RR #15: Aiden’s Meltdown

Aiden Parker and Carter “Gil” Gillespie
with mention of Flynn Archer, Miles Sutherland…

___________________________________________________________________

Afternoon, January 25th, Mystery Island

Aiden had been mostly quiet since they arrived on the island and unloaded their things. Dante, unhooked from his leash, explored and joined Roofie for a run by the water. The sound of their barking filled the otherwise silent air and helped to add a little life to the place.

Once everything was off the plane and they had helped to get it under cover well ahead of the storm, Aiden called Dante to him and the dog returned, walking back with him to the stable-looking building they had been told by that man – what was his name, Gideon? Nice name – that they would be staying in. Roofie, on the other hand, had wandered off looking a little lost. Aiden didn’t bother paying attention to him; his owner would see to him.

There was one room with plenty of beds for them, and one small bathroom. From the look on Lyle’s face, he wasn’t so thrilled with the arrangements either.

Gideon had poked his head in and informed them that he had dumped a couple of boxes of supplies in the kitchen and they should help themselves. The cookers weren’t working yet–he had to start the generator which he was about to head out to do–but there was enough to make themselves sandwiches and there were some cans of soda in the cooler. They put together a lunch which they ate in near silence and then Lyle headed out without an explanation. Gil was about to ask him where but thought better of it.  Relations there were still cool.

After everyone was settled and they seemed to be on their own, Aiden decided to go out and get a look at their surroundings. Maybe there would be some indication as to where exactly they were.

“Come on, Dante,” he said and patted his thigh. The dog got off the end of the bed Aiden had claimed as his and stretched, then trotted over with his tail wagging. He didn’t bother with he leash; Dante was smart enough to stay close by. And other than Roofie, he doubted there were other dogs for him to play with.

The first stop of his exploration was the building he was in. It sprawled across the grounds and had a few empty rooms with no markings in them. One was large with windows on one side that had been boarded up. On the opposite wall, pushed against the whole length, were game tables. Chairs had been stacked in the corners.

Another room was clearly a kitchen with expensive, commercial quality appliances. Aiden wasn’t a chef, but he knew expensive things when he saw it, and these were definitely up there with their chrome surfaces. Even though it had been some time since it had seen use, judging by the dirty floor, it would shine when cleaned.

He found a dining room near the main entrance; tables and chairs were again stacked against the walls, with boxes sitting under another table marked “linens.” Dante took his time to sniff around the room, barking once at the box before following Aiden out of the room.

Gideon had said that there would be a storm, but outside the sky was still a bright blue with few clouds. But while it looked pleasant and relaxing, the ground was anything but.

All over there were downed trees and what had to be coconuts lying on the ground. Branches and fronds from the remaining upright trees were broken in many places. Little huts that at one point must have been cozy had collapsed. There were a few that remained standing, though, and those Aiden explored with Dante.

One seemed to have been claimed by Miles, judging by a fresh mark of “M” in the thick layer of dust and Roofie’s lead in the bathroom, but where the man was he had no idea. “It looks like he took the only good one, boy,” Aiden said softly to his companion. There was another not too far off that was stable, if a little worse for wear. It was the only one with a bookcase in it. Despite the walls that were hardly there, and the puddles on the floor, a moldy bed, stifling heat, and debris around the room, it was perfect. Aiden peeled his shirt over his head and tucked it into his back pocket. It was early afternoon but already the heat was getting to him.

“This looks a good one, once we get it fixed up. If they let us have one of these anyway,” Aiden said. He wrote his name in the dirt on a bedside table and smiled as Dante sniffed around the room. He had no idea how to do any sort of home repairs, and cute little huts were definitely out of his range of expertise. He’d have to inspect those that were in better condition and figure it out. Maybe Flynn could-

“Flynn is not here, genius.”

They had assured him on the plane ride that he would get to see Flynn soon, but he wasn’t here. No one was. It was just the small group of them sent to this Godforsaken place on the verge of collapse.

Aiden sat on the bed, ignoring the mold, and ran his fingers through his hair. Everything was just so wrong. He shouldn’t be here; he had a job back at home. Here he had nothing. Not even Flynn. Most of his books were back home.

Who the hell can I trust? Aiden asked himself as Dante pushed his nose against his cheek and whined. This isn’t anything like what I expected, and Flynn… what if they gave him up? He could be dead by now, and I’d never know what happened.

Thoughts of a dead Flynn brought on vivid images of Henry Vale standing over him, Henry Vale and Flynn fighting, Henry Vale dead with a pen jammed in his eye. He’d never get those images out of his mind; never get over the feeling of being in that small, cell-like room.

The room that, aside from the beds, was very much like the room he was expected to stay in.

@—}–}—–

How much time he spent there he didn’t know without a watch, but as he left the little hut, he realized the wind had picked up and clouds filled the sky. He hadn’t noticed the light dimming from inside the small building. Dante whined again and ran over to a tree, relieving himself before sprinting ahead to the low building before them. A peel of thunder sounded in the distance, signaling the storm moving in.

The only one left in the room was Gil, and Aiden stared at him, sweat dripping down his face and chest. “I’m not staying in this room,” he announced. “I don’t care if the little huts aren’t stable, I’m not staying in a cell like this again.”

Aiden’s outburst gave Gil cause for concern. A meltdown was way overdue considering what the man had gone through. None of them had been given time to come to terms with any of this before being asked to make a life-changing decision and whisked away out of their comfort zone.  Sweat was pouring off him, he radiated agitation and he was not thinking things through. Gil was on the alert, Aiden was displaying certain signs and they were all adding up to a raging case of post-traumatic stress.

Without waiting for Gil to say anything, Aiden made his way to his bed and grabbed his bag along with Flynn’s. “This room is too small, and there are too many of us staying in here. And it’s hot. This whole island is hot and my books are going to get ruined.” His voice was loud in the small, enclosed space, and it shattered the once quiet room.

“At the moment, there’s only the two of us, Aiden.” Gil rummaged in his bag while he talked. “The storm is coming over and it might be safer to wait…”

“I’m not waiting. I don’t care if there is a storm. I found a nice little hut and with the walls half down it’s pretty spacious. So what if there’s water on the floor? Dante will keep me company until Flynn comes back. And then Flynn can help me fix it up. It has a bookcase, too, did I mention that?” Aiden stared at his boxes of books and pushed them under the bed. “I’ll leave these here until the walls are fixed. Please don’t touch them.”

“Aiden, it isn’t safe. Look, wait until the storm clears and then I’ll help you.” Aiden looked like he was near collapse. Gil moved slowly to block Aiden’s escape route, then faced him, put the most reassuring expression on his face that he could muster and said “I think you need to talk. We’ve all been through a lot, you more than us. Tell me how you feel?”

“How do I feel?” Aiden snorted at the question and shook his head. “How do you think I feel? I don’t want to be here; this place is hell. Flynn was supposed to be here, and he’s not. For all I know he’s dead, and I’m stuck here. Stuck in this… this cage of a room.” It was then that he realized Gil had moved between him and the exit, and he eyed him warily. “Why are you blocking the door?”

Gil sighed. “Because I want to keep you safe, for when Flynn comes. I know you want to be alone, but it’s not a good idea.  Aiden, you need proper rest and you won’t get any outside in a leaky hut with a wind whipping round your ears.” Damn, why did Miles have to go walkabout now! Aiden was in need of help, help Gil wasn’t sure he could give. In the absence of Miles, though, he had to try.

“I’m not going to be alone. Dante is with me.” And who was he to tell Aiden where he could and couldn’t get rest? “And I like the sound of rain on a roof. It’s relaxing.”

“The sound might be relaxing but I wouldn’t like the feel of rain down my neck and I doubt you will either. Aiden, this is daft. We’re in this together…”

“I’m not going to be lost! I’m going to be in one of those little huts outside! What the hell is wrong with that? It’s not like I can go very far, is it? This island is only so big. I’ll come to a beach sooner or later and that’ll be that. We have no boat to get off, and the plane that dumped us here is gone – not that I could fly it even if it was here.” He was sure his voice was getting louder because it was starting to hurt his own ears.

“Aiden, sit down for a minute. Please?” he added when Aiden frowned. The teacher huffed, but did as he was asked, perching on the end of one of the beds. Gil carefully sat opposite, trying to hold Aiden’s gaze. “This isn’t easy on you, I know, but I just want you to be safe. The storm might not be a bad one for this area but it might still be dangerous for any of us who are not used to it. Those bures, or whatever you call them, they’re damaged, they might be unsafe. Who knows if the roof might collapse…” Gil felt he was grasping at straws, but he ploughed on. He had to keep Aiden there and talking. “Until the plane returns, we’re on minimal equipment and medical supplies. If any of us are injured…” he couldn’t help the catch in his voice as he thought of Miles, hoping he was safe—it was getting on for seven hours and still no word—not knowing was beginning to eat at him. “If any of us are injured it’s going to be difficult to treat them at best. All I’m asking is for you to stay now, let the storm blow over, we can look again in the morning.”

Though he really didn’t want to stay in the room, the tone of Gil’s voice got to him. Aiden frowned and stared at the other man, contemplating his choices. He did have a valid point in a sense. “But if the roof collapses, it’s just a bunch of leaves,” he pointed out.

“Leaves and roof beams with the added weight of water, and no means for you to call for help?” Gil glanced down at the dog. The Akita was leaning into his master, nose on Aiden’s knee. A particularly loud thunder crack made the dog tense. “How about Dante? He doesn’t seem to care for the storm either.”

“He’ll be fine with me. He’s a good boy, aren’t you Dante?” Aiden smoothed the dog’s fur and then leaned over, putting both hands on the back of his neck and pushing his hair off it to cool down. “It’s so fucking hot I can’t stand it,” he complained. “I don’t have anything to pull my hair back.”

“Hang on, might be able to help you there.” Gil leaned over and snagged his bag and after a quick search produced and handed over an elastic band. “This okay?”

Aiden took it and tied back his hair, nodding. “It’ll work for now, at least.” Maybe he should cut his hair if he was really going to stay there.

Gil eyed Aiden as he tied his hair, trying to keep his expression neutral.

“Do you think I should cut my hair? I think maybe that would be best,” he said, voicing his thoughts. “It has gotten pretty long, and it will just get in the way here. Besides, it will grow back when I’m more accustomed to the heat, right? What am I saying, accustomed to the heat. I’m never going to get used to this.” Pulling his shirt out of his pocket he mopped his forehead with it and then his chest, drying off the sweat that ran there. “I hope the rain is cool. If it is, I’ll go stand in the rain.”

“The storm should cool the air down for us. You could get some rest here and now…” Gil hesitated to suggest what was going through his mind.  He could sedate Aiden, knock him out for a few hours, but considering Eidolon had already tried, what chance would he stand? There was no reason for the teacher to trust him.  He sighed. Suddenly, things seemed so much more complicated. He was out of his depth… You can’t save everybody… Miles’ words came back to taunt him.

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