*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*
The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.
Chapter 37, Part 2
A woman in isolation gear dragged us toward the room behind the nurses desk. She shoved us inside then closed the door. The tiny lounge contained a counter, a coffee pot, a microwave and a mini-fridge. Not tall, but imposing as hell, the woman blocked the only way out.
“I don’t know who you are.” I recognized the woman’s voice at once, and it made Karen take a sharp breath. “I don’t know what you two think you’re doing here. I don’t care. This is a quarantine zone. We don’t allow visitors, and we definitely don’t have time for the media or thrill seekers. You don’t belong here, and just so you know, I’m going to tell the CDC. So, congratulations, idiots. If you don’t get sick and die, you’re going to jail.”
Karen’s mother yanked the mask off Karen’s face, but her anger vanished when she saw her daughter. “Karen?” her mother said, leaning hard against the counter for support. Before Karen could say a word, her mother snatched her into a tight hug. “Oh, my god, Karen. Where have you been?”
I don’t know how Karen still had tears left, but her eyes began to shine. She wrapped her arms around her mom then buried her face in her shoulder.
Karen’s mother held her at arm’s length. “Remind me to kill you later. And not that I’m not thrilled to see you, but what in the hell are you doing here? Do you have any idea how dangerous this is? I know you had to have noticed the armed guards. Not to mention the giant signs all over the place that said ‘hospital employees only,’ right?”
Karen offered her mother a weak shrug.
“Are you trying to get sick like the rest of these people? We still don’t know how this thing is spreading, Karen.”
Karen almost rolled her eyes. “I know how it spreads, Mom. Trust me, I’m fine.” Before her mother could question her, Karen said, “Mom, is it true? Is Trevor here?”
Karen’s mother opened then closed her mouth. Her face pinched with sorrow as she looked away.
Karen’s voice tightened. “Is he still alive?”
Karen’s mother put her hands on Karen’s shoulders. “He’s not dead, but he’s in critical condition. His family paid to have him moved to one of the private rooms on five. They’re flying in a specialist that deals in this sort of lymphatic infection, but they don’t think he’s going to make it in time.”
Karen blinked and her eyes spilled over. “How long?”
Karen’s mother’s tone was gentle. “The doctors think that he’ll probably pass some time tonight.”
Karen took a deep, shuddering breath. “Look, I know he probably doesn’t want to see me, but—”
Karen’s mother frowned. “Why wouldn’t he want to see you?”
Karen blinked in shared confusion “Because…we broke up. Didn’t we?”
“When?” Karen’s mother said, then her eyes brightened with understanding. “Oh, I guess that’s the reason What’s-her-face took off a couple days ago.”
“What?” Karen was shocked and annoyed. “She—I mean, I took off a couple days ago? Did you call the police?”
Karen’s mother looked as though she didn’t want to answer. “No,” she said at last. “I was afraid they’d bring her back.”
Karen reeled. “Wow. Really? You haven’t seen me in two days, and you didn’t tell anyone because you were afraid I would come back. Well, don’t worry. You’ll never have to see me again.”
Karen’s mother held out her arm when Karen began to step past her. “It’s not like that. I don’t know who, or what, that girl was that I brought home from the hospital. All I know is that it wasn’t my daughter. She looked like you. She sounded like you, but she was a stranger. Things that she should’ve known, about you, about us, she just didn’t. The doctor told me the sepsis might have given you brain damage, but I knew she was an imposter. I thought I was going crazy, but here you are.”
Karen looked at me. I made an I-told-you-so face behind my mask, and she rolled her eyes.
Karen’s mother wasn’t finished. “She was off the charts creepy. Like, you don’t even know. I would wake up in the middle of the night and she’d be standing at the foot of my bed. Poor Scotty was so scared of her that I sent him to his grandmother’s house.”
Karen covered her mouth. “Did she do something to the baby?” The fact that Karen still called her eight-year-old brother ‘the baby’ told me everything I needed to know about their relationship.
Karen’s mother shook her head. “He swears that she didn’t. Believe me, I’ve asked.”
Her hands over her heart, Karen closed her eyes. “Thank the gods.”
Karen’s mother’s attention shifted to me, then her eyes narrowed. “Hello,” she said, anything but friendly.
I was grateful for the mask that covered the lower half of my face. “Hi?”
She stared at me, as though waiting for something. When I failed to deliver, she said, “And you are?”
Yes, ma’am, I’m a vampire in a hospital. Please, feel free to call security to come up here and shoot me in the face. “Um…”
“Mom, you said that Trevor was on the fifth floor?”
Karen’s attempt to redirect her mother’s attention half-worked. The woman continued to stare me down as she said, “Yes. Room five-oh-five.”
“Can you take us to him?” Karen said.
Karen’s mother looked at her in shock. “Us? As in, the both of you?”
Karen’s anxiety grew. “Mom, please, before it’s too late.”
I could see the emotions playing across Karen’s mother’s face. In her mind, it was already too late. However, if she refused to take Karen to Trevor’s bedside, Karen will never see him alive again. Karen’s mother sighed as she said, “Fine. Follow me. But, be prepared, Karen. He doesn’t look good. He’s very, very sick.”
Karen urged her mother toward the door. “Then we need to hurry.”
The three of us walked down the hall, then waited for the elevator in silence. I could feel Karen’s mother sizing me up out of the corner of her eye. The tension in the air thickened, until the doors finally opened and the three of us walked inside. Karen moved closer to her mom, hugging herself as though her body couldn’t hold heat. Without exchanging a word, Karen’s mother put her arms around Karen’s shoulders.
“Have you seen him?” Karen said, as though she’d finally worked up the nerve to ask.
Karen’s mother’s face was solemn. “Yes. I went up to see how he was doing during my last break.”
Karen looked at her mother, her eyes pleading. “How bad does he look?”
Karen’s mother’s brow furrowed and her eyes began to glisten.
Karen swallowed hard, as though she would be sick again. “I don’t know what I’m going to do if he dies, Mom.”
Karen’s mother hugged her tighter, her cheek pressed against Karen’s hair. “I know, sweetie. They don’t make them better than Trevor.”
I felt like a huge third wheel as I waited for the elevator doors to open again. They did, then I followed a step or two behind Karen and her mother. I saw two nurses at the other end of the hall, speaking to a doctor in hushed tones. I guess the rest of the hospital staff was downstairs trying to stay ahead of the plague.
Every room had glass walls and airtight doors protected by pin-pad locks. The rooms were bigger than those I’d seen on the other floors, and the medical equipment looked almost futuristic. Apparently, this was where the patients with money got to die.
Karen and her mother stood outside of Trevor’s room, and I hung back to give them some privacy. Karen stared at the young man on the bed, who was struggling to breathe despite the oxygen mask over his face. The lights over his bed make the small, white blisters that covered his body glow.
Karen pressed her hand against the glass. “I can’t believe his mother isn’t in there.”
Karen’s mother made a sound under her breath. “It’s not because she didn’t want to be in there, trust me. Donna threw a fit when they told her she couldn’t be in the room with him. She swore she would sign whatever release they put in front of her, but the administration wouldn’t budge. Trevor’s father said they plan to lawyer up.” She turned her head to look at me, then her eyes hardened again. “So, are you going to tell me who you are?”
Fuck. I’d kind of hoped she’d forgotten about me. “Sorry. I’m Toby.”
“I don’t think Karen’s ever mentioned you, Toby. Do you go to school with her?”
“No. You’re far too old for that, aren’t you? So, how old are you, exactly?”
“Um. You say that a lot. So, where has my daughter been for the last few months, and how are you involved?”
I raised my hands. “I had nothing to do with that.” I almost added that I’d been in jail all that time, but caught myself.
“I see. In that case, do I have you to thank for bringing her home?”
I said nothing. It was too soon to think of Karen as being ‘home.’
Karen’s mother took a step closer, staring at my face. I realized too late what she had fixated on when she said, “You have yellow eyes.” Before I could think of a response, she yanked my mask down then gasped. I watched the blood drain from her face as she said, “I do know you. You’re that vampire that’s been on the news. The one that killed his ex-girlfriend.”
We heard a click and the whoosh of rushing air. Karen’s mother turned, then her face became the epitome of horror. Her daughter had just walked into the quarantined room.
I hurried around Karen’s mother to slip in behind Karen before the door closed. As Karen rounded the foot of the bed, the security camera in the corner exploded in a shower of sparks. Bits of glass and plastic rained onto the floor as the overhead lights began to flicker.
Karen’s mother yanked on the door handle, her voice muffled by the glass. “Karen, what are you doing? Get out of there!” She stabbed the security code into the pin pad, but the door refused to budge. “Karen, he’s in isolation. He’s contagious!” She beat on the glass when Karen picked up Trevor’s limp hand. “Karen, what are you doing?”
Karen looked at her mother at last. “Mom, I love you, and I’m so sorry.”
“Why would you do this, Karen?” her mother said between sobs. “I just got you back.”
Karen shook her head, and I could tell that there was some sort of disconnect going on. I don’t know if she was even aware of the phenomena happening around her. Maybe the stress of the situation and the horrors of the day had caused her to crack. Maybe Khalid hadn’t stolen her powers, rather just buried them. Whatever the truth, those powers were leaking out. “I’m so sorry, Mom. I’m going to be fine, but there’s no way I can make you understand. So, I need you to go to sleep.”
A wave of energy burst out of Karen. It sapped all of the strength from my limbs as it rolled over me. I caught myself on the wall, but Karen’s mother’s eyes rolled back in her head. She fell in a heavy heap, and I heard the clunk of her head hitting the floor. My dizziness was slow to pass, like the last sickening stage of an all-night drunk.
Karen took a shuddering breath. “Is she okay?”
“She’s fine.” I shook my head to clear the cobwebs. “I can see her breathing.”
“Is she bleeding?”
I shrugged. “I don’t see any blood.”
“Can’t you smell it?” she said, as though I just was being difficult.
“How the fuck would I smell it? This room is airtight. It’s just you, me, and the microbes now. Shit, Karen, incoming.”
The two nurses and the doctor were running toward Karen’s mother. When they came within a few feet, the three of them collapsed as well. I backed away from the door to the foot of Trevor’s bed, and my own dizziness passed.
“Huh. Interesting,” I said. “Check to see if you’ve gotten your powers back.”
Karen nodded. “Hark me now, hear my command, undead creature close at hand. Heed the power inherent in me. Your flesh, your blood, your bones now freeze.” We stared at each other. “Anything?”
“No, sorry.” Khalid must’ve suppressed her deliberate powers, but couldn’t touch her subconscious will. Too bad for him, because that was where the true power of a witch lies.
Trevor didn’t look any better up close. The stench of his infection made me long for the smell of disinfectant. The flesh on his neck and wrists had swollen, darkening to a deep, ugly purple. The heat of his fever radiated like a furnace.
The ugly rash on Trevor’s face didn’t stop Karen from touching his cheek. “Trevor? Can you hear me?”
It was too late. Trevor’s blood smelled like a septic tank. Even if I blood-mugged him right that second and filtered every last drop, it wouldn’t do any good. We would both die. “Karen…”
Karen gave me a tight nod of understanding then held Trevor’s hand to her heart. To her dying fiancée, she said, “Please, believe me when I tell you that I am so sorry. I’m sorrier than you can ever possibly imagine. I’m sorry for everything I did. I’m sorry for everything I said. I’m sorry for leaving you without a word. You deserved so much better than that. You deserve better than me.” She closed her eyes, then the air thickened again. The monitors began to wave and flicker as Karen said, “I take it back. I take it all back. Please.”
I sensed eyes upon us. Since the camera was broken, and everyone that got close to the room passed out, that left only the wall mirror. My hackles rose as I walked over to it. “Look, Khalid, this is kind of a private moment,” I said, my breath fogging the glass. “I’m going to need you to fuck the fuck off.” My fist slammed into the mirror, and a spider web pattern of cracks spread to every corner. “Suck it hard, you piece of shit, Infernal fuck.”
I don’t think Karen was aware of what I’d done, or even that I was still there. Her lips fluttered as she whispered, “Anything. I’ll do anything. I’ll give anything. Name it, and it’s done. Please, just bring him back.”
She didn’t see Trevor’s eyes crack open. “Karen?” he said, and she gasped. His voice sounded like sandpaper against a cinder block. “Is that you?”
Karen laughed, tears streaming down her face. “Yes. Yes, it’s me, baby. I’m here.”
Trevor blinked as though it took every ounce of his strength to reopen his eyes. “Am I dead?”
Karen shook her head. “No. No, you’re not dead. And you’re not going to die.”
Trevor’s lungs wheezed as he took another labored breath. “My head is killing me.”
Karen nodded as she placed her hand on his forehead. This seemed to bring him a little relief. I guess she had enough necromancy left to stop his pain.
“I’m glad you’re here,” he said. “I thought I’d never see you again.”
Karen winced with guilt. “I know. I’m here now.”
Trevor stretched out his fingers to stroke Karen’s chin. “I’ve missed you so much.”
“I know, and I’ve missed you too.” Karen leaned over so that her face was very close to his, and I felt my skin crawl. Not for the obvious reason, though there was that, too. She was definitely going to catch this shit. I’d have to blood-mug her the second we left the hospital. “You were always so sweet to me. You can’t possibly know how much that meant.”
Trevor’s eyes fluttered. “I’m sorry for the way I ended things.”
Karen shook her head. “No. Don’t be sorry. You have nothing to apologize for. You did the right thing. All I want, all I’ve ever wanted, is for you to be happy. You deserve that. You’re the best person I know. That’s why I need you to fight.”
I could barely hear Trevor as he said, “There is no happiness without you.”
“You’re wrong.” Karen’s tone brooked no argument. “You have to live. You have to fight, for all the people that love you.”
It was clear that, for Trevor, very breath was more painful than the last. “I’m so tired.”
Karen released Trevor’s hand so she could place hers on his chest, anchoring him to this world. “I know, but you can’t give up. Because…because there’s someone else that loves you.” She shut her eyes, then her voice took on that magical resonance. “I’ve seen her, Trevor, and she’s amazing.” Karen’s influence swirled through the room like a lazy whirlpool. It moved the window blinds and ruffled the chart on Trevor’s bedside table. “I’ve seen her in my dreams. She’s beautiful. More than that, she’s smart and funny. She’s like the sweetest person that ever lived. Do you see her? Do you see the three children you’ll have together?”
Trevor frowned. “Yes,” he said, as though he didn’t want to admit it.
“She can give you the life, the future, that you’ve always wanted, Trevor. The whole package; family, kids, house. The comfortable life that I know you’ve always envisioned for the two of us. She will make you the foundation of her entire world. She will love you and support you, and make it her mission in life to see all your dreams come true. She’s perfect, Trevor. She’s wonderful. You need to be there for her.”
There was a heartbeat of silence, then Trevor said, “No.”
Karen blinked, shoved out of her trance. “What?”
I know Trevor would’ve pushed her hands away if he’d had the strength. “No. She’s not you.”
Karen shifted from foot to foot. “Trevor, please. Come on.”
“A life without you, any life, would be empty. I don’t want it.”
Karen pressed down harder to keep him from slipping away. “No, Trevor, you can’t give up. There are so many people that care about you. You can’t leave them.”
“Will you be there?”
Karen hesitated, which was the worst thing she could’ve possibly done. Trevor’s heart monitor began to skip beats, then panic spiked in Karen blood. “I promise, before long, you won’t even miss me.”
I had to give Trevor credit; he was too smart to be fooled. He turned his face away as he appeared to melt into the mattress.
Karen clutched his hospital gown, but Trevor’s dissolving soul was slipping through her fingers like water. “Trevor, please. I’m begging you, don’t do this to me. I don’t want to live in a world without you.”
I didn’t love hearing that, but I watched and said nothing. My only place there was to carry her out after he was gone.
Trevor took a halting breath, and Karen flipped out. “Trevor, no! Don’t do this. Don’t you dare fucking die on me!”
Even for me, this was too painful to watch. I stepped forward to put my hands on Karen’s shoulders. “Karen, come on. There’s nothing more you can do. You don’t have to be here for the end.”
I don’t think she even heard me. “All right,” Karen said, not speaking to me, or Trevor, or anyone else in the room. “If that’s the way it has to be, then so be it.” She dropped to her knees so that she and Trevor were eye level, then said, “Listen to me. Trevor, look at me.”
This was a command, and somehow, Trevor obeyed.
“You win,” she said. “You can’t live without me? Then you’ll never have to.”
I realized too late what was happening. I don’t know if I was too shocked to intervene, or if some outside force held my tongue. Karen kept talking, and I was forced to bear witness.
“From this day forward, and for as long as you want me, I am yours.” Tears rolled down Karen’s cheeks as she spoke through clenched teeth. “Love will bind us. Whatever trials and hardships that are to come, we will endure them together. So, you can’t die. You can’t leave me here alone. You have to fight. Come back, Trevor.”
Trevor’s heart stopped for one…two…goddamn it, three seconds. Karen and I jerked, startled, when the monitor gave a loud beep, then restarted in a slow, steady rhythm. Trevor took a deep breath, as though coming up from underwater. His lungs sounded rough, but were already improving. In just a few seconds, his oxygen levels climbed from eighty-one to ninety-seven percent. Sweat began to pour from his skin, then Karen burst into tears.
I pulled Karen to her feet, then lifted her into my arms. She was inconsolable as I carried her from her husband’s bedside.