The sky is the colour of ointment and the sun is lost. They move away from the inside of bleach and sour breath, towards the outside of grass and air. The mother stumbles on the steps, once, almost; the daughter puts out a bruised and steadying hand, which the mother does not take. They walk down the spine-straight pathway.
– How long?
– They won’t say.
– I just want to know how long, for your room…
– They won’t say. They don’t tell.
The mother tightens her jaw, looks at the sickly sky. The daughter imagines the shadows of their postures, the black shapes they would hide from the sun. The air chills them under their skin, an IV drip cramping cold into their veins. They feel a throb in their heads, quick and hot as a hectic fever. Their words feel heated on their tongues, warmed by fighting past the fever.
– How are the meals?
– I don’t know.
– Didn’t they read your list?
– Yes. No. I… they didn’t say.
The path begins to turn, twisting like viscera between the ankles of the trees. The daughter glances back at the building and its cataract-white windows. The mother feels the pulse beating in her throat, her belly. She steps in time to the pulse, imagining its steady barbed wire scrawl on an ECG. The daughter walks slower, imagines the creeping drip from the bags of blood and saline, the flow through the plastic tubing, through the tubing of her body. The women move obediently along the twisting path, feet placed within the borders. The mother pauses, loses the beat of her stride, so that the daughter can draw level.
– Can I come back?
– It depends on what they say.
– I’ve told you, they won’t say!
– Then you will have to stay, until they say…
They speak at once; stop; let the words fall. The silence is quick and sharp. The words cast shadows. Above them, low in the sky, the moon is coming to life. It lights up nothing outside itself, a rich yellow glow like globules of fat. The mother’s heart, the daughter’s heart, beat together: louder than silence and louder than words.
– All they do is take from me. Blood and fluids, everything. They come in and take it, and I can’t say anything, I can’t even…
– They can’t just take it. That blood belongs to you. You made that flesh. I made it.
– Then we could…
– We should…
The mother shifts her foot to run away down the obedient vein of the path and she stumbles, once, almost. The daughter puts out a bruised and steadying hand. The mother takes her daughter’s hand and the women step off the path, their feet soft on the uneven grass. They walk wordlessly away from that red-white building, the blood and eyes of bodies, the chaotic snarls of flesh. The fat cold moon lights their way across the grass into the new night.