She smiled at me, that same smile I've been in love with for years. The one that made me fall in love with Her. The one that continues to assure me that She loves me too. Still smiling, She turns from me and focuses Her attention on the door in front of us.
"You ready for this?"
She laughs, "Always."
Holding Her 9mm lazily by Her side, She pushes open the door, the last thing protecting us from them.
Then He walks up behind us, colt revolver at His hip, looking like He stepped right out of western movie. I long to turn and point my shotgun at His head and say "draw". God I hate Him.
He sidles past Her saying something along the lines of, "Let a man handle this, baby."
She sneers at him. She hates him too, but He's oblivious.
We follow Him out into the cold morning. The mist obscures the masses of totaled and burned out cars lining the road, shielding them and everything they may be hiding from our eyes. We hear the door shut tight and latch behind us, and breathing deeply, we begin our morning rounds.
I've gone over the path we take so many times it's burned into my mind. The fog swirls around us, and we talk no more, our ears listening for any approaching footsteps, or the telltale moan of our quarry.
After walking for ten minutes with no signs of life, She stops, and motions to us. She points to the top of a tall apartment building and heads toward it, we follow.
I can see He's less on the lookout for what we're hunting, and more focused on Her rear end. I clench my teeth and purposely step on the back of His shoe. He stumbles, but doesn't fall. Turning around, He shoves His middle finger in my face silently. I shrug my shoulders innocently, and He turns back around, no longer looking at Her. He knows that I know.
We take the stairs, She's heading for the roof. Our footfalls echo through the stairwell, a cacophony of unwelcome sound. We climb. We pass each door that proclaims the floor number without a glance. We know full well what may be lying in wait beyond it. We emerge on the roof, and we watch Her make Her way to the edge and look down. The sun has just risen, and fog is starting to recede.
We move to join Her, to watch, to listen, to oversee. For this is our kingdom, this roof is our castle, and we are the lords of this land. Our ears pick up a sound.
Turning towards the sound we see one of our subjects moving in between the abandoned cars. he's clumsy, like all of them, his eyes wide and staring, his mouth agape, entrails hanging from his ruined stomach to dangle between his legs.
I put down my shotgun, and pull the crossbow off my back. I kneel, rest my arms on the edge, and look through the sight. he, no, it, has no idea we're here. I squeeze the trigger and the bolt swishes through the air and, with a soft "thup", embeds itself between it's eyes. it collapses, and I reach for another bolt to reload.
She smiles at me.
It was a long day. No survivors found. We tally how many we killed. 14. Not bad. We piled the bodies in between the skeletons of two burned out cars, and set the corpses ablaze. Standard procedure.
We walk towards what we call home. We talk a little, She jokes. She always does.
She punctuates something She was saying by striking a pose near a Mercedes Benz. We stop to watch Her. She flexes Her arms and we chuckle.
A hand shoots out from under the car, followed by a head. We yell to Her, and She turns to look at us, the shadow of a smile still on Her face. The hand grabs, and the head, with its staring eyes and wide mouth, bites.
I can hear him raging to the Others across the hall. He doesn't want Her here. He would've left Her behind. I can hear small noises of agreement. The Other's would have too.
"How are you feeling?"
She turns to look at me, and grimaces. From where I'm sitting I can see her hands twitch behind her back, the twine cutting into the flesh, cutting of circulation. I'm not about to loosen them, and She knows.
She laughs a little.
"I'm such an idiot."
"Well, I'll make a vow. I'll never be an idiot again!"
I frown, She shouldn't be making jokes.
She tries to lean forward, but the twine around her torso connects her to the pipe on the radiator, and She doesn't move far.
"Scratch my shoulder for me?"
I check my watch, "It's been about two hours".
She sighs. "Not long now".
I frown again.
"Isn't it funny?" She asks
"We spend half our lives wishing time to fly, and the other half hoping it will crawl. What fickle creatures we are."
I indulge Her musings. "And yet it marches on, constant, with no concern for us whatsoever."
"Hey, when I'm gone-"
"Don't talk about it." I hope She'll listen.
She does, and leans back against the radiator pipe.
I lay down next to her, putting my head in her lap.
"Remember when we first met?"
I grunted. "I wish I didn't."
She laughed. She looked down at me. That smile.
We talk. We talk of days past, before the outbreak, before the death and chaos. We talk of everything but the present. We talk of our original families, not the Others, who we call family now. We talk of our first date, our fist time making love. She reminds me how badly I was trembling.
I let myself get lost in the memories, hoping, praying, that time, for just this once, will heed my wishes. No such luck. The time slips away, and we try to ignore it.
"I have a headache," She says. "I'm going to rest my eyes for a while."
She smiles at me. I take it in. Every crease, every curve, every inch of that smile, I pull it into my mind, stealing it from Her, just as the world was stealing Her from me.
Leaning Her head back against the wall, She closes Her eyes. I don't move my head from Her lap. I trace patterns in the stitching of Her jeans.
she stirs beneath me. I sit up and move away. I face her. her head drops forward. I stand and pick up my shotgun. her eyes raise to mine, her face is mottled gray. her eyes stare. her mouth is open. she moans. The moan that all of us come to know and fear. The moan we hope will never come from those we love. I point my shotgun at her head as she begins to struggle against her bonds, still moaning.
I don't know how long I stood there. My mind kept going over everything we talked about, everything we did. I shut my eyes tight. The seconds turned to minutes, all filled with the incessant moaning.
I open my eyes, and look her in the face. Nothing there. No recognition. No memories. Not Her.
I hold my breath, pull the trigger, and blow my memories away along with her, no, its head.