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Chapter 9

The hospital was very busy. We walked around until we spotted Mrs. Summers, Lana’s mother, sitting on a chair. Mrs. Colleway and my mom were sitting on either side of her while Xavier was nowhere to be seen. Mrs. Colleway looked up and saw us.

“Girls, you’re here. We were getting worried.”

Before anyone could say anything else, Lana was running to her mom. She fell into Mrs. Summer’s arms and started sobbing. “Is he OK, Mommy?”

Mrs. Summers hugged Lana and brought her to a chair. They both sat down and Mrs. Summers wiped away Lana’s tears. “William is going to be fine, honey. He is a little banged up.”

Lana shook her head and let out a shaky breath. “I saw him, Mommy. He looked bad.”

“Yeah, well, that’s because he wasn’t cleaned up yet.” Mrs. Summers smiled reassuringly.

Lana looked down at her hands lying in her lap and said quietly, “You’re just trying to make me feel better.”

I walked over to them and put my hands on her shoulders. “Lana, William is tough, OK?”

“I know. I’m just worried and now I feel bad that I wasn’t here to support Mom.”

Mrs. Summers turned to look at Lana, and said softly, “Honey, you’re really close to your brother, so I know you’re having a hard time. But you’re here now, so it’s OK.”

Lana hugged her mom and whispered a quiet thank-you. Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw Xavier walking towards us.

Lana and Mrs. Summers jumped to their feet and looked at Xavier expectantly. “The doctor said we could see William — although he’s sleeping right now.”

Lana walked over to Xavier and gave him a tight hug. “Thank you. Which room is he staying in?”

Xavier smiled down at her and pointed to the end of the hall. “He’s in the last room at the end of hallway, right side.”

Lana took off, half running and half walking, while everyone else followed her.

“Guys, only two people allowed at once.” That stopped Mom and Mrs. Colleway.

Mom sighed and put her hands on her hips. “OK then, we’ll see him tomorrow. I need to go home anyway to check on Aric.”

Mrs. Colleway asked her son softly. “Xavier, are you coming home?”

Xavier nodded tiredly. “Yeah. Let’s go. I’ll walk you guys home.”

By the time we got home, it was late afternoon. I went straight up to check on Aric and found him sweating off the fever. He was pale and had lost a lot of weight, but thankfully his fever had abated.

I sat down beside him and gently shook him awake. His eyes were a bit hazy. “Hey, Aric. You feeling better?”

“Hey, sis,” he croaked out with great difficulty. He shifted around a little until his head was half resting on the pillow and the headboard.

“Do you want some water? I bet your throat is dry.” When he nodded, I brought the glass of water to his mouth and told him to sip it slowly.

When he was done, he closed his eyes and groaned. “Damn, my whole body hurts. What’s wrong with me?”

I pushed his tousled hair out of his face and smiled. “You’ve been sick for the past four days. Your body was literally burning hot.”

Aric eyes widened and he asked softly, “That’s it? I just had a bad fever?” When I nodded, he looked confused for a second before speaking out. “My body feels like I’ve been run over by a loaded truck.”

I chuckled quietly before saying, “Well, you have been sick for a few days, and you’ve barely eaten anything. Plus, your fever was high. I’m pretty sure anyone would feel the same way.”

Aric coughed, and when he tried to move around, he groaned in pain. “Aric, don’t move. I’m bringing your pain meds and then you can sleep.”

Aric shook his head and muttered something I couldn’t hear. I leaned closer and asked him to speak louder.

Aric wrinkled his nose at me. “I feel disgusting. I need to take a shower.”

I barked out a laugh at his response. “Yeah, you kind of stink, but I think you need to take a shower when you’re a little bit stronger. We don’t want you to fall flat in the bathroom.”

Aric tried to move his arms around but was not successful. “Damn, you are right. I can’t even move my arms.”

I knew I was smirking down at him and he would probably hate me for laughing at him, but he was just too cute with his pouting face. “See what I mean, and by the way I’m always right.”

Aric glared at me, but didn’t say anything. He just huffed, settled back down and closed his eyes.

“I’ll bring your medicine. Don’t sleep.”

After Aric took his pills and went to sleep, I went to my room. I was reading when I heard a knock at my door. Closing my book, I called out, “Come in”

The door opened and my mom poked her head inside. “It’s time for dinner. Come on downstairs.”

I gave her a confused look, then saw the time. It was 7:35 PM. “Wow! Where did the time go?”

Mom smiled and told me not to be late as she had already set the table. I laid my book on the table and went downstairs. The lights were off except in the dining room. “Mom, why are all the lights off?”

Mom smiled at me from her place at the table. “Alexia, nobody was downstairs except me. Why would I keep the lights on? It’s a waste of energy.”

I laughed lightly while shaking my head. “Well, Mom, I’m scared of the dark, so I think I’m gonna turn on the other lights.”

Mom gave me a curious look then asked quietly, “Since when are you scared of the dark?”

With that simple question, my whole body went rigid. I looked out at the window, and at the dense trees surrounding the house. I didn’t want to think about it, but I couldn’t stop my thoughts from wandering towards that night. The night that everything went to hell. The night that would forever be seared in my memory.

I closed my eyes tightly to stop my thoughts, but that made it worse. The darkness reminded me of red eyes and fangs. I opened my eyes quickly and gasped for breath.

“Alexia, what’s the matter?”

I jumped when I heard my mom’s voice. I looked at her quickly and noticed that she was regarding me with a worried look. “I’m OK.” I tried to sound confident, but my voice came out small and croaky.

Mom got out of her chair and went to turn on the lights. I was still trying to catch my breath when she walked over to me.

“Alexia, talk to me. You’ve been acting weird since that night.”

I tried to act nonchalant and find something sassy to say, but I couldn’t find my voice.

“Alexia, say something. Tell me what’s wrong.”

I shuddered and look outside again. Mom followed my gaze and questioned softly, “You and Xavier were telling us something before we got the news that William was attacked.”

I was shocked that my mom remembered. After all the things that had taken place that day, I thought she’d forgotten, but obviously she hadn’t.

Before I could say anything else, she continued. “Xavier said something about an abandoned baby. Where is it? What happened? You guys didn’t leave it there, right?”

I couldn’t answer. It was as if I were frozen in place. Mom grabbed hold of my shoulders and shook me gently. “Alexia, answer me!”

“No! We didn’t bring it. We left it there!” I blurted out. I stepped out of my mother’s hold and paced around the living room.

“What do you mean, you left it there? You left a baby in the woods?” Mom questioned in a hard voice.

I went to the kitchen and filled a glass with water. I drained it in two fast gulps and turned around to face my mom. Her hands were on her hips and she looked intimidating. She was obviously angry at my answer, but I could see the confusion written all over her face too.

“Mom, you wouldn’t understand. It’s better that we just leave it and forget it.”

Unfortunately, that answer didn’t soothe her, but instead it only made her angrier. She glared at me and said loudly, “Young lady, are you saying that I should forget that my daughter and son left a baby in a forest? Are you saying that I should forget that you guys left that innocent baby when you could have saved it?”

Before I could plead my case, she silenced me with a look. “You should be ashamed of yourself, Alexia. And I can’t believe Xavier did something like that too.”

“Mom!” I yelled out.

She looked shocked at my outburst. “Alexia, don’t you yell at me like that,” she said in a reprimanding tone.

“I was just trying to get your attention” I tried to soften my tone, but it was not successful. The sentence came out through gritted teeth and in a hard voice.

“Alexia —” Mom started to say something, but I cut her off.

“Please, Mom, can you sit down and let me explain.”

She huffed but eventually went to sit on the sofa. “Well, go ahead, young lady. I’m seated now. Give me a good explanation.”

I sighed and rubbed my forehead. I could feel a headache starting. Rubbing my hands together, I went to sit across from mom. I didn’t know how to start, but I knew it was time to tell her the truth.

“OK, you know Aric, Xavier and I were going to the cinema, but on the way we heard a baby crying, and we followed the cries until it brought us to the bridge at the beginning of the forest. We found the baby there under a tree. Xavier told you that, remember?”

I was rushing my explanation because I just wanted to get it out and be done with it. When Mom nodded, I continued in a quiet voice. “Well, we didn’t leave the baby there, as you thought! We went to it, and I picked him up, but Aric carried him. But as we were coming back to the bridge, we didn’t have time to cross it before it just fell apart in front of us.”

Mom look astonished and started to shake her head slowly. “Yeah, we heard in the news that the bridge had collapsed, but I don’t understand. Did it just break like that? All of sudden?”

I nodded and resumed my story. “Yeah, just like that in front of our eyes. We were surprised, because we’d just crossed it and it seemed perfectly fine. But anyway, we couldn’t get back to town. Xavier remembered that there’s another path through the woods that leads to the other side of the town.”

“Yeah, I know that path. Your father and I used to take that route when we went for long walks.”

I breathed out slowly and rubbed my arms. I could feel the goose bumps on my skin. The hair on my arms were standing straight. All of a sudden, the room started to feel cold. I fought back a shiver and jumped to my feet.

I had to walk. I couldn’t sit still and re-tell this horrendous tale. I started to pace the length of the living room, just as Xavier had done when he’d tried to tell our mothers before.

“The baby wasn’t normal,” I finally choked out. I didn’t turn to look at my mother’s face, but when she questioned me, her voice was full of confusion.

“What do you mean the baby wasn’t normal?”

I was finding it hard to breathe again. Walking over to the window, I opened it. I took in a deep breath of the clean air and closed my eyes so I wouldn’t be able to see the dense forest.

When I turned and faced away from the window, I still couldn’t look into my mother’s eyes.

“While Aric was carrying him, the baby,” I swallowed hard before continuing, “it was growing.”

I finally lifted my eyes to her and saw that she was sitting still with a shocked expression on her face. She opened her mouth to say something but closed it again. She finally shook her head and enquired sharply, “What is this nonsense, Alexia? Be serious!”

“Mom, look at me! Do I look like I’m joking? You wanted the truth and now I’m giving it to you! Would you please listen?”

Mom looked like she was in deep thought, but in the end she nodded with great reluctance.

I continued with my story. I told her everything. From the growing baby, the fangs, the red eyes, to us dropping the baby and spending the night at the cottage. I didn’t leave a single detail out. I needed her to understand exactly what had happened.

When I was done, I released a long breath and looked at her. Mom was pale. She was looking at me with an astonished expression. I could see that she didn’t know how to respond to my story.

She got up without saying anything and went to the kitchen to get a drink of water. When she returned, she said so quietly that I almost missed it. “That’s impossible. I find this so hard to believe, but I also know you wouldn’t lie about something like that.”

She finally turned around and stared at me for a long time before continuing. “How can this happen? I mean how is this even possible?”

I shrugged and looked at my feet. “I don’t know, Mom. We couldn’t believe our eyes, but the baby was there. It changed in front of us. Mom, you don’t know how long I stay awake at night because I’m too scared to close my eyes.”

I shuddered but kept talking. “It’s like a nightmare but real. I feel like someone is watching me all the time. I can’t look at the forest without thinking about that thing.”

Mom walked over to me and put her hands on my shoulder. Instinctively, I flinched but after a few seconds, I went and hugged her tightly. “We couldn’t tell you before. We thought you wouldn’t believe us.”

I could feel the tears building in the back of my eyes, but I refused to let them fall. I had cried enough since the incident. I couldn’t let my fear overcome me.

“Alexia, that baby is dangerous. I mean, we can’t just leave it in the woods.”

I stepped out of my mother’s embrace and looked at her curiously. “I know. But what can we do?”

“We need to tell others and warn everyone. Most importantly, we need to kill it.”

I was so shocked that I couldn’t think, let alone form any words. I gave my mom a “get serious” look and walked away.

“Alexia! Alexia, come back here!”

I turned around and gave her a level look. “Are you serious? Kill it! How do you suggest we do that, Mom? And more importantly, we don’t even know where it is now!”

My voice rose with my frustration. Didn’t she understand how dangerous that thing could be?

“Honey, I know it’s dangerous and that’s why we need to hunt it. We can’t let a dangerous thing like that roam the woods or the town. No one is safe. What if it hurts someone?”

“I know!” I said, exasperated. “But how?” I continued in a softer tone.

“We’ll talk to the police. They’ll know what to do.”

I crossed my arms and stared at her unblinking. “Seriously, Mom! Do you think they’ll believe us?”

“Alexia, we don’t have time to play with ifs ands and buts. We’ll tell them and see what happens, OK?”

I was stressed out, scared and confused. I knew no one would believe us. C’mon, I couldn’t believe my eyes either, but I also knew mom was right. We were not safe and we had to take action.

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