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by Anna Carey

Genre: Futuristic, Young Adult

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It was a long time before either of us spoke. Now, out of danger, I pushed back on the rear of the horse, trying to get as far away from the boy as possible. He was a strange breed of man, part wild. Not the sophisticated kind who graced the pages of The Great Gatsby. Nor did he seem like the violent men I’d encountered on my first day in the wild. He had saved me, at least. I could only hope it wasn’t for some nefarious purpose.

He wore stained pants, ripped at the knees, and his shoulder-length hair was rolled into dreadlocks. Unlike the gang members, he carried no gun, which was of little consolation; he was as broad and muscular as them. I wasn’t sure what perverse thoughts he was thinking about me, a girl he’d found alone in the woods. I pulled my T-shirt away from my breasts.

“Whatever you’re planning, it’s not going to work,” I said, straightening up to make myself appear bigger than I was. I eyed the three dead rabbits that were slung over the horse’s neck, their feet bound with twine.

The boy glanced back at me and smiled. Despite his poor hygiene, his teeth were straight and white. “And what is it that I’m planning? Really, I’d love to hear.”

We were trotting down a highway now, the metal guardrails barely visible beneath the vines. Off in the distance was a fallen bridge. “You want to have intercourse with me,” I said matter-of-factly.

The boy laughed, a loud, raucous laugh, his hand slapping the horse’s neck. “I want to have intercourse with you?” he repeated, as if he hadn’t heard it right the first time.

“That’s right,” I said more loudly. “And I’ll tell you now, I will not let that happen. Not even if…” I searched for the right metaphor.

“…I was the last man on earth?” He looked out on the vast, unpopulated landscape and flashed a mischievous grin. His eyes were the pale green of grapes.

“Precisely,” I nodded. I was glad he could at least speak and understand proper English. I wasn’t having nearly as much trouble communicating as I would have imagined.

“Well that’s good,” the boy said. “Because I don’t want to have intercourse with you anyway. You’re not my type.”

I laughed then too, until I realized he wasn’t kidding. He kept his eyes straight ahead as he maneuvered the horse off the highway and onto a moss-covered street, urging it around holes in the pavement.

“What do you mean I’m not your type?” I asked.

The plague had killed more females than males. As one of the few women in The New America, especially an educated, civilized woman, I’d always supposed I was every man’s type.

The boy glanced at me once and shrugged. “Eh,” he muttered.

Eh? I was intelligent, I worked hard. I was told I was beautiful. I was Eve, the valedictorian of School. And all he could say was, Eh?

His shoulders shook a little. I looked at his face and realized, for the first time during our ride, that he was teasing me. He was making a joke.

“You find yourself very funny, don’t you?” I asked, turning so he wouldn’t see the sudden flush in my cheeks. He tugged the reins, directing the horse past the bridge and off toward the setting sun.