Chapter 3 - Cameron (Part 1)
A dull ache in the front of his head was the first thing Cameron felt when he stirred from his sleep. Cracking his eyes open, the blinding light had him quickly clamp them shut again with a groan.
“Cam? Cam? Oh, thank the Goddess, you’re awake.”
His mother’s voice was hushed, filled with relief as she squeezed his hand at his side.
He squinted up at her as his vision came into focus. Dark, heavy bags hung under her tired-looking honey-brown eyes brimming with moisture. Her entire face looked as though she hadn’t slept in days. Her cheeks sagged, her usually bright, sun-kissed features were blotchy and dull. She looked older, tired. Her long, dark brown hair had streaks of gray in it.
“Mom?” His voice was scratchy and raw. “What’s wrong?”
He looked around at his room—only things were off. It wasn’t quite the same. His wall posters were gone. The basketball hoop on the back of the door was gone. His bedding was different—a pale bland gray and navy blue blend. His bookshelf, desk, and personal items were all gone.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
She pulled his hand up to her lips and kissed the back of it before rubbing her cheek against it. “I’m so glad you’re awake. You’ve been...” She trailed off, swallowing hard. “You’ve been in a coma for five weeks.”
He stared at her like she’d gone crazy. “What?”
“Your skull was smashed against a rock... You bled heavily from a tear in your shoulder... We thought you were dead...”
She spoke so softly and slowly, he was surprised he almost didn’t hear her.
“What? How?” He tried to pull himself up into a sitting position but found he could barely lift his arms, never mind shift the position of his entire body. It was as if he were fighting against gravity; an enormous weight pressed down on him, making it almost impossible to move. Fear gripped him as he exhaled with exertion. “What the hell happened?”
More moisture pooled in her eyes as she caressed his cheek. “Honey, relax and take it easy. I told you. You’ve been in a coma for five weeks. You’ve lost most of your muscle mass as a result. But that’s okay—”
“It’s not okay!”
“It’s to be expected. I’m just thankful you’re still alive. We lost so many in the battle...”
Cameron’s head began to pound. What was she talking about? This had to be some kind of dream. A nightmare that disabled him from moving. “What battle?”
She tilted her head in puzzlement. “Don’t you remember?”
“Remember what? Mom, I don’t even remember hitting my head. And where’s all my stuff?”
She stared blankly at him for a moment before pulling out her phone and lifting it to her ear. “Hi, it’s Lara. Cam woke up. Can you come over and check him out? Thanks.” She hung up and stared at the phone in her hands. Before he could ask, she said, “I called the pack doctor. He’s on his way.”
“I’m dreaming, right?” he asked. “This is a dream and that’s why it feels like my arms are filled with lead.”
She shook her head slowly, sadness pulling once more on her tired face. “I’m afraid not. You really were in a coma for five weeks and almost died. Don’t you remember anything about the battle?”
“No, I don’t remember it.”
His bedroom door opened and his father slipped in. He looked like he had aged ten years. His salt and pepper colored hair was entirely gray now and pulled back in a traditional long braid. His weathered tanned face was clear of facial hair, showing deep grooves and lines of hardship and laughter. He had a new scar, a deep gash, across his face that was pink with new skin.
“Cameron,” he greeted in a rough, gravelly voice as he limped to the bed and placed his large callous hand on top of his head—his usual display of affection. “I’m pleased to see you awake at last. Your mother would not leave your bedside.”
He winced under the weight of his father’s hand. “Papa, what happened to you? To your leg?”
His father sat down at the end of Cameron’s bed. “The beast almost got the best of me but your mother ripped him off. He tore my leg up pretty bad. I’ll have a limp now for the rest of my life but I’m lucky to be alive.”
A proud and affectionate look was exchanged between Cameron’s parents before they turned their attention back to him.
“What is the last thing you remember?” his mother asked.
Cameron searched his mind, sifting through his memories for the most recent one. “Graduation. Yeah, I remember Andrew and I went to a bonfire to celebrate.”
That was right. He and his best friend graduated high school. In another two months, he would turn eighteen. A pup no more, but an adult male in the Zhooniyaa Miskwi Pack. He would begin his training as a pack warrior. He couldn’t wait to join the ranks, protect and defend his pack, make his parents proud, and find his soulmate.
His parents exchanged worried looks.
“You don’t remember turning eighteen?” his mother asked.
He looked between them. “No.”
His mother’s face paled as she lifted a hand to her mouth.
His father touched his leg. “Cameron, your twenty-second birthday was last week.”
Cameron’s breath caught in his throat before he uttered out a croaky, “What?”
There was a knock on the front door downstairs and his father got up to answer. His mother stayed at his bedside, holding his hand. He scrutinized his arm and the shape of his body under the blanket. He’d lost a lot of weight.
Fear engulfed him as reality sank in.
“There’s something else you should know, Cam,” his mother said in a soft voice as a faint murmur of voices were exchanged downstairs before two pairs of feet began their approach.
He looked at his mother and knew from the expression on her face that it was bad. “What is it?”
“Andrew died in the battle.”