I was floating in the bay on a warm autumn’s night, being carried by the waves and caressed by the wind. It would have been more relaxing if George hadn’t been heckling me about my Tinder match.
“You’re not seriously considering this, are you?”
“You have no idea who this person is – she could be, like, a cannibal. Maybe she survives on Tinder matches.”
That would sound ridiculous in the pre-apocalyptic world, where people lived off smashed avocado and Boost Juice, but cannibalism was becoming more and more popular.
“At least it’s organic.”
George rolled his eyes. “Fine.” With that, he turned and began to swim back to shore. I brooded for a moment before following him.
It was George’s idea to bathe at the beach. I wouldn’t have done it, especially at night, from fear of sharks – mutant or otherwise – but there were really few options. We were running low on dry shampoo, and we couldn’t waste clean (or, as clean as we could get) water on washing.
We knew something was up the moment we got out of the water. Our clothes weren’t where we expected them to be, and after some scouring we realised that they weren’t on the beach at all.
George shivered. “I think some asshole took our clothes.”
Before I could reply there was some sort of battle cry and a horde of figures came running down the plains. They took advantage of our confusion and circled us, pointing sharpened sticks at our flesh.
“What –?” I began, but was silenced with a jab to my hip. It was the kids from YOMG. I groaned and crossed my arms over my chest.
A girl – the leader, I think, because she was wearing this stupid flower crown – stepped into the circle and smirked at us.
After a few moments I said, “So, are you going to tell us the point of this or just wait until we die of hypothermia?”
“Good for us if you did,” shot back Flower Crown. “At least you’d stop taking our resources.”
“Savage,” George muttered behind me.
I scoffed. “Is that what this is about? I took a box of tampons. You’re all children.”
Flower Crown glared at me. “I got my period when I was nine years old.” Some of the boys in the circle screwed up their faces. One muttered, “Gross.”
I sighed. “Look, that’s really unfortunate for you, and you probably have a lot of built up rage because of it, but can you please tell your preteen minions to stop pointing their sticks at us?”
Another kid jabbed me and I winced. I know how this sounds – it was like the Empire being defeated by a bunch of fucking ewoks.
“You’re going to repay us with your resources,” declared Flower Crown. “All of them.”
We didn’t have that much stuff to begin with, but I wasn’t desperate enough to give everything we had to some stupid kids with branches. “Yeah, nah, that’s not going to happen.”
George glanced between me and Flower Crown, apparently more apprehensive. “What are you going to do if we don’t?”
Flower Crown was obviously uncomfortable with creative threats. She fidgeted on the spot for a while before coming out with, “…We’ll kill you.”
I doubted it, but George muttered, “Fuck, Ro. They’re going to eat us.”
I sighed. “Fine, follow me.”
The kids all stepped aside as I walked through, George hurrying along behind me.
I waited until we had left the beach, and were walking in my comfort zone: the streets, blessed with shelter and ruins. By that point the YOMG kids had begun to relax, the sticks dropping as they talked amongst each other. All the while George stared at me, knowing something was up. Once we reached Main Street, I made my move.
Kicking a child from behind and stealing her weapon/branch probably isn’t one of my proudest moments, but it did give me enough time to trip some of the others and bolt.
“I am getting – really – sick –” George paused to gasp for breath “– of running – away – from – twelvies.”
I pushed George into a gaping hole in the window of one of the ruined stores, and we crouched down behind the front counter. A few moments later we heard the YOMG kids, loud and confused and disorganised, rush past the front of the building.
I waited a few minutes to make sure it was safe, then turned to George and grabbed his hand.
“Don’t go back to Mum yet,” I whispered. “Stay here for a couple of hours, find something to cover yourself with and stay warm. Just don’t lead them to our train.”
“What are you –”
“I’ll be back soon, maybe a couple of days. I just – I’ve got to know –”
His eyes widened, finally catching on. “You’re going to find the Tinder girl, aren’t you? Roella – ”
“I’m sorry,” I whispered, not looking him in the eye. I caught sight of some cloth, resembling robes or some weird costume, and snatched it up. I pulled this around me and stood up, ignoring George’s protests as I tip-toed out of the store, and back into