Another cringy piece I dug up from the depths of my computer files.
He arrived three years ago, bitter and angry. He was 11, six years my minor, and in those awful “tween” stages, as Pearl called it. He had a shock of brown hair, a sharp contrast to our dyed neon hair, but he refused to dye his to match. He had stormy green eyes and a sharp tongue that got him into more trouble than it was worth.
He insisted on being called Rhys, though the Doctor told us his name was Shard.
He was a mostly good kid, although he harbored an unnatural hatred towards the Doctor. He never said anything about it to the Doctor’s face, I think partially because the Doctor was often away, partially because he found the Doctor to be terrifying, as ludicrous as the idea seems. But whether that was the real reason or not, I was relieved that Shard never said anything to him, for a few months after he arrived, I began to see him as a little brother, notwithstanding his harsh demeanor and tendency to spread false rumors, all about the Doctor, of course.
The world had ended. Whether it was 10 years ago or a century, I couldn’t say, as I lived in this haven for as long as I could remember, a rocky island in a sea of gray, the last clean— safe— place on Earth. The Doctor was really busy, risking his life by going out to rescue the poor folk who have been trapped outside, but I met him a few times. He was a good man, patient with me when I was slow, and carefully creating vaccinations against the sickness that savaged the rest of humanity. He gave us names, fed us food, didn’t ask for much in return except for us to be kind and good. I asked him once, why he was doing this for us, because I was new and afraid of how long this paradise would last. He laughed— something smooth and rich like the hot cocoa our old cook Timber used to make me, before he became hostile and angry and the Doctor had to take him away for treatment— and I felt ashamed for how thoughtless I was, for who was I to question his actions when he had saved us all. I told him so, and he smiled affectionately at me and ruffled my hair, just like I’d imagine a father would do to his child.
“Dulce,” Shard murmured, as we peeled potatoes for Pearl. Pearl, a matronly woman of 24, doted on all the younger children, even Shard, until she heard Shard spreading his usual lies about the Doctor. It took her a while to forgive him, plus promises to help her with dinner every night. Honestly, these lies… Shard had to stop telling them. It’s getting to be a problem…
“Dulce!” Shard jabbed his elbow into my side, and I squealed, only a little bit really, but Pearl looked at the two of us from across the kitchen and sighed loudly, before striding out the room. Although I didn’t think she’d ever like Shard— not after the things he said— she adored me, so she usually ignored our antics.
“I swear,” he whispered, “the world hasn’t ended.”
I sighed. “Oh, Rhys, not this again.”
“Dulce, it’s true! I remember when I was last out there, before your Doctor or whatever kidnapped me. The world is fine. It was summer, and the grass was green and, and I had a dog, and his name was Biscuit and we were running to, to, to my friend’s house, I think, and you could hear birds making their bird noises or whatever the word was called—”
“— Chirp. Birds chirp. Well, that’s what the books say, at least. But Rhys, you were 11 when you came here. Perhaps you just had a dream; sometimes I do too Rhys, but they’re not true. The world has ended. You have to accept it sooner or later.” I reached over and patted his shoulder.
“I mean it Dulce, the Doctor is not as good as you all think. It’s not a dream! He brainwashed you all! The daily vaccines he gives you are some sort of brain-washing drugs so you’ll listen to whatever he says!”
“If what you say is true, then why do you still remember?”
He stopped, mouth opening and closing, looking for the right words to say. “I, I, I—”
“— See Rhys? What you’re saying isn’t true. The Doctor is a good man—”
“— No, no, no, no!” He shouted, waving the potato peeler in the air, “I swear Dulce, I swear, the world hasn’t ended! The Doctor is a psy, psy; he’s crazy! He kidnapped us all and drugged us and put us in this prison for some sick, sick—”
“— Sick what?” Shard froze, his face blanching. He looked at me, and then slowly up at the Doctor.
The Doctor smiled serenely back at us.
I awoke to Shard shaking me roughly.
“I’m gonna try to escape,” he hissed, face tense and pale in the dim light of the moon shining through my windows.
I gaped. “What? Are you crazy?”
“Dulce, he’s gonna kill me if I stay here! He heard me, oh god, he heard me saying that he’s a kidnapper and that he’s crazy and, and, Dulce, did you know, that, that before I came here, before that sick freak decided to bring me here for God knows what, my mama, she, she told me to be careful, because, ’cause there was a mass kidnapper on the loose, targeting kids like me she said, and I told her that she was being silly because I’m not a little kid and nothing’s gonna happen to me, cuz no one thinks these kinds of things would happen to them, even adults I bet, but, but, but here I am now, and, I, I…” He broke off into soft sobs, and I had the urge to wrap him into a hug and tell him everything was going to be okay, because Shard, despite his scathing attitude and pretense of superiority, was still a child.
He stopped though, abruptly, and scrubbed at his cheeks, face flushed from crying or embarrassment for crying or maybe both.
“Dulce,” he whispered urgently, “come escape with me.”
I felt my heart sink— what was he thinking? There was nothing outside this island, except disease and death. “Rhys… I can’t; you can’t! The Doctor—”
Rhys’s face twisted into an angry sneer. “— The Doctor this, the Doctor that! Can’t you see that he’s not as good as you all think! Fine! Fine, Dulce! You can stay here with your precious Doctor. I’m not gonna stay in this nuthouse for any longer!”
“Rhys—” I watched the door slam behind him.
Shard’s voice cracked, as it rose into a careening wail of pleaseohgodI’msorryDulcehelpmepleasetheDoctorgotmepleaseI’msososorryI’llbegoodhelpmeI’MSORRYDULCEPLEASEHELPME!
I felt a shiver run down my spine. Should I go? The Doctor got him… I swallowed. No, this was ridiculous. The Doctor wouldn’t hurt him, wouldn’t hurt anyone. Yes, that was it, Shard was being over-dramatic again. I stared at the moon-lit ceiling, before pulling the bed sheets firmly over my head and tried to go back to sleep.
“Yes, sir, I know that Shard had a problem. Everyone here knows that.”
“Good,” the Doctor said kindly, “As you’re his closest friend, I wanted to let you know that Shard is sick. We found him attempting to leave this shelter, that I have created in order to protect all of you. I have sent Shard away, for treatment. Don’t worry, I have my best nurses watching over him, I will be heading his treatment personally. I do hope you know that this is the only way that he’ll get better.”
“Yes sir, I know, I really grateful that you’ll do this for him, for us, but… will I be able to see him again?”
The Doctor frowned sadly. “I’m afraid not, my child. What Shard has is contagious, and he will need to be watched carefully, in case he ever relapses. This arrangement is for both Shard’s safety, and for everyone’s here too. You do understand, don’t you?”
“Thank you, my dear… Have you taken your weekly vaccine yet?”
I find Rhys three days later, while disposing of the leftover food from tonight’s dinner, shivering in the dark corner behind the dumpster. He smells like something rotten and looks worse than he smells. He flinches when I reach out to touch his shoulder.
He looks up at me, eyes bright with terror. Running down his chin is streaks of dried vomit and blood. My breath hitches in my throat.
“Oh god, Rhys, what happened?”
With shaking fingers, he scratches in the dirt the word LOOK.
When he opens his mouth, he’s missing his tongue.