It's Friday and time for my next installment! For those of you who are behind, the links to previous installments can be found below. You can also read the story in its entirety on this PAGE.
Memoirs From the End of the World
The sound of the front door jarred RC from her writing fervor. Though it was about time for Alyx to be coming back, she wanted to be prepared for any eventualities. Shoving Romero under the squat side table she’d been using as a makeshift desk, she had to shove aside the memories associated with it. At three years old, she ran headfirst into that table and got her first set of stitches just above her right eye. The scar faded long ago, but the recollection ignited something painful inside her all over again.
Though RC knew seeking refuge in her grandmother’s old house went against her rule about predictability, she realized she could have hardly intended anything else when she selected this neighborhood as a meeting place. If she had more time to think about it the night before, she surely would have chosen another location. Yet, now that she was here, she really didn’t want to leave. Though the electricity was gone, and every surface had been coated in a thick layer of dust, this still felt more like home than anything she’d known since her world ended.
She shed the quilt from her shoulders and stood up from the old recliner. Listening closely, she discerned a single set of footsteps making their way across the kitchen, light enough that she knew the person behind them couldn’t be much larger than her. This fact helped her to relax considerably.
“I think I got you everything you need,” Alyx announced as he entered the living room. RC’s pack was slung over his shoulder, now brimming with a variety of items. “Needles, medicinal alcohol, and some thread. I hope it’s the right kind.”
“As long as the packaging has never been opened, I can make it work. We don’t want to risk infection.” RC grabbed the pack and started laying everything out on the table. “You should have let me come along. It would’ve made things easier on you.”
Alyx shook his head adamantly. “You needed your rest. After everything you did for us, it was the least I could do.” He looked down at the floor, as if recalling something that drummed up a feeling of guilt.
RC’s eyes fell on the gash in his cheek. Before the patrol took off to pursue her, one of them whipped him with the end of a rifle. The sight of the physical damage made her pause in her sorting. Fury filled her gut. Sure, the patrolmen hadn’t killed him or hauled him in, but hitting him like that was just plain spiteful. “That needs cleaned out,” she said, brushing the wound with a cautious fingertip.
He shied away a little. “You can help me with that after you stitch up Ollie,” Alyx replied adamantly. Then he paused, his eyes obviously focused on her hands. He’d helped her bandage them immediately after her return, so he certainly had an idea of how sore they were. “Are you sure you can do it?”
“Of course I am. I just had a date with Romero, and my hands were fine. They hurt less when I keep them moving. Less opportunity for them to get stiff.” She returned to her survey of the items Alyx brought back. In addition to medical supplies, he’d retrieved some food. A packet of beef jerky, some canned soups. Not exactly a feast, but certainly better than nothing.
“I could try,” he offered, though the hesitation in his tone was obvious.
She shook her head. “No. Neither of us are doctors, but at least I’ve had some practice with sewing. Stitching a pillow case, stitching human flesh. How different can it be?” This was meant as a joke, but the moment she said it, she realized just how morbid it sounded.
If Alyx had the same thought about her comment, he didn’t say anything.
When RC pulled a bottle of some kind of brown liquor out of her bag, she raised an eyebrow. “What’s this for?”
Alyx managed a little laugh. “It’s medicinal too. I figured Ollie should have something to calm his nerves while you stick him with that needle.”
RC nodded approvingly. “You’re a good brother.”
A few minutes later, the two of them were in the back bedroom where Ollie had gone to take a nap. It seemed neither of the boys slept the night before. It took them hours to get to the rendezvous point, and afterwards with no idea what might happen, rest hadn’t come easily. Ollie didn’t seem especially eager to wake now, though no one could blame his lack of enthusiasm about the needle and thread. He did, however, look a bit relieved when he saw the new choice of beverage.
Lying on his stomach, Ollie kept the bottle close to his lips while RC worked. After thoroughly cleaning the wound, which garnered enough moans of pain from her patient, she began the task of sewing the skin back together. The lack of blood surprised her a little, and once she became accustomed to the unpleasant sounds Ollie continued to make, it actually wasn’t as bad as she feared it might be.
By the time she finished her work and covered the wound with clean bandages, Ollie’d finished off a quarter of the bottle. RC wrenched it from his grasp amid slurred protests. “Just because you’re in pain doesn’t mean you get to hog it all.”
RC and Alyx wandered back to the living room and sat on the floor, their backs propped up against the wall. She took a small sip from the bottle, and her spine responded with a shudder. It was strong stuff. Maybe drinking should have been against the rules since it numbed the senses, but she’d never explicitly written a rule against it. And right now, after the stress and exhaustion, she really didn’t care.
Alyx reached out for the bottle. “I need some too.”