I could feel his eyes burning into me as I rummaged through the refrigerator drawer. “You going then?” he asks. His words almost sound concerned but then again I could always just be imaging things. It’s been known to happen.
I don’t answer. I don’t have to. Instead, I just continue to shuffle the blood bags into the cooling compartment of my backpack.
“Are they still good?” his voice breaks into the silence again.
I turn to face him, holding the last of the bags in my hand. Cold, slick red liquid flows freely under the plastic covering.
“Yeah, Micheal’s getting better at making DeQuag. Do you know how old they are?”
Micheal is the resident town chemist. He was always experimenting, trying to get the blood to last longer. Sometimes things went wrong though and priceless gallons were wasted.
“Some of them were in there the last time I was in- ‘bout a month ago.”
I turned to face him, his crystalline blue eyes meeting my dark ones. Rex is a strange one, but then, I don’t know a single one of us Messengers that isn’t. He is five years my senior, a bit rugged around the edges but finely cut. His skin is tanned, like mine, although I had been born with excessive pigment while he had grown into it with the over exposure to sunlight. One would say that he had a sort of masculine beauty if it wasn’t for the scar running down from the bottom of his lip. Once I saw him with his shirt off and saw that the scar continued downwards across his chest and under his belt. He never told me how he obtained the scar and I never was in the mood to ask. I’m a curious person, so that means a lot.
I settle the last bag in and fastened the large compartment. Deftly I look into the other pouches, more out of habit than concern, to double check their contents: five silver tipped stakes, a couple bottles of DeQuag, a small medicine kit, water sterilizing tablets and some Nutro Bars. There were no changes of clothing, no toiletries or comforts to be found. I was traveling light and traveling fast. Most of the time Messengers only have to spend a night or two outside the borders. I’d be lucky if I only had to spend three. God only knows I’m never that lucky.
“I could go,” Rex begins again but the look I gives silences him.
“You know the rules. Besides, it’s my decision.” I reply.
Us Messengers may not live by many rules, but we obeyed them. Once inside a Border you stay there for a week. It not only keeps people healthy but it keeps them alive. The less time you spent on the Outside, the better.
Rex looks at me again. I recognize it this time as pity. I don’t want that. We both knew I’d probably die, but I don’t like to be reminded of it. He’d been giving me those looks ever since he first arrived two hours ago with a message that fed everyone’s fears- De Brian, the closest town was also out of Vac.
Each town made enough Vac to get through the Sick Season but no one had counted on so many being infected. In fact, almost everyone under fifteen was suffering heavily from the disease. The sad thing was it didn’t take a lot of Vac to medicate children, but making Vac was a long and grueling process. By the time enough was made almost no child would be left alive to take it. Someone would have to go find more. That someone was me.
Most Messengers ran from town to town like the child’s game connect-the-dots, but this town had already sent Messengers out to all the connected cities. So a Messenger would have to brave the wilds and run across the blank area instead of using traditional paths. I’ll have to go as the crow flies and cut across the countryside. There’d be no safe houses and no guarantees. Sure I’ll probably die, but if I don’t go it’s certain that a whole lot more people will.
“Miromi”, he says using my full name, “You be careful. It’s a shame to see a pretty girl like you…” His voice fades, leaving the rest unspoken. I can feel the tension in the air but I’ve never been one for romance so I simply walk out the door. I don’t want to hear any more of his pleads or good-byes. I don’t think I can face it. It always sounds too formal, too final. Who knows, maybe I’ll regret not telling him. But if luck isn’t on my side, I won’t be around much longer to regret anything.