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Kit Shannon

“And look to your left.”

I look to my left and in doing so, I feel the bones in my neck pop like bubble wrap. And when I look to the right, they do the same again. It’s an oddly satisfying feeling, causing a slight head rush that sends my knees to wobbling.

“Do you need to sit?”

I shake my head, instead, reaching out for the support of a nearby chair back, and close my eyes for a moment, centring myself.

“There’s nothing weak about resting. You’re allowed to rest. You were in the coma for -“

I wave a hand to shush them, opening my eyes, twisting my wrist to wiggle my fingers - an indication to continue our test. And we do. More looking here and there, stretching and moving, memory games and balancing acts. Dragged feet in the hallway indicate the slow rush for lunch as we finish up for the morning, and I slip on my hooded sweater, smiling politely.

“No, honestly, it's nothing. No need to thank me.” they joke, a standard routine, and I force a smile before stepping out into the slow-moving throng of rehabilitating patients on their way to the canteen.

Mayra catches up with me.

“How did it go?” she asks and is met with a shrug as I struggle to zip up my sweater. After a moment, Mayra pushes me out the way of the crowd to a standstill by the wall and reaches with delicate, thin fingers to connect the zip for me. Unlike with the doctor, I don’t feel the need to thank her. This is a near-daily routine for us, and any thank you would by now have lost its sincerity. Instead, I smile as I pull my hood over my head and she pulls at the cord until the lengths are symmetrical. We then rejoin the crowd.

“Better than last time, I'm sure. I wonder what they have on the menu today. Lasagna? Spaghetti? It smells meaty." she continues as we shuffle forward. Another routine, and one that I don't really understand in the same way as I do with the doctor. While I'm in here for my own reasons, Mayra has only one. She's anorexic. And every meal time, she goes through the same steps, contemplating the menu as we queue, filling her tray with food, finding 'her seat' at 'our table' to then move unchewed morsels around her plate until enough time has passed for her to politely excuse herself and dump the entire contents in the bin. I've never seen her eat. Not once. And though she never talks of the disease, I know it had power over her. And I know that every few days, she's hauled into the medical wing against her will and hooked up to bags of calorie-filled goo until her energy levels allow her to restart the same show again and again.

At least I plan on getting out of her. But Mayra and so many others in this place seem set on living out their days in this weirs suspended animation. The same routine day after day until they age and die.

Good luck to them, I say. But I won't meet my end in the place. I have more important things I need to do.

*

"But why are any of us here?" questions Jacob at the afternoon group theropy, and the mood of the room instantly drops. Trust this a-hole to always pull the breaks on the momentum. Doctor A sighs a little and places her clipboard on the floor before her feet. "While we always push for these sessions to be as open as possible, Jacob, we've had words about your intentions. And trying to upset others is not acceptable. Not here, not anywhere. Do you understand?"

Jacob sniggers, slipping further down on his chair and raises his hands in an exaggerated shrug. He then looks at me and narrows his eyes. "At least I talk..."

They let me out of solitary confinement the next morning, and Jacob remains in the medical wing for a further 12 hours while the swelling goes down around his broken nose.

**

"Do you feel you're making progress?" I'm asked, and I look up from picking at the dried skin around my fingernails to where round-rimmed glasses protect kind eyes that continue to watch me. I run my tongue lightly over my bottom lip and take a breath. A minute later, with no words yet to leave me, he sighs and removes the glasses, placing them on the surface of his desk while he rubs the bridge of his nose. "Medically... physically you're fine. But you know I can't let you leave unless you talk."

"But when I do talk..." I begin, and my voice is dry and broken. I swallow, letting out a breath, and start again. "When I do, none of you believe a word I say. So what's the point?"

There's a definite sense of relief on his face to the sound of my voice, but it's soon followed by a frown as my words conclude my thoughts.

"Well tell me...do you still believe that outside these walls, vampires are prowling the streets?"

I nod.

"And that your reason for existence is to hunt them? And, as you say, 'exterminate' them?"

"Slay them, yes."

He sighs once more, and I wonder how much the air about us must be moving with our joint exasperations.

"You were fortunate that the charges on your weren't more severe. That coming here was an option instead of incarceration."

"Well, you can't put a comatose body in jail, right?"

"No. But you can lock them up the moment they come to for assault with a deadly weapon. Even if that weapon is a stick."

"A stake."

"Please. Just...I want to help you. I do. I don't want you staying here when you don't need to. And I don't want to see you in jail. But I cannot, in good consciousness, let you leave this establishment if you openly intend to stalk and attack people. Do you understand? You're a smart...you've a masters degree, you had a good job. You had, no, you HAVE, everything going for you. And this obsession just doesn't make sense. Medically or otherwise. Every one of your supervisors sings your praises. You've made excellent progress in all your physical tests and, and look, I've been doing this for over forty years. And I have never had someone in this office who doesn't belong here. Not until you showed up. So tell me, please, what is it? This vampire thing. Is it government related? The Illuminati, maybe? Or drugs? Bathsalt conspiracies? Just give me something. Because this fascination - there is nothing to link to this. I know I'm going off book now, but you have to give me something. Because every single part of you checks out aside from this one fantasy you seem to refuse to let go of. And I can't help you, I can't let you leave until I know that you're not..."

I'd stopped paying attention by this point. The cold, winter evenings brought with them early darkness and though the clock on the wall read four thirty in the afternoon, the sun had already set behind the horizon outside the window. If I focused my eyes enough, I could see past my own reflection upon the surface of the glass and out to the grounds of the facility.

How many were out there right now? How many within a mile. Within five or ten? How many were in the closest town, stalking their latest victim? And here I was, unable to do a damn thing.

He calls my name and I turned back to look at him.

"Tell me what we do next," he asks, somewhat dejected. "How do I get you from in here to out there?"

With a sigh, I shrug, pulling at the cords of my sweater, and stand.

"You believe me."

***

"I believe you," whispers Mayra as she pulls the covers up over herself. I'm sat on my own bed, holding back the blind over my window to peer out into the darkness of the night.

"At least someone does," I reply, letting the blind go as I shift to get under my own covers, turning out my bedside light.

****

I'm woken up to whispers in the hallway outside our room. And a quick glance of the glowing hands of my wristwatch indicates the time to be five in the morning.

"At this point, I genuinely don't care." argues one voice. And as another begins to protest, I hear the door begin to open and quickly shut my eyes, feigning sleep.

"Come on." comes the same voice again, and I open my eyes, pretending to be sleepy. "Get your things. All of them. Quickly and quietly."

My things aren't many. I have no clothes save for the comfortable uniform of sweats I was given upon arrival. And the items on my bedside table belong to fellow inmates or the onsite library. And by the time we're out in the brightly-lit hallway, all I have on my person is a watch, grey sweatpants and my sweater. I carry sports shoes in my hands and focus all my attention on keeping up with the figure before me.

As we reach his office once more, he hurries for a key and unlocks it, advising me to wait outside for him. It's only then, as he's slipping into the darkness of the room, that I notice he's still in the suit he'd been wearing at our meeting, though now the legs are muddied, and dark, crisp stains of oil cover various patches of his jacket. And while I struggle to put on my shoes, the confused reality of the situation begins to make itself known to me. Enough so that, when he reappears, I question in a whisper what it is we're doing.

"Doctor Armitage..." he begins, a hand about my arm as he directs us both toward the common room.

"Doctor A?" I interrupt.

"Yes. Doctor Armitage has been...she was..." he stumbles over his words as he round a corner and walk through the open space, past sofas and screens and shelves full of board games. It smells clean. Chemically so. Much more so than it does when the residents frequent it. And I'm distracted by the thought until we reach the door to the visitors waiting room and we both stop.

He fumbles with more keys. And at close proximity to the man, I notice that the stains I'd originally assumed to be oil were in fact...

"Blood?" I stutter in a half-coughed whisper.

He grabs me again, pushing me through the door and out into the main entrance lobby before either of us say another word.

"There's a train at five fourty-five. Direct to London. I have money here for a ticket and I will drive you to the station. But we have to be quick and silent. And you have to hide in the back. At least until we're past the security gate. And I'm sorry," he stops as we reach a car I assume to be his, haphazardly parked at an angle outside the main entrance. "I'm sorry that none of us believed you."
December 30, 2018 06:59 pm
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