Drops in the Sky

One foot in front of the other. That's all I knew. Just keep walking. Get water when you can. Get food when you can. Just keep walking. For 92 days, that's all I knew. And then, I met Amber Jeffries. And, by God, that girl became all I knew. All I wanted to know. But the War was all that mattered. Fighting is all that matters.

In World War Four, 10 billion people were killed. I'm one of the lucky two billion that survived. So was Amber Jeffries. Unfortunately, 1.9 billion people live in Europe. Mostly France, and a couple areas just outside of it. I'm in the hundred million left in what used to be the United States, which is currently in the midst of a Civil War. And I'm right in the middle of it.

We're kind of a mess. My life's messy. But Amber... She keeps everything together.

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1. one

I trudge through the endless desert. My backpack is light, with almost nothing in it, but it weighs me down nonetheless. Inch by inch. Inches turn into feet, feet turn into yards, yards turn into miles, mornings turn to noon. Noon turns to evening, and finally, the setting sun throws shades of pink across the indigo sky. Days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months. Three months, to be specific.

How long's it been since the world fell to shit?

Jeez. I don't know. It's been a while.

Basically, the world started falling apart a while ago, thanks to our 21st century friends who wrecked the planet for us.

The fourth World War ended a while ago, but that doesn't mean all wars are over. Eh. The small wars aren't that important. The big banger is what's important.

10 billion people were killed.

I'm in the remaining 2 billion. Unfortunately, most people are in Europe. France, to be specific. And a couple civilizations around France's borders.

I'm stuck in the goddamn states. Somewhere in the middle, I think. It all looks the same. The same dead trees, the same dusty sand, the same empty roads. 

And I'm stranded.

My parents are dead. My sister is dead. I have pretty much no supplies; I have a knife, a water bottle that's been empty for two days, and one protein bar. I've been on the roads for a while. To be specific, 92 days.

In the desert.

Well, that's not too specific, due to the fact that the majority of the planet is now desert.

To be specific, by "majority of the planet," I mean 99.3%.

You might be able to tell; I like specifics.

Anyways, I've been hiking for a while. I've hiked 14 miles today. I did 15 yesterday. Only 12 the day before. All in all, over 92 days, I've hiked about 1300 miles.

You could say I'm exhausted. And due to the fact that I'm out of water, I'm a bit dehydrated.

Okay. That's an understatement. I'm pretty damn dehydrated.

I limp along the side of the road, my backpack hanging from one shoulder. The limping is due more to overall, general pain than any one thing, but 92 days worth of hiking sure does make your feet hurt. 

It's been four days since I saw any other people. They filled my 1 liter water bottle halfway and left.

I am completely and utterly alone.

Because I am so alone, and because most animals are dead (thanks, acid water!) it's pretty damn silent.

Because of the silence, I can hear it instantly when a truck begins approaching. I turn around quickly and see two headlights far in the distance. I stand in the middle of the road, hoping they'll see me and stop. Because, let's be honest. I won't last another two or three days if I don't get some damn water. It takes a bit, because the truck is far away, but when it nears me it slows to a stop.

"Hey, I'm -" I begin to introduce myself, before being cut off.

By being "cut off," I mean someone jumped out of the back of the pickup truck, sprinted to me, and tackled me to the ground. I can tell by the small figure that this "someone" is a girl. A somewhat attractive girl, to be specific. She pins my thighs down with her knees and my arms with her arms.

"What do you want?" She demands. Her voice is strong and stiff. Her brown eyes, so light that they're almost golden, shoot daggers at me. Her blonde hair falls down and brushes against my face.

"Chill," I say. She doesn't seem amused. "I just need some water."

"We don't have any," she replies quickly. Too quickly.

I can also tell she's lying because her lips aren't as chapped as they would be if she didn't have water. They aren't as chapped as mine, which are peeling to the point that they're almost bleeding.

"You do," I accuse. "Please? I just need a little bit."

I glance up as I hear a door open. The driver steps out of the pickup truck.

"Come on, Amber. We have plenty. Give the guy a break," he says.

"Tommy, we have no idea who the hell this guy is. He could be with the Services," she says. 

"I'm not," I say. "I promise."

Her amber eyes glare at me. She rolls off of me and offers me a hand. I take it and stand up quickly.

"Justin," I say, shaking her hand.

"Amber. This is my brother, Tommy."

"Jesus, Amber, you're the only one who calls me that. It's Thomas," he groans.

"Thank you, Thomas," I say. He winks at me.

"Someone's gotta keep the girls from taking over," he says with a smirk. Amber turns and punches him in the shoulder. "Ow!" He mutters. "What the hell was that for?"

"Hate to break it to you, Tommy," she said, emphasizing his name. "But you wouldn't've made it ten feet from home without me." 

"Fine," he mutters. She turns to me, eyes me up and down, and then makes her way to the back of the truck without another word.

"She's a little... guarded," Thomas says, nodding in his sister's direction. "She's a bit tough to get to know, but once you do, she's pretty okay."

I laugh. "I'll take your word for it. Where're you guys headed?"

"We're heading towards the desalinization plant on the coast of Cali," he says. "Hoping to get a job there so we can have fresh water."

"Where'd you get the water you have now?"

"Bribed some Service officers a couple hundred miles back," he says with a sly grin.

"Nice," I mutter. "You just call 'em the Services?" 

He nods. "'Gas and Water Restoration and Protection Services' makes them sound like they're actually doing something good." 

"Makes sense," I say with a light chuckle. 

"Catch," Amber calls from the truck. I look up just in time to see my filled water bottle flying towards my head. I snatch it out of the air.

"Nice reflexes, dude." Thomas looks impressed. I grin.

I quickly unscrew the cap and take a long sip, holding the water in my mouth to savor the taste of it. I swallow slowly and allow the cool drink to slide down my throat.

"Where are you headed, Jackson?" Amber asks.

"Justin," I mutter, trying not to roll my eyes. "I'm trying to get to California as well."

"What for?"

"Trying to join the army," he says.

"Why?"

"You ask a lot of questions," I point out.

"We gave you water. We're allowed."

"Fine. I just want to get into a system so I'm not wandering around."

"We can give you a ride to Cali if you need, dude," Thomas suggests.

"Thomas!" Amber hisses.

"What?" He asks innocently.

"No," she states plainly.

"I won't be any trouble," I say.

"You're a mouth to feed and someone to protect," she says. "Don't want to waste the effort." 

I stare at her, eye-to-eye.

"Come on, Amber," Thomas says quietly. "He'll die out here." She doesn't look away from me. 

I look at him gratefully, before returning my gaze to Amber's golden eyes. I'm surprised I can look at her almost face to face. I'm 5'11, so it's not very common for me to find girls my height. But she seems to be around 5'10, so I'm barely taller than her. Thomas is also tall; much taller than me. Above six foot, for sure. Must run in the family.

Thomas looks relaxed, in blue jeans and a black tee shirt. Amber looks like a warrior, with her loose blonde hair, fiery eyes, and black jeans, army boots, and a black tee shirt. I couldn't imagine two siblings who could be more different.

"Fine," she mutters, still holding my gaze. She stares at me for a minute longer before returning to her position in the back of the pickup truck. Thomas laughs.

"Good luck with her, back there," he jokes, returning to his seat in the driver's position. I sigh and make my way to the back of the truck. It's piled high with resources and supplies; including two giant containers of water. One looked to be almost empty, while the other was mostly full. There were baskets of supplies, several blankets, and two tarps. And quite the abundance of duct tape. Amber had adjusted some blankets into a cushion-like seat for her, and sits with her back in the corner between a large water container and the side of the truck. I sit opposite her, on the other side of the truck bed. 

"So..." I say, not really knowing how to make conversation with someone who doesn't want me here. "Amber's a cool name."

"Dumb name. Something to do with my amber eyes," she says. "My parents weren't very creative." 

"I like it," I say.

She glares at me, her eyes flashing. Huh. Her eyes are amber.

"So," I say again. "How'd you and Thomas end up out here?"

Her eyes seemed like they wanted to bore two small holes through my brain.

"Dead parents. You?"

"Same."

"Stupid war," she mutters.

"Agreed." She pulls a knife out from her belt and plays with it, running her finger gently along the blade mindlessly. I gulp. 

"Well, uh... Thanks again for agreeing to let me ride with you guys. I really appreciate it." 

She doesn't even look up, simply makes a hm noise in the back of her throat to acknowledge I'd said anything at all. 

She continues running her finger along the blade until she presses hard enough that the sharp metal cuts her finger. Blood spills down the edges of the blade and drops quietly onto the bed of the truck. 

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