Gale stood before her commandeered tent, sipping at a tin cup of cool water. Several yards away, the man she now knew as Brian Alderman practiced the use of the Egyptian sword, felling imagined enemies with graceful slashes, parrying mock counterattacks, his feet and body and arms all moving in symmetry to the weapon itself. She caught a glimpse of his eyes as he turned, completing a lateral, one-handed cut. They looked distant, entranced. It reminded Gale of the empty look she had seen back at the refugee camp, in the eyes of those possessed. Unlike them, though, who had the glassy stares of the dead, Brian Alderman’s blue eyes glistened with life.
“Hey, Doc.” Deb came up behind her. “Julian said the ‘copter is ready to fly us out of here.” She paused, watching Brian. “If you still want to leave, that is.”
Gale didn’t take her eyes off Brian. “It’s amazing,” she said. “He told me he’d never even held a sword before. Now look at him.”
“Look at you,” Deb said. “You fell pretty fast, huh?”
“It’s not like that,” Gale said. “It’s, oh, I don’t know how to explain it. I feel, I’m not sure, connected with him.”
“Wish I had a dime for very time a guy’s said that to me,” Deb said. “But I doubt they meant it in quite the same way.”
“I’m sure you’re right,” Gale said. “I’m worried about him, Deb. I’m worried about leaving him. Julian and the others, I suppose they can take care of themselves. But Brian?”
“We are talking about the guy who made his grand entrance by popping out of a lava flow,” Deb said. “And was struck by lightning to punctuate it. I’m betting he can take care of himself, too.”
“I know. I just, I wish I could help him.”
“What could you do?”
“I don’t know.”
Brian finished a double-handed slash, dropping to one knee as he buried the curved blade of the sword into the ground. He looked up, his eyes clear, turning to meet their gaze. He smiled.
“He is kinda cute, though,” Deb said.
Brian walked over to where they stood. “That was weird,” he said.
“What?” Gale asked.
“Like riding a bicycle,” Brian said, propping the sword over his shoulder. “Because, like, I know how to ride a bicycle. I learned when I was a kid. But I don’t remember learning.”
Gale forced a smile. “I guess we’re going to be leaving now.”
“Oh,” Brian said. “Okay. That’s good. You two need to get someplace safe.”
“I’ll go and check with Julian,” Deb said. “Tell him you’re ready.”
Brian looked at the ground, then back at Gale. “It was good meeting you,” he said.
“I’m scared,” Gale said.
“You’ll be fine.”
“For you,” Gale said.
“I’ll be fine, too.”
“Part of me doesn’t want to leave.”
“Give me your phone number,” Brian said. “I’ll give you a call when all this is over.”
Gale laughed. “Okay.” She hugged him, pressing against him.
“Get going,” Brian said. “Before I decide to go with you.”
It took a genuine effort for Gale to step away. “Let me get you that number. I’ll borrow a pen.”
She started to walk away, looked back. “You know, it figures,” Gale said. “At last I meet the man of my dreams. Twenty minutes before the apocalypse.”