nail!” she trills. “A stupid nail!”

They all stop in the middle of the bypass and dismount. Leaning forward on the handlebars, the younger man hums amusedly as his head casts a shadow over his wrists. “A nail?” he repeats curiously.

“Can you fix it?” Lorna directs to Harley

Jace scoffs. “I can fix it,” he mimics nasally, mouth wide and comical in a mock Harley voice. Harley sets her kickstand with one fluid solid flick of her ankle. Scrambling stiffly off her seat, she strides up to the bike lying abandoned on the ground.  “Of course I can fix it. It’s just a stupid hole.”

Up front, Jace scoffs. “Well, how long is it going to take?”

“Not seconds, obviously,” she replies sharply. “I’m going to have to patch the tube, and see what can be done about the tire.”

“So what?” he prompts again. “Five minutes? Ten?”

“Around twenty.”

“Alright.” Glancing from Simon to Lorna, Jace shrugs. “Let’s take a break.”

“Oh, and Jace?” Harley looks back at him,

“Yes?”

“Stop with the answering things for me and the questions,”

“But I like questions!”

*

Only as the sun begins to dip beneath the sky, and they have long since passed through another difficult section of road, does Harley hold her hand up and call, “Stop.”

And somehow as Harley slows to a stop Jace’s bike abruptly loses balance as his fingers tap weakly on the brakes, sending him flying to the ground. Wheezing far too hard to complain, he sprawls across the road, helmet tapping sharply against the pavement. “See that?” he gasps. “That is why you wear a helmet!”

Harley rolls her eyes and helps him up.

“We making camp?” Lorna tosses her hair away from her throat, low ponytail winding around her shoulders.  Her fingers drop to her flannel, pinching the collar to pull it closed against a bitter breeze.

Hands smoothing along the heavy plastic framing the bikes display, Harley hovers over a small black button before pressing it cautiously. The screen bursts into a brilliant glow, displaying a series of number clusters boldly. “We’ve gone just over thirty miles today,” she announces softly. Her chin nudges slowly over her shoulder, and her eyes light on Jace still wheezing by her side.

It was true they had rode thirty miles of long winding main roads and long winding back streets and they had just nearing Thornylee which was a twelve mile journey at least but the deters had increased it.

Lorna’s gaze turns along with Simon’s but Jace’s remains firmly on the younger woman. Harley glances up to meet it hesitantly.

Eyes rolling subtly, the boy leans back with a shrug. “It’s good… at least,” he begins nonchalantly, “Plus it’s only… our first real day out on the road.” His pauses are full of large gulps full of air.

“And we’re… stopping which is also good,” Jace again manages between wheezes.

“Yes, Jace, we’re stopping,” Simon agrees dryly, leaning to the side to rest his weight fully on one leg, swinging the other over the bike to settle beside it. His foot shoots out, sliding between the bike and the kickstand, and it settles on the ground with a small, insignificant squeal.

“Awe-so-ome,” he strings out in a long hiss. “Oh god my legs are limp noodles.”

“Pretty sure you’re a limp noodle,” Lorna mutters under her breath.

Harley chuckles.

“We just biked, like, thirty miles” Jace whines. “I reserve the right to be a limp noodle, thanks.”

“If you don’t do some stretches you’re going to be a limp noodle tomorrow, too,” Simon warns him lightly, shaking out the stiffness in his limbs.

Hopping easily off her seat, Lorna engages the kickstand with a quick flick of her shoe before her hands find the straps of his pack. They click free quickly. Her fingers dig at the seams, dragging a long tube of fabric from the dark confines of the bag. “The sooner you shut your mouths, the sooner we get the tents up, the sooner we can rest. So get your butts up.”

Jace scoffs, attempting a weak salute with one limp arm. “Yes, Nurse,” Rolling stiffly onto his side, he pushes ineffectively at the ground, elbows wobbling from side to side as his arms strain.

Stepping around his bike, Harley leans forwards and grips his bicep firmly, dragging him up off the pavement to settle him more firmly on his feet.

For a moment Jace’s equilibrium flees in a panicked haste, leaving the man waving his free arm desperately for balance. But as his feet find the ground he gives one last surprised gasp before turning to Laura, mouth hanging wide. “Did you just-”

“I’m Harley Jane Davidson” she reminds him with a singsong, flexing her arm proudly. There’s little in the way of definition. Her arm is smooth, absent of the subtle divots and bulging veins that come from muscle work. Stepping back over to her bike, she unties her over layer from her waist. She pulls it quickly over her shoulders, wiggling her arms and back like a land-bound fish until it settles into place. Leaning forward, she grabs at the ties of her pack, unclipping it easily from her bike rack and hefting it over her shoulder, lugging it quickly to one of the softer looking patches of dead grass just off the highway.

Simon rolls his eyes, shaking his head as Laura takes up residence on the opposite shoulder of the highway. But his lips remain firmly closed as he discards the tent bag. His fingers grab at a blossoming branch, sweeping it from side to side across the “campsite,” sending smaller rocks and twigs flying before tossing the branch itself into one of the larger bushes. Grabbing up the bag, he drags the zipper down to reveal a series of poles and a folded length of material.

“So, I have an alarm clock,” Lorna announces suddenly, drawing everyone’s attention. She holds it up on display. It’s small, round, and the stainless steel glints sharply in the daylight. “It’s wound, so we’re going to have to keep up on that. I’m thinking we should set it in turns. Whoever has to make breakfast turns it off and winds it? Is that okay with everyone?” A small round of agreeing grunts sound through the camp, and she grins. “Now what should we name it?”

“I think that’s the longest you’ve talked since I’ve met you,” Jace murmurs,

“We’re not naming the alarm clock,” Simon objects firmly.

“How about Steve?” Jace suggests.

“Yeah, that sounds nice,” Harley, agrees.

“We are not naming it Steve, or anything!” Simon demands.

The younger woman grins. “All in favor of naming it Steve, say aye.”

“Aye,” Jace announces quickly.

“All opposed, say nay.”

“Nay!” Simon snaps.

Turning to the older woman as she watches Simon quickly sliding poles through long material slits, Harley inquires, “Lorna, what do you think, you suggested it after all?”

Simon stomps firmly on a set of stakes and shakes his head firmly before bending the poles into places, a tent popping suddenly from the ground to billow gently in the British air. “Please, say nay,” he begs of her.

“Aye,” Lorna smiles and watches as Simon stomps into the tent he just made. They set ‘Steve’ just outside his tent before they all go to sleep that night.

“He’s just an old dragon,” Jace laughs,

“You should never tickle a sleeping dragon though,” Harley says as she stops Jace from going into Simon’s tent.

Sometime during the night, Simon throws it into a nearby bush and smiles at how the group will be going batty to find it in the morning.

He may be an ‘old dragon’ but dragons are awesome so that case is closed. 

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