Flame and Shadow

By Joshua Carr All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Other

Chapter 40

Silently, I walked through the hospital, carrying a large glass container. I had a long walk to gather my thoughts. Upon reaching Bindmont, I had first gone to the pawn shop owned by Mr. Safford, and sold Tsalderek’s motorcycle. Before parting with it, I had found a small package in a bag within a side compartment. Upon opening it, I discovered that it contained a device. It was a prototype of the Survivortex 3000, which had some of the same tools as the 2000, but was wrist-mounted. It seemed like a good idea to keep this item, and only sell the bike. You never know when such a gadget could be useful.

With a supply of money in hand, I next went to the thrift store, and found another pair of colorful socks. They were black with purple polka dots. I paid for them, and headed for Yoder’s pets. Without any hesitation, I strode directly to Mr. Yoder (stepping over ol’ George this time), and told him exactly what I wanted to purchase. Shortly thereafter, I walked the several miles to the hospital, lugging my new acquisitions.

Once I reached the hospital, I realized that I had no idea where Dani’s room was. The last time I left, she was still in the emergency care area. Still carrying the giant glass tank, I approached the information desk.

“Excuse me, I’m looking for a Miss Danica Blaine. Can you tell me where her room is?”

The chubby blonde woman behind the desk gave me a queer, slightly disapproving look, most likely due to my combat uniform and bizarre cargo. I probably should have bought some different clothing at the thrift store.

“Um…hold on a sec.” The woman took a quick look through her computer, then addressed me. “Miss Blaine is in room 257. Go up the elevator, turn right, and go down to the end.”

I nodded thanks, and directed my path toward the elevator.

“Um, sir? I don’t think Miss Blaine’s taking visitor’s right now.” She called after me.

I ignored her, and got in the elevator. It only took a minute for me to find the room. Without knocking, I gently pushed open the door a crack. Peering in, I confirmed that she was laying in the bed. Then, I softly entered. I placed the glass terrarium on a desk nearby, and sat on the yielding mattress. After remaining motionless for a few seconds, I finally got up the courage to look over my beloved.

She was asleep, or unconscious, I’m not sure which. Her face appeared serene and peaceful. All of the pain and trauma she had been through could not erase her natural beauty. There was a hose running to her nose to supply oxygen, and an Intra-Venous tube connecting to her arm. It wasn’t the best of situations, but she was alive. That was the important thing. It was then that I noticed the IV was not actually delivering anything to her body, but instead was dripping onto the floor. My heart flipped, and I immediately reinserted it into her arm.

Who had done that? Had Hanson found her, and tried to kill her? Or maybe Razo’s minion who had delivered me the gun and positioning device. My anger was stoked, but it swiftly faded when I saw Dani stirring. Then, her eyes opened slightly, and she saw me sitting on the bed. At the glimpse of bright blue that I could see through the narrowly opened slits of her eyes, all of my rehearsed words were blown away like a stack of papers when a door is thrown open.

“Hey.”

Was all I could think of to say, again. My heart beat faster, and I didn’t know what to do, so I tried my best to remain calm and not express my inner turmoil.

She didn’t respond, instead closing her eyes and turning her head.

I thought about asking if she was OK, but that would be adding insult to injury. Obviously, she wasn’t OK. Rather than saying something which would probably be stupid, I leaned forward, and stroked her forehead.

“Are you OK?”

DAMNIT!! I didn’t mean to say that! It just slipped out! I apologized profusely in my head, but still tried not to show my emotions too much.

“Don’t look at me.” She cried, pulling away from my touch. “Please, just go.”

I leaned back to my original position, and silence settled into the room once more. I struggled to think of something to say. There was nothing I could do for her physical condition, but maybe I could help with her emotional condition.

“Dani, look.” I pointed to the terrarium that I had placed on the desk. “I brought you some company.”

She turned her head sluggishly to see what I was referring to. Her eyes brightened slightly. Using the money from pawning the motorcycle, I had bought a 29-gallon glass tank, and two geckos. I wasn’t certain what species they were, but I knew she’d love them.

“They’re…so cute.” She said weakly. “How did you…”

Quickly adding the rest of my gift, I held up the pair of long socks.

“I also got you a new pair of socks. I don’t think you have anything like this in your collection, right?”

Her eyes instantly saddened, and she slumped back into her pillow.

“I don’t think I’ll be needing those…”

Suddenly, I realized exactly what the extent of the disaster was.

I was sitting on the bed…where her legs should be.

“Oh, Dani. I-“ I began, but got no further.

The girl, bravely attempting not to cry, reached over and removed the IV drip from her right arm.

“Dani! No! What are you doing?!”

I dove across her to get the tube, but she attempted to resist me. I knew that it would be pointless to fight her on this. It’s impossible to make somebody want to live, when they don’t. Instead, I wrapped my arms around her shoulders, and pressed my forehead against hers.

She could no longer hold back tears, and began wailing miserably. Then, so did I. We cried together for quite some time, pouring out everything that we’d been hiding for so long. Maybe I wasn’t 100% human, but I sure felt human. Our shared emotion lasted for a long time. I was able to put it under control before she did, but I made no effort to stop her. She had to get everything out. Her arms were still wrapped around me, and I stared into her face, our foreheads still touching, until she began to recover. Then, I flopped down in the bed beside her, and grabbed a hold of her hand.

The room was absolutely silent, the only sound that of her labored breathing, and the occasional drip of the IV fluid onto the floor. I didn’t rush her, and waited patiently for her to speak.

“You know…I don’t care about the socks, right?” She began.

“Of course.”

“I don’t even care about the pain. I can get through it.” The girl swallowed. “It’s just… I’ve always had something to live for. No matter how bad things got, I could always see something to be happy about in it. It’s because, I had you to look forward to. I could take anything life could give, because I knew that I would be happy with you one day. Even when you told me that we couldn’t be together, all I wanted was to do something to make you happy. That’s why I was trying to help you in the exam. I knew what was important to you, and I wanted to help you get it. But now…”

Silent tears began flowing again as she continued her lament.

“Now, it’s all gone. I can never walk again. I can never cook for you, or take a hike in the woods with you, or clean the house, or…do anything that a wife is supposed to do! I’d just be a burden for the rest of my life!”

“Dani…” I said slowly during her pause. “I don’t care if you can-“

She shook her head and interrupted me.

“That’s not everything. I’m shredded. My legs are the only things I lost, but I’m damaged all the way to my waist. I… M-Milo, we can never make love or have children. We can never have a family. I’m completely useless to you. JUST FORGET ABOUT ME! JUST LET…me…die…”

She began sobbing quietly. My heart was completely broken. How could this happen to someone so selfless and loving? Why?! I frantically tried to think of some words of comfort, but nothing came. I’ve never been good with words, and this was the most I had ever regretted that. I had to try, though.

“Dani…I…I don’t care about any of that. I love you, because you’re you.”

I rotated and positioned myself above her, kissing her lightly on the forehead.

“Even if you were nothing but a brain in a jar, I would still love you just as much. Even if you’re all I have, I’d be happy. I need you just as much as you need me. We’re in this together, for good.”

“You…(sniff)…you really mean that?”

I smiled.

“Every bit. You’re the one person in this world for me, Dani. And nothing can change that.”

“Milo…oh Milo!”

She threw her arms around me again, and cried, exhaustedly. After a moment, I pulled back, and put the IV tube back into her arm.

“Dani, there’s always something to live for. You knew that, you just forgot for a minute.”

She smiled, and lay back against the pillow. I settled in next to her, and we lay there, just looking at the ceiling.

We stayed in that position for hours. Sometimes silent, other times talking.

“Hey, Dani. Remember the time when we used clear packing tape to tape all of the toilets in the men’s restroom shut?”

She giggled.

“Yeah. Hanson was our first victim.”

“Ha ha! I don’t think I’d ever seen him so mad! Eventually, he ended up smashing a hole through the toilet seat, and crapping down that!”

“That was pretty awesome.”

A little later, I brought up another story.

“Oh, do you remember those deer that we saw on that one jog?”

“Which ones? We saw a ton of ’em.”

“You know, where they had their fawns right by the path?”

“Oh yeah! The little babies were so cute! I don’t think they had ever seen people before, ’cause they didn’t run away.”

I remained by her side the entire night. Sleep wasn’t steady, but we did both sleep some. When the nurse came in the following morning, she gasped.

“Sir. You cannot be in here. I have to ask you to-“

I gave her a glare of death, and she promptly shut up and left the room. Dani and I lay there together for several hours the following day, simply existing, almost oblivious to everything that had happened. Eventually, though, I knew I could remain no longer.

“Dani?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m sorry, but I have to go.”

“I know.”

I sat up with one hand propped on a raised knee, and looked at her. “There’s something I’ve gotta do, but I promise I’ll be back.”

She nodded silently, resigned to being abandoned. I leaned in and touched our foreheads together again.

“I’ll be thinking about you every day. I promise that I’ll be back for you.”

“I know you will.” She whispered. “Please, don’t try to get revenge for me. That won’t make anything better. It’ll just destroy you from the inside.”

I scowled slightly.

“I can’t promise that one.”

We shared a doleful kiss, then I stood up, and began to exit the room. Turning around, I addressed the two geckos in the terrarium.

“Curt! Nova! Make sure she stays safe. I mean it. I’ll be back!”

Then, I waved one last goodbye to Dani, and walked away.

I knew where I had to go. Where all Nephilim go. On the long walk there, I considered what I had to do. Tsalderek was a screwed up mess. It only existed to promote mistrust, selfish ambition, hatred, and destruction. Any peace formed by that organization leading the earth would be nothing but chaos. Since it was so wrong, maybe the exact opposite would be right. I decided to go to Nahalore.

I knew that the last time I was there, I had beaten a girl badly, and murdered her friend/lover. I wouldn’t blame them at all for executing me on the spot. But, maybe if I offered them everything I knew about Tsalderek, they would give me an acquittal. It was my only hope. Maybe the “Shadowy One” all along was supposed to eliminate Tsalderek’s madness, and bring peace that way.

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