Even with my enhanced abilities, the hike back to the camp was grueling.
We headed back into the mountains, not following any sort of pattern or trail that I could see. Another boulder dislodged itself as I stepped on it and I held back a curse as I went sliding down a few feet before I caught myself again. Normally I wasn't this clumsy.
I guess battling two hordes in one day takes a lot out of you.
"How much longer do we have?" I struggled to keep my breathing even. Just because I felt as bruised and busted as the helicopter I'd crashed didn't mean I had to let my new "friends" know. I didn't think we'd be braiding each other's hair anytime soon, and I needed all the help I could get if they decided I was a threat.
"About 11 more minutes till we hit camp," Roy panted, clearly making no effort to hide how out of breath he was. Sweat dripped off his face and coated the back of his thin t-shirt.
"Why do you care what time it is? Sundown and sunup are the only times that matter anymore." Marta tramped passed us, attempting—and failing—to disguise a limp.
"Cramp?" I asked sweetly. Marta just glared back at me.
"No use in counting anything but the number of infected." She said. What a charmer.
"Not for me," Roy grinned as he fished something on a chain out of his pocket. The last rays of the sun glinted off of the gold exterior as he swung it back and forth on the chain. "Ol' Grandda's pocket watch. Been through two world wars and a couple small ones besides."
"Can I see it?" I asked. Roy tossed it to me. My hand snatched it from the air before my brain caght up-a sign of just how tired I was. "Aren't you worried about tossing it around?"
"Nah. Grandda always said it would survive the end of the world." He gestured to the barren landscape. "Looks like it has."
It did look a lot worse for wear. The golden surface was marked with dents and scratches, its simple geometric design as scuffed as a well-worn shoe.
I flicked the watch open. The dial must have been white originally, but it had faded to a warm yellow. It was a simple watch little design to get in the way of its function. The words "Reality can be beaten with enough imagination," were engraved on the case opposite the watch face. It wasn't pretty to look at, but it felt like a challenge. I've made it this far, it seemed to say, I'd like to see you do better.
"You should take better care of it." I handed it back to Roy carefully. I could barely remember the last time I had something that was more than just a tool to survive. I'd never been one for keeping knick knacks, even before the outbreak, and I'd left my few personal items at the mansion above the Hive.
"It's not like I keep it around so's I can tell the time." Roy said, polishing it on his filthy shirt. "I just like to think that—well, since it saw my grandfather through a few rough times, maybe it'll see me through a few more." He shrugged. "Or not.
Jemison had stopped a few feet ahead.
"We're here." He said.
Jemison lead us to a rocky outcropping. He pushed aside what looked like a large rock, but was actually a piece of reinforced camouflaged metal. The opening dropped down into the earth and into the darkness.
How fucking ironic. I thought to myself. It looks like Alice is going down the Rabbit Hole.
If there was a God, he had a twisted sense of humor.