“Goodness.” I grumbled. “Everything is just… ugh.”
As if almost dying at every possible moment isn’t enough, now we are stuck here, trying to contend with impending doom and hope the fire doesn’t send all of us to our demise.
“Accommodations not up to your standards, your highness?” Jim retorted.
“Hah.” That’s all I managed to say.
Honestly, I could neither affirm nor dismiss that statement. Although, I would be much more content to die up there in blissful slumber if I had knew this would happen to me.
Well, nothing I can do about it now.
For now, however, I can do this. Looking over the guy that’s peeking his head out the tiny, open gap of our ‘brick-barricaded’ entrance. I called him:
“Hey, Joshua.” I enquired. “How’s it out there?”
“The fires still rage far away.” He spoke. “The winds favor us, we won’t choke to death, for now.”
Gee. That’s unpleasant to hear.
He’s a passive person, somewhat. He doesn’t speak much or make much assertions of his own, even during our brief R&R right here. Maybe that’s how he acts under stress, I wouldn’t know for sure but I’ll definitely keep that in mind—since god knows how long will I be stuck with these 2 guys.
“I’d rather die up there, with blissful ignorance.” Jim replied casually. “If I knew I’d be doing this here.”
Well now, seems like I’m not the only one who held that opinion. I couldn’t do anything but shrug when I heard what he said. Joshua seemed to give a noncommittal nod too—I guess that means that we all are agreed on that.
Jim is quite a… normal guy when compared to Joshua. Not much to say about him, he’s all normal and stuff, and a bit of an oaf, maybe. Actually, both of them are stellar when it comes to their composure, or behavior as of current. They didn’t panic and run like chicks when we are getting all odds stacked against us; and also that they both behave and act… civil.
Nonetheless, I’m grateful to have them around. They saved my life… and they did good, and we all perform well together. I wouldn’t say the same if they weren’t the ones who escaped with me. At least some people are more headstrong than others, and some others are either cowards or morons. If I got stuck with any of those people instead, I couldn’t imagine what would happen.
All in all, I’m grateful to be around with these guys.
If it were to be other men… I don’t know. I am definitely not comfortable to be alone with two men that I hardly knew, under any circumstances. After all, I’m a girl—I know what men are capable of doing, if they really want to.
“What’s that noise?” Jim asked. He looked around only to find nothing besides the three of us and our possessions.
Ah. It’s my… stomach.
“I feel quite hungry.” I grumbled.
Hunched over on another corner was Joshua, he also patted his stomach when he heard what I said. Then, he dragged over his backpack and started scrounging.
“We all are Henry—I mean, hungry.” Jim replied unenthusiastically.
Of course we are. After napping for a few hours at most when we first entombed ourselves, the fires still hadn’t stopped. So we decided to stay here for a while longer, or at least until the fire dwindled and became sparse. So that we could leave without getting burned or worse—getting suffocated and buried in waves of floating ash.
At least we could wait safely here as we aren’t facing problems with the fumes or ash invading our shelter, as Joshua said.
But… but god knows when will it end?
“Well.” Joshua spoke calmly, interrupting my anxious thoughts.
“We do have food with us, you know?” He reminded us with a gentle voice, probably intending to not cause angst despite that choice of words that he used.
“Well.” I retorted imitating his tone. “We can’t get kindling to heat said food, you know?”
Of course we can’t cook anything here. We can’t possibly hope to get some kindling or sticks without going out there. And, right now, the air outside is blanketed with thick grey ash. No one wants to die trying to get a few sticks if they could, instead, starve for a while until the ash is settled.
Alright, I admit it was childish of me to respond in mockery. It didn’t contribute much except to piss him off. Luckily, contrary to my expectations, his face turned into a kind expression, not an angry one.
“Actually, all packaged meals are ready to be consumed.” He responded calmly. “Don’t need to cook it, at all.”
Ah. Oh right. I forgot. It was a terribly obvious fact that all packaged rations should be ready to eat. I somehow forgot at the heat of the moment. Moreover… wait. So that explains his expression after what I said. He wasn’t angry at the time, but he was already making fun of me!
I had to restrain all my facial muscles to maintain a nonchalant, poker-face in order to respond.
Then, I couldn’t find the words to say, so I just gave a light nod. Gosh darn, I almost lost it right there.
“Also, this includes a self-heating mechanism.” He spoke as he showed me a pack of travel rations that he pulled out from his bag. “We can have warm meals with this.”
“Mhm…” I gave an affirming grunt. Deep down inside I’m pissed by his attitude, but okay. I couldn’t understand how someone could be completely calm and sincere while still acting as if they’re purposely mocking someone else. But… okay, fine.
Looking over to the usually chatty Jim, he remained still, lounging on his ass with a smirk on his face—so he knew it all along!
“Gimme one.” I told Joshua.
‘You better appease me this time, or else.’—was what I’m trying to imply here.
“One for me too.” Jim spoke as he sat up.
“Okay, so I’ve found only 2 choices in here.” Joshua explained as he dug around the bag. “Roasted pork or cheese steak?”
Just as Joshua instructed, I simply pull a small tab embedded on the side of my ration box to trigger an exothermic reaction. Then, let it sit upright for 3 minutes—and it will be ready to eat.
Soon, I opened the lid to find a big block of mushy, heated goodness for me to enjoy.
Holding the ration box that’s a wide as a data tablet and as thick as a medkit, I’ve got to enjoy my first meal to commemorate my arrival to this world.
Beside me, two other people are faced with the same situation. I could tell that all of us are genuinely enjoying this moment, enjoying ourselves, despite the firestorm that’s brewing outside. Being stuck in a narrow, stone room while being stranded in the middle of a brushfire do make you reflect on… things, in life.
With the reflection I’ve made while enjoying my meal, I managed to make some conclusions on my current predicament.
Firstly, there’s no cheese and steak in the ‘cheese steak’ travel ration pack. It’s a gooey, plant-based meal that’s been injected with the flavor. It does smell the part after it’s heated up, though, so I can’t complain much.
Secondly, these two guys are handy and good to be around with. But something tells me that I should be cautious around them—unless I’d like my blood pressure high, and my brain vessels burst.
Lastly, I hope there are actual cows in this world.
This is my first time... eating in this world. I hope it will not be my last.