By nightfall the bunker was within sight. I could cry I’m so happy. Well, I would cry if I wasn’t most likely dehydrated. Mia’s clearly exhausted, supporting the weight of both me and her pack most of the day really took the wind out of her sails. I’m surprised she’s stayed upright for this long.
“You look almost as bad as I do,” I mutter as the bunker slowly comes closer into view
“And whose fault is that?” She huffs accusingly at me.
“Your own,” I respond. As we make our way around the burned remains of my home, bad memories flash briefly in my mind.
“Why does this bunker have to be so far out of the way?” Mia grumbles as we get closer.
“I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t exactly at home when my dad decided to build it.” I respond, stumbling forward.
“We’re almost there. Just a bit further, okay?” Mia asks reaching for the steel door of my bunker. My legs feel like jelly and a headache with a pension for vengeance came before the sun even set. Plus I'm pretty sure I'm still bleeding, although my shoulder has gone numb. I’m surprised I’m still on my feet. We step into the cool, stagnant air of my bunker, but it does nothing to dissuade the heat radiating off my body. Looking down at the ladder, I sigh inwardly. Mia will have to go first, or else it might take all night for us to get down there.
“Home sweet home,” Mia says jokingly, as we take tentative steps inside the bunker.
“Close the door so I can take this mask off.” I mutter, trying to calm my sudden nausea.
“Okay Miss Bossy,” Mia obliges, closing the door with a bit of effort. With the door closed, the small amount of light we had is snuffed out, only to be replaced by the familiar oppressive darkness of my bunker. With no solid point to latch onto, my head begins to spin and I struggle to keep myself from falling forward. Thankfully, Mia doesn’t seem to notice.
“Still dark in here I see. How did you manage to stay on your feet this whole time?” Mia asks, her probing hands finding their way to my chest.
“Taking your chance to cop a feel?” I joke, trying to keep the strain out of my voice.
“I have no idea what you mean,” Mia defends, moving her hands to my shoulder as she inches forward. I flinch back, expecting her hands to hit my bad shoulder, only managing to aggravate the injury myself.
“Take my mask down for me will you?” I ask lightly, pulling the aforementioned thing off with a bit of strain.
“Yeah no problem,” Mia answers gently, taking the mask from my outstretched hand. “Well you remember where the ladder is don’t you? Please try not to fall off the landing,” I manage before stumbling back into the wall.
“Aye aye Captain Safety,” Mia mocks, saluting me in the dark.
I chuckle slightly, only to be stopped by the feeling of liquid on my lips. Instinctively I bring a hand to my lips to see what it is, before quickly darting my tongue over them instead. I’m met by a familiar copper taste and my blood goes cold. Blood. I’m bleeding again. I swipe my hand across my nose only to be met by more of the warm liquid making its way towards the ground slowly. As my eyes begin to adjust to the darkness around me, I realize that I have blood on not just my face, but my hand as well.
“I’m going to make my way down okay? Well….when I find the ladder that is,” Mia says, but I’m not listening. I’m too busy furiously swiping at my nose, trying to get the blood to stop. There’s so much….too much. Why won’t it stop? I can hear Mia’s shoes hitting the metal of the ladder as she makes her way down. I take one more swipe at my nose before I move to follow her, wiping my hand on my bloody shirt. The cold steel of the ladder is a small reassurance in my world, it’s temperature slowly calming the spinning in my head.
“How is it that this ladder is so cold? I could’ve fallen I was so shocked,” Mia tries to start with me, but I can’t focus. I can hardly feel my legs as I move down the rungs on the ladder. Other than a slight twinge of pain when my right arm is completely over my head, my shoulder is numb. My palms are sweaty enough to make me slip off if I’m not careful.
“Hey, are you good?” Mia questions worriedly, as her shoes hit the floor of my bunker. I can’t bring myself to open my mouth in fear of vomiting instead of responding. I grunt at her in response, still only halfway down the ladder. Thankfully, I don’t feel anymore blood dripping down my face.
“I’ll get some food okay? You just be careful coming down.” Mia requests, making her way further into the bunker. I grunt, again, as I force my legs to hold my weight up. Suddenly the world tilts and the cold of the ladder is gone. I hit the ground before I can put together the pieces, crying in pain at the hard impact. My eyes have finally adjusted again, and I see Mia jog over to my prone form. Her mask if off again, her eyes are still as mesmerizing as the first time I saw them. Her hair is somehow more manageable looking since the last time I saw it, it’s familiar light brown color somewhat comforting. It falls into her face and she swiftly swipes it back, the smear of blood long since dried on her forehead visible again. I bring my eyes to her lips for the second time and realize I’ve done it again.
“Hey! Say something. Is it your shoulder? What’s wrong?” Her voice is full of worry, that fact making my heart flutter.
“Perfect,” I manage passed my lips.
“You fall off a ladder, scare me to death, say nothing for a significant amount of time, and that’s all you have to say? Perfect?” She berates me, tears in the corner of her eyes. I chuckle weakly before the pain in my side and shoulder becomes overwhelming, causing me to wince.
“Well it’s not my fault. You had me speechless.” She blushes at that, a deep red that quickly takes root in her cheeks.
“I don’t think we took that mask off soon enough, it seems to have been depriving you of oxygen,” Mia jokes as the red in her cheeks only continues to grow. I pull myself up enough to lean against the wall, allowing Mia to have better access to my hazmat suit.
“How do you even get air down here anyway?” Mia asks, as she starts in on the zipper of my suit.
“Well, I’m pretty sure there’s an air purifying system. I… I don’t remember how it works.” I stutter, searching my memories for some clue to Mia’s question. I come up blank. Mia has my suit halfway off, but I’m panicking. I don’t know how it works.
“Whoa! Calm down. I’m here okay? I’m here, so tell me what’s wrong,” Mia soothes, trying to slow my rapid breathing.
“I can’t- I don’t…. I don’t remember,” I stutter between gasping breaths.
“Don’t remember what?” Mia asks, now rubbing small circles in my back, being mindful of my shoulder. The action is calming, and I manage to slow my breathing somewhat.
“I don’t remember how it works or…” I trial off, unwilling to finish my thought.
“Or what?” Mia prods, as I try to keep my breathing somewhat even.
“Or what we’re doing here,” I finish ashamed.
“What do you mean?” Mia asks, blanching at my words.
“I don’t remember!” I yell, tears making their way down my face. “I don’t know why we’re here. Everything is jumbled in my head.”
“Shit, your nose!” Mia exclaims as more blood makes its way towards the ground. I push my palms into my temples as my head suddenly explodes in pain behind my eyes.
“Make it stop...” I grit out as Mia wipes at my bleeding nose, obviously trying to stay calm.
“I don’t...I can’t...I don’t know what you want me to do. There’s nothing I can do!” Mia stutters out, her calm facade slipping.
“Please!” I beg as the pain intensifies, leaning my head into Mia’s chest.
“Hey, no look up, I’ve got to stop the bleeding,” Mia orders, pushing my shoulders back, making my head spin dangerously.
“I don’t think that’s going to help anything,” I mange past my lips, as I can feel myself slumping forward, consciousness slipping.
“No!” Mia yells at me supporting my weight. “You can’t do that! You have to stay with me.” Her voice is begging me, and I try to fight the pull into unconsciousness.
“Brush my hair while I’m gone?” I manage, as my eyes close, lessening the pain in my head slightly.
“You can’t leave me! I can’t be alone again!” Mia cries at me, her tears landing on my face as she gently taps my cheek.
“I’ll be back... Promise,” I mutter before everything fades away, even the pain.