Alex was taking small peeks out of the tiny slit of a window in the door to see if Preston was still trying to wait us out, but I was distracted by the mellow chaos going on around us. The whole place was ice cold and reeked of rubbing alcohol and stale rubber gloves. Quiet conversations between doctors and patients, barely above a whisper, grilling them for every detail of their healthy and unhealthy moments. I can't believe that life like this is actually starting to look normal to me.
Then, somewhere in all this scampering movement, it was an object of stillness that caught my attention. A boy with short hair, sitting on a table with no shirt on, staring off into nothingness. Face, void of emotion. I recognized him as the boy that was kept outside the other day. The one holding the rifle in the rain. The same soldier was standing at his side. He was so silent. So...absent. And I mean absent in every possible way. He didn't even flinch when they gave him a shot in the arm for infection. Or when they pressed the freezing cold stethoscope to his bare chest. He just sat there. Almost as if he was asleep.
"How long has he been like this?" The doctor asked him.
"I don't know. Poor kid hasn't spoken a single word since we picked him up. It took forever just to get his weapon away from him without having him freak out about it."
"Well, do you have a name?"
"No name, no age, nothing. I don't even think it was his basement that we found him in."
The doctor shined a light in the boy's eyes to see if his pupils would be responsive. "He seems to be perfectly healthy from what I've seen so far, but we won't know for sure until some of the other tests come back. I don't want to give him anything that he might be allergic to or that might agitate any pre-existing health issues that we don't know about. Do you think there might be another way to get him to talk to us?"
The boy barely blinked the whole time they were talking about him. The soldier, Cooper, said, "He had a cell phone on him, but the battery is long dead. If I could recharge it and find a way to unlock it, we might be able to get a few more details on who he is. Until then, he's the only one who can decide if he wants to lift the cone of silence or not."
The doctor turned off his little flashlight and stood up straight. "Well, we'll keep him here for observation for tonight. These things take time, depending on what he witnessed out there. We've got a child psychologist somewhere in here, she might be able to help out." The doctor then asked, "You said you just picked him up a few towns over? Do you think he might have attended one of the middle schools around here?"
"I don't know about here, but he couldn't have been too far outside of this school district." Cooper answered.
"Ok, well we'll let him get some sleep. Get enough nutrients in him to keep his strength up. Then...maybe you can walk him around the complex to see if anybody recognizes him. Or if he recognizes anybody else. It might help him to deal with the trauma, seeing a few familiar faces safe and sound."
"Sure thing, Doc. Take care of him, ok? I'm going to see if I can get something out of this phone..." But the second Cooper took a few steps away from the silent boy, he jumped up in a panic and practically lunged towards Cooper to wrap his arms around his waist, clutching him so tight that the soldier couldn't figure out how to pry him off without hurting him. "Hey hey...hold on there, kiddo. What's the matter, huh? What's going on?" The boy still didn't speak. He just tightened his grip even more, closed his eyes, and let a single tear roll down his cheek as he refused to let Cooper go. "It's alright, partner. I'm not gonna leave you. I'm just going over to the wall to charge up your phone so you can keep it with you. Ok? Is that alright?" Naturally, the boy didn't answer, but after a few more soothing words from Cooper, he loosened his breathless death grip on his waist, and looked up into the soldier's eyes. "I'm not going very far. I'm not going to leave you here all alone. You've got my word on that. We just need you to get stabilized so we can figure out what we're doing. Alright?" The boy blinked, his expression one of helplessness. "Do you want to talk to me? Is there something you need to say?" No answer. "It's alright, kid. Let's just get you back up on this table so the doc can check you out. I'm not going anywhere. I'll be right here where you can see me the whole time. I need you to chill. K?" The boy seemed to listen to him, and soon slid his way back up on the table for the doctor to continue his tests on him. Cooper backed away slowly, with the boy giving him the same suspicious look that Preston used to chase us in here in the first place.
Then...I saw Alex abruptly back away from the infirmary door and lightly push me back as a few more people can bursting in through the door at top speed.
The loud noise and commotion caught me off guard, and I jumped when the people outside practically kicked the door open and a small flurry of adults came rushing inside. One of them was covered in dried blood, fresh wounds, and what looked like some pretty serious burns on his skin. But as exhausted and worn out and battered as he looked, he still seemed to have the strength to push forward and keep his balance as he cradled a young boy in his arms. A boy with short, reddish brown hair, about ten or eleven years old, and skinny to the point of looking rather sickly from a distance. In fact, his pale skin and waifish frame, accompanied by a slight fever sweat and a boyish cough, would have anybody that saw him think that he had one foot in the grave already. The man put the boy's smallish body on a nearby bed and worked to cover him up with blankets while everybody else in the room looked on...speculating on whether or not that was a good idea. I mean, had it not been for the older guy's physical strength and undeniable determination to get him into that hospital bed...he might have actually been turned away at the door.
"Whoah whoah whoah...what is this?" One of the doctor's said, hurrying over to see what all the fuss was about.
"It's my SON! He needs help! Somebody help him!" The man said frantically, petting his son's hair. "It's ok, Spencer! Daddy's here. You're going to be ok, you hear me?" Then he looked around the room, "Is somebody going to HELP us or what? What the fuck is going on here???"
Surprised, and a bit irritated, some of the doctors called out, "Who is this? How did they get in here? Have they been properly checked for bites? Have they been quarantined?"
The man who brought the boy in got rather hostile with the doctors, pushing some of them away from his son, and getting in other's faces to make sure they help him out before thinking of a reason not to.
At this point, even Alex had to pull his attention away from the hall to take a gander at what was going on.
"We need to get this boy thoroughly checked out before we can just..."
"NO!!! He checks out! He hasn't been bitten! He hasn't been infected!" The man said, standing guard by his son as though every doctor in there was looking to do him some harm. "I checked him myself, he's fine! He's just got a really bad flu virus right now, he's had it for a couple of days now and it's in no way related to what's going on out there! You need to give him a vaccine and let him rest so he can get better!"
"It doesn't work like that!" One of the nurses told him. "We can't afford to just let this ONE child skip inspection..."
"He PASSED inspection! So did I! At the gate! So, back the fuck up, lady! If you don't have a needle with a vaccine and some nutritional benefits to help him feel better, then get the FUCK out of the way!" He screamed. "What about you? You're not doing anything! Get over here and make sure my son is ok!"
While the argument raged on in the corner, I heard Cooper intrude and try to get the father to mellow out. It didn't seem to be working though. His adrenaline was pumping so hard that it was hard for him to keep his biceps from flexing hard enough to tear through the sleeves of his shirt. Even though he was standing still...he was breathing as though he were still running in a panic. His heavy breaths almost made him hyperventilate, and his eyes watered up as he found it nearly impossible to fight off the hysteria surging through him.
"Just take care of Spencer, Doc..." He whimpered. "Take care of my son..."
At that moment, I heard Alex whisper, "He's gone! I think Preston wandered off somewhere. You want to make a break for it?"
Still shivering at the thought of Alex and I being alone together...I couldn't help but to turn of my 'sympathy' gene while watching all of this. Something that was getting progressively easier to do. An act of mental and emotional gymnastics that I was beginning to find disturbing. And yet...not disturbing enough to keep me from taking Alex's hand to follow him.
The last thing I saw was that silent boy burying his head into Cooper's shoulder as a nurse stabbed a mercilessly big needle into his shoulder. Cooper stroked the boy's hair as he winced from the pain and his face wrinkled up tight. Cooper heard a muffled whimper in the back of the boy's throat, and softly told him, "Shhhh, it's ok. It's just a little something to help you sleep. Ok? I'm right here. I've got you."
The boy was already beginning to lose consciousness by the time Alex peeked his head into the hallway and made sure the coast was clear. Ten, he gave my hand a tug, and off we went...hurrying around the nearest corner and looking for a way back to where we were initially.
My senses came to life, the shivers inside intensifying with every step. There was a part of me that was overwhelmed by the whole situation. A part of me that almost wanted to dig my heels into the linoleum floor and slow down so I could truly appreciate every mind-blowing moment of running off to my first make-out session with another boy. I never thought my heart would be racing like this. I never imagine my breath would be so short. My legs, as weak and wobbly as they felt, managed to keep up with Alex's hurried pace the whole time. A surprise to me, considering that I was so very dizzy at the time.
The biggest trigger for me, however, was Alex's grip on my hand. It was an electric touch that crawled right up my arm, shot its way through my heart, and made a mad dash straight to my penis. The softness of his warm, slightly moist, palm, made my erection jump to attention...and there was no way for me to keep it from jutting out in an obscene way. But, even while struggling through my increasingly awkward stride through the halls of my high school...Alex and I couldn't stop giggling at one another. The surface of my skin was numb with goosebumps. It's the kind of feeling that makes you truly believe that you can fly.
We hurried into one of the nearby staircases, giddy as two teen boys could be when it comes to stuff like this. But we both stopped dead as we heard one of the staircase doors open above us.
There wasn't much else that we could do.
We heard footsteps descending from above and held our breaths while finding ourselves trapped in such a confined space. It was more about making up a believable excuse now. Running would do us no good.
Thankfully...we saw Donovan round the top of the stairs above us and keep walking. I don't know what he was doing or why, but better it be him than some soldier or self appointed hall monitor coming to tell us to get back to the rest of the general population.
"Hey..." I said, my voice shaking with the effort to seem normal. I don't think Donovan was fooled one bit.
Alex said, "We were just...wandering around and stuff, because..."
"Whatever. Nobody cares." Donovan groaned. "Listen, have you guys seen a kid about your age walking around this place? Blond hair. Kinda preppy looking? Looks like he's just coming home from a church picnic or something?"
Alex and I shook our heads.
Donovan asked, "You sure? Name's Stephen? He probably came in with the convoy right before mine?" We didn't have any idea who he was talking about, but he was too impatient for us to figure it out. "You know what, forget it. Move. I'll find him myself." He pushed his way past us and continued down the stairs. Sarcastically saying, "Thanks guys. You were a real help."
What is it with that guy?
Alex gave me another tug on my hand and before I knew it we were on our way out to the third floor again. I was praying for that room to still be empty, and as soon as I saw it still dark in the distance...I knew that my prayers had been answered. The moment his hand touched that doorknob and gave it a twist...I knew that I would never be the same again.
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