With a heaving cough, Jeremiah spit up some of the recycled water. The tepid liquid sprayed across the hard floor of the bunker with an unflattering splat.
"God DAMNIT!" yelled Peter. "For fuck's sake boy. We ain't got enough of that shit to waste."
Bleary eyed and nauseous, Jeremiah glanced up at the big doctor. He was big, fat, and mean, but nothing compared to that smell of his. The man seemed perpetually sweat stained and his white coats were regularly tinged brown under his arms and across his chest and back. But that smell...
"Sorry..." Jeremiah responded meekly, trying not to breath in.
Whether it was the doctor's horrible body odor or the pneumonia that had made him cough, he wasn't sure. However, trying to choke down the recycled water didn't really help him much either.
He actually hadn't minded it much for the longest time. But, arguably, he didn't have any other choice. It wasn't until he was in his late teens that someone had managed to find a package of "Arrowhead" bottled water.
In an instant, his views had been changed. It had been so clean. So pure. While he hadn't been part of it, a scuffle had actually broken out between a few of the others when someone tried to steal a couple of the bottles for themselves.
And now, drinking this dingy recycled stuff, all he could think about was that pure, clean water and how the stuff in his cup always seemed a little cloudy and like it had an almost metallic aftertaste.
Peter retrieved a small orange bottle from one of the cabinets and dumped out a fistful of pills. Taking a moment to count them, the doctor turned back and slammed his sweaty, meaty fist into Jeremiah's palm and gave him the pills.
"Here. Take these. Once a day for the next five days. Take more and you'll die."
"But what about..."
"Ain't nothin' I can do about the cough." Peter said shortly. "Suck it up. The medicine will make it go away soon enough."
Jeremiah wanted to protest, but he didn't feel like he had the will to. Besides, if he opened his mouth and had to breath in the doctor's stink one more time, he just might cough up a lung.
A few moments later, he was out in the hall and slowly making his way back to his quarters. His body felt heavy, his chest hurt, and he felt like someone had strapped a cast iron weight to his forehead.
At least he didn't have to work for a week.
Passing by the great recycling plant, he couldn't help but glance inside. He could see his other coworkers hard at work processing the facility's waste into something a little more usable. More often than not, it would be turned into compost for the farms. Sometimes, however, the more nutrient rich 'returns' were directly reprocessed into foods.
Even after just a moment of smelling the putrid air, Jeremiah's lungs began to burn and he had to duck back into the hall. He had wanted to say hi to everyone, but decided it was better not to risk it.
Being midday, the halls were mostly empty. His footfalls, weak and slow as they are, echoed hollowly off the metal walls. Each "clunk" of his steps echoed through his sick body and made his joints ache worse. It would be quiet in his quarters because of his carpet and rugs, but such was not a luxury afforded to the general walkways. They were nothing but bare metal.
Jeremiah had just rounded the corner near his home when he decided to stop for a minute and take a wheezing breath.
As he heaved, he glanced about and caught sight of the window. Outside was the same as ever: bright, sunny, and with winds whipping about violently. Sometimes torrential storms of water or ice would batter the barren landscape outside and help replenish the bunker's water supplies, but it was often years between any rain.
No, the norm was just the constant, blinding sunlight. If it wasn't for the heavy tint and insulation, the windows would be too much and sometimes they were forced to lower the blast shields when solar flares became too bad. Still, it was strangely comforting to see outside, even if he'd never been out there.
Jeremiah continued on, his mind having drifted to the thought of sunlight he'd never feel rather than the pneumonia in his lungs, and made his way to his quarters.
Finally, with a heavy sigh, he collapsed on his bed and closed his eyes. Stretching ever so slightly, he set the fistful of pills down on his bedside table, save but one that he quickly and dryly forced down. Within minutes, he was fast asleep, his dreams a muddled mess of aimlessly wandering a sun scorched planet where his footsteps rang hollow off non-existent walls.
(Hello Lovelies. As you may have noticed, this is part one of what I expect will be a three part story...however I guess we'll find out as it comes along. Not much here except for world setup and a hint at character, but I promise there is more to come. )