Chapter 16

Carter


One thing I’ve never mentioned to anyone was how much I feared the dark. The overwhelming terror first began long before the canisters ever fell, but I’d managed to control its grip on me.

After the canisters fell, well…that’s a whole new ballgame.

I can’t imagine how Emmalee deals with living in the dark. I know I couldn’t handle it.


A THROAT CLOGGING MOMENT LATER

My heart began pounding in my chest. Sweat dampened my armpits and pooled around my crotch. I sucked in a ragged breath. I was paralysed. I couldn’t move.

I felt the truck straighten out. Then there was a flash of light.

My eyes burned as a plume of smoke wafted up from the metal flooring, where Dirk had struck a match. The scent of sulphur stung my nostrils.

I lifted a hand to rub at my irritated nose. I squinted my eyes until they’d had a chance to adjust to the light.

Donahue, our medic, was rummaging in a small pouch that I watched him take from around his neck. He pulled something out and leaned over Jam. I saw Donahue’s lips move and then Jam’s eyes widen in hazy shock.

My eyes became better focused. Jam was frowning. The expression on his face was hesitant, then he seemed to relent. He popped what looked like a pill into his mouth. I watched Jam dry swallow.

The truck lurched again. This time with severe force. Dirk’s match went out.

I felt myself slide sideways and I crashed against the metal panelled side of the truck. My left elbow must have connected with a joint because I felt a pain rip all the way down to my wrist. One of the rivets must have jammed into a nerve just below my triceps. My hand dropped away from the girl’s.

The movement of the truck suddenly slamming the brakes on had her sliding away from me. I felt her stop short as a surprisingly strong hand closed around my ankle.

I groped for her in the dark and thankfully latched onto a handful of what must have been her shirt. I pulled her back up toward me. I could feel her heart racing against mine as I clutched her to my chest in the dark.

The truck swerved a couple more times, then came to an abrupt halt. I let out a breath and lessened my grip on the girl. She did not edge away from me.

Moonlight flooded into the truck as the heavy door was opened and Stevron appeared in the opening. “Everyone okay?” I saw him mouth.

I shrugged. Then I saw Angie. Her temple still trickled blood from the small gash the butt of Char’s rifle had opened up. The wound didn’t seem to be bothering Jam’s sister, her for the gun she was holding to Char Twiller’s head was steady.

Dirk stood and before anyone could stop him he surged forward and jumped from the truck. His fist connected with Char’s jaw. The other man went down and hard.

Now that I had light enough to see, I looked around and found one the medical bag I’d stacked in the truck earlier. I pulled it over and unzipped the zipper. I found the needle kit. I took it out and automatically began to thread a surgical needle with suture thread that I had secretly hoarded.

I know, I know. People were hurt and dying back at base camp, and I had tried to help as many as I could, but my vow to the dead came first. Emmalee would always come first.

“Here,” I said, “Jam needs to be patched up.”

I saw the look of surprise in Donahue’s eyes as I held out the needle and thread to him. He quickly got over what I’d obviously done and hurriedly retrieved a pair of scissors from his coat and began to cut away the bandages close to the largest red spot over Jam’s chest.

“You okay, Jam?”

Jam swallowed and shook his head.

Donahue gave me a questioning look over his shoulder and I automatically pulled out a wad of clean gauze and a roll of tape. There was a look of relief in Donanuhe’s eyes as he handed me the scissors he been using. “Good, now help me with Jam.”

I nodded but before I could hand the gauze and tape to Donahue, he grabbed my arm.

“Give the roll to Em.”

I shifted my eyes to Em. Her face was a mask of terror. Her lips were moving at lightening speed.

“No! No! Make him get away! Don’t let him near Jam!”

My gut lurched with another stab of rejection. I quickly shoved my pain to the far reaches of my heart.

“Calm down. Calm down, Em.” I said. Then I pressed the roll of tape into her hands.

Em recoiled from me the moment I touched her. Her upper lip curled as her fingers wrapped around the tape. “Get away from me and stay away from my family.”

©Legend of the Sapphyre Wings by Janet Merritt