Next Kedori/Kiet/Megyn part!
Their footsteps echoed in the hall, hollow and haunting. Megyn glanced around as they passed the same cells, the same prisoner’s faces. Some stared at her with the same dead-while-alive expression. Others stared at the walls or at their bound hands, not even raising their heads as they passed by.
All save one. A young boy–maybe eight years old–staggered to his feet as she approached his cell. The chain between his ankles clanked on the stone as he stumbled to the door.
Her heart twinged with pity as he reached a skinny hand through the bars and lifted dark, hollow eyes, framed with thick lashes, to hers. Their plea was silent, yet louder than thunder of charging horses.
A tear rolled down her face as she turned away. Her chest ached with each step she walked past his cell. I have to pass you this time, she thought as she bit her lip. A tremor raced over her as her eyes flamed with fierce determination. But I won’t always.
It seemed to take years to walk to Kiet’s cell, despite the fact that they both hurried with their longest strides. As they passed Cell 860, a frightening uneasiness settled over her. That all-too-familiar intuition that something was wrong. Very wrong.
Please–no. She stepped faster, almost running past the remaining ten cells. Only once did she look back. Her eyes watched Kedori as he lengthened his own strides to keep up with her. His breath wisped in the air like smoke. He studied her with eyes full of anxiety. What’s the matter? they begged to know.
Her heart thudded against her ribs as she stopped in front of Cell 870. “Kiet?” She called, her voice low. Her eyes searched for him in the darkness beyond the bars.”I’m here.”
A quiet groan echoed within the cell. Her eyes widened as they found him in the shadows. “Kiet!” she gasped as she dug the key from her pocket. Her heart thudded faster as she stuck it in the lock, twisted it and then shoved her shoulder against the door. As it slid back with a creak, she rushed over to kneel beside him. “Kiet, can you hear me?”
He moaned. Groggily, he lifted his head, his eyes wandering around his cell. She caught her breath as his eyes, glazed like glass marbles, met hers. Crimson stains flushed his cheeks. Air shuddered in his lungs with each shallow breath he took.
“Oh no!” she murmured.
Kedori touched her shoulder as she laid a hand on Kiet’s forehead. She turned just in time to see a tear roll down his face. Is he– His hand shook before he finished the sentence.
“Fever,” she whispered with articulate lips as she wrapped her other arm around Kiet’s sweaty form. “Infection.”
“Kiet. . .” She sighed as she lowered her hand from his flushed forehead. “I’m so sorry.” Her first-responder composure kicked in as she hugged him and laid his head on her shoulder. But as she turned her face against his sweat-soaked hair, her heart smote her.
Definitely a 100-plus degree fever. How could he have gotten infected so fast? It looked bad yesterday, but not that close to a major infection. You cleaned it; what did you do to him? What are you going to do with him now?
He groaned, stirring restlessly in her arms. “Shh . .. it’s okay,” she soothed in a calm, yet sorrowful voice. Her lips tried to quiver as she smoothed out his sweaty hair. “Shh.”
“Bena. . . ?” he mumbled. He tried to lift his head.
Bena? Megyn wondered as she laid his head back down on her shoulder. Who is Bena? Something inside her wrenched her soul into a knot as her mind whispered, Maybe someone from his past. Someone he misses . . . you understand.
Pain shot through her heart. “It’s not Bena, “she murmured close to his ear. “It’s Megyn Harris, the FRMS agent from yesterday. I’m here.” She hugged him closer as she rubbed his back. “You’re gonna be okay.” With a deep breath, she raised her face to the ceiling. Her lips formed the words, Help him.
He groaned again as she slipped the key from her pocket. It glinted in the low light as she gripped it in her hand. Would it. . .
It has to.
Her chin lifted. She unwrapped one arm from around Kiet while she moved the other to around his waist. As she supported him away from her, she prodded the lock on the chain binding him to the wall with it. A spark of delight flashed in her eyes as the lock dropped open.
As she dropped the key to the floor, Kedori’s hands lifted the chain free from the wall. It crashed to the floor as he let it fall and wrapped his arms around Kiet.
Kiet flinched. A shudder shook him as he groaned in protest.
“Shh, it’s okay,” Megyn soothed. She twined an arm around Kedori for a moment as she whispered, “You’re okay.”
Quickly, she shoved the key into the lock holding the chain linking his wrists. After a moment of jerking it back and forth, the chain sagged loose as the lock sprang open. Yes!
The key clinked to the floor as she supported Kiet with both arms. Kedori threw his arms around him as she lowered him to the floor. She cradled his head in her hand while she rested it on the floor.
Both her hands flew to her coat. One slipped off her backpack while the other swiftly pulled open the zipper. Shedding the coat, she folded it together into a rough rectangle. Laying it on the floor beside her knee, she lifted his head with both hands and rested it on the makeshift pillow.
As soon as her hand released his head, she sprang to her feet. Kedori, she signed as he knelt beside Kiet, stay here with him. Use the canteen of water and a scrap of bandage from my pack to bathe his face.
An almost frightened expression crossed his face as his hands sprang into action. Where are you going?
To get the Tower Warden. I’ll be back. With that, she turned to the door, grabbing the key from the floor at the same time. One hand shoved it into her pocket as she shot out of the door and dashed down the hall.
“Oh, Jesus,” she prayed in a panting whisper, “please keep him safe.”
Kedori poured water over the bit of cloth with shaking hands and placed it on his friend’s burning forehead. A vague memory flickered through his mind–moans, pain, and feverish eyelids of his own. Was this what that was like for those saving his life, each moment filled with the fear of things turning south?
He ducked his head, struggling to keep his breathing steady. Kiet, he thought, you were the first real friend I ever had. You’re the only person here I truly know. Please–you can’t die. Not now.
Squeezing out the now-warm cloth and dribbling fresh water onto it, he let a jumbled prayer slip from his hands.
I already had to lose my mother, he thought. Please, tell me I don’t have to lose you, too!
Hearts are like matter--they can be beaten down, torn, and burned, but they cannot be destroyed.