“Stand Down” Week 84 – The Funeral
Scott heard crying, from somewhere above him in the A wing. Sounded like that of a child. Loud, and piercing.
And, quickly joined by more.
The doctor before him, flat to the ground, had grown pale in the skin.
He could see another, their legs unmoving, around a corner.
More crying joined the chorus upstairs.
It makes sense, he thought. With no adults to coddle them, what could they do but cry?
What could he do?
He’d went back, just like on that road with Ranov, and saw those men fall again and again, each time finding the door only fast enough to make eyes at that thing he hoped never to see again.
And yet, people he so longed for.
Scott’s parents refused to move. He wouldn’t either, for some time.
Jordan and Jocelyn, it seemed, were useless with a medkit.
So many tools– none of them with instructions on how to help someone that’s coughing up their entire chest—
Birds performed and the leaves swayed and the sun shone; so scenic, and so incongruous with the portrait of panic in the tent, as Jocelyn drew on something from a show she’d seen to buy Rudy’s windpipe another moment.
His hacking flared harder as she returned with a metal straw from their lunch-kit.
He knew what she was doing, and was making to clear as much as he could before she drove it home.
Jordan did as Jocelyn said, holding Rudy’s neck still as she cut into the space on his throat below his adam’s apple. Jordan felt like retching.
And, when Jocelyn began to slip the straw into the aperture, he dry-heaved.
The two raised their heads, a bit, from the gritty scene. Neither of them loosed a single breath until Rudy did.
The rasping sound funnelling up the straw was of slight comfort, but only for a moment. Rudy began to spasm, as if trying to cough. The straw tilted dangerously, seeming to stab further in with every convulsion.
The sounds Rudy made now were sickening. Not as wet as before, and so with that little else to hide the pain in his rasping.
What were they to do? Did they take the straw out? Give him CPR? Jordan tried to sit him up. The spasming only seemed to get worse. He panicked, laying the old man back down. It got worse still; Rudy was shaking now, arm to chest.
Jocelyn made some manner of squeak, and swept from the tent hiding her face.
Jordan’s hands remained on Rudy’s neck.
They were there for quite a while.
Jordan was frozen. In his peripheral vision he could see Jocelyn peeking anxiously at the tent, though she would dart off not a second later.
Through his thumb, placed just above Rudy’s clavicle as it was, Jordan could feel a subtle rhythm sputter and cease.
A day and night had passed since he’d left his gurney-bed. Scott could tell from the light off by the check-in counter, spilling in from an unseen window.
Most of the crying had stopped, now. Scott tried to put himself to sleep again, before he looked too far to his left, or down, or conceived too fully of the large, familiar arm he’d slung over his shoulder.
His body already ached from many hours of it, but– anything to be numb. He wouldn’t know how to use all those drugs in the storeroom anyways.
Some other noise, much meeker, came uncovered with the crying half-dead however, and Scott couldn’t push it from his notice.
He opened an eye, and peeked off to the place where the hall turned a corner.
Seen, the boy’s mouth-breathing lost its subtlety, and soon enough he rounded the corner entirely. He was draped in a hospital gown and walked with a limp. Sheepishly, he approached Scott, who thought himself too lacking of energy even to answer the boy.
Scott was quickly proven wrong, as he found himself sprinting from the hospital– from the fact that he could not for his soul answer to what the boy asked him.
For, he knew just what had happened to the hospital. To him, the boy. The rest.
He knew intimately the extent to which this world’s stupidity flew, unabashed.
But he just couldn’t say what’d happened to the boy’s parents.
Like Scott, it took Jordan and Jocelyn the rest of the day to balance themselves.
A full moon stood wide over the trees and the wind was still, unheeding, pleasant.
Jordan hadn’t known him too well, anyways. He’d been old, anyways. What could they have done?
However many ways Jordan tried to explain it away, the jag of guilt and anxiety remained embedded in his skull’s cap.
Jordan had packed everything up. Jocelyn slipped wordlessly into the driver’s seat, flipped on the hi-beams and, pursed of lip, set towards the road.
Jordan was the only one to look back. And then, it was only for a moment.
He’d packed everything up– save for the tent. He’d just zipped that up.
It got further, and further now. It fell behind the brush before the car’s backlights left it.
Both Jordan and Scott, over the next twenty-four hours, came to familiarity with the world’s recent face-lift.
Dotting every urban surface were corpses, every one at a different point upon the path to decay.
People seemingly fallen spasming at any point of their day, all of them grown up. Not one child had gone dead in the same way.
Some died with their parents all the same, however– those in cars were a particularly frequent accompaniment, Jordan noticed.
More disturbing, strangely, was the number they saw alone, or just walking about with other lost-looking children.
The oldest they saw still on their feet were other teens. Some particularly edgy parties of them seemed to be revelling in the mass absence. Scott assumed that most of them just hadn’t been expecting to see their folks anytime soon.
Jordan had the car stop to pick up a newspaper. Nothing. The radio was silent, save for static on some stations. That died too, eventually.
Eventually, the Shearer decided he’d head for home. For Oakville. He didn’t know where else to go, and given the length he and Jocelyn had gone at that point– all without seeing a single adult still breathing– he felt fairly enough that they’d not be pursued.
Scott wouldn’t be heading for his own house– not like he’d be able to stand it, now– but for his girlfriend’s. She’d been blowing his phone to smithereens with surely panicked messages.
A part out of both Jordan and Scott felt like this might even be cozy, so long as they had a girl by them.
The optimistic parts.