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May 16, 2012 / Daniel

Trial and Error 3: Rest

(Read the complete Trial and Error series in the GSU: The Wastes section.)

[576 words, rated PG]

Drops of blood and drips of tears marked the path all the way to the cracked white steps. Breathless, Toby took Liam up the steps and inside.

“LIBRARIAN!” he wheezed. “LIBRARIAN! HELP!”

From a lit room in the far corner, a long shadow emerged, “What is it, boy!” it yelled in a gravelly voice, looking up at the ceiling, and around as if to find where the yelling was coming from.

“An accident!” Toby wheezed, “At the dig site. This is Liam,” he gasped for breath, “Help him!”

“Quickly now, quickly, inside.” the Librarian motioned Toby toward the lit room, and he limped around to follow Toby inside.

“Boy. Clear that table, put him there.”

Toby struggled to rake the books and papers off the table with his elbows while holding his friend, then put him on the flat and empty table. Liam’s breathing was shallow, his skin was pale.

“Help him, you have to help him…”

“QUIET, BOY.”

The Librarian patted Liam’s body, felt around, tilted his head as if listening. He wore a device across the back of his head that covered his ears, much like the headsets the boys wore to work, but more elaborate. Toby could see in the dim light that the old man’s eyes were cloudy and yellow, more than he remembered them to be.

The old man gathered a bowl and felt around for several vials from his shelves; shelves stocked to bulging of vials and bottles and pouches of every assortment, all containing seemingly the same gray powder. He mixed a paste together in the bowl and smelled it, then held it near the headset at his ears. He was listening to it.

“…hurry,” coaxed Toby.

“LEAVE US, BOY. I NEED SILENCE HERE,” he barked.

Toby reluctantly left, latching the door carefully behind him.

Liam moaned slightly, the pain and shock were greater than he’d ever known, and he was beyond being aware of where he was or what happening to him.

The Librarian mixed and listened to the paste in his bowl, mixed some more, listened more. He listened to the bleeding stump that was Liam’s right forearm. At last he was satisfied, and pulled Toby’s shirt off the stump, and began to paint the paste onto the wound with a ratty and broken brush. As he painted, it twitched and grew, and the entire area grew a covering of skin, sealing the would entirely. Lumps appeared around the area and churned beneath the new skin as if there were tiny animals fighting and crawling inside. The movement subsided, and the stump appeared completely healed.

The old man leaned down and kissed the boy between his eyebrows.

He collapsed into a chair, and he sobbed.

He listened for hours to the boy breathing. Liam’s heart slowly grew stronger. After some time of observing constant improvement, the old man napped there in his chair.

Eventually, Liam’s breathing changed. The Librarian awoke and listened. Liam was improving rapidly now. He stood and went over to the boy, placing his palm on Liam’s head. Liam woke.

“Boy. Don’t move.”

Liam’s heart raced, remembering what had happened, but could not understand where he was now, the place around him was unfamiliar.

“You were injured, Boy. I’m taking care of you.”

Liam’s eyes glistened with tears, not falling.

“Boy. Understand now… I will never make you dig again.”

Liam’s tears flowed freely from the corners of his eyes.

“Rest now.”

Liam did.

[Jump to Part 4]

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