Drained

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Jhaq returned not long after. She was carrying different glass jars with her, and in two was her little daughter. “Ray?”

She climbed onto the bed next to Daniel. “Should she be…” I asked Jhaq, but she ignored me.

“J- I shall remove the bandage,” she announced. “I…must clean it.” She was struggling not to speak in third person. I remembered that I had given her another book, another set of words for her to read, from my own shelf. I didn’t know what she would think of the Hunger Games, but the last time I asked Daniel, he said she was enjoying it. He had to stop her from reading them to Ray as a bedtime story though.

He looked so different then. Daniel was so full of life, it was hard to see how now, barely moving except when he was screaming or crying out.

I looked over at his goddaughter, with her little face screwed up in a frown. “Daniel,” she said. Just that single word; Daniel.

“Look away,” Jhaq told the both of us. She took off the bandage, revealing the inflamed skin underneath, and little bits of white that remained of his eye. Ray whimpered and Jhaq looked up exasperated. “Jhaq said, look away,” she scolded both of us. “Silly girls.”

“I’m fine,” I told her. “I want to help.”

“This is nothing,” she said.

“It’ll make me feel like I’m doing something,” I pointed out. “Please Jhaq.”

She shook her head, pouring a fluid onto a cloth. I knew the smell. “Tea tree oil?” I asked.

She looked up. “It’s a good antiseptic,” I said. “I use it sometimes.”

Jhaq nodded. “This will help Daniel fight off infection,” she told me, dabbing it on his broken eye.

I thought of something. “I’ll be back,” I told Jhaq, walking out of Daniel’s chambers, not entirely sure of where to go.

As I walked out, I came into the hallway to my bedroom though. “Wha-” I looked back, and Daniel’s room was there, not mine. I frowned. Was Daniel’s bedroom now part of my house?

At least it’s cleaner.

I went into the kitchen, and started boiling the kettle. “Do we have lemongrass?” I asked mum, scrambling for a tea bag.

Mum mumbled something in response, but I didn’t pay too much mind. Calling back a word of thanks, I grabbed a bottle of essential oil in the kitchen, and finished preparing my cup of tea.

Jhaq frowned as I walked in. “I need to clear the air,” I told her. “It’ll help me breathe. Him too.”

She hesitated, then nodded. “The scents will help Daniel breathe,” she told me. “Mayhaps calm Daniel.”

“Good.” She began to wrap a long strip of cloth around Daniel’s head, covering up the newly placed bandage. Once again, he was barely moving, and I had to feel his heartbeat myself before I could reassure myself that he was still alive.

Then the door opened and I sprang up, expecting my mother or brother. Instead, a young man with grey hair walked in, and looked at me. “You are the human girl?” he asked.

Well, that’s certainly better than freak. “Yes, that’s me,” I told him. Jhaq dropped in a deep curtsey on the ground, and he swept past her without a word.

Then he did something surprising. He knelt down in a bow before me. “My lady,” he spoke, rising up again. “I have heard much about you.”

Part of me is frozen in shock. “Then why on earth would you be bowing?”

He smiled at me wryly. “You’re still a lady,” he said. “And a strong one at that. You’ve terrified his Grace to no end.”

“As long as he’s not coming back,” I simply said. I didn’t trust myself to open up to this stranger, even though he seemed far different from everyone else.

Then he sighed. “I trust that you know what happened.” I nodded. “I’m sorry for what has happened to you both,” he said sorrowfully. “Neither of you deserved what happened.”

I frowned at the bitter tone in his voice. “Has something like this happened before?”

“No, but sooner or later it would’ve.” The doctor’s face is stony. “It’ll happen again as well.”

I don’t know what to say to this declaration. “I cannot control him,” I settled for saying. The doctor nodded.

Daniel yelled out and I turned back to him. I didn’t need to put my hand to his forehead to know that he had a fever, but I did anyway, and his eyes fluttered open, or at least the single one did. “I…”

“Daniel?”

He stares at me for a moment. “Cat Madigan,” he murmured, before his eye closed again.

I stayed by him. “What can be done?” I asked the doctor.

He then proceeded to relay to me a full description of how Daniel’s eye was sliced right down the middle, informing me of how the pupil was completely destroyed and how the rest of his eye would be removed as soon as his body was stabilised. By the end of it, I was feeling slightly ill.

“He is slowly coming out of shock,” the doctor told me. “But he’s got an infection, and he needs blood. My lady…” He inhaled. “You know as well as I do that our blood will not do the job.”

“Then use mine,” I told him.

“I’d have to get his permission,” he replied.

“He’s delirious, how can you get permission from him?”

“My lady, no offence…but using your blood may cause complications. You know why.”

“Oh.” Freak. “I know…but, where else can we get human blood?”

He shook his head. “His Grace told me himself that you are the one human besides Daniel in these grounds. But we don’t know the structure of your blood, it has been through many treatments now.”

I thought for a moment. “It’s…strange.”

“Believe me, I know.” The doctor smiles at me strangely. “I’ve heard of what’s happened. And I can see why you terrify the king, especially now.” He placed a hand on my shoulder. “It’s a frightening prospect; one who has suffered a million hells, and survives every one of them.”

“Not without scars.”

“That’s what makes you terrifying. Not the physical scars,” he added, “but all that suffering has made you strong as steel. You’re a girl forged by pain and rage, and you remember everything that’s ever happened to you. That’s why he’s afraid. He knows that you’ll get revenge, someday.”

I smiled up at him bitterly. “You make me sound like some warrior.”

“That’s what people consider you.”

“People?”

“Indeed.”

I suddenly felt uncomfortable. “Could I save Daniel with my blood? It’s closer than anything else available, and if it can bring me back to life, it can heal him.”

“If he accepts it. More precisely, if his body accepts it. That’s the main worry.”

“Is there a difference between injections and a transfusion?”

“Your blood is used to catering for your body. We don’t know how it’ll react to his. Best case scenario, he accepts it, and it heals his body without permanently impacting his system.”

“And then there’s an infinite amount of possibilities after that,” I concluded.

“Yes,” he said. “And there’s another issue.”

“What now?”

“A lot of blood is needed. He’s nearly comatose right now, but we’re not sure how much blood he’ll need. And we must think of your condition as well. If your bodies are like ours, then you won’t be able to reproduce enough blood to function, at least not in less than a day. You’d die from the blood loss.”

“…you forget who you’re talking to, sir.” Before he could interrupt me, I continued. “Take all the blood you can from me until I stop breathing. That’s how much you’d need for Daniel.”

He hesitated. “Resuscitate me if you want,” I told him. “But if you don’t, I’ll come back anyway.”

“My lady-”

“I’ve died from haemorrhaging more times than I am able to count, and I’m here to say this to you,” I said. “If there’s another option, think of one now.”

He thought for a moment before shaking his head in defeat. “I can’t,” he admitted. “He’s in no condition to consent,” he acknowledged. “But you do realise that this is a coin flip.”

“Of course I do.”
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The doctor lets me stay in Daniel’s room while this happens. Jhaq and Ray are asked to leave, but Ray refuses, and I don’t argue with her. “She can stay if she wants,” I say. “If her mother agrees,” I remedy, at the look on Jhaq’s face.

“You’ll come back,” Ray says firmly. She’s tiny, but she’s stubborn. I’ve forgotten how old she is.

“Of course. Think of a colour while I’m gone.”

“Why?”

“Just for a bit of fun.” Everything starts to go foggy once more. “How much has gone?” I asked the doctor.

“A litre,” he told me. “Shouldn’t be too much longer.”

“Doctor?”

He frowns at me. “What?”

“What’s your name?”

“I…” He looks away. “Noah.”

I smile. “I thought I knew you.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Him. He’s opening his eyes and looking over at me. “You’re going to live,” I said to him, as everything fades. “Stay alive for me.”

It’s like going asleep. “Promise me, Daniel.”

Strangers in Delirium

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I’m used to people shouting at me when I wake up.

Today, it was Daniel.

Everything was blurry when I opened my eyes. “Where am I Daniel?”

He didn’t say anything, but he held my hand reassuringly until my sight returned. My other senses returned, one by one. This is what I took in; the walls were made of stone, but they weren’t threatening like a prison cell. It was warm, and it smelt of pine; Daniel must’ve put pine nuts in the fire. This wasn’t a hard bench I lay on, instead, all I could feel was soft, smooth sheets.

Then I realised we weren’t alone.

I could feel the eyes on me, and I rolled over to see them. They all flinched when I looked at them. “Am I really that hideous?” I said dryly.

“Humans,” Daniel said, as if that explained everything.

I recognised the little girl peeping through the crowd. “I know her,” I whispered to Daniel. “Her name’s Ray, right?”

He nodded once, and in that moment, the girl dashed through the people to him. He picked her up and squeezed her quickly. “My goddaughter,” he told me, before popping her on the bed beside me.

“Hello…” Daniel, this is not a good idea, there is a difference from a child from Reality and a child from Delirium. I don’t want her to start screaming, I’m a freak as it is!

But, to my surprise, the girl smiled at me and sat next to me on Daniel’s bed. Her presence managed to calm me in front of all the nosy strangers; out of all of them, she was the most ‘human’ looking. It didn’t stop me from recoiling from the others.

Daniel, as if hearing my silent plea, spoke up. “She isn’t on show. Either state your business or leave.”

The majority left, though a couple had legitimate reasons to speak with Daniel. That didn’t stop them from taking a second glance at me anyway. While they spoke, I looked at Ray. She was barely three years old, from what I saw. Her hair was golden and silky looking, but it was her eyes that were the most comforting. They were plain, green, human eyes. Nothing more. She smelt of roses and cream, and when she hugged me, I didn’t resist. After they left, I asked Daniel why I was here.

“Why are you ever here?” was his response.

I just ignored him. We sat in silence for a while, until he just talked to himself. “Things are mad at the moment. The Highest wants a party, I’m sad to say. In times like this…”

I was silent. There’s a great deal that can be said in silence and stillness. It’s so unnatural, that people automatically know that there is something wrong. Daniel stopped and sat down next to me. “What happened?”

I shut my eyes.

“What,” he pronounced. “Happened.”

I made a little movement with my hand and he was quick to realise. “Who did it?” he demanded.

“They’re all shadows to me,” I said softly. I felt as if the warmth from the room had returned to the fire, leaving me in the cold.

Suddenly, Daniel snatched me up in his arms and held me close against him. “Daniel…” I objected.

“Why…” he was saying over and over. It was alarming, Daniel had never done that.

When he released me, the girl had vanished, and I felt exhausted. I lay down on the bed and told Daniel, “I don’t feel like going back to Reality yet. I just need to sleep.”

He nodded.

“But I can’t.”

“Nightmares?”

I nodded.

“They can’t get you here.”

“Because they’re afraid of you.”

“I won’t go.”

“Please don’t,” I tell him.

Daniel sat next to me; I’m now used to him being with me when I struggle sleeping. I closed my eyes. “Why?” he murmured again.

You should be teasing me. Why are you being kind? “Why?” I agreed.