Hello, dear readers. Here is the next chapter in my science fiction WIP. Please enjoy and share your comments at the end.
Note: Remember this is a first draft and completely unedited. Thanks for your understanding and for being part of this journey.
I had lost Paul as an ally but I was determined to get him back. Everyone seemed to be working against. Still, I was able most days to get close enough to say one word to him. Soldier. Commander. Sir. War. He never reacted, but I saw in his eyes a glimmer of understanding.
I decided to learn as much about the compound while I was waiting for Paul to return to me. Some afternoons I would skip evening meal, pick a direction and run as fast as I could. Invariably, not more than thirty minutes into the run, men would appear in front of me encouraging me to return to the compound and enjoy evening meal. In my mind, I started to create a map. It was smaller than I first realized. In addition to the wood working barns and the vineyards, there were several additional work areas. There was a cooking building where all of the meals were prepared and where items were canned for later use. They also made wine there. I found another field with cotton growing at various stages just like the grapes. Near there was a large building where they made fabric and sewed the pants and shirts that everyone wore. When I was able to get to that building I would steal strips of fabric from the waste piles and started to braid them into a type of show to protect my feet while running.
Vann seemed to catch on to what I was doing and men started to appear just before evening meal to escort me to the dining area. It became near impossible for me to slip away. Instead, I chose to start exploring during the night after first rain. That was a little more tricky not being able to see clearly where I was going at most times. My feet took quite a beating. I took the next several nights to go to the clothing facility and sewed myself a sort of cloth boot. The boots did not fully protect my feet but they did reduce the number of cuts that were easily visible the next day while wearing my leather flip flops.
In the following nights I found a laundry facility, more fields and various fruit orchards, and an area candles and other items were made. Lastly I found a small which building, quite secluded. The door to the building was locked. That alone made me want to find a way in because it was the first lock I had seen in the whole compound. I was sure something important was behind that door.
The little sleep I got those nights, I still relived the memory over and over. I never saw her face but became more and more familiar with the woman every night. She was someone I cared for very much. I could not remember her face or her name, but with each passing night, a feeling blossomed in my heart that could not be denied.
I stopped attempting to reach Paul. I knew that my attempts were getting me nowhere and I did not want to raise suspicion about myself so that I would be free to continue my exploring. Quite by accident I found myself alone with him one day.
I was working with a hoe preparing a new section of vineyard. I came down hard with the hoe and struck a rock, breaking off the end of the handle. Dave was nearby and told me to go to the barns to get another one. Most of the wood workers were gone cutting and hauling trees back to the barns. Paul had hurt his hand and had stayed behind where he was sanding spindles with his good hand.
“Paul!” I was shocked to see him.
“Hello, friend,” he smiled at me. My friend was not there. I had to try.
I searched my mind for the few items we had talked about trying to find some trigger that would bring him back to me. Finally I thought of one that might work. I walked up close to him and put my hands on his shoulders, forcing him to keep his eyes locked on mine.
“Mical,” I whispered to him.
A wave of confusion washed over his face. Then something clicked. His eyes rolled up in his head and he fell to his knees, almost crushing me under him.
“Paul,” I struggle to hold him up but he was so much bigger than me. Finally and I had give up and lowered him as gently as I could down to the floor. He did not say anything else. A single tear rolled out of his right eye.
Just then, two of the wood workers returned with a load of logs.
“What’s going on here?” They ran over to us as soon as they noticed Paul on the ground.
“I don’t know,” I answer truthfully. “I can to get a new handle for my hoe and found him this way.”
“Quick, go get Vann,” the taller one told the younger one, and he promptly turned and ran off.
“I should help,” I offered.
“No, that’s all right,” he told me. He nodded his head toward a large bin on the far side of the room. “The new handles are over there,” he told me. “You should get one and be on your way. Paul will be just fine.”
I was desperate to know if I had reach Paul, but this was not the time. I did as he recommended and left the barn.
Paul did not disappear again. The next day I saw him at noon break, but he was different yet again. He was not the stiff soldier I had first seen, nor was he the jovial talker that he had been most recently. He was still smiling and still talking some, but he was different again. I took that as a good sign. Everyone was again working together to keep us apart. As a result, I never had the chance to get close enough to find out if any of his memories had resurfaced. Instead, I continued to focus on my mission of gathering intel.
Several weeks went by spent with my days working hard in the vineyards and my nights mapping out the compound. The lack of sleep built up until one afternoon I was so tired I did not even go to evening meal. I went back to my room, shower and promptly collapsed on the bed.
The dream started again. I was so tired. I could not even open my eyes. It felt like I had not slept in days. My entire body hurt. I felt like I had been tossed down a huge flight of stairs and had hit every step on the way down. I groaned involuntarily.
“Roman?” The woman was there. “Roman, please come back to me.”
Something was different this time. Things were more intense. I could feel the cold of the medical table I was lying on. I could feel the warmth of her hand on mine and how rough her hands were. There were strong smells that my mind immediately identified as medicinal.
“Roman, we need you to come back.”
The room shook violently. For a moment I thought I was going to fall off the table. The woman lay her body across mine to protect me from the bits of ceiling that came down. The bright white lights went out for a moment and then came back on but continued to flicker. Somehow I found the strength to open my eyes.
The woman was still shielding me with her body. I could see she had long black hair pulled back in a ponytail. She was dressed in a black and gray camouflage and was covered with dirt and debris.
“Where?” I tried to talk but my throat was so dry it hurt. I tried to swallow but there was nothing to swallow. My tongue scraped against the roof of my mouth like sandpaper.
“Roman! Oh, thank the skies!” The woman jerked up and looked into my eyes. Her right hand caressed the side of my face.
“Where?” I tried again but did not seem to have the strength to continue.
“We’re in the bunker,” she told me. Her eyes were royal blue. I could not remember ever seeing eyes that color before but yet at the same time they were familiar to me.
I knew I was going to be confined to single syllables, so I tried another, “What?”
“You were injured. Knocked unconscious actually. Some of the guys wanted to leave you for dead but I ordered them to cary you back here. We were too close to the shelling.”
The room shook again. Most debris fell from the ceiling and the lights continued their flickering.
“Shelling?” I felt like I should know that word.
“Oh, Roman.” I watched as a tear streamed down her right cheek. “They reached you, didn’t they?”
There was no going on with as dry as my mouth was. Why was I so thirsty?
“We have a little,” she told me. She handed me a small bottle but there was only enough water in it to barely wet the inside of my mouth. My throat remained dry.
“Roman, you know I can’t.” I could see in her face that this woman cared deeply for me. Other than her eyes, nothing else seemed to be familiar.
I tried to sit up a little but she pushed me back down. “You need to rest,” she scolded me. “They are getting closer and we will have to move soon. Save your strength. You have not slept in days.”
I had not slept much, but I would not have said that I had not slept in days. How did she know how much I had slept?
With great effort, I spoke, “Slept last night.”
“No, no you haven’t. You keep insisting that you keep watch. Now it is your time to rest.”
It did not make sense. I was tired from all the activity of the last few days. It did not seem right that I should be this tired.
I was afraid to ask. “Who?”
“Who? What do you mean? Who survived?” She was genuinely confused by my question.
“You?” Breathing was suddenly getting more difficult. My chest tightened up as the pain in my back, legs and shoulder intensified.
She did not speak for a moment. I watched as both eyes filled with tears and her lips began to tremble.
“Who am I?” she slowly whispered.
I tried to nod but ended up only blinking instead.
Another woman came up wearing a black turtleneck with black pants.
“How alert is he?”
“I’m not sure,” answered the woman holding my hand. “He seems to have trouble speaking and is a bit clouded.”
“It is probably the pain returning. Both his leg and shoulder were broken. I’ve done what I can but he will still have considerable pain for a few days. Let me get some more meds.”
The woman in black walked away and took a few items from a backpack. I looked again at the first woman and asked again, “Who?”
“You know who, Roman,” she whispered to me. “You know me. You know me.”
I searched my brain but there was nothing but blackness. I remembered the vineyard, the compound, Paul. This woman was not in there.
The woman in black returned and pressed something against my neck. I heard a quiet swoosh and everything went black.
There were brief moments of consciousness in the days to follow. I would start to recognize the world around me and someone would press something against my neck. I would hear that quiet swoosh and everything would go dark.
I cannot say how much time passed. Finally I woke up. I felt myself sitting up some even before I opened my eyes. I was in a different room. The walls appeared to be poured concrete and one appeared wet. I was propped up against a backpack and was covered by a couple camo jackets. The woman I had first seen was lying next to me. A small lantern next to her offered minimal light in the room.
I tried to sit up more and was relieved to find I was in considerably less pain. My mouth was very dry.
I reached out to gently rouse her.
“I’m up!” She jerked herself upright in an instant. “Roman! You’re awake!”
“Yes.” Speaking was not as difficult even though my mouth was overly dry.
“Water?” I asked her.
“I will have to get some,” she told me. “I have not been out much. I did not want to leave in case you needed carried out of here.”
I pointed to the wall that appeared to be wet. It looked like there was water that just needed to be collected.
“Poisoned,” she informed me. “Most of the free water has been poisoned.”
“Poisoned?” That did not make any sense. There had just been an abundance of water.
“You’re still not fully back, are you?” She reached out and rang her fingers through my hair. “But you are here and you are awake and I will be happy with what I can get.”
Something is her touch was very comforting. I reached up and grabbed her hand with mine. There was familiarity that I had not felt before. I held her hand against my face and closed my eyes. Yes, I had felt this hand before.
“Are you remembering?” She whispered like she was afraid to say the words out loud.
“Some,” I answered honestly.
“Do you know me?”
I opened my eyes. Her eyes were filling with tears again but her face was hopeful.
“No, I’m sorry.”
She tried to smile. “It should come back.” I was not sure if she was trying to console me or herself. “I’m Sam. Samantha,” she went on. “I’m your wife.”
Wife? The word echoed in my head. I could not have a wife and not remember her. When had I gotten married? And where was this place? Why were we in dark quarters instead or outside in the sun?
“I should get some water.” She pulled away. Part of me knew it was because she did not want me to see her cry.
“I’ll come,” I offered.
“No, you need to rest a little more,” she instructed. “I will be back soon.”
I did want to get out and see where we were in the compound. Stirring myself I could feel the fatigue that was likely the reason she was intent on me resting more.
She slipped from the room. I laid back against the backpacks and closed my eyes. She was only gone a few minutes when I heard an explosion and the room shook violently. So much so that the lantern next to me was knocked over. I could hear screams in the distance and I jumped to my feet. The door opened out and something was blocking it. I was trapped in this small room. I picked up the lantern and examined the walls to see if I had missed another way out. All the walls were solid concrete. I was careful not so touch the wall that was wet. I put the lantern back down and applied all my energy to trying to push the door open. I exerted myself for several minutes before another explosion knocked me from my feet. I felt my head hit the wall and everything went black.