The next day, I awoke to the sound of Matty laughing, loudly. I came downstairs to the sight of Leo drinking coffee at the main table while my son ran around like a screaming toddler. “At least you made coffee.”
Leo smirked. His smile was as chill as ever. “I think you meant to say thank you for waking up my child and feeding him before school.”
“You fed him?” I asked with a hint of disbelief. I knew for a fact, we needed to go shopping for something other than Kool-aid powder and Pop-tarts. But that would have to wait.
After kissing Matty goodbye, I drove to the hospital. I barely parked my bike before running straight to Kent’s room. There were several nurses and other staff who wanted to know what exactly happened last night, but that would have to be a story for another time. (Although I had no idea how I would explain leaving a hospice patient alone to fix my generator. Not to mention, how my guardian angel nanny somehow managed to bring Kent back to the hospital and return the base-issued transport van.)
I entered the room and locked the door, placing a chair in front, for added security. Only then did I even attempt a sigh of relief.
Kent was incubated, a tube down his throat, forcing breaths of air. Unfortunately, this took away his ability to speak. But I could hear him tapping his nails against the railing of the bed as if trying to prove he was still alive.
“Hey, Kent,” I said taking hold of his hand.
He turned to me blinking tears from his eyes.
“I just wanted to thank you for fixing the generator.”
That got a smile.
“I was hoping I could repay you.” I placed my hand upon his chest, over the light blue cotton cloth of his hospital gown. I could feel the breath in his lungs, but also the pain, a deep intense pain. I paused for a moment as I searched for a source of power. But it wasn’t easy. His lungs were filling with fluid and infection. (And yet he still didn’t have a PICC or IV lines, although I had a feeling that was his decision.)
“Your spirit is connected to the sky,” I said in a soft tone, as I worked with both hands, pulling his energy from his shoulders, to his sternum. “The oceans, the bloodline of the planet.” The room became noticeably warmer as I moved my hands down his abdomen. “And the earth, at its core. Your core.” My mind started to race.
“I kind of like having you bound and gagged,” I said with a nervous giggle. I clenched my fist, pulling at his aura, manually to draw away the negative energy. With every movement I could feel the darkness leaving Kent’s physical form, allowing his beautiful strength to return.
Kent was moaning, his breath calm, and soothing. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a hard-on.
With the door locked, I was moments away from turning the scene into a porno. “There’s something about you, Kent.” After I finished dispersing the negative energy, I found my fingers touching Kent’s face. His rough dark blond stubble seemed to tingle with every sensual breath. “I feel like I owe you my happiness, my heart.” Time stood still, as I became lost in his eyes.
“You don’t owe me anything,” Kent’s voice echoed from a different part of the room. The sound was like a recording; clearer, younger.
“Kent?” I asked with my hand still stroking his face, his eyes were open but he was staring at the ceiling, catatonic.
What was happening? “Kent?” I said again, as I took a step away from his bed. He wasn’t talking to me.
“You don’t owe me your heart, although you’ll always have mine.” The male voice was clearly coming from someplace behind me.
I turned to see what looked like an illusion. It was as if the room had been cut in half, housing two different worlds. The second space was a light blue room, brighter and sunnier than the peach-colored wall of the Arizona hospital. A younger, somewhat healthier version of Kent was sitting cross-legged in bed, wearing a hospital gown and a red bandanna on his head, as if he just came from a chemo session. In his hand was a tv remote and he appeared to be channel surfing a screen that I could not see (because it was on my side of the room.)
His pretty blonde wife stood a few feet away, visibly pregnant and sobbing. “Are you asking me to leave? Do you want me to leave?”
“You don’t have to stay, not for me not for anyone.” Younger Kent pulled his knees to his chest keeping his focus on his quest to find a channel to watch.
I could hear the sound of a television; cartoons, old episodes of Pawn Stars, and then the local on-base news. Kent turned up the volume, allowing me to clearly hear the commercial for on-base postal safety, “And always use an opaque marker or pen to cover any previous markings when using recycled boxes to send parcels.” It was a public service announcement I remembered well. Even in Hickam AFB, Hawaii people would always be forced to reuse boxes to send care packages.
Kent chuckled. “Or they can actually sell reasonably priced boxes.” He was clearly sick (or high), as his pale eyes seemed to be drifting off.
The blonde woman cupped her hand over her face, in a show of emotion. “Are we really not going to talk about this?”
“There’s nothing to talk about,” younger Kent replied, still avoiding her gaze.
“I’ll get an abortion!” Kent’s wife seemed to immediately realize the stupidity of her statement: she was much too far along. “I’ll cut it out myself if I have to! I don’t love this baby, I love you.” She was screaming, gasping for air. “I love you Kent. I’m so sorry!”
“I love you too, that’s why I’m telling you to go.” He lowered one leg, giving him access to his chest. There was a hole in his gown, near his stomach, and he appeared to be scratching at his abdomen.
He was keeping his hand covered, but little by little I could see blood. There was a lot of blood. I moved closer to the scene to get a better look. Was he cutting himself? If so, he had to be using something small enough to hide in his palm but large enough to be coating his hand in dark red blood.
I could hear his wife continue to talk, cry, plead. But younger Kent was just laughing.
He changed the channel a few more times, before putting down the remote.
I wasn’t sure of what Kent landed on until he used a single finger (his middle finger, of course) to turn the volume up. The theme song of an early season of Pokemon. “It’s you and me, you know it’s my destiny.”
The music was comforting, at least to me. And perhaps it was for Kent as well, since he chose to sing along at the top of his lungs. “Oh, you’re my best friend
In a world we must defend,” he held the last note, as he attempted to take off his hospital gown like an over-sized t-shirt. He struggled to pull it over his head, possibly to avoid having to untie the back.
Kent’s motions revealed his stomach and chest (before getting the garment stuck at his shoulders.) There was so much blood.
Clearly, he had been picking open surgical stitches, resulting in a massive bloody opening from his collarbone down to his navel. He was wearing underwear; boxers, maybe briefs. All I could see was a thick layer of blood pooling at his crotch.
Kent’s wife was screaming. She backed away slowly, making her way towards the door.
Upon freeing himself from the hospital gown, Kent was still smiling. He put his hands behind his head, reclining back as if on the beach. He casually turned his head. “You can go now,” he said to his wife. “I don’t mind, really.”
I could see the bones of his ribs, moving with every breath. I could feel the vomit rising in my throat.
Don’t get me wrong, if he was in pain, I would have rushed to his side.
Hell, if this made any kind of sense, I might have been able to move. But as it stood, my mind was gone, broken. Was he even alive? Was he even human?
“Where was the door?” On my side of the room was a window but on ‘sick’ Kent’s side, there was a door. “Oh, fuck.” I watched as his wife threw the door open and ran. I was tempted to follow, but she disappeared into the darkness. It looked wrong, it felt wrong. I needed to leave via my own world or else I risked getting trapped in… somewhere.
“Window,” I said out loud, turning towards my means of escape. I knew I was on the third floor; if it came to it, I could jump and walk away with my life. I pushed open the window, expecting a bit of resistance; this was a hospital, safety was an issue. It creaked along a central joint, opening like a pinwheel. Without even thinking I jumped out, expecting to find a ledge to walk on until I could make it to the garden.
But instead, I fell the equivalent of only a single floor, landing on the hot asphalt of the parking lot. “Why?” I could no longer hear my own voice. “Why was this happening?” The answer was clear; this was not random, I was being set up. But by who?
“Do you really want to know?” the child-like voice seemed to be coming from all around me.
Forcing myself to my feet, I looked to see a group of children crossing the street, about forty feet away from the parking lot. That made sense, kind of. The hospital was on the way to one of the many convenience store-like shops on base (as opposed to the mini-mall or the grocery store.) But there was no way I could be hearing a child’s voice from so far away.
That, and none of the thirty or so kids seemed to be looking in my direction. When the crowd dispersed, one boy remained. One very familiar looking boy.
“Do I remind you of your son?” the voice asked. The frail, dark-haired child seemed to move closer, floating like a ghost. His mouth did not open or even move.
It wasn’t Matty, it was the sick boy who died taking my husband’s powers. I shook my head, no, too afraid to speak.
“Your husband saw in me, an innocent child,” the boy teleported closer, moving several feet in the blink of an eye until he was standing directly in front of me. “Why don’t you., Mother?”
Mother? I wanted to scream but no breath entered my lungs. That was when the vomit started to rise. I started to cough, doubling over in pain.
The boy just stood there staring. “You’re a strong one, aren’t you? Most humans would have gouged their eyes out.”
I spit the taste from my mouth. “Especially women?”
“I’ve met strong women; the girls who burned at the stake, cursing God with their final breath. They’re some of my best friends.”
I assumed he was talking about witches, the poor souls who died horrific deaths in the name of Christianity. I blinked my eyes, forcing myself to meet his gaze. “The biggest con the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist.”
My words caused him the smile, a wide, toothy smile, like a jack-o-lantern or a wolf. “Clever girl.” He laughed, his voice was still not coming from anywhere near his actual mouth. “Do you know what Isaiah was other than a thorn in my side?”
I shook my head again. What was Isaiah’s relationship with the devil?”
“To you, he was an angel, a demi-god. But to me, he was a threat to the status quo.”
“A threat? What are you talking about? He was just growing food in the desert…” A thought crossed my mind, “for his commune. Everything he did, was for his followers.”
“Your husband was healing the sick, gaining a following, just like another famous long-haired man.” The boy blinked his eyes, once then twice, tilting his head like an owl. “And we all know what happened to him.”
I got up and ran, not caring who saw me. I had an idea of where my bike was parked in relation to where I currently appeared to be (even if I was stuck in a warped maze set up by this mini-hellspawn.)
I breathed a sigh of relief when I found my bike. Revving the engine, I peeled out of the parking lot so fast I nearly flew off the road.
Tears streamed down my face. I knew what I had to do; I needed to get rid of these powers, to get this target off my back. Still, I had no idea how to go about it. If there was any time to ride on pure faith, it was now.
I arrived at Sky Turtle Tours, parked the bike, and rushed inside. “Leo!” Please be home. “Leo where are you?” No response. I couldn’t wait any longer. I grabbed the container of Isaiah’s ashes and a flare gun (the only weapon I owned.) I got back on my bike and rode back towards the base. Now came the hard part.
There was no way I was getting back on base after the exit I had made. Sure enough, there was a barricade of police cars waiting for me. Stopping about a hundred feet away, I took out the coffee can of ashes and poured in an entire bottle of water until it was the texture of a protein shake. And then I chugged it.
Most of it went down my throat but a good amount also coated my chest, dripping down the front of my shirt.
From the corner of my eye, I could see Leo’s truck approaching. Time seemed to move in slow-motion, then fast-forward. Leo parked and with his massive wings he was charging straight at me.
But all I see is light; a bright, blinding light as if staring into the sun.
Suddenly I’m back in Kent’s room. There was only one way this was possible. “Leo?”
“Stand up,” said Leo’s voice. “I’ll hold them back as long as I can.”
My legs felt weak as I crawled to the wall, forcing myself to stand.
Kent was in bed, much like before. There was still a tube down his throat. And his eyes were still open, dead.
“Kent?” my voice squeaked.
As I approached him, he blinked his eyes, allowing a single tear to fall. He wore no hospital gown, instead, he was covered (from the neck down) with a thin white sheet.
I noticed he had a PICC line in his neck, which wasn’t connected to anything. As I walked my fingers down his chest, slowly removing the sheet, I could feel a massive scar. “This wasn’t here before.” But then neither was the PICC line. A thin layer of skin covered his formerly open wound. “A skin graft?”
The world went still blurry as I reached my hand to Kent’s face. “What do you want me to do, Kent?”
Eyes open, Kent was glancing at me with a look of terror. He was trying to open his mouth, taking labored breaths that sounded like deep, wet, choking.
My fingers glide along his open lips, to the incubation tube. I knew just how far down the tube went (at least in the normal patient.) Without a second thought, I tore the plastic tube from his throat, ripping out both flesh and blood.
Kent through his head back, gasping for air as dark red fluid gushed from his mouth. He was convulsing, bleeding… smiling. “Elena, will you hold me?”
I nodded, swallowing the lump in my throat. I put my arms around him, holding his face to my chest. I could feel Kent dying in my arms.
That was when Leo gripped my shoulder. “What have you done?”
“I don’t even know.”
“Elena,” Leo said, speaking louder and slower, “You need to let him go.”
“No,” I said in a quiet breath. “I need to end it.”
“End what?” Leo asked. I could feel him trying to grab my arms, but with my newly chugged demi-god powers, I was unmovable.
Since I had all of Isaiah’s magic inside me, I needed a way to get it out. “Please take care of Matty.” I climbed into bed, Resting my body on top of Kent as if we were going to make love. Leaning in, I placed my lips to his, tasting the iron of Kent’s blood.
Leo released my back. “Please don’t do this.”
I didn’t reply since there was nothing he could do to stop me. From my hip, I retrieved the flare gun. I put the weapon in my mouth and fired. From what I’d seen in the movies I expected to die rigth away. And I’m sure it would have worked if I was still human.
Instead, my vision went blurry; a mass of blood, fire, pain. I could taste his mouth on my tongue, as the remains of my lips and lower jaw seemed to flicker away into dust.
Now was the darkness, right? It had to be. But nope.
I saw memories that were not my own; screaming, gunfire, explosions.
“Stay with me, Sergeant!”
The sound was deafening, but I wasn’t feeling anything; no vibrations or physical pain. I knew that Kent had taken shrapnel to the gut in Iraq. Random chunks of metal lacerated his kidney and spleen requiring surgery.
I could feel his fear, his sadness. The emotions brewed strong even before the surgeon told him that they found cancer.
Kent was granted a rare moment of peace when he was put into a medically induced coma, before being flown home to the states.
That would be his last moment of peace. He awoke to the sight of his visibly pregnant wife.
“You were deployed for over a year,” his wife’s voice rippled like water. That was what it all came down to, why she was pregnant with another man’s child. Because Kent wasn’t around; as a husband, as a partner, as a man, he wasn’t enough.
The weeks of chemo were unbearably painful. His organs were failing, requiring further surgeries. And to make matters worse his wife was trying to reconcile. That was when Kent started to pick at his stitches.
At first, he used a regular shaving razor. It was a cheap plastic one that came free in a hospital toiletries set. Little by little he picked away at the plastic, revealing more of the sharp edge.
Every part of his body was in pain, burning like the fires of hell. Open wounds resulted in tissue death, and infection, which in turn led to numbness. So in the end, self-mutilation was the only thing that gave him relief from the pain. All he could do was laugh.
Eventually, the day came when his mind broke. By the time the doctors found him Kent was barely conscious; bleeding out.
After being treated for sepsis from the various ruptured organs Kent was transferred to the psych ward where he was restrained to a bed while wearing a straightjacket.
I had no physical form, but somehow, I could feel Kent’s body, his agony. He was screaming, crying while thrashing wildly.
Was he trying to escape?
“Why won’t you let me die?” Kent screamed to an unseen God. He was trying to hurt himself.
“Dad?” Kent seemed to be talking to an unseen figure. “Are you there? I’m so sorry, Dad.”
“Your dad passed away when you were ten,” said Isaiah’s voice.
How was my husband here?
Isaiah entered the room. With his long hair pulled back, he was an angel dressed in hospital scrubs; a modern-day vision of Jesus Christ.
“I stabbed him in the stomach,” Kent said through tears. “I can remember the moment he died.”
“He kind of had it coming,” Isaiah said, lifting a container of water to Kent’s lips. “You saved your mother’s life that day.”
Kent took a sip from the straw. The moisture soothed both his throat and his demeanor. “Am I going to see him in hell?”
Isaiah stuck his finger inside the water container, causing the liquid to glow with a soothing white light. “Well, that’s really up to you.” Isaiah turned, looking in my direction, breaking the fourth wall.
Was his message for me? For all intents and purposes, I was not in this scene. But where was I? Was I dead? I had to be, that was the only thing that made sense.
Looking down I had no physical form. Was this some kind of purgatory?
Was I going to hell? The scene before me started to fade to black.
“Isaiah!” I shouted with all my strength, even though my voice carried no sound.
The fading stopped. The lights came back up as Isaiah turned to me. “Hi Elena, long time no see. You look good.”
I laughed out of pity for myself. “Even without a physical body?”
Isaiah moved closer, gazing at me with his soft, soulful eyes. “You’re still you.” His voice was like a calm ocean wave.
“What do I look like?”
“You look like my wife, the mother of my child, the love of my life.” Isaiah ran his fingers through his hair. He looked so much like Jesus, in the act of forgiving me for my sins.
If I still had a heart, it would have been breaking. “I may have screwed up.”
Isaiah only shrugged. He returned his attention to Kent who appeared to be frozen in place.
“Wait! I have one last question.”
“Why I was stupid enough to try to help the devil?” Isaiah asked with a sigh.
“I would never call you stupid.”
“I know, that’s why I’m calling myself stupid,” he said with a nod, chuckling at his own misfortune. “Only someone truly stupid could get pranked by the Lord of Darkness.”
“Did you say pranked?”
“He never meant for me to die. He just wanted to take me down a peg, force me to live as a normal human.”
“You talk like he’s an old friend.”
That got a genuine laugh. “He’s more like the typical cranky old man who lives down the road. My mother had meetings with him, discussing the fate of the oceans.”
“What did Satan want with the oceans?”
“Everything angry; madness, terror. Ironically, the best example I can think of is turtles; the mother lays her eggs and leaves them in the sand to hatch. Then the baby turtles have to walk all alone to the ocean all while avoiding the army of seagulls. It’s quite a disturbing sight, but in exchange, the turtles who survive are given the protection of the sea.”
I nodded, knowing full well what he was talking about. I had seen it happen in documentaries but to think about what the vicious birds did to those little innocent little babies made me truly sick. “There can be no light without darkness and no darkness without light.”
“That’s where I truly messed up,” Isaiah said, his voice trailing off with a melancholy tone. “I wanted my powers back, but I realized too late that my powers were not what made me- me.
I could have found ways to work around not having superpowers. I mean, People grow food in the desert all the time. I could have put in the work, investing in infrastructure, planning for the future but instead, I just wanted to screw around like a wannabe superhero-messiah.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“Yeah, unfortunately, there is.”
“Well, too late now.” I assumed I was dead, and it was just a matter of time before I ceased to exist.
But Isaiah seemed unconcerned. “Why would you say that?”
I was at a loss for words.
“The world has to remain in balance. Just try to remember that, and you’ll be ok.”
I was about to reply when the scene went white and then I heard the theme from Pokemon.