Chapters:

Two For the Road

M’name’s Genesis. My sister Exodus likes t’ make up stories ’bout our parents an’ where we come from, but I know the truth.

Most of it, anyway.

Mom died giving birth to Exodus, so it’s jus’ been the two of us for six years. An’ before that it was jus’ me ’n mom. She protected me from Cutters, Chosen hunters, an’ now I protect Exodus.

Not from Cutters. She ain’t Chosen. I hide her from Cleansers an’ others who’ll murder anyone who ain’t quite ’norm.’

Exodus an’ me, we ain’t got th’ same daddy, but we’re family. My daddy died th’ week I was born - gone with all the others in th’ outbreak. Mom said it was the Chinese or the North Koreans who poisoned th’ water and spread the virus, but I don’t know much ’bout that. No one does. Jus’ boil th’ hell outta yer water afore you drink it. No one knows if its still makin’ us sick or not, but we all do it anyway. I don’t need to, I’m Chosen, but I do it for Exodus. She ain’t, an’ she’s got the mutie gene, but she ain’t sick yet so I boil the hell outta that water.

Her daddy was some biker runnin’ with a gang outta Charlotte town. He raped mom behind some old gas station that was growing tomatoes on the roof. She’d put me inna dumpster t’ hide me, but I saw. We jus’ kept movin’ on after that.

Been movin’ on since I got my red flower when I was eleven. The Cutters are allus lookin’ for Chosen who’re ripe, an’ mom wanted t’ keep me safe from their farms. I dun’t know ’xactly what they do with us, but I don’t want t’ find out, neither. She heard ’bout the City, up north, an’ that they’ve got pure water there, an’ a cure for the virus.

I don’t know ’bout that, but it was mom’s last wish for me t’ take baby Exodus t’ th’ City. So we’ve been walkin’ and travelin’ for years, not stayin’ in one place too long. Seen a lot of stuff, seen a lotta cities all burnt out an’ creepy, but ain’t found The City.

Been travelin’ up an’ old road for a while now, an’ Exodus is tired. Her limp makes us slow, but I can’t carry her all the time, especially since she’s six and gettin’ big. Had to hide from a group of bikers a bit ago, their engines throwin’ out a big chokin’ cloud of black smoke behind them. Saw a sign - Ne o City, 15 miles.

I dun’t really think this mysterious City exists, it’ll prolly just be another dead end. But as long as there’s some food and water, and a place to rest, we’ll prolly stay a while. Jus’ a while. Then we’ll hafta get on the road again.

There’s no place safe anymore, not for us, not for anyone.

------

"My feet hurt." Exodus dragged her feet on the rough asphalt, and finally stopped, her older sister walking on ahead.

Leaning against a car, she dramatically wiped at her forehead. "An’ I’m hungry."

"Fine," said Gen, who turned back and dug into her backpack. "Jus’ a short rest though. Gotta keep movin’." She tossed Exodus a twinkie, and the six year old ripped it open with practiced movements.

They sat on the trunk of the car, looking up the road at the direction they were headed. All the cars were headed the other direction, and there were a lot of them. Some had bones in them. There were bones on the road too, and bits of clothes, and the girls were careful to step around them.

"Why’re all the cars here?" Exodus asked for the millionth time.

"I don’t know."

"I do."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah." She munched on the twinkie, thinking. "There’re monsters up where we’re goin’."

"Could be."

"But," Exodus continued cheerfully, "There’re monsters behind us too. So th’ cars jus’ stopped and all the people runned away ’cause they had no where t’ go."

"Mmmhmm."

Exodus poked her sister, who was obviously not listening. "The bikers might come for the gas, right?"

"They prolly already did, Ex. A long time ago."

"Mebbe. Mebbe not." Exodus crumpled up her wrapper and carefully poked it into a hole in the metal of the car. A bug crawled out and onto her finger, and she giggled.

Gen got up, "Ready?"

"Yeah," and she squirmed down off the trunk, carefully putting the bug back on the car. Exodus stretched her left leg a bit, it was twisted and made walking difficult. Gen told her to tell people it was from an accident, but it was a mutie thing. Her toes were all webbed too, under her scuffed up shoes.

She liked to pretend she was turning into a mermaid, sometimes.

Gen was already walking off up the road, and she had to scurry to catch up.