It takes us two hours to find the medicine cabinet. We sit in the bath tub with the contents of it in between us as Chance talks me through each item. Some of the medicines and creams I am certain that I have seen before, but I let him explain what each and every one is. Just in case.
“This,” Chance holds up a small white acrylic bottle, “can be used on my leg to prevent infection.” He screws off the lid and squeezes some of the white cream out onto his finger, gently dabbing it onto his leg. It looks painful, but he keeps a straight face until he screws the lid back on. I still want to ask him how he knows all of this, but I decide to save all of my questions until nightfall. Maybe then he will be more willing to answer them.
Instead I ask questions that I know he will answer, “How long are we going to stay here?”
“Do you want to see the City?” asks Chance. Do I? After the seeing the pictures, I dread to see what we will find if we venture out any further. But it’s too tempting, and I want to find out myself what happened.
“Well then,” he sighs, “I guess we’ll leave tomorrow.” Chance furrows his eyebrows like he is tempted to stay for longer, but then shakes it off and climbs out of the bath tub. “Want to go find some food?”
A lot of the food is missing from the cupboards, things that we could have eaten. Things that wouldn’t have gone nasty. Finally, Chance comes across a cupboard that he has to stand on the work surface to reach, and jumps back down with a box of food. Who stores food in a cardboard box? It isn’t long until I see why.
It’s a chocolate box. Full of chocolate bars, puddings and packets of sweets. All varying in different sizes and shapes. Thankfully I know what chocolate is, it’s meant to taste sweet and creamy in your mouth. My stomach rumbles with hunger. Chance smiles and draws out two chocolate puddings in little china pots. How do you eat something in a pot? With your hands? I’m too used to being served food on cardboard plates.
“Here,” says Chance, handing me a pudding with a spoon, “I guess you know how to use a spoon, right?” I nod and rip off the plastic lid. I’m about to question if these are okay to eat, but something catches my eye in the corner of the tiny kitchen. A calendar? Yes. I look at Chance, and then make my way over to the calendar. This is how the people used to mark the days, not with a blade on a cell wall. I shiver at my memories.
I read through the markings on the calendar. Out for lunch, Tess birthday, Doctors, Disease hit. What? I keep reading on, Jon infected, Disease hit central city, Jon died, Tess infected, Jon comes back. Comes back?
“Chance,” I say, and he comes over to where I’m stood, “look at this.” I watch his face as he reads the markings on the calendar, and then I watch as he puts the pieces into place in his head.
“What does it mean?” I ask. Chance just shrugs his shoulders, looking as confused as I am. Maybe it means he came back from wherever he was infected to be buried. Either way, it still doesn’t make sense. I tap the spoon on the china pot, thinking.
After a while, Chance finally speaks, “it’s probably nothing to worry about.” He rests his hand on my shoulder, reassuring me, but I can’t help from thinking about it. Still, he shows concern, so I smile and scoop some pudding into my mouth. I’ve never tasted something so good.
At sunset we sit at the table with a quarter of the bag on nuts out in front of us. Chance inspects his pocket knife as we eat silently, he obviously won’t have the chance to use it. I look at him out of the corner of my eye, how much does he really know? Part of me doesn’t feel safe around him, but what good will it do to be alone? As if it was clear that was what I was thinking about, Chance lays down his knife and spreads his arms across the table.
“Go on then, shoot me with your questions,” He says, holding his hands together to make them look somewhat like a pistol.
“Okay,” I begin, choosing my first question carefully, “how do you know so much about the disease and the city?” Chance thinks about his answer as if he has two options. Either lie, or tell me part of the truth. But how would I tell them apart?
“The boy that was in the cell next to mine used to talk a lot about the City and the disease. Not to anybody in particular, just muttering to himself, trying not to forget. He must have somehow fought against the memory loss thing that they gave people like him, like you. I overheard.” I don’t believe everything that he knows is from a boy who used to be in the cell next to his. Lie? I can’t tell.
“Nobody can fight against memory loss,” I say, pretty sure that I’m right; “you’re lying.” Not a question, but a statement. Chance chuckles and I know for sure that he was lying.
“Anybody can give away a secret,” he says, and leans in closely, “but then it wouldn’t be a secret.” With a tap of his nose, he is stood up and clearing away the nuts from the table. I sigh dramatically, hoping that he will hear. If I don’t get answers soon, I will leave on my own. I don’t need him, the company was simply pleasurable. With a certain grudge being held against Chance, I leave the table and collapse on the single bed, and once again try to make sense of things.
The man showed me things that seemed to be so confidential that he would rather kill me than let me back in my cell with that information. However, as much as I want to believe all of the things that he said, something just doesn’t quite fit into place. He said that the virus struck three years ago, but the blood smeared along the wall in the entrance downstairs was fresh. Two, maybe three days old. So how does that work? Then again, I don’t have any reason to trust the man that locked me and probably hundreds of others up in a prison, and for what good purposes? None that I have witnessed. But then there is something else too, something that I can’t quite reach. I have it for a second, but then it is gone, like sand slipping through my fingers. Just out of my grasp.
Chance comes into the bedroom dragging a chair behind him, which he crouches onto next to the bed. I roll over, not in the mood to speak to him, and certainly not in the mood for any more riddles. Although something makes me turn around, the sound of pencil scratching on paper. Chance can draw? I watch him, though I can’t see what he is drawing, it is a soothing sound. Before long, everything becomes dark.
I jolt awake, my eyes searching for Chance. Daylight streams in through a long thin gap in the closed curtains, and I sit up and rub my eyes weakly. Before I have the chance to see what woke me, I hear it again.
This time I throw the covers off me and race down the hallway, my mind suddenly spinning. Has the man finally come for us? Has he taken Chance, and now waiting for me? I stop when I get to the doorway for the kitchen, but I can’t see over the worktop. Maybe it’s my five foot nothing height, but I crouch down and listen. Voices? My heart’s beating fast, so fast that they can probably here it. I get down on my hands and knees, and quietly slide across the kitchen floor and into the small kitchen. The voices are louder, but I still can’t tell who they belong to.
On the sideboard there is a stack of knifes. I reach my hand up and grab the biggest one I can see, clasping it firmly in my hand. Is this how it’s going to end? I am about to scurry around the corner with my knife, when two feet come into view. I look up, expecting to see the man, his steel grey eyes looking deeply into mine. Deceiving. But it’s not the man. These eyes belong to Chance.
“Blaire,” he says, “What are you doing?”
I grab his hand and pull him down to the floor with me, “shh! Can’t you hear?” He looks at me like I’ve just killed someone, and then his eyes find the knife in my hands.
“What the hell!?” He shouts, and grabs the knife out of my hand. I scurry back into the corner and something changes in his eyes. Concern? He puts the knife down and rests a hand on my knee. “Sorry,” he says, “I forgot to mention. We have guests.” My chest is thumping so hard I feel like I’m going to pass out at any given second, but I don’t. Chance pulls me up to my feet and, surprisingly, pulls me into a hug. Seconds suddenly feel like minutes, and finally Chance pulls me away and kisses my forehead.
“Come on,” he says, and grabs my hand. Is this some sort of show for our guests? I don’t complain, I grasp his hand tightly as he pulls me into the dining area. What I see makes me let go of his hand, and stumble backwards until I hit a wall. Sat on the floor are three people. Two of them boys, and a girl. I don’t recognise the boys, but the girl is so familiar. That’s it. She is the girl in the cell next to mine. She looks so different now, her hair is neater, but still the same length. Freckles cover her nose, and a smile is on her face. A real smile!
Chance clears his throat, drawing the attention to him, “I would like you to meet Blaire,” he says, and gently nudges me towards them, “this is Alan, Cole and Lyra,” he points from left to right, and each of them smile at me. I smile, though it feels like an unnatural stretching of my lips. How long has it been since I have smiled?