Operation Abaddon

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Chapter 13

Anne turned her head, looking curiously over at Preston as he failed to follow the usual route home from the clinic, though she decided against any sort of interrogation at the moment as to where he was taking her. She was still in shock over his change of heart regarding fatherhood, though she told herself the reason behind it was likely not all that mysterious. He was dying and when people know their time is limited, it can lead to alterations in previously held beliefs and attitudes. She knew now that it was likely the reason he had also jettisoned his prior views on marriage and why both now had rings on their fingers. He was also right when he had told her at Nan’s graveside that he was the last. If he had no children, his family line would die with him, though he had been aware of that before Nan’s death and had never expressed any concern regarding the fact.

The reminder of his mortality that had accompanied her thoughts put a dark taint on her otherwise convivial mood. She hadn’t consciously realized previously how much she truly had wanted to see the pregnancy through. It was almost certainly the last and only chance she would ever have. Those thoughts had been eclipsed by her knowledge that Preston had never wanted children and would not welcome the news along with her own fears. She still believed that rationally it would have been best not to go through with it for many reasons, her age being one. Her physician, Dr. Batari had already informed Anne that if she were to proceed she would refer her to an obstetrician that specialized in high risk pregnancies as she would fall into that category. Anne was aware that advanced maternal age increased the chances of genetic or other birth defects and complications and she would have to undergo more testing and screenings and more frequent visits than younger women. That she would eventually, and perhaps soon after its birth, find herself raising the child alone was even more reason.

Like Preston, she had no siblings, though it was possible she supposed that she may have half siblings if her biological father had gone on to have other children that she wasn’t aware of. She knew nothing about him or even if he was still living. She knew his name and other information like his birthdate that would allow her to search for him, and with the internet she would almost certainly be able to track him down, but had never had any wish to do so. She was estranged from her mother and had been since a little over a year into her and Preston’s relationship. She had limited her contact with her before that, though she had never had the gumption to completely cut the woman who had given birth to her out of her life before she had met Preston.

Preston had only met her mother once but that had been all it took for him to tell Anne that it would be best to cut all ties with the ‘toxic waste dump’ as he had called her. Their visit to her mother had been a completely opposite experience to her first of only a few with Nan, Preston’s grandmother, who had raised him from the age of eight. Nan had been warm, welcoming and accepting. Anne regretted that due to the distance, living in different countries on different continents, an ocean separating them, she had not had the opportunity to spend more time with her and grow close. Anne could see Nan having easily stepped into the role of “mother” to her as she had for Preston had circumstances been different.

Anne’s mother, on the other hand, had spent almost her and Preston’s entire first and only visit criticizing Anne along with a few clearly backhanded compliments and had asked Preston if he ‘knew what he was getting into’ by dating her among other comments that made clear that, like many others, she didn’t understand why a man like Preston would want to be with her Plain Jane of a daughter. Anne knew that isolating one from family was usually a red flag for an abusive relationship and was a ploy to isolate and control, but was sure that was not the case in this circumstance. Kristine had previously counseled Anne for the sake of her mental health to do the same as Preston had said she should afterwards. After her mother’s behavior and having been given the same advice from two people, perhaps the only two, that she knew sincerely had her best interests at heart she had been convinced to take that step.

Her mother had repeatedly attempted to make contact with her after she had informed her of her decision, like a vampire deprived of its source of blood, which was the analogy Preston had used. Preston answered Anne’s phone for her whenever he was with her when her mother’s number came up, stating the same to her mother each time, not to call her again, that if Anne wished to speak to her, she would contact her, before abruptly ending the call before her mother had a chance to say more. Anne didn’t answer when Preston was not with her and deleted the voicemails without listening to them. For a time Anne let Preston bring in the mail, even if she had arrived home first, so he could discard any letters her mother sent. Email had been a bit harder to screen. She had blocked her mother’s email address but she would simply create a new one, so for a time Anne would forward any emails from any address she didn’t recognize to Preston without reading them and he would advise her whether they were from her mother. Over the next few months the calls and letters and emails slowed to a trickle and then, to Anne’s relief, finally stopped altogether. She had pictured her mother as a supernatural bloodsucker, having finally withered away in her coffin, deprived of sustenance, lacking the strength to leave it to victimize her any further.

Preston drove to the edge of town to a forested nature reserve area with a number of hiking trails, parking the car in the lot near the trailheads. Anne couldn’t imagine why he would have taken them there. He was in no condition to contemplate a hike, even one along one of the shorter and easier trails. He was still far from recovered, it only having been a week since his injury. He had been getting by mostly on over the counter pain medication but at times had broken down and taken one of the more powerful narcotics, though he had been splitting the pills, only taking half a dose. He had also locked them, along with his other medications along with the gun, though there was no ammunition for it in the house, in the lock box that was kept on the shelf of the bedroom closet, removing Anne’s key to it from her key ring. She had promised him and she had never yet broken any promise she’d ever made to him, but he thought it better to be safe than sorry.

“Why did you bring us here?” Anne asked. Preston, without answering her question, exited the car. Anne, concerned and confused, removed her seat belt and opened her car door as Preston rounded the front of the car. Reaching her side as she put a foot out of the car, he held his hand out, she taking it and stepping out, Preston closing her door behind her. Remaining silent, Preston led her away from the car and down the pathway to the trailheads. Taking the trail to the far left, the shortest of them, though Preston had no intention of completing it, he walked with her a few yards along it. “Alan...what--”

“The car could be bugged, the house too. I don’t know.” Preston said,

“What are you talking about?” Anne asked, completely stymied. His words sounded like something she would expect to hear from one suffering from a delusion or a paranoid type of mental illness. Could it be the pain meds? She didn’t think he had taken any yet that day, or was it a possible side effect of the treatments he’d told her he was undergoing, though he had seemed perfectly lucid earlier in the day, up to that moment in fact. His decision to accept fatherhood shortly before had been completely unexpected and quite a shock to her but he had seemed in his right mind at the time. If he hadn’t been, she likely would have gone through with the termination. She hoped he had been and she wouldn’t have to once again reschedule and return for the third time, coming across as fickle or not mentally stable herself. She told herself she would likely not be the only woman to have ever done so, however. She was now sure Dan at the clinic had known she had not simply been going to the store and curious about the goings on outside the clinic her first visit and had been expecting her to return. But even more than that, now that the decision had been made, Preston himself having convinced her to follow her heart over her head, she couldn’t imagine going back on it and the grief she would endure that she would not have previously..

“there’s something you need to know. I’m not lecturing, I’m not writing textbooks, I wasn’t in a car accident.” Preston told Anne. “What I’m about to tell you is classified, I’m not supposed to tell anyone, even you, but if something happens, if the whole thing goes pear shaped, I want you to be ready for it. It’s about more than just the two of us now. You can’t tell anyone, even Kristine. You’ll want to, but you can’t. If you do, we could both be in danger, whoever you tell could be in danger. We can’t talk about it at home or in the car, either of them just to be safe. If we need to talk about it we’ll come here. I’ll bring you here or you’ll tell me you feel like going on a hike. That’ll be our code. I’ll come up with something else, somewhere else for if it’s at night, if it’s raining. Do you understand?” Preston said, the deadly serious tone of his voice and his demeanor puzzling and frightening Anne.

“No, I don’t...I mean...I understand what you said...but I don’t understand...classified? Like in the military? You’re not in the military anymore...and this is America, not Britain...what do you mean you’re not lecturing? What are you doing? Where do you go? Are you saying you’re some kind of spy? Like James Bond stuff?”

“No ‘James Bond’ stuff…” Preston said, unable despite the seriousness of the conversation to suppress a slight grin, “That would be a hell of a lot more fun...though maybe not, seeing as I’m now married with a baby on the way and would have to tell all those tarts to sod off. ‘Preston...Alan Preston...008. Shaken, not stirred’...actually I don’t give a damn, I’m not much of a martini man…” Preston paused, looking at Anne’s expression, she obviously not finding his digression all that humorous. “I’m not a spy. I’m working for the U.S. military. I was recruited by them after I was diagnosed. They needed people with military experience who were terminal but still younger and hopefully going to be on their feet for awhile.”

“Why would they want people who are dying?” Anne asked, feeling as if her head was spinning as she tried to follow what Preston was telling her. She realized she wasn’t as stunned as she would have thought she’d be by his revelation that he wasn’t doing what he’d originally told her when he was away. There had always been a part of her that questioned the money he was being paid and the perks that came with it for merely lecturing and writing and editing texts. Preston had come to be well regarded at the university in the few years he was there, but it had been his first college level teaching job after earning his Ph.D, other than as a graduate assistant during his studies back in Britain, and it wasn’t as if he was a well known respected expert in the higher echelons of his field as of yet.

“It’s a top secret operation...more than top secret...you’ll understand after I explain though you’re not going to believe what I’m telling you. It sounds like something out of an Asimov or Bradbury novel, but it’s true, all of it…”

“I’ll believe you, just tell me. I know you wouldn’t lie to me…though I guess you have been for the last year, about more than one thing it seems.”

“I didn’t do it to hurt you. I was doing it for you...on both counts. But I’m done keeping things from you. No more secrets. It’s called Operation Abaddon…”

“Abaddon? Like the place in the bible?”

“Yes. You know about it?” Preston asked.

“It was supposed to be a part of Gehenna or Sheol, the place of the dead, all the dead had to pass through it and the wicked would do penance there before they could move on. Catholics would call it purgatory. Abaddon was somehow connected with it, a section or part of Gehenna. It was a place of destruction, the bottomless pit. It’s the subject of many works of religious art, especially in the middle ages. It was also the name of a being, an angel of destruction who reigned over it as king. I don’t think I like where this is going.” Anne said.

“I doubted you would…” Preston said before he told her all...the accidental opening of the rift, the effect it had on some who had lived in the area surrounding the site, how they as though possessed had attacked others, tearing them apart, the ‘nets’ that had been installed within to prevent the escape of anything else from within, the missions to protect researchers and to replace the quickly drained power sources keeping the nets working, the horrendous creatures they had encountered, how those creatures seemed to be becoming more numerous and aggressive, larger, quicker, more powerful and terrifying. He told her of the effects spending time in the rift had on humans if their hearing wasn’t blocked and even if it was, how the body eventually would show signs of deterioration, which was the reason why they needed soldiers who were already terminal, of the protocol he and the others went through, the twenty four hour hibernation and monitoring after they returned, and finally what had actually happened to him the last time he had entered the realm of nightmare, of dense gray fog and mist that hid horrors from view until those horrors seemed to almost spring into existence around them, out of that fog and mist, ravenous for their flesh and their death.

“I take it back, I don’t believe you...I mean I don’t believe you willingly signed up for that! Why...when you knew the time we had left together was going to be short would you put your life at stake and risk it being even shorter? If you’d die in there, if you had died...when it happens...I want to be with you...I have to be with you!” Anne said, anguish in her voice.

“I did it for you...you could quit teaching, you could get away from all those gits, you could paint full time, open your gallery, do everything you’d told me you wanted to do, everything you’re doing now. It’s been worth it, every second of it, even this…” Preston said, putting his hand to his still bound and tender ribs, “this is nothing. I’d do it again, I’d gladly suffer worse. I’d never seen you happier. I wanted you to know what it was to be happy. It’s everything I wanted for you. I knew I was going to have to leave you, we wouldn’t be growing old together, doing all the things we’d talked of doing. I had to leave you with something to make up for that. You deserve better than what life’s given you.”

“Alan...” Anne said, his name the only word she could say for the moment as she processed his words, tears in her eyes.

“I never believed in god before, but I believe even less now because of all the people I’ve ever known, you’ve deserved the things that you’ve gone through the least. If there was truly this benevolent god out there, he could never have sat idly by and let those things happen to someone like you! If he did, he couldn’t by definition be benevolent, or loving or righteous or any of those things religious nutters claim! If he does exist, when I punch my ticket and meet him I’m going to tell the sorry bastard sitting up there all high and mighty on this throne that he can kiss my ass before he sucks my todger!” Preston said, finishing his tirade. A moment of silence fell between them before Anne, still with tears in her eyes, began to laugh, putting a hand to her mouth.

“Such words from a proper British gentleman. Maybe I should end it all when you go...because if he does exist I’d give anything to be there when you tell him that. You need to calm down before you break another rib. You’ve gotten yourself all wound up.”

“I suppose I have.” Preston said, unable to help smiling hearing Anne’s laughter. He thought she may be right as well as he felt the achiness in his ribcage intensify, a sharp pain running along one in the center of his right chest. He took a slow deep breath as he willed his muscles to relax.

“I haven’t seen you this worked up since the day you met my mother.” Anne said. As she spoke, Preston noticed a figure standing along the trail yards behind her, a figure he recognized, though he hadn’t seen since the age of eight. Anne noticed the color drain from Preston’s face, his eyes staring past her with a blank expression as if his soul had left his body that appeared frozen in place. “Alan? What’s wrong….are you alright?...Alan?”

Preston walked around Anne who to him seemed to herself be frozen, she not turning to see where he was going, though he didn’t seem to notice. He approached the woman who wore what appeared to be a nightdress, the one he recalled that she wore the last time he had seen her alive when she had sat on the edge of his bed and read to him, strangely her words less slurred as she read out of the book than when she had told him it was time to retire for the night. It was the same one, cream colored with matching lace around the sleeves and neckline, a blue ribbon just above her bosom, that she had been wearing when he had found her the next morning, thinking that she was merely sleeping in after a night of imbibing particularly heavily before later realizing the truth. Her long, wavy, sandy blond hair fell over her shoulders, hair he remembered feeling so soft, that he had loved to touch and brush for her which he had done quite often, she asking him to when she had been too drunk or tired from being drunk the day and night before to lift the brush.

“Mum…?” Preston asked almost in a whisper as he stood before her in disbelief. “How…?”

“Take it. It’s for you.” Preston’s mother held a book out to him. It looked like her diary. Preston looked down at it, taking it from her hand. He opened it. Inside, in place of diary entries, appeared to be lists of names. Turning a page he saw that the next two pages were the same.

“What is it?” Preston asked, looking from the book to his mother.

“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. The beast was, and is not, and will rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. The dwellers on earth whose names have not been written will marvel to see the beast. Eat it. It will taste like honey, but make your stomach bitter.”

“How can I eat a book? If it will make me sick why-”

“Do it. You must, Alan...my beautiful boy...you have your father’s face but not his heart. His was of stone. Yours is of flesh and within it is light. There are darknesses in life and there are lights, and you are one of the lights...”

“The light of all lights…” Preston finished the quote from a book he knew well. One he knew had been one of her favorites and his as well. He had read in her diary that she had played the role of Mina Harker in the stage version of the well known story as a teenager in a theater program for young aspiring actors and how thrilled she had been to land the part. She had read the book to him more than once, though others may have thought him too young for it. He now recalled her quoting the same line to him in life when he was a child.

“Eat it.” Preston’s mother repeated. Dutifully, Preston closed the book and lifted it to his lips, opening his mouth and biting off a corner of it. It was as if the book had transformed into something truly edible, the front and back cover crisp like a cracker, the middle soft and chewy, somewhat like a cookie...or a biscuit as Preston would have called it, after more than six years, he still had trouble with the correct usage of those terms in the U.S. The taste was sweet, almost overly so, as she had said it would be, like honey.

Preston polished off the book. No sooner had he swallowed the last morsel he felt a sour, bitter, acidic sensation in his stomach along with a cramping. He felt sweat beginning to bead on his forehead. Nausea washed over him and he was sure his stomach was soon to begin heaving, rejecting and ejecting what he had just eaten. The world spun in his vision as a wave of dizziness overtook him and he closed his eyes. As the sensation began to subside he felt a strange tingling in his brain followed by what felt like zaps of electricity.

It was then that he heard it, a strange low, rumbling growl off to his right within the tree line of the forest that lined the trail on both sides. Opening his eyes he found his mother had vanished. Turning his head to the right towards the sound, his eyes fell upon a horrific sight, one he had never thought to see outside of the confines of the world within the rift. The creature, demon like, it’s body vaguely humanoid with a torso and arms and legs, yet it struck him as reptilian though it had no scales, instead covered with what appeared to be thick, leathery skin of a sickly pale greenish hue, it’s head lizard like in shape with two large round red eyes. Its mouth stretched from one side of its face to the other, long, needle sharp fangs filled its jaws that dripped thick saliva onto the ground at its feet. It reminded him somewhat of a monster he had seen in an old television show long ago as a child that had lived in a small closet in a room that had been rented out to a college student, though that creature had been the size of a toddler, though no less deadly for its diminutive size as he recalled. He estimated that this creature however, if it were to stand up straight would be at least eight feet tall. .

It sat on its haunches, its long fingers ending in ebony claws, it lifting those clawed hands now from the ground on which they had rested and reaching out towards him as it prepared to spring, to pounce upon him like a cat, a hair raising screeching shriek emanating from it as it did so. Preston, unarmed and defenseless, threw his arms up in front of himself by instinct and reflex, though he knew it was a useless gesture. He was seconds from death, and Anne would see it all, and then it would go for her and she would join him, along with the life within her they had together created that had just come into being mere weeks ago.

Preston squeezed his eyes closed once again, hoping the creature would open an artery or swiftly tear out his throat or his heart and his end would come quickly but the anticipated attack did not come. Or had it come and his death been so swift he hadn’t even realized it had and all was over? Preston no longer felt the ground under his feet. Everything was silent and dark. Then from a distance he heard a rhythmic tone, familiar, though he could not at the moment remember where he’d heard it or identify it. The sound grew louder, closer as if it were moving towards him or him towards it. He felt a sensation of his body rising.

“Alan….I’m here. Can you hear me?” he heard a very familiar voice say. He realized that he wasn’t surrounded by darkness, his eyes were closed. He felt his body continuing to rise until he had the sensation that it had ‘docked’ like a ship in a harbor. He now felt the pressure of a warm hand gripping his own as another came to rest on his shoulder. Slowly he opened his eyes, unable to see for a moment as their brightness blinded him. He could only make out a dark silhouette of someone beside him. As his eyes adjusted, the figure came into focus. Anne sat beside him as he lay, her eyes appearing red and slightly puffy, her cheeks streaked with the remnants of tears, fresh ones now spilling over as she raised his hand she gripped in her own to her lips with an expression of relief.

“Anne? What….where…?” he asked, confused, noticing that his throat was dry, his voice somewhat hoarse.

“We’re at the hospital. I don’t know what happened. We were on the trail, we were talking, everything was fine...we were joking...about you telling god to suck it” Anne said, chuckling amid her tears. “Maybe you pissed him off. You just blanked out, like you were asleep but you were awake, your eyes were open, then you collapsed and had some kind of seizure.”

“How long have I been out?” he asked, realizing the sound he had heard was the heart monitor that he was now attached to. No wonder it had sounded familiar. He also now sensed electrodes and leads attached to his head much like when he was about to be put under each time he exited the rift.

“Forty five minutes, an hour maybe? I’m not sure. I was so scared. I thought it was this thing you say you have, that maybe you didn’t have as much time as you thought, that I was going to lose you right then. The doctor contacted Dr. Waller in Vermont to find out exactly what it is because I couldn’t remember, I don’t think you ever told me exactly, and I didn’t know who you’re seeing here. I suppose it’s some military doctor. Don’t worry, I didn’t tell them anything about that. The doctor here says it shouldn’t cause what happened. They don’t know why it happened yet. They’re still running tests.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“It’s not your fault.”

“What about you? Are you alright? It’s not good for you...” Preston said, still unused to the idea that it was not just Anne herself he now had to be concerned about.

“Don’t worry about me...us I suppose I should say now. We’re fine. In fact, I was talking to one of the nurses. She said if she has time and is back this way-”

“You’re awake. That’s good.” A man’s voice said from the doorway of the small hospital room as he entered. “I’m Dr. Ziegler. You look much better than when you came in. It’s nice to finally meet you properly.” the doctor said, approaching the opposite side of the bed from Anne and extending a hand, Preston taking it.

“Anne says that you told her my condition shouldn’t have caused this. Do you know what did?” Preston asked. One terminal illness was enough. The thought that he could have now developed another serious condition on top of it was a terrifying proposition.

“I’m not sure yet. We’re still waiting for a few test results. Your wife said you were in an accident about a week ago, broke some ribs. You’ve still got some pretty nasty bruising. The moron in the other car must have hit you pretty hard. It’s possible that you pushed yourself a little too hard too fast and the pain may have led your brain to hit the shut down switch for awhile. That happens, but it usually doesn’t cause seizures as your wife described and that you were still having when the EMTs arrived. That’s the part that I’m concerned about. If it wasn’t for that, I’d probably just send you home now that you’re awake, tell you to stay in bed for a couple days and take it easy. The good news is there’s been nothing abnormal on the EEG so far. Could have just been one of those fluke things. We may never know what caused it. It may never happen again...hopefully it doesn’t. You haven’t had any serious side effects with the treatments you’ve been receiving? You were diagnosed a year ago, so you’ve been undergoing them for awhile.”

“No, nothing unusual. I’m a bit tired for a little while, not much of an appetite. What they told me I’d likely experience.”

“Good. That rules that out I think. You’ll be happy to know that they seem to be working. I did get those results back. Your levels all look good, at least for someone with your condition. A touch on the low side of normal, but that’s expected. But the important part is they’re within normal range.” Dr. Zeigler informed Preston. Anne squeezed Preston’s hand, giving him a reassuring smile. “Well, if nothing comes up wonky on the other tests I’m waiting for, we’ll get you out of here and on your way back home and you can rest up there. I’m sure that’s where you’d rather be. You shouldn’t drive for at least the next week, just to be on the safe side.”

“I don’t think there’s anywhere I need to be.”

“Good. Oh, by the way, congratulations. Your wife told us the news. We checked her over too, just for peace of mind. Everything’s fine. Nothing to worry about.”

“See? I told you, we’re fine.” Anne said to Preston.

“Thank you.” Preston said. Dr. Ziegler left the room as a nurse entered, carrying a small device.

“I only have a few minutes, but it should be enough.” she said to Anne. “The chair you’re in reclines. You just need to tip it back a bit.”

Anne stood, moving the chair alongside Preston’s bed before sitting down again, finding the lever and reclining slightly. The nurse stood alongside her, Anne moving her blouse up slightly and as she had in the clinic, unbuttoned her jeans. The nurse, as Dr. Valaki had, put a small dab of clear gel on her abdomen and after switching on the device in her hand, placed the probe atop the gel.

“Don’t worry if I can’t pick it up yet. It’s still pretty early, but I’ll give it a try.” the nurse said, moving the probe slightly to the left, then the right. A slight, very quick swishing sound began to come through the device. “That’s it.”

“What is it?” Preston asked, looking over at the two women questioningly. The sound he was hearing unfamiliar to him.

“You looked disappointed earlier….when the doctor at the clinic asked….” Anne told him. Preston listened to the sound in wonder.

“I know it sounds really fast. That’s normal. It’ll begin to sound more like what you’d think it should sound like farther down the road.” the nurse removed the probe, the device going silent. She handed Anne a paper towel, Anne wiping away the gel and buttoning her jeans, moving her shirt back down and putting the chair back to an upright position.

“Thank you.” Anne told her.

“No problem. That’s one of the more pleasant parts of my job. I don’t get to do it as often since I moved down here from obstetrics. Hopefully once they get a few more nurses hired I can go back there.” said the nurse. “Good luck. I hope everything turns out well for both of you. I’m sure it will.” she said before making her way out of the room.

Anne’s phone in her purse rang. Quickly grabbing her purse from the floor besides Preston’s bed, she opened it, grabbing the phone and answering it.

“Anne….What’s wrong? I could hardly understand your message. I’m sorry I didn’t answer. My son’s in town and took me out to lunch. I had my phone turned off. I just got home and checked my messages.” Kristine’s voice said through the phone.

Anne stood, looking to Preston, “I’ll be right back” she told him, walking from the room, “Kristine...it’s alright. I didn’t know who else to call.”

“What’s going on?” Kristine asked.

“Lots of things….I’m at the hospital with Alan. He passed out, had some kind of seizure. He’d been in an accident last week, broke some ribs. They think it might be related to that, the pain from it, but they don’t know. I don’t know..” Anne said, beginning to break down, “he hadn’t told me...he found out before we moved and he didn’t tell me….he has cancer...some rare form of it...he’s dying…”

“Oh my god…I’m so sorry...” Kristine said, trying to sound shocked at the news that she already had heard a year prior.

“That’s not all….you’re not going to believe it….”

“You’re pregnant.” Kristine said. Anne’s sobs subsided somewhat as she stood in shock.

“How did you know?”

“Woman’s intuition I suppose. Do they know what’s wrong with him? I mean, other than the other thing? Do they think it could be related?” Kristine asked.

“They don’t know...they don’t think so. I don’t know...it’s like everything’s gone crazy….I saw her again...my mother….Alan, he had a gun….everything was fine...great actually….then it’s like a bomb went off...now everything’s...everything’s-” Anne sobbed.

“I’ll be on the first plane I can get on in the morning.” Kristine told her.

“No...you don’t have to do that...I think they’re sending us home soon.”

“Summer session is over, I’m just sitting around here twiddling my thumbs. I’ll be more use there than here. I’ll call you and let you know what time I’ll be in.” Kristine said.

“Alright...ok….”

“You hang in there, alright?”

“I’ll do my best.”

“I’ll call you back in a little while. I’ll talk to you then.” Kristine said before hanging up. Anne put the phone down at her side before walking to the nursing station nearby and grabbing a couple of tissues from the box on the counter, drying her eyes before returning to Preston.

Entering Preston’s room once again, he looked at her with concern, noticing her eyes were slightly red once again.

“Did you call Kristine?” Preston asked.

“I didn’t know who else to call. She’s coming tomorrow. Yes, I told her she didn’t need to come. She said she was planning on visiting anyway and has nothing better to do.”

“There’s something I wanted to talk to her about anyway. It’ll be better in person.” Preston said. Anne looked at him curiously.

“Is it about him? You saw him again? I thought you said he was going to move on.” Anne asked, looking concerned and somewhat frightened.

“No...well, yes, actually...I didn’t see him exactly, I heard him. But it’s not about him. Someone else.” Preston said, looking troubled. Before Anne could question him further, Dr. Ziegler appeared in the doorway.

“Well, I just got the rest of the results back. I can’t find anything to be concerned about. EEG is still normal. As I said, it might have just been one of those things. Could even just have been stress. It sounds like you’ve had a couple pretty major shocks to the system, literally and figuratively recently. We’ll get you ready to go and bring in the discharge papers and you can be on your way. Go home, get some rest and just take it easy for a few days as I said and follow up with your regular doctor. Your wife didn’t know who you were seeing. If you can give us that info we’ll send the records over.”

“Ok. Thank you for everything.” Anne said. Dr. Ziegler left the room once again. A nurse entered and began to remove the electrodes from Preston’s body. Anne pulled the car keys from her purse. “I’ll go get the car and pull it around. I’ll be right back.”

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