Somewhere in Illinois
Jessie bent forward and pushed the hair out of Frank's eyes. The train was stopped, the tracks were gone, Jeremiah thought they were somewhere inside Illinois. Frank had slept through all of it, helped along by some morphine Jessie had given him to make sure he slept soundly.
She listened to the surrounding sounds, the train engine throbbing slowly, almost like a strange heartbeat, something alive. The murmuring of dozens of voices. The slow steady inhale and exhale of breath from Frank.
“Hey,” Jeremiah said as he bent beside her. “How's our man doing?”
“I think he's going to be fine, Jeremiah. I really do...” She reached into her pocket and pulled a few vials of morphine free. Annie moved up beside Jeremiah.
“This will keep him pain free,” Jessie said.
“I think you will do more for him than that can do,” Jeremiah said.
Jessie nodded. “I...” She shrugged and her eyes threatened to overflow. “I can't explain it... I can't be someone I am not... I care about him. This... This brought us together, made us close, but it is not a substitute for time... That is the closest I can come to the truth... What do you plan to do,” she asked, shifting the conversation to something safe.
“Find transportation... There is a small city nearby, maybe other survivors. Buses, trucks, something that can get us to Oklahoma.” His eyes stayed on her.
“I'll take care of him,” Annie said. Her hand closed around Jessie's own, and she shifted the vials into her hand.
Jessie smiled through her tears, reached into her other pocket and pulled a few syringes free, handing them to her as well. She began to speak and the tears came in a flood, she choked back the tears, fell silent and let the tears come. Annie leaned forward and hugged her as she cried. Jeremiah walked away and watched the black column of smoke lift into the sky from the engine. Annie shifted sideways and sat beside Jessie, pulling her head to her shoulder.
The wind picked up, blowing across the waiting cars, tossing long dead leaves into the air, and then it moved on as well: Sweeping across the land, searching out its old friend the sea.