Darker Than The Rest



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Scene Title Darker Than the Rest
Synopsis The war doesn't end for everyone.
Date March 18, 2018


Blind eyes jolt open to a darkened room. Outside, street lights send rays of jaundiced light through the slats of horizontal blinds. They cut across the wall, trace uneven patterns across a rumpled comforter. The brunette on the other side of the bed is fast asleep on her side, dark hair in her face. Colette Demsky is not anymore. Wiping one hand at her eyes, she slides her legs out from under the blankets and slowly presses bare feet to the floor.

Horizontal bands of light stripe across her bare back, where two puckered, dark scars below her left shoulder softly ache. Colette closes her eyes, but it doesn’t shut anything out. She wipes at her eyes again, looks back to Tasha, tangled in the blankets and one bare shoulder partly visible. That elicits a smile, tries to fight back everything else. Fails, ultimately. Night time is the hardest.

Not wanting to disturb her, Colette silently makes her way out of the bedroom, slipping through the partly open door. Nudging it open just a crack more. Her shadow casts long and dark on the floor ahead of her, horizontal bands of light spreading out from either side of it.

Two fighter jets rose overhead. The Doppler cry of their engines rises and falls and then stops back to the muted noises of soft, pained moans and sobs of fear. Sitting on an upended plastic bucket, Colette jitters one leg up and down. She sits beside a folding cot, upon which lays a girl of no older than thirteen. Her head is bandaged over both eyes and her forehead, dark stains in the gauze. A makeshift IV stand made from a coat rack and a ziplock bag with a hole cut in one corner feeds into her arm through plastic tubing and a taped-over lead.

The girl’s hand is small in Colette’s. It's held with a gentle firmness, reassuring. A thumb strokes over the girl’s knuckles, back and forth, a gentle reminder of the passage of time and presence of someone who can be trusted. Colette’s eyes are red, puffy. All around, things are falling apart. The windows of the library are blown out, glass on the floor mixed with plaster and dirt. Shell casings too, because no one has time to sweep.

Footsteps approach, and Colette spots the doctor coming back. Ratty brown wool sweater with the sleeves rolled up, a tangle of curly black hair behind her head. Glasses the wrong prescription held together with electrical tape. “Hey,” she stops at Colette’s side, hand on her shoulder. “It's been nine hours, you need to sleep.” Blind eyes move to the hand, up to regard the doctor, then down to the girl.

”I don't want her to wake up alone.” Colette explains, not moving her hand from the child’s. The doctor makes a noise in the back of her throat, lets the hand rose from Colette’s shoulder.

”Demsky, there's no telling when— if she’ll wake up.” The doctor steps in front of Colette, then crouches down in front of her. “Ryans is up. She’s— ”

”She's watching the perimeter. Where she needs to be.” Colette looks over to the Doctor, brows furrowed. “I'll get sleep, I promise. I just… a couple more hours.”

Sighing, the doctor closes her eyes and briefly rests a hand on Colette's unsteady knee, then slowly rises to stand. “Ok. Just… rest. Soon?”

The light inside the refrigerator is bright against the kitchen, projecting Colette’s shadow back against the wall. She leans into the refrigerator, pushing a few things around. It takes her a moment to spot the bottled water placed front and center; for her, in precisely this moment.

Colette shuts the refrigerator door with her hip, opens the bottle and takes a swig of the water. Slowly, she turns around and leans her back against the cool refrigerator door. The kitchen is mostly dark, save for a dim light filtering in through the curtains in the foyer. Her eyes close again, she can feel the light around her. Feel the absence of it.

Her hands are slick with blood, fingers laced tightly together, pressed down on a heaving abdomen. In spite of the pressure, blood continues to flow in steady pulses. Colette’s booted feet slam against the floor, running alongside the people carrying the injured boy in on a makeshift stretcher. All she can hear is his panicked breathing and the ringing in her ears. Blood runs in thin lines down the side of her face; his not hers.

They push through a pair of doors, into the main floor of the library. “Mara! Mara we need someone down here!” People are already scrambling, watching the drooling trail of blood drizzling a path across the floor. They help haul the boy up onto the wooden table, others just standing around and watching with hands clapped over their mouths.

Mara emerges through another pair of doors, already pulling gloves on and shouting orders back to people behind her. Colette stays focused on the boy, she's telling him he’ll be okay but his eyes are unfocused and his breathing is ragged and shuddering. Blood runs off the edge of the table, trickles down into the floor. Runs up against her boots.

The boy has stopped breathing by the time Mara crosses the room. He doesn't breathe again.

Sitting on the floor in front of the refrigerator, Colette hunched forward against her knees, head down and shoulders shaking. She's quiet, if only for the perceived benefit of the other occupants of the house. Sucking back a wet breath , Colette wipes at her eyes with the back of her hand.

With an unsteady hand she picks up her bottle of water and slowly pushes herself to her feet, walking through the kitchen into the living room beyond. The light spilling in through one window reflects off pale skin. Two scars beneath one shoulder darker than the rest.

Settling in on the couch, Colette takes another swig of her water and sets it down on the table in front of her. Pulling one leg up to her chest, Colette watches the way the water reflects light. Ripples and moves until it's still and the light is just an incandescent shape, mirror still in reflection.

“Thanks, Lim.” Colette takes the offered bottle of water, looking up at him with a tired smile. Limerick takes a moment to look at her, the bucket she's using as a seat, and the unconscious girl laying in the bed by her side, bandages over her eyes. Lim nods, looking back to Colette, then continues his way down the hall.

Setting the bottle down on the floor between her feet, Colette keeps her other hand on the girl’s. A thumb brushing over knuckles, a gentle reassuring touch. This time though, Colette feels the tiniest bit of tension, small fingers pressing against her palm. There's a sharp intake of breath, and Colette is quick to move off her seat and take a knee beside the cot.

“Hey,” Colette whispers, squeezing the hand back. “Hey, hey. Hey, you're ok. It's gonna be ok, you're ok.” There's tears already, dribbling down her cheeks and off of her lashes. “Hey kid,” she doesn't even know her name. “You're not alone. You're gonna be ok.

The girl squeezes Colette’s hand tightly, this time, then in a hoarse whisper cries “They're here.” The first words she'd heard the child speak sends chills down Colette's spine. Before she can move up to stand, there’s gunfire inside the triage center. Colette jolts at the sound, unholsters her sidearm.

Gun out and sweeping left and right through the open hall to doorways at either side, Colette calls out. “Lim!” There's gunfire from the direction Limerick went to, gunfire from upstairs where Lucille is, gunfire downstairs. The attackers were already inside by the time the fighting started.

Colette tugs the IV out of the girl’s arm, pulls that arm over her shoulder. “Grab on! We've gotta go!” Weakly, the child loops her arms around Colette’s shoulders and is hauled up onto the older woman’s back, one hand holding her leg to keep her steady, one hand out with her sidearm.

Carrying the girl on her back, Colette charges down the hall as her fork ripples and distorts into a heat haze mirage, vanished from sight. The girl is sobbing at her shoulder, face buried in the back of Colette’s neck, terrified. Colette comes through the doorway, four unfamiliar men with assault rifles firing into the next room where injured civilians recover. Colette fires, taking out one man at the knee. His friend turns, fires, peppers the wall too far away. He catches a bullet in the face and goes down screaming.

The attacker on the ground reaches for his gun, head explodes in a shower of red out the right side opposite where a bullet impacts point-blank. She treads through their blood, rushes to the infirmary door, checks inside. Wounded, some not, some armed and protecting the wounded.

Dismissing the invisibility, Colette steps into the doorway. “Stay down!” Then she turns, doesn't notice the other man coming through the door until they've already shot. She staggers forward, drops to a knee, turns around and collects light into her hand and directs it behind herself in two snaking lines of blue light. There’s a sizzle-crackle and a scream as the gunman’s right arm and leg are severed by the lines.

Blood trickles from Colette’s right nostril, knee buckles, she feels blood at her back. She feels the arms slacking around her neck. “No,”’ the girl’s weight falls off of her and slumps down to the ground. Pain stabs in Colette’s back, vision blurs. She looks back at the girl, two blossoming red spots on her gray shirt.

Colette takes her fingers through her hair, legs curled up to her chest, arms wrapped around them. She rocks back and forth, sobbing softly into the backs of her knees. Shoulders rose and fall, fingers curl in her hair.

Horizontal lines of light from slatted blinds cut across pale skin. Two bullet scars below her shoulder blade.

Darker than the rest.

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