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Memoirs From the End of the World
Alyx’s face looked drained when he walked into the house with a little blonde-haired boy slung over his shoulder and a scrawny girl with dingy red hair dragging her feet behind him. The children were both covered in dirt, and one leg of the girl’s jeans was torn from the hem all the way up to her knee.
RC froze when she saw them, and a selfish thought crossed her mind. How are we going to feed them too? Then, shamed by the question, she pushed it down and hurried over to meet them as Alyx kicked the door closed behind him. “Where’d they come from?”
“I found them trapped in a net down by the river when I went to get water,” he replied. “It looks like the patrols are using a new tactic to catch strays.”
“Oh no.” RC flashed back to her time spent hanging off the bridge, and she couldn’t help but wonder if they set up that net in the hope of catching her.
Alyx must have read the horror in her expression, because he shook his head. “Don’t blame yourself. Staking out the river is a good strategy either way. No matter how stealthy a person is, everyone has to go for water at some point.”
He made a valid argument, but the guilt persisted nonetheless. “Well, I guess it’s a good thing you found them first,” RC replied. “Did you get enough food?”
He shook his head. “I got some, but I should go out to get more for tonight. I just wanted to get them back here safely first.”
“I’ll help you,” Ollie announced as he stood from the blue recliner in the corner. “You could use the help carrying it all. I’m going crazy being stuck in here anyway.” He’d spent most of the day up to that point flipping through old magazines that her RC’s grandmother collected over the years. This was also how he spent the last few days before that.
RC understood Ollie’s restlessness. By that point, she felt like a rat trapped in a cage. Yet, with these two exhausted children, it didn’t make sense for all of them to go, and Ollie did call it first.
Alyx looked at his brother, clearly recognizing the utility in the suggestion. Then he looked over at her, and she saw he felt bad about leaving her alone with their new charges.
“I’ll get the kids settled in,” RC volunteered, wanting to avoid being a sore loser about not getting to go gathering. Starting a fight wouldn’t help anything. She gently lifted the little boy, who was actually dosing peacefully, out of Alyx’s arms. He moaned softly as he was transferred, though he didn’t open his eyes. “Just be careful out there, you two.”
Now that she’d committed herself, RC took a look at the kids who were going to be depending on her. Judging by the girl’s appearance, she couldn’t be more than twelve. The boy had to be eight at most. And their frail frames proved they’d been strays for awhile.
The girl looked up at her with wide green eyes, and after a moment, she asked in a soft voice, “What’s your name?”
Something about the girl’s scared expression softened her, and for once she volunteered her actual first name. “I’m Rose, but everyone calls me RC.”
“So you actually do have a normal name,” Alyx commented, his mouth turned up in a grin.
She shot him a dirty look as her cheeks flushed. “I thought you guys were leaving.”
Now Alyx laughed. “We’ll be back soon.”
Ollie waved on his way out the door, but he didn’t pause long enough to say anything. In spite of the chill in the air and the potential danger, human beings can only be cooped up in the same place for so long. He was eager to roam free for awhile.
RC took the kids to the bedroom so she could put the boy down for a proper nap. “I’m Sheera, by the way,” the girl said as they walked. “He’s Peter.”
“Is he your brother?” RC asked conversationally.
Sheera shook her head. “No, but it seemed like a good idea to stick together. Safer.”
RC briefly reflected on the reasons why she was still hiding out with Alyx and Ollie. Though she hated to admit it, having the two of them around made life easier in a lot of ways. Alyx held up his end of the conversation, unlike Romero who, while technically being a terrific listener, couldn’t respond with any kind of feedback. It was also reassuring to know that she’d have backup in case they were ever cornered. “I can see that.” RC paused as she lay Peter down and gently pulled the blue and yellow quilt over him. He’d get the linen dirty considering how filthy he was, but that hardly seemed like a pressing concern. “Why are you out here anyway? You’re too young to be running.”
Sheera’s eyes darted around the room anxiously. “I ran with my parents. They were too old to be in the breeding facility, but they didn’t want any of their children going in either. When my sister Gwen was fifteen, we packed up one night and left. We eventually met up with some others, and they talked about forming a resistance group.”
A pang of hope rang through RC, but she tried to keep it under control. “Why aren’t you with them now? Surely they wouldn’t send you kids out to collect supplies.”
“No. They never did.” Tears filled the girl’s eyes. “They did everything they could to protect us. That’s why we’re still alive.”
Dread settled in RC like a lead weight as she realized how dark a turn this story was about to take.
Go to Entry #12
Go to Entry #12