“Are you sure?” Jude asked.
“Yeah. It says here your accident was the same day as mine, same time even,” I said flipping through the papers. “It also has a copy of the police report where it describes my dad’s car. I can’t believe this.”
“Wow,” Jude breathed, sinking down beside me, “Now what?”
I looked back up at him with a wide grin, “Now let’s get you back in your body.”
“We can do that?”
“We can try. Couldn’t hurt right?”
“No I guess not,” he said hesitantly, rising up to float over his body.
The closer he got to his body, the darker the room got. The walls started to shake, the windows began to rattle, just like before at my house. Jude hesitated, pulling back like he had been burned. He looked at me and gasped.
“No…” Jude cried out.
“Hold it! Don’t even think about trying that,” screeched a familiar, shrill voice from behind me.
“Nyx?” I asked whipping around, not entirely surprised that she had found us.
“Get away from the body!”
“But, it’s my body.”
“Yeah,” I exclaimed, “How else is he going to wake up?”
“Easy. He’s not supposed to wake up. His soul belongs to me,” she boomed, tapping her staff onto the linoleum floor, causing the stone on top to glow.
“Why not?” He asked, narrowing his eyes at her.
“Like I said, you are mine. Now get in the Soul Stone,” she said, nodding her head at her glorified walking stick.
Jude seemed torn, looking back and forth from her to his body to me. He reached for his hand and the walls started to shake as a bright silver glow formed between his hand and his body.
“No! Stop. You’ll ruin everything. Get in the staff. Now!”
“Don’t you take souls only once the body is dead? Isn’t that what reapers do?” I said motioning towards Jude, “He’s clearly not dead.”
“Not yet, but I need his soul. It’s the only way to rectify the situation, to restore balance to the universe once more. Get in,” she raised both eyebrows, moving swiftly towards him.
Jude shook his head, “Why? I don’t understand.”
Nyx growled at him, baring her teeth, “I made a mistake, if you must know. I need to fix it.”
“What mistake?” Jude questioned.
“Get in the stone!” She shrieked, her face flaming red and her eyes matching.
“Noooooo!” Jude shouted back, causing medical equipment to fly in the air, “What mistake? I have a right to know.”
Her eyes widened as she watched the whirlwind forming around them, “You shouldn’t be able to do that yet. You shouldn’t be able to fight back.”
“What do you mean?” I yelled against the wind.
She turned to me, then back to Jude, “Fine! I’ll tell you. If only to hurry this along.”
Jude sank back down, letting everything float back to its previous resting place, “Go ahead. I’m listening.”
Her nostrils flared, but she swallowed her anger, “I caused the wrong accident. It should have been at the next intersection.”
“You caused the accident?” I said, my jaw dropping to the floor.
“Yes. Deaths are planned out. The time, the place, it’s all prearranged. We know exactly who’s going to die and when,” she said. “I was supposed to make two cars crash and take the soul, but I’m new and I got confused.”
“You’re new?” I asked and she nodded.
“Yes!” she shouted, “I’m new okay?
“How’s this my problem?” Jude asked.
She grunted. “Because the other soul has moved to Alaska, gone, out of my jurisdiction.” She paused a moment, licking her lips, “I let the soul get away. I have to make it right.”
“Can’t someone in Alaska take care of it?” I asked, Jude nodded in agreement. It sounded simple enough to us.
Nyx looked down, her face forlorn, “No. My boss, well my dad really, doesn’t know. He said if I screwed this up that he would annihilate me. Literally. I would cease to exist.”
“That’s messed up,” Jude stated, “Your dad’s a jerk.”
“Yeah. So you see why I need your soul? To replace the one lost,” she stated, standing taller, “Get in. Now.”
“No! Jude. You can’t go with her,” I pleaded.
“You must,” she ground out through her teeth, “Otherwise there will be dire consequences.”
“I won’t,” he said with a smirk, “That’s not my problem.”
“You’ll pay if you don’t. I’ll be forced to take someone else,” she grimaced as if the thought repulsed her.
A loud beeping noise interrupted us, causing me to whip my head around to Jude’s body as it flatlined.
Nyx threw her head back and cackled like one of those cartoon movie villains, “It’s too late.”
Someone pounded on the door, the doctor, “Let me in. Code blue, code blue. The door is stuck!”
“They’ll never get in and you’re too late. Your soul belongs to me!” Nyx yelled, “Now, get. In. The. Stone!
“No! Jude,” I screamed, reaching for him as he got pulled towards Nyx’s staff, shimmering as he started to fade.
“No. No it can’t be too late!” He yelled, fighting the current of her staff’s power, grabbing onto both of his feet and crawling on top of his body even as the staff’s glow tried to suck him in.
“You’re wasting your time!” Nyx said, smirking, “It’s over.”
“What’s going on in there?” the staff yelled as they banged on the door, desperately trying to get in, “Break the door down!”
“It’s not over until I say it’s over,” Jude cried out, grabbing onto his body and immersing himself completely.
“No!” Nyx screamed as the dark shadows dragging her away by her feet. She tried to claw her way back, bursting into flames and exploding into fiery embers that shimmered away.
I stood there open mouthed as his body started to glow while they merged. “Jude,” I whispered, dropping my arms as tears filled my eyes while I waited.
His body started to shake violently, trying to reject his spirit, but he clung on for dear life. Something kept getting slammed into the door as the staff tried to get in. The doors finally bursting open and the room swarmed with nurses, the doctor and who I assumed was Jude’s parents.
“We’re losing him,” a nurse said as the doctor asked for the defibrillator. He warmed it up when it was given to him, rubbing the paddles together and proceeded to shock him.
“No,” I sobbed, my heart feeling like it was being ripped from my chest, as I sank into a chair, covering my face with my hands. I couldn’t believe that I was going to lose him. Why wasn’t it working?
“He’s seizing!” Cried the doctor, requesting something from the previous nurse that I didn’t understand.
The last shock sent him crashing back into the bed, his body bowing up off the mattress. Everyone stopped what they were doing to stare at the monitors, one nurse with her finger on his neck. I held my breath, waiting.
“Come on, come on,” the doctor muttered, full of hope.
The monitor started to beep more rhythmically as his heartbeat resumed and I breathed a sigh of relief. The tears fell down my cheeks, now from happiness. The nurses cheered and the doctor smiled, pulling Jude’s eyelids up to check the pupils.
“Dilation is normal, his rhythm is even doctor. He’s going to be okay,” the nurse said with a curt nod in my direction.
“I think you’re right. Keep an eye on him, monitor his progress. All we need now is for him to wake up,” he told the nurse, then leaned down to whisper in Jude’s ear, “We thought we lost you there. You gave us quite a scare.”
“His finger twitched, look,” I said, jumping up from my seat and pointing.
“That’s a typical reflexive twitch, nothing to get your hopes up about, son,” the doctor said with a small smile. “He’s still in a coma and we don’t know how long it will take him to come out of it. Sorry, son.”
“Oh,” I said in disappointment as he clapped me on the shoulder before heading towards the door.
“Wait. He’s right. He’s waking up,” Jude’s mom, I think, rushed over to Jude, taking his hand in hers, “Jude, honey. Can you hear me?”
His eyelids fluttered and he groaned, blinking as he tried to focus on her face, his voice hoarse when he spoke, “Mom?”
“Oh my Jude. You’re in the hospital honey, but you’re going to be just fine, okay?” she said, petting his hair as her eyes brimmed over with tears that spilled down her cheeks.
He groaned, “Water please.”
I grabbed the water cup next to me and brought it to him slowly, smiling, “Here you go.”
“Thanks,” he said, taking a long swig before setting the drink down as he stared at me in confusion. He continued to stare as the doctor did a quick examination and gave the nurses quick instructions.
“How do you know my son?” Jude’s dad finally asked, hugging his wife to him with a proud smile, as he eyed me with speculation.
“We just met, not too long ago,” I said in a whisper, not taking my eyes off of him.
“Oh you must go to Chilton with him,” his mom smiled at me, “Bless you for coming. What’s your name?”
“Kai,” I said, not knowing what they were talking about.
“I’m going to go make a phone call, sweetheart, I’ll be right back,” his mom said, walking out with his dad holding hands.
“Wow. You gave us quite a scare,” the doctor repeated. “We’ll track your vitals, do some tests and things to make sure you’re going to be alright, but everything looks good. I’ll be back in an hour to check on you. It’s good to have you back.”
The nurses smiled and left with him, leaving me alone with Jude, I suddenly felt shy, “Hi.”
“Hi,” he said, staring at me with an odd expression, “I dreamed of you, Kai. I feel like I know you. I can’t...remember…”
“Oh,” I sighed, my face falling with disappointment. He didn’t remember me.
“Were we dating?” He screwed up his face, thinking hard, “The dream doesn’t make sense, but it feels so real.”
“Not exactly,” I chuckled, not sure if I should say anything more, but really wanting to.
“Knock, knock,” Preston said, walking inside with a big grin as soon as he saw Jude sitting up in bed, “Wow. We really did it. Sup, bro?”
“Whoa. I feel like I’m having deja vu or something,” Jude said, shutting his eyes tight and then covering them with both hands.
“What’s going on?” Preston said, his eyebrows furrowed and his smiled fading fast.
“He doesn’t remember,” I said quietly, my chin trembling with the effort not to cry.
“Whoa, seriously? Dude you okay?”
I shrugged, “I guess. I’ll be fine.”
“I know you too, don’t I?” Jude asked loudly, his eyes going wide, “Was there a girl too?”
“Yeah, Kayla,” Preston said with a grin.
“Shoot! Kayla!” I winced, “We totally bailed on her. Crap. And Delia.”
“Eh,” Preston waved a hand, “They’re probably still asleep.”
“Delia?” Jude looked at us as if he was seeing...well, a ghost, “It wasn’t a dream, was it?”
I bit my lip and shook my head, “No. It wasn’t.”
“The reaper? That means she was real too?”
“Yeah bro,” Preston nodded, smiling big, “You got it. So, you do remember.”
He narrowed his eyes at Preston, “Do I like you?”
“Nope,” Preston said with a chuckle, “Hopefully that will change though.”
“This is too weird,” Jude sighed, “Please go.”
My mouth opened, “What?”
“Go,” he said more forcefully, his expression pained, “This is too much right now. Just go.”
We both nodded, exiting out the door we entered from. As we left the hospital, I started to sniffle, wiping tears away on my hoodie sleeve.
“Bro, don’t cry.”
“Let’s just get home,” I said as we left the hospital, me walking as fast as my legs could carry me, and Preston struggling to keep up.
I spent the rest of the evening and all the next day, curled on the couch staring mindlessly at whatever television show or movie Preston picked out. I couldn’t eat. I tried to sleep, but when I slipped under, I had nightmares about losing Jude. I kept seeing his face as he rejected me, telling me to leave. He looked so hurt, so confused. I didn’t know if I would ever see him again.
“Dude, it’s your mom,” Preston said, tapping my shoulder to hand me my phone.
“I don’t want to talk to anyone,” I mumbled.
“She keeps calling, pick it up.”
“Fine,” I grumbled, grabbing my phone, “Hello?”
“Kai sweetie, are you sitting down?” spoke my mom’s tearful voice.
“Yes, why? What’s wrong? Are you okay?” I said, biting back a sob as I remembered what Nyx had said about restoring the balance.
“It’s your dad. I’m afraid he’s...he’s gone, Kai,” she sobbed into the phone.
“No. What happened?” I said sitting up on the edge of the couch.
“He had a seizure from electric shock, is what the coroner said. He was dead before he made it to the hospital. They don’t know what caused it. It was all really sudden and out of the blue,” she said, sniffling, sounding mystified.
She talked some more, but I tuned her out. I hung up when she said she would be home soon. I lowered my head and cradled it in my hands, depression sneaking in. It was bad enough that Jude wanted nothing to do with me after everything we went through, but now my dad was gone too.
“Kai. You gonna be okay?” Preston whispered, rubbing my back.
“My dad is gone. Jude is gone. What’s the point anymore?” I said, my voice thick with tears that I refused to let fall.
Preston hugged me but said nothing, getting up from his position only once the doorbell rang.
“He’s in there,” I heard him say to someone, hearing him whisper something else, but not being able to make it out.
I didn’t move, I shut my eyes, wanting to shut out the world. Not caring who it was. My world felt bleak and worthless. I wanted to wallow in it. Someone sat next to me and wrapped their arms around me. I opened my eyes, expecting my mom only to find Jude’s sweet face in front of mine, his eyes full of sadness and regret.
“I’m so sorry,” he said, brushing my hair back from my face and kissing my forehead.
I looked at Preston and he nodded and went to the guest room, leaving us in the living room alone. I stared at Jude in disbelief, my heart pounding as he leaned in to give me my first real kiss. It was amazing and made my whole body warm. When he pulled back we rested our foreheads together.
“Preston told me. I guess Nyx was right. Balance had to be restored. Are you okay?” he said, cupping my face in his.
“Yeah, I am now,” I said, laying my head in his lap and snuggling close, “Don’t ever leave me again.”
He chuckled, petting my hair gently, “I wouldn’t dream of it.”
“I love you,” I whispered.
“I love you too.”