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With her back turned to me, I couldn’t tell when or if Katarina was asleep. She did feel like she was always at the ready, and any time I made any major movement, her body tensed. However, she didn’t make any movements or any attempts to speak to me, so I decided to stop focusing on her.

I lay down and tried to find a comfortable spot, but I realized that it was impossible to sleep in this apocalyptic world. I was on a hard, broken tile floor. The floor was chilly and the air was hot, creating a mix that made my stomach turn. Or maybe, it was the smell of death and decay that seemed to cling to everything in this world. The look matched the smell. The paint had almost completely peeled from the walls. Every metal surface was weathered and rusted. This looked like a world that had been abandoned. This was a world that had ended.

Katarina had mentioned the Great Fall, but I didn’t need her words to understand that this was an Apocalyptic world. It came as no surprise to me just looking at it. This wasn’t a single city that happened to be abandoned. This was an entire world turned to waste. The only thing I didn’t know was the cause of this fall. Disease? War? Famine? All of the above? Given how everyone acted over my food, I had to believe famine was part of it.

My stomach grumbled. I was pretty hungry at this point. However, after seeing all those men kill each other over food, I didn’t even have the guts to ask for some of my food back from Katarina. Tomorrow, we’d reach the mirror, and I’d be able to eat all I wanted. What would I do with her though? Would I take Katarina back with me through the mirror? Would I abandon her on this side? How would I do that? The easiest way would be to smash the mirror.

There were anti-cancer drugs on this side though. There was a chance I could cure my mother. I couldn’t destroy that chance because I was afraid, right? Katarina was cold, but she hadn’t done anything particularly malicious, right?

I shifted in my sleep once again. Whether it was the smell, the look, or the feel… there was just no way I could get to sleep in this world. The blanket I had left behind wouldn’t have made the difference either. It was laughable how I thought I could just camp in this place overnight. The giant mutant rat should have made me more cautious than that. It was the fear for my mother that had pushed me back through the mirror so quickly.

“Screeee!” A creature that I had never heard before made a noise outside.

I realize I could hear the sound of other things trouncing around in the dark as well. I shivered, caught between intense fear and a stubbornness that I needed to get my hands on that medicine. I decided the next morning, I would chance pissing Katarina off and beg her to tell me about the drugs. I’d have to lose all pretense that I was a colonist, but she already thought I was lying, so it didn’t matter.

“Mm… hah… no… please… sister…” I glanced over to Katarina.

She was asleep now, but it was a fitful sleep. Her head had fallen back, and she was no longer hiding her expression from me. Her brows were tense and her eyes were rapidly moving behind her eyelids. She kept muttering things. Part of it was incomprehensible, but part of it was clear as day.

“Please…” she whimpered.

A small tear fell down her cheek. I had noticed her beauty before, but it was hard to appreciate given her icy and violent exterior. She was a rough and dangerous woman. However, in sleep, she felt so vulnerable and innocent. It enhanced her beauty and charm by several times. I couldn’t help but admire her body.

My sister and mother were immaculate beauties, and over the years, I had seen them prance around the house in nothing but their underwear. I even walked in on them showering once or twice. In a way, it had ruined me regarding women. Although I was short, and that turned a lot of women off, I attracted a lot of girls at my school anyway. I guess, I had pretty good looks too, although I always thought I was too scrawny and short to truly be attractive like a traditional man.

I never had an interest in women though. Some people at school even thought I was gay. I didn’t care what they thought, so I didn’t confirm or deny it. I just found I had very high standards when it came to women thanks to having such a knock out mother and sister. This woman in front of me was the first in my life who excited me with her looks. It caught me off guard.

Of course, I wasn’t shallow enough to date a girl just because of her looks. They also had to have a loving and peaceful personality. My mother and sister were extremely nice. They always did their chores with a smile, and never thought an evil thing about anyone. Even after everything mom experienced in life, she was still an optimist who could face the world with a straight back and a smile. She always treated people nicely, and no matter how many nasty people ended up coming after my family, she’d never lost that light in her eyes. I just wanted to find a woman determined and strong like that.

So, in conclusion, it wasn’t like I was interested in my mother or my sister. I just wanted to date a girl exactly like them. I made a bitter expression as those thoughts entered my head.

Maybe not exactly like them. Katarina was very different. However, she seemed to have the same strength and desire to continue on that they did, so I couldn’t help but comparing the three women.

With such flippant thoughts in my mind, I found myself slipping off into a troubling and dark sleep as well. I was glad I couldn’t remember anything from those dreams. The next thing I remembered was a boot kicking my side.

My eyes opened and immediately went to the beautiful woman standing over me. From this angle, her legs looked like they went on and on. She was looking down at me with pursed lips like she was trying to figure me out. I stared at her in confusion for a bit before my memory returned to me, and I realized I was in some apocalyptic world still. We had made it through the night without being disturbed, so that left me feeling relieved.

I saw a few more empty cans of food telling me she had eaten breakfast while I was asleep. I looked up at her as I sat up.

“Can I at least get some water? They say it has less value, right?”

“They’re talking about de-radiated water. If they had tasted this water, they definitely wouldn’t have dismissed it so easily.” She responded. “You can process and filter water easily enough, but it doesn’t taste like this.”

I had to take her word for it. If I remembered correctly, this water wasn’t even pure but was mixed in its special way. They filter out all the contaminants, and then put back certain things to enhance the flavor. Normal purified or boiled water might taste a little stale. If this world didn’t have mixed drinks, then the taste of water might be a guilty pleasure.

“I might collapse.” I defended innocently.

She frowned, and then after a moment pulled out a container and handed it to me. “Freaking colonist.”

It wasn’t one of the bottles, but it appeared to be a thermos filled with her water. I was thirsty, so I opened it up and took a drink. Only to spit it out a moment later. It had a chalky taste to it that was extremely unpleasant.

“That’s disgusting!”

She let out a laugh. “It’s not radiated. You should consider that good enough!”

“Can’t you just boil it off and collect the condensation or something?” I demanded.

She grabbed the bottle and yanked it from my hands, taking a long drink herself to prove it was drinkable before putting it up. “Hmph, maybe in the cities, but out in the wasteland, you take what you can get!”

“Come on, we have to get moving if you want to get there before sundown.”

I nodded. My mom was expecting me back home today, so the sooner we got there, the better. I followed her outside the house. She removed the barricades quickly and then walked outside. I glanced at the door and noticed long gashes in the wood. Something had tried to get inside the night before. Something with horrifying claws. I let out a small gulp.

“Just what kind of apocalypse was this?” I muttered out loud.

Katarina shot me a perplexed look, then her eyes widened even more. “You… you don’t know, do you?”

I met her eyes, and then looked down. “I don’t. I left… without the colony’s permission.”

She frowned, likely deciding if she should trust me. After a moment, she shook her head.

“What are the colonies teaching their younglings?”

“We have a long walk. Can we start from the beginning? Just pretend I only came to the wasteland yesterday.”

My words were insanely suspicious, but my curiosity beat out my common sense. As for Katarina, she couldn’t see any way this information that was common sense would be risky to tell. Furthermore, it was a long walk, and talking would pass the time.

“I’m not used to company, so I don’t usually talk this much.” She said slowly, “But, very well, I’ll explain things from the beginning.”

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