Ettica had not lied about the temperature dropping. In the middle of the “night”, although night and day are seemingly impossible to tell from one another in this place, Siegfried gets up, shivering, to retrieve his shirt from the edge of their camp. The moon has lowered to the horizon now, and the fire has died down to embers, making it considerably darker. As he returns to where the rest are, having picked up his discarded shirt, he looks up to the monolithic figure they rest near, and sees a red dot glowing from above one of the upturned arms.
“...Ettica?” He asks softly.
“What?” As his eyes adjust to the dark, he can see her face in the faint light of her cigarette. She glares down at him, one arm holding the cig and the other dangling off the side of the sculpturesque cactus. An odd smell lingers in the air, one that reminds Siegfried vaguely of gasoline.
“...Can I have one? I smoked all of mine already.” He whispers up to her.
“That’s just too bad.”
Siegfried returns his gaze back down to eye level to rest his neck from looking up. After a minute, he speaks again.
“Why did you agree to pick us up anyway?”
The young woman shrugs.
“Who knows. I guess once you realize brutalizing displaced little boys won’t get back at the Nazis, you try to make up for your mistakes, I guess.” Finished with her smoke, she flicks it down into the now pitiful fire they had set up earlier. Siegfried crouches down beside it to try to warm up his hands a little bit by the burnt sticks. Little warmth emanates from it.
“What’s all that about, then?” He asks, rubbing his hands together. How he wishes he had been wearing pants when he arrived. His shorts do little to keep out the chill, even with his naturally thick-growing black leg hair. He looks across the fire. Klaus and Rolf have ended up practically cuddling each other in their sleep. Klaus is almost spooning the smaller boy now, an arm across the other's shoulder. Siegfried doesn’t blame them. After a minute or so, Ettica responds.
“I guess you could call me an outlaw. Worked for the government a few decades, realized it was just as fascist as the Nazis, and decided to bail once I got this.” She points to her cleft lip. “The Purity Department doesn’t like deformities in its ranks.”
“A few decades...?” Siegfried studies her more closely. No matter how one looks at it, she appears to be in her early twenties. At the very least, there’s no way she’s a day over thirty.
“Yeah, well, people don’t really age here.” Ettica responds, shaking her head slightly as she grabs another cigarette from a green box. “Hope you like the age you are, cus that’s where you’ll be at for a while.”
Siegfried takes a minute to process that, nodding slowly.
“I can... I can work with that. Hey, you sure I can’t have a cig? I could make it worth your while.” He adds that last part with a sly grin.
“Oh, fuck off. Besides, these ain’t even nicotine, buddy.”
They sit quietly after that for a spell. Siegfried sighs, breaking the silence. He doesn’t need one too badly now, but he knows the cravings will only get worse the longer he puts it off. He feels a sudden inexplicable urge to just whine like a child, try and beg Ettica to give him something, anything. He suppresses it as best he can, but can’t keep his mouth shut for long.
“Can’t you just—”
“Shh.” He’s quickly silenced by Ettica. She’s sitting up now, examining the horizon with an intensity that almost makes Siegfried nostalgic; the kind of expression that someone who has nothing left to lose makes when faced with certain death. He follows her gaze and squints. There, in the distance, is a figure, swaying slightly as if pushed by a nonexistent wind. Siegfried’s mind wanders back to when everyone had still been awake, and Klaus had spit out in a hushed voice his tale of the gaunt, dead-eyed man he had seen standing in the doorway of that little building. He had kept shooting looks at the distant structure as he spoke, and even long after when they had all gone to rest.
“...Think it’s just a leper.” Ettica mutters finally, reclining once more.
“What is it with these lepers, anyway? That a common thing here?” Siegfried asks, never tearing his eyes away from the unnaturally swaying thing. Ettica sighs and wraps her jacket around her shoulders.
“They’re not all really actual lepers. That’s just what we call the loons here. They’re just... forgotten, crazed people with nowhere to stay, I guess. Dying and respawning a lot can put a toll on your body and mind.” After thinking a little more, she adds, “that’s why you wanna get registered in with the government. Just don’t act too gung-ho about the Reich when they give you the psychological tests and you should be fine.”
“Government hate Nazis?”
“Not really. Some high ranking girls are former Nazis, I think. They just hate the radical ones, I guess.” Ettica grimaces.
“High ranking... girls?” Although he initially asks out of confusion over the specification of "girls", Siegfried’s heart jumps at the remembrance of their existence in general. I could use a good fuck right now, he thinks, exhaling and laying on his back.
“Don’t worry about it," Ettica continues. "You’ll learn more if you actually make it into society. Just don’t expect a cushy life, either way.”
“I never have.”
Ettica yawns and declares that she’s going to try to rest a bit more and tells Siegfried to yell up if the thing in the distance gets nearer. After that, silence holds its reign over the camp once again. Siegfried stares into the starless void as he did earlier, thinking about his buddies back in the war, his family back at home, and lastly, Ettica. She’s not like any other girl he’d seen before. She wasn’t prissy or whorish or innocent and she seemed to have no care in the world for decorative elements. When they had first followed her out into the desert, he had been a little put off by her at first, thinking maybe she was some kind of dyke. And maybe she is. Regardless, he decides she isn’t bad company. Hell, he thinks, maybe I could even hit it if I play my cards right.
He remembers the figure and sits up to check up on it. He scans the desert for any sign of it, but the area is devoid of life. Although he looks this way and that for the thing, even standing up to get a better vantage point, it seems to be gone. He lays back down warily, at this point just wanting to get to sleep, and as he drifts off he hopes vaguely that his throat doesn’t get slit.