|Red in the City
Author: Flipdarkfuture95 PM
Life is now upside down for Red. The one constant in her life is now in the Hospital, and only a package she can deliver will ensure she ever sees her kind old smile again.Rated: Fiction T - English - Words: 3,686 - Published: 11-29-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3078522
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Red in the City
She walked down the street, gritting her teeth as a particularly powerful gust of wind blew straight into her, bringing a chilling sensation to her skin. Quickly she responded by pulling the zipper up on her jumper all the way to the base of the neckline, relishing the air starting to warm up with no place to escape to.
Weather always seemed to pick on her in particular. Although she wasn't sure why it didn't instead go for the group of girls nearby who somehow braved the cold wearing nothing but a varied assortment of t-shirts, skirts and slim jeans.
As usual she spied the group of grey-faced businessman nearby, always arranged in a tight-knit square and all of them holding featureless mobile phones up to their ears. The colour of each one's suit was a uniform black or grey, and she guessed that even if the cut was wildly different she would be unable to tell them apart regardless.
The bus they patiently waited for came around the corner of a street in front of a massive wall stretching high into the sky, lording over everything standing in its shadow. Its profile would have encased the entire inner collection of tall buildings with shining lights had it not been for the large crack running up its entire length, the result of a earthquake years before and the higher-ups of the city unwilling to fix it due to the money already spent on other things deemed more important to them.
Through the dark and dank crack she could spy a sliver of red paint that she knew was part of a cross, standing in stark contrast to the white paint and colored glass that adorned the rest of the building.
Lights were haphazardly strung from the edges of the cracked portions, meant to light the way for workers in the Wall, although most of them had dulled enough to cast only enough light for those accustomed to living and working on the less legal side of life. That crack was a gateway to a haven for the homeless, a prize for the lacking, and a goldmine for the cruel.
As a kid she never went through there, as someone obsessed with facebook she never went there, and as who she was now she never went through there. Just like everyone else who lived in the neighbourhood didn't either. They had all lost something in that place.
She went around the street corner, passing in front of a corner store she knew the interior by hand and could instantly navigate her way through it even if she were blind. The sound of a wailing Ambulance caught her ear, piquing her interest a little but not enough to get her thinking about it properly. She stopped walking, her eyes widening at the sight of green jumpsuit wearing medics carrying a stretcher between them.
It was the old woman on the stretcher she worried about. She looked almost… She shook the thoughts away and started walking again, picking up the pace as one of the paramedics looked up from his clipboard and at her, and sighed.
Everything felt so different now, even though it all looked exactly the same like always. She sighed and lifted her head off the pillow at the sound of a Truck's bellow from the street below rumbling through the darkened room. As she laid her head back down once the sound had faded back into the general ambience of the city night, she grumbled at how scratchy and strange the pillow now felt, even though it was the exact same pillow she had bought at the start of the month.
She closed her eyes and tried as hard as she could to get some sleep in for classes tomorrow, but the sound of the fridge's engine kicking up in the room over startled her enough that she bolted upright at it, even though it had always made that noise ever since her grandma had someone come in to 'fix' it.
It took another three hours of lying there and endlessly staring at the flaking paint on the ceiling until finally she drifted to sleep, the last thing on her mind being the last thing she wanted.
Morning came; bringing with it light that filtered through the room's thick curtains and a shrill beeping that irritated her as she slowly opened her eyes and blinked twice before sitting upright among the sheets, grumbling a little as she spied a loose lock of frazzled blonde hair in the corner of her vision. She sighed as she noticed how it managed to reach just below her shoulder. Normally she kept her hair at a manageable length that just touched the bottom of her ears, but now… she honestly couldn't give a damn about something like that when the one constant in her life was in danger of slipping away.
As she padded out of her room, resisting a reactionary shiver as her feet touched down on the cold tiles the phone on the bench facing her rang a shrill noise. She rubbed at her eyes with the side of her hand, dreading the prospect of facing another phone call from yet another relative conveniently living far away.
The shrill tones of her aunt Blackie, the tower of black frizzy hair on her fat head the only way she could pick her out from her mother's six other sisters, squawked in her ear the same way the TV did when showing the white noise channel. The actual wording of Aunt Blackie's fake apologies slipped her mind oddly enough; something she thought wouldn't impact her day that much.
She placed the phone back on the mount, making sure that she heard the click that told her the conversation was finished. A small envelope caught her eye and she arched an eyebrow at the logo sitting in pride of place.
An Eagle clutching at a rolled up scroll with elegant lines meant to resemble some pretentious Latin, but usually ended up as chicken scrawl at the hands of a student in the school's many art classes. She swiped it from the bench, holding it up for a second as she tore a strip away from the edge of the envelope to gain access to the letter within.
Due to the incapacitation of your appointed guardian, and exemplary work ethic you have shown consistently in your years at Woodvale, you have been given a reprieve from studies and classes for a week, to alleviate stress and pressure during this difficult time for you. Your grades and aptitude concerning successful completion of Year 12 will not be affected.
Not like she had anything on that would be impacted. The following week was a blur of inactivity and lethargy that went at a crawl for her as she helplessly fixated on what was missing from the apartment.
Soon even that feeling of helplessness faded away to a nothing as she stayed in the apartment, finding no reason to go out into the city at all beyond of buying bare essentials or keeping sparse contact with her friends. Their words meant nothing to her, all but noise against one thing that stuck her thoughts. The one constant in her life was no longer there.
Until the arrival of a grey colored package one morning. Her morning motions were mechanical as she wordlessly stared at the nondescript box sitting on the hallway floor, waiting for a pair of hands to pick it up.
She didn't do anything at all, thinking that whatever was in inside was not important until she spotted the letter sticking out from a gap in one of the box's folds. She bent down to pick it up, the chill on her bare legs hardly being registered in her mind as she looked over the envelope and noted the absence of the Eagle clutching a scroll.
It was unmarked and unremarkable for an envelope, most likely bought from a cornerstore very similar to the one on her street. She pinched the edge and tore a strip away; grimacing at the sight of something she didn't see very often.
She's doing fine, but the hospital has run out of the medication she needs. All traffic has been barred access by the police so you'll have to walk it to us. Be safe.
Her mother's handwriting was short and to the point as always. She peered down at the box, seeing that the top was secured by duct tape and the sides sported a bright red cross. She narrowed her eyes and nodded to herself. It was time to make a delivery.
While she cradled the box in her arms, going back into the main room and placing it on the nearby table, she was surprised to find it didn't weigh much. She threw one look at the box before heading into the nearby hallway leading to her room, and picked her way through the discarded socks and underwear that lay between her and her closet. She reached for the handle and pulled, the movement making some of the hangers inside rock back and forth a little. Most of the clothes in there were jeans, school skirts or white blouses, except for the piece on the wire hanger in the middle of them all.
Her prized red jacket waited for her to take it off the hanger and put it on. As soon as her fingertips brushed against the smooth and soft fabric she felt a little bit safer, she pulled away her hand and snatched at the edge of the hanger, and turned to move away from the wardrobe, sticking out her foot to nudge it closed again.
She poked her arm through one sleeve and then again with the other, pulling down on the front to straighten it out and making sure the hood was flipped back and securely resting behind her neck.
She moved back out into the hallway towards the main area, seeing that the box still sat on the corner of the table nearby. Without a moment to spare she slipped her fingers under its bottom and carried it in her arms.
The door to the apartment was slightly ajar, most likely because something had been trapped in the hinges again. She nudged it open with her foot, the hinges squealing and protesting the entire way until the wall stopped the door from going any further. She stepped out into the hallway, stopping to close the door before moving forward towards the stairs at the end.
Taking them two at a time she counted only five seconds before reaching the bottom step and stepping out onto the ground floor of the complex, passing an unattended reception desk that sat astride the double doors that acted as entry into the building.
She squatted and placed the box on the floor before standing and opening one of the doors, being met with an icy blast of wind as soon as it opened to the street outside being completely smothered with snow.
She sighed as she kept her foot against the bottom of the door to stop it from closing, as she picked the box back up and stepped through, holding the box with one arm as she flipped the hood over her head. The chill didn't affect her face as much as she went down the steps carefully, aware that they tended to ice over if the weather was even remotely cold.
Snow crunched underneath her feet as she stood on the pavement for a moment, seeing that many of the roads branching off the street had been blocked off by bright yellow barricades, each with a black and white van sporting a siren behind them.
As she walked down the deserted street she could hear the sounds of a angry crowd carrying to her from the other side of the building ahead. She didn't focus on them, but on the white structure visible through the crack and only standing out because of the massive red cross emblazoned on its walls.
She grimaced as she reached the corner of the street, the massive wall stretching out in front of her and a road that followed its length. Each part of the road that went past the buildings on the street had been blocked off by more barricades, which wasn't what she needed right now.
A crazy thought entered her head as she stared at the Crack and the dimly lit broken path within. She needed to go through there if she wanted to reach the hospital in time. She stared down at the box in her arms and swore under her breath.
Her heart began to beat a little faster as she willed her feet go start walking towards the Crack, which slowly grew larger and larger until it towered above her like a dark presence. She never wanted to go in there.
Complete silence greeted her as the sky slowly disappeared, replaced by a roof of broken concrete and torn wires that still sparked as electricity ran through them. Numerous streams of dust continuously fell down from the exposed higher levels of the walls interior, resulting in a constant cloud that irritated her lungs a little, enough that coughs interrupted her careful passage through the hundred meter thick wall.
Everywhere she looked she saw open doorways into rooms that were completely pitch black with no sounds coming from them at all. She gulped and continued, keeping a constant lookout for anyone or anything nearby in case she had to make a break for it and start sprinting.
Nothing. Nothing at all came at her, and as she neared the other side of the crack and the small alleyway connecting to the Hospital plaza she heaved a sigh of relief.
Soon her feet found the snow that had blown in and covered the stretch of broken concrete just before the way back to the outside and she picked up the pace, eager to get out of there and into the hospital so she could-
"What you got there, little girl?"
She whirled around, looking up at a wrinkled and sun-damaged face framed by tangled masses of dirty black hair. The dirty grey shirt he wore barely did anything to hide the muscles on his arms and chest, and the mats of black hair continued on his forearms and most likely the rest of him as well.
He had the smile of a brute as he showed dirty teeth, some chipped and broken with others completely intact and colored a pure white.
Beneath the mats of hair on his forearms she noticed a bunch of white dots going from his wrists to his elbows. He was sick.
She backed away as his eyes lit up at the sight of the red cross on the box's side, trying to get a bit of distance between him and her before she started running. "You're Wolfjaw."
"That I am, girly. Hand over the box; I'll let you go without much trouble." She shook her head as she noticed that the broken concrete above her head had been replaced by a grey sky.
"I can't, I have to get this to the-" The growl in his throat stopped her, and her blood ran cold as she continued to back away from the approaching hairy brute.
"To the where? The hospital? Where the privileged get theirs while the rest of us don't? You'd be doing a public service handing it over to me." As his meat club hand shot forward she turned and ran, sprinting as fast as she could without disturbing the contents within the package. She gasped in surprise as she lost her footing on the broken concrete, feeling a throbbing pain surface in her ankle as she kept weight on it while heading for the alley ahead, she could hear and feel the thunderous steps of Wolfjaw as he pursued her into the alley.
As she came to the other end of the alley, the red cross on the white wall large in her sight she renewed her running, glad that she could finally get some use out of her Athletics class that wasn't to do with sports.
The thunderous pounding behind her stopped, and she resisted the urge to stop and wonder why that was so, instead continuing across the empty plaza towards the main entrance of the hospital ahead.
She saw the same barricades from before blocking the roads feeding into the plaza, with crowds behind all of them surging with shouts and yells directed at the police behind the barricades.
Whatever was going on was coming to a head. She ignored all of that as she ran under the cover of the main entrance, eyes only for the glass double doors that separated her from the stark white hallway inside.
As the automatic doors closed behind her she stopped to catch her breath, feeling absolutely ragged as her heart decided to beat at a even faster rate than before, why she didn't know, but she had a clue when she spotted the guy with the concerned look on him leaning against the reception desk. "Red?" He turned to her, dirt all over his arms and on his face, a pickaxe dangled from his hand, the curved metal head touching the floor.
"Uh, hey, where's her room Jack?!" She moved closer, keeping a close eye on the box to make sure it wasn't damaged as he scratched the side of his cheek, obviously confused. "My grandma's room, where is it?!"
He nodded in understanding as he grabbed a map from a nearby rack and pointed at a room two floors above. "145. Is she-"
"Not if I get there." She walked away, eyes for the elevator doors nearby and nothing else.
She pressed the side of the box into the button for the third floor and tapped her foot impatiently as it chimed; she didn't need to wait long as a stroke of luck graced her with the doors opening into a waiting elevator. With no time to waste she ran in, dropping the box onto the floor and stabbing a finger onto the third floor button.
Unseen gears whirred and pulleys worked as she felt a slight lurch in the elevator as it started to climb back up, giving her a bit of time to continue catching her breath for about ten seconds or so.
As if on cue for not giving her a break the doors slid open to admit entry into another samey white corridor. She bent down to pick up the box and stepped out of the elevator, scanning the sides of the corridor for a door with 105 on it.
There it was. She stopped cold for a moment, feeling a little suspicious of how her luck seemed to have turned for the better, but that didn't matter, she ran the twenty metres or so down the hallway, making straight for it as a smile slowly dawned on her.
She wasn't going to be late after all; she grabbed the door handle and pushed it down gently, hearing a soft click telling her it was open. She angled her shoulder towards the door and pushed using a little effort, keeping a hold on the box as slowly the room inside opened to her.
A bed stood in the center of the room, a metal stand with a bag full of clear liquid hanging from it, a small plastic tube connecting to the bottom of the bag from the small and frail arm of a old woman resting on the bed, her eyes closed and her frame barely moving with each small breath taken.
The white dots running up and down both of her arms stood out even against her normally pale skin. She slowly walked forwards, relieved that she had made it in time when something clamped down on the back of her neck and wrenched her out of the room and into the hallway.
Her vision whipped about wildly before seeing the features of Wolfjaw. "And here I am, asking nicely again. The box. Please."
She struggled against the vice like grip his hand exerted on the back of her neck, trying to drop the box on the floor so she could kick it away when his other hand flew into her stomach as a fist, sending her into a coughing fit as he sighed. "This don't have to be done the hard way, girl, hand the box over or I won't hold back."
What else could she do? She coughed and sputtered as she nodded quickly, shoving one of the capped needles up her sleeve before holding the box up for him to take. The white spots on his arms managed to stand out with even more vividness underneath the dark matted hair as he wrenched the box away from her.
As she fell to the ground, the vice grip now gone she held a hand to her stomach as she curled over and gritted her teeth.
She heard a thud and blinked twice, seeing that Wolfjaw had fallen over, the back of his head bleeding with Jack standing over him, breathing heavily. "You okay?" The pickaxe in his hands dropped to the floor with a clatter as he ran to her with a hand at the ready.
She nodded and he pulled her onto her feet, her head still swimming as she registered what happened. She swayed as he placed the box back in her arms and guided her over to the open doorway nearby.
Relief flowed through her as she stepped through the door and saw the kind old eyes of the woman were open. "Red?"
"Grandma." She whispered, just glad to see she was okay.