It doesn't take long to get ready. I pull on a few layers, pack food and water, a map book, a first aid kit and the pistol. Lisa accompanies me outside and between us we haul the trailer down an overgrown old path to the road. I throw my gear into the bed of the cart and pull on the harness. And then it's time.
"Well," I say. "I'd better get going. The sooner I leave the sooner I get back."
"Yeah," says Lisa. "You will be careful, won't you?"
"Don't worry," I say. "You'll stay in the house, right? And if anyone comes you've got the rifle."
"I'll be fine," Lisa says. "You're the one who's got the dangerous job."
I take her hand and squeeze. Standing there by the side of the road she looks more obviously pregnant than I've seen her in ages. She looks good, healthy, as if she's not a member of an endangered species at all. I wonder, for a strange moment, where each of us would be at this very moment if the Creatures hadn't come.
Then Lisa's hugging me. It catches me by surprise, but I hug back. Her hands are wrapped around my body, her face pressed awkwardly into my neck. For three months I've barely left this woman's side. For three months I've not had to face the world alone.
We hug for a long time, and then with great gentleness I pull away. There's nothing left to be said, and so I do not speak. Lisa looks like she's about to start crying as I turn away and start to walk. I don't intend to look back, but I can't stop myself. Each time I turn and glance back over my shoulder she's further away, still standing by the side of the road, watching me out of sight.
The trailer trundles along behind me, wheels bumping over rocks and cracks in the road. It's easy to pull, empty as it is. The day has dawned cool and crisp, and I'm grateful for my coat and gloves. The road ahead is clear and for the moment at least I'm sure of where I'm going.
I look back again, and find that the curve of the road has put Lisa out of view. I stop walking, surprised by how alone I feel. The urge to turn back washes through me, and I want nothing more in that minute than to go back home, back to Lisa, back to life and safety, back to something that feels real and right and good. But I can't. Ahead of me lies uncertainty, danger, maybe death, but I don't have a choice.
I have to do this.
I turn and set to walking again, into the rising day, with nothing but the birds to keep me company.