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Dead Ringers & Cold Corpses

By alyxpoe

Romance / Adventure

Chapter 1

It is not the loud sounds and the crashing of slender, strong legs through the brush that make him feel disoriented, though the memory is as far away and as close up as it will ever be in this moment. It is not the way his head buzzes and the world around spins in concentric circles over and over and over into infinity.

It is instead the total silence. The darkness that threatens to completely overwhelm him; it is suffocating in its utter boundlessness. He still feels the strength of the hollow-sounding knock against his skull that ultimately splits his helmet; the hit that brings about the impenetrable blackness. He sits up, though he is completely unaware of doing so; his legs thrash out and he screams into the silent suffocating darkness for want of nothing more than to be alive.

This cannot be death.

Just…not this disappointing lack of everything.

Alone on the narrow hospital cot, Sherlock Holmes’ voice breaks with screams he cannot hear. He can, however, taste the metallic coppery stuff in his mouth that is either blood or medication. Blood pounds against the sides of his head, squeezing it tight with each beat of his heart. He gropes about with hands he is unable to see until there is another set of what may be human hands reaching out, holding him steady, pinning down his arms and legs that yes, he can feel but he is thrashing, fighting against the nothingness; now he is completely wound up in the thin sheet and single blanket and he is silently screaming, needing nothing more than to get away. He will not perish in this manner. It is unthinkable.

He is unaware of the sweat pouring off of his thinly-clothed, trembling body; he is also unaware of the tears running down fever-flushed cheeks. His body is spiraling wickedly deeper into shock. The pain is too much and so he fights it with every fiber of his being. He is thankfully unaware of his compromised position where he is clinging to his rather burly nurse in an undignified fashion whilst the much larger man is attempting to calm him. At some point, he feels a sharp sting in the vicinity of his right arm and the world swims in random colors in front of sightless eyes and then melds back into a warm, enveloping darkness that eclipses even the worst of the black velvet vertigo where there is not even a sense of time passing. Everything tastes like gray.

Several hours later, consciousness returns with the force of being hit by a five hundred forty kilogram equine; a feeling he is not unfamiliar with. His mind is slammed back into his body by searing pain that shoots up the side of his face, down his neck and skates across his rib cage like a jolt of electricity. The pain forces his head back against the pillows and even though they are relatively soft, his eyes open with the shock of the slight jounce.

Light floods his photo receptors and for an instant he almost weeps with joy that he can see. In the same instant, he picks up the bone-jarring beeping sounds of machines that surround him with their aloof unfriendliness as they stand there together reminding him that he is completely alone. It is overwhelming but before he passes out again, there is the recognition of an alarm going off somewhere around his head even if nothing else since the accident makes any sense.

Glittering dust motes float gently through the air in front of his eyes; tiny mirrors defying gravity as they alternately reflect the light and then promptly flip over into shadow as they fall towards their collective doom on the tiled floor. They ride on the shafts of sunlight like the leaves that fall from trees, whispering to him of the secrets of the universe and inviting him to follow onto surreptitious trails that only foolish dreamers may tread. He reaches out with one hand and idly studies the scratches against his pale skin. Long fingers seem to float alongside as they attempt to pinch at the minuscule flecks of dust with no chance of ever catching them.

He takes a deep breath, closing his eyes as sharp pain fogs his vision, though it is nowhere near as acute as the first time he awoke. After a moment, the haze passes and his attention returns to the happy little dust motes. He hums under his breath a bit, feeling the hitch and strain on what he is sure is at least three broken ribs. Gently he explores the side of his face that is apparently completely bandaged. Underneath it he knows the skin is raw and bruised; he wonders vaguely how many stitches there will be to contend with. He feels a dull pressure in his bladder that is instantly taken away. For some reason, his entire pelvic region is completely numb. Slightly disgusted, he scowls a little and lifts his head from the pillows in an attempt to look down at his battered body.

His left leg is in a cast from the knee down and is held up off the bed via traction. He moves his toes a little, satisfied that there appears to be a lack of nerve damage; he can feel the cool air of the room at large against the bare skin of his foot. He nods to himself as he stretches his right leg and wiggles those toes, watching for the movement underneath the coffee-stain colored blanket. He turns his attention to his left arm where it lays in a sling against what he knows now is busted ribs. The wrist is bruised a deep purple that is outlined with a sickly green. He gingerly moves his fingers and another rogue grunt escapes him. Really, it seems like the worst injury is to his head. The fingers of his right hand pat against the bandages, slowly attempting to discern the extent of the injury. Before he can further explore, however, there is the sound of a door clicking open and footsteps coming in his direction. He takes in a deep breath that sends yet another jolt of pain up his side then tries desperately to appear cool and in control.

“Good morning, Mr. Holmes.” An absolutely and completely overly cheery female voice greets him. He is pretty much trapped here and decides to stare at her shoes instead of her face. He sighs and winces from the pain of his battered rib cage attempting to accommodate his bruised lungs.

For as long as he can remember, he has always had the uncanny ability to see more about a person than they desire to share with the world; to those who observe, the details are evident in the way people dress, speak and even move. He watches the shoes approach and considers that they belong to a quiet young woman who apparently has spent the majority of her years growing up in educational institutions and possibly dresses much older than her actual years. Also, she has at least two female siblings, both younger than she is.

The simple, sturdy work shoes of the doctor stop by the side of his bed. He can make out the sound of her pen scratching against paper, obviously making notes on his chart. She is quiet for a few moments and he cannot help but look up.

The doctor is not looking at him, rather she is studying the readouts from the various machines parked by and hooked up to various places on his body. Her brown hair is long and straight, pulled back away from her face in a ponytail ringed by a brightly colored band of material. She is wearing the standard white lab coat, underneath it a plain pale pink top and khaki slacks. Her black stethoscope hangs in the center of her small breasts as if it were an accessory rather than a tool. When she finally meets his eyes, he notes the virtual lack of make-up on her face, save for a tiny bit of lipstick and light eye shadow. She offers him a smile as she removes her dark-rimmed glasses from her face, absentmindedly poking one of the plastic arms into her mouth and chewing it a little before speaking.

“Mr. Holmes, do you know where you are?” she asks, pulling her glasses out of her mouth.

“Hospital, obviously.” His voice is weak and strained but he does manage to allow his irritation with stupid questions to show through.

“Alright, Mr. Holmes. I understand these are going to be silly questions, but I need to ascertain your current mental capabilities. Will you bear with me for just a few moments?”

Sherlock does not answer, though he does blink his eyes in reply. The doctor, whose last name appears to be “Hooper” according the tag on her chest, nods to him.

“Good then. Who is the current Prime Minister?”

Sherlock glares up at her through the dirty fringe of hair on his forehead. He has never cared for politics, current or otherwise, unless they personally affect his job; which they most certainly do not. Therefore, Dr. Hooper gets the glare.  She gives him another lop-sided grin, thinking that his concussed state must be improving if he can be stubborn and then wonders if he is always like this or if it is a result of all the injuries.

“Fine. Would you at least tell me what year it is?” She attempts to glare back at him and fails drastically. To her, he looks a tad funny with the stern expression across his face and his body quite literally trapped on the bed via the leg in traction; if it were not there, it would seem as if he would jump off the bed and storm away. 

To him, she seems a bit too much of a sheep to be attempting any type of wolf act. Of course, if he just gives her what she wants then maybe she will just leave him in peace.

“1985,” he answers flatly then attempts to cross both arms across his chest, apparently forgetting about the injured one in the sling. He wrinkles his nose when he winces. He is still slightly bothered by the fact that he cannot feel his rear end.

“Yes, Mr. Holmes. A couple more questions and I can give you something for that. I am sure that your leg will be aching before long, as well as, ehem, other parts.” Dr. Hooper slips her glasses back on her face and then returns to writing on the paper on the clipboard in her hand. “Do you remember what happened to you?”

“I remember some of it,” Sherlock informs her, his green eyes watching her pen move across the paper. “You misspelled ‘concussion,’ doctor, it has two S’s.” Dr. Hooper looks at him with a mix of awe tinged with irritation.

“You can read my notes without seeing them?” Her brown eyes are filled with a hint of something he cannot readily discern, which is more irritating than she is.

“Yes. Most of the words; enough to see your mistake.” His voice rumbles from his chest as he leans back against the ridiculous stack of pillows behind him.

“Mr. Holmes, please answer the question.”

“I already have.” Sherlock gingerly rubs the scab on the back of his right hand with the fingers of the left one. That hurts, too, so he stops abruptly.

“No, Mr. Holmes you have not. Do you remember what happened to you?”

Sherlock grits his teeth against the redundancy; might as well give in so she will give up some pain meds. “My horse went down at the third fence. I remember feeling him stumble a little when we landed after the second fence, though he recovered and we stayed ahead until he fell. He went down like a sack of stones. We were in the lead, so I am assuming by my injuries that I was stepped on by at least three others after I hit the ground. That is what I remember, doctor. Now could you fill in the rest for me?” He actually smiles back at her, allowing his eyes to go wide and soft. Inside, though, his biggest fear is not broken legs or arms or concussions—those will heal given time. He most fears to hear that his spine is damaged.

Of course, his little ruse works like a charm and Doctor Hooper practically melts into the chair next to his bed. She sighs a little, knowing full well that he probably is not ready for this, but completely unable to refuse those eyes.

“Mr. Holmes, your left leg is broken in two places; you have a concussion underneath the twenty-five stitches that cross your scalp. Your head was lacerated by the second horse whose hoof caught your face and head, after the first one stepped directly on you and smashed your helmet. Your left shoulder has been dislocated; your left hand is badly bruised, though luckily nothing was broken there. You have two broken ribs and a third that has been stretched almost to the point of breaking. Effectively, you are going to be down for the count for quite some time,” Dr. Hooper’s voice has now taken on a pitch of authority.

Sherlock takes all of this in without comment; he had already surmised most of it. Dr. Hooper continues. “You have minor and massive bruising all over your torso and your back. You somehow managed to escape a broken collar bone. Also, um…” Here she pauses and her face turns scarlet. She clears her throat and attempts to be professional. She places one hand over her eyes and stares at the floor for a moment before she can get herself back under control. This is the part she hoped that Dr. Maynard would help with, though he was called into an emergency surgery at the last moment. She sighs again, forcing herself to meet her patient’s eyes.

“Your, um. Hold on.” She closes her eyes, turns her head away and starts over. “Mr. Holmes, your entire groin area was stepped on. We were able to repair the damage, I assure you, though you are going to be sore for quite some time. We had to remove the left testicle. I have been assured by several of my colleagues that you will eventually recover all former function, though your ability to produce viable sperm will be lowered considerably.”

At this rather shaky announcement, Sherlock does not say a word. He merely lifts the blanket covering him and peers down as if he could see. Not so bad, that, since making babies has always been one of the last things on his mind. He looks back up to the doctor and gestures towards himself. “The catheter.” It is not a question. The unsaid question- Is it permanent?-hangs in the air between them.

“Yes. Well,” she trails off again, finding that his calm reaction is helping her out with this entire situation. She has never faced anything quite this intimate before and is finding it a bit difficult to discuss the matter face-to-face. He needs to know. “Apparently, one hoof caught you, Mr. Holmes. It did not slice through, but there was enough soft tissue damage that you are going to need to heal a bit more before we can remove the tubing. Again, I have been assured that you will recover all former function.”

“Fine. Is that all?” Sherlock’s clipped words pass between clenched teeth. The numbness is starting to ebb, creating a dull ache that will soon be just a drum solo away from a full heavy metal concert in his head and his groin.

Dr. Hooper stands up and pushes a stray hair behind her ear. “Yes. How is your head?”

“It hurts,” he grits out before the throbbing threatens to take over. She nods silently and withdraws a syringe and a small sterile pad from her pocket. He meekly holds out an arm and does not flinch at the feeling of the cool metal pricking his skin. The drug acts fast and soon he is floating on a soft cottony haze again and does not hear the door close behind her.

“That was horribly uncomfortable,” Melanie Hooper says to Stephen Maynard some time later when they are both unwinding over a cup of coffee in the hospital cafeteria. She fiddles with the Styrofoam rim, picking pieces off of it so that it looks like it’s been chewed. Stephen chuckles at her and lays one of his large over-scrubbed hands on her small one on the table.

“Maybe you should be in your sister’s line of work if talking to living ones is too difficult,” he says with a grin. Melanie gently slaps his shoulder. Thinking of her sisters always makes her smile. It is no secret that she misses them.

“You should have been there, Stephen. The poor man was so shaken that he barely even answered me. Maybe it is true what they say about you men and your second brain.” Standing up, she finishes the last of her coffee and pushes the red plastic chair back into its place.

“Will I see you tonight?” Stephen asks.

“I think so. What time are you picking me up?” She gives him a coy grin.

“It should be about eight if I get out of here on time,” Stephen is now standing in front of her, both of his hands on her hips, thumbs gently rubbing against the top of her slacks through the lab coat. He leans in and gives her a soft peck on the lips. Melanie smiles as she leaves, turning back once to give him a little wave and blow him a kiss. He waves back at her, finishes his coffee and exits the cafe to complete his rounds.

Around seven that evening, a strange case is brought into the A&E: a man about twenty-five years old who seems to be in the final, fatal stages of an overdose. He was found passed out on the floor in the back room of one of the local stables. His pockets contain no identification and no one came in with him. He is only wearing jeans and a decrepit T-shirt, both caked with mud, manure and possibly blood. Even stranger is that he is barefoot. Stephen’s first thought is that the young man is possibly a stable hand, if that was the case he would be wearing trainers at least.

The patient is labeled as yet another John Doe, something that always seems to make Dr. Maynard feel a bit sad. He wonders for a moment if the boy’s body will even be claimed.  It is always disheartening when a patient comes in that is already beyond their help.

Stephen writes in his chart that the young man’s black and blue face looks as if he has been kicked in the face by a horse or he has been beat about the head with something large and round similar in shape and size to a hoof. There are several abrasions and contusions on his torso, perhaps the aftermath of a fist fight? Without a witness, they may never know the full circumstances surrounding the incident. Of course, Stephen knows from experience that tragedies like this often occur outside the knowledge of employers, family and sometimes even friends. He sighs and scratches at his scalp, the plastic chair underneath him groaning against the sudden movement. It is relatively quiet at the nurses’ station this evening, giving Dr. Maynard a bit of a breather.  

The young man never regains consciousness and thirty minutes after he is brought in his eyes are fixed and staring coldly out into the distance. It will be the next day before Dr. Maynard will be able to view the results of the man’s blood test; of course they may be of little consequence now. He completes his paperwork on the case, hurriedly scribbles his signature at the bottom of the page and heads towards the locker room to change clothes before picking up Melanie. In his mind, the young man was dead before he ever got to the hospital, but it is not his call. He sighs wearily as he walks out to the parking lot, wondering if he will ever forget the pitiful sight.

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