Friday, December 21, 2012

Memoirs From the End of the World: Entry #16

It's Friday, so that means it's also time for some flash fiction.  For those of you who haven't read the previous chapters in this story, you can read all of it on this PAGE.

Memoirs From the End of the World
Entry #16

“How high do you think his temperature is?”

RC shrugged.  When she placed her palm on Ollie’s forehead, the abnormal warmth told her only that he would be down for days.  Sweat beaded on his skin, and he shifted restlessly in his sleep.  “I’m no thermometer, but he’s definitely sick.”

Alyx ran nervous fingers through his disheveled hair.  “Hopefully he’ll be okay.  We don’t have any medicine if he isn’t.”

“Let’s just hope it’s a simple flu that’ll go away on its own.”  As RC spoke, she kept her eyes on Ollie’s prostrate form.  Though she saw him vomiting violently only a few minutes before, it was still easier to look at him than it was to meet Alyx’s eye.  And when she did hazard a glance, Alyx certainly wasn’t looking at her.  Considering the humiliation of the previous night remained so fresh in her mind, she felt it was just as well.  “Obviously he’s not going to help with the hunting today.”

“No,” Alyx replied.

“I’ll go,” RC volunteered.  “Maybe you should stay here to look after your brother and the kids.”  She’d been awake most of the night, considering the possibility of simply slipping out the door and disappearing.  It might help her escape the embarrassment to do such a thing, but in the end, she couldn’t leave them behind.  Not when they had the kids to look after.

At least, that’s what she told herself.

Now Ollie’s illness gave her even more reason to stay, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t itching to escape for awhile.  Dodging patrols seemed more appealing than remaining idle in the house.

“It isn’t safe for you to go out.  If anyone’s going out there, it should be me,” Alyx insisted.

“I don’t care if it’s safe,” RC mumbled.  Keeping her head low, she exited the room.  She began to throw on the extra layers of clothing that would help her brave the cold.  Why should I listen to anyone who tries to talk me out of what I want? she thought as she tugged on a pair of warm shoes.  When I was on my own, I didn’t have to deal with other people’s opinions on what was best for me.

Approaching footsteps prompted RC to grab a coat and her backpack and make a break for the door.  “Wait a minute!” Alyx begged.  “You can’t go out there alone.  If something happens, you won’t have anyone to back you up.”

“I can take care of myself.  I’ve outwitted the patrols before.”

Just as she grabbed the doorknob, he grasped her shoulder, and the unexpected nature of the gesture punched a hole through her defensive barrier.  She lifted her head and met his gaze.  Immediately, she recognized how tormented he felt.  Concern and desperation resonated in the way he looked back at her.  “I know you can, but it’s always going to be safer with someone to help you.  If we both go, we can get everything we need in half the time.”

She paused, wondering how a joint expedition with the two of them could possibly go well.  It was bound to be one of the most uncomfortable experiences of her life.  “Ollie’s sick.  He shouldn’t be by himself,” RC argued.

“He wouldn’t be alone.”  Sheera startled them both with her interruption.  She sat on the couch, and young though she was, she was also confident.  The scared  girl RC comforted the first night was also a mature young woman in this world.  “I’ve looked after people before.  Neither of you are more qualified to take care of him than I am.”

RC couldn’t deny that logic, and she despised it.

“We’ll be back soon,” Alyx promised.

The biting cold of the day nearly took her breath away as they walked, and this worked out fine, since neither of them seemed eager to talk.  She buried her hands deep in her pockets, though this did little to shield them.

Most of the foraging passed by in silence.  They wordlessly took turns glancing around corners to be sure the streets were safe.  They worked together to check each room in the homes they visited.  The pickings weren’t as plentiful as they once were, so the two of them had to travel out further than they ever had before.  RC wondered if they really could build up enough supplies to last them through the winter, or if they’d succumb to the elements partway through.

A couple hours into the expedition, they sat down to rest inside one of the homes.  Like every other house they’d searched, the rooms were saturated with the cold, but the reprieve from the whipping winds provided some refuge.

“Rose, I know this is weird, but I . . .”

“Forget about it,” RC said sharply.  “There’s nothing to say.”  Part of her felt bad about being harsh with him.  After all, he couldn’t help that his feelings were different than hers.  Yet discussing that damned awkward kiss could only make her feel even worse.

Alyx shrunk away from her.  “Right.”

By the time they made it back outside, tiny snowflakes were drifting to the ground.  This was the first sign of snow they’d seen, and it was worrisome to say the least.  “We need to get back soon,” RC said.  “We don’t want to get stuck out here if it gets worse.”

Alyx nodded.  “Hopefully we have enough food.  Who knows how long the snow might last?”

They turned on to a road they hadn’t yet taken that day.  It should have been a faster way back to the house, and they figured the quicker it was, the safer they’d be.  Unfortunately, they only made it a couple of blocks before the sound of an agonized scream tore through the air. 

RC froze while her heart doubled its pace.  Somehow, Alyx’s hand now held hers as he whispered a question that undoubtedly had a dangerous answer.  “What was that?”

Go to Entry #17

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