The Infirmary

By Leighton Tanaka, TIWP Student

“Has anyone seen Aspen?” The warm fire crackles and slows. It flickers in the black, being swallowed into the darkness. A fire that doesn’t warm but keeps one alive during the deadly winter. The warmth quickly disappeared into the atmosphere, and instead, we were left with each other. I could only see their faces slightly illuminated by the small flame. They were dirty, they were tired, and they were grieving, but they were unmoving. Nobody met my eyes, we stared into nothing. “No,” I murmured. Sam nodded, adjusting his position on the metal floor across from me. There was no time to wonder, no time to look. We could only trust that everyone was where they were supposed to be, whether that be in a camp, a trench, or 6 feet under. The recruits cowered in the corners. When they first got here they wailed for hours and hours. It was all pointless whining, better to save your energy for when it counts. Someone crawled across the floor, their heavy boots clanging as they moved. “What is it, Mimi?” “Could we go look?” “Look for what?” She was quiet. I tore my gaze away from the pitch black and looked at her face. Mimi was a young girl, about my age, yet she always treated me as if I was decades older. She looked down at the floor and picked the dirt out of her nails. “Look for what?” I repeated, softening my tone. But she kept her mouth shut. I heard Sam adjusting yet again. He glared at Mimi and crossed his arms. The fire flickered. “What, Mimi? What is it that you want? You’re wasting our time,” Sam snapped. “I-I was just thinking…maybe we could go look in the infirmary. For Aspen, I mean,” She kept her gaze fixed on her shoes. Nothing good comes from the infirmary, it is where one goes to die. I once had a friend. He was an impressively bad runner. So much so that during our laps he would take an extra five minutes to finish. Then he would get punished and run some more. Before he had been here, in a room that is always either too hot or too cold, with strangers packed too close and death too near, he had lived in a big mansion, with luxuries like air conditioning and lots and lots of servants. He barely had to take a step. Then his house got blown up and he ended up here. Probably the worst decision of his life, but better than death. One day we got invaded by rebels. They got us right in the middle of our meal time. We ran to the armory, tripping over legs, and slipping on half-eaten plates of beans, and everyone was running for their lives. Many of us for the first time felt like we were in danger. I made sure to grab my friend by the arm and I pulled him behind me until we could get our hands on the guns. Then we hid in the trenches for hours and hours, waiting for the rebels to come back. After a while, I left to go check on some friends, for no more than a few minutes. Yet I came back and he had been shot a few meters away from the trench, ambushed by some rebel. For the first time he had run for his life, and he was not successful. Simple as that, that’s just how it was, how it is. I watched him wriggle in pain for a few minutes, desperately trying to stop the bleeding. I choked back my tears, there was no time for crying, his life was not worth my own. Finally, I took out my gun and put it on his head. “Wait!” Someone called out to me. I whipped my head around. A nurse came up to me and hoisted him up. She dragged him away to the infirmary. I just stared down at my hands covered in his blood. I visited him a few times. And then he was dead. He had wilted like a rose clipped from its stem. “No.” I said, “Nothing good comes from the infirmary.”

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