It had been three days since Xavier had brought Aric home. Aric was still bedridden and he was getting worse each passing day. We took him to the doctor, who said it was only a bad case of influenza. He gave us a prescription and told us to go home but keep eye on him. It was hard to believe that Aric only had the flu when he looked so close to death.
Worst of all, Aric was getting serious nightmares. When I asked him about it, his weakly reply was, “the forest.”
I knew what he meant. I was having the nightmare every night too. The dark forest. The red eyes. The fangs. The baby. It was there every time I closed my eyes.
I told Xavier about it and asked him if his nightmares were similar. He only nodded so I knew he didn’t want to talk about it. I wanted to talk to someone, to tell someone what had happened. I needed reassurance that nothing bad was going to happen, but who could I have told? Nobody would believe me, so I just kept it to myself, day after day.
It was close to eleven when I decided to check up on Aric. After waking up from yet another nightmare, I thought I would go sit down beside him and read a book until he was awake. When I reached his door, I heard voices from inside. It was Xavier. He came to visit every day. I leaned against the door to hear what they were talking about. Well, more like Xavier was doing all the talking. Aric was too weak.
Just as I decided to go away because I didn’t want to disturb them, the door opened. Xavier stood in front of me, and the look of surprise on his face was close to comical.
“Hey, Alexia,” Xavier stuttered. “Were you spying on us?” he added before I had a chance to reply.
“What? Of course not.” I replied hastily. I put my hands on my hips and tried my best to look affronted.
Xavier put his hands in the air and chuckled. “OK. C’mon in.”
I took a step back and managed to say, “Oh no. I don’t want to disturb you guys.”
Xavier shook his head and replied tensely “We need to talk about something. I know it’s going to sound crazy, but I need to get it out. And I don’t want to talk in the hallway.”
I nodded and went into the room where Xavier closed the door behind us. Aric was lying on the bed, the quilts pushed aside and his eyes closed.
“Is he sleeping?” I enquired quietly.
“He wasn’t when I came out of the room.”
Then Aric groaned. I looked back at him, and his eyes were partially open. He moved restlessly and groaned again.
Xavier and I quickly moved to his side. I gave Aric a look of concern before asking, “How are you feeling?”
He shook his head and closed his eyes again. I sat down beside him while Xavier took the chair opposite to me.
I took a deep breath then demanded. “What did you want to talk about?”
Xavier was looking everywhere but at me. I could tell he was purposely avoiding my gaze. He rubbed his hands together, and his feet were bouncing in an irregular pattern. He was nervous. But what was he nervous about?
“I think Aric has been infected,” Xavier rushed to say.
What? I thought, confused. That’s not what I expected him to say.
“What?” I voiced out my racing thoughts.
He finally looked at me, and I saw that he was serious. “I think Aric has been infected. By the baby.”
I shook my head and stood up. “That’s impossible. Xavier, be serious. This is not some zombie movie that you’ve been watching.” I was angry because I didn’t want to think of the possibility that Xavier could be right.
Xavier stood up too and started pacing the room. “Alexia, you clearly saw that baby. It wasn’t normal. It had fangs, red eyes and worst of all it was growing in Aric’s arms.” By each word, his voice got louder. I knew he was agitated, but I didn’t want Mom to hear this.
“Xavier, be quiet. Mom is going to hear.” He looked at me like I had lost my senses.
“It’s time to tell your mom or my mom. We need to tell someone.”
I looked at him astonished and stuttered. “Are you crazy? No one will believe us.”
Xavier shook his head violently. “We need to try. I’m sure this is happening to Aric because he held the baby. I didn’t hold the baby. I know you did, but it was less than two seconds. Aric held the baby far longer. Hours maybe.”
Xavier pointed at Aric and gritted out, “Look at him. This is not just a fever. He’s lost so much weight, and he’s pale. He can barely eat anything. He’s been vomiting blood. The doctor says that it’s only a bad influenza, but Aric is close to death!!”
I looked at Aric and realised that Xavier was right. This was not a normal fever. I sat down beside Aric and touched his forehead. He was still burning hot.
I stared at Xavier for a moment then released a breath that I didn’t know I was holding. “But how?”
Xavier started pacing the room again. He faced the wall and shook his head slowly. “I don’t know. It’s just a theory. We need to tell someone as soon as possible.”
Beside me, Aric shifted and let out a moan. I looked down at him and noticed that his face was scrunched up with pain.
I glanced back at Xavier and found him looking at Aric and me. I stood up and walked over to him. “OK, let’s tell our moms.”
Xavier nodded. For a moment I saw a hint of uncertainty in his face but it was gone before I could question it. As he was about to walk out of the room, I stopped him and voiced the most important question. “How are we going to figure out if the baby really infected Aric? And if it did, how do we get Aric better?”
Xavier took in a deep breath. “I have no idea. It’s just a theory. I think we should just tell our moms. It all seems impossible, but still, it’s happening.”
I gave him a look. “Really, Xavier? This is messed up. Can we just leave it as it is? I’m sure Aric just has a bad flu.” To be honest, I was scared to tell our mom. I just wanted to put all of it behind us, and Xavier was suggesting that we re-tell everything that had happened. Didn’t he want to forget?
I walked over to him and touched his arm gently. “Xavier, don’t you just want to forget? It’s over and done with, right? You’re being paranoid. Aric is just sick. Nothing infected him.”
Xavier flinched and stared angrily at me. “Are you crazy? Of course, it’s not done! That thing is still out there. Maybe it’s hurting other people worse than us.”
I tried to reply, but Xavier talked over me. “I already called my mom. She’ll be here any minute now. If you don’t tell, I will.”
He walked out of the room and closed the door with a bang. I sighed wearily and sat down near Aric. “What am I supposed to do? I’m so scared, Aric.” As expected there was no reply from my brother.
I didn’t have a chance to debate with my own thoughts when I heard the doorbell rang. I rushed out of the room and downstairs in a flash.
Xavier was talking to his mom at the front door, while my mom was sitting on the sofa, looking slightly confused. I sat down beside her and took her hands in mine as Xavier brought his mom into the living room.
“Xavier and I have to tell you something important,” I said before I lost my courage.
“What’s bothering you, sweetie?” Mom asked. I looked at Xavier but he was looking everywhere but at me.
I knew they were waiting for Xavier and me to speak, but we were both suddenly mute. Now, I couldn’t utter a word, and I knew he felt the same.
I took a deep breath and tried again, but nothing came out. My mom touched my shoulder, and I looked at her tensely. “Alexia, tell us. What is it?”
I swallowed hard and look at Xavier and his mom. Suddenly, Xavier jumped from the couch and started pacing around. “I’ll tell you.”
Before anyone could say anything, Xavier started talking. “As you know, Alexia, Aric and I were going to the cinema the other night. But on the way, we heard a baby crying. It was persistent and we got worried.”
He turned around at us. His posture was rigid, and he was breathing fast. I stood up and went to get a glass of water while he continued his pacing.
“We followed the cries, and they took us into the woods. We found a baby near the bridge.”
Mrs. Colleway gasped and stood up. “Oh my god. The poor baby. Who could have done that?”
My mom shook her head and told Xavier to continue. Before he could continue the doorbell rang. I went to opened the door and saw Lana standing there, looking shaken.
“Lana, are you OK?” She shook her head and started sobbing. I pulled her into the house and sat her down on the chair. Mrs. Colleway, Xavier and my mom came to stand behind me.
“Is everything OK, Lana?” Xavier asked quietly.
“No. Nothing is OK!” Lana managed to get out through her tears.
Xavier knelt down in front of her. “What happened?”
I put my arms around her shoulders, but she jerked away. “William was attacked.”
I looked at her in astonishment while Xavier jumped to his feet. “What? When? Is he OK?”
Lana shuddered but said nothing. “I have to see him,” Xavier said before running out.
“Xavier! Wait! He’s at the hospital,” Lana shouted after Xavier. He nodded but didn’t turn around.
I gave Lana a tissue and asked her to tell me everything. “I don’t know what happened exactly. William went out and awhile later, we got a call from the hospital and they told us that he had been attacked. A lady found him on the side of the road.”
Mom brought Lana a glass of water and said softly, “Oh dear, that’s horrible.”
Lana nodded, and gulped down the water. “He’s badly injured. There was a lot of blood. I went to the clinic, and Alexia, he looked horrible! Who could have done something like that?” Lana put her head in her hands and started crying again.
Mrs. Colleway and my mom decided to go to the hospital to be there for Lana’s mom. After they left, Lana called Samantha. Lana was crying quietly but other than that, she was oddly quiet. We went to my room and settled down on the bed.
“Do you want to go to the hospital?”
Lana shook her head against my pillow. “No. I can’t see him like this, Alexia. I know my mom needs me, but I just can’t.”
“It’s OK, Lana. Don’t worry. He’s going to be fine.”
By the time Samantha arrived, Lana had cried herself to sleep. I quietly filled in Samantha on what had happened while we watched Lana sleep.
“Do you want something to eat?” Samantha shook her head and went to sit beside Lana.
“Shouldn’t we go to the hospital?” Samantha asked.
I shrugged and looked at Lana. “Someone should stay with Lana. Let’s wait for her to wake up and we’ll go together.” Samantha nodded and laid down beside Lana.
Time passed, and it was close to noon. I went downstairs to get lunch, and when I got back to my room, Lana was awake.
“Hey, girl.” Lana’s face was swollen and red. “You should go wash your face. We need to go to the hospital now.”
Lana got up and went to the washroom. Samantha looked at me with a worried gaze. “She looks like hell.” I nodded and took a bite of my sandwich.
“Oh Alexia, how’s your brother?” I froze, and almost choked on my sandwich.
I tried to say something but the words wouldn’t come out.
“Alexia, what’s the matter?” Damn! I was gulping like a fish out of water. When I was finally able to speak, I assured her that my brother was going to be OK but I knew I was lying
“Let’s go.” I jumped out from my chair and turned around to see Lana leaning against the doorframe.
“Lana, you almost gave me a heart attack.” She gave me a weak smile then made her way downstairs.
“I need to check on Aric first. I’ll meet you guys downstairs,” I said to Samantha as she was almost out of the door.
I made my way to Aric’s, opened the door quietly and peeked inside. When I saw him sleeping, I closed the door softly and made my way downstairs.