It's Friday again, and time for another trip to the end of the world! For those of you who want to read this from the beginning, you can read it in its entirety on this PAGE.
Memoirs From the End of the World
The hardest part about being a stray is not knowing who to trust, and if you do open up to someone, how much to trust them with. In spite of myself, I’ve grown to trust my companions. Alyx is brave and honest, and Ollie is helpful. I still catch him looking at me in ways I don’t like, but he’s never tried to force the issue. If nothing else, he’s been dependable, and in a world like this one, that’s almost too much to ask for.
Ollie and I take turns going foraging with Alyx. I look forward to those trips outside the house. Yes, there’s a risk of being captured, but I didn’t flee the prison of the meat locker to be imprisoned elsewhere. While Alyx is cautious and insists on looking around each corner first, I try not to let that bother me. He’s only doing what makes sense under these circumstances.
We didn’t tell the kids about the bloody basement. No sense in worrying them until we know more about what happened to their friends. When Alyx and I venture out, we keep an eye out for any signs of recent activity. Not only does this keep us mindful of possible patrols, it lets us know if there have been any other strays in the area. So far no luck. Either these kids were collected, or they know how to cover their tracks.
It seemed like we’d gotten into a good pattern. The patrols through this part of town have been infrequent, and the ones we have seen come at predictable times. Nothing surprising. Just enough for us to get comfortable. As it turns out, getting too comfortable was a bad idea.
Tonight after Alyx and I returned from a trip, it started to rain. It’s late enough in the year that it was a freezing cold rain, but beggars can’t complain when we get such a rare gift. We set out my grandmother’s cookware to catch water, knowing it would spare us a hazardous trip down to the river. Then, in the cover of dark, we all used an old bottle of leftover shampoo to take advantage of nature’s shower. My own shower was quick. I could only stand the bone-chilling cold for so long, but afterwards, I felt amazing. You walk around with a layer of dirt on your skin for long enough, it almost becomes a part of you. Like a nasty candy coating. You can forget what it’s like without it.
Afterwards, dressed in some clean clothes from the stockpile, I felt like I could climb into my old bed and into my old life. Yet, when I wiggled into my pile of blankets on the couch (Peter and Sheera sleep in the only bed), it didn’t feel right. I couldn’t get settled in. Feeling so close to normalcy, then falling short of it, got to me more than anything else.
I sat up and wrapped my blanket around my shoulders. I don’t know how long I sat there thinking before I heard movements. “Can’t sleep?” I asked, though I couldn’t see anything well enough to guess who was there.
“I’m thirsty.” Alyx’s voice. I didn’t like how happy I was to realize that.
After getting his drink from the soup pot we’d filled with rain water, he sat next to me. It felt odd to sit that close to someone, especially when that someone smelled of fresh apples courtesy of my grandmother’s abandoned bathroom products. “I hope you don’t mind me sitting here a minute,” Alyx said. “Ollie’s snoring.”
The two of them typically slept on the floor in the old sewing room. The hardwood floor couldn’t be comfortable, but the boys didn’t usually complain. “Stay as long as you want,” I said. “My brain won’t slow down enough to let me sleep.”
“Anything you want to talk about?”
For some reason, I found myself opening up to him about things I’d managed to keep to myself. About how strange it felt to be in this house again, about the things I missed about my grandmother, and what I used to dream of as a kid. I actually told him I used to dream of being an astronaut, and that after graduating high school, I planned to go into the Air Force. I wanted to know every star, and every alien world. “Now that the overlords are here, it feels like the stars have come to me, and they aren’t anything like I hoped they would be,” I confessed.
When Alyx put a reassuring arm around my shoulders, I leaned against him. He was warm, human, and I couldn’t help but relax. “All of our futures changed when they came,” Alyx replied. “If it’s so hard for you to be here, we could leave. Find somewhere else to hide.”
I shook my head. “No. I don’t want any decisions to be based on my feelings. I’ll be fine.”
After a few moments of silence, Alyx asked the question I’d hoped would remain unvoiced. “Why do you go by RC? I like the name Rose.”
“What’s to like? I don’t want to come across as a weak little flower. How can you like it?”
“Simple. Roses are beautiful like you, and they can make you bleed if you aren’t careful with them,” he said with a laugh. “I think the name fits you perfectly.”
His response left me feeling warm inside. The idea of him calling me Rose suddenly didn’t bother me.
Somehow, we both fell asleep like that: wrapped together in my blanket, my head on his shoulder, and his arm holding me close. We woke just after dawn, and when I opened my eyes, I saw Ollie standing there. He looked awkward about seeing me with his brother, and maybe even a little angry.
This is why I’ve always avoided personal attachments like this. Things can get awkward, and when you’re fighting for survival, awkwardness can kill you.
Go to Entry #15