It's Friday and time for the next chapter in the story of RC and Alyx. For those who have missed any prior installments, you can find the entire story as it is thus far on this PAGE.
Memoirs From the End of the World
The winter passed agonizingly slowly in some respects. Trudging through the snow banks with an entire group of people in tow made avoiding detection that much more difficult. An ignored set of footprints could easily draw unwanted attention from the wrong people. They would also be that much easier to spot from a distance. They did what they could to alleviate this problem by traveling on windy days when they could count on the shifting snow to somewhat obscure the traces of their presence. A light snow also worked well for this purpose. Upon getting the group settled in their next temporary home, RC and Alyx would venture out to sweep over whatever else they needed to cover in order to feel safe for the night.
All in all, they spent those months freezing cold. There was no way to get warm, except during trips spent hunting for new sources of food, when the laborious nature of tromping through the snow drew out a sweat regardless of air temperature. This was actually one of the reasons why RC preferred to go on those little expeditions. Remaining sheltered only guaranteed a chilled existence.
At night, they sat together and discussed a variety of topics. Sometimes they told stories from their pasts. Sometimes they discussed survival strategies. And quite often, they talked of what it might be like when they finally escaped the city and didn’t have to worry about the constant threat of patrols, both robotic and human. RC often felt distinctly uncomfortable when this particular conversation would arise, because she didn’t like getting her hopes up. Not when the possibility of failure was so real. Not when they couldn’t even think of attempting such an escape until the weather improved in early spring. Isabel, on the other hand, glowed when this topic arose, and she was frequently the one to broach it. She clung to the hope of better things like a starving man might cleave to a loaf of bread.
Though Ollie’s progress was slow, he steadily recovered from the illness that took him down. The children also exhibited some signs of sickness as well, but they bounced back much more quickly. RC silently decided the old saying “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” might indeed be appropriate in this case. Either way, his recovery brought a sense of relief. At least, for the time being, no lives were in imminent danger.
Except, of course, for the constant fear that they would be spotted. One time, while RC and Alyx were out gathering, hoping with everything they had that they could gather enough supplies to last them for a couple days, they actually crossed paths with Gas Can and a couple of other guys from the group. RC’s heart almost leapt from her body when she saw them standing in the street. Fortunately, RC and Alyx saw them through a dirty window before exiting the building they’d just finished searching. Well hidden and reasonably safe, they huddled there until the boys moved on.
“That was too close,” RC breathed as she watched them disappear around a distant corner.
“Not nearly as close as last time, though,” Alyx replied.
RC laughed. “That’s true.”
Each month that passed also brought with it also brought a whisper of truth they all wanted to ignore. There was less food to find. The routine scavenging trips confirmed this fact. There weren’t that many strays left on the streets, at least not as far as RC knew, yet the need to eat daily guaranteed that the day would eventually come when they would find nothing. They had to carefully ration each meal, and they often tried to err on the side of caution in eating less than they thought they could get away with. After all, who knew when the weather might turn on them, making the next trip outdoors impossible? Or maybe Alyx and RC wouldn’t come back one day. No sense in the others starving while they waited.
If anything, this diminishing supply of food solidified the already rather solid conviction that they needed to eventually make it completely out of the city. If they didn’t, they would die.
Yet, that conviction wouldn’t feed them for the remainder of the winter. It might warm some of them with a spark of hope, yes, but that spark would surely die if they stopped gathering for mealtime.
One night, as they sat together by a window, basking in the light of a brilliant full moon, Alyx broke through a peaceful lull in the banter with an annoyingly obvious observation. “We can’t go on much longer like this. None of us has had enough to eat in weeks.”
RC gaped at him. Of course she knew this was true, but pointing it out would only make the hunger pangs more difficult to ignore.
“Do you have any bright ideas?” Ollie demanded. “Because I think we’d all like to have a full meal for a change.”
“I actually do,” Alyx replied, “though it might be a bit dangerous.”
This did nothing to reassure RC, who knew Alyx would insist on being at the forefront of whatever dangerous mission he had in mind. “What’s your plan?”
Alyx shifted his gaze to indicate both RC and Isabel. “Remember the safe house we were taken to?”
RC nodded. It was a safe house for their captors to go to, but it had been anything but safe for them.
“They were well-stocked with all kinds of things, and I’m sure that included plenty of food,” he continued.
Isabel shrank back. “Yes, of course, but it would be suicide to go back there.”
“Maybe, but we need more to eat,” Alyx insisted. “There are several safe houses, right? We’ll just go back to the one we all know and hope no one else is there that night.” He sighed. “I know it’s risky, but it’s better than starving.”
Go to Entry #25
Go to Entry #25