Chapter 8: Clean

Chapter 8: Clean

A Chapter by Janeece
"

Scarlet talks to Fredrick for the first time in a long time.

"

No words to describe the pain. No words to interpret the most disturbing thing I had ever laid eyes on. This physical sickness, a nightmare that had been appearing sporadically throughout the time since I've heard of its reincarnation.

The picture is lobbed at me, something I wouldn't be able to dodge even if I had seen it coming. My instructions to my body to move seem to be truncated, not able to reach my appendages. That's okay with me. So I give up, stop trying. I don't want to move, don't want to place myself any closer to the corpse in front of me.

            The baneful infection has not taken Griffin's life yet, but the fact that it will is not unlikely. This is something I cannot ignore, no matter how desperate I am to do so. Something I wish I never saw. It makes me want to turn back time and take Rae's advice, stay in bed and wait until morning when by then, someone would surely tell me I'm not allowed to see Griffin or Fredrick.

            I hold myself back from grabbing the door mid swing and running out of the room screaming like a mad woman. But something else keeps me there, standing in the stench filled air. It reeks of a lingering odor, courtesy of natural body fluids, but the most potent smell my nose is familiar with is death. Has the scent become so natural to me that my body welcomes it, rather than trying to escape it? I know something of that sort can't be normal. But then I realize nothing about me, is normal.

                I see his frail structure, chest rising and falling in a scarily abnormal pattern under a thin sheet. His haggard frame sickeningly still, on the morose bed. He is profusely sweating, the spot around his body a darker colour than the sheets he rests on. He is laid out on a bed in the middle of the room, Fredrick sleeping directly beside him. He is in a slouched position, uncomfortably cramped on an old lounge chair. There's a desk against the wall by the cot, one of the dimly lit, blue lanterns lighting most of the small room. An alien person sleeps on the other side, figure drawn together on one of the beds identical to my own. They scratch their way under the blankets, kicking and whimpering, no doubt having nightmares of blood.

              I step forward and extend my arm hesitantly towards Fredrick's hand that is resting in top of Griffin's. The hand underneath almost looks like a small child's, a small malnourished one at that...

              His hand lifts quickly and his body shudders violently, jolting him awake.

              "Red?" He says hoarsely, in a daze.

              "Y-yes." My voice is a shaky croak, coated with tears.

             "Am I dreaming?" I clamp my lips shut from saying yes, he has no idea how badly I wish it were.

               "No." His eyes are wide open now, the blue not smoldering as usual. It's cool and tired, filled with distress yet still, just as mesmerizing. I can't believe how much I've missed it.

               "I bet he looks better than me." He jokes halfheartedly, pushing his messy blond hair back with his hands and glancing down at Griffin.

                "How are you?" The words flood from my mouth in a rush to change the subject. "Sorry, that was a stupid question." My face beats red, Fredrick laughing quietly.

               "I've been better, surprisingly." He smiles that famous smile and waves me forward. "This place isn't exactly a 5 star hotel."

    "I've noticed."

    "Wanna go for a walk? I've been in here for forever, I'm scared my legs don't work anymore." He tests putting pressure on one of them lightly, pursing his lips and drawing it back in.

              "It's past curfew."

             "I don't think they'll mind. Griffin's been out for a while and this is the longest sleep he's gotten in a long time, I say we go for a stroll and come back before we wake them both up." I want to tell him it probably isn't the brightest idea, sneaking out past curfew to go for a casual stroll. They already know I'm not happy with their future plans, they might assume we're ready to escape, run away and attract attention so close to their little hideout.

   I look to Fredrick. There are no signs of serious discomfort with his current situation, at least not enough to flee. I mentally pinch myself for thinking of such a thing, he'd never leave his brother, and there's no way we could bring him with us, not like this.

             Fredrick continues to smile a moment longer, it slowly fades and his eyebrows struggle to come together, the skin beneath them deepening.

   "All right, Red?" I realize that my gaze has dropped to the floor and I'm tapping my feet impatiently, my breathing oddly uneven.

  "Fine," I rasp, trying very hard to stop my feet. "I'm fine." I say, voice more confident now.

   "Well, let's go before your foot wakes them up." He places his arm behind my back, not quite making contact but lingering there as he directs me towards the door. I open it cautiously and peer outside into the dark. Seb is out of sight. A light shines from a source at my back and illuminates the ground in front of me. I twist to see Fredrick holding the lantern, smiling widely like he has just solved all our problems. Which he has, for now.

              We walk down the hall slowly, light leading the way. Fredrick seems to know where he's going and exactly how to get there. I follow obediently, rubbing my hands together. We know it probably won't be best to strike up a deep conversation right now but I desperately hope he's taking us somewhere that we can. Curiosity chomps down on my tongue cleanly, hard enough to draw blood as we walk. My legs fight to push me ahead, reach our destination. My brain tells them to match stride with Fredrick's.

    I haven't been paying attention because suddenly there's a drastic change in the height of the ceiling and it drops down to a narrow tunnel. I stop myself from slamming into the wall. There are two hallways that branch off to my left and right but Fredrick doesn't turn that way, he stops in front of the meager hole. Smiling at me as he drops to his knees and then proceeds forward. I watch him in confusion and he turns to look, jerking his head toward the exit. I bite my lip but get down as well, wincing at the discomfort of being on my hands and knees.

               We crawl forward through the space, no room on either side. I leave a comfortable amount of space between Fredrick and I after getting to close and ramming into his behind when he hesitates. This causes him to laugh of course, the devious sound filling the tunnel. He attempts to stifle it but fails, my face beating a deep red.

   Eventually his figure moves out of the way and everything ahead of me is dark. My lungs threaten to panic, the symptoms of claustrophobia seeping in. I try to ignore it, scraping my knees harder against the rough terrain, as a result of trying to move forward, faster. I keep crawling until a blast of air hits me, wind carrying little bits of sand. I get to my feet while trying to stop myself from crying, tears welling up from my last memory of sand. My reflexes demand that I dive right back into the tunnel and frantically move until I get back down to my safe haven.

             Fredrick starts to walk away from the tube after he places a rock on top of it, lantern swinging away. I scurry after him, not waiting to be attacked by something I cannot see.

    He stops after a couple of feet and offers a soft "sit down". I do so mindlessly, not quite sure what else to do. I watch as the lantern travels away from me. Eventually it lights up a small thicket of bushes. Fredrick stoops behind them and takes something out. He walks back over to me, opening the object. A bag. He extracts several other lanterns identical to the one we brought from Pat's room. Setting them up in a circle around us before motioning for me to get up. I do so and step out of the ring as he unfolds something like a blanket and places it in the middle. We sit and he hands me some kind of cereal bar with lots of dried nuts and fruit, then he hands me a bottle of water, which I quickly uncap and take a swig from.

   "Emergency pack," he informs me proudly, patting the bag beside him. "One of the guys got a water bottle from it when we were coming in, I'll just have to remember to refill it later." He smiles triumphantly; content with the little picnic he has created. "I bet you're dying to find out what happened before we were found, aren't you?" I nod eagerly, taking a bite of the bar. "All right then." His famous phrase makes me laugh, a piece of the bar flying out. I paste my hand over my mouth and murmur a bashful sorry, trying not to laugh.

              "Dinner and a show." He remarks. The smile doesn't waver. "After you left things were okay, I guess. We sat by the bushes I said we'd be by and waited. But after the first night I had to get us water. I cracked open a few cactus's. Painfully I might add," he shows me the scratches on his hands and forearms. I place my own beside his to compare, although mine are practically healed. Just short lines of pink and puckered skin. He chuckles briefly before continuing. "after the second day I decided we had to keep moving or we were going to die there." I flinch at his words, though he goes on barely effected. "so we started going on. At first we followed your footsteps but the wind is such a rude-," he discharges with acid, biting his tongue, voice calming down. "I barely had enough energy to carry myself, never mind most of Griffin's weight as well. After a few energy-draining days Griffin passed out, eventually I did too. When I woke up they were splashing water in my face, down my throat and onto my body. They gave us those," he nods towards the bar wrapper in my hand. "and helped us passed here, we didn't go through that tunnel though. There's another, larger entrance just over there," he points. "but I figured there'd be people guarding it so. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven," he shakes his head sadly. "and then I thought of you."

    "I almost drowned." I say under my breath, annoyed. The feeling frightens me. Annoyed? Things have never bothered me so easily before. "And got betrayed by a couple of rednecks out in the desert. Almost killed me." He laughs at the casual tone to my voice.

    "I always miss all the adventures."

             "They're not over yet." His eyebrows arch in amusement and I tell him of Kara and the others' plan. He reacts the same way I did, questioning how it'll effect the future, effect our present.

              "So what now then?" He says quietly. He mostly says it to himself, not really looking for an answer from me. A good thing too, because he's become the one I look too. "We can't run." I look at him with hopeful eyes as if to say we can. We've been doing it long enough. Then my mind wanders to Griffin and his state confirming Fredrick's last statement. "I say we do it."

  "What?" I protest, eyes practically bulging from their sockets.

"We can't stop them. They're going to do it with or without our co-operation. Maybe if we just act like we're pro- time travel then the last minute we can-" he cuts himself off. "We've got time to think of a plan. For now let's just make them think we agree." I have no reasonable argument to force his way, so I go against my instinct and decide to trust him. Trust comes with friendship, right? I've really got to get used to this.

"Where's your father anyway?" The words just fly from my tongue. Fredrick flinches, not quite prepared for this question. He watches me for a few moments and then shrugs indifferently.

"I figured he'd be here, but I was so wrapped up with Griffin I haven't bothered to ask. But I guess now I don't have to." I don't know what to say after that; had I just been the bearer of bad news? I decide to keep my mouth shut for a while.

I wish we could have sat there and carried on a more pleasant conversation. But after such a hard topic, it was much more difficult than either of us had anticipated. We packed up the picnic and headed back into the narrow tunnel, filled with an unsettling silence. When we got back the hallways were busy with activity, we hardly noticed the sun had began to rise.

No one notices us as we stand from slithering through the tight tube. And if they do, they don't say anything. People walk by us, heads down. I figure they're all tired, having not slept too long. But then I notice they're avoiding our gaze, keeping their heads down so they don't make eye contact with Fredrick or I. Fredrick seems to notice too, looking around confused. He turns to me.

"Is there something on my face? My teeth? Do I smell?" I shake my head, though the last one is a given for anyone living down here. I begin to wonder the same thing about myself. I'm used to people staring, not lack of. I see Seb from a distance and he locks eyes with me before spinning fast and stomping down a hallway to his right, away from us. Raeleigh stands behind him, her form frozen with fear. As we approach I see her eyes, frightened, then sad and finally fading to sympathetic.

"What is it?" I inquire, as she drops her eyes from mine, slowly shaking her head.

            “He tried. He tried so hard but..." I barely hear her. A thick whisper escaping her thinly cracked lips. I reach my hand out to console her, and then draw it back in.

"Who tried? Who..." my voice fades as the news seeps in. I turn to tenderly rub Fredrick's thick shoulders, but he’s gone from beneath my fingers in a matter of seconds. I become languid for a moment, almost defeated. Then I see Fredrick's long strides, carrying him away. "Oh no..." I gasp quietly, my heart beating uncomfortably. Rae shakes her head and pats my back before walking away. I barely look after her as I follow in Fredrick's footsteps, twice as fast.

I'm afraid I might pass out of fatigue when I reach Pat's room. The door is already wide open and I enter to see Fredrick standing before his brother's body, I cannot see his face and assume I do not want to.

Griffin is still, that same white sheet draped over his face. There's no more rising and falling of his thin chest. My hand covers my mouth, as I make no effort to hold back tears, letting them fall freely. Kara is standing alongside who I assume to be Pat; repeatedly telling him it's not his fault.

 Pat is an average looking man who has thin brown hair with a receding hairline which he pushes back with his arm, letting out a stressful sounding sigh. Its clear he's seen death several times before, but can never properly prepare himself for the aftermath.

 I slide down the wall, head falling into my hands as I sob. There's no thoughts as I cry, just the feeling of my heart in more pain than I could have ever imagined, more pain than when my own mother took her life.

Once I've cried all the water out I slump to the side, drawing my legs in and quickly falling asleep.

 

I'm not surprised when I wake up in my room. What surprises me is Raeleigh's presence, her head in her hands. Adelaide sits restlessly at the food of my bed, bouncing up and down softly.

"You're up!" She exclaims, racing over to wrap her arms around my neck. I sit up to allow her, my arms encircling her small waist.

 "Finally," Raeleigh huffs, standing. "I've been trying to get this one to eat for hours." Adelaide smiles sheepishly.

 "I wanted to wait until you woke up." She grips my hand, trying to pull me out of bed.

"Where's Fredrick?" I ask Raeleigh who has turned to put a new shirt on.

 "He left on the last outing. As soon as they got back, another group left. Said something about needing the fresh air." Pain springs in my stomach, I really want to see him. No, need to see him.

"Oh." Is all I manage to get out.

 "Yeah, now let's go," Raeleigh tugs Adelaide by her shirt collar. "you need to eat." My hand gets jerked forward as Adelaide moves, pulling me out the bed and onto my shaky feet. I ask her to wait as I slip my feet into the sneakers and adjust my t-shirt. It stinks.

"Is there anywhere for me to bathe?" We begin to exit the room, walking down the familiar halls.

"I'll take you later. I bet you want to shower before the gathering." I nod slowly, I haven't forgotten. The mourning is still very alive in my host, a dark circle pulsing with agony.

 

After we eat our bland sandwiches with even blander soup, Raeleigh shows me where the showers are. It is a large cave much like the eating chamber, the walls are lined with titanium but the ceiling is made of the natural rock, not a clear lining exposing the deep blue on top. There's holes in the roof that allow a flow of water through when you pull a rope in the far back corner and the floor fills with the fluid. There are several small pockets that look like dents in the floor; a set personal bathing stations. They each have their own collection of small holes above them. Being deeper than the usual floor, it’s sort of like a step down into a giant bowl that fills with the ocean's fluid. I think of how funny it'd be if a small fish came through the hole, then I see the picture of a slimy creature falling onto my head and it's not very funny anymore.

Raeleigh hands me a pair of black gloves paired with straps that I watch her fasten onto her ankles and around the middle of her foot. The gloves slide on easily and I bend to attach the foot strings. The lights snap off and the room collapses into darkness.

"Privacy." She says, answering my silent concern. Then I notice the glowing structures around the space, a line of rings on the ground where I remember the tubs had been when I could still see them. "Now you can see where you're going." The rope where she stands is lit as well, letting off a faded green colour, dimly lighting the wall behind her. That's when my attention drifts to her hands and feet; they glow as well. "I promise you I can't see anything but the outline of the tub, that rope and our hands and feet. The door too." I lift my hands to examine them. They give off the same light! I stare in astonishment, kicking my feet on the rocky floor, waving my arms around. It creates a smear of light, stroking itself against the darkness.

I walk towards the ring, slipping into the titanium-lined tub. I feel the water level climbing up my ankle, then stopping mid thigh. I slip my wet shorts off, followed by my tainted fabric of a shirt. I hear Raeleigh jump in, the water sloshing as she travels over to me. I watch her glowing hands and feet make their way over to me, trying to prepare myself for the impending contact. I still jump when I feel her touch my arm and find its way to my hand, dropping a slippery shape into my palm. The hand that doesn't have any clothes in it.

 "Soap. Try not to drop it. Put your clothes on the rim." I follow her instructions.

I stand there stupidly for a bit in the darkness, not sure of what to do. I feel as though she can see my blunt nakedness, although I can't see her. Getting over my shyness I begin to lather up, combing my fingers through my hair and scrubbing at every inch of my skin. My nails rake the surface and although it leaves strokes of pain, I know the following relief of being clean will make it worth it.

 I hear Raeleigh doing the same, though she finishes much faster-- having had experience-- before climbing out. The cold water rushes onto my raw skin, leaving a tingling sensation behind.

"Almost done?" I dunk my clothes in once more and quickly run the soap over their surface, rubbing my fingers into the rough material, too engrossed in my actions to respond. "I'll go get us some clean clothes. Just wait here." I almost protest but then stop myself, not wanting to be annoying. I mutter a forced okay and continue to scrub at my garments, trying to distract my mind from the scary dark room.

I let my thoughts wander to the diagnosis received earlier today after lunch, when we stopped by Pat's room. They were preparing for the gathering, said they'd wait for tonight when the boys will get home but can't keep the body any later than that. Apparently the reason Fredrick had thought Griffin had finally been able to sleep was because he had slipped into a coma. The poisonous infection got into his blood and eventually drove him into cardiac arrest while we were gone on our little outing. Maybe if we had been there...

I shut off my train of thought, painfully sure Fredrick has considered the possibility as well. Maybe that's why he left. He'd throw himself in the face of danger, making it appear to be a heroic act, but really just be trying to escape the massive guilt upon his shoulders. What dangers are there in this part of the world? Besides the golden furred creatures with huge fangs and maniacs who isolate themselves from society because it's justified as 'home'.

I begin to wonder just what the outings are for when I hear Raeleigh enter the cave mouth. The rocks kick around as she slowly shuffles towards the lip of the tub.

“Here. I hope they fit." I move towards the sound of her voice and take the clothes from her hands. I clamber up the side and get out.

I wonder how Griffin would have responded to the appearance of the cave. Would've complained no doubt. But he would have to have had gotten used to it like the rest of us. I wasn't sure how I've adapted so well in such a short period of time, having been emerged in the strict waters of society much more than he had. I guess that means this is my true home, the place where I am comfortable and don't have to hide my feelings. Well, that last part is questionable. Waltzing up to Kara and confessing my disagreements with their plans won't exactly earn me a medal.

What will then? Not just the thought of gaining fame and glory makes me think about this, but what plans will satisfy this stubborn leader. I've never been good at formulating plans. Acting on instincts is my forte. I turn to others for things like this, gathering input and opinion to influence my own. Is this bad? I guess so, but the world's conditions have taught me to live that way. Taught me to put other people's thoughts before my own, believe whatever I'm told because there's no reason anyone would be lying to me. I suppose that's still true. But it doesn't drain the suspicion from my mind.

A light turns on again and I turn to see Raeleigh walking away from the swinging rope. It could've been weird if I hadn't finished dressing myself yet. But she doesn't seem to care. Of course not, my conscience says, she doesn't like you. I swat away my inner thoughts.

I look down to a pair of jet black pants that stretch comfortably when I walk. They are made of a desert friendly material that doesn't suffocate my skin and make me overheat. My torso is dressed in a grey t-shirt that hugs my body. The simple outfit reminds me of my attire back at home when I'd lounge around the house. Casual yet stylish and best of all; sterile. The sleeves are a little short, and cling to me with the dampness of my skin, but it feels nice to be in clean clothes so I don't complain. I push my feet into my worn out shoes and follow Raeleigh back into the hallway.

 



© 2013 Janeece


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Added on March 21, 2013
Last Updated on March 21, 2013
Tags: dystopian, love, romance, sickness, cancer, anxiety, adventure, action, murder, suspense


Author

Janeece
Janeece

Canada



About
my name is janeece, i'm 17. i live in canada and i hate how cold it is. i can't wait to get out of here. my passions include writing, musical theatre and fashion. message me, i'm super nice! more..

Writing
Prologue: Secrecy Prologue: Secrecy

A Chapter by Janeece