My legs, no, my entire body just gave out, and I went down like a sack of potatoes. I barely felt that last step, but my face still had enough for me to wince at coming into contact with dry dirt uphill road.
I gave up trying to flip myself over, and just lay there on my stomach.The red sand felt hot to the touch, but still I didn’t move. The weight of my backpack was literally dragging me down, and I felt myself slowly sinking and sliding on the trail.
Someone was speaking behind me. Oh yeah. Johnny. He’s still here.
I fidgeted enough to make my head turn to look behind me. A large, blurry figure approached me, and a large shadow blocked the sun from shining directly onto me.
“Can you even hear me?” he repeated.
A hoarse groan seemed to squeeze itself out of me, and a corner of my mouth perked up.
A thud rather close to my head indicated that Johnny had dropped his pack. A little wind pressure following told me that he had crouched down beside me.
I felt him struggle for a moment trying to get my backpack off me. A little rush of cool wind touched my back and I almost moaned instinctively at the relief. What came out was more of a strangled sigh I think.
I think Johnny kept talking, but no words formed in my head, only muffles. I felt him slide a hand under my left shoulder and, with a little effort, flip me face-side up and roll me into his lap. I felt him move around a bit, and after a while something cool and wet dribbled across my lips.
Instinctively my hand raised to push the bottle closer to my mouth, but Johnny pushed my arm away.
“No no no, don’t. You’re gonna puke even if there’s nothing in you. And that’s gonna suck,” he cooed soothingly at me.
The droplets of water moistened my mouth and my parched lips. Slowly, my everything cleared, even just slightly. Johnny’s face began to sharpen in my vision and I realised he was in no better condition himself.
His hand that held the water bottle to my lips trembled as he tried to maintain the delicate trickle. Instead of being alert and bright like he usually was, he was slumped over me, trying so hard to focus on our surroundings for any impending danger. His eyes swam, unable to settle on anything.
Gaining enough energy, I tipped the bottle away and sat up.
“If I’d realised you were going to be this much trouble, I probably wouldn’t have kissed you,” he chuckled, taking a swig of water.
It was amazing to find that even in my state tears still formed in my eyes, and my chest tightened so fast breathing became hard again. I felt like falling over and curling up right then and there; on that red earth road.
Johnny must have noticed the state I was in. “Hey, I didn’t mean it,” he reached out and clapped my thigh. “Sarah?” He inched closer to me, brushing my hair away from my face.
By the way I was trying to keep the sob in my nose, I bet my face was as red as the dirt I collapsed on.
“O-kayy, it wasn’t that bad of a joke now?” he recoiled.
I let out a haggard breath. “I’m not gonna find them,” the sob escaped. “We’ve been walking for months now, and there’s NOTHING. There’s NOTHING!” I flopped forward and hit my head on the sand. The sobs became uncontrollable.
I’m not going to find them. Ken is going to die, do that Resident Evil metamorphosis shit, and just…just… everyone is going to die. And it’s all my fault. I have the antigen right here. RIGHT HERE with me. And I’m going to fail.
Just like I failed from preventing all this in the first place. I’m just gonna fail. And now I’m taking Johnny down with me.
I’m tired. I’m so so tired. I just… I can’t…
I fell to my side. And wished I didn’t have to take in one more breath. I could see Johnny sitting a little way off. Why wasn’t he walking away? Why wasn’t he saving himself the wreck that was me?
“We know where they’re headed right? Why don’t we just catch up with them there? Wherever that is,” his voice floated over.
The canyons. Can’t miss them, even if you don’t know how to read a map. Just follow the signs.
I’ve been following the gorram signs for who know how long, but I’m not reaching the friggin’ canyons. I’m not even seeing signs of any group passing through the places we’ve stopped by on the way. What’s telling me they’re still alive? That Ken hasn’t Hulked out yet and killed everyone? What’s the point anymore?
This batch will run out, just like the last one; and I don’t think Gaia is going to let me stroll in again and grab another.
I don’t think I’ll even survive another antigen run. So why the hell am I still looking? Why the hell am I still even trying?
“Why the hell are you still here?” I hear myself ask Johnny.
I hear him chuckle. “Kinda wondering that meself,” he clicks his tongue.
My sobs had stopped, and I lay where I was calmly. Almost too calmly. Have I reached it? Am I broken?
“Look. This one straight week of hiking hasn’t done us any good. We need, and I mean NEED to take a break. Just for a day, okay?” Johnny turned to me. “Your group’s human too. And I seriously doubt they are as tenacious as you,” he bent forward and pushed my hair out of my face again.
I could barely respond. My body has had enough of my quest-mission bullshit and was in the process of shutting itself down. I hear him sigh at the sight of me.
“And you’re wondering why I’m not leaving.”
Writer’s note: This was really difficult to get out because I am close to her level of exhaustion in real life. Mentally at least. And it’s my studies that are driving me nuts. And the antigen is all my work laid out before me in which I only have to do the simple task of writing my essay and study notes out.
I think I am really burnt out here 😦