Sunlight kissed their skin as Dominic's eyes opened to a bright morning. Brian's head lay against his shoulder, presenting Dom with a view of his handiwork. The stitches had held through the night, though they made a grizzly figure cutting through Brian's side of his head which had been painted crimson was now crusted with dried brown blood.

Dom's shoulder creaked, sore like a bruise. His whole body ached and protested. He took a moment to breathe deeply and arrange his thoughts. Brian's breath tickled his chin. He had to get them out of this. Brian had been through so much. He needed to get them somewhere safe. They had few options, none of them good.

"Wake up, Brian. It's time for us to get out of here." He shook him so gently it was more like a shudder. "Brian, open your eyes." The lack of response caused panic to begin to rise in Dom's throat, but he pushed it down and forced calm into his voice.

He reached out and traced his fingers over the crusty stitches. His hand moved lower to turn Brian's face toward his.

"Bri, come on. Please."

Brian's chest rose and fell, sleep-slow.

Dominic kept speaking to him and tapped his shoulder until he finally moaned in response.

Dom's voice was shaky with relief as he announced,"Time to wake up."

"Where are-" Brian cut himself off and dragged a hand across his eyes.

"How do you feel? Do you remember anything?"

"That was crazy, wasn't it?" Brian poked at his stitches, making himself wince."The way that truck hit us. Man, I thought we were gonners."

"I was afraid too, Dom replied quietly, "especially after."

"Then it was...Sorry, Dom, I think I forgot to ask: are you hurt?"

Dom stared at him, uncomfortable with the thought of complaining to a man whose head had been split open. "I'm fine.

"What should we do now? Do you want to go back to the wreck?" Brian asked with a hoarse voice.

Dom gave another sigh. Brian seemed himself again.

"You don't want to go back." It wasn't a question. Brian knew Dom. "So, are we gonna wait for someone to rescue us here?"

Dominic clenched his hand around his powerless phone.

"No one is coming for us."

"It's not that bad here, though. Maybe someone might…"

"What's keeping us here?"

"Not the ambiance or the food, that's for sure."

"What? You mean you don't want to chow down on a plank of rotted wood?"

"I'm good," was Brian's dry answer.

"How about if I sprinkle some maggots on it for you?"

"I'd tear it up if you gave me a cup of water to wash it down with." His voice was hoarse.

"Yeah. I'm thirsty too." An ominous creak shuddered through the air as Dominic rose from the couch.

"You leaving me again?" Brian forced a lighthearted tone, but Dom inwardly winced. He half-pulled, half-lifted Brian to his feet.

The house looked even more dismal in the light. The cracked ceiling had collapsed in several places. The walls were streaked with mold. A few, rusty nails jutted from the floorboards. Dominic had been lucky to have avoided them.

The kitchen faucet was dry. The bathroom sink gurgled tantalizingly, but produced nothing.

"Should we go back to the crash or try to find civilization somewhere?"

"Maybe we should just stay here."

Dom looked over to the other side of the room where Brian stood.

"I feel like in the movies they always say to stay in the same spot. Like it's easier for people to find you." Brian looked away and glanced back as though to gauge Dom's view of his opinion.

The dark tone of Brian's dried blood cast an even paler shade to his injury-induced pallor. It made his ghostly skin far lighter than the once white walls. Brian shuffled across the living room completing the zombie impression. Something melted in Dom's chest and he threw an arm across his shoulders. Together they sought, but found no water.

"The next town isn't that far." Dom explained the natural landmarks that he could use to navigate to the small city.

"It will be a shorter distance than if we drove," said Dom optimistically.

"Sure, whatever you think."

Dominic refused to question Brian's sudden acquiescence.

There wasn't much to pack, just a few things from the toolbox. Then, they simply set out, leaving the farmhouse behind. Brian turned the grizzly side of his head to Dominic as he gazed back before continuing forward. Dom gingerly led the way. To distract himself from the throb in his ankle he kept up a cheerful banter with Brian until they found themselves clearing their throats a little too often.

Dominic continually checked the landmarks against their progress though woods and the trees and bushes, in the tall grass and over dried,caked mud flats. Brian clenched his jaw as the terrain lapsed behind them and twilight creeped across the horizon.

"Did you hear that?"

Dom paused and turned to Brian.

"No. What did it sound like?"

"A big pop. Kind of like a gunshot."

Dom stood still and strained to hear. Dry leaves crackled in a dry breeze. Gnats buzzed around their heads. The moist tang of incoming rain reached his nostrils. They should probably hurry to the town and not worry about mystery noises.

"There's nothing. It's probably just your headache."

"You think I'm making this up."

"No, just that-"

"Just that I can't be trusted with even something as simple as this."

A sound like a creaking staircase filled the air. The noise grew louder and seemed to stalk them.

Anger flared in Dom as he realized that he couldn't identify the origin of the threat thus couldn't be sure where to run away from it. It seemed foolish to remain in the open so they scrambled to the side, towards a crowd of bushes. Dry branches tore at their clothing and skin as they took cover among the shrubs. The popping grew into a deafening series of cracks and snaps. A great, dark shadow dashed through the air before them. The ground shook beneath their palms and knees as a behemoth landed neary.

Brian and Dom's breaths came out in short, loud huffs as they rose on wobbly legs. They exchanged silent gazes before picking their way toward the fallen tree.

Brian looked back the way they came, the way that led to the farmhouse. "The farm doesn't look so bad now, does it?"

"Those walls might have caved in at any time."

Dom held his breath as he pulled a splintered stick from his flesh. The hole left behind oozed thin, red ribbons. The sharp pain was small enough to ignore. He moved back towards the direction he thought they needed to face.

"Are you tired, Dom?" Brian's voice was so tiny he nearly missed the suggestion.

"Let's rest here." Dominic discreetly hovered his hands in the air near Brian's waist just in case, as Brian eased himself down upon the fallen tree.

Dominic snapped a couple of protruding branches to clear a place for himself and sat beside his friend. "We're not far off now."

"Will we get there before dark?

Dom did not reply.

"We should go back. I want to go back.

"It's too late for that, Brian.

"You don't even know where we're going," he said in a voice that Dom didn't recognize.

"I'm going to get us out of here," Dom said aloud. Silently, "I have to." He turned his back to Brian and glared at the trees before him. His jaw clenched against the doubt that began to creep up his spine. He wasn't much of a woodsman. Navigating through wilderness wasn't the same as finding his way in an unfamiliar city. Still, he had spent decades honing his sense of direction. This would be another chance to prove it. He sat long enough for his jaw to feel sore, but not nearly long enough for his body to feel rested. He rose and stepped toward the place he knew the town should be.

"Time to go," Dom announced. When he decided it was time Then he pushed away from the tree wordlessly, trusting that Brian would follow.

He knew almost immediately that he was wrong. "Brian," he didn't bother to soften his voice. "Let's go."

Brian continued to sit and stared at the ground. His breath came out in noisy pants that Dom heard across the clearing. Eventually, he lifted his gaze. With his eyes carefully avoiding Dom's, Brian rose and followed.


Stay healthy, everyone.

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