The movies never did it right, not that there were movies being made anymore. Moira hadn't seen a movie in... close to eight years. She used to play them in her head, during those fire-streaked nights that no reasonable human could sleep through. Children's movies were especially comforting. She could remember most of Mulan and Hercules. Classics like The Princess Bride could never truly be forgotten. They brought little comfort in this desolate world however.
"If I walk one more mile..." Complained Jackie, trudging along at her side.
"What? You will what?"
Jackie considered. "Well, I'll probably just walk another mile."
Moira gave a mirthless chuckle, focusing back on her footsteps. Their boots crunched rhythmically through the snow, the only tracks to be seen on the mountainside.
The nuclear winter had left the planet unrecognizable. Ash covered everything and everyone, tainting most of the food and water with radioactive dust. The complete breakdown of society had not been long after. Countries divided over and over again until no one was sure if any borders existed.
The population that survived the blasts had evolved into a mostly nomadic people. Occasionally you'd find a town where people had desperately tried to recreate some form of government. They were often in the throes of all-out gang war, or under the thumb of a wannabe Corleone crime syndicate. It was safer to wander with those you trusted the most.
Moira and Jackie had discovered this quickly. The town formerly known as Sheridan had started just fine. The sisters had lived there for two years with their brother, Kellum, before things started to devolve. Eventually, the 200 or so people that occupied the town had fractured into greedy sub-groups. The siblings did their best to stay out of it but pretty soon the Clyde Party had started demanding a payment for their protection of the siblings without allegiance.
Kellum had refused to give up any of their precious canned goods or water. He was dragged into the street in the middle of the day and executed as a warning. The girls fled soon after.
The problem with constantly traveling was that there were not many safe water sources. So much was contaminated. Normal plant life was slowly coming back after all those years and many people thought the water must be getting safer. Unfortunately a lot of the scientists had been killed in the war. Many of the nomads had no access to any form of news. Every drink of water was a gamble.
"When are we setting up camp Mo?" Jackie stretched her arms above her head.
Moira stopped to watch her breath form clouds around her eyelashes. It was so cold up here, they would need to prepare a large fire. " Let's just reach the top of this one. We'll take a look around, make sure we aren't too close to any other camps."
A sigh came from behind her but Moira ignored the tiny protest. It wasn't up for debate.
The crest of the hill was littered with granite formations and frosted grass stalks. Moira had been right, it provided an excellent view of the surrounding hills.
"There's... no one."
No campfire pillars of smoke, no tent villages, no wrecked buildings housing God knows how many people. Moira and Jackie were alone in the snow-dusted hills.
"Mo, is that a pond?" Jackie pointed her gloved hand down the slope. Sure enough a small body of water was nestled into the crook between hills. From here it looked pretty large and there were actual trees around it, not the stumpy tundra-like trees that had been springing up.
"Yeah, but it's just standing water, I don't see any streams or anything. Odds are we can't even drink it."
"Let's check it out anyways. We barely have any reserves left."
On they trudged, down the hillside, pushing their way through thorny bushes and the occasional small rodent. As they approached the pond they heard something quite rare; birds singing.
They emerged from the tree line to see a partially frozen pond, reeds poking through the sheet of ice at the edge of the water.
"Look," Moira pointed across the water at a deer stooping to drink from the impossibly clear pond.
Jackie was mesmerized by the water. "It's so...blue."
The water was an invitingly cool and crystal clear tone of blue, growing darker as the clouds rolled in overhead.
"Oh my gosh, look there!" Jackie pointed in excitement, causing the deer to flee. A lone cabin perched just inside the trees. It was tiny, a hunting or fishing cabin meant to provide a solitary human being some respite. The girls approached it carefully, drawing their knives in case it was already inhabited.
Moira pushed the door open and the sound the hinge let out was a ghastly wail. Hopefully that meant this was a undiscovered relic of life before the war.
Inside was empty save for some dry goods, a half a bottle of whiskey that looked ancient, and a small wood stove in the corner, along with a bundle of firewood.
"There's enough space for us to both sleep in here I think. I found a kettle!" Jackie pulled a cast iron kettle from behind the stove.
"Perfect, we can boil the water first."
"Who knows, maybe we could even... stay here a while. It's peaceful, away from everybody. If there's deer around then there's probably something edible. Growth here looks good."
Moira's face twitched. It sounded so lovely but the idea of staying in one place for long was stressful. "We can... try it out. For a little while. The second we see another person, we go. Deal?"
Her little sisters face lit up. "Deal." She cracked open the bottle of whiskey and offered Moira a swig.
"I bet we can prep a lot of water before that pond freezes over completely," Moira offered.
"Stop planning for just a second. We can relax a little bit. We have a roof over our heads!"
Moira smiled, thankful to be reminded of the good. Maybe they could stay for a bit while humanity tried to rebuild a functioning society.
Moira accepted the whiskey offering. Relaxation. What a foreign idea.