Lanterns: Day Thirteen

They took turns cleaning up in the little half-bath in the back of the group room. Both guys did a quick wash and now paced the rug. Fleur scrubbed her face, missing a few globs in her hair, and retreated to a corner, quiet and shivering, absently holding hands with the second therapy pillow.

Abby shucked her shirt and tried to twist to see her back, but knew the really appalling bruises wouldn’t show up for a couple of days. She put her top back on slowly, wincing at every new strain on her muscles, and looked at herself in the mirror, reflection blood-red in the emergency lights she’d long ago grown sick of.

Was the power off for good? When was sunrise? Or was this the world from now on: permanently dark and gloomy and ruled over by the jack-o-lantern overlords?

She marched out of the bathroom carrying a soaked and folded paper towel. The lights may have been off, but at least the water still ran, for now. Abby knelt beside Parky, who still lay on the floor, wrapped up in his personal pain. She reached out, hesitant, and gently swabbed Parky’s forehead with the cool, damp paper towel.

“Hey,” she said. “How are you feeling?”

“It rounded the corner,” he said. “You could see it from the ground, the way the cars tilted to the side, like they were going to jump the tracks. They didn’t, but even from there I could see the body fly out of its seat. And I knew right then…I knew it was Caroline. She flew just like a bird, then dropped out of sight behind one of the rollercoaster’s hills.”

“It’s okay,” Abby said. She left the moistened paper on his forehead and dug through his right front pocket to retrieve the key ring. Just as she’d pulled it free, Parky reached over and grabbed her sore wrist. She flinched at the pain but stayed silent.

“Abby,” he said, sighing. “Mean little Abby.”

“Not that mean,” she said, half-heartedly.

“You kicked me in the nuts your first day here,” he said, “remember?”

Abby nodded. Something was prickling in the corner of her eye; a loose eyelash or something.

“I deserved it,” Parky said. “I deserve all of it. I didn’t want her to get on that ride. I could’ve said no and she would have listened.” He looked up at Abby. “Maybe we’ll be roomies when they put me in here. You can give me a boot in the balls every day. It’ll be my therapy.” He laughed like a dying clown for a moment, then let go of her hand and turned his head aside, lost in his endless dark loop.

She watched Parky’s shallow breathing for a minute, wondering if she should take his hand in hers. She braced her palms on her knees and stood, letting out a whiny groan this time as the pain shrank and stretched up and down the length of her.

Not just my back, now, she thought. What good am I to the group if I’m seizing up every time I try to move?

The others gathered around her. Gerard absently flipped his stun gun in his hand like a magician fiddling with a deck of cards. Claude took Fleur by the arm and urged her to stand. He picked a stray seed from her hair and flicked it away.

Abby held up the keys and jingled them. “Garage?”

Claude steepled his fingers. “I was thinking we might do a little scavenging on the way out.” He looked at Gerard. “When you got your zapper, there, did you notice a phone in Dove’s purse?”

“…Probably,” said Gerard. “But I wasn’t thinking about it at the time.”

“We should grab it,” Claude said. “Cell towers have solar batteries, right? We might be able to reach someone. Day staff, maybe even Dr. Godfrey.”

“Isn’t he out of town?” Abby asked. “He poked his head into therapy last week and said he was on vacation.”

Claude shrugged. “I figure if anyone needs to know what’s going on, it’s the guy that runs this place.”

“Okay,” Abby said. “Yeah, the phone’s a good idea. Nurse’s station is on the way to the van, so it’s not a side trip. Anything else?”

No one spoke up, so Abby headed for the door, the others falling in line, Fleur bringing up the rear in a dull shuffle.

As they went down the hall, ready for anything, Claude sped up to walk evenly with Abby. “One other thing,” he said under his breath. He chucked a thumb at his chest so Fleur couldn’t see he was really pointing at her. “Baby girl’s falling apart. We should try to get into the pharmacy closet and get her night meds.” Abby started to speak, but Claude kept going. “The keys’ll be in Dove’s purse, too, right?”

Abby set her jaw but nodded. One more delay was all they needed, but the idea of hauling around Fleur in full freak-out mode sounded even worse. The girl was a stick figure, but she was a stick figure with teeth and nails if she got too agitated.

Nothing came out of the shadows to attack them, and they reached the nurse’s station without trouble. Abby wanted to take that as a good sign, but knew instead it meant all the pumpkins in the building were most likely off squeezing out a passel of tiny gourds. She dug through the purse, pocketing the phone and adding Dove’s keys to the ones of Parky she already held. “Just a minute,” she said as the others kept watch. She unlocked the drug room and stepped inside, crossing her fingers that the med cart had already been loaded with tonight’s pills. Sure enough, the caddy on top had four paper cups, each in a slot with a patient’s name labeled below it. She got the cup noted as LaPointe, Fleur.

Then she paused to take note of where she was. Pill bottles lined the shelves, miniature white barrels filled with pharmaceutical goodness. Abby had never been much of a popper — booze was easier to get, so it was mostly down to laziness — but she’d never say no to E or a good eye-opener, like the uppers that had contributed to her downfall.

And here she was, surrounded by drugs. She scanned the labels, not recognizing most of the names, but seeing some choice stuff here and there — hydrocodone, dextromethorphan, morphine. For her throbbing back, she spotted ibuprofen right away, but ignored it in the hopes of scoring some Tylenol III.

“Abby,” Gerard called from outside, and she shook her head. Leave it to him to ruin things. She poked her head out of the closet.

“Yeah?”

He pointed down the hall. “Claude just took off.”

“Oh, you have got to be…” Abby stalked out past the nurse’s station’s counter and handed Fleur her paper cup, pointing to a nearby water fountain.

“Where did Claude go?” Fleur asked, looking through the messy hair that hung in front of her face.

“Just take your pills,” Abby said, and Fleur wandered to the fountain and did so.

Abby looked down the hallway. “Did he say anything?”

Gerard shook his head.

Abby rubbed her temples. “All right,” she said. “Let’s go.”

***

The garage had no emergency lighting, but Abby held up Dove’s phone, illuminating the space. She unlocked the rear doors, and Gerard and Fleur piled into the back. Fleur scooted up close to the front, while Gerard hung back.

“You think you can convince him?” he asked.

Abby glanced to the side. “I hope so.” She looked back at Gerard. “Hey, listen…back in your room, you were going to tell me something. You were really going to blow my mind, from the sound of it.” She held up the glow of the smartphone to her face. “So…just in case?”

Gerard looked back at Fleur, then leaned close so Abby could see him in the phone’s light. He mouthed the words I’m dying.

Abby’s mouth fell open, but she recovered quickly, shaking her head. “My ass,” she blustered.

Gerard shrugged. “Feel free to break into the medical records room while you’re away,” he said.

“Well…well…why haven’t I heard about it?”

Another shrug. She wanted to break his collarbone to keep him from ever shrugging again. “Sorry to break it to you, but you don’t know everyone’s business. I told Claude, though,” he said. “Ask him.”

She glared at Gerard. “You’re lying. You’re just screwing with me, like you always do.” The phone went dark. “I’m coming back. You tell me the truth when I get back, you hear me?”

In the darkness, she could just make out his giving her a salute. “Will do.”

She triggered the phone again so she could look him in the eye. “And you keep her safe while I’m gone.”

He looked offended, but she waved him off before he could speak. “I’ll be back soon. Be ready to bust out of here.” She walked to the door back into the facility.

“Oh, hey, while you’re going?” Gerard called. “Grab my stash.”

Abby flipped him off as she walked out.

***

Claude was in his room, just where she knew he’d be. Safe in his cocoon. He had a suitcase open on his bed, and he looked up from the empty luggage as she walked in.

“I was gonna…I would’ve caught up with you,” he said, waving at the suitcase. “Just needed to pack.”

“Yeah,” she said. “Looks like you’re almost done. I’ll wait. Fleur and Gerard will wait, too, stuck in that van. In the pitch dark.”

Claude slumped as he stood looking at his suitcase. “I’ll catch up with you,” he said, sounding like even he didn’t buy it.

“Claude, let’s go,” she said, and reached for his hand. He pulled away.

“I can’t,” he said. “Abby…you know I can’t.”

*****

Today’s Words: 1658
Total Words: 15050

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Notes: Longer-than-normal section tonight…see you tomorrow!

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I’m attempting to write a Halloween-themed horror novel in October! Visit Day Zero for more information, and check out Countdown to Halloween for more blogging that’s altogether ooky!

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