After filling Annie up with enough Valerian to knock out a horse, it was peaceful. Too quiet. All of the other kids are just sitting; they’re in shock which is natural. I’m not in shock because I’m detached, which I’ve always admitted. When I see people dying on the street, I just walk on by. When people have begged me for help, I have turned away in the interest of self-preservation. I’m a cold hearted bitch and maybe that’s why I hate Roman so much.
We carry Annie back to base camp; there’s barely anything of her and it feels as if she is getting lighter by the second. The only comparison I can give is like carrying a rag doll. A rag doll with a broken leg. Roman keeps looking over at me; I think he wants me to do something. React in some way whether it is crying or puking or destroying something. The normal reactions when something bad happens. I couldn’t even cry when my parents didn’t come home. When I was ripped away from my home. When I killed my first infected.
“You okay? You did good back there. I never knew Rita taught you how to apply a tourniquet? You are just full of surprises, ain’t ya.”
“There are a lot of things you don’t know. I used to help Rita in the medical bay whenever I had spare time, she wanted me to replace her if something happened. I used to spurt off bull about her living forever. Let’s face it if something happens, she’ll be the first to die.”
“What the hell? Seriously Ellie, how can you say that? Rita has always been there for you and you can say something so callous? You really are a bitch!”
“Shut up. You want an argument, wait until we get back. We are not fighting in front of the kids. There are more important things at the moment like Annie, she’s still not safe. So just...shut...up.”
“Fine. This isn’t over. I cannot believe you sometimes, you know that you bloody ice maiden.”
It isn’t harsh or callous. Rita is a doctor so it stands to reason that if there is an outbreak, she will die. She’s not strong or a fighter. She’s smart, incredibly intelligent but that is not enough. I’m not ashamed to say, if she became infected, I would put a bullet in her brain without thinking about it. It’s the kindest thing.
Once we get to the camp, I’m taken aback. Nothing’s changed. There is still a roaring fire visible by the open window. Lines of fresh linen possessing the garden like the first fall of snow. It looks so out of place, with its surroundings. It reminds me why I could ever call it home. It doesn’t even look like a camp. The building used to be a care home before everything went to hell. Oh, the irony kills me too.
“Well, if I had a pound for every time I came out here to see you two, I’d be a millionaire. But then again, I ain’t got no use for that anymore, eh?”
A small, Asian woman waits in the doorway. Rita, chief medic and all round mother figure. She looks tired.
“Rita, how are you darling? Elektra and I were just talking about you, weren’t we dear?”
“Oh really, all good I hope. Why were you talking about me? You know it makes me suspicious.”
“Nothing, it’s not important, is it Roman? We were just discussing how we need you to check over Annie. Hence why we’re carrying her. And we’re covered in blood. That’s was the hint.” Rita is the only one who gets my sarcasm; heck, she taught me everything I know about being a sarcastic mare.
“Well, I am getting blind in my old age. A tourniquet, I’m impressed. You did learn something from me then.”
Looking at her sickens me. It’s been four months since I last saw her and she seems to look worse.
The black bags underneath her eyes have become darker. She probably hasn’t slept in weeks. Her skin sagging, her crow’s feet more pronounced. She walks with a cane. It’s obvious that she has been smoking like a chimney recently, which means something bad has happened. Probably to one of the kids. She swore to me she would stop; even the end of days is not an excuse to bugger up your lungs. There are enough things out there to make you suffer without having your body fight against you. I hate what she does to herself.
Roman and I carry Annie through to the living room where an operating table lay, complete with a saline drip and a trolley full with medical apparatus. It’s not a lot but it’s kept everyone alive at the camp, for the moment at least. Watching Rita with a patient is like watching a duck in water. She’s in her element with a scalpel in her hand.
“Still going on the basis you would kill her?”
“I have to be prepared to. We all do. It’s the only thing we would have the power to do. Roman, if the infection enters this camp, everyone will die. I’ve seen it before and so have you. You can’t be ignorant to that fact; you will have to kill her if something happens.”
“I know, I know. I am prepared, kind of. But the way you say it, it’s like you don’t even care. I envy the way you can just detach yourself from everything. Not feel pain or anything. Why the hell do I envy you? A cold Jezebel?”
I’m sure I can see tears, streaming down his face in the light of the fire. It’s so strange for me to see a fully grown man, crying. Men are supposed to be strong but Roman...he’s so different to them. He may be a fighter but he feels. He cares.
“First time I’ve been called a Jezebel. God, are you crying? Are you sure you’re not the one with a vagina?” I pause. “ You shouldn’t envy me. I hate being the way I am; you think not feeling anything is a blessing? It’s not. It’s like I’m not human anymore; I would love to feel more but I can’t because it hurts even more when you lose them because everyone dies eventually. That’s why I can say that I can kill her.”
I walk away.
This is one of the only times I have ever confided in Roman. Huh, I guess that tragedy does bring people together. It’s a cliché but like all the best ones, it’s true.
When I enter the first room at the top of the stairs, emotion overwhelms me. My old bedroom, exactly as I left it. Books on the desks, torch with its batteries scattered across the floor. My 12” inch blade. John kept it the same; he didn’t let another one of the kids take my room. It’s almost as if he was waiting for me to come back eventually. It’s just the little things that get to me; John does care about me in some regard.
Silence pervades the air like a pariah.
It’s at this moment, I feel so alone. The thing is I do care. I do what has to be done but it does hurt. The prospect of the only parental figures I have really ever known terrifies me; I can’t lose John or Rita, it would destroy me completely. See, I’m not entirely sick in the head.
I can feel my eyes welling up.
I feel emotionally exhausted and I just want to forget.
Forget Roman. Forget Rita and John. Forget the world.
But I can’t. The only way I can is to shot up or end it all. I could just take the blade and slice my jugular. How can I do that? Have one of the girls come in to find me, bathing in a pool of my own blood. The poor buggers are scarred enough already without finding an old room-mate topping herself.
The first tear rolls down my cheek. I never allow myself to feel so weak, at the mercy of emotion but I can’t control myself. I can’t stop the tears flowing and it’s not long until I start hyperventilating. I cannot cope.
There’s only so far being the tough little soldier gets you and it’s not far enough.