How long does untreated unrefrigerated giant armadillo meat stay good in one-hundred-degree weather with ninety-six percent humidity and persistent acid rain and acid smog? I have no idea and I wasn’t about to find out despite Martialla saying it was probably fine. The pile of dead armadillo we left behind is going to be a hell of a boon for whatever scavenging beast finds it. Maybe that will really turn the luck around for some jackal-killer whale with the face of a gibbon.
You see, here’s the problem with following the river south, plants grow up around rivers for some reason. In order to avoid big tangles of “trees” that twisted around each other like a pile of snakes in a pit and dense fields of thorns and some other patches of little damn things that were like spears sticking straight out of the ground, we kept moving farther away from the river. Eventually we couldn’t actually see the river for the vegetation anymore (new expression) but we figured that as long as we could see the wall of ugly stabby vegetation, we were still following it.
And maybe that would have worked if we weren’t broken like the dreams of Elizabeth Berkley after Showgirls came out. I was hunched over at a ninety-degree angle with my “good” right hand clasped onto Martialla’s belt letting her pull me forward like a sled dog when she came to a stop and I crashed into her boney ass. I swear she has hips like a deli slicer. Bouncing off, I almost fell and in trying to steady myself, I yanked on her belt so hard the damn thing snapped and then she lurched forward, almost falling herself, and in the process of her flailing for balance, she smacked me in the ear.
I grabbed at the side of my head “Jesus, we need to cut out this Three Stooges bullshit.”
Martialla pulled out the remaining half of her belt and watched it disintegrate in her hands “Maybe if you backed off me, we wouldn’t be running into each other all the time. We don’t need to be roped together like mountaineers. Where are we? I can’t see the river anymore.”
I was stunned for a moment “I was following you, how should I know?!”
She gaped at me “I was following you!”
“How could you be following me when I was behind you?”
She thought about it for a minute “Good point. You know I think that third concussion in two minutes really did a number on my brain.” She did a piss poor job of imitating my melodious voice “And you didn’t have much of a brain to begin with.”
“Nice, real nice, you must be a hit at parties with that trick.”
“Remember when David Spade called the cops on you at the Cinco De Mayo party?”
I nodded absently “I had that coming but Chris Farley had no right to call me what he did. I should have stabbed that Tommy Boy mother fucker. Alright so we were on the east side of the river so we just need to go west to find it again right? Which way is west?”
“How the hell should I know?”
“Can’t you tell from the sun or something?”
We spun around a little, shielding our eyes and trying to look for the sun. It was very bright out but also the air was so filled with particulate that it was hard to figure out where the sun was. When we finally maybe pinpointed the location of the sun, it was right above us and off to the left a little. Or the right depending on which way you were standing. Or neither if you were standing a different way.
Martialla had her arms out like she was about to start flapping and try and take flight “Alright so it’s morning and I’m facing the sun, so West is left.”
I turned the other way “I mean we were going this way and the river was on our right side so . . . sure?”
We both tilted our heads back and looked at each other upside for a minute before she both shrugged and headed to my right and her left. As we trudged on our death march to nowhere, I wondered how it could be so muggy all the time. At some point is all the moisture out of the air? I guess it rains all the time in rainforests. So the Northern Lights have come down and the rain forest moisture has come up? How does that make sense? Next I thought about how there has to be a way to harvest and treat your sweat back into drinkable water. Sweat is mostly just water right? How do you get the salt out of it? I thought I remembered something from school about boiling but that was to get rid of the water and end up with salt. How does desalination work? How hard could it be?
Around the time I was going to suggest that we had gone the wrong way, I spotted something fire engine red off to the right. Aside from some exotic birds, that is not a color you see much in nature, and it was way too big to be a golden pheasant (which is bright red). It was a maybe six foot on a side red sheet of metal halfway stuck in the ground with a white arrow on it. There were other pieces of rusty metal around it but it was mostly intact. Not far away was a rusted-out sedan making love with a skeletonized truck on a bed of tire rims with all the rubber eaten away. Martialla poked around and found another piece of red metal with a partial word on it “presso”. Espresso? I can’t think of what other word it could be. But how does that fit with a big arrow?
That’s when we saw it.