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Paranorm World #3
by June Stevens
As the fog in my brain lifted and I climbed towards consciousness, it was as if I could feel every cell in my body, and they were all throbbing. There wasn’t any real pain; it was more like every nerve ending in my body was on high alert. I tried lifting my eyelids and was surprised to find they were working properly. The room was dim, yet I could see everything clearly—not that there was much to see other than a darkly painted ceiling. When I turned my head, a sharp pain stabbed through my brain.
“Ouch,” I said, my voice coming out in a loud croak.
“You’re awake,” a familiar voice said. Pinky’s face hovered over mine. “Welcome back, darling girl.”
His voice was breathy as if he were whispering, yet it was so loud I couldn’t help but wince. Pain and worry etched his face, and he looked tired in a way I’d never seen before.
“What happened? Where am I?” My voice sounded dry, cracked, and a little panicky. I couldn’t help it. Fear was starting to bubble up inside my stomach, churning it. I felt so odd. So much of my body hurt, and then there was the pain that wasn’t pain, but more of an odd sensation. Where was I and why was Pinky staring down at me as if I’d just come back from the dead?
“Shh, it’s okay,” Pinky said, trying to soothe me.
He laid his hand on my arm, but it hurt and I flinched away. “Ouch,” I said, tears filling my voice. “Pinky, what’s going on? Why does it hurt?”
“Shh, don’t talk. I need to get you some tea to soothe your throat. Lie there and rest.”
Too weak to argue, I did as he bade, closing my eyes as I waited. I didn’t drift back off to sleep, though. I was painfully aware of Pinky moving around the room. It was as if every sound was amplified, and every shift in the air blew across my skin. From the sounds, I’d guessed there was a teapot and crystal warming plate in the room. The scent of herbs and something else I couldn’t name burst into the room as he slid the lids off glass containers. The odor grew stronger before softening as he combined them and poured hot water over the mixture.
Within a few minutes, Pinky was back by my side, though he had never actually left the room.
“Are you ready to try to sit up?” he asked, placing a mug on a table near my head.
“I think so,” I said, opening my eyes and gazing up at his concerned face. I wasn’t completely sure I was telling the truth, but curiosity was gnawing at me. I wanted to know what had happened, but I knew Pinky wouldn’t tell me anything unless he thought I was doing better. Though better than what, I had no idea.
Several minutes later, I was cursing my curiosity and wishing I’d just told Pinky I wasn’t ready to sit up yet. But I hadn’t, and I was sitting up. If you could call propped against six pillows that forced me into a sitting position ‘sitting up’. I wasn’t even sure propped was the correct word because the moment Pinky let go of me after putting the last pillow into place, I’d collapsed back onto them, heaving from the pain and effort of getting into the position. Even with Pinky’s help, it had been excruciating and exhausting.
“Here, this will help,” Pinky said, holding the mug of warm liquid to my lips.
I sipped it, the strong flavor exploding in my mouth. “What is that?” I asked after swallowing several mouthfuls.
“An herbal tea from River’s garden. Chamomile, I think. There’s some medicine to help your pain mixed in,” he answered, setting the empty mug down. “Are you feeling any better?”
The medicine must be why it tasted so strong, but I was feeling a little better. “My throat doesn’t hurt as much.”
He smiled. “Good.”
“Pinky, what happened? How did I get sick? What’s wrong with me?” As I asked the questions, I watched my father’s face grow serious, dread filling his eyes.
“I’m not sure right now is the best time. I think you need more rest.”
“No,” I said. It took every bit of energy I had, but I pushed his hand away as he tried to pull the blanket up around me. “I don’t want to rest. Please, what happened? Why does everything hurt? Why are you the one taking care of me? Where’s River and Fiona?”
With every question, my voice got more and more shrill. As I asked about my sisters, I realized just how strange, how wrong, it was for them not to be in the room. Were they sick too? Had something happened to them?
“Shh, Anya, calm down, baby. Fiona and River are okay,” Pinky crooned as he gripped my hands between his. I realized I had been screaming out the thoughts in my head and that I was sobbing. “If you’ll drink another mug of tea, I’ll tell you, okay?”
I nodded, the motion making my head ache. “Okay,” I said, trying to stop crying now that I realized I was doing it.
Pinky prepared another mug of tea, and we sat in silence as I drank it. The drink soothed me, sending a warming calm throughout my body. I suspected Pinky had put some sort of sedative in it that would knock me out soon, but I wasn’t about to be deterred.
I held the mug out. “It’s all gone. Now tell me what’s wrong with me. I don’t want to wake up again feeling so confused and scared.”
The moment I spoke the words, I could see the determination to keep me in the dark fade from Pinky’s demeanor. “Okay. I suppose knowing will be better than the fear of not knowing. What do you remember?”
I shook my head, grateful that the last cup of tea had taken away the stabbing pain behind my eyes. “I don’t know. What do you mean?”
“Before you woke up here, what is the very last thing you remember doing?”
I thought hard, trying to focus. An image of Farrah and River formed in my mind. They were laughing. “I was at the market with Farrah and River. We were having lunch.”
“You don’t remember anything else? Do you know what you did after you left the market?”
I tried to think. I remembered telling River goodbye and walking towards the bridge with Farrah, but as we neared the bridge, everything got fuzzy, and then it was black. I couldn’t remember. As I concentrated, another sharp throbbing started behind my left eye. I rubbed at my temple.
“I don’t know, Pinky. I can’t remember.” My voice was nearing hysteria.
“Shh, it’s okay,” Pinky said, sitting on the edge of the bed and pulling me into his arms. “I’m going to tell you what happened, but I need you to promise to try to stay calm. You are safe and loved, and no matter what, you will be okay. Promise to remember that?”
I nestled my head against his chest, much as I did when I was a child. The comfort of his arms was accompanied by the feeling of dozens of tiny bees stinging my skin at every point where we touched, but I ignored it. A sense of dread was slipping over me, but I needed to know. “I promise.”
As my adoptive father cradled me in his arms and rocked me like a baby, my entire world was pulled out from under my feet. He told me Farrah and I had been attacked, and that Farrah was fine, but I’d been kidnapped. He didn’t have any other details except that Jarrett and Fiona tried to get me back, but the kidnapper, some woman named Cora, had cut my throat. I’d been dying and the only chance they’d had to save me was to infect me with the N-V virus.
The only way to save my life had been to change it forever. To change me forever. I was now a vampire.
- The winner will receive a mystery box from Crimson Tree Publishing.