No more looking back east. He wouldn't look up at the sky again, for that matter. Not if he valued his sanity and mental strength or what was left of it. He gave the eerie darkness one last glance and continued walking west. Though, something caught his eye. He paused and pivoted to see what looked like a young man walking along the road far in the distance. Adrenaline raced through his body. Was he seeing correctly? The man walked head down as if he carried more than the world's burdens on his shoulders and had already given in.
"Hey!" Elliot called out. Please be real. Please be real.
The man looked up, stopped in his tracks and even from the distance between them he knew the man was excited to see him too. The man began jogging toward him and he jogged in the man’s direction. His heart pitter-pattered with excitement and pure relief. He was not alone.
When the tall, fit man approached, he ran up to him with a huge, bright smile and arms outstretched. Elliot hugged him as if he were hugging a dear friend. And the feeling wasn't off. His relief resembled that of seeing a good old buddy again after so many years, and just in the nick of time. At the exact moment he needed him.
"My God." The man squeezed tighter, nearly collapsing under Elliot's embrace. "Thought I was the only one alive. So happy to see you."
"You have no idea how happy I am to see you." He separated their bodies. "I've been dragging my feet for hours looking for someone else to keep me sane."
The man chuckled. Even with the devastation around them Elliot managed to make the poor guy chuckle. He didn't want to take credit yet, they both seemed immensely happy to not be the last person alive.
"Adam." He placed a calming hand on Elliot's shoulder.
He sighed. Instant comfort. "I'm Elliot."
"Elliot." Adam huffed, catching his breath. "Been walking forever and have no idea where I'm going."
"Yeah, I'm just as lost. Phoenix doesn't look much like Phoenix anymore, huh?"
Adam nodded again and sighed. "Just knew I was out here alone. But now it should be easier to get out of this mess. Right?"
This mess? This disaster was more like it. Elliot attempted to smile.
"Two heads are better than one." Adam's breath seemed to return to normal.
Elliot lifted his bottle. "You need some? It's water."
"No, thanks." The small pack on Adam's back bounced slightly as he turned. He slid it off his shoulders and took out the water bottle he had tucked in there, along with some granola bars still in their individual packages. Elliot hadn't eaten since he began his trek, maybe even a couple hours before then and those bars looked appetizing.
"Do you mind?" He pointed to the bars. "It's been a long while."
"Oh, sure, sure." Adam handed him a bar and took one for himself. "Eat up."
The package contained two crunchy granola bars but they both were crumbled within the wrapper. Elliot didn't mind. He already felt some energy returning to his exhausted body.
Adam bit into his bar and watched him eat with bright green eyes and a tiny grin on his dry lips. Even with a layer of dust and dirt coating Adam from head to toe, Elliot could easily make out his handsomeness. He was fascinated by the way Adam talked too. With the start of every sentence he never said I or you. It sounded a little funny at first, almost as if he didn't want to waste time with unnecessary words no matter how small. However, Elliot could understand wanting to get to the point quickly.
Elliot was covered in a layer of dirt and dust as well. He briefly looked down over himself. He must've looked crazy wearing a pair of camouflage cargo shorts and his black Made with Pride T-shirt with rainbow-colored letters.
"See that dark color on the horizon?" Adam pointed to the east, suddenly looking somber. "That's a wall of smoke, ash, dust and who knows what else, and it's coming our way."
"What? What do you mean?" A bit of panic began to stir in his stomach like a bowl of his mother's spicy and overly greasy chili. He'd thought the worst was over.
"Ever heard of impact winter?" Adam's green eyes pierced his and neither moved. "What's headed for us isn't good. We're gonna have to take shelter somewhere and fast before it blocks out all light and it gets so dark we won't be able to tell which way is up. Can't run from it either," he added, as if predicting Elliot's next question. "Been watching it for a couple hours now and it's moving pretty fast."
"What do you mean it's going to get dark?" He knew he looked like a wide-eyed idiot, but he didn't care much about his appearance at the moment.
"Let me put it this way. Once the sun sets we're not gonna see it rise for quite some time. That wall of soot headed our way is so thick it will block out the sun. It will take months, maybe years, for all the crap to fall down."
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