30 August 2012

Tiled Haven - Part Three

Unger slumped back down against the wall and closed his eyes. He reached down and touched his abdomen, raised his hand and opened his eyes. “How long does it take to bleed to death?”

“I guess that depends how much you're bleeding, doesn't it?” replied Sheik.

The room fell silent again and Sheik slid down along the wall and sat on his bootheels. Once he was away from the open frame of the window he couldn't hear the drone anymore, just the labored breathing coming from Unger's rising and falling chest. He really wanted a smoke but didn't dare light up with patrols likely nearby, let alone drones that could probably pick out a heat signature a lot smaller than the cherry of a cigarette.

There was a curious sound outside in the street. It was a sound not unlike a human voice in song, but mixed with a rhythmic, mechanical grinding sound. The sound rose and fell in volume, and it reminded Unger of cicadas that he had heard in his youth – large, scary-looking bugs that came out of the ground only every several years and that make a pulsating, buzzing sound as they hid in the trees or bushes or wherever it was that they hid. Unger had not seen a cicada carcass in years, nor even heard them in the distance, even during the hottest summers.

Sheik slowly rose to a crouching position and shouldered his rifle in the low ready. He crept to the window and took a quick peek. Not a thing. Not a damned thing. The sound even seemed to fade away as he dropped back down to the floor, until it was no more and shortly made him wonder if he had heard anything at all.

“How different do you think people are, Sheik?”

“What's that supposed to mean?”

“Well,” said Unger, shifting a little bit and propping himself up on one elbow, “do you think we are all basically the same, or that we are all different? Like, I know we're all different in some ways, but there have to be some things about us that are different that we don't even know about. Do you think so?”

“I don't think about that,' said Sheik, sitting back down onto his boot heels, “and I think you should keep quiet and conserve your energy. Once they forget we're here, we're gonna' have to make a break for it, and I'm not gonna' carry your sorry ass all the way.”

Unger thought back to a time when his older brother had told him he wasn't going to carry his “sorry ass” back home if he broke his leg on a bicycle jump. Unger attempted the jump and broke his leg. His brother turned out to be bluffing, because he carried Unger's “sorry ass” all the way home.

The light was fading quickly, and the two watched as their surroundings gave way to shadows. Sheik placed his little finger in his ear and gently rotated it several times. He withdrew his finger and looked at its tip, but could not see anything in the low light.

“Do you suppose everyone does that?” asked Unger from across the room.

“Does what?”

“Looks at his finger after he digs in his ear.”

“How the hell should I know?”

“Well,” said Unger, “it's like everything else. We are interested in what we leave behind. If you take a crap, you turn to look at it. If you blow your nose, you look at the snot you blow outta' there. You dig in your ear, you look to see what you pulled out.”

“I wasn't diggin' in my ear,” said Sheik.

“Well, sure you were – you had your little finger in there and you were diggin'.”

Sheik pulled himself up as much as he could in the squatting position he maintained beneath the window frame. “I was just scratching a little,” he said, “just scratching.”

“Well, whatever you were doing, you looked at it. Don't worry. I do too.”

Sheik motioned toward the open window frame with his thumb. “If you don't stop worrying about earwax and shut up, we're gonna' have more to worry about. Now just shut up and sit still...you need your energy.”

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