Through the smeared bus window Charlotte watched rolling zoetrope hedges. Abandoned cars squatted like flightless insects on the roadside, doors open, tyres flat, interiors missing along with pieces from under the bonnet; pipes and tubes. People took what they could, now.
She shifted in her seat. The bus swerved around a bundle in the road and Ben’s thigh pressed against hers. She moved away but he slid further across the cracked vinyl into the gap she made. They had left the city with the sunrise. The ends of her hair stuck wetly to the glass.
Charlotte spoke curtly. She didn’t need to be kind. Ben wasn’t even her real brother, she only had to tolerate him. She pushed back, reclaiming her seat and part of his.
“You’re shoving me off,” Ben complained, but not so anyone could hear. Her temple cooled on the pane. She watched telegraph wires riding up and down between tall poles, measuring distance. After what might have been another hour, she slept.
The bus lurched over a ramp, front axle, back axle. Swimming up from a dream Charlotte was minded of driving over a body. The thin man at the front spoke.
“We’re here. We get one go, don’t fuck it up. Okay?”
She ran her thickened tongue over furred teeth. Animals died first; couldn’t regulate their thirst. Did fish drink, she wondered. How could they not?
“Do you think this’ll work out?”
Charlotte looked away through the dirty glass. It was midsummer’s day.