She looked around quickly, to see if anything had been taken.
There weren’t many people left above ground, but Sara knew there were a few stragglers left behind, clinging to the past just like herself. The abandoned home was an oddity—not a single broken window, no busted doors, and everything seemed intact. Inside, dust covered every inch, but otherwise pristine like an untouched memory of the old world.
Sara found canned beans, soup, and even canned peaches, which she took instantly. Fruits were practically dessert now. Curtains for cloth, chairs for wood, and even a collection of swords in what appeared to be a teenage boy’s room. She took one of them, a saber from a time before revolvers and machine pistols, and felt its sharp edge with the tip of her finger. She remembered when she tried fencing as a young girl, but ultimately quit to join the Girl Scouts, and then quit that because it was too tame.
A violent, shattering sound broke the peaceful silence inside the home. Sara hid behind the open door to the teenagers room with the saber in her hand. She heard boots crushing glass, and two cheery men with voices weathered by smoking and alcohol.
“Well shit, looka’ this,” one of them said.
“Let’s not tell this to the camp, Jack. More for a’ selves, y’know?” the other said.
“I was jus’ thinkin’ the same thing, I’m sta—starv—” he sneezed like a wild boar. “Fuckin’ dust everywhere.”
Sara heard the two men walk to different rooms, scanning the inside of the home. She couldn’t believe how quickly her luck changed. She wanted to run, but the wooden floorboards would quickly screech about her presence. For a moment, she even hoped someone would come save her. But that only happened in movies and books, and she quickly threw that hope away. The heavy footsteps thumped louder towards her room. She braced herself for violence and wiped the cold sweat from her palms. The sword shook in her hand. A thin man with hair rustled like a bird’s nest came into the room, his back to Sara.
“Hey Jack, com’ere! These’r some cool lookin’ swords!” he said, staring at the collection on the wall. He was unarmed.
Sara took a deep breath, lunged and struck his neck. Through the saber, Sara could feel the blade slice through muscle and stopped by bone. Immediately, blood started to pour down the man’s back and he stumbled forward to let out a screaming burst of pain. He turned around and Sara was stunned for a moment as she looked into the man’s shocked eyes.
“Jack! Ja—” she hit him again, breaking his collarbone with the heavy blade and cutting deep into his upper body. More blood, and he collapsed to a fetal position on the floor.
In the corner of her eye, she saw Jack aim at her with a revolver. She ducked just as he pulled the trigger, and the burst of gunfire rung in her ears. He shot twice but missed.
Hiding behind the wall near the door, the only sounds in the home now were the hyperventilating breaths of the dying man on the floor. No footsteps. Maybe he’s out of bullets? Sara thought. No, he probably knew exactly how many he had, and he was still here because he still had some left. She wiped the bloody blade on the bed sheets next to her and extended the mirror-like metal into the doorway. The man’s reflection told her he was possibly only fifteen feet away. An idea came to mind, and she acted quickly.
“Come on out, or I’ll ‘av to kill you ‘ere,” Jack shouted. Sara took out the can of peaches from before, a hefty thirty ounces, slid out of cover and threw it with all her might at the man. The metal can slipped through his raised hands and smashed into his startled face. She darted at him, one of his hands covered half of his face while the other pointed the gun at Sara. He fired and missed point-blank, and a vicious slice across his forearm stopped his next shot, then a fumbled hit to the head with her sword managed to knock him unconscious.
She took the revolver and inspected how to open the drum, only to find three empty bullet casings, nothing more. Her body shaking, Sara took the dented can of peaches and ran outside, still tightly gripping the saber in one hand.
I don’t know if I can handle this life above ground anymore, she reflected. Then again, she couldn’t call the alternative a “life”. She spent the rest of the day in the forest nearby, calming down under a tall oak tree that thrived in the heightened solar radiation. Only the wind rustled the leaves; no bird or animal disturbed Sara’s peace.