“Right or Wrong Choices ...?
A New Path or a Precipice ...?
Eternally repeated Questions with no Answers.
A Flight to Hights Unimaginable or a Fall into the Abyss?"”
- The Prophet of Truth
The doctor’s ‘at any moment’, that had left her anxiously hanging by Selena’s bedside in hopes of finally seeing her open her eyes, stretched through the night and into daybreak, but didn’t arrive. The hours passed slowly as the monitor registered Selena’s heartbeat, and Sarah just sat there, unable to sleep or eat, practically unblinking. Doctors and nurses payed their visits regularly, to check on her vital signs. Sarah had only a faint idea of these moments, her attention completely focused on the young girl. All she knew was that thankfully everything was all right, although Selena had yet to give any hint that she’d wake up any time soon.
Her anxiety only increased when daybreak arrived, starting at the base of her stomach and propagating throughout her entire body like a disease, making it harder to breathe and leaving a bitter taste in her mouth. Her mind just wouldn’t stop creating dark scenarios. What if Selena would never wake up at all? She knew enough of Chemistry and Physiology not to be deceived by the over positive diagnosis the doctors insisted on giving her. She knew all too well that coma wasn’t all that unusual with patients exposed to large doses of CO2. And even if she did wake up … What if her brain had been somehow damaged?
Alexis returned to her side as soon as the sun started to set on the horizon. She had to almost kick him out of the room at daybreak. And yet she couldn’t deny that his silent presence offered her a comforting feeling of safety.
Aaran join them an hour later, and after verifying that nothing had changed, approached Alexis and they both exchanged a few whispered words in such a soft tone that Sarah could hardly hear, much less understand them.
She raised her head as she felt Alexis approach her. His inhumanly beautiful face was a perfect mirror of his emotions; concern and a slight annoyance. He wore black leather pants and a leather jacket that reached knee-length, the pointy lapel covering his broad shoulders showing the black cotton sweatshirt he wore beneath. Even with his hair tied up, and although his eyes looked almost human now, his appearance was intimidating and obviously … strange. Like a piece, that even when mixed with all the others, clearly belonged to a different puzzle. In contrast with all the aseptic whiteness surrounding them he could have easily incarnated the part of an angel of death.
“Something wrong?” Sarah asked apprehensively, and only then noticed how her own voice sounded tired and spent.
“Nothing much.” He averted his gaze, hesitantly. “Yesterday, as I left, I asked them not to disturb you with any phone calls, to avoid the press. Aaran went by the reception before coming here. It would seem that besides the expected calls from the reporters … John Donovan called you five times,” he declared with audible distaste. “I just thought you might want to know …”
“I already knew,” Sarah confirmed with a weak smile and her blood shot eyes fell on her cellphone, resting on the bedside table. “He insistently called my cell all day. He even came over to the hospital … but I didn’t grant him permission to visit us. I really don’t feel like having to face him right now …” she confessed with a trembling voice and Alexis nodded understandingly, the weight of her pain mixing with a deep feeling of relief at the knowledge she’d refused to see that Human. The mere thought that she might have spent the whole day in the company of another man, while he was forced to keep his distance, was enough to leave him irrationally crazy with anger.
Sarah gently rubbed her temples. The lack of sleep, the tiredness and stress, had completely destroyed her ability to shield her mind from all the emotions surrounding her. Her head was aching painfully. Everywhere around her there was only pain, and suffering, and concern, and sadness … Reason why she’d learned since a young age to avoid hospitals as much as possible.
The sound of a murmur left her immediately alert, and her anxious gaze fell on Selena’s face. With tears of relief blurring her sight, she watched as the young girl stirred and started to move, frowning as if something had disturbed her sleep. The long eyelashes that cast dark shadows over her pale cheeks trembled, and with a deep sigh that fogged the oxygen mask, Selena finally opened her eyes.
For an instant all that Sarah could do was stare in disbelief at her sister’s lost and confused expression, almost unable to believe that she was really awake. But, in the next second, a strong blinding pain shot across her brain almost as if someone had shot her in the head, stealing her breath away.
Selena’s expression changed completely, as memories of what had happened flooded her mind, and her scream of terror forced Sarah to hold her exploding head between her hands, as she fought to remain conscious.
“Selena! Everything’s fine!” she told her, trying to calm her down although she could hardly see beyond the pain, but Selena grew even more restless, threatening to tear the cables that connected her to the machine, the terror that consumed her making her unable to listen to anything. “Selena! Look at me! It’s me, Sarah!” she tried once more, the young girl’s despair starting to take over her as well, but Selena seem unable to see her, her mind locked in the horror she’d lived through, her green eyes wondering crazed all over the room, in a mix of madness and pure fear.
Sarah felt tears slide down her face and the sob that choked her made it impossible to utter any more words. Her mind was about to split. Fear, insecurity … absolute impotence and hopelessness, cold …
The arms that surrounded her pulled her away from Selena’s convulsing body, and as she stared at her sister’s terrified expression, Aaran placed a hand on her forehead and she went immediately still, her body falling limp on the bed, as she fell into another deep sleep.
“No! What have you done to her?” Sarah demanded, despairing at the sight of her unconscious again, and Aaran stepped back with slow movements.
“Nothing much. Just put her to sleep. The pain would end up consuming her,” he declared and Sarah tried to get rid of the arms still holding her and refusing to let go. The sobbing that shook her only made her headache even worse.
“What am I going to do …?” she asked under her breath, even though she expected no answer, and Aaran faced her with a grave expression.
“I can diminish the pain she now feels. Tone down the intensity of her memories,” he offered and it took some time until Sarah was able to grasp what he meant.
“Erase her memories?” she wondered, trembling uncontrollably, and Aaran shook his head.
“I can’t do that without risking compromising her sanity. The memories are too intense. All I can do is dilute their importance, make it as if they were ancient memories.”
Sarah wiped her tears nervously.
“From the accident as well?” she went on, sounding hopeful.
“No. We can only alter memories concerning our presence. The Law allows us to do so in order to erase any memories Humans might retain from our existence.”
“Do it!” she decided without a second thought.
“Are you sure? This is something that can never be undone. And it might be difficult hearing her speak of what happened with detachment or indifference.”
“I don’t care! I don’t want her to suffer any more. I can’t hear her .. scream like that again …” she added in a whisper, lowering her head ashamed of her own motives. Selfish.
Aaran approached the bedside once more and placed his hand over Selena’s forehead again. The silence that surrounded them left her even more aware of the pain that threatened to split her brain in two. A few minutes after Aaran stepped back and she knew it was done without him having to utter a single word.
The sound of running footsteps on the corridor made her shudder violently. The door to the neighboring room was opened with too much strength and Sarah heard as it hit the wall. Screams of despair and denial echoed everywhere. Her sight went suddenly dark and her head tumbled listless. More pain, more suffering. A life had just ended, and to those who’d stayed behind, all that was left was the deepest of hells.
“Alex! Take her away from here!”
The words were lost amidst the ghost-like echoes that surrounded her, leaving only pain in their wake. The world spun around her, making her feel sick and aching, as if her body was suddenly covered in sandpaper instead of the clothes she knew she wore. However, as reality slowly fell back into place, a cold fresh wind touched her wet face, stopping her descent into the darkness that awaited her.
Something warm slid softly down her right cheek and the strands of hair glued to her moist forehead were gently tucked back.
“Sarah? Sarah! Please, look at me!” That low warm voice flooded her brain. It wasn’t the first time she heard it … and it wasn’t the first time it begged her for something.
Unable to ignore his request, Sarah fought the weight of her own eyelids and opened her eyes. Eyes the color of storms looked back at her. Now that she saw them from so up close she was sure there were crystal fragments embedded on them since, even there, where there was no light, his eyes still shimmered.
“How are you feeling?” Suddenly dragged back to reality by his question Sarah blinked and tried to sit up. “Easy. Take it easy,” he pleaded, helping her, and only then she noticed they were both sitting on the floor; and that she was sitting between his legs, as if he’d carried her in his arms all the way out there and just decided to take a break.
“Where are we? Where’s Selena?” she asked, holding her head that still hurt, forcing her to postpone the idea of getting up.
“Selena is fine. She’ll sleep a bit more. Her brain needs time to adjust to the modifications,” he explained in a soft tone trying to reassure her. “You don’t have to worry. She’ll probably wake up again sometime tonight,” he added and Sarah looked around, trying to figure out where they were. It was outside, she easily concluded. The sky above their heads showed a dark night where only the brightest stars could be seen. The others, although present, had been devoured by the city lights that were strong enough to allow her to see shapes and even colors, even though there were no lamps where they sat. “We’re on the hospital’s terrace. I figured you’d want to stay as close to Selena as possible,” he informed, and with slow gestures pulled her hands away from her head, replacing them with his own, in a soft relaxing massage.
Sarah stared up at him in complete disbelief, for a moment, and wondered if he also had some strange healing power lingering on the tips of his fingers, since the pulsing pain torturing her brain gradually started to dwindle. It took all she had to force her rational mind to overpower the enchantment his glowing eyes were slowly casting on her.
“What are you doing?” she asked suspiciously and the sound of her own voice helped her reawaken her critical ability.
“I’m trying to help you get rid of your headache,” he simply replied leaving her even more confused. “I figure that’s the least I can do, since I’m partially to blame for it,” he added and Sarah frowned as her heartbeat became increasingly nervous.
“What are you talking about?”
“Aaran says you’re a true empath,” he went on, gently rubbing her temples. “So, I can only imagine how … unpleasant it must be, being close to me,” he told her and Sarah couldn’t help her expression of incredibility.
She was used to others figuring out her fear of being touched, but as far as she knew no one had ever noticed her empathic abilities. Especially since she’d always been extra careful to keep them hidden. It had been her inability to do so that, as a child, had led her to be committed into various psychiatric institutions, a lesson she’d learned all too well and that she didn’t wish to repeat.
“How did you know?” she asked, still perplexed, and Alexis smiled lightly.
“We know a lot about you,” he confessed and Sarah felt her heart jump anxiously.
“What do you mean?” she insisted in a more severe tone, holding his hands to prevent him from continuing his massage, and he looked at her, seeming confused by her clear and sudden change of mood.
“Hum, just a few things,” he declared, now carefully choosing his words, but Sarah squeezed his hands unwilling to let him escape without a proper answer.
He seemed to ponder for a few instants, as if looking for the best answer, and smiled again.
“I know you used to have a dog, when you were a child,” he finally replied, apparently happy with how harmless that small piece of information really was, until he noticed the way she trembled.
“How did you know about Ocean …?” she asked in a whisper that immediately erased his smile. “He died so long ago … Were you checking up on me?” she accused and he took a deep breath.
“You have to understand, Sarah. It’s nothing personal. But we have to know a bit more about those who come in contact with us,” he tried to explain in an appeasing tone, and she lowered her head, her brown hair hiding her face.
“Oh, I see. I guess that’s why you didn’t feel the need to erase my memories. After all, who would ever believe someone with my background, if I started babbling about a Race of beings from another dimension? Now I’m really wondering what would have happened if I’d taken one of those phone calls and told them exactly what happened last night …” she muttered, releasing him, and started to get up.
“It’s not like that!” he countered, grabbing her by a wrist, holding her in place, and she looked at him with tired and tearful eyes.
“And even knowing all you do, you’re still afraid? This is so stupid. They didn’t believe me even when I told them what they were feeling right to their faces. What makes you think they’d believe me now?”
Alexis frowned and pulled down, forcing her to sit again. The emotions he so carefully had tried to keep under control came alive in his chest, and he only noticed what he had done when she stared at him with a surprised and frightened expression.
“You’re wrong!” he declared, trying to justify his actions, but his voice sounded too loud, making her cringe. “You told me that it wasn’t fair that I could read your thoughts. That all I capture are mere fragments with no context. But you’re doing the same!” he went on, trying to control the anger boiling inside him and she sobbed, trying to make him release her hand, which irrationally made him hold her even harder. The awareness that his chaotic emotions could only hurt her further left him all the angrier. “How can you attach reasons to my emotions just like that? No one can control their feelings. And what we feel doesn’t define who we are!”
She kept trying to force him to release her and, as she concluded her efforts were pointless, she raised her head to face him.
“Alexis … please …” That plea, spoken by those trembling lips, mixed with the scent of fear, made him clench his teeth. Grabbing her other arm as well and ignoring her useless attempts to get free, he pressed her against the wall on his back and looked at her for an instant.
Sarah was trying her best to be brave and control her sobbing, although he could feel through the palms of his hands her whole body shaking, the soft skin of her cheeks constantly wet by tears. Too frail … he thought as he released her, hitting the wall at each side of her head, making her jump.
“Look at me!” he commanded in a roar that was immediately obeyed. Her tearful green eyes were all over the place, filled with fear, and with reason. Part of him wanted to tear her to pieces, the same way he’d wanted to do when he’d first met her. Because to the basic instinct that inhabited him that would be much easier, much less painful, than destroying himself instead. “You can feel what I’m feeling. So tell me what I’m about to do!”
Sarah swallowed hard. Although her rational mind kept insisting on that crazy idea that he’d sworn to protect her, everything in her screamed that she’d probably never been in so much danger near him as she was now. His storm-like eyes were gleaming incandescently, similar to those of a hungry wild beast about to attack. His emotions were all too intense, too chaotic, in a mix of feral anger, hate and longing for death. His expression, so calm just a few moments ago, had become a hard mask of rage and cruelty. Too scared to even try to escape him, Sarah cringed against the wall, closing her eyes as he leaned over her. Her mind was immediately filled with bloody images and with the memory of what she’d been through at the hands of others like him. Her heart almost stopped as she felt the warmth of his breath against her skin, and then …
Sarah opened her eyes in shocking disbelief and sat very still, not even daring to breathe. The lips that touched hers were warm and soft, and as he pulled back her brain could hardly form a single logical thought. Long fingers caressed her face, drying her tears away. The bright eyes that looked at her from between dark eyelashes were like incandescent silver flames, and only when he kissed her again was she finally able to react. Her heart jumped to a frenzy beat and her shaky hands tried to push him back to no avail. The hand holding her face made her tilt her head back and his lips pressed against hers harder, forcing them to part. He immediately invaded her, taking over her mouth, tasting her passionately. Sarah felt her head spin and her hands closed reflexively as she held on to his coat. The warmth of his body beneath the fabric made her shiver and her mind was invaded by the burning desire consuming him.
With a soft sigh he finally pulled back. His lips still lingered on hers, hesitating to cut all contact, until he finally released her from his touch.
Sarah felt as her cheeks caught on fire and glued the back of her hand to her tingling lips just to make sure they were still there. Her irregular breathing echoed all around them, and although she knew she was acting like some teenage girl, the truth was that no one had ever kissed her like that. Alexis gently caressed her hair and placed a light kiss on her aching temple, which disturbed her even more than the burning passion she’d felt from him just instants ago.
“I should leave you and let you get some rest. It seems that your headache won’t go away as long as I’m around,” he told her, back to his calm, composed tone, and as she didn’t answer and kept refusing to face him, he allowed his body to fuse with the shadows around them and disappeared.
His sudden absence left her breathless and Sarah raised her head, searching for him in every dark corner, until she realized what she was doing. Burying her head in her hands she forced herself to take a deep breath and calm down.
“I must be going crazy … Is either that or I’m the biggest idiot in the world!” she added, running her cold hands over her face as if that could help her wake up and bring her back to reality. The truth was that her lips still burned from his kiss, and there was a deep aching pain in her chest because he’d just left like that. With a sigh she leaned her head back and rubbed the arm he’d grabbed and that was still throbbing. “If the word man doesn’t mean anything to you anymore, the word not-Human should be more than enough! Stupid!”
With a new sigh she finally decided to get up, straightening her hair and crumpled clothes. As to be expected, the door leading back inside wasn’t that far from where she stood, and, rubbing her arms to keep the cold at bay, she went back inside wanting to return to Selena’s side.