It was only with the assistance of Captain that I was able to walk forward. My muscles were aching and my face was feeling numb as my feet drowned in the knee deep snow, while Captain's boots, it seemed, barely made an imprint. I filed this fact under my tiredness-related delusion.
Fatigue and lightheadedness made me want to keel over, but Captain was holding me tightly and keeping me upright. Occasionally, Captain also chose to interlock our arms, as if we were a happy couple taking a lovely stroll through the park.
I blinked momentarily, blanking out.
When I opened my eyes I found us walking through the outskirts of Eureka. A meaningless realization, since there was nothing left of the mega-continental-city; the world I once knew was consumed by the pollution of the Dead Zone, slightly flattened out and melted by thermonuclear holocaust and frozen solid by nuclear winter.
As we progressed Captain would point out various ruins and label them as “UTMOST-PROMINENT LANDMARKS” such as “GET-YOUR-MAIL-YESTERDAY POST OFFICE OF CAPTANIA” or “JUICY-FRUIT MARKET OF CAPTANIA”.
I could barely find it in me to keep focus. The original sensation of hope I felt when disbelievingly taking the Captain's hand and being helped up had subsided. Right now, I was just tired, cold and highly concerned about the mental state of my new “GRANDE EMPLOYER” who just offered me a “TWO AND A HALF PERCENT DISCOUNT IN SELECTED STORES OF CAPTANIA”.
Getting stabbed is not something I wished for, and Captain’s ramblings made me feel uneasy, scared and confused.
Suddenly, Captain came to a halt. I nearly fell onto my face... nearly, if my companion hadn't been holding me with an iron vice-like grip. Lifting my weary eyes, I glanced out at the misty, snow covered wasteland. The area looked no different from all the others I've been through; ruins, charred remains of a city square and lots and lots of snow. I wondered if the mad Governor of Captania had read my mind, and decided to grant me a nap on the snow. It really made little difference to me at that point. But I would've appreciated it if the Captain hurried up with it already as my body was shutting down.
“WELCOME TO ME CASA!”
Captain pointed towards what looked like a tiny cardboard house covered in deep layer of snow.
“You're kidding, right? You live in that?” I observed the micro-domicile.
“AH, BUT TIZ FAR BIGGER ON THE INSIDE!”
Captain answered my inquiry. I angrily turned away, contemplating my poor life choices.
While I was pouting, Captain slowly reached towards a hanging bell on the side of the mini-house and flicked it. As the bell rang, loud door banging and what sounded like boots stamping on a staircase and also crunching on glass was heard from within. I once again stared at the tiny home in disbelief.
An antiquated full head gear which probably once belonged in an aviation museum emerged out of the cardboard smoke stack, rotating towards us. Large round green goggles appeared next.
"CAPTAIN! GOOT TO SEES YOU!" The head spoke with a fluctuatingly loud, male voice."WHATSSS THAT?" A leather-gloved arm poked out of the window, pointing at me.
Shouldn’t that question start with ‘Who’? I wondered. Why is he shouting anyway?
“ZIS IS OUR NEW RECRUIT!” The one who answered to Captain declared, “I DISCOVERATED HIM IN ZEE PARK, TAKING A NAP ON MEIN PRETTY SNOW PETUNIAS!”
Too tired to question the lack of sense or truth in that statement, I merely let out an incomprehensible murmur that quickly turned into a tired moan.
Petting the green-goggled head Captain deigned to take care of the further introductions: “PILOT, ZIS IS MR SNIPPEY, OUR MARVELOUS NEW INTERN IN SNIPPING!
SNIPPY, ZIS IS OUR RESIDENT PILOT, LITERALLY A MODEL CITIZEN!”
Pilot’s head stared long and hard at me, seeming to weigh and evaluate me with its gaze. It somehow felt extremely piercing and judgmental even through the aviator gear. “HOW LONG WILL HE BE STAYING HERE, CAPTAIN?” the next question reverberated out of the smokestack.
“WELL, UNTIL NEXT MONDAY... AND THEN FOREVER AFTER THAT.” Captain said in an absent tone.
The head in the smokestack didn’t seem pleased, “WHY IS THIS HAPPENING CAPTAIN?” Pilot asked sourly, “DID I DOOOS SOMETHINGS WRONG? AREN'T I ENOUGHS?"
Pilot sneaked a glance at me once more, grumbling grudgingly as his head descended into the smokestack, disappearing within with a look of infinite sadness.
“YOU MUSTN’T HOG CAPTAIN’S AWESOMENESS, PILOT,” Captain sat down and looked inside a tiny window, speaking in a gentle yet a tad scalding tone, “I HAVE DECIDED TO INCREASE ZEE STATISTICAL POPULATION OF CAPTANIA AND MR. SNIPPY HERE IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF SUCH MULTIPLICATIONS AND WIDE EXPANSIONS.”
"I SUPPOSE... IF IT IS INDEED A VERITABLE NECESSITY. WE SHALL HAVE TO MAKE ROOM FOR SUCH AN UNFORTUNATE INCONVENIENCE." Pilot's sad voice echoed from within with a sigh.
Then, Captain stood up, reached towards me and then began dragging me towards the cardboard house.
“HAVE NO WORRIES MR SNIPPEY, SOON YOU WILL BE HOME AND FEEL RIGHT AS RAIN!”
I had no energy left to resist, but I did have an inkling of how things were going to pan out for me...