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The man didn't think too much about up north, where things were a little cooler during the summer—and a little cooler during the winter too, for that matter. Like Michigan used to be, before. He'd been up north when the quarantine was announced and he was one of the last people to go south, a lone passenger in his car, on a train they'd built only a few years prior. The cars going the other way were so packed that there was talk they might not get everyone before the walls went up.


He opened the bag and pulled out the contents one by one: His coat, found in the remnants of an old Army Surplus, with a name tag he'd pulled off, apparently less structurally integral than DUKE. He laid it aside, reaching in without looking and pulled out the blanket, laying that aside as well. It had holes in it that he could fit his feet through, as he had discovered more than once when he woke from a mid-day rest in a confusing pretzel-tangle of legs and fabric. He rooted around through thick piles of junk, the bag being almost empty with the two largest items removed, and pulled out a stick of jerky. He pocketed it and started backing the bag back up mechanically, looking to the north and then to the south. He stood up, unholstered the pistol at his hip and checked the magazine, and reholstered it. He checked his knife carefully for chips. He nodded to himself and folded it back up, putting the knife back in his pocket. A moment later he was walking away from the trees, towards a hill.


The sun was setting in the corner of the man's eye and he feared that it wouldn't be the last time before he found a place to stay the summer, a place where he could let the seams in his bag rest a bit. The hilltop didn't provide much in the way of defense against the wilderness, so it was going to be a late night again. The skeletal man walked until the last bits of light were barely in the sky, a mass of reds and purples stretching across the clouds, and he sat, shrugging the sack from his shoulders. A look across the landscape showed a stream a mile and a half to the west. He picked the bag back up wordlessly and began to trudge down the hill. An hour later the young man was on the bank, looking down at near-imperceptible reflections of the moon and stars off the water, hearing it gurgling from the current a dozen feet away. He sat down again, dropped the pile of sticks he'd been hoarding in the time since he came from the hill. His lighter was getting low on fluid, and he thought that perhaps he would have to fish the backup out of his bag before the summer was out. But for now the kindling lit easily, and before too long, he was sitting looking at a fire. The jerky came out of his pocket easily, whispering in his ear how tasty it would be. The meat went all too quickly, leaving him less than satisfied, but instead of fishing more food out of the bag he pulled out his ratty blanket. His coat made a decent pillow. He looked at the stars, and when he awoke the next morning he couldn't recall having even closed his eyes, but the fire had died and the sun was in the sky.

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