AUTHOR'S NOTE: This flash fiction piece was written for Sunday Scribblings. It is not part of the novel and it contains no spoilers. I've embedded links to spoiler-free supplemental information, where appropriate. Be sure to drop by Sunday Scribblings for more fun!
Cassie watched as Doc applied the poultice. When he was done, she handed him a bandage made from torn strips of hotel sheets.
"You really think it will work?" their patient asked.
"Hell if I know." At the boy's sudden look of alarm, Doc added, "The book says clove oil is effective in these types of cases."
"And turmeric is a known anti-inflammatory," Cassie added.
The boy sighed and sank a little deeper into the pillows. "Why do I feel like you're experimenting on me?
"The foragers are trying to get more antibiotics," Cassie assured him. "And in the meantime, there's nothing wrong with herbal treatments. They were used for thousands of years."
"So we're back to the Stone Age."
Doc and Cassie looked at each other. What was one supposed to say? The pandemic had taken more than just the adults and their knowledge. The industries and transportation services that had supplied the advantages of modern life were gone now. "Stone Age" wasn't a bad way to describe how they were living these days.
"We're doing the best we can," Cassie said.
"And if that doesn't work?" The boy turned to Doc. "You can be honest. I'm sixteen and I'm not stupid."
Doc shoved his hands in the pockets of his lab coat. "If it doesn't work and we can't get antibiotics, you'll either heal on your own or..."
"Develop gangrene and die."
The boy nodded. "That's what I thought."
To Doc and Cassie's surprise, he closed his eyes and seemed to relax a little.
"Is there anything else we can do for you right now?" Cassie asked.
"No," the boy said, without opening his eyes. "Just keep being straight with me. I can handle the truth."
Doc and Cassie moved away. When they were far enough from their patients that they thought they wouldn't be overheard, Cassie said, "Well, that was a surprise."
Doc shrugged. "Some of them prefer to know the truth. Mom used to talk about patients like that, but I had forgotten until now."
"Sometimes honesty is the best policy."
Doc nodded in agreement. "The truth still sucks, though."
Cassie looked outside. She didn't really expect to see their group's foragers. It was still early in the day, and this particular window of the hotel ballroom didn't offer a clear view to the street. "I do hope, though..."
"Seems like wishing and hoping is all we do."
"Got any better ideas?"
Doc shook his head and they both went back to work.
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