"We tried to be better, but we aren't. I don't think anyone could last more than a week here if they weren't willing to do bad things." - Alba Reyes

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BetaKnight
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In some cultures, what I do is considered normal.
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((Roman Jackson continued from Living In the Aftermath))

Roman plodded along, absently humming to himself in a droning monotone. The humming abruptly stopped as he realized what he was doing. It was an old habit, one that soothed him in times of stress or mind-numbing boredom. Besides making him feel better, it had the added bonus of driving Alex absolutely crazy. With stiff movements, he glanced at the others in his party. "Sorry," he sheepishly apologized, wondering why no one had commented on it sooner. He had probably been doing it for a while for him to have noticed it himself.

Actually, if he was being honest, Roman was amazed that his new friends had stuck with him for as long as they had. He didn't know if he would have followed Jojo or Simon if they had started aimlessly wandering the island. Granted, his wandering wasn't exactly aimless. He had an aim. He just wasn't a hundred percent sure how to achieve it. Or even 90 percent sure.

One thought had driven him all morning. When you lose something, retrace your steps to the last place you had it. In his pain-muddled mind, that meant that he needed to return to the beginning. For Roman, that meant a return to the clear-cut remains of the forest.

The steep, uneven terrain had proven almost too challenging for his condition. His movements had been punctuated with deep, gutteral grunts as he fought to keep moving forward while favoring his left side. The injured shoulder and side throbbed and pulled with each step. He could feel that the bandages were no longer dry, that he was still bleeding at a steady pace. That thought alone should have alarmed him into stopping and asking one of the others to check, but the need to find Alex had brought him this far. Some nagging instinct drove him, assuring him that he was heading in the right direction. That it wasn't much farther now if he would only press on.

An miscalculated step caught his foot in a small rut, causing him to stumble and fall to his knees. Without thinking, he threw both hands out to brace himself. He bit back a scream as his injured shoulder was ruthlessly jarred by the momentum of the short fall and his own weight. Fighting back pained tears, Roman braced himself with his good arm to try and alleviate the pressure on the other.

Huffing and blowing, he slowly worked to shift himself from his kneeling position into something more upright. But he couldn't do it. He simply didn't have the energy.

He spotted a nearby tree stump and awkardly scooted himself towards it. Placing his right palm on the stump, he managed to push, lever, and drag himself up until he could sit. The muscles in his right arm burned and screamed their protest, unaccustomed to have to do so much of the work all alone. However, that was nothing compared to the bone-deep ache coming from his left side. Hanging his head, Roman was content to simply sit for a moment as his body labored to get enough air.

God help him, he was tired. He wasn't sure how much more of this he could stand. He wanted to lay down. Just lay down and let this whole nightmare be over. But he couldn't do that until he was sure Alex was okay. He had to find Alex first. She had to be close. He could feel it. If he would only get up and keep walking, he would find her.

Roman willed himself to his feet but his traitorous body refused to budge. Silently cursing the situation, he allowed his head to roll backwards so that the open sky of the clear-cut forest filled his vision. Now that his breathing had returned to normal, he inhaled as deeply as he could before bellowing, "ALEX! WHERE ARE YOU?"
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Instinct · The Felled Forest: South