The settee springs had burst through the cushion and what little stuffing there had been was gone. The remaining fabric sagged or clung to the rusted springs, much like the building around it, and the skeletons beyond it. Eddie gripped one of the springs near the base and tested it. He sneezed as the cloth attached crumbled to dust. The coil snapped free of its anchor, surprising him and opening a line of crimson across his other hand. He cursed and pressed the cut to his mouth. The taste made him gag, as if the pollution in the atmosphere had changed even his blood.
He tore a strip from his sleeve and used his teeth to tighten a knot in the bandage. It would have to do, much like everything else he had done for the past six days. Desperation was a great provider of inspiration he had discovered, but he didn’t hold much hope that it would see him through.
Asides from the settee there was no other furniture in the room he’d settled on to camp in. It was small and dark, the windows mostly blocked by the shifting sand dunes outside. Eddie had imagined deserts to be like the ones in ancient stories. Blisteringly hot, golden, and majestic. To his horror he had found grey towers of brittle dirt. The grains sharp enough to slice open the skin or worse if you were unlucky enough to be caught in a storm.
Instead of the sun’s endless scorch there was the endless moon. Silvery blue on the horizon, always watching from constant fixed position as if pinned there by magic, or perhaps by the gods themselves if Eddie believed the same things as Gavin.
There was no warmth in the light it gave. It was almost as cold as the ice planes, but the desert was so dry that nothing froze. If it had then there would be ice to melt into drinking water and he would not have to rely on the sludgy muck from the well he had discovered in the building’s cellar. He had tried boiling it but there was almost nothing to burn for a fire and what little fuel he had found smoked so badly that Eddie though he might suffocate. If he had persisted though he might not be in the position he was. His attempt had run through the small supply of burnable material he had, making a second attempt impossible once he had doused the flames. If he had not done that then he could have perhaps cauterized the wound on Gavin’s hip. He might have avoided trapping them inside this ruin as they waited for Gavin to die.
Eddie closed his eyes and tightened his hold on the spring. He wasn’t out of options yet.
Bundled in both his own clothes and the ones that Eddie could spare, Gavin was slumped against the wall where Eddie had propped him. His eyes were open, but their glassy sheen suggested that he wasn’t aware of the barren room around him, or Eddie standing nearby. He breathed in short, sharp hiccups. Each breath whistling through his ribcage.
The spring seemed to burn in Eddie’s hand, but he kept his grip. He should pray he thought. He had not prayed since he was a child and his mother ordered him to do so. He vaguely remembered how to, and he had seen Gavin at prayer enough to echo the ritual.
He crossed the room and let his knees hit the floor before Gavin’s shivering form. Eddie reached for his hands and pulled them from the cocoon of fabric, pressing the spring between them as he dropped his forehead to rest against Gavin’s.
‘Please,’ he started, stumbling over the words. His mother had begged in her prayers. She had begged for his father to come home, for the landlord to stay away, for the debt collectors to take her in payment instead of the food on the table.
Eddie reached for something else, but the words dried in his throat.
Save him, he wanted to scream. Please, please, save him.
Gavin’s hands twitched and a sob cracked out.
‘I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry.’
Once the tears started, they would not stop. The ran hot and cooled almost immediately. Tracking salt down Eddie’s cheeks until it felt like his skin was breaking with every movement. He swallowed and tried to reign himself in, coughing until the lump in his throat eased enough for him to breathe past it.
Gavin’s eyes remained glassy, his chest rattling like a slip of paper caught in the wind.
Eddie lifted a hand to the back of his neck and eased him flat onto the floor, straightening his limbs so that Gavin looked almost like a corpse ready for burial. Eddie squashed that image before it could cripple him and lifted the hem of Gavin’s shirt. It resisted, the wool sticking to the scabbed wound oozing beneath.
An infection spelled death unless treated and without medicine Eddie had only one course of action. He held the sharp edge of the spring to Gavin’s hip.
‘I’m sorry,’ he repeated. ‘This is not what I thought we would find.’ His hand trembled and he fought to keep it steady.
Desperation breeds just that he thought. Desperation.
This response uses the same characters my January response This Terrible Thing Called Hope. It seemed like a nice opportunity to revisit these two and the image was such a great juxtaposition to the first with the variation on setting, the single figure as opposed to the group, it just ended up leading me here.