“That’s just unnatural,” Taz muttered, eyeing the dark liquid inside the cup. “What do you suppose it is?”
I tilted the cup around in my hand, so the liquid swirled around. There was no way to see the bottom of the cup. The liquid was thicker than water, but not so thick as molasses. There was no reflection on it, either. Just a tiny sheen of white as the setting sun light skimmed the edges.
“I would say coffee but even the sludge Mama used to make wasn’t like this.”
My heart twinged at the memory of Mama, but I pushed it aside. Another day, I promised myself. When all this crap was over I would let myself mourn. Though, to be fair, there wasn’t much of a chance I’d live long enough for that.
“We have to make a decision,” Taz said. “The sun is almost gone. Do we want to take this chance?”
I swallowed against the sour taste in the back of my throat.
“Gonna have to. No other way around it.”
“There’s always another way.”
Taz said it not to sway my decision, just as a reminder, but the sun was disappearing and the ash in the air clung to us like dirty snow.
“Yeah, but nothin’ we’d figure in time.”
Taz nodded, accepting and completely trusting. I never used to question her faith in me. I never had to, but that was before when I was a stupid child and taking things for granted was the way of things. Taz didn’t have to be here. She chose to be and chose to follow my lead, madness infecting my brain and all.
Before I could second guess myself, I upended the cup and drank half the strange liquid down. It was cold, with a copper aftertaste and a squirmy sensation, like it was alive and worming its way into all my insides. Taz took the cup as I gagged and finished it off. She coughed and wiped her lips. A dark smear went across her cheek.
Twilight fell on us and the world spun like a spindle, around and around. The plains disappeared around us. When it stopped we were back in that midnight desert, mountains shaped like sleeping giants in the distance and a set of footprints leading into the dark.