Thursday, 29 October 2009 - 10:11 pm

Waiting for the storm

Today, I thought we were finished. Busted. Broken. We still might be.

When I got to the infirmary this morning, I was fretting about the stash of food I had in a storage cupboard. I didn’t like how much Peter has been following me around lately, always there when I turn around. The paranoia was like water, rising higher and higher, its poison seeping into everything I saw and said.

I didn’t notice Jonah overmuch. We chatted like we always did – perfunctory greetings and how-are-yous, and see-you-later at the other end. He went to his post outside the infirmary door to stand like a good cutout soldier and I went inside. Nothing unusual there.

Simon was in his office, going over paperwork with a frown – I think it was inventory. The gaps on our shelves are widening with all the injuries lately and clean sheets are a problem. He’s looking for solutions and wishing for a genie bottle to rub.

Peter was sitting with Debbie, trying to get her to eat breakfast. He frowned when he saw me, as if that was clearly my job and what the hell did was I doing letting him do it. For a nurse, he really isn’t too keen on looking after people. He’s good enough with most of them; maybe it’s just kids he doesn’t like. Or the Sickness.

I wasn’t going to hurry to relieve him. I had my own checks to do, one of which was on the food stash. Just in case, I told myself. Just so I wouldn’t worry about it all morning until I was free enough to take a look.

It was gone. All of it, every packet of chips and bottle of water. The stacks of empty boxes in front were arranged just as I left them, but the one in the back holding the carefully-gathered supplies was missing. Not empty, just gone. I checked all of the other boxes, and it wasn’t there.

Finally, I sat back on my heels and just stared at the cupboard. I felt sick. My heart was thudding against my sternum, Morse code trying to tell me that I was in trouble. But my brain wasn’t listening – it was stuck on a loop of ‘but it should be here’. My fingers shook when I put all of the boxes back into place, covering up the gaping hole in my world. I still knew it was there. I could feel it.

No-one had said anything when I arrived at the infirmary. No-one had asked me about it. Were they waiting for me to flip out? Because I was nearly there. I wanted to demand to know who took the food – didn’t they know it had taken me days to gather just that much? That I was going to put it out with the trash today for Jersey to collect? Didn’t they know how close I was to getting it out of here and out of danger?

I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t go around asking who had taken my secret stash of food – of course I couldn’t. I couldn’t let on that anything was wrong. Perhaps whoever found it doesn’t know it was me who put it there. Maybe they’re waiting for a reaction so they can spot the culprit. I couldn’t give them one. If I keep it all hidden, I might get out of this yet.

So I had to pretend that nothing at all was wrong. Straighten my shoulders and steady myself, and walk back out into the infirmary with a smile ready for whoever came at me next. I braced myself against Peter’s sideways comments when I went to take over Debbie-duty; they stung, but I just told him to go do something useful. Debbie was too vague with the Sickness to notice anything.

I’ve been taut since then, wondering who would come over and demand to know why I was hoarding food. Would it be one of those near me, or a delegation from the General? Would they come crashing in and drag me off?

No-one came. Simon was as distracted and guarded as always, and Peter was his usual annoying self. The only one I thought was paying particular attention to me was Jonah, but that’s his job. I can’t tell if it’s my hyper-sensitivity or if he really is watching me more closely than usual.

All day, I’ve been waiting for that shoe to drop. I’m still waiting. Matt didn’t come today, and Dad hasn’t brought me dinner for several days now. When I think about what might have kept them away, the room shrinks in on me and it’s hard to breathe. I keep thinking that Thorpe will protect them, but what can he do against cutouts with guns?

The sensible part of my brain keeps telling me that I’m over-reacting. There are lots of reasons why Matt might not be able to come. Dad only comes every few days. Jonah’s always watching me, and so are the women in the dorms. It’s nothing unusual. I shouldn’t read too much into it.

But the box is still gone. Someone knows. Maybe not that we’re gearing up to get out of here, but certainly that food was being hoarded. That alone is enough to get us – me – in a lot of trouble.

I’ve told Jersey about it. Asked her to get the word to the others. We’ll need to keep our heads down for a while until this non-storm blows over. I don’t dare to do any more.

What are they waiting for?