Author’s Note: I can’t always promise that updates will come this fast (and let’s be real—no one really wants that anyway. It’s a busy world! People have things to do other than read my strange stories!) but for now I have a fire lit under my ass about these two. I love them, and I love telling their story, so I hope you’ll indulge me these rapid-fire updates while they last.
Also, the vibes between Alexis and Moriah are weird and going to get weirder, so you might want to tap out if that’s not your scene. <3
Alexis is hungry again. She wishes she’d had the foresight to pick up another loaf of bread in that last town. She’d thought of it, but the outside of the convenience store gave her the creeps. There was a sickly green light coming from inside, seafoam-hued and wrong. Probably nothing would’ve happened. She should’ve gone in anyway.
She’s thinking of grabbing the jar of peanut butter from the back when Moriah turns the radio down. The man talking to dead air trails off into nothingness like someone falling asleep mid-sentence.
All your money won’t save you unless…
“I miss Bible-thumpers,” Alexis says, the first words she’s spoken in miles. Her voice feels rusty from disuse. It sounds like badly oiled hinges. “Like the genuine article. Not these off-brands.”
Moriah snorts. “What, the world’s not nutty enough for you?”
Alexis looks out the window. It’s raining. Everything is cloaked in amorphous grey, and droplets cling to the glass. “I miss predictable varieties of nut. This variety pack is for the birds.”
Alexis puts her fingers on the glass, tracing constellations over the raindrops just to annoy Moriah, who doesn’t notice. She turns to her sister. “So.”
What did you want to talk about? hangs unspoken. Alexis wishes she wouldn’t.
“About Chapel Hill—” Moriah says.
“I just wanted to say—”
Moriah ignores her. Of course she does. “I just wanted to say I’m sorry.” She looks away from the road long enough to glare defiantly at Alexis.
“And now you have.” Beat. “Even though I told you not to.”
“Yep.” She pops her p like a fucking brat.
Alexis sighs. “Can we listen to the radio now?”
Moriah relents and flips the switch back on. It’s her way of saying sorry. “But no more manic preachers. You know I hate that shit.”
She turns the tuning dial with one hand on the wheel, her eyes only half on the road. Alexis sinks further into her seat.
It’s damn hot in the car. She hopes the rain lets up soon. She grabs the goddamn peanut butter.
* * *
They don’t stop in motels. She doesn’t remember exactly when that stopped being an option, but Alexis doesn’t ask, and Moriah doesn’t offer. They need to sleep sometime, so they do it where they can. In the car, mostly. Windows rolled up so nothing can get at them. Alexis sleeps best when they’re in motion, the endless breeze of the endless road whipping across her face. She sleeps best when they’re in motion, but she sleeps fine when they’re at rest, her seat tilted back, the breath of her and her sister mingling into a fine, humid mist that smells like the two of them, unwashed and familiar.
She could climb in the back. The backseat is always waiting, but Alexis outgrew it a long time ago. She doesn’t like sleeping with her legs jammed up against the door like she’s bracing for something. She doesn’t like getting out of the car in the near-perfect dark, not even in the light of rusted, winking bar signs. Not even for the seconds it’d take to hop out one door and in another.
Moriah sleeps in the driver’s seat, always. Keys in the ignition. She’s always ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Tonight is a stopping night. Even Moriah is human, curled up in the driver’s seat with her long, black hair everywhere and her arm pillowed beneath her head. Tonight, Alexis can’t sleep. The comforting dark of nothing won’t come, and she stares up at the roof of their car in its absence. There are stains on the ceiling, ones whose shape she can just barely make out in the dark. She traces them with her eyes.
“Yeah?” Whisper-quiet. Indoor voices.
“I’m sorry I got mad.”
The answer doesn’t come for a long time, so long that Alexis thinks Moriah must be asleep. “‘s okay.”
Moriah’s hand reaches out of the darkness to squeeze hers, fingers warm and dry. Alexis catches her hand and squeezes back.
This is where she belongs. Shoulder to shoulder with her sister with the gearshift between them. She gazes out at the lights across the horizon. There’s nothing but a clear field of wheat, waving tops as far as the eye can see. Occasional crackles of heat lightning blaze across the sky.
* * *
Not every day is so dire. They have their good days too, same as anyone.
Some days, the darkness lets up. Some days it’s nothing but the sweet scent of freshly cut grass wafting up from a field, weak, watery sunlight that almost, almost justifies Alexis’ sunglasses.
They still don’t have enough to eat. Alexis’ stomach is turning itself properly inside out, gnawing at itself, and that’s a real drag—it dampens the glory of the sunlight a little bit, and she wonders if Moriah will let her suck on her fingers the way she used to when the hunger pains got too bad. Wonders if Moriah will dip her fingers in a bit of sour milk or faintly sugared water, little filched white sugar packets halfheartedly dissolved in a glass of water—Alexis wonders if she will. But Alexis has gotten too old, and there’s this cavern of space between them now. She’s far too smart to ask, so she twists her hair into a long, slippery rope and sucks the ragged end of it instead.
“Gross,” Moriah says, but there’s no heat in it, none at all because she’s hungry, Moriah knows she’s hungry. Moriah is hungry too, and they’re only human after all, so Moriah doesn’t say anything else, just loops her arm around the back of Alexis’ shoulder and guides her like it’s nothing. Touch feels good, after all this time. It makes everything feel a little less dire, like it’s not supposed to be, so Alexis lets herself be steered and doesn’t put up a fuss.
“Remember when we had picnics in fields like this? Gooseberries and toast and those little white cookies with the rock sugar on top.”
“You used to eat most of the cookies like a jerk,” she says around the hair in her mouth.
Moriah shrugs. “I was bigger.”
There’s a tree a ways in the distance, a heavy-leaning one right in the middle of the brown grass field. Everything crunches underfoot, mostly dead and a little crispy. Nothing grows without the light. They aim their feet towards the tree.
They don’t talk as much these days. Alexis thinks they used to talk more, but then, there used to be more things to talk about. Now, not so much. It’s not all bad. They still have the sound of a living, breathing person next to them. Alexis listens hard and tries to tell the difference between the sound her shoes make in the field and the sound Moriah’s make. It bothers her that she can’t. Today, it bothers her.
They sit down in the grass, under the canopy of the tree out of habit. It hardly matters. Its branches are mostly bare and in this kind of light, shade is a concept that belongs to another time. They sit beside it anyway. Moriah leans her back against the tree and opens her arms, inviting Alexis to lean against her if she wants.
She does. It feels good to be held after days of nothing but peeling upholstery under her legs, nothing but faux leather under her fingers. Moriah is angular and bony, just like she is, but it’s harder to tell under the layers of clothes. The knobby edge of a knee digs into the small of Alexis’ back, but she says nothing. She leans back, letting her head rest against the shelf of Moriah’s collarbone. She looks at the sky—its ragged, washed out edges through the shape of the branches.
“Do you think we’ll ever settle down?” Alexis asks. Her mind is starting to wander. She can feel herself starting to dream.
She feels rather than sees Moriah’s shrug against her back. That’s her answer to everything these days—a shrug, a nod, pursed lips and a slight shake of her head. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. It’s not a kindness that Alexis keeps asking, but she can’t find it in herself to stop.
“Do you want to?” Moriah asks her.
Alexis doesn’t answer for a while. She doesn’t think about what she’ll say so much as she pays close attention to the air filling her lungs. The slow, steady pressure against her ribs as she draws it in, the emptiness when it’s gone. She can hear her blood pounding in her ears.
“I don’t know that I could ever feel safe,” Alexis says.
She tries to turn around to look at Moriah, but Moriah keeps her still inside the cage of her limbs. Alexis doesn’t fight very hard. She’d like to see her face, but this is still where she wants to be. There’s no sense fighting something that you want.
She wonders if Moriah nods, if she cries, if she makes the sour face she makes when Alexis is being ridiculous. She knows her sister so well, but there are still things she can’t predict. She figures it’s a good thing. If you’re stuck with someone at the end of the world, it’s probably good if they don’t give away the game too soon. She wonders what they’ll do when they finally know everything, and it’s a sobering thought.
Her belly gurgles again, loud and insistent, making itself known in case she’d forgotten.
Moriah slides a hand down from where she has both arms draped across Alexis’ body. She puts it on the hollow of Alexis’ belly and presses down into the ache. She rubs hard over skin stretched tight and concave, and Alexis sighs and goes boneless, leaning into the touch.
“We’ve gotta get you something to eat,” Moriah says, and Alexis doesn’t disagree.
They’re human, after all. Maybe keep your sister fed needs to be another rule, like keep the car gassed. She thinks of how often she’s failed with a sinking sensation and hopes the rule doesn’t apply retroactively.
“In a little bit,” she says. “The light is just so…”
She doesn’t finish that thought. She doesn’t really have to.