The hills across the valley of the Ebro were long and white. On this side there was no shade and no trees and the station was between two lines of rails in the sun. Between the rail lines were coils of concertina wire. Close against the side of the station there was the warm shadow of the building and a curtain, made of strings of bamboo beads, hung across the open door into the bar, to keep out flies. The flies were always there even when the walking dead were not. The American and the girl sat at a table in the shade, outside the building. The shotgun lay on the table between them. It was very hot and the express from Barcelona would come in forty minutes, if it came at all. It used to stop at this junction for two minutes and went to Madrid. There was talk that Barcelona had been emptied, that los muertos were the only ones left. They had passed the city a few days ago, but that was at night, and who could tell the dead from the living in darkness? What was true, the American thought, was true at first light.
'What should we drink?' the girl asked. She had taken off her helmet and put it on the table.
'It's pretty hot,' the man said. 'Let's drink beer.'
'Dos cervezas,' the man said into the curtain.
'Big ones?' a woman asked from the doorway.
'Yes. Two big ones.'
The woman brought two glasses of beer and two felt pads. She put the felt pads and the beer glass on the table and looked at the man and the girl. The girl was looking off at the line of hills. They were white in the sun and the country was brown and dry.
'They look like white elephants,' she said.
'I've never seen one,' the man drank his beer.
'No, you wouldn't have.'
'I might have,' the man said. 'Just because you say I wouldn't have doesn't prove anything.'
The girl looked at the bead curtain. 'They've painted something on it,' she said. 'What does it say?'
'Los muertos’. It means...'
'I know what it means.’ She rubbed the bandage on her arm. ‘The other thing. The words they painted over.'
‘Anis del Toro. It’s a drink.’
‘Could we try it?’
The man called 'Listen' through the curtain. The woman came out from the bar. She was pale.
'We want two Anis del Toro.' ‘Si. Un momeno, senor.’ She walked back into the room behind the bar.
The girl thought on this. ‘It’s hot. She wasn’t sweating.’
The man called 'Listen' through the curtain. The woman ignored him. ‘Listen’, he called again.
The woman shambled out, still holding a bottle of Anis del Toro.
‘Muuuuuuhhh’, the woman said.
The American grabbed the shotgun and shot her in the head. He stood up and used the machete to make sure. The twice dead corpse gripped the bottle. He chopped off that hand and sat back down. The bottle rested on the table. It was a brown bottle and perhaps the woman had taken a sip before she turned. The hand still gripped it.
'Do you want it with water?'
'I don't know,' the girl said.
'Is it good with water?'
'It's all right.'
'Yes, with water.'
'It tastes like liquorice,' the girl said and put the glass down.
'That's the way with everything.'
'Yes,' said the girl. 'Everything tastes of liquorice. Especially all the things you've waited so long for, like absinthe. If everything tastes of liquorice to us do you think we taste like liquorice to them?'
'Oh, cut it out.'
'You started it,' the girl said. 'I was being amused. I was having a fine time.'
'Well, let's try and have a fine time.'
'All right. I was trying. I said the mountains looked like white elephants. Wasn't that bright?'
'That was bright.'
'I wanted to try this new drink. That's all we do, isn't it - look at things and kill zombies and try new drinks?'
'I guess so.' The girl looked across at the hills. 'They're lovely hills,' she said. 'They don't really look like white elephants. I just meant the coloring of their skin through the trees.'
'They look like muerto skin. Should we have another drink?'
'All right.' The warm wind blew the bead curtain against the table.
'The beer's nice and cool,' the man said.
'It's lovely,' the girl said.
'It's really an awfully simple operation, Jig,' the man said. 'It's not really an operation at all.'
The girl looked at the ground the table legs rested on. Then she looked at her bandage.
'I know you wouldn't mind it, Jig. It's really not anything. It might work. You might not turn.' The girl did not say anything.
'I'll go with you and I'll stay with you all the time. They just let the air in and then it's all perfectly natural.'
'Then what will we do afterwards?'
'We'll be fine afterwards. Just like we were before.'
'What makes you think so?'
'That's the only thing that bothers us. It's the only thing that's made us unhappy. That and them.' The girl looked at the bead curtain, put her hand out and took hold of two of the strings of beads. 'And you think then we'll be all right and be happy.'
'I know we will. You don't have to be afraid. I've known lots of people that have done it.'
'So have I,' said the girl. 'And afterwards they were all so happy. The ones that didn’t die, anyway.'
'Well,' the man said, 'if you don't want to you don't have to. I wouldn't have you do it if you didn't want to. But I know it's perfectly simple.'
'And you really want to?'
'I think it's the best thing to do. But I don't want you to do it if you don't really want to.'
'And if I do it you'll be happy and things will be like they were and you'll love me?' 'I love you now. You know I love you.'
'I know. But if I do it, then it will be nice again if I say things are like white elephants, and you'll like it?'
'I'll love it. I love it now but I just can't think about it. You know how I get when I worry.'
'If I do it you won't ever worry?'
'I won't worry about that because it's perfectly simple.'
'Then I'll do it. Because I don't care about me.'
'What do you mean?'
'I don't care about me.'
'Well, I care about you.'
'Oh, yes. But I don't care about me. And I'll do it and then everything will be fine.'
'I don't want you to do it if you feel that way.' The girl stood up and walked to the end of the station. Across, on the other side, were fields of grain and trees along the banks of the Ebro. There were figures moving slowly through the trees. A shot rang out and one fell. Far away, beyond the river, were mountains. The shadow of a cloud moved across the field of grain and she saw the river through the trees.
'And we could have all this,' she said.
'And we could have everything and every day we make it more impossible.'
'What did you say?'
'I said we could have everything.'
'No, we can't.'
'We can have the whole world.'
'No, we can't.'
'We can go everywhere.'
'No, we can't. It isn't ours any more. It’s theirs.'
'No, it isn't. And once they take it away, you never get it back. Unless you don’t get eaten. Or get your head cut off.'
'But they haven't taken it away.'
'We'll wait and see.'
'Come on back in the shade,' he said. 'You mustn't feel that way.'
'I don't feel any way,' the girl said. 'I just know things.'
'I don't want you to do anything that you don't want to do -'
'Nor that isn't good for me,' she said. 'I know. Could we have another beer?'
'All right. But you've got to realize - '
'I realize,' the girl said. 'Can't we maybe stop talking?' They sat down at the table and the girl looked across at the hills on the dry side of the valley and the man looked at her and at the table.
'You've got to realize,' he said, ' that I don't want you to do it if you don't want to. I'm perfectly willing to go through with it if it means anything to you.'
'Doesn't it mean anything to you? We could get along. At least until…'
'Of course it does. But I don't want anybody but you. I don't want anyone else. And I know it's perfectly simple.'
'Yes, you know it's perfectly simple.'
'It's all right for you to say that, but I do know it.'
'Would you do something for me now?'
'I'd do anything for you.'
'Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?' He did not say anything but looked at the bags against the wall of the station. They were full of guns and bullets and one contained an axe.
'But I don't want you to,' he said, 'I don't care anything about it.'
'I'll scream,' the girl said. The American got up to find beer. The girl raised her gun to her shoulder. It was a fine gun, a long rifle. It reminded her of the circus. She aimed and fired and another one of the slow figures fell. Then all of the others started firing and the glasses and bottles on the wall shook.
The American came out through the curtains with two glasses of beer and put them down on the damp felt pads.
'The train is suppose to come in five minutes,' he said.
'What did she say?' asked the girl, looking at the headless handless corpse. 'That the train is coming in five minutes.' The girl smiled brightly at what remained of the woman, to thank her.
'I'd better take the bags over to the other side of the station,' the man said. She smiled at him. 'All right. Then come back and we'll finish the beer.' He picked up the two heavy bags and carried them around the station to the other tracks. He looked up the tracks but could not see the train. Coming back, he walked through the bar-room, where people waiting for the train were drinking. He drank an Anis at the bar and looked at the people. They were all waiting nervously for the train. Most had already started reloading. He went out through the bead curtain. She was sitting at the table and smiled at him.
'Do you feel better?' he asked.
'I feel fine,' she said. 'There's nothing wrong with me. I feel fine.'