Day Zero – Chapter 4 – Marin – 01

            I was hovering, I knew it, and I also knew that it was pissing Jacqueline off to at least some degree.  But I didn’t care.  It was Thom, for Christ’s sake.  I wasn’t letting him out of my sight again—at least not anytime soon.
            “Marin, will you please at least give me a little room to work?”
            But I don’t want to get too far away from him.  I grimaced, edging back slightly, sprawling in an odd sitting position near one corner of the mattress but staying within arm’s reach of his shoulder.  “Is he going to be okay?”  He has to be.  He has to be okay.  This isn’t how his story’s supposed to end.  She wasn’t answering fast enough.  “Well?”
            “Marin!  Relax.  Give me a minute and I can answer you.”  She looked bewildered as she stared at me for a long moment, then shook her head.  “Toss me that roll of ace bandage.”
            I fished it out of the kit and watched her start splinting Thom’s ankle, which she’d set properly—or so we hoped.  She was working by touch and instinct and a lot of preliminary medical training.  J.T. would double check everything later, and so would my brother—the EMT and the Eagle Scout.  By that point, I was pretty sure most of us had resigned ourselves to the fact that we were more than certainly on our own.  It was almost a no-brainer at this point.  Carolyn was right.  If someone—anyone—was coming to help us, they would have arrived by now, and since no one had, what other conclusion were we supposed to reach?
            I reached down and gently ran my fingers along Thom’s hairline, careful to avoid the purple knot that dominated part of his forehead.  It just looked angry to me, that mark.  Jacqueline had sent Carolyn to go scavenge some ice from Kleiner so she could hopefully get some of the swelling down.  The weather was turning quickly—the temperature had dropped at least ten degrees within the last few hours, and the angry clouds I’d been watching since I woke up were moving in, gathering strength in the strange sky.  Rain would come soon.  I could smell it on the wind.  We had maybe another hour, maybe two if we were lucky.  Almost everyone was working on shelters, or food, or other essentials, and working quickly.  I think they knew that we were running short of time to get those together.  Some of the anthro students had gone back to the storage areas beneath Lake Michigan hall to raid it for supplies—tarps, shovels, other tools.  A few people, like Kellin, J.T., and Drew, were still out looking for survivors, though hope was rapidly dwindling that we’d find many more.  We were running out of time.  Night would come quickly after the rains.  We all knew that.  It was just a question of when, and how ready we’d be to face it.
            My brother had apparently had the presence of mind to start raiding our rooms in the dorms while he was investigating them for survivors with the others.  He and one other person had been gathering up personal items and extra clothing as quickly as possible, bringing it to the shelters—just in case we wouldn’t have another chance to get into the unstable buildings—I was thinking that we were all fairly certain that they were going to become even more unstable rapidly, since the earthquakes had only become a little less frequent in number and the intensity hadn’t eased by that much, either.  There was also inclement weather blowing in—literally blowing in, since the winds had picked up a bit.
            “You wanted the big box from the office, Jacqueline?”  Jack had a huge green plastic tote in his hands.  Jacqueline barely glanced up before nodding.
            “Put it in the corner, there.  That’s fine.”  She continued to wrap Thom’s ankle.  He didn’t stir at all, just kept breathing.
            Jack nodded, stowing the tote, then looking at me.  “I’ll haul that other mattress in here, Marin.”
            I smiled weakly at him.  “Thanks, Jack.”  Is it that obvious I’m not going to leave him?
            Jacqueline snorted, fastening off the end of the ace bandage.  “Guess I don’t have to worry about staying here to watch him, huh?  You’re not leaving him at all.”
            “Not until I know, no, I’m not leaving him.”  I bit my lip, staring at his dirty, ashen face a moment.  “Brandon said they had to lever a slab of the ceiling sheetrock off of him.”
            “If that’s the case, he’s really lucky he’s not worse off.  I don’t think his ribs are broken, but we’ll figure that out later.  He’s bruised up real nice.”  She shrugged a little.  “I can only do so much, Marin.  This is really…really touch-and-go, if you know what I mean.  I’m not sure everything that I’m doing is actually going to do him any good.  I’m not even sure that I’ve found everything that’s wrong.  All we can do is wait and hope.”  She stood up carefully and scooped up a blanket, tossing it to me.  “Keep him warm and get that ice on his head when Carolyn gets back with it.  Wrap it in the towel.”
            I nodded.  “I know.  Better not to shock the system that way.”
            She nodded back.  “I’m going to go check on everyone else.”
            I nodded again, edging closer to Thom as she left, unfolding the blanket and spreading it across his prone form.  He seemed to react a little, but not enough for me to even dare to hope he was waking up.  I leaned down and kissed his forehead gently.  “Stay with me,” I murmured softly.  “Rather spend the rest of my life fighting with you than having buried you today.”  Hope you feel the same way.  Hope that’s what’s in store for us—if half of what I’ve seen is right…it is.


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