Just shy of 1800 words, it’s a shame I can’t count this as a post-and-a-half and that I couldn’t find a remotely decent way to split it down the middle, add a few hundred words and have two posts.
This piece picks up where Truth in the Light left off. It’s rougher than I’d like, but less rough than I originally expected. You can expect at least two more pieces in the next few hours. Hopefully three. I guess we’ll see.
And, yes, I know the title is awful. I haven’t slept in nearly 36 hours. It’s the best I can manage.
I awoke, heart pounding, and leapt out of bed. My feet landed on the floor before my first thought worked its way through my mind. Last night came back to me in a rush. We’d been shot at. Derek had been hit. Why the hell are we in my apartment instead of a hospital? Why didn’t I freak out last night? Why is everything so hazy and disjointed after we looked into each other’s eyes.
I moved around to the other side of the bed and poked Derek tentatively with a finger. He didn’t move. He was pale. I couldn’t see his chest move. I held my breath and watched, muttering pleas under my breath. After an eternity his chest lifted, ever so slightly. I grabbed his shoulders and shook them, shouting his name.
“Please wake up.”
He didn’t. I unbuttoned his shirt and looked for the wounds. None. And no blood either. I pulled his arms out of his shirt and with a grunt rolled him on to his side. His back had no marks either, but there were four bullet holes in his shirt. My heart started pounding even harder and faster in my chest, it felt like it was about to explode. My mind raced.
“How is this even possible? Where’s the blood? and the mayhem? What the hell is he?”
My knees shook, knocking in to one another. The pain was almost comforting. I half-sat, half-fell on to the edge of the bed. I tried to think.
“What do I know? What should I do?”
I breathed in and tried to clear my mind. I remembered our memories merging to the point where I couldn’t tell the difference between us. I was him. And I was me. The memories were unclear though, like a dream that you know was important but can’t quite hold on to. We got attacked. Derek protected me. He scared off our attackers. Then what happened? A taxi. Yes, there was a taxi and struggling up stairs. He passed out and then I did too. Then I woke up.
“What do I do now?”
He doesn’t seem injured, but he won’t wake up. You can’t just leave him here helpless, but how could you explain this to, well, anyone?
“Ah, sorry officer, I was too busy trying to sort my memories out from his to remember what was happening around me last night. No, I don’t do drugs, why do you ask?”
Probably not a great idea. I need help, but none of my friends would know what to do. Mum would freak out. Maybe Dad. He wouldn’t understand and he’d want to call the cops, but he wouldn’t if I asked him not to. I’m pretty sure he’d help me hide a body if I needed to. Hopefully that’s not necessary though. He’s not going to have any better idea what to do than I am. And I’d have to explain to him why a strange, now shirtless, man is lying in my bed unconscious. Probably best to avoid the family.
It occurred to me that he may have emergency contacts in his wallet or in his phone, if he had one – it was the early 2000s and phones were common but not everywhere. I quickly rifled through his pants pockets. No phone. Damn. His wallet then.
Small mercies! In one of the few card pouches, hidden behind some old photos, was a scrap of paper with a scrawled note, “In case of emergency, call MacGregor” and a phone number. I sighed and ran towards the phone. In my haste, my shin bashed into the corner of the coffee table. I swore and dialled the number. The phone rang. I counted. Once, twice, three times.
“C’mon, answer the fucking phone already.” Four. Five. “Fuck, fuck, fuck”. It stopped midway through the sixth ring. A gruff Scottish voice answered
“MacGregor’s, what do you want?”
“Umm, hello, hi. I got your number from Derek. He had a card with it on. He’s in trouble and needs your help.”
“Hmph. What sort of trouble? I don’t need his sort of problems near me.”
“Please, he’s unconscious. We were attacked last night. He got rid of them and we’re hiding at my place, but I don’t know how to help him. He got shot, but there are no wounds and I can’t wake him up. Please help him.”
“Hmph. Maybe. What’s your address?” I told him. He harrumphed a few more times and said help would come within the hour or not at all and then hung up.
I sat down on the couch to wait. My shin started throbbing. I looked down on it and saw blood and torn stockings. I watched the bruise start to form. My head was pounding now too, it felt like a terrible hangover. The type you get when the night before involved many shots of tequila. The pain felt good. It was understandable. Normal. Predictable. I focussed on it and the world went fuzzy and then dark.
A pounding on the door woke me. I was still sitting on my couch. I took a few moments. Looked around through bleary eyes and gently shook my head.
“Alright, alright, I’m coming,” I shouted to whoever was knocking. My head was pounding, my eyes heavy. I tried to work out why someone would be pounding at my door and why I was asleep on the couch. There was no reason and then it came back quickly and all-at-once. Derek! I jumped the last few steps to the door and yanked it open.
The first thing I noticed about MacGregor the Scotsman was that he was, in fact, a she. The second thing I noticed was her long red hair. The third thing was her eyes. I didn’t intend to notice them or to look carefully in to them. It just happened. And then I Saw. I saw her running over fields as a young girl. And then my mind sprinted into a brick wall. My knees buckled and I grabbed at the door handle to stop from falling.
“It’s rude to look into someone’s mind, you know?”, she said.
It took me a moment to realise that she was saying it inside my head. Her voice echoed through my headache. She stared through me. Her hard, grey eyes unblinking. I stammered an apology, still reeling from the abrupt closure of my sight.
“Where’s Derek? Who are you? Why’d you call my brother? And just how likely am I to get shot at today?” Between each question she poked me in the chest. Stomping into the room as I stumbled backwards. Each time one of her boots hit the floor, I winced. After the third, I clutched at my head with my hand. Forgetting that I was using it to keep myself upright.
I promptly fell flat on my arse. I considered getting up, but thought better of it as a wave of dizziness overtook me.
“Which question do you want me to answer first? Please, do come in and make yourself at home,” I said. I rested my head down on the ground, wondering if I could wish her away.
She cracked a grin.
“I could like you. Let’s start with why you’re on the floor looking like you went six rounds with the cheapest rotgut you could find?”
I looked up at her and propped myself up on one elbow. Nope. Bad plan. The floor is quite comfortable enough. I laid my head back down and closed my eyes.
“Got shot at. Fled. Weird memory thing. Everything hurts,” I’m fairly certain the world was actually spinning at this point. I tried to close my eyes more.
“When? How likely I am to get shot at in the immediate future?”
“Last night. Not very. Please less loud.”
She chuckled. It was a deep, comfortable sound. Under any other circumstances, I would have taken an instant like to her. It’s hard not to like someone with a good hearty chuckle. At the time it just sounded like someone had stuck gravel to a towel, shoved it in one ear, pulled it out the other and was pulling it back and forwards. I smiled at the imagery. And instantly regretted it. Who knew smiling could be so painful?
“Okay then. I guess I can put these down. I hate wearing them.” A pair of loud thunks came from the coffee table. I groaned and lifted my head. I risked squinting to see what she’d put down. I briefly saw what looked like a pistol before the light forced me to screw my eyes shut again.
She dropped a bag next to my head. I heard a metallic clunk, mercifully muted by something soft. MacGregor knelt next to me and placed her hand on my forehead.
“You’re not looking so good. Where’s Derek?”
“Bedroom.” Instinctively, I pointed the way. The sudden movement was it for me. I rolled over and vomited. Once I stopped and the stomach cramps passed, I opened my eyes. Combat boots. Covered in vomit. That and a pool of stomach contents on my carpet is all I could see. I resisted the urge to vomit again. Barely.
MacGregor sighed. She reached into her bag and pulled out a towel and a small pouch. I rolled on to my back and wished I was dead. She bent down for a moment then dropped the towel on my face.
“Clean yourself up. You’ll feel better”
She stomped over to my kitchen. I laid as still as I could. I heard cupboards open and close. The tinkling of glass. A tap running. More stomping. A glass set down on the glass coffee table. Suddenly I felt small strong arms reaching under my legs and shoulders and then I was raising up off the floor. My stomach did somersaults and my head sounded like cannon fire. I groaned.
Gently, she set me down on the couch. Half sitting, mostly flopped. She placed a cold glass in my hand and pressed two pills into the other.
“Take them. Drink all the water. You’ll feel better.” She said it in a tone that invited no discussion. Like a mother to a sick child or a stern nurse to an unruly patient. I took the pills and drank the entire glass. She took it out of my hands.
“I guess I should see to the man-child. Stay here. I’ll check on him and then I’ll give you the basics of the world you’ve found your way into.”
I heard the chink of the glass being placed on the table and counted her footsteps as she went to the bedroom. One. Two. Three. And then I slept.