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Chapter 35

Chapter 35: Ethan

I lie face down on the examination table. Face looking through the face rest to the floor as I have numerous times before. My heart beats a little faster as my nerves start to get the best of me.

I hear Thomas walk close.

“So…fair warning…I’m going to need to keep you awake for this,”

“Please tell me you’re joking,”

“Afraid not, Ethan. It’s technically brain surgery and while those don’t always require the patient awake, I need real time responses from you. I’ll be sure to numb you enough so that you don’t feel much of anything as I go in,”

“Well…I don’t see much other choice in the matter. Do what you have to do,” I say, my heart jumping up another few beats.

I hear the lab door open, two sets of footsteps walking in.

“Are we prepped?” Lauren asks as she walks to the opposite side of the table as Thomas.

I see Elena’s face peek beneath the table causing me to smile.

“You didn’t think I would miss this, did you?” she says, returning a smile of her own.

“I’m happy to have you here,” I respond as she stands up.

“Everything is good to go. You know this procedure as well as myself. Do you want primary, or assisting?” Thomas asks Lauren.

I hear a light tapping of Lauren’s foot as she thinks, stopping as she comes to a decision.

“I think it best you be primary. It’s your procedure. You deserve the credit,”

“Suit yourself,” Thomas says casually.

I hear the sound of metal on metal.

“Alright…you’re going to feel a few pinches,” he says before the feeling he described hits me.

I feel an instant numbing effect starts to radiate through the back of my neck.

“We’re going to give it a few minutes and then we’ll begin,” Lauren explains.

I don’t respond. I try my best to focus on the floor as my nervousness grows. I feel my mind begin to disassociate with the situation. My sight narrows and it seems as if my mind is going far away as my body stays in place.

Sounds become muffled in my ears as Thomas and Lauren move around the operating table. I hear the muffled sound of Thomas’s voice. I force myself to come back in.

“Did you hear me, Ethan? I’m going to restrain you to prevent sudden movements. One wrong jerk to one side and it could severely damage you,”

“Y—yeah. That’s fine,” I say as I feel the first strap wrap around my wrist and pulled tight.

I feel the same thing repeated over the rest of my limbs and across my back. I take notice of the numbing agent, which has now traveled as far as the back of my head and the bottom area of my neck before reaching my shoulders.

“Alright Ethan, we’re going to begin,” Thomas says as I feel something against my skin.

It drags down. There’s no pain. My eyes dart around, watering a bit from the anxiety.

It’s then that I see her.

She slides into my vision beneath the table. My eyes grow wide as I resist the urge to start shaking.

Those black eyes staring into mine. That wicked smile revealing razor teeth. That green, scaled skin.

“Hi, Ethan. It’s been a while,” she says cheerfully.

I can’t bring myself to respond.

“Its okay. You don’t have to say anything. I’ll do all the talking,”

“Who…who are you?” I ask with a shaky voice.

She giggles “I was wondering when you would finally ask that,” she says as her appearance fades to that of a normal child.

The way Katie looked when I last saw her.

“A thousand generations. Ages of DNA and genetic traits passed from blood to blood…parent to child. All so that you were born to be in this moment. Here. With me. I have existed before the brown in your eyes. The smoothness of your hair. The pigment of your skin,” she reaches a hand up, brushing her fingers across my cheek “I have so waited for someone like you, Ethan. Someone who’s mind is like my own. Who knows their pain and embraces it,”

I see a longing in her eyes as she speaks to me. Everything going on seems to fade away in that moment.

Thomas’s operation on me becomes numb as this mysterious thing speaks to me. I feel no pain, no pressure. I’m so lost in what is happening I can’t tell if it’s simply the parasite crafting a new set of emotions for me or if the supernatural forces surrounding this infection are finally coming to a head.

I squeeze my eyes shut tightly “This isn’t real…this isn’t real…this…isn’t…real,” I say to myself.

There’s a silence.

I open my eyes. The room has returned to normal.

“Gotcha!” the little one exclaims as she jumps back into view, startling me.

She laughs “I’m sorry. Did I scare you? I just couldn’t resist,” Her face changes to an expression more serious than before “I told you, Ethan. We’re going to have so much fun together,” she says as reaches up, wrapping her arms around me, hugging me.

The most uncomfortable energy I’ve ever felt worms through me. It’s nigh unbearable. My mind decides it’s had enough and begins to panic.

“G—get me out of here! Let me off this damn table!”

“Ethan, you have to clam down. We’re at a critical point in the operation,” Lauren states.

“I don’t care! Get me out of here!” I scream as I feel the rage surfacing.

The little girl releases me, watching me as I start to lose control, smiling wide in amusement.

As the aggression seeps into me my strength grows, allowing me to break my arm restraints.

“Jesus! Ethan! If you don’t gain control, I’ll end up paralyzing you!” Thomas exclaims.

The little girl giggles again “I wonder how much you’ll enjoy tearing your lover’s heart from her chest. It’ll be intoxicating to watch the light fade from her eyes,”

“Shut up! Get away from me!” I demand as I continue to struggle.

“You have to do something Thomas, the incision is beginning to heal,” Lauren points out.

My vision begins to go red. It’s then that Elena’s face cuts through the fury, making the little girl’s illusion dissipate. I feel her place a hand on either side of my head.

“Listen to me, Ethan. Everything is alright. Whatever you think is happening isn’t real. Just look at me. It’s just us right now. Just us,” she says, her icy blue eyes glistening with tears.

Hearing her voice seems to place a wall between the anger and myself. I fight against my own mind to hold it back.

“Do you have it?” Lauren asks Thomas.

“Yes,” he says, clear distress in his voice.

“Then commit,”

I feel a sudden pressure on the back of my head, followed by a swift jerk. There’s an instant release, an exhaustion following soon after causing my body to go limp.

Elena smiles, the tears now trickling down her face.

“It’s over Ethan. You can rest now,” she says to me before placing a light kiss on my lips.

“Don’t think this is over. Just because it’s gone doesn’t mean I am. I have your scent now. I will follow it to the ends of the universe,” the faintest of whispers speaks giving a foreboding that I don’t care to acknowledge.

My tired body finally gives way, allowing me to fall into a slumber deeper than I have felt in a long time.

My eyelids flutter as I struggle to open them. I look around, noticing I’m in a medical room, assumedly one of the adjacent rooms to the operating area in which the surgery took place.

I slowly sit up, feeling the grogginess weigh on me. There’s stiffness aching through my back. I flex my neck, a raw pain stabbing at me. I reach a hand back, feeling the soft material of a bandage.

The door opens. I see Lauren enter as she flips over some documents on a clipboard. She stops as her peripheral vision catches me, causing her attention to fully turn to me.

“You’re awake,” she says, mild surprise in her tone.

I nod.

She sets her clipboard down and walks the room to me, removing her stethoscope from around her neck. She places it in her ears and begins to examine me instinctively. She places the stethoscope in a few places, then removes them from her ears.

“You sound good. Thomas did well,”

“I feel like I got beat in the back with a metal pipe,” I reply, expressing my pain.

“That’s normal. Between removing the parasite and giving you a spinal fluid transfusion, it was a lot of tampering with those areas of your body. We used skin weld on your neck to try and relieve some of that but there’s still some healing to be done. You should be alright in no time,”

“How long? We don’t have much time before that horde comes,”

Lauren stares at me a moment, almost studying me. She then walks to a cabinet at the far end of the room and takes something out of it. She holds her hand out after coming back to me.

“Take no more than two of these at a time. It should dull the pain enough to function properly,”

I take the medication from her, shaking the bottle slightly as I stare though the transparent green plastic.

“Not the response I expected,” I say, taking my focus off the bottle and back on to Lauren.

“I’ve seen that same look before. And if you’re anything like Dante, you aren’t going to change your mind. So, I may as well assist you where I can instead of attempting to stop you,”

I work myself into a standing position, taking a moment to gain my sense of balance.

“Thank you, Lauren,”

She motions her head “Your clothes are over there,” she says before taking her leave.

I get dressed as quickly as possible. Making my way to the security center immediately after. The room stops and stares as I step inside.

“You’re awake?” Elena says, setting a box down on one of the tables.

Dante walks up to me, patting my shoulder “How you feeling?”

“Better than I have a in a long time,” I say, allowing a confident smirk to grow at the corner of my mouth.

“Good to have you back,” he says with a smile.

“How long do we have until they show up? I’m ready to get this done,”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea, Ethan? You just had major surgery,” Elena asks, concern in her voice as she walks closer.

“I’m fine, Elena. I promise,”

a rifle suddenly flies through the air, causing me to reactively grab it.

Damien joins Elena and Dante, holding a rifle of his own “Let’s see if you can still shoot worth a damn without your mutant powers,”

I rack a round into the chamber, feeling a rush of endorphins I haven’t experienced in a long time. The same kind I would get just before a mission. I’ve missed this feeling.

I sit in a dark corner of one of the adjacent rooms to the barricade that was set up earlier. Subtle light creeps through the window that allows me a vantage point.

I finish up my makeshift engraving on my rifle. I blow the residual metal dust off and trace my fingers across the rough etching Jaeger.

There’s a distant bellowing.

I stand up, moving to the door, opening it. I lean out, listening closer. I look across the hallway, noticing Damien readying his firearm from another room like mine.

He looks at me, giving me a nod. I return to my original position, lifting Elena’s door switch from the ground. My mind can’t help but flash to her in the moment. I know she wanted to be here. But she’s safer where she is. I’m going to make sure these things never even have a chance of putting her in danger.

I place the barrel of my rifle on the window sill to steady it. I hold the door switch up, high enough so that the glow of the red button can be seen by Damien as well.

The rumbling grows louder and louder until the walls start to shake. The window rattles in my ears. My heart begins to race, sweat saturating my brow.

Like a tidal wave, a mass of flesh and claws barrels passed us and through the doorway.

I take a breathe in “Red light,” I say as I depress the switch, dropping the massive quarantine door down on top of a section of them.

The door closing is such a sudden stop that the front section of the creatures smash into it, creating a pile of dead bodies layered in front of the door.

Damien and I don’t hesitate. We open fire upon them, creating a wide cross-fire. The hallway becomes painted crimson as our rounds tears through the massive group.

The creatures seem to panic as they attempt to escape the thing that is killing them. They scatter in any direction they can, running into the numerous barricades that have been placed.

I cease fire as I see the small light of Damien’s detonator being held in the air. I duck down, placing a hand on the ear closest to the blast.

There’s a series of beeps followed a sequential set of explosions, the concussion is powerful enough to shatter the window entirely, dropping glass on top of me. Dust and smoke float through the window, abstracting the light shining through.

Dead silence falls over the area.

I stand up, looking through the now open space where the window once was. I focus hard, attempting to discern anything in all of the still settling dust. My heart continues to pound in my ears as I await any response from the emptiness.

As I start to allow myself to relax one leaps through the smoke, barely giving me the time to avoid it’s talon as it soars through the window, bouncing off the wall after falling through the desk, crushing a row of file cabinets in the process.

I raise my rifle, taking aim. The creature stands up, squaring off with me. It charges me with a roar. I fire a few shots into it before it reaches me, knocking me aside, sending my firearm into a random direction. My back smashes against a horizontal beam connected to the ceiling. The beam stops my momentum , causing me to fall on my face flat, bouncing my face off the floor.

I feel the blood pool in my mouth, coating my taste with metallic. The back of my head delivers an extra rush of pain, rendering the painkillers nearly useless.

I struggle to my feet, yanking my knife from it’s sheathe, facing off against the monster again. I spit out the blood in my mouth, doubling my focus on it.

It creeps closer, suddenly going into another charge. I stand my ground as it grows closer. I allow it crash into me, ensuring I dodge passed its large talons.

I use the creatures own momentum to plunge my blade into its chest. It let’s out a pained screech as it continues to push me backwards.

I slam into the back wall, pain shoots through my back. The collision causes me to releases my grip on the knife, leaving it stuck in the creature’s chest.

I reach for the blade. It knocks my arm away with the blunt end of it’s talon. I try again, this time stopped by the creature piercing my shoulder with it’s claw. I cry out as the pain shocks through my shoulder. My left hand trembles from the agony.

I see it’s other bladed arm line up with my face. My heart stops in its chest. The creature thrusts the claw forward.

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