No one could have chased after me when I ran out of that lot, not at this speed.
I didn't know where, or when, or even IF, I could stop running at this point! My feet were barely scraping the street's surface as my body was propelled forward at a blinding pace. Even with my eyes tearing up over what I had done, the wind resistance alone helped to keep my vision clear. Still...it hadn't washed away the memory of what I had just done. Over and over again I saw it in my mind's eye. I felt it. My angered fist hitting the face of the only boy I've ever loved. Who's ever truly loved me back. The only boy who could make the pain go away, and create a new light inside of me so bright that I would sacrifice the sun itself to bathe in its warmth. Taryn was building a sweet untouchable radiance out of materials that I didn't even know existed in me, and he made me whole. For the first time in my life....I was whole. He was my everything.
And yet, I struck him. I used my fist in anger, and I knocked him to the ground in an uncontrollable rage that I had completely lost control of. He would never forgive me. I would never forgive me! And the whole time since it happened, while I've been running blindly through these darkened streets...all I could think of was....
Is this how my father felt?
When he hit me, punched me, kicked me while I lay in agony on the floor? When he cursed me and the day I was born, when he struck my mother across the face, when he told me I was worthless, nothing, a piece of shit in his perfect world. Is THAT what he felt? That sudden surge of power that caused his fists to fly in anger and strike out at the first target that offered any resistance. Knowing that for a moment...JUST a moment...his inner turmoil would be satisfied. Some of that anger could be worn on the outside, and transferred to someone else, instead of it existing as a constant shriek in my troubled mind. I won't lie, for a second back there, I enjoyed letting the demon in me escape. Regretting it after the fact doesn't make it any less of a crime. In truth, I was no better than he was. A trait of instantaneous rage and indescriminate torture, passed down to me from the man that I hated more than anything in this world. I was HIM! I could feel it. That same passionate fury was boiling deep inside of me, weakening my soul while keeping my fists oh so strong. What have I done? My God....what have I done?
I don't think I slowed down until a half hour later. I had been so lost in my thoughts that I wasn't even aware of how much ground I had covered. Looking behind me, I could still see the Sears Tower in the distance. But...you can see the Sears Tower from just about anywhere. And it looked awfully far away from where I was standing. I tried to get my focus back, and I knew that anyone following or trying to keep an eye on me would have fallen behind miles ago. It was then that I deccelerated my steps little by little, and finally was able to come to a halt by a nearby building.
I was out of breath, a condition that didn't really hit me hard until I stopped moving, and I found myself gasping for air as my chest heaved in and out for more oxygen. Running non stop like that was sure to create some painful leg cramps later on, even after training my legs with Dion to handle some of the strain. I'm sure it won't be anywhere NEAR as bad as it used to be though. However, when I caught my breath and looked down to the burning sensation below me, I noticed yet another injury. I evidently had stormed out of the van so fast, ready to rip Michael's throat out withut the least bit of guilt, that I had forgotten to put my shoes back on. I had been running swiftly on hard concrete, asphalt, and gravel, for the last thirty minutes...'barefoot'. The bottoms of my feet were scarred and cut, bruised and blackened, by the dirty streets and alleys of Chicago. Small shards of broken glass had been imbedded into my soles for at least the last ten or fifteen city blocks, and small drops of blood were forming where they had penetrated through my skin. My feet burned angrily with the acknowledgement of the situation, and I hobbled over on my heels to sit down on a nearby bench to nurse them a bit. I had been travelling so fast that I wasn't paying any attention at all to the damage I was doing. Now...I didn't have much of a choice.
As I nursed and massaged my aching feet, attempting to pluck out the small rocks and glass shards with as little pain as possible, I looked around me to see what my surroundings were. From the looks of things, I was way up on the North side of the city somewhere. Many MANY miles away from home. What really got to me though...was the fact that the sky was already beginning to take on a lighter shade of blue to the East. Meaning that sunrise was rapidly approaching. So quickly, in fact, that I knew it was too late for me to even run back to the lot. Even at TOP speed, I'd never make it in time. I CERTAINLY couldn't make it back at half speed, with the severe injuries to my feet now soaking into my brain and the pain setting in like it was supposed to a few miles back. Whatever the deal was, I had to think of something before that first ray of sunlight crossed the horizon. I wasn't sure of where I was going...but I needed to get off of these streets...and FAST!
I brushed my feet off a bit, and tried to stand on them. The pain of my sores and scars touching the pavement was like salt in my wounds. But I knew that it was walk in pain or sit and die at this point. I limped along for a block or two, hoping to see a familiar street name or two so it could lead me to a darkened sewer drain or abandoned building to sleep in. Already, I was beginning to yawn, and in a matter of minutes or so, I was going to be too tired to go on. If the approaching daylight caused me to pass out here on the concrete, the sun would burn me to a crisp. And I'd never even know what happened until I was already gone. Who knows? Maybe I should welcome the end. Maybe it was meant for me way back when I was reaching the end of that pier. Maybe this experience was just a postponing of the inevitable. I wasn't quite sure of the answer, but I knew that this time, death would come a lot easier to me than it did the first time. This time, I wouldn't be afraid.
Then...I saw a street name that I recognized. In the back of my mind, I knew that I had seen it before. And I remembered the map that Tim had given me to the sanctuary. Dash's sanctuary. It wasn't that far from where I was. I could find shelter there easily. And it wasn't more than five to ten minutes away, even moving at such a slow speed. I decided to give it a try, and began making my way towards the old church in the hopes that I'd find a welcome environment for me to stay in while I try to figure things out. It only took a block or two before I was able to see the impossibly tall pointed spires of the church in front of me. I was close enough to make it if I hurried. Thank goodness.
I moved as quickly as I could, the soles of my feet leaving small tracks of blood behind me. I could feel my body start to wind down slowly, the sun coming to send me into a mode of daily hibernation. I was almost there...just a little bit further. I had twenty minutes left, tops. After that, I'd be a goner.
I made my way around the tall iron fence surrounding the old place, and moved inside to look closer. I walked up the steps to the huge front door, made of hard wood, and almost twice my size. The whole building seemed to eerily tower over me as I looked for a way in. Searching high and low for an open door or window. But they were all locked, bolted shut. Finally, I just knocked on the door lightly to get the attention of whoever might be inside. I waited for a minute or so, but I got no answer.
I began thinking to myself..."Please, oh PLEASE, let someone be here! This is my last chance!" And I knocked again, harder this time, hoping and praying that someone inside would hear my inner pleas for help. If this didn't work, I had NO clue of where to go to hide from the sun. I was almost ready to walk away when I finally heard a sound coming from the upper left corner of the huge door in front of me.
A small latch slid open, and a deep, but still boyish, voice asked me, "Who is it?"
It took me a second to find out where the voice was coming from, and it seemed to be emanating from a hole in the center of the door about a foot or more over my head. "Um...hey!" I said, standing on my tip toes. "I was...I was looking for some sanctuary here." I said.
"Hmmmm...." The little latch closed abruptly, and only seconds later, another one opened up. This time it was to the right of me at eye level. "Sanctuary? What do you know of a sanctuary here?" Said the voice.
"Tim sent me." I answered, now moving to the right to focus my attention on the boy's new location. "He told me to come here if I needed any help."
The second latch closed, and another one quickly opened right in front of me. A pair of eyes looked directly at me through a small mail slot sized hole, protected by a team of small metal bars. "Tim, eh?........Hmmmmmm..." There was a pause while the eyes looked me up and down, but the second I moved closer to peer into the hole, the latch was slammed shut in my face. Only for the boy on the other side to open another one all the way down on the bottom of the door near my right foot! "Hey!" It said.
"What? Where are you?"
"I'm down here! Come down!" He said. And with a bit of reluctance, and feeling a bit silly, I got down on my knees and put my face down by the tiny little slot at the bottom of the door.
"Please...I need help." I said again, hoping to put an end to this foolish little game.
"What's the password?"
"WHAT'S the password?" He asked again.
"I...I don't know. Tim didn't give me one." I answered.
"Hmmmm..." He said thoughtfully. Then there was another slight pause before he answered, "...Yeah. I suppose that's close enough." He said, and I heard the little metallic latch close again. DAMMIT!
"PLEASE!!! You've GOT to let me in! The dawn is coming and I...." But before I could finish my sentence, I heard a series of locks being undone and chains being removed from the other side of the door. Then...the huge wooden blockade in front of me opened up with a rumble, the smell of incense pouring out ino the night air. The door was so huge, it looked more like a wall moving. And inside, there were candles burning...tons of them, the scent of the wax was almost overpowerng at first whiff. I looked forward and saw a boy of about 16 years, with soft curly chestnut brown hair, and a soft black robe on, hanging open to reveal a smooth boyish chest. He still had on a pair of jeans though, even though he was barefoot.
"Well, you wanted in....come on in." He said, and took a hold of my hand to pull me inside. He then took a look around to make sure no one else was following, and he came back in to join me. It took all of his lithe young muscles to close that door back, pushing it as though he were rolling a huge boulder in front of the entrance. And as soon as it was closed, he began re-locking the many mechanisms that lined the door from almost top to bottom.
Once he finished, he stood up and shook my hand briefly before walking forward towards the side of the darkened room. "Follow me." He said, a professional tone being adopted in his voice. And I walked through the room on sore feet, seeing the giant Crucifix at the end of the aisle, the rows of pews, the red carpet down the center of the room. The ceiling was so high that, in the dim light, I couldn't even see the top of it. I hadn't even been IN a church for the past few years. I had almost forgotten what an absolutely frightening place it could be. Who wants to stare at a murdered and tortured corpse for a few hours every Sunday morning? The echoes alone in this place was enough to freak you out, not to mention the candles and the darkness. I didn't miss this atmosphere at all.
"Um...I hate to barge in at this hour." I said quietly, the walls bouncing my voice back at me anyway. I could have WHISPERED and the room would have echoed it back at me like I was shouting. The boy didn't say anything in response, so I spoke again. "I'm...I was told that I could find someone here by the name of Dash?"
"I'm Dash." He replied.
"Oh...ok. Umm...hi. I'm Justin." He didn't answer, instead, he just sort of nodded his head quickly and kept walking. "I really hope that I'm not being any trouble or anything. I just can't thank you enough for..."
"Listen, I don't mean to be rude, but we really do have to keep moving here." He said, cutting me off. And he took a hold of my arm to lead me to a small and dark trap door in one of the corners of the room, covered with a huge iron lid with a black marble top. He opened it up with a grunt, and swiftly had me walk down the steep ladder leading up under the floor. A few times, the pain in the soles of my feet caused me to wince in pain. But he kept pushing me to move faster. "C'mon now. Don't delay. The sleep will take a hold of you soon. And me too. We don't have much time." Dash climbed in after me once I got halfway down the ladder, and when we were both at the bottom he lit a candle to guide us further through a long dark hallway underneath the floor. With the exception of a healthy decoration of spider webs and a limited glimpse of the stone walls around us illuminated from the light of Dash's candle, I couldn't see anything else. The darkness of the hallway was like black satin, and after a few twists and turns that seemed to be leading us in circles, the hall led to another door. "Here we are." Dash said, and began opening a series of locks and bolts that seem to cover all four sides of the door's surface. "I'm sorry if I rushed you. But we can't stay above ground for too long. Gotta be careful thse days. We can be mentally and emotionally tracked once we're out of 'Frogs' range."
"Yeah." He said, as he opened lock after lock. It was almost comical, the length of time that it took for him to open that thing.
"What's a Frog?"
"It's a machine that we use here to scramble the tracking senses of other vampires. Hunters especially. It keeps them from running in and causing all sorts of trouble here. We wouldn't be much of a 'sanctuary' without it."
"Ok. But why do you call it a Frog?"
"I dunno....probably because I like frogs." Dash said it in such an adorably knowledgeable way, that I found it hard to even try to argue the point. What can I say? He likes frogs...end of story.
Finally, he opened up what I figured to be the LAST in the series of complicated locking mechanisms, and pulled open the giant underground door. Dash let me step in first, and once I was inside, he pulled the door closed behind us. Then I looked over my shoulder, and giggled to myself as I heard Dash begin the tedious task of locking the door again! "What?" He asked, innocently.
"Hehehe....nothing." He shrugged and went back to his duties while I looked at my surroundings. I slowly walked forward and found myself surrounded by a large series of rooms with no doors, lit by torches and flickering with every lick of the flame. The walls looked like they were made of pure sand. Like they could crumble with the slightest touch. However, if it took that much just to get IN to such a secure sanctuary, I was pretty sure they were stronger than they looked. As I ventured further, I noticed a few mumbled noises around me. The sounds of other vampires who were obviously hiding out for one reason or another. Some of them were physically stable, whispering or staring in my direction as I walked past them. Others...seemed to be injured. Some of them severely so. So badly that only half of the wounded tenants were even conscious.
There was one vampire, about 25 years old from the looks of him, that had been completely butchered from head to toe. It was a disturbing sight. There were huge gashes in his arms and legs, deep slashes made at his chest and throat, and claw marks all over his face. I think some of his fingers were missing, and in some parts of his skin, the muscle was exposed. He had been in a fight with another of our kind, and whether he won or lost, he looked like he was paying dearly for the scuffle. The wounds trickled blood with every rise and fall of his chest, the ragged and torn flesh hanging off of him in small chunks and pieces. I found it hard to stomach, but even harder to turn away.
Dash startled me a bit when he suddenly put a hand on my shoulder, evidently finished with locking us in for the night. "I'm sure we can find you a spot in here somewhere, Justin."
"Are they ok?" I asked. But Dash, still in somewhat of a rush, kept me limping forward through the maze like facility.
"Who them? Yes...a majority of them. They've been hurt, some the victims of an attack or a brawl with another vampire, scavengers mostly...looking to make a quick meal out of them. Those people are here to use this place as a safe haven while they heal and get back on their feet."
"And the others...?" I asked, speaking of the ones who appeared perfectly healthy.
"Targets." Dash replied. "The targets of some very nasty people. They're here because they can't be seen above ground." He looked me up and down. "Considering you're not bleeding or suffering from any type of injury...I'm assuming that you're one of them."
"Yeah...I....I suppose you could say that." I didn't give much away about what I had done back at the lot or why I was there. The guilt of it still sat like an inflated ballon of poison in the pit of my stomach, waiting to burst. Thankfully, he didn't ask.
"Don't worry, friend. My business is sanctuary, not psychology." He said with a warm smile. "But...if you find that you need a friend to talk to, I'll be more than happy to listen. K?" I nodded my head, and he led me through more rooms to find one for me to sleep in.
As I looked around me, I saw more vampires wounded, some of them trying to hold back moans of agony. I saw a young blond girl crying in a corner, she was fresh. Just waking up from a painful crossover. Somehow...I could just sense it on her. She couldn't have been more than 7 years old. Who could turn a child so young and abandon her on the streets to fend for herself? Another room had a vampire nursing a severed arm. Another had a boy about my age, who's blood had become tainted with such a heavy dose of narcotics that he was nearly out of his mind. Restraints held him steady, and with his shirt off, I could see a small army of leeches covering his hairless chest. He was practically foaming at the mouth, but the parasites combined with his healing abilities would do their job by morning. My feelings reached out to them, my emotions sensing every bit of pain that they were going through. It was hard to dull my extra enough to quiet the screams going on in their minds.
"Ok, I think this room should be good for you." Dash said, finally bringing me to the end of my destination. "You don't mind sharing a room, do you?" He asked.
I looked across the small habitat and saw a boy sitting on a small thin mattress, about 18 years old, with light blond hair and dark blue eyes. He had his chest wrapped with a bandage and he was a bit pale in the face, but aside from that he seemed perfectly healthy. A button down shirt was draped lightly over his shoulders. He nodded warmly in my direction and I said, "No. No problem at all."
"Great. Well, there's a cot over in the corner, a couple of blankets and pillows underneath...and that's about it." Then, Dash's eyes squinted slightly as he let out a wide mouthed yawn as the sleep began to creep into him. But when he did it, it came out sounding more like a kitten purring loudly after a relaxing stretch. It was one of those cute little things that just brings a smile to your face when you witness it.
"Thanks Dash. Honestly."
"No no...don't thank me. Just get some sleep." He started to leave before turning to ask me, "I just want to make sure...are you ok? Do you need to be fed? Maybe some kind of medical 'hocus pocus'?"
"Well...maybe something for my feet...if you've got anything?"
"Ahhhh...yeah, your feet. It's no problem. I'll grab some bandages from the infirmary and have one of my assistants wrap them up for you. You should be pretty good by the time you wake up." He assured me.
"I've got a few human assistants to watch things around here during the day. They'll take good care of you. You have my word."
"Um...alright." And with that, Dash left me to my 'bedroom' for the night. I walked over to my blond roommate and quietly said, "Hi..."
"Hey there, pint size." He answered, an almost unnoticeable southern twang hidden in his voice. "I know it sounds pretty cliche, but I've gotta ask. What are you in for?"
I smiled, "It's a very long story, believe me."
"Yeah, well the very walls of this place are built on long stories." He had the sweetest grin on his face, but I saw it disappear suddenly and it was replaced by a wince of pain. "Ahhh....that one stung a little bit." And his smile returned...as though it had never been gone.
"What...what happened to you?"
"It's a very long story, believe me." He repeated. "Hehehe, just foolin' with ya. It was one of those damn hunters. They were after a friend of mine, I decided to jump in...and 'voila'. Here I am. I tell ya, those assassins have NO sense of humor."
"It was...a hunter?" One of those things that I had heard mentioned in passing from a few people, but never really got much info on. Sighhh...I still had so much to learn about this life.
"Yeah. He had this...really STUPID name too. Like RazorClaw or some shit. It was like, right out of a comic book or something. Anyway...he decided that it was time to put an end to me for interfering with his business. I didn't stand much of a chance. They're trained with every self defense technique in the book." The boy looked down at his bandages and paused for a second. "It's been a week and a half, I think. Maybe more. He uh...he took me out without so much as a blink. Then...he murdered my boy, Vinnie. And that was that." He shrugged his shoulders, trying to keep his face as normal as possible, but the pain came out in his voice anyway. "I couldn't save him. Nobody could."
"Nah, don't be. You know, I was getting tired of all this death and darkness anyway. Vinnie was too, even if he didn't admit to it. I think deserve a few blue skies after all I've been through."
"But...but you'll heal right? I mean, by tomorrow, everything will be fine?" I asked, and he gave me a sideways look. "Right?"
"Oh no, buddy boy. You don't heal from a wound like this." He peeled back a small corner of the bandages on his chest, and showed me a small hole. A star shaped stab wound, right where his heart should be. It was clean, as though it went through him with no resistance at all.
"Oh my god..."
"If you think THAT'S bad, you should the matching one I've got on my back." He giggled a bit, his voice turning raspy. "The blade went straight through. Piercing this old heart of mine and coming out red on the other side. There's not much the vampire doc can do about that. Except wait for me to starve."
"You're gonna DIE???" I said, shocked.
"I'd like to think of it as more of an extended nap. But yeah, I guess if you wanted to put it in Layman's terms..."
I shouted out, "We've got to get you some HELP! Can't...can't Dash figure out a way to..."
"Hehehe, slow down kiddo. Slow down. I've already been through the 'What Ifs' and the 'Can't Yous' and the 'How Abouts'...trust me. I've had a lot of time to think about it, and even more time to panic over it." He told me. I couldn't comprehend what he was saying though. He looked 'healthy'! He was FINE! How could he be dying? "I don't plan on spending my last few moments curled up in the fetal position in some dirty corner singing nursery rhymes to myself until I fade away. I didn't live like that, I'm not gonna die like that. Besides...I had a GOOD time while I was here, believe you me." He smiled at me again, just as calm as when I came in. And when I slumped down to sit on the mattress next to him, he patted me on the leg, not seeing any relief in my unbelieving eyes. "But if it means anything to you, I'm glad you're concerned. It means I've got one friend left."
"I'm...I'm sorry. I just...I don't handle death very well." I said.
"I'd be downright terrified of anybody that did."
"Yeah...well, YOU seem to be doing an awfully good job of it."
"Don't sweat that, boy. There are PLENTY of better reasons to be terrified of ME." He grinned at me, and for the first time, I returned the smile to him. Albeit a weak one. "The name's Xairen." He extended his hand to me in friendship.
"Pleasure." He said. But while holding his hand, he began to cough, and his grip began to turn cold. "Gee....that doesn't sound good." He laughed. But my eyes couldn't hide their worry. Even though he seemed....I dunno....'ready' or whatever. I just couldn't let go of the fact that he was, in fact, terminal. "Hey now...I told you, I'm alright. If this is the last bit of physical pain that I ever have to go through, it's a mild price to pay for what comes next."
I looked down at my feet, suddenly not able to look into the eyes of a dying man. "What if...what if there IS nothing coming next?" I asked, my mind being brought back to that cold pier, those icy waves, those few precious moments that I had expected to be my last.
"Well, I've just got to have enough faith to tell me that there is."
"I don't think 'faith' is going to be enough." And for me it wasn't. It hasn't been for a long long time.
"Ohhh, now I don't know about that. Faith can be a pretty strong crutch when it's all you've got left to stand on. That's when you know it's real. I think you've probably got just enough hiding in you somewhere to guide you to where you need to be when the time comes." He coughed again, and it seemed as though he had gotten even more pale since I had gotten there. He was cold and clammy now, almost transparent as his body's remaining fluids dried out slowly. Something about him, sitting there watching him, it reminded me of Richie. Of all those nights when I sat at his bedside, helpless. Wishing that I could make the pain go away for just a few minutes each day. I had almost forgotten how cruel God could be. "You know, I was born into darkness after driving my car off the road? Hehehe, some 'merciful' vampire, fresh out of the gate, feeding for his first time...he didn't want to kill anybody. So he sees my car swerve off of the road into a ditch, and he comes over to feed on me. He figures, I'm a goner anyway, so why not, right?" I barely lifted my eyes, but I was amazed at how lightly he was taking this whole thing. "Well, the son of a bitch ends up changing me by mistake! I wake up a month later not knowing WHAT the hell is going on, and I doubt he even has any idea what he did. I kinda had an urge to find him, ya know? He's kinda like...my adopted father or something."
"Weird." I said, just to let him know I was listening.
"Anyway, I wake up and there's Vinnie. He's worrying about me and telling me that everything is gonna be ok and all. I'm just happy to wake up at all, you know? Then he lays it all on me...tells me what happened. Naturally...I was a bit skeptical. I thought he was damn near crazy until I tried to walk out in the sunlight the next morning and nearly burned myself to a crisp. It's NOT a pleasant feeling, believe me."
"I guess not." I said.
"So Vinnie takes me on as an apprentice, or whatever you wanna call it. Teaches me what I need to know. And we spent most of our years traveling from one clan of vampires to another across the country. All because some crazy newblood decided to make a meal out of me and botched the job." He giggled slightly at the memory, but it turned into a cough, and I saw a few small droplets of blood come out from his lips and onto his hand. He wiped it away quickly, trying to hide it from me. "Anyway...the way I see it, I'm about 32 years past my 'scheduled arrival' at those pearly gates. It's about time I showed up. Hell, at this point, I wonder if I'm even on the list anymore."
I could have told him what I thought. I could have told him that I didn't believe in any pearly gates anymore. That there was no one to help us, no one to save us, no one to bring us into this world of joy and paradise. Because if there was any being with that kind of power, he wouldn't let life be such a tragic piece of shit in this world. I could have told him that my faith was gone, scrubbed off of the bottom of my shoe and dismissed. That it had been gone ever since I prayed to Him and came home to my father's daily beating anyway. To a drunken mother anyway. To rejection and ridicule in school anyway. Anyway, anyway, ANYWAY! Either this omnipotent figure wasn't real, or he just didn't care. And I refuse to give my loyalty to any creature like that. Not now, not ever. I could have told him ALL of that and not regretted a single word.
But instead...all I could say was..."I'm sure you are, Xairen. I'm sure you are."
"Damn straight, I am! I know it. That's where the faith comes in." He yawned right after that statement, and I knew that the dawn was here. I could feel it too, and my body began to shut itself down automatically. "There...you see? That's why I'm going all cold and clammy, it's bedtime. It's just...it's hitting me a little...a little harder than usual." He said, coughing a bit as he slowly laid back on his mattress and stretched out. "That's all....I'm just....tired." I could tell it was painful for him to move by the uncomfortable gestures it took for him to get underneath his covers. But he never said a word in complaint. Not a single grunt or a frowned face. "Good night, Justin." And with his pattented grin, he rolled over to face the wall away from me, and went to sleep. I could see the matching scar on his back...where the blade had gone completely through him. His bandages had sagged considerably, and there were blood stains soaked through the material. Whoever had done that to him, MEANT for the weapon to do its job. And it had.
"G'night, Xairen." I reached over to make sure he was covered up all the way, then rushed to get my blanket and pillows together. I took my shirt off, but left my pants on. My feet were still sore and somewhat swollen, but a forgiving numbness had saved me the agony of feeling the full effect of the injury. I rolled onto my side and did my best to quickly make myself comfortable. I was passing out so fast that I doubt I'd make it in time. My body turned cold, my limbs became heavy and stiff, every labored motion took effort and strain, and then my eyes closed tightly before I even had a chance to lay down all the way. It was strange, but the bed itself seemed so damned cold and empty without Taryn's soft, warm, smooth body laying naked next to me...my arm caressing him, holding him closer to me. Tonight...I'll have to start learning to do without it. I found my covers blind, and pulled them up to my neck as the darkness pulled me into its void for another long day of rest.