When we finish with the tests and the Doctor appears satisfied that everything is normal— I mean, relative to the constant flares of homicidal rage and the perpetual ringing anytime I try to conjure up a clear memory, both of which I failed to mention to my examiner— I am informed that Naomi has requested to see me as soon as possible. I push off from the examination table and exit the medical facility, glancing down either side of the hallway in search of my guard. Seeing no one, I return to the medical facility, slipping back inside.
The doctor is continuing his task of placing his various syringes and needles back in their designated space. He turns, and catching sight of me out of the corner of his eye, startles, dropping a thermometer in surprise.
“Eve! I thought you left. What are you still doing here?” He asks as I bend down to pick up the thermometer.
“I’m waiting for my escort.”
“Oh, oh yes of course. I forgot to call. I beg your pardon.” Dr. Whittaker unhooks a small radio communicator from his belt, fumbles with the controls for a second before calling in my escort. The doctor turns back to me, “He’ll be here in a moment.” I reach out to pass over the thermometer, and as I place the device in his hand my fingertips brush his palm lightly. He recoils with a pronounced wince, jumping back to put more distance between us. I might not be contagious, but it’s obvious that behind everyone’s stiff demeanor of politeness lies clear contempt. I am an outsider here, and even the man who has shown me the most earnest kindness clearly harbors apprehension about being too close. I let my hand drop to my thigh; the noise of that contact is the only thing that suspends between us.
After an awkward beat the doctor turns back to his table. I’m fairly certain he’s pretending to be studying his charts because every few seconds his eyes stop focusing on the paper and he glances up to look at me. It’s a few more silent moments until the guard enters and stands at the door, waiting. With a sigh I stride towards him. I wait for some kind of acknowledgement of my presence, but he provides none, save for the nod towards the grey linoleum hallway outside. I grunt and exit the storage-room-turned-hospital-ward, happy to leave the doctor and his wicked examination table behind. The guard directs me towards the stairwell and we begin our ascent, climbing three flights of stairs before he stops, punches a code in the keypad next to the door, and ushers me outside.
I am met by the glare of sunlight and the scent of damp earth. I can smell the way the rain has settled over the grass and the ferns and the mulchy undertones of the soil beneath my feet. The sun occasionally peaks through the thick cloud cover to shine on my face and for each brief moment the light touches my skin I feel pleasantly warm. I breathe in sharply, for once recognizing the entry of fresh air into my lungs. I hadn’t realized how musty the inside of the warehouse had been. The air outside is crisp and fresh, and every now and then a breeze rolls across my skin and cool the sun’s rays. In the distance I hear the distinct sound of running water.
The building we have exited towers above me. It appears to be a dilapidated textile mill, about three stories high, with a singular four story tower placed at the forefront of the center of the building. The brick edifice has soured to a dark brown, and the few large windows that are not boarded up are missing panes of glass. It looks weathered and, more importantly, uninhabited. Four numbers hang over the weathered entrance, proudly declaring; 1888.
I look out to the paved area in front of the mill. The asphalt has cracked in many places and several yellow flowers and weeds peak up through the fissures in the pavement. Numerous people mull about, and every thirty seconds or so a guard walks around the chain link fence in a continuous rotation of patrol. Looking further up I notice two men perched inside the tower entrance with mounted guns pointed out towards the chain border. The gently sloping hills beyond the chain fence give way to a steeper incline; a forest that climbs upwards into a crooked spine of blue-gray mountains that break apart sharp line of the horizon. In the asphalt lot that stretches out past the mill stands over a dozen large tan tents, hastily erected and in serious need of patching.
I hear the crunch of leaves and my body tenses, readied for an assault, before I recognize Evander strutting around the corner, hands at his sides, grinning a wide smile that bares all his teeth. There isn’t anything inviting about the gesture. The smile is more of a gross mutilation than the many scars that adorn his face. I decide to speak before he has the chance.
“How’s your head feel? Heard you had quite the run-in.” I grin, feeling the unfamiliarity of the gesture in full.
“You know the funniest thing happened, a brain-damaged monkey with no sense of humor knocked me in the head,” he says, returning my smile with a wider one.
“Well that is fascinating. I didn’t think monkeys attacked their own.” He barks a laugh at that, although it was obvious that the sound does not come naturally.
“Fair enough. Where are you gallivanting off to?”
“I’m seeing Naomi.” I study his face carefully. His black uniform fits across his broad shoulders snugly. Under my watchful gaze he stiffens slightly, throwing back his shoulders and placing his two hands behind his back. His smile never abandons his face. It never meets his eyes either.
“Off you go then. Wouldn’t want to keep the lady waiting. Though I’d like to speak to you when you’re done.”
I nod and allow the guard to continue our pliant march towards a second, smaller warehouse adjacent to the 1888 building. I turn back briefly, sparing a glance over my shoulder when I feel the weight of Evander’s gray eyes boring holes in the back of my head.