CW: Opioid overdose depicted in the scene
One of the things that inspired this novel is an ongoing fight I’m involved in between the City of Prince George (where I live) and our local un/de-housed population, in particular an encampment that has been established on a chunk of vacant land near an out-of-the way commercial area in town. In the last month alone, we’ve won a Supreme Court ruling asserting the residents’ right to occupy the encampment if they don’t have any other adequate housing and the city has violated that ruling by bulldozing a bunch of people’s homes without warning or consent while they were all in town picking up their welfare money. Imagining that extremely real evil through a supernatural lens is the core of the novel.
As Byron approached the edge of the hill leading down to The Prairie, the tents, lean-tos, and Warren’s RV emerged into his sight, along with a crowd of people and two uniform bylaw officers, their “City of Tin Hill” truck, and a small bulldozer. Wilson was speaking to the officers and Byron half-stumbled down the hill just as they walked back to their truck. He reached the group and asked Wilson what was happening.
“They were told to come clear it out.” Wilson said, his voice tight with forced calmness.
“What the fuck!” Byron almost shouted.
“Calm down.” Wilson chided him.
“Fuck that.” Byron said, starting toward the bylaw truck, but Wilson stepped in front of him and stared him down.
“Please don’t do that.”
“Ok. Sorry.” Byron turned to the gathered group and saw Bren staring at him, so he walked to her.
“You promised.” She said simply.
“I know. And if they—“
“Never should have come here.” she muttered, shaking her head and turning her glare toward the truck. Suddenly, a hoarse scream came from somewhere at the other end of the encampment. Wilson took off running and reached the sound before anyone else. Byron saw him talking to one of the newer residents, who was rocking slightly backward and forward at the waist and kept looking at his tent. Wilson spoke to him for a moment then started back toward the rest of the group walking.
“Get my Naloxone from the car!” he ordered Byron, and Byron looked around, spotting the little red vintage truck on the road, on the other side of the park, 50 metres away. He started toward it and Wilson called “Run!” so he did, hearing Wilson asking “anyone else have a kit?” as he went. He reached the truck and tried the nearest door, the passenger front. Locked. He ran around to the driver’s side and tried again. Locked. He Yanked on the handle a few times, but the door stayed closed. He sprinted back toward the group,
IT’S LOCKED!” he yelled as he approached, and saw Wilson swear to himself and dig the keys out of his pocket. He threw them high in the air and Byron grabbed them and turned his run back to the truck. He opened it and looked in the console, the glove compartment, and the back seat. He returned to the driver’s door and felt around on the floor under the seat, then ran around again and did the same on the other side. Nothing. He looked around the inside, trying to see what nook he hadn’t checked. Oh! he went behind and climbed into the bed, knelt in front of the lockbox, and fumbled with the tiny key until it opened. Inside, clipped to Wilson’s first aid kit, was the black case with the white cross labeled “Naloxone.” He unclipped it and closed the lid of the box.
“Oh, shit.” he said to himself, lifting the lid again and grabbing the first aid kid. He ran back to the spot the screaming man was still rocking himself, while watching Wilson perform CPR on the older man lying in the tent. He glanced up for a second at Byron’s arrival.
“Here. Take over for me.”
Byron handed him the kit, and started pressing the man’s chest up and down. “Harder.” Wilson said, and Byron increased the force of his compressions while Wilson unzipped the case, removed a vial, used something to open it, then pulled out the one remaining syringe, filled it from the vial, and injected it into the man’s leg. “Keep going.” he said to Byron. He looked out the tent entrance,
“ETA?” he asked. Byron looked up and saw Kara standing there with a phone to her ear.
“About 2 more minutes.” She said, her voice oddly high. Wilson turned back to the man on the ground, who was still unresponsive.
“We’re going to need more.” Wilson said, and left the tent. Byron, starting to lose strength in his arms, watched him march to the city truck, where the bylaw officers were sitting in their seats, and rap on the driver window. He exchanged a few words with them, then came back toward the tent with anger in his face.
“They won’t do shit about it. They’re not allowed to get involved. Here, take a break.” He knelt on the other side of the man and took over CPR again so Byron could sit back on his feet. For a few moments, the only sound was Wilson’s slightly laboured breath, coming out in puffs in rhythm with each push.
“He’s going to die here, and they won’t FUCKING DO ANYTHING!” The last few words came out as a shrill scream and he slumped from kneeing to sitting as sobs started to shake his body. Byron quickly took over the CPR.
“What’s his name?” he asked, “I haven’t seen him before”
“Ramsey,” came Wilson’s choked voice, and Byron continued pressing down again and again and again, starting into Ramsey’s open eyes as the sound of sirens finally started to reach them.