Red Spot

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The morning the supplies ran out early was the morning he first noticed it beginning. A patch of bright red bumps had appeared overnight on his arm, around the small scrape. They didn't burn, but he knew how this went. He knew they would.

What then? When his arm grew more bumps, what then? What would he tell them? What would he tell Holden? What would he tell Tanya?

"Norman? Are you in here?" The soft voice of his partner entering his tent stirred him out of his thoughts. Norman sat up in his mat to look at her, smiling a little when he saw her. At least he had made it back to her. That's when his smile fell. What if he brought back misery along with the supplies?

"Yes, Tanya. Have I missed breakfast?" He forced a smile yet again, throwing his gray sheet across his leg as he started to get up.

"Nothing to cook. You didn't get enough supplies." In a flash, the softness in her voice and on her face disappeared. "At least your sister was better than you at getting a decent amount of supplies."

That's when Norman's forced smile fell. How could they have already been used? "I-... How is that possible?" Surely she was joking. She had to be. No, she wouldn't joke like that. She didn't joke at all anyways.

"Similar to just about everything else you've ever done, you screwed up."

Norman glanced down at the ground, not wanting to meet the intensifying glare of his partner. "I used her list... I followed it exactly, I even asked one of the workers if it seemed that I was getting enough, and he agreed that it was..."

"Well, unless you dropped about half of it on your way here, you were told wrong. Maybe your sister just had enough damn sense to do the job right." Tanya huffed, then walked out of the tent much more abruptly than she had come in.

Norman sat on the mat in silence for a while, just staring at his arm. Supplies didn't really matter to him. They could bare through it. It was only four days until the next distribution time, they could get by until then.

See, the thing was, he wasn't sure he would make it those four days. He had heard stories of it happening in two or even a single day. How was he to know when it was the end?

Norman ran a hand through his hair, breathing deeply. He made a bad decision coming home. He would get the ones he loved hurt by his own selfishness. Why had he come back? What was wrong with him?

The man stood up and finally walked out of his tent, slowly, silently. It felt as though his feet were chained to his mat with links of dread and regret, but eventually he entered the outdoors. Maybe he should tell them. No. They'd find out soon enough. Norman pulled his sleeve down some. One problem at a time.

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