Read Chapter 1 here
I fumbled through my brandless handbag clumsily with my good right arm and a cast left arm to find my identification card. The concrete papier-mache was really a nuisance and I couldn’t wait to get rid of it today.
“Would you like me to help?” the front desk nurse offered.
“Yeah. Please.” I slid my handbag off my shoulder and passed it to the nurse. It took her less than five seconds to find my purse and withdrew my identification card. I frowned at her disturbing efficiency. How many times had she done this?
“Rachel Rains.” she read from the ID and typed something into the computer. After a moment, she turned to me with a practiced smile and handed back me my ID. “Please take the elevator to 3rd floor. Follow the signs to orthopedic section.”
“Thanks.” I took the ID from her and threw it into my bag together with the purse.
As I walked to the bank of elevators, I received several glances from some people sitting by the waiting aisle. Couldn’t blame them though. If I saw someone walking like there’s a large piece of glass shoved right into her asshole, I would be glaring too, probably wondering what had gotten her to such a state. A misplaced dildo perhaps.
Apparently, a compound fracture took a long time to heal. Even after four months, it still hurt. Hence, my glass-in-ass gait. The doctor gave me a harness as well, to make sure everything was packaged tightly and reducing the risk of my hips breaking again.
Regardless, after the three month hospitalization and one month of staying in my house most of the time, I was not going to let a broken hip to stop me from going out all by myself to get some fresh air if I had the chance. Today was one such day and a very good day too. I was going to get rid of the casting on my left arm.
After going up to level three and weaved my way through several rushing doctors and meandering family members I reached the orthopedics department. I told the nurse my name. She nodded with a smile and told me to sit down while she called the doctor.
I sat on the chair and took out my phone. Sure enough, five missed calls from my mother, two from my best friend Katelyn which I presumed to have called me on behalf of my mother, and one single message that read ‘Call me back.’. I rolled my eyes and sighed resignedly as my thumb tapped on the ‘call’ icon. At the second tone of the call, a sharp piercing voice shot through the speaker threatened to shred my eardrum into tiny pieces.
“Where are you now?” my mom shouted.
“The hospital. I’ve told you many times mom, that I’m going alone.” I groaned at her over-reaction. Just because I almost died didn’t mean she should over-react every time she didn’t see me for an hour. I hated her constant bugging.
“Why? I told you to wait for me. Rache!” she retorted.
“But I don’t want you to skip your work out for me, mom. I’m twenty five. I can take care of this.”
“Your hips aren’t fully healed yet.” she reminded pointedly. “What if anything happened to you and no one is there for you?” Her voice broke at the end of her question.
“Nothing happens. Besides, I’m at the hospital now waiting for the doctor.”
There was a pause as she took a deep breath. “Fine, just call me when you are done.” she finally said.
“Okay. I will. Bye.”
“Take care. I love you. Bye.”
I killed the line and tossed my phone back into the bag. I let out a heavy sigh, feeling slightly guilty for not letting her follow me. I knew sometimes she could be a little annoying, especially the part where she started telling everyone she met how I ended with a braced hip and a cast arm like I was some sort of miracle news that deserved to be nationally televised. In fact, some news agency approached my mother while I was in the hospital, asking for an exclusive to cover my near death experience, which I of course vehemently rejected.
But that didn’t mean that I should come without her. I knew how protective a mother could be and eradicating the chance for her to show her protectiveness by preemptively coming to the hospital alone seemed to be slightly selfish.
Damn it. I didn’t even tell her back that I love her.
As I contemplated my actions, I began noticed a strange man staring at my direction. I turned around and saw an obese man sitting at the back with a pair of crutches at his side scratching his exposed belly. I turned back and watched his eyes. Say me narcissistic, but I didn’t think he was staring at the obese man. That dude had his underwear peaking out from his oversize pants.
After realizing that he was most probably staring at me, I lowered my head and suddenly took interest in scavenging my bag for coins, not that I needed them anyways. But it did give me the excuse not to look at him. He was weird and maintaining eye contact with him was almost impossible. It wasn’t just the out-of-place three piece suit he was wearing, there’s something about his face that didn’t really click. He looked like a wax person, expressionless, cold, and unreadable.
He did have good looks though. Neat cut, square jaw, blue eyes and sharp nose. Everything about him screamed sexy. Even under the excessive fabric, he still looked like an everyday-gym-day guy. I surreptitiously looked around, expecting to find a camera crew or photographers to take his picture. But there wasn’t any. He was just standing there, motionlessly staring at me like an unreadable hawk preparing to hoist its prey up into the air with its sharp claws.
I was briefly wondering what he would looked like under those clothes when the nurse came and asked me to follow her. Shredding the explicit thought in my head, I stood up and followed the nurse to a check-up room where an middle-age doctor was sitting on a black swivel chair.
The doctor did a routine check up on me and checked my braces to see if I was wearing it correctly. After satisfied with my health, he took out a cutting tool to open up my cast. He demonstrated to me that the tool used vibration rather than spinning and cutting like an actual saw.
As soon as he removed the cast, I experienced the best sensation ever. It’s like removing my bra at the end of the day multiplied by ten. Shortly after that was the worst cramp I ever felt. The doctor told me not to move my arm too recklessly as the months of immobility caused my muscles to atrophy and blood circulation diminish.
It took almost half an hour to get my arms completely free and another half an hour to clean off the months worth of dead skin on it. The doctor put my arm in a rudimentary sling before letting me out of the examination room. Since my insurance had my medical bills covered, I only had to sign a few documents and was allowed to go home.
As I was about to leave the orthopedics department for the last time, I turned around hoping to see the man again. To my disappointment, he wasn’t there anymore. He might be weird, but he’s a sight to see. Regardless, I called the elevator and rode it back to the lobby where I had came from.
The door was about to close when a hand darted between the narrowing gap. The abruptness of the hand gave me a light scare and when the door fully opened again, I was already pressing my back against the wall of the elevator.
Oh my God! It was him. The Weird Guy.
His eyes found me and stayed on me as the elevator began descending. I put my bag in front of me like a shield though I wasn’t sure if it would make any difference at all when the man was a head taller and probably eighty pound heavier than me.
“Can I help you?” I finally managed to ask.
“Yes.” he said with an stolid face, like those robotic toy that mimics one’s voice and repeating it in an ever rigid facial expression. “Can I smell you?”
“Uhmm…” I shimmied from the wall to the corner. My hand was already inside my bag, holding a bottle of pepper spray. He might be Mr. Hot, but he was scaring the crap out of me. “I don’t think so.”
“I just need to confirm something.” he walked a step closer and I quickly pulled out my mace and pointed it at him.
“I said no.” I raised my voice. I glanced at the floor display and was shocked to see that the elevator was only at second floor.
“Capsaicin.” he took another step forward.
“I’m warning you. I will spray.” My hand was already shaking in fear.
“It doesn’t work on me.” he took yet another step.
I instinctively pressed the flange and a stream of red liquid splashed on his face. Within the fraction of second, my head went into overdrive, formulating an escape plan. He would succumb to the agonizing pain in his eyes and when he was too busy getting the stuff off him, I would rush to the opposite corner. The elevator door would open a moment later and I could get out to get help from hospital security.
That was the plan. The only problem was he’s still standing with an unreadable face.
I was about to launch another volley at him when he caught my wrist and pinned it against the wall. My other arm was in no condition to exert any resistance. He held my shoulder firmly, trapping me to the corner of the elevator.
My jaw fell open as I watched the red substance vaporized from his face. I knew pepper sprays were made of volatile material but it was impossible to evaporate that quickly.
Keeping me still, he planted his face against my neck and took a deep whiff of my scent. I pushed against his heavy bulk as hard as I could but he simply wouldn’t budge. It was like pushing against a concrete slab. A very warm and sexy concrete slab.
“Stop!” I whimpered. My heart rabbited in my chest. My stomach cringed tightly in knots. I should feel fear. I should be terrified. But something different boiled within my blood. Something that damped my sex and the hardened my nipples.
I found you.
A shiver ran down my spine as the familiarity of the tone hit me like a fifty foot drop, no pun intended. The memory of my mangled body splayed in the dark sinkhole flashed in my head. The smell of blood, the taste of milk, the unforgettable pain, all rushed back to me like an avalanche.
The elevator door parted and he removed himself from me. Grabbing my wrist, he gently tugged me out of the elevator. In the moment, I was so bedazzled by the dejavu induced by his ‘voice’ that I could only watch his back while he dragged me away.
I took me quite a while to find you.
He was facing away from me but yet his voice was crystal clear, like he’s talking with his mouth near my ear. I sucked in a hard breath. Something like this had happened while I was in the sinkhole. I always thought that it was my brain that was playing tricks on me and gave no further thoughts on it during my recuperation days.
“Stop.” I finally managed to say, trying to twist my wrist out of his firm grip.
He let go of my wrist and turned around. His face remained the same as though every bit of his facial features had permanently stuck to a single expressionless mask.
“I don’t know you.” I said to him as I rubbed the soreness formed under his steely clutch.
But we are best friends. We’ve known each other for 5 hours 34 minutes and 23 seconds.
My eyes widened and my jaw dropped. Blood rushed from my face as an eerie realization dropped on top of my sanity. It’s like walking into a dark room with a face staring at you from out of the window kind of eeriness. Goosebumps dotted every inch of my skin.
His lips never moved.
“Please don’t be scared. I believe your species calls it telepathy.” he said with his lips this time.
Telepathy or not, my legs went into an instinctual autopilot mode and before I knew it, I skirted around him and ran towards the hospital exit. Not only was he immune to pepper spray, he’s also a creepy psychic. Could he be a ghost? Or even worse, was I at the verge of a schizophrenic breakdown and was now showing symptoms?
I needed to get away from the hospital. I tried to run as fast as my hip braces could allow. As I awkwardly limped out of the hospital and into the hot summer air of Ohio, I saw a few taxis parked at the designated zone. Cutting the line with a short apology, I slid into the cab and told the driver my address. I glanced toward the entrance of the hospital and saw him looking at me with those dead eyes as the driver pulled into the flowing traffic.
Am I going crazy?
No, Rache. You are not.
“Fuck!” I yelped.
As the taxi weaved itself into the mild afternoon traffic, I contemplated on the integrity of sanity. There’s only two reason why a hot man would be there in the hospital staring at me. One, he’s a psychopath using his good looks to lure me into his den where he could slowly torture and kill me. Two, he’s just a figment of my imagination stemming from the damaged part of my brain that the doctors might have missed during my stay in the hospital. With the immunity to pepper spray and the psychic ability he seemed to possess, the latter was most likely the case.
Now that I thought of it, I never actually told the doctors about my hallucination of silky skinned snake like creature wounding around my body when I was in that dark hole. The conversation I had with that creature, which I now had all the reason to believe it was just my imagination, should have been the red flag of my brain’s integrity. I should have told the doctors. They could have very well prevented further damage if not treat my brain injury when I was admitted into the hospital. I clawed both sets of fingers into my hair and let out a frustrated groan.
“Stupid. Stupid girl.” I hissed at myself.
“You alright?” the cabbie looked at me on the rear mirror.
“Yeah. Just found out that I may be crazy.” I sighed. “Do I look crazy to you?” I whipped my head towards him.
“Uhm…I…uh…don’t know.” he frowned.
The driver never struck up a conversation after that and the car fell into a silence that we were both comfortable with. When we finally reached the destination, I paid him the fare and exited the car. The taxi drove off as soon as I closed the door behind me. I took a deep breath and then did a three sixty view around the street. As I did, I silently chanted mantra that I wouldn’t see the Weird Guy hanging around. It would be disturbingly alarming if he’s near my apartment because first, he couldn’t have known my address and second, even if he did know my address, I was ahead of him. Unless of course I was going mental.
Fortunately, other than a couple of homeless men and the several pedestrians loitered the walkway, there was no sign of him. I let out a sigh of relief and went into my apartment building. I rode the elevator to the fifth floor which the unit my friend, Jody and I rented, was located. It wasn’t the classiest of loft but the rent was reasonable and near my work place.
Since today was a weekday, and it was only afternoon, I didn’t expect to see Jody in another couple of hours. When she’s back, I was going to ask her if she thought I was schizophrenic. We’d been staying for almost four years together now, she could probably sense it if there’s any difference with me. Jody instantly knew something was wrong when I broke up with Chester last year as soon as I walked into the apartment. I swore that girl had some serious sixth sense.
Once the elevator reached my floor, I held my breath and crossed my fingers, praying silently that when the door parted, he wasn’t right outside. And when the door did opened, I let out a shuddering sigh. He wasn’t there.
I was starting to get the idea that I might have been over reacting. Maybe that guy was really just a figment of my imagination and that it was only temporary. Perhaps when I took a hot bath everything would be fine again. No more hallucinations, no more Mr. Weird Guy.
I fished out my keys and unlocked the heavy wooden door. Once I was in, I locked the door.
Suddenly, an eerie chill coursed through my body. Every strand of hair on my skin stood at attention. It might had been the subtle scent of men aftershave, it might had been the sudden shift in air, or it might had been the visible shadow cast onto the door by the sunlight coming in through the window. Someone was behind me.
No fucking way. I squealed inwardly.
Cautiously, I turned around like a trapped prey turning to meet its fate. My brain immediately went into flight or fight mode. My back pressed against the hard door, desperate to put whatever distance I could muster between me and him, the Weird Guy.
“I brought you flowers.” he held out a bouquet of roses.
There were many things that I could say in that moment. For instance, why the fuck are you here? How the hell did you know my address? Why in the bloody Christ are you following me? Get the fuck away from me. Go jump off the building and leave me the fuck alone. I am going nuts. But apparently, my brain was so dumbfounded by his presence that out of all the rational stuff, I managed to say the only one thing that didn’t really matter.
“I’m allergic to roses.” I couldn’t have said it in a higher pitch.
I expected frustration or perhaps disappointment from him. Not surprisingly, his face remained stolid, as if it was incapable of displaying emotion. I had a sudden urge to slap his face to see if it was made of concrete. Maybe punch it.
Then my lungs malfunctioned. My heart triple-back-flipped inside my chest like a Chinese Olympic acrobatic diver. A small slithering tentacle shot out of his sleeves. I confoundedly watched as the pale green appendage reached into the living room and came back with a box of confectioneries. Another tentacle slithered out from the same sleeve and wound around my wrist and pulled my hand out to accept the box. The contact brought back the memories of my near death incident.
“How about chocolate?” he said with his mouth.
My legs gave way and the world went upside down.