There was a sharp pop. The smell of wood smoke burned the edges of the nose. A coughing fit started then a sudden retching turned into thick bile in the mouth. Graham rolled over from the force of it and puked into a small plastic basin sitting ready beside the edge of his bed.
"Good. You're awake. You be better now."
Graham doubted the truth of the words but was unfortunately certain he was not asleep. His head pounded to the beat of his heart. His vision was blurred around the rim and glossy at the centre. He could feel his stomach convulsing, clenching and relaxing as though preparing itself for more action. Graham took a few deep breaths and sucked in the smoke through his nostrils.
"Good. Remember breathe. Good."
There was a short man sitting at the centre of the room. He was focused on the fire and prodding it occasionally with a blunted stick. He was obviously a local, his skin their shinny brown, but his accent was not as thick. Possibly educated. Possibly lucky. Possibly friend.
"What did I eat?" Graham asked, his voice raspy from lack of use. Even after weeks of a rice only meals he could still taste carrot bits.
"You eat food off the street. Not very smart. Many people try to hurt you this way. Try to poison you. We found you and decide to help." The man smiled at him warmly as he said this. If he meant any harm he was taking his time showing it.
"I was very hungry. Thankfully I'm not now and I don't think I'll do it again. But why would people poison the food?"
"Not many people left. Some scared and attack strangers. Think they need to protect themselves. Some like us get together to help each other." The man started to look glum, his eyes watching his hands as he moved dirt about on the floor. He had a nervous twitch about him, unable to keep still, which somehow made Graham feel calm simply by comparison.
"What happened? Was there a war?" Graham asked. As he waited for a reply he was amazed to see the expression on the man's face turn from shock to genuine concern. So it was war. Must have been devistating.
"You don't know?" Graham shook his head in slow ripples. "People disappeared."
"No government. All places. People disappear. Small at first. Some here, some there. But then, in one night, lots! Everywhere. People blamed the government, but they disappear too! Many riots, everwhere people fight. Some say it's aliens, some say it's God."
"What do you say?" Graham shuddered, the memory of the village he first visited strong in his memory. As far as he was aware, no army could do that.
"Nothing to say. You feel better soon. You got rid of poison. Rest now and I see you later." Slowly the man rose. Graham noticed that he seemed quite young, maybe 25-30, yet as he walked away it seemed he carried the world which aged him more. Trying to think of nothing Graham closed his eyes and attempted sleep, wishing he could wake and find the real world returned.