Chapter 18: Infection
Chapter Eighteen: Infection
AN: I know it's been forever- I lost the document of Condemned, but obladee, obladaa, I saved it from the depths of Mordor and here we are- enjoy, cublets!
Bane sleeps solidly through the night- I sit watching him through most of it, unable to sleep. I look at the half-bandaged cleft across his lips, and a horrible feeling comes over me that it might scar.
I think back to the day we first met; how I'd been so scared of him, and how the softness of his features had put me at ease, somehow reassured me even when I knew nothing about him other than his name.
"Bane," I say out loud to myself, without even thinking. His muscular form, bruised from yesterday's fight, twitches slightly. I watch the muscles slowly relax again as he falls back into peaceful sleep.
Morning calls too quickly and awakens all of the cell's inhabitants. Everyone is up by the end of the day's sunrise, because once one person is awake the bustle of the prison is near impossible to sleep through. Though awake, Bane says nothing and lies completely still, eyes blinking slowly. Gently I take a damp cloth to the cut on his face and re-dress the wound- I'm surprised when he doesn't push me off in favor of his own independence. It feels wrong, covering up his gentle face, as though a part of him is missing without the visibility of his smooth lips.
"Out of the way," Andri proclaims in his usual tone, taking my seat and reaching around to see to the opening in Bane's stab wound, of which he is concerned in case of infection.
"I have hardly any anti-biotics," he tells me,
"Which means that, if infection does take hold, which it may well do in this filthy place, there is little I can do to stop it."
"You mean-" I ask with worry, remembering that whilst silent, Bane is still awake, "-he could... he could die?"
Andri wipes an alcohol-drizzled rag over the blistered laceration. "It is a possibility," he says.
"Which is why we must do our up most to seal the wound, and keep it clean."
"Okay," I say with a bewildered determination, trying to focus myself. It feels so much better when I've something to actually do- my laundry duties, for example. Having an aim to focus on, a goal to reach- which is now preventing any sort of infection entering Bane's system- is far better than sitting and moping, reminiscing on times which can never be again.
With a sudden stab, as though a hot poker has just been shoved into my stomach, I remember my family. The shock is so violent and full of anguish that I feel for a few seconds that I may actually through up.
How long has it been, since they have even entered my mind?
The thought that I could have forgotten- that I did forget- makes me want to weep, and I suddenly hate myself. I make my excuses and fumble to the bathroom, where I sink into the corner and wrap my arms around myself in an inconceivably pathetic manner, cold, wet tears beaming down my sullen face as I realize truly realize for the first time that I am never going to see any of them again, no-one I love, no one who loves me back-
Then I think for a moment-
I must have been gone for at least half an hour but neither Andri nor Bobby mention my absence when I return, perhaps out of embarrassment for me.
Bane has drifted back into a warm slumber, the highlights of his face lifted out by the stripes of sunlight seething through the bars. I gently smooth the crusted blood from the gash in his lips, then rinse and re-apply the bandage. Several other prisoners come to collect or deliver their washing, but after the first wash I decide to close up shop as it were, though the next few hours seem to show that business is not as booming with the presence of Bane anyway.
"Even when your ill everyone's scared of you," I remark, brushing back the hair from my face as I eat the stew Andri has provided.
"Not everyone," Bane says, and something in his voice sounds cold. I look up to see he has turned his head to the cell bars behind me. An odd sense of forshadowing overcomes me and I turn my head slowly, not really wanting to see what waits behind me.
But sure enough, walking at a dull pace approaching our cell is Bane's opponent, the man who did this to him.
And before he even reaches the bars of the cell, the huge man raises his hand to the level of his eyes then crumples to the ground; no signs of life other than the gentle parting of his lips as he lies unconscious in the dirt.
Andri scoops up the weakened man with the help of Firdos and Barsad and hauls him into the cell. Carrieveau appears outside the cell a few minutes later, eyebrows furrowed, and Bobby huddles to the door and lets him in. I watch as they lay him down on Andri's bunk and begin peeling away scraps of fabric the robust man has plastered to his face to halt the bleeding of a wound there- I gag as it is revealed to be a gaping wound seared through his eye, actually through it, slicing open the tender surface and splitting the man's upper eyelid so that it flaps above the dry blood-shot ball itself in two ruffled, drooping sections. The entire thing is crusted dark red, with a yellowish puss which has developed in the corners and flows beneath his lower lid, glazing his pupil with every half-blink.
Andri takes a deep intake of breath and calls Bobby to him- the older man listens as Andri explains the full extent of what he can see, clearly vying for the ex-physician's more than capable memory on how to treat more extreme wounds. Even though Bobby gives his reply in Arabic, his gestures make it clear even to me what must be done;
Cut it out.
I shudder at the thought- and, as Andri peels back the cloven eyelid, I really am sick.
I spend the next ten minutes cleaning up my own vomit, after which Andri orders me to the bathroom while he prepares to remove Dandachi's infected mess of an eyeball. There are faint squelching sounds from the other side of the door, accompanied by repulsed moans from the observers, and it's not long before Firdos bursts into the bathroom aswell. I put my hand on his shoulder as he throws up a pungent mess of porridge-based sludge, my eyes closed, breathing through my mouth to avoid the rancidity.
There is a hoarse cry from Dandachi- clearly whatever anesthetics Andri and Bobby have managed to administer are not doing their job quite well enough. The procedure has taken round about twenty minutes so far, though it feels like forever.
Firdos and I remain in the bathroom, queasy and silent, our backs pressed to the wall with tension. I watch his face a moment as Dandachi releases a unfathomably loud shriek, and Firdos' pinched features tense and contort with it as though it was his own eye being excavated. A few minutes pass, and Carrieveau calls to us, saying- as the gist I catch would suggest- that it's all over and we can come back through. I follow Firdos lead just encase, and have to brace myself against the bloody mess which now makes up a large proportion of Dandachi's face. The eyeball, streaked a clear glassy red and with the appearance of a half-deflated balloon, has been gunged into a near-empty left over bowl of watery oats, turned a flushed shade of pink by the gore. The inhabitants of the room, all excluding Bane, Dandachi, Firdos and myself, are tethering over the sludge and deciding what to do with it. Dandachi himself is mindless with pain, Carrieveau and Barsad both having to use an arm to restrain him. Firdos quickly lends a helping hand in holding down the agonized Dandachi, clearly trying to block out the shaky conversation as to the fate of the dead eye.
"What should I do?" I ask no-one in particular, feeling utterly useless and wanting to be of some assistance.
"Nothing," Andri states as he moves swiftly about, bandaging up the entire right side of Andri's head, "I know specks of dust which are of more use in medical emergencies than you are... go see to Bane."
Bane, I realize is in need of no assistance at all; he sits watching Dandachi's wailing form in silence, an expression which I can only describe as sadistic spreading across his archaic face in a crewel grimace. The vigor in it makes me almost want to stay in the cell with the unshelled eye rather than face whatever emotions are coursing through his veins at this moment.
I slip through the metal bar of the cell join and sit opposite Bane, no not in the eyeline of the goings-on of the other cell, and wait quietly for nothing in particular, until Dandachi is seduced by the loving depths of unconsciousness and the agonized groaning sounds cease. As they do, a soft mirthful laughter bubbles around Bane's throat; and the break in his lips tears a little more and he winces. Andri hands one of the unused but damp cloths through the bars and Bane holds it to the blood now dripping from his lip. I move to redress it, but Bane pushes me away without acknowledgement and proceeds to hassle Andri.
"So," he says in English, supposedly for my benefit, "What's the diagnosis, doc?"
Andri scowls, then ushers out the excitable Barsad and his friend, and says darkly, "there is a good chance the infection will already have spread. It may kill him, it may not. The next couple of days will tell."
"Why wouldn't he have come earlier?" I ask, although I'm quite sure I already know the answer.
"Pride," Andri replies, almost spitting the word asthough even the sound of the thing is trivial, "nothing more than that. And to what merit is pride when you're pushing up daisies, so to speak? What good is pride when worms are eating away your eyeballs because pride has brought you to your death?"
"Eyeball," Bane corrects, that smarmish grin still printed on his face with no intention of moving. We all sort of wince at the sickly quality of the joke, and as Andri leaves to go and scrounge bandage fabric for the promise of my laundry services, Dandachi sleeps and Bane gloats.
"You shouldn't say things like that," I scold uneasily as Bane makes a particularly crewel jest at Dandachi's current predicament.
"And why shouldn't I?" He quips back, a dangerous look on his face, although he doesn't attempt to look at me. I don't answer, knowing he'll twist whatever I say into conflict when he's in a mood such as this.
When Andri comes back, he gives Bane permission to sit outside with Bobby in his spot fir a while, enjoying the glow of the fire as it prepares to do battle with the coolness of the coming night. Andri directs me as his assistant, slicing his newly-found and washed cloths into the sizes he directs, then disposing of the rancid, blood and puss sodden bandages he peels back from Dandachi's eye socket in order to clean the hole.
"When are you going to get rid of that thing?" I say uncomfortably, referring to the split casing in the bowl on the side which used to hold the components of a fully structured eyeball. I avoid looking at it at all costs, though there's a tiny ember of curiosity and captivation somewhere in my glands which just wants to stare and stare at it all day.
At hearing my comment, Andri moves to the bowl and picks it from the crate with the hand not holding a wet rag. Then, asthough it were the most common thing in the world, he wonders out into the ring of men around the fire and pours the sloppy contents of the bowl into the flames. There is a quick popping and a crackle as the heat adjusts to consume the once treasured organ.
Andri walks back into the cell, having had me hold the door shut as he ventured out those few moments. Andri drops the wooden bowl into my half-filled washing bowl and goes back to work asthough eye disposal by combustion is a general thing, not to be taken any note of.
"I'm not washing that," I say, and I mean it. Trying to eradicate the plopping sounds as the eye and it's contents smacked against the logs and kindle wood, I ask Andri, "how long will it be before you know for sure whether he'll live or not?"
"As I said earlier, two or three days should be enough- but it's nowhere near certain. Only time will show whether or not their feud-" he looks to Bane- "is at last to end."
"Time?" I say, dwelling on the simplicity of the word. I stay silent a moment, steadily applying a final bandage atop one of Dandachi's less severe wounds.
"Well, we have plenty of that- Don't we?"