“What do you think it will be like?” Ashlee’s voice sounded small in the night. They were camped out on top of the resort’s gym after wrestling two mattresses onto the roof and a few sleeping bags. The northern lights danced above them and even in April it was cold. They could hear bears wandering the streets, smelling the air, sensing there were humans here again, and therefore, food. But the doorway to the gym’s room was barricaded with weights, many of them, so both women felt reasonably safe.
“I’ve thought a lot about that.” Frankie whispered, knowing what Ashlee had asked. They held hands in the darkness and watched the sky ablaze in color and light. A falling star flashed around the sky and it broken into pieces right before it disappeared. Both women squeezed the hand holding her own and both smiled.
“I’m useless except as a sex toy, if it’s up to us to repopulate the world” Ashlee spoke louder, as if she were warding off sleep. Frankie had spent nearly twenty-four hours a day with this person for the last nine months. She could sense fear in Ashlee’s voice.
“It could be very bad, Ash.” Frankie agreed with the unspoken thought. “But do you think we can stay up here forever?” And there it was, in the open, for both to examine. Now that one of them had said it aloud, they were going to have to speak about what the future held for them, as a couple, as partners, as lovers, and as women.
There was a splash in the lake and both women realized their hearing had become more attuned to the sounds of the night. Instinctively, they squirmed a little closer together, shifted their bodies as they had thousands of times in the last nine months as they sought love or warmth, or both. But the question had been raised and after a winter in the Canadian wilderness neither woman was a cowed by hard questions.
“If we make the crossroads and there’s no one there, or just a few people, how do you think they’ll feel about us being lovers?” Ashlee asked the question they had both wondered about. “Do we have an obligation, do you have an obligation, to reproduce?” Ashlee turned over on her wide and touched Frankie’s face with her hand, and felt the chill on both their skins. “What do we owe the human race right now? Do we owe it to our families to go looking for them? Randall said two years. We don’t want to try to walk out of Canada in the fall so do we leave in the spring? Do we leave a year from now? What’s it going to be like if one of us gets appendicitis? Almost any mistake we make out here is going to kill us. We go back to civilization and if the rape culture was bad before there were laws what do you think it’s going to be like when anyone with a gun can do anything he wants?”
“Yeah, I know.” Was all Frankie could say, and there was nothing else to say. Stay? Go? How long before one of the two of them broke a bone or got sick? What if…? The ways to die in the wild never stopped stalking them. Yet they both knew if civilization had failed women would bear the brunt of a lawless society. They held hands in silence.
“I have to pee.” Frankie said and went to the edge of the building to relieve herself. They had grown accustomed to having no plumbing but always designated a place for that purpose so they would not step in it accidently. Hand sanitizer was something they both carried, doubly paranoid while in the resort, but Randall said if it was a bio weapon it would have to be designed to die off as quickly as it killed. The men in the lab who built it wouldn’t want it to survive very long or it might make it back to its owners. Still, even once harmless diseases were potentially fatal now.
“I don’t want to go back.” After an hour or so, Ashlee spoke again. Both women had learned a lot about patience during the winter. “Do you?”
“We have a year to think about it.” Frankie replied. “And no, I’m not putting the question off, I’m really torn about it. I miss my family. I miss Georgia. I miss the heat. I miss people, a little, and I want to know, I think we have to know what happened, how bad it was, and if there’s people out there who need us. We’re going to starve to death if we can’t grow some plants to eat and we’re going to die of something up here sooner or later, even if we try really hard, we’re bear bait as soon as the ammo runs out.” The words came out in a rush.
“So what if our worst fears are realized and we’re trading bears and cold winters for men out there who don’t give a damn about rebuilding the world and are just looking to tie us up and use us until they get tired of it or kill us? If things have gotten truly bad out there we might wind up being sold on a block or simply beaten into submission. You’ve heard at how bad it is for guys in prison. The guards turn a blind eye to everything that happens and long as no one tries to escape and no one is killed. This is how the weaker prisoners are forced to live for decades sometimes. I know, I know this is worse case scenario for us, but we have to consider that going back is a lot worse than dying together up here.” Ashlee started crying and she realize she was close, they were close, to having their first real fight. This was a disagreement that mattered more so than anything else they had ever spoken about. “Tell me you love me.”
“I love you,” Frankie said as she took the smaller woman in her arms, “you know I do.”
They held one another without the promise or thought of physical passion and Ashlee finally spoke again. “Let’s agree to talk about this once a month. We will write down the good the bad and the ugly and we’ll leave one year from today, if we are going to leave, and we will agree to wait another year, if we both don’t agree to leave.”
“That’s fair, Ash.” Frankie said and she felt as if they had weathered the storm, that compromise had been offered and accepted, and they still had to survive another winter. But this time they had a long time to build up their fuel, and they had more food, and more weapons, and they were getting very good at killing bears.
But what do you think? Stay or go? You have all the info they do.