As Ben walked towards me, I took a step back. Zeke planted both of his hands on my shoulders and moved me so that I was standing in front of him. Was it strange that I felt safer with him touching me? No, it was just because he was the first human I had seen in years…right?
“She’s still pretty freaked out, Ben. She’ll calm down if you show her your neck,” Zeke told him.
“Of course,” Ben replied, doing so. Seeing that his neck didn’t have a scar did calm me down quite a bit.
“She has a name,” I said to Zeke. I held my hand out to Ben. “Hi. I’m Nicole.”
Ben shook my hand. “It’s nice to meet you. If you would have a seat...” He gestured towards the cots and I groaned. “Is something wrong?” He asked, looking concerned.
I sighed and sat down on one of the cots. “No offence, but I’ve never really liked doctors. Even before the aliens. Doctors mean needles and blood and being sick.” I shuddered.
Zeke laughed at me and I shot him a dirty look. Ben interrupted before I could say something I would regret. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I doubt there’ll be any need for needles.” He gave me a crooked smile. “Unless you want me to put old Zeke here out…?”
I laughed. “No, I guess he can stay.”
Zeke rolled his eyes. “Gee, thanks.”
Ben started the check-up; it was like a regular doctor’s visit. He checked my eyes and throat with a flashlight and felt my glands. Then he started putting pressure on my arms, back, and neck asking if anything hurt. The answer was always no. That was, however, until he got to my ankles. They had both felt fine, until he squeezed the left one.
“Does this—“ he started, but then stumbled back, his hands pressed to his nose.
“OW!!” I cried out, clutching my throbbing ankle. It hadn’t hurt until he applied pressure to the sides of it, and kicking Ben in the face didn’t make it feel any better. “Sorry, sorry, sorry!!!—Oh man, that hurts!—I’m so sorry, Ben. I didn’t mean to…it was just…reflexes, you know? It was a total accident!”
“That’s alright,” he said, his nose gushing blood. I felt myself turn green and looked away. I knew that if I looked at the blood any longer, I would throw up. Zeke was doubled over, laughing his head off.
“I’m glad you find our pain amusing, Zeke,” I said as sarcastically and as venomously as I possibly could, wincing when I moved my foot. “But, could you please go and find us some ice? …or a towel for the blood?” My stomach started to churn.
“Why?” he asked, an evil grin plastering his face. “Does blood make you feel sick?”
“Go before I kick you in the face!” I ordered. Why did he always have to be right? I scowled. Zeke left and I turned back to my still throbbing ankle. Great, I thought. It’s already starting to swell. I grabbed the pillow from the cot I was on, folded it in half, and stuck it under my ankle, elevating it.
“How’s your nose?” I asked Ben, my eyes carefully avoiding his face.
“It’s stopped bleeding. You can probably look now.” I did. There wasn’t any more blood on his face. He had thrown his shirt in the corner so I guessed that he must have cleaned himself up with it.
“Seriously, Nicole,” he replied. “It’s okay. How’s your ankle doing?”
“It’s swelling. I just need some ice; I’ve had worse injuries than this, believe me. I’m kind of accident-prone…” I trailed off not wanting to get into the embarrassing details.
“Well I’m glad that you’re okay…mostly. Let me wrap up your ankle for you.”
As he carefully bandaged me up, Ben told me about how he had ended up here.
“Jason and I were best friends. We did everything together; we even started medical school together. My parents had gone to a dinner party while we were staying at a neighbour’s. While they were gone, we hid a baby monitor in the living room of my house, thinking it would be funny to make weird noises; you know, freak them out. But when they came home, we heard them saying all kinds of weird things about ‘the invasion’ and ‘implanting when the children get here.’ I thought for sure they knew what we did and were trying to freak us out. I grabbed Jason’s binoculars and looked through the blinds. That’s when I saw their scars. Me and Jason knew the stories were true, so we ran. We’d actually first found this place when we were kids and came here on vacation. We came back, knowing that no one else knew about it. We were the first ones. There you go,” he said, finishing wrapping my ankle. It looked better already.
“How long ago was that?” I asked.
“Almost four years.”
Then a thought occurred to me. “Who’s Jason?”
A dark look fell across Ben’s face. Someone cleared their throat and I looked to the sound.
Zeke had come back with ice. “Don’t worry, Ben,” he continued. “I’ll fill her in.”
Ben nodded and left quickly. I could tell that something I said bothered him.
“What did I say?” I asked Zeke.
“It’s not really what you said…Jason’s just…kind of a touchy subject for Ben. He died less than a year ago; a raid gone wrong.”
“That’s so sad,” I mumbled. “Losing his best friend—“
“He wasn’t just Ben’s best friend,” Zeke cut me off. “He was his brother.”