My reaction rolled me over and into a drainage ditch alongside a road that ran up to the edge of the dock. Margaret landed across my chest. It was insufficient shelter, but we were where the rounds fired could not hit us. Blood ran off the side of my head, not as much as I feared but enough to make me worry.
I placed fingers to the side of Margaret’s neck and discovered a pulse strong and steady. My eyes filled with tears of relief. I wiped them away with my fists.
As carefully as I could I moved from under her, took off my jacket and folded it for a pillow and placed it under her head. She’d live, but the concussion she had was a grave concern. I couldn’t and didn’t really think about leaving her. She be killed and I lugged around enough regrets from my past. Besides, I’d grown to like her. She acted helpless and lost but was neither. She was tough and resilient a survivor.
I brushed sweat, dampened hair off her brow and face and as I did I saw the blood pooling under my leg.
“So here we are you unconscious and me bleeding to death and pinned down by an unknown adversary for reasons we’ll never learn.” Lifting my butt, I lowered my jeans and looked at the wound. I let out a loud sigh when I discovered it was truly a flesh wound. Not deep but painful and bloody.
I dragged my knapsack closer and dug out the first aid kit. Minutes later I was cleaned and bandaged, with one wrapped around my head.
“You should’ve let me do that,” Margaret said. She tried to sit and failed. Lowering, herself with a deep groan. “Guess I can’t.”
“It’s okay, I’ve finished.” I dragged on my jeans and carefully peered over the edge of the ditch. They were gone their ship was too. We were safe and I had no idea where we landed or where we should go from there. I did see what looked like a fishing shack.
“There’s a building there.” I pointed. “I’m going to take a look.”
She failed to answer, looked blank.
Standing, I limped over. The door was ajar, the building empty. It looked as if it had not been used in years but was fairly clean and dry. Against one wall stood bunk beds with mattresses only.
“We must recuperate.” I told no one and went back for Margaret.
She leaned heavily on me, pulling the pain from my injuries close to a scream. Her right foot scuffed the ground, which made me think she was at least mildly impaired. As I reached the first step, her weight staggered me, knees colliding with the doorsill. I twisted turned and sat heavily with Margaret wedged between me, and the doorjamb.
Me and freedom, I thought grievously and then felt bad for the sudden desire to abandon her.
Well, I thought, you did want to escape the pandemic and its horrors. I nearly smiled.
With extra care, I pressed Margaret’s shoulder so I might climb from beneath her. Succeeding only meant that I had access to the fishing shack and not the ability to close the door should weather again became a problem.
On my feet, the pain from my growing collection of injuries made itself known. Sweat beaded my brow, reminding me I’d not had a shower in days, or however long it had been since I entered the portal. I smelled ripe as my grandmother told me often.
But I could do nothing until Margaret was safe inside and preferably on a bunk. She moaned then. Squatting with the help of the wall alongside the door, I saw her eyes opened. She didn’t look like she could focus and my hopes of moving on, finding a way to Attrea sank further than earlier.
“And that was pretty damn low,” I muttered.
“What?” Margaret spoke weakly.
“We need to get you inside and on the lower bunk bed.” I pointed. She didn’t look. “Can you stand?”
“Maybe if you help me, but move slowly cause I keep feeling like I might vomit.” She turned enough to get on her knees and with me holding her hands, managed to get on her feet.
“We’re a helluva mess,” I said and with great care guided her to the bunk beds. Getting her on it was a process that ended with me lifting her legs and feet and levering her fully on her back.