I don’t care how long it’s been, but there is a part of my brain that whines and complains, and constantly demands to know. How long has it been since you ate? How long has it been since you’ve seen another living person? How long has it been since Cupcake left you alone in the desert? How long has it been since this nightmare began?
It whines, it screams, it kicks the back seat of my brain, ordering the information from me. But I don’t know. Weeks since I floundered into the ocean, laughing, splashing. No idea where I was, other than splashing through the Pacific Ocean, far from Harveryville, Ohio. Maybe months, but definitely weeks.
How long since you last saw Cupcake? I couldn’t even guess. All seasons are the same when you’re as close to death as I was, and staggering around the desert doesn’t do anything for time placement. Maybe months, maybe a year, I can’t remember. I hardly remember anything of stumbling through the desert. I remember seeing a sign for Barstow and thinking that I couldn’t stop here, man, this is bat country, and laughing until I coughed blood.
I remember being attacked by one of the creatures, the fast ones, and trying to remember what it was called. “Fast Mover, I think that’s what McMurphy used to call ‘em,” I said to no one in particular and grabbed the thing by the head as it launched itself at me. Would’a made Cupcake proud, that move, using the creature’s momentum to break it’s neck, rip it’s head off, and tear out what was left of it’s spinal column. It blinked at me a couple times before I booted it out into the sand.
I remember falling to the ground and crying for Sarah, crying that I missed her, crying that I loved her, and being immediately rewarded for my emotion by a scorpion bite on the cheek.
Were you still following him then? I don’t know. I tell myself that it isn’t important, but that nagging part of my brain insists that it is. I pulled the note from another creature, the note that Cupcake had left there (before? after? doesn't matter), that he had left stuck to it. I barely had the strength to kill the thing even though it was pinned to the wall, and somehow Cupcake had managed to not only pin it, but to leave a note on it as well. Something about that enraged me, and I used the rage to double my speed, determined to catch him before he crossed the state line.
I lost track of time, couldn’t remember where I was, how long I had been chasing him. And then I realized that it didn’t matter. There was only one thing that mattered, I realized, and rushing into it would only leave me dead or humiliated.
What mattered was that he died. From my hand or by another’s, as long as he died. “Remember Child, even a god needs an audience,” the note had read. The words ricocheted in my skull, driving me, pushing me, leading me…until I thought about them. It didn’t matter that he was calling himself a god. What mattered was that he was calling me a child. All through our last conversation, he had done the same.
That was when I gave up my pursuit. I turned around, headed back West, ignoring the voice in my head that screamed I was a coward, that screamed I was betraying Sarah, that screamed I was a traitor against mankind. I turned and headed West, ignoring those voices, knowing them for the lies that they were.
I stayed on the beach. How long? It doesn’t matter. Long enough to see what kind of effect the end of the world had had on ocean life. At night, the fish glowed red, so that it looked like a million demons just under the surface. They were safe to eat, and they tasted all right, but they screamed. They screamed words. “Help me!” mostly.
Even in this hellhole, having your supper plead for mercy is a little on the rough side, and since I never really liked seafood anyways, I decided it was time to leave this coast, maybe make my way to the other one.
Where are you going? It didn’t matter any more than where I was. I was going, that was all. Not through the desert, though. North, up to Oregon, maybe even Washington, then over. Disgustingly, I didn’t remember my U.S. geography, but I figured if I went straight over until I hit Michigan, then dropped straight down, I could avoid Ohio. I didn’t know where the hell Harveryville was, but I didn’t want to take any chances of stumbling across it.
Not before I was ready.
I will meet Cupcake again, if he lives long enough. And I will kill him.
I once saw myself killing him in a vision, back when I was psychic. I now know that I wasn’t killing the Cupcake in my vision, but rather his twin brother. I can’t see into the future anymore. My “ability” has apparently been distorted just like everything else in this world, and now just about the only thing it’s good for is killing.
But none of that matters. What matters it that when we meet again, I will be ready. He will expect a child, but he will find a man.
How long will that take? It doesn’t matter, I tell the childish part of my brain that wants to hold onto time in the old-world sense. It doesn’t matter because I will do what it takes, for however long it takes.
The internal conversation dies instantly as the beast within senses the people surrounding me. It isn’t scent, really, because there isn’t actually a beast. It’s just another part of my fragmented mind, “sniffing” out the minds of those in my immediate vicinity. I’ve tried stretching it out, just for practice, but it usually just gives me a nosebleed and a headache.
But these ones are close. They’re human—the mutants don’t give off a vibe. I try not to rely on this psychic bullshit too much, because the one man in the world that I’m scared of doesn’t give off a vibe, either. The beast growls in my head, already working itself up into a bloodlust.
“Ya’ll might as well come out,” I yell into the woods around me. I’ve been walking East on the highway, mostly because of the overwhelming amount of convenience stores that litter the roadsides. Easy food that doesn’t go bad. “I’m unarmed,” I yell, holding up my arms.
“I’m just passing through, so if you don’t want any trouble, neither do I!”
“And if we do?” A voice calls from the woods.
“Then you’ve got all you can handle and more,” I call back.