“I hear something.”
“Hopefully it’s not something else coming down.”
Yeah. Hopefully. J.T. looked upwards grimly, up into the twisted remains of supports and walls. “Thom still breathing?”
Brandon nodded. “Still breathing. Looks bad, though. Hope it’s some kind of rescue crew.”
Rescue crew. Yeah, right. Rescue crew. Guess he missed the memo that when we picked teams for the end of the world, it wasn’t some joke. J.T. took a slow, deep breath, exhaling through his mouth before taking a step back from the edge of the stairway they were sheltered in, drawing back to crouch next to Thom’s prone form. They’d dragged him out from under some of the rubble not long before, gotten him to this relatively stable platform. He’d been conscious then, joking even, about their long-ago decision to pick teams for the apocalypse, back when things looked bleak when they were freshman, back when Marin had seen what she’d seen—the end, they all thought. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The end wasn’t supposed to come like this. But somehow, J.T. had always suspected it might. Marin seeing whatever she’d actually seen back then had changed something, though he wasn’t sure what. So now things had found a different end.
But it was still an end.
Thom hadn’t stayed conscious for very long, though, after they’d pulled him out from under the pile of debris. He had mumbled something unintelligible in J.T.’s direction and then closed his eyes. But he was still breathing. For how long, though?
Stay with me, man. We can’t handle this shit without you, you asshole. The purplish knot on Thom’s head didn’t look any worse, at least. Brandon was frowning.
“He needs a hospital.”
“We can keep our fingers crossed that that’ll be an option, Brandon.” J.T. bit down on his tongue, regretting saying it as soon as it had slipped out. Great. Now my nerves are frayed. Fucking fantastic. “We should’ve gotten it in gear when we heard the first explosion.”
“What do you think it was?”
He shrugged. “Damned if I know. Bombs, maybe. Something worse. Wasn’t firecrackers.”
“Not funny, Jay.”
“Not supposed to be funny, Brandon.” J.T. shrugged out of his tattered black hoodie and threw it over Thom, frowning. Got to stay with me, Thom. How the hell are you supposed to try to patch it up with Marin if you’re dead?
“Did you hear that?” Brandon squinted upwards.
J.T. shook himself. “Hear what?”
“Sounds like someone starting to dig.”
J.T. knelt, sliding a meaty hand under Thom’s shoulders and gently easing his friend closer to the wall, more out of range of the drifting bits of debris that would inevitably be coming down as whoever was above dug them out. Thom’s eyelids fluttered and he groaned quietly as he was moved. J.T. winced despite himself. Not sure if that’s a good sign or a bad sign. He looked at Brandon. “So start yelling.”
Brandon looked bewildered. “What am I supposed to yell?”
“I don’t know. Think of something.” J.T. leaned down, close to Thom’s faintly moving lips, trying to hear whatever the other man was trying to say.
“So sorry,” Thom whispered, almost too quiet for him to hear. “Love her…so sorry…”
“Fuck, Thom,” J.T. muttered. “Now’s not the time to be being sorry for shit that happened between the two of you.” I don’t even understand half that crap, just that some things you’ll talk about and there’s some things she’ll talk about and they’re never the same problems. Thom kept whispering another few minutes before he exhaled, went quiet again, just breathing, unconscious again. Brandon had begun yelling.
“Down here! Help! We’re down here!”
J.T. leaned against the wall, stable for now, the pylons for this particular wall driven deep, down into the bedrock. He exhaled slowly, steadying himself. We’ll be lucky if they have a way to get us out of here.
Dust started to fall from above. J.T. mumbled a quiet curse, scrubbing his hand over his own face. He tugged his sweatshirt up over Thom’s mouth and nose so his friend wouldn’t inhale too much of whatever masonry dust—or otherwise—came down as whoever it was above them dug them out.
A distorted voice drifted down to them with the dust. “How many?”
“Three,” Brandon shouted up.
“Yeah!” Brandon glanced at J.T. and Thom. “Just one, but bad. Gonna need some attention real quick!”
Silence answered them. Brandon frowned; J.T. grimaced. That’s what I thought. J.T. glanced down toward Thom again. Hope her visions of a future with you true, man. We need fate on our side.
Rubble shifted above them. Dust showered down, peppered with bits of drywall and masonry. J.T. braced himself, trying to shield Thom from any debris coming down. “Wish they could be a little more careful,” he grumbled, glancing toward Brandon briefly.
Brandon shrugged, throwing an arm over his own head to shield himself from some more small debris coming down. “As long as it gets out of out here, I’ll take it.” He risked a glance up. “I can see a little more light.”
“Good,” J.T. muttered. “The sooner we see more, the better. Need to get Thom somewhere stable.”
“Like a hospital.”
“Like somewhere more stable.” J.T. stared at the nineteen year old, grimacing. How do you tell a kid that there probably isn’t a functioning hospital in a four hundred mile radius? “I don’t think there’s much world left up there, Brandon. Don’t ask me how I know. That’s just what I feel.”
“You’re crazy, Jay.”
J.T. shook his head. “Hope so, Brandon. Don’t think so, though. Not about this crap, not this time. Don’t think so at all.”