I can tell by the warmth on my face that it’s morning. Or daylight, at least. I try to snuggle deeper into my pillow but my body is screaming at me to wake up. Slowly, I lift my eyelids –
– and howl with injury as the sunlight scalds my eyeballs. I throw my arms over my head to protect my vision, twisting as I reach upward, and find myself rewarded with a hot knife blade of intense pain in my abdomen. I whimper and try not to move.
This must be Hell. I sniff, then sniff again. Hell smells like.. antiseptic? And bleach?
As my mind processes this bit of horrifying information, I hear a door open, and feel a slight breeze as someone enters.
“Ah, Layla,” the voice says cheerfully. “I see you have awakened. How do you feel?” I hear the click of an ink pen and groan. I’m in the crapping hospital.
I hate hospitals.
“Ugh.” I try to swallow and find that my throat is dangerously dry. I try to sit up, only to slump back onto the pillows. I feel weak, drained. And annoyed. I roll toward the perky brunette in pale blue scrubs and give her my most hateful glare, which probably isn’t all that hateful, seeing as how I can’t properly open my freaking eyes yet.
“You’re probably wondering exactly what’s going on,” she says, thinking that she’s reading my mind. “I’m Suzie,” she announces, pointing to a whiteish blob that I assume is her name tag, “and I’m your nurse today from now until four this afternoon.” She glances at the clipboard in her hand, flipping through pages of what I assume is my chart. With a sigh and my own two hands, I examine what I can feel of my body.
My left arm is wrapped tightly in white bandages, and there is an IV jammed into my right arm and taped into place. My nails are back to their usual length, as are my hair and teeth. Nothing seems to be broken, though I have a nagging feeling that I should know exactly why my lower belly feels like it’s on fire.
“Jackie,” I croak. “Old man. Bob.” My hoarse whisper becomes a growl as I remember what happened.. Wait. What exactly did happen? Oh, shit. My house! “My house!”
Suzie clucks sympathetically. “Says here that you and one other gent – er – lad – person were pulled from the rubble.”
My heart stops. Rubble? “Rubble?”
I see her brown ponytail bob up and down. “That was one nasty gas pipe explosion at your house. You’re very lucky to be alive, as is your companion. There was evidence of another person present, but the rescuers didn’t find a body or anything. Investigators have been by several times to see if you were awake. They have questions about …” She keeps talking, but I stop listening. Gas pipe explosion? Rubble? If my house is gone, does that mean I’m free?
I start to giggle and, within seconds, it morphs into loud guffaws that crack my throat and sting my belly. In a panic, most likely fearing that I am becoming hysterical, Suzie makes a grab for the emergency call button on the wall behind my bed, but a strong voice stops us both.
“I see I spent time bein’ concerned for nothin’ over this chile. You look fine to me.”
I squeak in delight. “Jackie!” I yell, squinting toward the doorway, but instantly feel my smile freeze, crack, and slide right off my face.
Jackie Black, glamorous, gum snapping, fast talking Queen of my heart (and liquor store clerks) looks.. subdued. There’s no glam, no fire, no umph. Her hair is scraped back off of her face into a severe braid. She wears no makeup, no silks, no nail polish. She looks.. great. Boring, but great, in a “I just left church and am going to feed the needy” kind of way.
I grope blindly for the nurse. “Suzie, doll,” I ask the space where she should be. “Tell me.. Did I suffer any blows to the head?”
A flipping of pages later, she says, “Nope, nothing listed here. Blood loss from a deep gash in your arm and an interesting burn on your lower abdomen.”
“Define ‘interesting’,” I request politely. I am deeply afraid of hearing what she has to say.
A pause, then she says, “We’ve never seen anything like it. The burn looks like writing in some sort of language, something we’ve never seen before. Oh, but I shouldn’t be telling you this. Luckily, we have an expert on this sort of thing.”
“Yes. Your friend – er, Jackie, is it? – mother -” I note the lack of a pronoun with an amused snort “-is an expert in ancient languages, and volunteered to take a look at your burn.”
“How long have I been out?” To Jackie, I add “There’s no sign of the old man?”
“Five days,” Suzie answers at the same time Jackie says “We’ll talk about this later.”
“My mom-” Jackie starts, but is interrupted by the arrival of another visitor.
“Ah, Suzie, Jack-” A sigh. “Jackie. Would you excuse us for a moment? I would like to examine our patient now that she has risen.” I feel a chill that does not come from the open door. That voice.. there’s something strangely familiar about that voice. I squint harder, trying to see if Jackie’s mom is someone I’ve seen before. I feel like I should know her.
“Of course, Dr. Khatamun. Um, Jackie, is it? Would you like some coffee while you wait?”
“I detest the stuff,” Jackie snorts. I can feel her watching me. “Layla, be strong. Please.” She follows Suzie the nurse out of my room, leaving me dumbfounded and apprehensive. I slip my right hand under the sheet and extend my claws, just in case.
The door closes and, quicker than I thought possible, Dr. Khatamun is leaning over me, her bright silver eyes blazing and –
I jab myself in the thigh, drawing blood and gather it into my palm, just the good doctor’s hands close around my neck.
“Give us our token of office,” she – they – demand.
“Mine!” I choke out. “And how do you know about it, anyway?”
“You sealed our brother, stole his token, and you must die. Hand it to us!”
“It’s not my fault he lost it!” This is apparently the wrong answer, because their thumbs press down on my neck, and I see black spots. I just woke up, and I have no plans to go back to sleep just yet. My weapon finishes forming, and I whip a red blade as long as my arm up toward my attacker. They loosen their grip enough for my to twist away and jump to the floor. I grab my IV pole and roll myself across the room, never taking my blurry eyes away from Jackie’s.. moms? I cough and shake my head.
“This is great,” I exclaim. “Wonderful. Peachy keen.” I slump into the lone chair in the room and wave my blade around to accentuate my words. “Here I am, minding my own business, when Life comes along and fucks with me. I may as well wear a sign that says ‘Here are my lemons. Feel free to spit in them!’ I was bartered away by my father, attacked by a psycho ghost god dude, and now I’m being hounded by you?” I scoff, only wishing that I could clearly see the expression on their face. “I hate you all!”
I hear footsteps, just a second before Jackie bursts into the room. “Layla! Mom!”
“Jackie,” I snarl. “Why didn’t you tell me that your mother was possessed by a psycho ghost god dude?” I wag my blade accusingly at her. “And what the hell is this on my belly? Have the words changed?”
Jackie – I think it’s Jackie – gasps in surprise. God Moms answers. “You have not seen?”
I snort and point. “Um, hello? Sleeping for five days after opening a vein and having a house fall on me here.”
God Moms chuckles and I decide that I hate that sound. “Our brother has marked you. Your womb is now ‘reserved’,” they tell me gleefully. “Now where is our staff?”
I disassemble my blade and attempt to coax the blood back into my veins. I want to laugh. Or cry. Or bang my head against a concrete wall while falling from a skyscraper.
“I hate everything,” I mutter to no one in particular.
Hope you enjoyed this one!