Chapter 31: LEEZA'S ANGEL
The girl named Leeza sat up against the wall, her shoulder leaking where her neck met her chest, and Brynn crouched down beside her, holding a piece of cloth against her wound to keep the blood in. The spirit of the witch doctor crouched with Brynn, but Leeza did not know this, and so she could not hear the spirit giving Brynn specific commands.
“Hold the cloth to the wound, putting pressure down on it, keeping it there and steady. You need to make sure she doesn’t lose a lot her blood. That’s what kills people.”
“I know,” Brynn whispered under her breath.
Brynn focused, sweat on her forehead and falling down off of her nose. She used the back of her wrist to wipe it, but consciously thought to not do that again as there was a lot of Leeza’s blood on her hands, and she didn’t want to smear it all over her face. So, she decided to let the sweat annoy her, and simply try and focus on the wound that was in front of her, and the spirits’ words in her ear. However, it was hard. Leeza’s mother was still at the window, praying over and over again, and Brynn could feel the immense pressure of this girl’s life in her hands.
“You’re going to need something to keep the wound closed.”
“Like what?” Brynn asked, and Leeza looked at her.
“What?” Leeza asked, her skin getting cold and covered in little beads of sweat, her breathing, kind of ragged. The girl, when not talking with Brynn, would stare off into a corner of the room, which kind of freaked Brynn out.
“I’m concentrating,” Brynn answered, not really answering.
“You can either cauterize the wound,” The spirit started.
“I don’t know what that means,” Brynn cut off the doctor, but she knew by the way the mother at the window prayed and cried harder that it was probably a very difficult option.
“Don’t know what what means?” Leeza asked.
“Please, let me think,” Brynn told her.
“Cauterizes is burning the wound in order to stop the bleeding, and prevent infection. It’s very useful. And very painful. There’s a poker in the fire that would work perfectly.”
Brynn looked at Leeza, at the sweet girl with the soft skin, who probably did not want to be burned on top of being slashed today. Leeza looked back at her, trying to control her breathing, trying not to cry. The necromancer looked across the room at the poker the doctor was talking about which was, currently, resting inside the flames of the fire, the black steel becoming bright orange. The poker was a long steel tube used for stoking a fire, for pushing logs around. Brynn wondered just how that would feel if held against someone’s skin, and she wondered if she herself could do it. Leeza, no doubt, would scream, and that would be Brynn’s fault.
Brynn didn’t know if she had the stomach to cauterize.
“What is another option?” She asked the air.
“I heard when people are dying, they see things,” Leeza began. “I did not know that that also meant the people around them would also see things.”
Brynn looked at her and smiled, and Leeza smiled back. The girl was right in her observation. If Brynn was going to keep her calm, perhaps the girl, helping her with her bleeding, should not appear crazy as well. But, would the truth sound any less crazy?
“Your mother isn’t the only person in this room,” Brynn said.
“Who else is here?” Leeza asked.
Brynn took a moment to look around them. The whole room was filled with nosy spirits seeing what was happening. There was Leeza’s mother in the windowsill, crying and praying. The witchdoctor was crouched next to them, and there was about twenty other spirits crammed into the tiny hut, all vying for a spot to see. Some of them were doing the ocean tide way of jockeying for a position, stepping forward into another spirit, sending that one behind them, and so on and so forth. A middle aged man servant was at the fire, trying to pick up the hot poker to give it over to Brynn, trying to be a part of the moment, even if his death meant that he couldn’t.
“We have quite the crowd,” Brynn said, smiling at Leeza.
“Is it because I’m going to die?” Leeza asked, panic bubbling in her voice.
Brynn narrowed her eyebrows at the girl who was probably a couple years older than her. “You’re not going to die. Your mother called me here, remember? She’s your guardian angel. She’s looking over you right now.”
“She’s probably praying.”
“That she is. Loudly, too,” Brynn smiled at Leeza who smiled back.
“What does the doctor say?”
“Well, he says I can use that hot poker in the fire to burn you,” Brynn started.
“Oh my gosh, no. That sounds horrible,” Leeza agreed.
“Yes, so- we’re in agreement. Option two, doctor?”
“Needle and a thread.”
Brynn looked at Leeza who looked back at her.
“What?” Leeza asked, slightly worried and alert.
“You remember the old rhyme? I don’t know if you sang it here in Springborough, but we did in Fortis. We’d all get together, us kids, my brother and I would hold hands with the other village kids, and we’d spin in circles. Do you remember that rhyme? Starts Ring around the Worm?”
“Ring around the worm,” Leeza began. “Your skin is sure to squirm. It’ll go itchy, itchy. Make you itchy, twitchy. So, with a knife, take its life. Needle and thread, or you’ll wind up dead!”
“I don’t-“ Leeza began, and it hit her. “You have to sew me up.”
“Less so than a poker.”
“But, maybe for longer…”
Leeza thought about it as Brynn held the fabric in place, keeping the girl’s blood in her. Leeza looked about the room, pretending to see all the spirits watching them, but not. She looked toward the window, thought she could hear her mother’s prayers, but yet again, could not. She thought about how painful it was about to be, but could not think of another way. If it was between a needle and a hot poker, she’d pick the needle.
“I have a sewing needle in the basket over there,” Leeza said, and she held the fabric, starting to soak through with her blood, to her neck as Brynn went to the basket of knitting needles and sewing kits.
“Grab the curved needle,” The doctor said, following Brynn across the room to peek inside the basket as well. “Heat the needle in the fire to sanitize it. Ask her if she has any seaweed.”
“Do you have any seaweed?” Brynn asked as the doctor instructed.
“No?” Leeza responded, not surprising Brynn.
“Seaweed is used to keep the wound clean when operating on it,” the doctor said, angering Brynn because what did it matter if they didn’t have it? She gave a thought to the fact that just this morning, she had woken up and dreamed of having a relaxing day at Quakenfalls, but before she got too nostalgic about it all, she snapped back to the matter at hand.
Using tongs, she held the needle to the fire, watching the metal turn black and then grey.
“Have you decided to burn me?” Leeza asked.
“No, it’ll cool,” Brynn hoped.
The process was slow. Brynn walked over with a bucket of water and her needle and thread. When Leeza pulled the fabric away from the wound, Brynn noticed the amount of dried blood around the wound, and the pieces of fabric still clinging to the edges of the skin. And just moments after taking the fabric away, the wound, without pressure, began to bleed again. The gash was only as long as Brynn’s finger, but it ran from just above Leeza’s collarbone, to halfway up to her ear.
Brynn first cleared the girl’s brown hair away from the wound, and using the water and a new piece of fabric, began to wash the skin as best as she could, as quickly as she could, because the blood was still coming. She focused on getting the remaining hair away from the neck and the clotch. The doctor was telling her what to clean off, and how clean the injury had to be in order for her to begin her sutures. If any foreign particle, like dirt or hair or fabric, was in Leeza’s cut, Brynn would be sewing it in her body, which would lead to infection, and then, possibly death. So, Brynn did her due diligence in getting the wound ready for the needle.
Next came the sutures. Under the doctor’s observation, Brynn started at the middle of the wound with her curved needle. Leeza took in a deep breath, and held it as Brynn entered the skin on one side the wound, and then the other side, pulling the sides together. Leeza was strong, and brave, and stood her ground. She let a tear escape the corner of her eye, as she clenched her molars tight together. Leeza closed her eyes, fought the pain, tried to meditate and force herself to think of being anywhere else but in the hut, with the needle, and the sting every time it pierced her skin, and the ache of the two sides of the wound being pulled together.
Brynn couldn’t imagine holding herself together this well if she was going through similar torture. The spirits around the room gasped every time the needle went in, and sighed every time the needle came back out, seeing the wound close even more. Once Brynn got done in one direction, she tied off the stitch, and rethreaded the needle.
“Done?” Leeza asked, turning pale. The pain was making her faint.
“Over halfway,” Brynn said, smiling encouragingly at the young girl. “You’re doing great.”
Brynn then continued her sutures up the wound toward the ear, the spirits shouting encouragingly at the hurt girl, even though Leeza couldn’t hear them. The flow of blood was faint, stopping at the stitches, and Brynn could instantly tell her stitches were going to hold. Even so, she felt better when she spirit of the witch doctor whispered in her ear as much. “You’re doing great, child. Be proud. This girl is going to live because of you.”
Still, Brynn focused on every stitch. She wished Leeza could faint, and wake up when it was all done, but Leeza stayed with it, stayed in the moment, and winced every time the needle pierced her skin.
When it was finally over, Brynn took the semi-clean piece of fabric (not the first piece which was absolutely soaked through in blood, but the second) and dipped it into the bucket, wrung it out, and began to focus on all the blood and dried blood on Leeza’s neck and shoulder. Leeza, breathing heavy, tried to calm down, and the cool water was helping somewhat. The two girls sat in silence, reflecting on what had just happened, and listening to the sounds of the battle going on in the streets below.
“I think that’s about it,” Brynn declared.
“How’s the bleeding?” Leeza asked, gingerly reaching up to touch it, but Brynn grabbed her hand.
“Your fingers are dirty. You can’t touch this with dirty fingers. You’ll get an infection.”
“Lots of risks for infections.”
“Well, there’s a reason our bodies are covered in skin.”
Leeza looked at her fingers and fingernails that were caked with dirt and sweat. Her nails were chipped, bloody, and stuffed with dirt from grasping at the ground every time Brynn stitched. Brynn used the rag to wipe at her hands, but they were never going to be clean enough to touch the wound in her neck.
“And, my mom? She better?”
“I think so.” Brynn thought about how she had not heard the woman’s prayers for awhile. Everything had been silent. So, the necromancer turned to see the spirit of Leeza’s mother, where she was, sitting on the window sill, and looking out at the world, her voice repeating incessantly a solitary prayer for her daughter’s life.
But instead of the spirit, Brynn only saw a beautiful, white and brown owl staring back at them.
Leeza saw it, too, and without Brynn saying anything, the girl smiled.
“Hi, Mom,” she said.