Comings and goings
I had to hand it to him. As a speaker, Andy was stunning... None of us had thought much to look at him when he'd first joined the camp. Tall'n'scrawny, just like the two kids that had come before him, but whereas those had lost their wits pretty quick, here Andy still was, not just sane, but coherent. A tough one to break, that's for sure, we all listened enthralled to his soft, southern drawl, but then something happened, something strange in the kid's words made them come out all wrong. Like something in 'is mouth was twisting 'em all up.
"You's stuck here," Andy was saying, the slightest curb to his lip. "All of you, just stuck, like prisoners. And it's crazy 'cause youse can't even see it. Is like, in that movie they showed us, in school. About them people that was trapped against their will...tortured..."
But it wasn't like Andy was saying, wasn't like that at all. We weren't stuck and if that kid didn't watch his lip damn quick I was of a good mind to tell him that, tell him we didn't want none of his bad-mouthing and that if he couldn't keep it friendly, then he better not speak at all.
Andy, what? I wondered. I didn't remember hearing no introductions being passed around. Come to think of it, wasn't too sure who'd brought him in. You couldn't just walk in off the street, same as you couldn't walk right off into the street. Wasn't right, 'cause there was dangerous things out there. There had to be a code to the comings and goings, introductions to be made. There was a system to follow, 'cept it hadn't been like that with Andy. No one had introduced him. No one had brought him in, and yet, one day, we'd just found him here. Standing by the tall window, one that led to the outside, but only the part that weren't dangerous. I shoo'd him away, but he didn't say none, just stood there, blinking like he'd seen a ghost out there. When 'e saw me, he just nodded. We hadn't thought much of him 'cause Andy was good at being quiet. He'd slid in right through, so no one ever gave him any trouble, we just accepted him as one of our own, a lost kid, 's all.
I looked around me and saw some of the others had turned away. Chipper was no longer listening and I could see Bane getting angry. That wasn't no good,and if it were at all possible, it was best to keep Bane from getting angry at all. He was a good man, he was, but he had a mighty quick temper. Like a caged lion, he was, often gave the others trouble, made it dangerous to breathe. More than once, there had been talk of setting Bane out into the wild. If he couldn't be contained, then he shouldn't get to live among civilized society, folk argued. But we always managed to stop that from happening.
Yet somehow, we hadn't yet found a way to keep Bane from getting angry.
"I'm not trying to say nothing," the kid was saying. Perhaps he'd noticed the unrest in the room, perhaps he'd just now remembered his manners, didn't matter much. I could tell just by looking over toward Bane that the damage had been done. "Just is time for y'all to wake up, 's all."
"This the big test I'm supposed to pass?" Andy asked looking up in the dim lights at the three faces peering down on him.
"Yuh," one of them grunted. It was the short one, with the stoop back, one they called Willow. She was quite alright, Andy thought, but the others gave him the shivers. He knew he should've just shut his mouth, but that hadn't ever been his way. Even as a boy, he was always getting in trouble for his big lip, way the words ran out his mouth had earned him more than a beating or two in his life. But this was different, this, unlike the outside, was unfair ground. It was three against one, but that hadn't ever worried Andy much. Good thing about always catching punches was that you got to know your own way around a fight pretty damn quick.
"Alright then," he nodded, "what is it?". He knew he was smirking. Even now, even with these bozos looking down on him, he couldn't help but find something oddly hilarious in the whole situation.
"You're gonna get us something. From the outside. You're gonna get us provisions."
It was the eldest that spoke, the one with the red face from earlier, the one with the beady eyes watching him from the corner. Looked like a slippery one, the kind Andy had spent his whole like avoiding, but it seemed that wouldn't work no longer.
Andy tried hard, but in the end, couldn't seem to help it. As he felt the smile spread out across his lips, Andy knew he was getting himself into even more trouble. What he'd said earlier, that was already turning into dust, but this, open defiance would not be taken kindly, he knew, and unfortunately he lacked the strength to oppose them.
And he knew he should've shut it and he knew he should've just done what they'd asked, but he couldn't. In his life, Andy Wilkins had done many things, but bowing down hadn't been one of them. He would die, he decided, as he'd lived before this new world order, before it was decided that his word didn't matter for shit and he was just a piece of flesh left to rot. He would die talking back and spitting in their eye.
Andy, the superb speaker, let out a long sigh and grinned.
"Let me see, you thinks I'm some sort of, what? Some spy, is that right? You think they sent me from outside to see what you're all up to, yeah?"
The three figures looked at each other, then nodded.
"Then why would they have any trouble giving me some 'provisions' to just walk in back here and win over your trust? It's a bullshit test, innit? Why don't you wake the fuck up and see where your lies have got you?"
But there came no answer from the three figures after that, just a thud and the cold embrace of darkness.
The orderly ran a sponge over old Willow's neck skin as sweat trickled down her neck.
"It's alright now, love, it's alright," he was saying, but he knew there was little chance of reasoning with her when she was in such a state. It was getting increasingly difficult to break through to any of the patients, as this charade continued to grow inside their minds.
The orderly, who remained to the patients faceless and nameless, and thus saw little reason to have an identity of his own, couldn't recall how the game had started. Because for a long time, that's what they'd thought it was, nothing but a silly old folk game. It was bad enough they all had to stay in here most days, with nothing to do and no one to see. So what if they like to pretend they're in some God damn survivor camp? Let them, didn't hurt no one.
Except that was no longer the case. They'd gone as far as thumping the new one, Mr. Wilkins, over the head. The orderly hadn't been there to see it, but there'd been some sort of commotion in the common room. It seemed Mr. Wilkins had made the mistake of drawing attention to reality, which, in this house, was quite frowned upon. When the orderly had arrived, near dusk, there had been several disquieted patients and he'd spent more than an hour talking them through it, reassuring them that what Wilkins had said simply wasn't true, but that hadn't seemed to calm them as it should have. And now, this. Wilkins was fine, another orderly had assured him, but they'd never seen such a violent outburst from the old folks.
Until now, they'd all seemed so peaceful.
As he mopped up the sweat on the old woman's forehead, the orderly thought with dismay what would happen in the days to come. Most likely, they would ignore Wilkins, as they did some of the other orderlies whom they considered hostile to their little...fiction. But how long until they hurt someone else? And what if next time, it wasn't just a bump on the head?
Here, at the home, they weren't provided with any means to restrain, most they had were some sedatives and those wouldn't hold for long. So far, the orderlies had been tolerated, but the man had a sneaking suspicion that one day soon, they might become one with the elusive outside-enemy.
Just a short story based on @mariannewest's prompts. Thank you.