White Horse

White Horse by Alex Adams Read Free Book Online

Book: White Horse by Alex Adams Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alex Adams
the first shift,” I reassure her. She rubs her eyes with balled fists, then curls up between the tree’s roots. My body stays rigid. I play games with it, tensing the muscles until they weaken, then relax so blood flows back in.
    Seconds tick by; minutes meander; the hours drag a ball and chain. Night is out there beyond the tree. It’s still there, waiting, watching, when I wake Lisa at two. I wish we had a dog. A dog has ears and eyes. A dog is always on guard, even in sleep.
    “Peach or strawberry?”
    “Peach,” she says, then settles against the tree trunk, half here, half in Dreamland, where the pretty things live.
    I worry that she’ll fall asleep. That whoever caused that explosion will find us here, vulnerable kittens for the snatching. That they’ll be a monster clad in human skin. And that my instincts won’t let me see the truth. But my mind is performing one last walk-through for the night,flicking off the switches of my consciousness. Worry is for the waking. So I roll onto my side, back protected by the tree’s broad trunk, and let my mind douse the last light.
DATE: THEN
    The world is ending, the population halved, then halved again. I have to get to Brindisi. I’m stuck at the airport waiting on a plane, any plane, to get me to Europe. No money changes hands; it’s meaningless now except as mattress stuffing.
    “You, you, and you,” the man says, pointing to me and two others. “We’re aiming for Rome. Do you accept the price?”
    I do. The price is nothing more than a bag of blood. I’ve got plenty of that.
    On the tarmac, they tap a vein. My fists clenches and releases to force the blood out faster.
    “Why blood?” I ask.
    The nurse preps another traveler’s arm, shoves the needle in deep.
    “There’s a small group of scientists who still believe they can stop this. Word is they think they can find a cure in healthy DNA.”
    “Really?”
    “That’s what they say. Course, I never cared much for what people say. It’s what they do that matters.” She passes my blood to someone else. The red liquid sloshes in the bag. “Have a cookie.”
    Everyone ahead of me is holding a fortune cookie. We’re too dazed to eat them. My mind feels detached from my body like it’s a full step behind the rest of me, a lagging toddler trying to make sense of a much bigger, more adult picture.
    There is no attendant with a breezy impersonal smile ushering us onto the plane, just a couple of soldiers holding weapons they look too young to carry. A few short years ago their mothers were tucking them into their beds, and now they’re primed to kill if necessary. The toy soldiers don’t speak as I inch my way past and drop into the nearest empty seat, but their eyes swivel, then snap to attention. I take the aisle although the window is vacant. I don’t want to look out and down. I don’t need to pretend things are normal. That kind of self-deceptioncan only lead to madness. It’s best to accept that this is and all the blood donations in the world can’t drag the calendar backwards.
    People squeeze down the aisle after me. Some have nothing. Others are minimalists like me, toting a single backpack and maybe a pillow.
    A worn woman stops inches away. She hugs a small Louis Vuitton suitcase to her chest. “Is that seat taken?”
    “It is now.” Although I mean to sound light, my words are pancake flat.
    I swivel my knees toward the window to let her past. She settles in the seat, suitcase perched upon her lap. Strange, I think, until I realize I’m doing the same thing.
    “I love Rome,” she says. “It’s romantic. More so than Paris, I believe. Have you been?”
    “This is my first time.”
    We are a parody of normality. Strangers discussing travel like two robots mimicking human speech.
    “Are you married?”
    “No.”
    “You should go with someone you love. I did. My husband. Well, husbands. They loved Rome. They’re both dead now.” Her knuckles tighten on the bag’s impeccably

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