23. How to Have a Medical Emergency
It took a moment for Rebecca’s words to register.
“What did you say?” I was certain I’d heard her wrong.
“I think you heard me,” she raised an eyebrow. “So? Tell me.”
Where did this come from? Maybe I’d hit my head harder than I thought. Maybe all of the pain coursing through my body was affecting my brain.
I tried to sit up, my wounded shoulder screaming. Gently, Rebecca pushed on my other shoulder, forcing me to remain lying on the ground.
“Oh no, you don’t,” she remained on her knees, undoubtedly muddying her pants. “You’re not moving from that spot until you give me some answers. Which of your parents was a magic-wielder?”
Or maybe nothing was wrong with me at all. Maybe she was the one who lost it. “I’m human,” I said like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
She wasn’t going to let it go that easily. “You look human,” her hand still rested on my shoulder, ready to push my back down if I tried to get up again. “So does every other magic-wielder in the city.”
If I close my eyes and ease off my breathing, do you think I could give off the illusion that I’ve passed out from the pain? Everything hurt, specifically my broken hand, my mangled shoulder, my whiplashed neck, and my possibly concussed head. My knee had started to ache too. I didn’t recall injuring it in my fight with Keith.
My plan only lasted few seconds. Rebecca poked me repeatedly in the face until I let out a groan of annoyance and protest and peeled my eyes back open.
“What?” I snapped. “Look, I’m human, my parents were human, and nobody in my family ever had magic! I’m tired, I’m most likely direly injured, and I’d like to get out of this cold, wet rain!”
She had the grace to look apologetic. “Sorry. I should probably - Luca?” she glanced over her shoulder - I strained to see past her, my neck screaming. The Beta was emerging from the building, returning from escorting Keith to see the Alpha. Though I didn’t know the specifics, I was fairly certain that Elijah had ordered Keith to not kill me.
And what did the bastard try to do?
Well, I think my mangled, bloody, and bruised body told the story for me.
Luca jogged over to us, falling into a crouch next to Rebecca. I wanted to sit up even more. It was the esteemed Beta who pushed me back down this time.
“You’re injured,” he said, pointing out the obvious.
“Thanks,” I growled. “I hadn’t noticed.”
“We need to bring her to the infirmary,” he continued.
“You’re quite observational today, aren’t you?” I said before Rebecca could respond. Her lips turned up slightly at the corners. Luca shot me a sharp look, giving me a once-over.
“Can you stand?” he asked.
“Good question,” I tried to slap Rebecca’s hand away. It didn’t work. My left hand was deceased and I think my right shoulder looked like it had been put through a meat grinder. “I’d know if you would actually let me stand.”
I struggled into a sitting position, gritting my teeth my shoulder seared with burning agony. Ouch. My neck ached, straining, and my head pounded and spun. I tried to appear like I was perfectly fine, though the blood still dripping down my arm proved otherwise. A strong gust of wind slammed into me, sending the rain swirling into my face. A sharp stinging pain was revealed on my cheek. I’d forgotten about that one. I brought my hand up to touch it, seeing a smear of blood across my fingers.
How much blood have I lost, exactly?
Another good question - and a slightly concerning one. It’s been years since I was actually interested in medical stuff. How much blood could the human body lose before consciousness was lost?
I tried to tally all of my current bleeding points. Cheek, minor bleeding, though I think half of my face was covered with blood from that. Shoulder, major bleeding - the blood flowed freely from that. I think my shoulder had more wounds than skin at this point.
Okay, so there were only two points of noticeable bleeding. My shoulder concerned me a bit, but other than that, it wasn’t a bad ratio.
“Where did that come from?” Rebecca lifted up my bad hand. She’d noticed a long, deep gash stretching across my palm, seeping blood.
Three bleeding points, then. Slightly worse ratio.
“I cut it on a piece of glass,” I said, taking my hand away from her. “I’m fine,” I tried to shrug. Bad idea.
“When?” she looked bewildered for a split second, then realization dawned in her green eyes. “Oh, is that what you stabbed Keith with?”
“Yes,” I shoved her away. “Now move. I’m sick of this rain,” I moved to stand. My right leg was fine, but I hissed sharply through my teeth when I put pressure on the other. A sharp pain shot through my ankle. I don’t recall injuring anything below the waist.
I supposed it didn’t matter if I remembered injuring my ankle. I probably sprained it or something while attempting to dodge Keith’s attacks. What did matter is that I couldn’t stand. I staggered, balancing on one foot. Dizziness swept over me again. I muttered a curse under my breath.
“Reese?” Simon’s voice sounded from somewhere on my left. Simon. I’d forgotten he was out here. I’d forgotten that he saw the whole fight, in all its viciousness.
“Simon,” came Luca’s voice. It echoed, and sounded faint, like it was being shouted from across a canyon. “Go to the infirmary. Tell Tristan what happened.”
I swayed on my feet. Rebecca glanced at me, and her eyes widened. I think. She was looking quite a bit fuzzy, like my vision was blurring.
“Reese,” she said. “Are you aware that you’re injured?”
My laugh was humorless, sending another shooting pain through my skull. “Am I? Hell, you all must think I’m an idiot for not noticing.”
“Your head, Reese,” now her voice sounded strange. Another bought of dizziness washed over me, this time sending black spots peeking at the edge of my sight. “It’s bleeding.”
I frowned, the action stinging, and brought my hand up to my right temple. Agony seared through me, and I laughed again.
“Funny,” I gasped. “I really didn’t notice.”
It was the last straw. The pain and the blood loss overtook me, and I felt my knees give out.
And then I was drowning.
We didn’t go home after the attack. Cedric had said it wasn’t safe, and that we could never return home.
I didn’t argue. I had seen what those - those creatures were capable of. I saw that... werewolf... tear into my dad with my own eyes.
It was an image I could never forget.
But the other events? Dad, wielding the silver dagger, Cedric picking it up from his bloody corpse, the temperature fluctuation, the way Dad’s eyes had gleamed black as he attacked Michael Randon... I had no memory of those.
The memories slowly faded from my head as Cedric and I made our way downtown.
“Mom will be there, with Thomas,” he kept saying. “There’s a safehouse Dad set up, just in case anything happened.”
“Dad knew this would happen?” I asked, somewhat numbly.
“He hoped his hunch was wrong,” my brother’s voice was gentle, soothing. “But he prepared for the worst, just in case. Mom and Tommy would have heard about what happened. Mom would have evacuated immediately.”
“How do you know all of this?” I whispered as Cedric pulled me further from the carnage at the university. The conflict, it seemed, had spread beyond the walls of the school. The streets were in chaos. I heard snarling in the distance, and the howl of a wolf. It sent a chill of fear crawling through my skin. “Why didn’t I?”
“Dad told me a few months ago,” he explained. “It was a part of his preparations, I assume. Mom knew too, but he didn’t want to worry you and Tommy. He was going to tell you, eventually, but - ”
But he never got the chance. I finished Cedric’s thoughts in my own head.
He took a deep breath. “Look, Reese, all you need to know is that it’s real. All of it. The supernatural world you hear about in books and movies... it’s true. Vampires, werewolves, witches, warlocks...,” he shook his head. “I’ll explain more later. We need to get off the streets and into the safehouse before night falls.”
“Why? What happens after dark?”
He looked grim, his jaw setting. “Vampires.”
“Did Simon not tell you? There was a training accident.”
“I hardly think it was an accident, Luca. He tried to kill her.”
“Not Simon, Keith. Will she be okay, Tristan?”
“A sprained ankle, several broken knuckles and fingers, a fractured wrist, a gash across her palm, bruised ribs, a concussion... not to mention that nasty head wound. It’s her shoulder that concerns me, though. If she was a wolf, she’d be able to heal quickly, and on her own, but she’s not.”
“She’s human. So will she - ”
“As of now, she’ll live. Don’t worry, Rebecca. The real danger is her shoulder. I need a - ”
“Magic-wielder. One who specializes in healing magic. So go get one.”
“It’s not that simple. The Alpha has no healers here. We’ve never needed one before...”
“What about the witch?”
“The one Reese is fond of. The fire witch. I know she specializes in fire, but she might know something about healing. It’s worth a shot, isn’t it?”
“Simon, go ask the Alpha where he’s keeping the fire witch.”
Opal, I thought, before tumbling back into the endless void.
Months passed. Then a year. The outside world worsened.
My family wasn’t the only one who lived in the safehouse. There were three other families that had arrived with Mom and Thomas during the Takeover. Five parents, and seven children, including a girl around my age. Her name was Anya, and we became fast friends, though her English was poor. Her parents didn’t speak it at all - they had the unfortunate luck of visiting the city when the supernatural beings emerged from the shadows.
There were also twin boys a year younger than Thomas, and he spent the vast majority of his time with them. Kids younger than sixteen weren’t allowed to leave the safehouse, not for anything. I’d just turned sixteen when Mom finally allowed me to go outside and patrol with Cedric. A seventeen-year-old named Kenny came with us - he and Cedric usually patrolled together. I begged for Anya to come with us - she was a few months older than I was, and was going stir-crazy.
Before we went out, Cedric taught us how to craft vampire stakes.
“They must be wooden,” he instructed. “Nothing else will kill a vampire. And aim for the heart,” he pressed the tip of the stake against Kenny’s chest, demonstrating. “If you miss, then you’re dead.”
“How will we know?” Anya asked in her heavy accent.
“Depending on how old they are, the years will pile on them all at once. They’ll start to turn to dust before your eyes,” Cedric exchanged a look with Kenny, then handed Anya and I each a stake. “Don’t lose this,” he said sternly.
“What if we come across a werewolf?” even now, a year later, the scene that took place that horrible morning replayed in my head every passing minute.
“Try your best to look unthreatening,” Kenny said. “Or you’re dead.”
“Or enslaved,” Cedric added. “They’ve been abducting more and more humans off the streets lately. Still,” he spat. “I’d rather be dead than a servant to those dogs,” he paused. “I have a dagger. It’s made out of silver, the only thing that will permanently injure a werewolf.”
“What about - ”
“Let’s just avoid magic-wielders for now, all right?” Cedric ruffled my hair. I scowled at him.
“They won’t bother you, unless they’re looking for new test subjects,” Kenny added. My brother threw him a look.
We left the safehouse ten minutes later. It was the first breath of fresh air I’d had in a year.
“It’s Opal Sage, right?”
“Yes... and you are?”
“Yes, witch. She’s my sister. Now get on with it.”
“And why are you here, Eli?”
“To make sure she doesn’t do something that makes the Hunter even more of a threat.”
“How heroic of you.”
“Quiet, Rebecca. Witch, heal her.”
“Reese! What - what happened to her?”
“That doesn’t matter. Heal her.”
“I’m not sure if I can... this shoulder wound.”
“Let me make this easier for you. Heal her, now, or you can go join your dear husband in whatever afterlife there is.”
“That doesn’t sound so - ”
“Would you rather Reese died?”
“Fine. I’ll... I’ll try.”
“Must you be such an ass, Eli?”
“I said quiet, Rebecca!”
I strained to hear more, but all conversation was cut off as soft, nurturing warmth spread through me. I relaxed back into the empty space clouding my mind.
That patrol was the next bad thing that happened.
At first, it was thrilling. My sense felt heightened in a way they never had before. When I told this to Anya, she looked at me like I was crazy.
“My senses are normal,” she said. “You are weird.”
I flashed a grin at her.
“You know,” Kenny said conversationally from up ahead. “Your brother said the same thing the first time we patrolled together. Must be a family trait.”
“Quiet,” Cedric said. “Do you hear that?”
We stopped, listening. There wasn’t anything besides the usual city sounds - traffic, the hum of electricity, the occasional scream, a werewolf howling. Nothing out of the ordinary.
“What?” Kenny frowned. “I don’t hear anything.”
I opened my mouth to agree, when - wait! I heard it. A whooshing noise, sounding like the wind, but not quite...
“What is that?” I whispered.
“Vampires,” Cedric responded, brandishing his stake. I took mine out, gesturing for Anya to do the same.
They came out of nowhere - five vampires, their mouths dripping with blood. They’d just fed.
“Don’t look them in the eyes,” Cedric warned. “They can control you if do.”
Right. Don’t look the evil vampires in the eyes.
“It’s a new moon,” my brother continued. “So they’ll be stronger than usual.”
“Smart human,” a vampire hissed. “You’d make a fine addition to the clan.”
Cedric lodged the stake in its heart as a response, drawing out a new one before I could even bat an eye.
The rest took that as a sign to attack.
The fight went well, at first. I killed my first supernatural being. The feeling of elation rose in me as adrenaline pounded through my veins. I’d heard that taking your first life was supposed to be a difficult event, something you’d never forget, but I enjoyed killing the vampire. A killed a second one that was trying to surprise Cedric as he dispatched another.
Then it went sideways.
The last vampire had hidden in the shadows, leaping out at us when our backs were turned. She landed on Kenny, fastening her teeth into his neck.
“No!” Cedric shouted.
The vampire glanced up and grinned, her teeth stained scarlet, and vanished into the night.
And Kenny... he slumped to the ground, his eyes glazed over, and he died staring up into the moonless sky.
Something pulled me out of the abyss. It felt like a tether, tying me to something in the waking world.
I didn’t want to wake up. Waking up meant pain. Pain, misery, and captivity.
Still, my senses awakened, one by one. Unfortunately, I couldn’t move.
My hearing returned first. The beep of a heart monitor, steady and constant. My own breathing, which had eased out. My heartbeat, pounding heavily in my head. And there was a second set of lungs breathing alongside my own - I was not alone. The second presence was close by.
Then there was smell. Antiseptic. Rubbing alcohol. Hospital - ugh. Sterilizers. And then, there it was - the unmistakable tang of pine trees and springtime.
Fantastic. Just what I needed. Now I had even more incentive to stay in the void. I tried to summon the blackness to pull me back under, but the more I pushed, the more that strange tether tugged me back, forcing me further and further into reality.
No thanks. Reality sucks.
Then there was touch. Sheets, soft against my raw and aching skin. There was a cushioned pillow against my head, and I was pretty sure I had a needle or two poking into my skin. My left hand was smothered in something, and there was definitely a bandage wrapped around my head and shoulder.
I hadn’t been in a hospital since I was twelve. Impressive, especially for somebody whose sole purpose in life was hunting down and killing creatures twice as strong as her.
The tether grew stronger the more aware I grew. I followed it, feeling it wind from my heart, across my chest, up to my arm and into my right hand, where I felt a warm, comforting pressure...
Oh, hell no.
I wanted to shout at him, but my vocal muscles were still asleep. My eyelids, too, refused to cooperate. My mind was awake, alert, and ready to go, but it seemed the rest of me was still in the void. How helpful.
So, I lay still.
I grew even more startled when he woke.
“I knew, you know. Even then,” his voice was soft, calm, far different from the usual tones he usually spoke to me in. “I felt it, the first time I saw you. You didn’t, of course. You were too young, and you’re human. But I did...” a breath. “If you’ve ever wondered why I let you go, that’s why.”
Felt what? Utter disdain? A searing hatred? A burning desire to ruin lives? Me too.
“I’ve wondered why, out of every single fucking person on this planet, I got landed with you. It’s terrible luck, I think, considering the history between us. Something I think you were meant for the person I was... the person I was before the Takeover. It was my father’s idea, you know. I was against it, at the beginning.”
What the hell is he blathering on about. Shut up, let go of my hand, and let me fall.
“I changed, though, when I became the Alpha. I felt the entire weight of the pack on my shoulders... and I understood why my father did it. Why my brother supported him wholeheartedly. Something you humans would never understand.”
On second thought, I kind of want to wake up so I can stab him. Where’s my dagger these days?
“I know you hate me, Reese. I’m not particularly fond of you, either,” some of the warmth left his tone. “So wake up. Are you going to let an injury stop you? You’ve fought supernatural beings with twice the strength as you for seven years. You can fight the injuries inflicted by them, too.”
I felt his breath, stirring the hair near my ear. His other hand, resting against my cheek. Sending sharp tingles through my face. “Fight,” he whispered.
His hand was still clutching my good one. Since when did he care enough to sit by my bedside as I recovered from my medical emergency?
Well, whatever game he was playing, it was working. I tried with all of my might to move, to do something other than lying here like a sack of dead potatoes.
Of course, the only action I could conjure up was my hand. It squeezed his. I heard his breathing hitch.
Well, I would have preferred a punch to his face, but it was a start.