Breathless

The car was almost done refueling. Aron’s breath was misting on the inside of my oxygen mask. He turned turned back to see his daughter, Jill, gesticulating wildly in a direction away from the car. He turned his eyes to where she was pointing, and cursed.

“Zombies!”

He frantically returned the fuel nozzle back to its dock and quickly went back into the car as the zombies got nearer, but he zoomed off before they reached the car.

Phew. Aron pulled off his oxygen mask, and turned the thermostat lower to cool his sweat off.

“Pa, why they keep chasing us?” asked Jill.

“They’re just oxygen-deprived, kid,” Aron said over his shoulder. “With air so bad, I won’t be surprised if we started acting like that if we ever ran out of our oxygen supply. They just want some hope of oxygen, in their asphyxiated, crazed state, they just want something, anything that will help them breathe.”

“Why won’t we help them, Pa?”

“No way, kid. We only have enough oxygen to last the two of us for the next week as we head down to the Amazon. I’m sorry, Jill, but we can barely even help ourselves.”

The road stretched out far along the hot, Arizona desert. The sun was already setting, and the sky was an unearthly purplish hue. The sun was blurred behind the immense smog and gaseous refraction. Sky ain’t how it was like when I was a kid, thought Aron.

He turned back for a while to look at Jill. Her face was haunted by her first encounter with the mad men. “It’s alright Jill, they can’t walk fast because they barely have enough oxygen in their lungs. Just sulphur dioxide and other noxious gases driving them crazy. You should get some rest, it’ll be a long drive across to Mexico.”

Jill nodded, and curled up in the backseat. “I wish we didn’t have to leave New Haven,” she said.

But we had to, thought Aron. The Greenhouse had been destroyed by that freak hurricane, and we would have died if we had stayed. Poor Jill, she never knew a life outside of New Haven.

“Go to sleep, will ya,” said Aron.

“OK, Pa.”

The moon started to rise, big and obscenely yellow.

“Don’t worry, Jill,” Aron continued to talk as he went down the darkening road. ” “Promise, soon you’ll be able to get out of the car and breathe easy in the Amazon. It’s all real plants there, you’ll just need to put your face in the leaves to get a good dose of oxygen. You’ll be able to breathe easy soon.”

Jill had already fallen asleep. The oxy-meter on the dashboard was at 40 percent.

“We’ll be able to breathe easy soon…”

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