tagGay MaleHematoma Ch. 29

Hematoma Ch. 29


Death was quiet.

I felt nothing, saw nothing, heard nothing. For the longest time I thought that this must be eternity. A never-ending absence, a consciousness trapped in limbo between senses. But slowly it occurred to me that I was aware. If it truly was nothingness that I inhabited, then wouldn't my presence be nothing too? Would I still be able to think about being nothing if there was nothing for me to think about? How could I ask questions in my own brain if my brain and all around it were gone? This line of tail-chasing was making my head hurt, which made me believe that my head was there enough for it to ache, and I tried to move.

My eyes had apparently been open the entire time I was considering my own existence, for what I actually saw was not nothingness but rather a sky. Above me stretched the vastness of a lightless expanse, not a speck of sun or star to puncture its velvet ceiling; below me, under my hands and backside on which I sat up, was a boundless plane of white sand. No dune or oasis broke its perfectly even surface for as far as I could see all around me, and I could not clearly see the point where black sky and white desert met. I dug my fingers into the sand and sifted it against my palms. It didn't feel like sand. No grit, no softness, no heat or chill. It was as if its form and texture was identical to my own body. Nothingness, like me. As I sat trying to make sense of my presence here, I came to realize I was naked. My body was bare save for the crystal grains of white sand that clung to the backs of my thighs and shoulders. I was indifferent to this somehow. Despite retaining my consciousness, I thought through a fog that filled my skull to the brim.

As I struggled to separate wayward strands of thought, something broke the formless horizon before me.

A pair of legs, or the shadow of them, stalked silently across the sand. Slowly, the shadow became more opaque. Its footsteps made no shift in the desert. Its body threw no umbra behind it. I tried to move back away from it, but somehow, fear didn't drive me. I wasn't afraid of this figure. I had no reason to escape it.

Instead, it went on approaching me, and I soon made out the shapes of its arms and head, and the lithe torso that connected it all. I registered it as male, though there was nothing precise in my head that told me so. Close enough to me that it could have knelt down and touched me, it stood still. It was waiting.

"Where am I?" I thought, and I spoke it aloud without realizing.

It was a time before the figure answered me. "In-between," it said, and I felt a nonexistent chill at the familiarity of its voice.

"In-between what?" I asked.

"Everything," it answered simply.

My head ached too much to follow this line of questioning. "Am I dreaming?" I asked finally.

"Yes," it replied, but just as quickly added, "No."

I furrowed my brow, but couldn't feel it on my face. "Which is it?"

"It is."

I was quickly becoming annoyed with the figure's unhelpful nature. I buried my face in my hands, dipping into darkness for a moment before resurfacing. I looked up into what I felt was the face of the figure, seeking recognition, an eye to look into, anything. But it didn't move, and its silhouette remained unchanged.

"So what now?" I asked.

There was silence, and slowly, what I felt was its arm reached out towards me, never changing dimension but simultaneously coming closer. "Now you step forward," it said.

For a long time, I looked into the velvet abyss of its palm, knowing that it wanted me to take its hand. I gazed around me, but the scenery was unchanged. There was nowhere to go. I shifted my weight below me, trying to pull myself to my feet as I reached out towards the figure's offered hand.

As its fingers closed around mine, the ground gave.

Under my knees and my feet, the even surface of the sand broke and pooled into a rapidly expanding funnel. I staggered and tried to step out of the deepening pit, to no avail. My feet were being pulled in fast. To my ankles, to my knees, the blinding white silt rose and began to swallow me. In a panic, I clung to the figure's hand with both of my own, anchoring myself to it as I strained to free myself from the quicksand. I looked pleadingly into where I thought its eyes must be, but it didn't move, only held harder to me.

"Come," it told me, coaxing, beckoning me. "Come on. Come."

"I'm trying," I gasped, clawing at its arm to pull myself up. "I'm trying...!"

"Don't go...!"

A new voice, high and singsong, burst into life around me, strangely resonant like the vibrating strings of an orchestra. I looked wildly around, but there was no source.

"Don't go down there...!"

"I'M TRYING!" I screamed at the voice. I writhed in the consuming pit as the sand crawled up over my hips. My muscles were buzzing. The hand that I held onto was digging nails like claws into my skin. "HELP ME...!"

But the new voice was rising as well. "Don't go... Please don't! Don't lose...!"

Couldn't they see that I was doing my best? Every ounce of energy in me was expended trying to extract myself from the sucking hole of sand around me. Now, above it all, I felt white-hot fingers creeping up over my skin from below, thin little hands picking their way over my stomach and chest and making blossoms of magma inside me where they touched...

Familiar hands... familiar fingers...

And the familiarity of the voice that called me from below...

Not from above, but below.

"Don't go down there! Come back! Don't...!"

And somehow, with this realization, the vertigo came rushing inside of me. I wasn't climbing up out of the pit. It wasn't pulling me down. It was pulling me up.

Far below me, below my hanging head, the vast expanse of black yawned, and the white sands were its ceiling. Whatever was calling me from the sand... It was trying to save me from what waited below.

I stared, open-mouthed, up... [i]down[/i] into the void of the black figure's face. As if realizing that I felt something was wrong, it leaned forward, pulling my hand back as it drew its face to mine...

My face to my own...

My face.

The piercings glinted in the mirror image of my face that stared back at me, malevolent and calculating. This wasn't me. It was me.

"Don't listen," it whispered. "Come..."

But I was unmoved. Knowing what I did, I then knew what I had to do. I didn't know what waited for me on either side... Black sky, white sand; both offered no comfort to me. And yet, deep down, I knew.

And so I relaxed my body.

The sand and the clinging fingers around my midriff pulled me up into the desert, slowly. The black hand around mine clutched at me, raked down my hand in cold streaks, but I slipped free effortlessly. I closed my eyes and felt the sand flow over my mouth, my eyes, swallowing up my head as I plunged into the blinding white.


I awoke awash in a freezing sweat. Blankets and sheets were swathed around my body, holding the icy chill against my skin. I was moving before I realized I was even awake. I clawed at my self-made bindings, trying to get air around me, gulping it down and feeling no relief of the choking sensation in my lungs. With a great deal of thrashing I made it to the edge of the bed and pushed my feet against the floor, all the while gaining awareness of the uncontrollable tremble of my limbs. I retched. Something was wrong with me. Something was very wrong.

As I struggled out of my stupor, I was assaulted with sensation. Smells. Sounds. Colors. I could hear, as if from far away, a scuttling inside the walls around me, a creak, a murmur of voices. I smelled wood and fresh flowers, and more disgusting things -- the taint of my own sweat, a distant musty odor, and something... something absolutely sickening, and yet so sweet and pungent I felt my mouth watering. The taste of my own saliva was too much. Rust and standing water. I retched again, and the muscles in my stomach heaved upward...

A putrid vomit loosed up from inside me, spattering my feet and the wooden floor between them. I was shaking, dizzy. Bile dripped freely from my lips, sour and stinking. Once more I heaved, and a second, smaller wave came up.

"Easy! Easy... Shit!"

A familiar voice, and a firm pair of hands around my shoulders. Someone's arms were steadying me, holding me forward, ready to guide me if I vomited again. Despite the spreading sickness in my belly, I didn't. The poison inside me seemed to be gone. After what seemed like ages, the person holding me sighed, squeezing my shoulders.

"I wasn't expecting you to be awake yet. We would have prepared better... This part doesn't usually come until later. Are you all right? Shay... can you hear me?"

My eyes swam into focus. I quickly shut them, trying not to look into the puddle of sick I'd just expelled. Instead, I brought my head up and tried to find some recognition in where I was. The black sky and white sand was long gone. Was I still dreaming? No... Somehow, this place was much more solid. I could make out definite ends and beginnings, walls and floors; colors that, while far too saturated, were sensible in some way.

I was in a bedroom of some kind. Almost a hotel room, the way it was laid out. There was a small room off to the side, a compact closet, two windows with the thick curtains drawn on either side of the wide bed... Patterned lilac velvet papered the walls, and the hardwood floor was accented only by a high-pile rug by the foot of the wooden bedstead. And by my puke. A faintly floral scent punctured the vile stench of sick, and it wasn't until I saw where it was coming from that I realized where I must be. On a spindly end table by the bed stood a minimalist vase containing a twine-tied bundle of lavender.

Beside me, Soonhee patted my back in an uncharacteristically soothing way. I was surprised to see her there. Why was she with me? Soonhee, who had hated me, who blamed me for... I couldn't think. I was suddenly feeling very sick again.

"Shay... come on, let's get you back in bed..."

"Let go," I said hoarsely.

"Come on," Soonhee insisted, pressing me back. "You need rest. You're not supposed to be up -"

"I'm gonna throw up again," I warned her.

I didn't remember being moved. In the sanctity of a small bathroom off the main room, I knelt and clutched at the toilet, emptying my stomach. Soonhee said nothing, but my shame burned along my back, no sound but the retch and splatter of water. After what seemed like forever, it was over. I leaned back on my heels, swallowing air that didn't seem to want to make it into my lungs. Soonhee reached over and flushed for me.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I know it sucks. It's not over yet. Can you bear with it?"

I could barely understand what she meant. I closed my eyes, only focusing on the cold air that wrapped my stinging skin. "Why are you here?" I asked, my voice cracking.

"Because it was my turn to check on you," said Soonhee. "We're supposed to change your sheets every day. Make sure you're not rejecting. But you weren't supposed to start purging yet. You're up way too early."

Hardly a thing of what she said made sense to me. My mind was blanking out in a pattern of spots. I was in the Society... wasn't I? How had I gotten here? Where had I been before it all? Before the sands, the sucking desert...

"Shay, come on. Let's get you in the bathtub. I'll help you clean up."

Bathtub... I was suddenly, however vaguely, aware that I was naked. Again. Made sense... My entire body was tacky with sweat and my hair was matted and oily. I was disgusting. A bath... a bath sounded good... I let Soonhee help me into the clawfoot tub beside me and lay me back against the frigid porcelain. But why... why, despite the burning of my skin, did the tub not feel so cold? On the contrary, it nearly matched my body temperature... Exhausted, I let my eyes flutter and ignored Soonhee entirely as she turned the knobs on the faucet and released a stream of lukewarm, then boiling hot water over my feet. I flinched slightly, retracting my limbs until the heat evened out, at which point my attendant withdrew herself from the bathroom. "I'm just going to call someone to clean," she assured me, as an afterthought, before shutting the door behind her.

I think I made a noise to confirm. I couldn't articulate. I could smell metals in the water... hear the hiss of the pipes far below me... I felt sick again, but the urge to vomit was mercifully gone. The water steadily crept over my legs and my hips, and I did nothing but lay there and watch it, trying to process the sensation of my exterior. I heard voices on the other side of the door, voices drowned out by the water and the low hum of the building that filled my head. I watched the faucet gushing, trying to focus... to remember.

As if a faucet had opened in the base of my brain, it came back.

Piece by piece, in fragmented words, I remembered.

In time, the bathroom door opened, and a hand reached over to turn the water off, having submerged me up to my chest. I felt a tingle in my skin, the faintest twinge of heat's burn... Why, when every other sense was so strong, did this one seem so dull?

"Shay?" said another familiar voice, somewhere over me. "Can you hear me?"

It took me a minute to draw sound from my dry throat. When I did, I found myself looking at Gil. Still short and youthful as ever, he was nevertheless more grave than I remembered him ever looking, his round and freckled face shadowed with a seemingly invisible veil of worry. His usually prim appearance was slightly unkempt -- I had noticed this aura around Soonhee as well. Was something keeping the whole of the Society from rest? And then I thought with a twinge of guilt... Was that something me?

"Where's Soonhee?" I asked, my voice cracking slightly.

Gil gave me a tired, tense smile and moved across the bathroom, his cane tapping quietly across the tiles. I didn't recognize the handle of this one, brass and gemstone. He must have replaced it after the last time I'd seen them... I was having trouble remembering when that even was. "I asked her to let me speak to you for now," he told me, snapping my attention from his cane. "I instructed your caretakers to let me know as soon as you awoke, but we were not expecting it this soon. It's likely you'll have a few more days of needed sleep before you're finished."

As Gil settled himself on the toilet lid to sit apart from me, I sank lower in the tub. My body was heavy, but my mind was alert and overactive. I had too many questions. I couldn't decide which to ask first... those that came in order, or the most important. Some... I didn't want to know the answers to. "What's happening to me?" I said finally.

Gil's shoulders slackened a little, and he rested his hands on his cane, looking me over. "You're changing," he said simply. "There wasn't a thing we could do to stop it. If we had gotten to you just as it had begun, maybe... But even then, we would have had to cleanse your stomach of blood and get you an infusion to replace what you'd lost. A near impossible task on a good day. No... This was unavoidable. It will be over soon, but not soon enough, you'll find."

My insides chilled despite the bathwater. Somehow, being delivered this news in Gil's placid, childish voice made it all that much worse. "So... so that really happened," I croaked out. "I'm gonna turn."

Gil closed his eyes and inclined his head solemnly. "We'll do what we can to make it comfortable for you," he said. "Over the next few days, your body will purge itself of all things it deems unnecessary -- your fluids, your bodily wastes -- and it will reabsorb the human blood that remains in you. A majority of your scars will heal... Including the aesthetics you have decorating you."

"Aesthetics?" I repeated. As if by instinct, my eyes fell to my own arms, and my stomach wrenched. In the water all around me was a thin black cloud, rising up and laying on the water like an oil slick. I skimmed my fingers over the opposite forearm and watched the ink smudge from my skin... from the delicate lines of my tattoos. It was like they were bleeding, like I was bleeding black blood from cuts all over my body that had healed years and years ago. My fingers were stained just from touching my own arms.

"It won't all go at once," Gil said calmly, interrupting my thoughts. When I met his eyes again, they were filled with musing. "It's interesting," he continued, tilting his head slightly. "I've actually never seen someone turn when their body was so... decorated. It's like you're a watercolor painting."

"Well, that aside," I replied, somewhat more irritably than I meant to. I found my hands around my shoulders, guarding myself. It was strange, being naked in front of Gil, however the water hid me. Maybe because he was still a stranger, or because no matter what I knew, his childish form just made it that much more uncomfortable. "How did I get here?" I asked finally.

Gil nodded sagely and closed his eyes. "Leah called on us," he said. "She couldn't move you in your state. Given what had happened, she thought it was best we take you from there. She was right. Both she and you needed attention."

"She -"

"She is all right. Don't worry. A bit bruised, but none the worse for wear."

But there was a stagnation in the room between us. Around me. The need for closure, for an answer, weighed heavy inside the pit of my stomach. I didn't want to ask. Gil knew I didn't want to ask... But I needed to.

"Where's Ricky?"

For a while the words echoed gently off the walls, nothing but their shadow and the soft rippling of water to fill the silence.

After what seemed ages, Gil spoke. "He is dead, Shay."

Dizzy, I closed my eyes. I knew the answer long before the words finished leaving my mouth. I could feel the rot and crumble of his flesh in my arms, the burn of his lips on mine... I could hear, as if a ringing, the ungodly scream that came up from his lungs. I lowered my head, put my face between my knees, and wrapped my arms around my calves.

"Dead," I whispered to the water.

Gil didn't reply to this. I couldn't fathom what he was thinking, watching me. I didn't know what I was feeling, either.

"He had t..." I swallowed and tried again to speak, my throat sticky and dry. "He had to die... didn't he?"

Out of the corner of my eye I watched Gil's violent ginger hair move as he inclined his head. "It doesn't matter if I believe he did or did not deserve what happened," he answered. "The fact is that he is gone. And you, Shay, will not be hurt by his actions any longer."

I felt my grip tighten around my own ankles, though by what force I didn't know. Logic told me I should feel... something. But everything in me was gone. I was exhausted just sitting there. Was it turning that made me feel this way? With the contents of my stomach, had my emotions, too, been purged from me? Now matter how I looked at it... what Gil said was right. Yorick couldn't hurt me any more. I was free. So shouldn't I have been happy? Shouldn't I have been relieved, to finally have release? But I didn't feel free. I just felt... empty.

"There are matters to deal with still," said Gil. "I am sorry that I have to leave you like this, Shay, but I'm needed to help make arrangements. Take your time in the bath and clean up. Your room should be finished up again by the time you get out, and we'll get you back to bed for the time being. When you're ready, I'm going to need you to finish up a few things with me."

I didn't know what Gil was talking about, and I didn't care. Beside me, he stood uneasily and walked himself out of the bathroom, shutting the door with a snap behind him. I heard noises from the bedroom for the rest of the time that I was in the bath. I don't think I moved. I sat there, head between knees, barely shifting enough to make a ripple in the water.

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