Morning had worn away into early afternoon by the time J.T. came back to camp, his sweatshirt wrapped into some kind of bundle, cradled in his big arms. Jacqueline blinked, pausing in her supply-sorting to watch him. Did he find a baby or something? God, I don’t know how we’d take care of a baby. It’s hard to take care of the injured already, but a baby? That’d be a disaster.
J.T. spotted her and made a beeline toward her. “Jac! Do we have any baskets?”
“Baskets?” She stood up, tried to peer into the squirming bundle in his arms, to see what he was carrying. She half expected a tiny fist to pop out from within the folds of the black hoodie. She wasn’t far from right.
The bundle mewed.
Her eyes widened. “A cat?”
“And three kittens,” J.T. said. “Their eyes are all open, but they’re still little. Do you have a basket or not?”
“Yeah, of course. One minute.” She darted over toward the small cube of furniture and the mattress she’d claimed and dug around in her rescued possessions, coming up with a wide basket. She balled up a soft towel and shoved it into the bottom of the basket before heading back to J.T. and setting the basket down. “Here, put them in there.”
J.T. crouched and settled the sleek, dark-furred feline and her three kittens into the basket. The kittens mewled softly as their mother turned wide, bright green eyes toward J.T. and Jacqueline before she settled to grooming her litter, which settled down at the application of their mother’s tongue. Jacqueline shook her head.
“How did you find them?”
J.T. pointed to the cat. “She found me.” He swung the backpack he was wearing off his shoulders and settled it on the ground. It clinked softly as he did and Jacqueline looked at him funny. “Glass,” he explained. “Was cleaning some bottles we found when the cat just…showed up. Just started rubbing up against me and purring and then she started meowing at me and wouldn’t stop. Ended up following her to her kittens. I didn’t want to just leave them out there, so I brought them back.” He reached down and scratched the cat’s ear. She purred, green eyes sliding shut for a moment as she rubbed against his big finger, then she resumed grooming her kittens. “She might have been someone’s pet,” J.T. said. “Of course, she could have been one of the ferals that runs around out there, but she seemed too friendly for that. Clean, too.”
Jacqueline frowned a little, staring at the cat and her kittens. She experimentally reached to pet the cat, who startled, looking at her for a moment, then returned to what she had been doing. She stroked the cat’s back for a moment, then looked at J.T. “I think you’re right. How are we supposed to take care of them, too, though?”
J.T. shook his head. “I’m sure at some point they’ll take care of themselves. They’re animals with instincts. In the meantime, I’ll go hike up to the store. They had a pet aisle. There’s food.”
Now we have pets. Three days after what might have been the end of the world, and we have pets. Jacqueline choked on a laugh and shook her head. “I guess you’re right. Who knows, if we’re lucky they’ll start bringing us squirrels to eat.”
He cracked a smile. “I hear it tastes pretty good.” He rubbed his belly. “Mm. Squirrel gumbo.” He glanced over toward the fire. “…what the hell do you have Thom doing over there?”
“He’s making blankets out of the fleece that Tala and Leah brought back from looting the fabric store. They said there’s a lot of stuff still in there that we’ll be able to use. They just couldn’t carry it all and really didn’t want to try. Tomorrow we’ll send a larger group with some of those dollies we got from the hardware store.” Jacqueline grinned. “Their way of making sure he stayed useful if he couldn’t get up and walk around. All he’s really got to use are his hands.” She glanced toward the medical supplies she was sorting into bins. “You want to give me a hand with this? Two sets of hands’ll make short work of it.”
J.T. nodded and picked up one of the bags full of drugs and ace bandages they’d looted from the grocery store up the road. “Heard they found some horses after I left.”
“Yeah, southwest of campus. They brought them back here. Stasia just left to go check out the dairy that’s further south. If the folks there are still alive, she said she’d try to bring them back, but I think she was just saying that. Anyone who’d have been there probably died at church, being good Calvinists and all.” Jacqueline’s nose wrinkled for a moment and she touched the cross around her neck. If it had happened later in the day, or on Saturday, I might have died at Mass. “Sorry,” she murmured.
J.T. shook his head. “Who the hell do you think you’re offending? You’re the good Christian around here.”
Jacqueline took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly. It was true—she was the good Christian, and Catholic to boot. It was strange; most of her friends were irreverent Christians at best, most of them actually adherent to other faiths if they were adherent to anything at all, their personal religions indefinable. She tossed a box of pills into one of the totes. “You know one of the groups around here was screaming about Revelations about two weeks ago, when the news about this asteroid broke.”
“Really?” J.T. looked at her strangely. “I didn’t think you really believed any of that.”
I didn’t until I met Marin. Then I started to wonder a little. If she has the gift of prophecy, maybe John of Patmos did, too. She shrugged a little. “I was never sure what to think about Revelations. But you have to admit, the whole asteroid thing would fit.” She wet her lips. “After I heard them screaming about it, I looked up what they were talking about. It’s the prophecy about the angels. The first angel blew its horn and fire and blood rained down from the sky. The second angel blew its horn and a mountain fell into the sea, blazing with fire. And then the third angel blew its horn and a star called Wormwood fell from the sky to the Earth.” She took a deep, steadying breath. “All of those could describe the asteroid and its fragments, if Matt’s right and that’s what came down, what caused all of this.” Her hand tightened, crushing the thin cardboard box around another vial of pills. “But if it is, then this is…I don’t know what. The last great suffering? Is that what it is?”
J.T. just stared at her for a few long moments before he reached out to gently touch her arm. “I don’t know, Jac,” he said finally, voice quiet. “Maybe it’s another Flood. Cleaning the slate. I don’t know—couldn’t hope to guess. Neither can you. I’ll tell you what I do know, though.
“We’ve got each other and that’s just about the only thing that matters right now. If there’s a God out there somewhere, I’m not sure he can help us now.”
Her stomach twisted, more because she was afraid he was right than because of what he’d said, his questioning of her faith. What if he’s right? What if we’re really on our own? What if there’s no one out there, up there, watching over us? What then? She looked down at the crushed box in her hand and chewed her lip. J.T. squeezed her arm.
“It’s going to be okay,” he said quietly. “We’ve got each other, all of us. I’m not much one for believing in higher powers—you know that—but if there’s one out there, I think whoever or whatever it is made sure that we had a team that could make it through this.”
God help us. She couldn’t look at him. “You think so?”
He squeezed again. “I know it. Why the hell else would we have all gotten to be friends, huh?” He smirked. “You guys aren’t really my type of crowd, after all.”
Jacqueline started to laugh helplessly. Punk-rocking, troublemaking, drinking, swearing, once-upon-a-time pot-smoking J.T., coupled with too serious for his own good Thom as a best friend, coupled with her goody-goody backside, Marin’s struggle to find her own brand of faith, and all the rest. No. No, if there hadn’t been something guiding them all together, the whole of them, this never would have happened. They never would have become friends, become close.
If she’d ever needed proof that there was something out there, working behind the scenes, she’d had it all along.
“Thanks, Jay,” she murmured.
“No problem. ‘course, if you tell anyone I said any of that, I might have to kill you.” He grinned and winked at her. She laughed and hugged him.
I’ve got good friends. We’ll make it through this, somehow, whether God’s abandoned us or not. He did give us this team. It’s up to us to make the best of what He gave us to work with.
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