A different approach on an on-going story.
I slammed the brakes and ran from the car. It wasn’t smart thing to leave the doors open in this area, but I didn’t care.
“Where is he?” I ran up the stairs of an old flat house, painted by the youth that called it home. They were fighting against some old man, who had raised the prices by drawing graffiti over every wall they had access to.
“Where is he?” I demanded some dimwitted girl, who pointed me towards the end of the corridor.
I didn’t see anything, only other young men standing or crouching against the wall, all scared to death. They were useless punch, when it came caring for each other, too young to know anything of the most common diseases, too dedicated to fight against injustice that they failed to learn from the older generation.
Fredrick was definitely the older generation. Not that they knew.
“I can’t find him, where is he?” I yelled over the corridor and some girl finally stepped out, took me by the sleeve and led me around the corner.
My heart sank and I felt my stomach turn up. Fredrick was laying there, his hospital bed – they had got some few months back, he wrote me – pulled out from his room and two girls were eagerly packing everything he owned into black bags.
I watched over his lean body, wide tear filled eyes and his curls like black unruly halo around his head on the white pillow case. He was bleeding bad. It wasn’t seemingly from one main wound, but it looked like every poor and cavity on his body was suddenly giving out his precious blood.
“This disease – we don’t know what it is,” the girl said, who had brought me there, “they had a fight with Mathew and suddenly he began bleeding! We are separating him from others – what if he is dangerous? We don’t…”
I managed to breathe out and jerked her off my sleeve.
“He’s not infectious!” I yelled out and ran straight to his reached out hand. I did checkup on his eyes and hands and ears. He had been beaten, his pulse was rushing through his body like train on the tracks and every touch he’d received appeared on his body as if the hands had pressed blood out of his flesh.
“Hemophilia?” I gasped for air. No, that can’t be right!
I gave him pain mixed smile. He was genuinely happy I was there, crying from happiness as he drag me closer with his hand until I had to sit on his side.
“They gave you something?”
“Painkillers, and then this breaks loose…”
“What kind of painkillers?”
“Ibu… something. I don’t know.”
I checked his eyes one more time to see if they were yellow, but besides the bloody tears, they were white and lovely brown.
“What’s happening to me?”
I gave him pain struck smile. “Bring me some warm clean water and we will clean you up first.” I promised, though inside I was crying. I knew he was prone to bruises after they had to fight, but this was ridiculously stupid way to go.
“Tell me truth, Evelyn!” he demanded.
“Those stupid, stupid youth!” I cried in my head. Had they done something about it before, he would have had a chance, but now it was too late. The blood vessels were too weak, we couldn’t do anything to save him now.
“I’m thirsty.” He said, when I couldn’t get anything out to tell him the truth.
“I have some juice,” I promised him, “I’ll get it from my car.” I sighed and went, reluctantly letting his hand go.
I dragged my feet, when I was going back down to get the juice. I was crying by the time I reached my car. I think I spent there almost five minutes, sitting on the first seat, the multi juice locked between my fingers. They were still covered with the blood I had brushed away from his cheeks and eyes.
Fredrick was dying. How on earth could they let it go so far? He was a doctor after all! Damn good one, too. Yet there he was now, fighting for the youth’s living space as if it was the only thing that mattered. For youth who wouldn’t even take him to hospital. And now it was too late. Even if we did get him to hospital, they wouldn’t do anything, because it was too late.
I was so angry, I could have hit any of them, who would approach me in the next few hours. I pushed up from my seat and fished my bag of band-aids and bandages before retrieving the juice and slammed the door closed.
I took a deep breath, taking good look on surroundings. This was his home now? It was nothing more than ruins! What was he doing here? Street, flat house with blocked out windows, street… A man standing on the corner and watching my every move? I didn’t feel danger from him and it struck me as odd. He seemed worried instead and I frowned. Another one, who would let him die instead of taking him to hospital?
I took a step towards him and watched as he responded with same. But then he saw something behind me and pulled back, obvious frustration written over his face like a stone rock.
They don’t let him, I realized, when one of the boys ran past me on the street and headed towards the city centre.
I did a small gesture, pressing the hand with the juice canister against my heart for a moment and nodded. He bowed lightly and I knew he was still there, when I went back upstairs.
They had brought me small basin with the requested hot water and after I had released him from the soaked through linen, I started washing him up, ignoring his cries of pain. It had to be done and I soothed him as much as I could. For a moment, I felt the strength and I knew it had to be done. I cleaned his hands, his feet and chest before bellowing some random boy the help me turn him and I washed his back. The moment I covered his wounds, the red fluid started flowing through it once more. The neckline and hands were covered with red before I was finished with the rest of the body. He wasn’t blue anymore. There wasn’t even a hint of bluish tint on this blood covered body.
“When did it start?” I asked him while desperately covering his last free parts on his neck. They soaked in blood immediately and my hands cramped, pressing the last cover on him. It was hopeless fight, but it had to be done, I assured myself. My head was fuming, trying to figure out how to get his bleeding to stop.
“You know what I have?”
I nodded, looking away. Yes, I knew, but without the right drugs, there was little I could do to make his last days on this life comfortable.
“How long do I have?”
“Enough to enjoy the sunrise?” I offered him, looking straight to his eyes. He loved sunrises.
“That bad, huh? Will you stay here?”
I nodded and hid my hands behind me, sensing the tremble taking over them. My chest was suddenly too small for the pain.
“Sleep for few hours,” I offered, “I promise you won’t die yet. I’ll wake you up hours before sunrise.”
He agreed that he was tired and laid back down, refusing me to change his bed sheets. “They’ll be soaked again.” he said and at that point the tears fell from my red eyes. He reached out to me and cleaned them away, promising that though he was hoping to outlive this foolish fight in the first place, he’ll make it all better.
I didn’t ask him, how. I let him close his eyes and sat there, in front of his bed, his hand locked in mine so I could feel his pulse. I couldn’t move and I didn’t want to.
The youth came and went, all eyeing us from the doorways to different rooms. We were still in the end of the corridor, with wonderful view through half round windows facing south. I wondered what this house must have been before it was taken over by the youth. There were many pipes running under the ceiling and old rug was still visible under the thick layer of rubbish. A hotel perhaps?
In two hours it was all quiet. They had stopped coming out of their rooms. From the far left I even heard praying…
When the Full Moon had risen, I could see it well from the window, I heard quiet steps coming our way. They were hardly audible, but in the sort of silence this house harbored, I could hear them clearly. So far none of the eighteen students I’d seen hadn’t bothered to sneak like that, so I unlocked the knife from my belt and fixed my fingers around it for easy grabbing.
It was the man from the shadow. He was falling closer without sound, stopping every now and then to peak in the rooms before passing the doorways.
I let my knife be. For some reason, I couldn’t see him as the evil one. The moon made his figure glow silvery on the edge. I couldn’t tell what color his hair was. He was close to the same height as Fredrick, but bulkier and when he reached his hands out to me, they were covered with web of veins running over his rough skin. But it made no difference. Right now all I cared about was that he was probably the closest Fredrick had for a friend here and I was interested, what his part was in this game.
“How is he?” he asked, crouching next to me.
I shook my head, wincing. I couldn’t voice out what I feared, but I hoped he was smarter than this punch here and won’t ask.
He didn’t. Instead he reached his hands around my chest and pulled me on my feet. It happened before I could tell him not to, but when my feet suddenly gave in and I fell against his side, I realized it was the only way to get me up and keep me up. My feet had died long ago and now they were filled with pain.
I was still leaning against him, my left hand searching support from his shoulder while the right one was still measuring Fredrick’s pulse.
“They don’t let you in here, do they?” I whispered, ignoring the smoky smell lingering around him.
“I’m their enemy.” He said without elaborating it.
“And Fredrick’s your friend.”
“Yes.” he said and let me go, sensing I was now standing firmly on my feet. “When Fredrick messaged to me, I called through all the hospitals first, but after I couldn’t find him from any, I realized they hadn’t taken him to hospital at all.”
“I will deal with them later.” I promised. I wasn’t sure what I could have done without revealing, who Fredrick really was, but I will think of something, I was sure of that.
“Take in line.” He murmured. Our eyes locked and I saw from his eyes that I didn’t want to be part of his revenge. I nodded. Whatever he had planned for them, I would accept it gladly and stand out of his way.
Fredrick moved and around all the muscles he moved, the bandages soaked with new blood.
I quietly raised his hand higher and started undoing the knot with one hand. He watched me do it for a minute before taking the knife from my side and cutting it through. I pointed at the water bottle I had on the edge of his bed and he misted the bandage before we peeled it off. He was good at wound care, I reckoned, watching him do it quickly and quietly without me having to release Fredrick’s hand.
“He didn’t tell me he had a girlfriend.” He asked suddenly, after I sat back on his side on the table, studying us openly.
“I’m not. We worked together and he helped me see the reason, where my limited youth got stuck.” We’d only known each other for three years, to be truthful, but I wasn’t telling to a total stranger that his experience, despite his 30s appearance, actually reached more nearly 90 years. Definitely helpful to have a wise-ass like that on my hands. But now his time was limited and it pained me inside that it had to be through such a silly thing.
“He messaged me yesterday, said he was sick and wanted me here.”
“And like a good friend, you just came?”
He sounded baffled, but I frowned only and pressed his doubts back in his mouth. We were not lovers. Had never been and I’d be damned should I spread lies of that sort about Friedrick.
“Like you, I came.” I reminded him that he was here because of that too. “We’ve always been able to rely on each other.”
“He owes you something?”
I appreciated him worrying for his friend, but that was insulting. My eyes flashed up in his and I punched him hard to his chest. “Let it go! He owes me nothing!” I burst crying and covered my mouth to muffle the sound, and looked away. “He is my friend!”
“I’m sorry.” He said and turned his eyes back on Fredrick. “It’s just you’re dealing with it so well.”
“Huh!” I snorted quietly, drying the tears. “Meet me tomorrow.”
“He wanted me here to tell me something.” He changed the subject. “I should wake him up.”
I blocked his hand. “Not yet. I’ll ask about it tomorrow and let you know what he wanted to tell you. Right now he needs to rest if he wants to see the sunrise.”
“He always woke me up to see sunrises.” I patted Fredrick’s hand and calmed him, swiping gently over his chest when it made him stir through his sleep. “Everybody can watch Sun setting. But when Sun rose, he knew he had one more day.”
“Can’t we sneak him out to hospital?” He was rubbing his hands, eyes fixed on his face. “Steal him away and…”
My chest was tight, when I had to shake my head. I understood his need to do something, but right now all we could do, was give him a better ending. “Even if we could get him out, it would be too late.” My own voice sounded like icicle. “His condition is an end result of their experiment.” I started slowly, unsure how much he knew. “He never said he’d stopped taking the solution – and yet he came back every other month to get it from me! Stupid man…” I sighed. “Henry had proper method to deal with the setbacks. Why didn’t he tell him? Or he didn’t want to, it gets lonely in long term, after all.”
I felt his stare and coughed, stopping right there with my despair. He didn’t know that much, did he?
“You’re telling me there’s a cure?”
“No, there is no cure!” I hissed. Hadn’t he been listening at all? “He should have gotten it months ago! Now… Now it’s too late.”
He was breathing heavily, his jaw twitching. I reached hand out for his and pulled his rigged palm from the edge of the bed and placed it gently on Fredrick’s chest. His entire hand began shaking hard and he did everything in his power to keep his fingers steady so he wouldn’t wake him.
“I can’t let go, he would wake up.” I apologized quietly, why I couldn’t leave them alone there.
He took a shaky breath and looked straight at me. “Make sure he gets to enjoy it to its fullest! From beginning to the end!” he demanded. “Make sure!”
“I’ll wake him soon.”
“Ask him, what the message is, and then meet me at the cafeteria near the park.”
“I don’t know, where…” but he cut me off.
“It’s behind the house, you get there through the small street on the right.”
“I swear those bastards will pay for this!”
He pulled his hand away and left quietly, making sure he didn’t step on anything that would make unfamiliar sounds.
I found my knife gleaming from where his left hand had been just minutes ago and returned it on my belt. I was tired, but I didn’t dare to fall asleep.
Last hours I could be with my good friend. Even if he was just sleeping. That’s how our friendship had always been. We could sit next to each other in total silence for hours until he would stand up and say he forgot he had a date two hours ago. He never was keen on them. Brought him more trouble than it was worth. Past. It was all now in the past.
Two girls came home five in the morning, right before the Sunrise began. They came up the stairs, clopping and giggling like fouls, drunk as hell. I stood up to go and tell them off right there, but was caught up with Fredrick’s hand. I didn’t want to let it go, but I wasn’t going to tolerate their sick giggling either. It was so inappropriate I felt like cutting their tongues out.
They got closer, their laughing louder thanks to the empty corridor we had to occupy for this cruel night.
We must have been quite a site, for they stopped suddenly and observed us in shock.
“Oh! I forgot!” said the shorter one with shriveled catnip in her hair. “Sorry, we didn’t…” their voices faded, unsure how to apologize for their behavior, but unable to find the words, they simply disappeared in the nearest door with quick sorry.
Morning came too sudden. It was sounds of the empty house and his breathing, and then it was all gone. The sky began turning and I had no choice but to stern my heart and wake Fredrick.
I pressed gently, where the man had held his hand and shake him gently. He didn’t move at first. I repeated it, seeing the red flood from my hand print. I winched, sensing the fluids under my fingers.
“Hey, Fredrick, time to get up!” I coached him.
He pressed my fingers before slowly opening his eyes and assuring me with his smile. Then he saw his bandaged hand and he remembered it all and panic rose back in his eyes.
“It’s all right. We have time.” I assured him and pulled the sheet away. He sat up and fixed himself on the edge of the bed.
“My head is whirling around.”
“It’s ok, it will pass.” I got up, unsure if his headache would pass, considering the blood loss he must have suffered by now, but I couldn’t think of it yet. “I saw balcony,” I changed the subject, steering it back to why I got him up so early. Every word was tearing my dry throat. “Can we get there?”
“You need to pry the door open, but we shouldn’t have any problems.”
“So like you,” I wrangled, “leave all the work for me!” I turned, gathering the stuff that was still lying around and tossed them in the bag.
“Heh! Up from the stairs and the glass doors on your right. I need to pee first.”
After assuring me, he’d be ok, I left him there, weary if his words were actually to be trusted in his condition. I didn’t go far for the fear he’d faint. But after long time, I finally heard his heavy feet climbing from third floor to higher and went ahead.
The doors were actually open and though the entire house was dark like shadows surrounding us, we had no problem finding safe way through the broken glass to the tin roof edge, where three plastic white chairs were situated.
We landed on them, breathing in the early smells of the city. I watched him, he watched the horizon.
“We should change your bandages.” I said when the sun illuminated the blood soaked clothes, but he refused.
“There’s no point of that. Let’s just enjoy the site.” He entwined his fingers in mine so I would sit still and made me watch the sunrise instead.
The park was clearly visible from here. I could see the S-shapes of the roads between badly kept flower beds and wild bushes. Might be what the architect was hoping for, but it looked dreadful from up there. Behind the second house there looked indeed a small wooden shed and next to it chained up cheep chairs and just as cheep punch of tables.
For the first time in the past dreadful hours I felt good. The little tingling in the heart had eased into background music and despite the aching in my chest, I could calmly sit and forget that anything was wrong. The only thing missing was the glass of wine.
I was brought back to reality by his wheezy breathing and coughing. He brushed the blood away with the bandages around his hands. I ignored it, biting in the cheek. “Enjoy it,” echoed in my empty head, but my lips were sealed.
“You had visitor yesterday.” I remembered suddenly.
“Saul.” He nodded tiredly. “You’re meeting with him today?”
“Yes, he took that promise of me.” So, his name was Saul?
“Let him know that the wasp nest is ready to be killed off.” He said while we watched the cafeteria coming to life through one tiny lady’s efforts.
“He’ll be pleased. He has sworn to take out every wasp leaving this nest.”
His fingers crunched around mine for a second and eased again.
“I believe some of them should be speared…”
I pressed my lips in thin line from the pain.
“…but then again, sometimes filtering the not so smart ones does help the gene pool.”
I raised his hand to my lips and gave it a gentle kiss.
“They are just so stupid! Like in cross-section of a century stupid!”
“Oh, I know.” I agreed without hesitation.
“Actually, I had a message for you, too…” His eyes trailed off the horizon and stopped on the rusty railing. “Your father’s in town.”
“He is after Saul’s people now.”
I let out a long sigh.
“He killed two last time and then he disappeared.”
“He stopped, because Rasmus made the whole village leave over one night. Now they have gathered again and Stepan is on the roll. Again.” He paused to breath deeper. It was becoming hard for him. “You know how to find him. You were tracking him long before Saul got his scent.”
“What has this to do with me? He is the killer, not me.”
“Mykola reported you to Social Movement after you took Regina out.”
I rubbed my brows. Was there anything left of our affair with Mykola?
“If they find out, it will be third generation manslaughter, thus – you and everything coming from your line will get the gift from our government.”
“Clean-up kill!” I exhaled. “They know I’m his daughter?”
“Mykola is hunting him down himself as we speak – if he gets to him first, he’ll get the DNA proof he’ll need to get you killed on spot.”
I might have been dead serious for he snorted quietly and brushed my cheek. “You can swear if you want. I know I did, when he told me.”
He was right for I did want to curse. “When did you see him last?”
“A month ago.”
“Is that when you stopped taking the medicine?” I cried out, hurt for his so stupid action. For he had so much promising for him, and yet here we sat, facing the consequences.
“Medicine?” He burst laughing. “Oh, darling!” He pulled my hand up and kissed it with red tear rolling over his bruised cheek. Then he reached for my head and pulled me closer for a long, last kiss on my cheek. “Kill the whole experiment! Please!”
I embraced his hand with tears and kissed it before hugging him strong.
“Go now, Saul will come soon.”
I left him there, rushing down the stairs like a fool. I wanted to cry, scream or at least yell, but couldn’t manage even a wimp on his address. I left the car in front of the house, unwilling to check if all my things were still there. How could that have mattered right now?
I landed on the cold plastic near the cafeteria in less than two minutes, back against the house, where I knew Fredrick was still sitting there. I ordered strong coffee, though I knew it would irritate my stomach straight up. But I needed the waking effect more.
I emptied half of it in one go, tears clouding my vision. I saw Saul running towards the tables with someone else. He slowed down and crotched in front of me, grabbing for my hands to pull them away from my face. I hadn’t noticed I was doing it.
“Saul!” the young man next to him called out and he turned his eyes towards the shown direction. He sounded horrified and my eyes filled with renewed flow of tears.
He jolted up and stood next to me, falling back with horror.
I kept my eyes straight ahead, but it didn’t mean I was ignorant of what they were witnessing. My stomach crunched with caffeine and turned upside down. Did I have to drink that tar?
Fredrick was climbing over the balcony. No, first he would remove all the bandages, one by one until he was free of everything but his trousers. Then he would climb over the edging and hang himself securely over the void, rocking his body back and forth until his head seemed too dizzy to think. Then he let go and fell. Like ripe apple, his sweet already bleeding body would go down the railing and fall flat from the fifth floor.
I think I heard his body hit the pavement. It was impossible, for we were too far from it, but I still believe I heard the sound.
I sat there, hands crunched in fists in front of me and shaking.
“Hey, hey…” he soothed, “it’s ok.” I heard him sooth, his voice cracking. He didn’t believe what he was saying himself. He was trying to pull my hands free around the plastic and after some prying he got them free and pulled me in his arms instead. I hang on to his shirt, crying like helpless child.
“What a man…” I heard his companion say.
“Malek! Shut it!” he ordered, hurt and locked me in his arms, fearing I’d do something about it.
“I guess I’ll call at work then…” the younger man said without any emotion and fell backwards to call somewhere.
“Come on, darling, we need to go.”
“He’ll be cared for. Come on, you need to come with us.”