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Afterward: Chapter 3

She started awake in the morning in a state of confusion. Usually woken up very early by someone from her group so they could go scavenge before it got too hot out in the afternoons, her body was unused to having time to sleep in. It woke her up fairly early and, in her exhausted state from a night-time of adventure both intentional and otherwise, she didn't immediately recognize where she was.

Quickly acclimating to where she was, she did another lap of the apartment to make sure that everything remained undisturbed. She was quickly satisfied that not only was everything as it had been left, but that her friend from the night before hadn't come back to check on her. That was good.

Investigating the cupboards more thoroughly, she found a number of cans, mostly containing different kinds of pasta in a red sauce that posed as tomato. She had had fresh tomatoes once or twice and she was convinced that whoever made these sauces had been in a similar situation. Checking the calories she saw that there were 230 calories per cup. She ran some quick mental math in her head, comparing this number to the required amount that had been drilled into her. A minimum of 1750 calories a day, more if possible. She wanted to have at least some cover when the inevitable scolding happened, and it was easier if she could at least be honest about getting her calories. Try to get a mix of the other numbers. She sighed at the extra weight she was going to have to carry, and added nearly a dozen cans to her bag. There was always a can of beans she mused, adding it to the backpack. It was like some sort of requirement. She took the last can from the cupboard and carefully cut it open with her knife. Not expecting this night time excursion, she looked around the kitchen for utensils and a can opener while she carefully poured the contents of the first can into her mouth.

Chewing thoughtfully, she grabbed a fork from a drawer she found and decided against bringing the can opener with her. The knife would do just fine and she didn't really want to carry the extra weight. These things added up quickly and you had to be vigilant, her father's voice echoed in her head. Take just what's necessary, let the rest fall off of you like water.

"That's a weird saying actually," she said, to no one in particular, "I mean, my hair holds on to water for hours."

Unlocking the front door, she carved a reminder to herself that she had already looted this place. She finished the can of ravioli, made by some "Boy-R-Dee," as she entered the lobby of the building. Pulling a Zippo lighter out of her pocket, and a cigarette from her backpack, and lit up. Taking a long drag she momentarily thought that the entirety of the excitement from the night before had been worth it. Hoisting the backpack onto her back, and fastening all the buckles that kept it clinging tight against her frame to ensure that movement was easy and calorically efficient, she set out back to where her people were set up.

#

It didn't take long for her to stride into the lobby of the apartment building that her group had set up in. They seemed to have settled into a pattern of spending the summer, when it was too hot to be out during the middle of the day, and the winter, when it was too cold and snowstorms could blow in seemingly from nowhere, in a single place. Spring and autumn were usually spent relocating and gathering food. She had figured that they would pack up to find somewhere to move again soon. Without knowing how the decisions were made, as they were regularly hashed out between some of the adults behind closed doors, she wasn't positive where they would be going. She had noticed, however, that they tended to try for areas with more green space in the summer: old residential neighbourhoods that sometimes had wild vegetables. She had been told that these were people's gardens that had gone wild. In the winter, by contrast, they tended to hole up in or near old stores. It made it easier to store things and make sure they had enough for the winter.

No one was there. Usually they had at least one person out in the lobby watching for animals or the other people that they would run into sometimes. She didn't like when that happened. Usually it was violent, or at least threatening violence. A lot of the time it felt like running into other groups of people was just problems waiting to happen.

"Hello? Mark? Simon? Its me!"

She felt her hair twinge up on the back of her neck.. There was never no-one here. They would always leave at least a few people behind to defend the stores. Even when she went missing, which had happened before, some people would stay behind for her inevitable sauntering through the front door. Usually she was able to calm most people down with a share of whatever spoils she had brought back. Hence grabbing so many cigarettes.

She wandered up the staircase to the side of the lobby, glancing again at the elevator that was now stuck, unresponsive, on the first floor. She dimly remembered a time when she was young that they had moved; when the world had been different. She could understand the convenience of that, but when the adults talked about how easy it had been to take the elevator every time they wanted to take the groceries upstairs she thought that they must have been unapologetically lazy.

She headed upstairs to check some of the apartments that she knew people were staying in. Occasionally people would move from one unit to another during a stay if someone got too stupid and punched a hole in the wall or some other problem arose, but she knew where everyone was staying, other than the occasional person she would see sheepishly leaving an apartment that wasn't theirs after they had been rutting the night before. That had happened more when there were more of them.

The place had been looted: empty cans were strewn about,with the rejects from someone else looting the place left behind. There was a single, browned, apple core on the floor, a testament to someone having been relaxed enough to eat while this had gone on. She started running from room to room, trying to figure out what happened. The scene repeated itself from room to room and, in her panic, they blended together. Even her room had been torn apart: her sleeping bag was gone, her blankets had been torn up, and even her stash of food, cigarettes, and anything else of value should could find but didn't want to trade had been ransacked.

Eyes welling up with tears, she ran about the building looking for someone. They were already long gone. She knew that, deep down. It was just one of the stages that she had to go through. There was no way that they were left behind. There was a lack of blood; that much managed to pierce her consciousness while in her frantic state..

Later, she collapsed down to the floor. Something had happened here. She had to figure it out. There was little that could be done at this point. She had to prioritize, she knew. It was a matter of being organized. She had a backpack worth of cigarettes. Not much food though. A little that she had on her person, but not enough to make it more than a few days. Water would be easy enough to find; there was a river nearby and plenty of ways to make a fire. She had even been taught how to make a mostly smokeless fire. She knew how to survive for at least the short run. Maybe she'd be able to trap rodents, a small rabbit or a squirrel. Her main concern, however, was something had torn through this place. Something that wasn't her people. Her people didn't "tear through" things. They were methodical and used every scrap that they could as efficiently as they could. That's what ground on her nerves.

Alright. She had to figure out an order of operations. What was that thing that the guy who said he used to fly say? Ooda. It stood for something. Orient, Observe... and something. She couldn't remember. It had to do with what to do when you were panicking. Not panicking anymore she shrugged and figured she had to find, in no particular order, food and someplace to stay. She had to, also, avoid the wendigo that she now knew was in the area and whoever got into this place. It had to be a who because doors were opened. Wendigo didn't bother with that they just rammed the door down. Oh, and she probably needed a gun. Adults always had guns to deal with things, and she knew that they could take down just about any threat that came up. So, a few things to do. Only one place to start.

She stretched, shouldered on her backpack, and started walking. Thinking, she tried to envision where they were. She knew she was near the ocean, at least if Mark was telling the truth this time. She hadn't seen one before, at least not in person. Apparently the water wasn't safe to drink. The river fed into it. She understood, conceptually, that it was just a really large lake that wasn't drinkable. Heading up there would be one way to get a good view. Heading downstream towards the really tall buildings would be a much better way.