It's Friday, which means it's time to return to RC's story. For those who've missed earlier installments, you can find the entire story to date on this PAGE.
Memoirs From the End of the World
In order to ensure that it was safe to head back to base, the Brock ordered a couple of the rebels to sweep Alyx for tracking devices, though he insisted he didn’t have any. “My captors didn’t think there was any way I could escape, so they didn’t bother tagging me with anything.” And, after a thorough checkup, the rebels confirmed what they’d been told.
The medic, a middle aged man named Harrison, promptly got to work on Alyx the moment they made it back to safety. RC simply wrapped an old shirt around her bleeding leg, perfectly content to wait her turn. It was clear that, though the injury ached plenty, it was nothing more than a flesh wound. All it required was a good cleaning and some dressings to keep infection at bay.
Alyx, on the other hand, was beginning to run a fever. He lay on a clean blanket while the medic peeled back the denim that barely covered the wounded leg. This soon revealed the source of the problem. The skin was red and swollen, the gash itself forced open by the accumulation of dried blood and puss. Clearly tending to the festering wounds of those bound for execution wasn’t a top priority.
Sickening though the sight, and even the smell, of the wound were, RC could hardly be bothered by it. Instead she sat beside him and held his hand, astonished by how warm it felt to the touch. Ollie hovered nearby, clearly more repulsed by the infected leg than the rest of them.
“Can you take care of this?” RC asked. She had no medical expertise to speak of, but she knew something like this would require strong drugs.
“We’ve managed to steal enough medical supplies to keep ourselves alive,” Harrison replied. “That includes everything I need to treat this. He’ll probably be pretty sick for the next couple of days, but I don’t think we have much to worry about.”
Though Harrison sounded certain, RC still had her doubts. Maybe those doubts were based purely on her sense that things tended not to turn out as planned. In either case, she had no intention of voicing those doubts. Alyx had enough to worry about already without her piling on more. It didn’t take long for her to learn just how much guilt he’d already adopted.
“It was my idea to go back to that house,” Alyx said quietly. “Everything that happened . . . it was my fault.”
RC knew by the tone of his voice, and the weight that hung on the air as he hesitated, precisely what he was admitting fault for. Though she didn’t want to speak aloud about the assault committed on her in front of anyone else, she couldn’t leave him hanging. “I don’t blame you for anything that happened. Okay? The idea was a good one, because we really needed those supplies. It just didn’t work out. Everything those creeps did is their fault. They’re the ones to blame. Not you.”
“It wouldn’t have happened at all if we didn’t go,” he insisted.
“Thinking like that can drive you crazy,” RC replied.
Ollie winced as he watched the work being done on Alyx’s leg. Though it seemed as if he hadn’t been paying attention to anything else, he jumped in on the conversation. “We’re here now, and we’re safe, Alyx. There’s no point in beating yourself up for things you can’t change.”
This was sound advice, but easier said than done. RC had no doubt he would continue to flog himself for it all, and she couldn’t change that. She could only be there for him.
The conversation ended abruptly when the pain of Harrison’s work made it too difficult for Alyx to speak. Sweat beaded on his face, and he squeezed RC’s hand until her fingers started to turn blue. She didn’t complain.
After Harrison finished, Alyx fell into a restless sleep. After RC’s leg was tended to, she also lay down for a nap. The day had been so exhausting, both physically and emotionally, that she needed the downtime. And lying there next to Alyx, though he shivered with fever, was comforting. Even in this insane world, the good could survive. RC had felt the encroaching cynicism more than once, but having Alyx back held it at bay.
As the days passed, RC found reassurance in the fact that Alyx’s fever broke and his leg visibly improved. Her own wound healed nicely. The rebels came and went, going about errands that they seldom discussed with the rest of them. Ollie, however, went out of his way to make friends with Brock, and he even persuaded the man to let him accompany them on a couple routine supply runs.
Over the course of those first days, RC didn’t talk with Alyx about anything that happened to her while trapped in that house. Even though she didn’t remember any of it, just knowing it happened was enough to make her run from it. And Alyx, who knew far more about what took place than she did, never brought it up. He probably didn’t want to face it any more than she did.
Still, some realities rear their heads and demand you to take notice whether you want to or not. Though the scrapes and bruises that came from her time in that awful house faded relatively quickly, the consequences of her time there weren’t about to go away. As days turned to weeks, RC felt increasingly unsettled. She just felt . . . off. Not her normal self. It could have been attributed to a lot of things, of course.
Then she woke one morning, only to abruptly throw up. The nausea lingered, and she couldn’t escape the reality of what it meant.