By the time she reached the rest stop, it was dark. The sun had just set and the world was silent. Something was wrong.
Or, not wrong, but not right either. Everything was off was more accurate. The air was too still, the nearby forest was silent. The lights of the rest stop were too pale to be normal. The rest stop itself, on the side of the cracked highway, had long since fallen into disrepair. Plants climbed up its walls, the ceiling had caved in, even the table and benches just outside the rest stop were cracked and decayed.
And all of it was off.
Tomoe ignored the sudden chill that ran down her spine, and stepped forward. The gravel cracked loudly beneath her feet. If anyone was in there, which she doubted, they would have heard her already.
There were words scrawled across the windows of the rest stop, but she couldn’t see them clearly through the glass of her goggles. The area wasn’t radioactive, but the town a few miles away was. Tomoe reached up slowly, wondering if it was worth the risk. She had survived all these years, radiation poisoning was not how she wanted to die.
A few minutes couldn't hurt. She pushed her goggles up off her eyes and walked closer.
The dirt reflection of the glass showed a figure clad in black, skin tight armor, a mask, two swords slung across her back and a gun at her waist. The words and the reflection made an eerie sight. She looked away.
When Tomoe stepped inside, the first thing she noticed was that the lights were flickering. It was a wonder that they were still running, when most of the world was without electricity. And when most of the world was dead, but that usually was a given with the end of the world.
The second thing she noticed was that she wasn’t alone.
Leaning against the rubble that remained of the counter was a man in torn, ragged clothes. He slumped over and Tomoe could see his shoulders move up and down as he breathed raggedly. Cautiously, she approached him, one hand on her gun. Though he seemed completely out of it and unaware of her presence, Tomoe knew better than to take chances when another human was involved.
She drew her gun out of the holster and pointed it at the man before nudging him with her toe. He didn’t react. Frowning, Tomoe crouched down and put the gun against his forehead and pushed. His head lifted and he smiled.
Her finger twitched against the trigger.
“Who are you?” She asked quietly, pushing the gun roughly against his forehead.
His grin widened. “No one.”
“Answer, or I will shoot.”
His matted hair fell into his eyes. He lifted a hand and Tomoe tensed, ready to react even as he pushed his hair back and dropped his hand to his side again.
“I’m just a homeless man looking for some shelter.”
Tomoe glared. “Appealing to pity isn’t going to work. Pretty much everyone is homeless since the world ended.”
The man gave a startled laugh. “The world ended? You must be one of those crazy people who believe God’s gonna end the world.”
Tomoe’s brow furrowed. “Are you insane? The world has ended. Look around you. We are the only two people here. Everything else is either dead or decayed.”
“Nah man, everything’s fine. This is one of the best rest stops I’ve slept in, trust me.”
With a sigh, Tomoe stood. The man was obviously insane. It wasn’t a surprise. Many people couldn’t accept the fact that their loved ones were killed in the new, radioactive world that was filled with supernatural threats. He must have gone through many trials to be so out of it.
“As long as you don’t attack me,” she said, “We can go our separate ways peacefully. I just need to look for some food and I’ll be gone.”
“Alright man, take your time,” the man replied. He sounded far too happy in Tomoe’s opinion.
As she went through the aisles, Tomoe kept her gun in one hand as the other shifted through rotten food to find something edible. There were only a few cans that looked okay, hidden in the back of the shelves. She grabbed them quickly and glanced at the man, who still sat on the ground leaning against the rubble, and holstered her gun to be able to hold everything.
Tomoe didn’t say goodbye. She nodded at him once, though he didn’t see it since his head was bowed again, and left the rest stop quickly. When she looked back, the man was gone. Another chill swept through her body, and Tomoe quickly headed to the bushes at the side of the road where she had hidden her bag. She put the cans on top of her stash of scavenged food and slung the strap over her head.
A final look at the rest stop showed that it was as empty and ruined as it was before, but the lights were off.
Rest stops, Tomoe decided, were a place where the Veil was thin and should be avoided at all costs. She would know better next time.
She put her goggles back on and continued down the road.