Essential Passage 1
I am begging you. I’ll do anything.
Such as what? I should have done it a long time ago. When there were three bullets in the gun instead of two. I was stupid. We’ve been over all of this. I didn't bring myself to this. I was brought. And now I’m done. I thought about not even telling you. That would probably have been best. You have two bullets and then what? You cant protect us. You say you would die for us but what good is that? I’d take him with me if it weren't for you. You know I would. It’s the right thing to do.
You're talking crazy.
No, I’m speaking the truth. Sooner or later they will catch us and they will kill us. They will rape me. They’ll rape him. They are going to rape us and kill us and eat us and you wont face it. You’d rather wait for it to happen. But I cant. I cant. She sat there smoking a slender length of dried grapevine as if it were some rare cheroot. Holding it with a certain elegance, her other hand across her knees where she’d drawn them up. She watched him across the small flame. We used to talk about death, she said. We don't any more. Why is that?
I don't know.
It’s because it’s here. There’s nothing left to talk about.
I wouldn't leave you.
I don't care. It’s meaningless. You can think of me as a faithless slut if you like. I’ve taken a new lover. He can give me what you cannot.
Death is not a lover.
Oh yes he is.
Please don't do this.
I can't do it alone.
The man (the unnamed protagonist of the story) and his family are caught up in a nameless disaster (a nuclear war or perhaps a natural disaster) which has left the world in the grips of a nuclear winter. As the years pass, there is less and less food. The animals have died. The plants have died. Other than scavenging for canned food, the only recourse is cannibalism. The man’s wife realizes the inevitable conclusion will be that they will most likely die at the hands of others. She sees no point in going on and has decided to end her life rather than suffer at the hands of others. The man begs her not to do this, stating that he cannot go on without her. Her son needs her as well. The man holds out for some kind of hope that they can survive in the midst of this nightmare. He tells his wife that they can go on together and that he will never leave her. He is faithful to her as he is faithful to life itself. Yet his wife has made up her mind. She speaks of death as a lover who can give her the peace that her husband cannot. In the end, she goes off to kill herself, and the man and his son go on the road alone.
Essential Passage 2
…I should have been more careful, he said.
The boy didn't answer.
You have to talk to me.
You wanted to know what the bad guys looked like. Now you know. It may happen again. My job is to take care of you. I was appointed to do that by God. I will kill anyone who touches you. Do you understand?
He sat there cowled in the blanket. After a while he looked up. Are we still the good guys? he said.
Yes. We’re still the good guys.
And we always will be.
Yes. We always will be.
As the man and the boy travel the road, they must always be on the lookout for cannibalistic scavengers who will hunt people for food. At one stop, a strange man approaches the two, asking for help. The boy is always anxious to help others on the road, but the man is suspicious. He refuses to help. The stranger then grabs the boy. The man uses one of the last remaining bullets in his gun to kill the stranger as he holds the boy. Traumatized by both the...
(The entire section is 1688 words.)