**This novel is a work of adult fiction containing graphic depictions of violence. It is not advised for younger readers.**
Is there ever a true release from the darkness. Does it not always have some hold on our souls. Even in following Christ there is always still some sliver of doubt nestled away in corners on the mind. These slivers often go ignored, but are allowed to remain. Those who are blind to them are often the ones with the largest nooks and crannies for those thoughts to hide in. It often leads people down paths of corruption as they find ways to justify actions allowing these dark thoughts to influence them in ways they are unaware.
No one is ever truly free of the dark, but only blind to it.
Even as Lizzie wakes up in a brightly lit room, she still lingers her gaze around focusing on the different shadows that have collected in the corners and to the side of the cabinets. Then when she goes to wipe away the sleep from her eyes, finds that she is once again restrained.
Her glance to her hands resulted in noticing the tray by her bed and the Jello sitting there on a little plate. Then she noticed the woman sitting in the soft chair reserved for guests. The woman had obviously been sleeping, still wearing the nursing scrubs she had worn all night. She was awake now, and already leaning forward to stand.
“I’ll take care of those.” She said as she rose, nodding to Lizzie’s restrained wrists. “I put them back on when you started flailing in your sleep. You had some nasty nightmares and I was afraid you might hurt yourself.”
Lizzie nodded and watched as she undid the straps. Elisabeth finished with them and then without waiting for Lizzie to ask, she brought the cup over from the tray and handing it to her. Lizzie sipped at it, grateful for its cool liquid. She noticed that inside the cup was the remnants of ice, so at some point in the morning Elisabeth had refilled it with ice water long before Lizzie had woken.
The water tasted and felt great and Lizzie had to wonder if the woman was psychic with how she had known just what Lizzie had needed before she herself had.
That was when she noticed more about the woman as she looked different in true morning light, not as old as Lizzie had originally thought. She did have silver hair, and maybe that was why Lizzie had thought her to be older, but her face was of someone Lizzie’s age. On a second look and in the right morning sun, it was obvious the silver hair was a dye and a really good one. Whoever did her hair did an amazing job.
“Who does your hair? It’s amazing!”
Elizabeth sparkled with a bright smile warming her face. She took a second to look down embarrassed, probably not used to taking compliments and especially about her hair before she looked up again.
“A girl my mom knows. Her names Rachel and she works out of her living room, but she really knows her stuff. She does some wicked coloring.”
“It looks great,” and she meant it. The silver just caught the light and somehow transformed it so it brightened the room. And it was so different. Who dies their hair silver? Everyone always wants to be the blond or the red head, but no one does silver. It was amazing.
Though seeing it in the morning light reminded her and Lizzie had to ask, “Why are you still here? Shouldn’t you be off by now?”
“I am. I kinda stuck around. Long story, but yeah, ended up falling asleep in your chair and then you woke me up.”
“You should go home, get some sleep.”
“I will. I wanted you to know I called the Sheriff’s department. They said they’ll send a deputy here around ten, which should be in an hour or so, so you got some time for breakfast and the kitchen is still open so all you have to do is call down to them.”
“I did get the Jello for you earlier,” Elisabeth motioned to the glob of gelatin on a plate. “It was awhile ago, not sure I’d eat it.”
“Yeah… so how’s the cafeteria food?”
“Decent. Better when your sick.”
“What?” Lizzie said, not able to suppress the giggle that escaped her. She can’t believe she was giggling. She had just lost her best friend yesterday, a friend she had known for most her life. There wasn’t much her and Sarah didn’t do together. How would she ever go shopping without her?
But now she was with this stranger, and laughing. Something about being around this woman helped her to forget some of the pain and the grief. She still felt it hiding on the fringes, keeping to the corner of her thoughts, but it stayed there, not pulling her in while Elisabeth was around. And the woman had stayed when she hadn’t needed too. Maybe that unabashed kindness is part of what allowed her to keep those stashes of grief secure or at least at bay until she had a chance to feel them.
“You know…’better when your sick’” She was saying with her hands lifted in air quotes. “Such as being so sick you can’t taste it” Elizabeth said trying unsuccessfully to hide the giggle.
“That bad, huh.”
They were interrupted when another nurse entered the room and walked over to the chart.
“Hey Lizzie, good morning. I’m Annie and I’ll be your RN this morning. Elisabeth is keeping you company I see. So how are you doing?” This new nurse seemed much more ‘matter of fact’ as she entered the room with her painted on smile. She was short, thin, had short multicolored hair, but didn’t seem as warm or friendly as Elisabeth was. Lizzie looked to Elisabeth and saw that she was not happy with this newcomer.
“I’m fine.” Lizzie said as Annie picked up her chart and started to finger through it, occasionally jotting down notes before putting it back in the rack by the door. Then she scanned a card she had unclipped from her waste on a pad on the wall before she proceeded to the patient of the room.
“Okay, so I’m just going to take some vitals and get you checked out.” Annie was already pulling a stethoscope from behind the bed and motioning for her to hold out her arm. “Would you like Beth to stay or for her to go?”
Lizzie had no problem with ‘Beth’ staying though she could tell this new nurse would like her gone. Looking back at Elisabeth she could tell the feeling was mutual. Though Annie must be the senior as Elisabeth lowered her glare first and could barely be heard when she mumbled, “I should be getting home anyways.”
Before Lizzie could call out to stop her, she was already out of the room and hurrying down the hallway.
“I got some good news for you. Looks like you’ll probably be released today now that your up. The doctor will be in soon for a final check up and Janice from accounting will be in for your insurance and payment information.”
“Wait, what?” Lizzie’s head was already spinning and she had lost focus on what the nurse had been saying. Her vision had blurred and the nurse had kept talking saying something about “home” and “insurance.” Did she have homeowners insurance? What was the woman talking about.
The room swirled around her, colors elongating as they stretched into odd distortions of their former existence. She couldn’t breathe. What was going on? Money, all this was about money? What, who did that? She wasn’t out of the hospital yet, hadn’t even seen the light of day after seeing her best friend brutally killed and they were already there to take from her? Couldn’t they just bill her, send her something in the mail?
“It’s not a big deal. Janice will just take down your information, and if you want to make a payment you can. Its not required. No one is asking you to pay it all off or anything today.” The nurse was saying. Lizzie wasn’t even sure if the woman could see how she reacted.
She was all alone to deal with things like this now.
No, she’d been alone before, just as alone as she had been since her parents were gone. She couldn’t rely on her brother, and her uncle had never been there for her. It was aways her and her alone. That was the way of it and the world she now lived in.
Lizzie found herself nodding in agreement to whatever the nurse was saying. She had stopped listening. It didn’t matter. She was getting out later today so who cared about anything in this place.
Elisabeth had been nice. Why did all the nice ones have to go? She wished she could have talked to her more, but was that her trying to replace the friend she lost? Could she be so callous to move on from caring about Sarah who’d she had known most her life.
No, but it had been nice to talk to someone. It got her to stop thinking about Sarah, and even if it was only for a short while, it had helped. The pain would be there, who knew for how long though she didn’t think it was going away any time soon. It would be there whenever she had a moment alone or just looked at a piece of lemon cake that Sarah loved so much. It would be there whenever Lizzie went to Penny’s as they had gone there countless times and had wondered the aisles just talking to themselves and trying on whatever they liked.
Sarah would be with her for a long time.
“Okay, well, your vitals are looking good. BP is up, but with what you’ve been through that is understandable. You’ll need to follow up though in a week or two with your regular doctor, but I’m not thinking anything of it.”
Lizzie just nodded. Insurance. Her friend was lost and they were wanting to talk about insurance. Something about that made it all now seem so real. It had been real before, all through the night, but the drugs or the dream of it all had made her find a way to ignore the reality.
Annie must have taken her nodding as if she understood as she was already heading to the chart by the curtain. She grabbed it and was making quick notations when something occurred to her and looked back up at Lizzie.
“I almost forgot. There was a notation about the sheriffs department? They called earlier and I let them know you weren’t awake yet but was expected to be this afternoon. I’m assuming they’ll be stopping by. I don’t need to restrain you until they get here do I?”
“Why would I?”
“Oh, some types of people hear police and they run.”
Annie never saw the mouth dropped stare she got from Lizzie as she finished her notations and was quick to leave down the hallway. Really? Did she look like a person who regularly hid from the police?
Actually she had no idea what she looked like. She hadn’t seen a mirror since she had left her apartment in Steven’s Point yesterday. Then they had only been going to the lawyers office as he had things he had wanted to discuss. When he had told her about the money and the house, the two of them hadn’t been able to help themselves and had to go check it out.
Sarah had started making calls immediately and invited all her friends. They hadn’t even gotten their coffee from the barista at Starbucks when they’d heard back that a few of them had said they’d be there.
Had any of them actually been there, Sarah may have still been alive. That or someone else might have died and she’d still have her best friend hanging around.
“Damn, what a bitch.” Sarah said.
At first Lizzie thought she was losing her mind, that the voice had been internal, loud in her head. Thought it was so much louder than her other thought voices that were trapped in there.
Then Sarah appeared, walking out from behind the elevated bed. She looked just like she had last seen her, the large open area on her neck where the naked man had ripped away her flesh. That perky pink shirt she had been wearing now drenched in blood, most of it on the side that most the blood ran down. Her head had a large gash in it that Lizzie hadn’t noticed before but probably came from when she had crashed to the floor. Her eyes still held that dead, lifeless quality as they fixed on her.
“I thought they were never going to leave, but that last one… Did you see that condescending look. She thought you were trailer park, I could see it in her eyes.”
Lizzie hadn’t thought her mouth could widen more, but as she stared up at her dead friend, her jaw was near dislocating and drool dropped from her open lip. She wiped at it but never took her eyes off the apparition.
She wanted to scream, but no. I can’t do that. I can’t scream. Screaming would just bring that nurse back in here as well as anyone else nearby and then I would definitely get restrained again. On top of that, they would find a nice white padded room and put my name on it. It would be saved just for me, as here is Lizzie in the looney bin as she has finally lost it. Her and her books, all those crazy thoughts finally drove her nuts, and it would be true, I would be crazy and everyone would be right. And maybe, just maybe I am crazy. After all, here’s my best friend back from the dead and talking to me just like I was.
Her mouth was going dry. Her tongue felt like a layer of dust was settling, but she couldn’t close her mouth. She tried but the best should do was just to sit there mouth mostly closed, and still not saying anything. What do you say to your dead best friend when she shows up in your hospital room. ‘Hey, how you doing? How’s death? Have you met Elvis?’
Okay, maybe the Elvis question was a little off. Though she might have run into David Bowie. He’d been hot in Labyrinth. Maybe she’d seen him somewhere there in the afterlife and they’ve had a few go arounds. That’d be just Sarah’s way of doing things. She always got the hot guys.
Lizzie really was losing it.
“Lizzie. Earth to Lizzie. Anyone home?”
“This isn’t happening.” Lizzie said as she tossed off the thin sheet like blanket and threw her feet off the bed to touch the cold linoleum floor. She hadn’t noticed that the IV’s were gone, but had they still been attached they wouldn’t have stopped her from dashing to the bathroom.
She made it with her stomach already lurching, trying to expel contents that were not there. Her bladder had been screaming at her but she’d been ignoring it. Now as she lowered herself over the bowl of the toilet, it was done holding back. She heaved into the toilet, only stomach juices emerging from her, but she could feel the warmth between her legs and smell the putrid scent of urine. The floor grew wet and warm. Tears streaked her face but she couldn’t stop dry heaving into the open bowl. Maybe it was disgust with what she now sat in, or with how she abandoned her friend, but it sure as shit couldn’t be disgust with how her friend looked because she wasn’t real. It hadn’t really been her standing there in Lizzie’s hospital room.
“Lizzie, it’s going to be okay. I’m here.”
Lizzie turned to see that Sarah stood in the doorway. She looked, pained at seeing Lizzie this way.
No! This isn’t real. This can’t be happening!
Lizzie kicked out, though as she tried to reach with her foot to close the door, it slipped on shit and urine that coated the floor. Her feet gave out from supporting her and she fell the short distance to the hard tile floor.
“Get out!” Lizzie yelled it, not sure if she was furious that her friend was back from the dead or at herself for the mess she had made. She kept kicking out her feet, trying to get purchase on the door that remained just out of reach. She started to push herself towards it, not taking her eyes off of Sarah who held her hands up and backed away. “Get out! Get out! Get out!”
Lizzie was finally able to reach the door with her foot and pulled on it. The door swung and slammed into its frame with an audible thud that reverberated along the tile. Her stomach was still tight, threatening more heaving in the future but for now it was done. Her breath came in quick heavy gasps and she could feel the energy her flight had given her dissipate. Exhaustion was fighting its way in, but she wasn’t ready for it. She’d slept enough. She was tired, but also tired of this place. She wanted out of there, away from snake nurses and dead friends that came to visit her.
There was a light rapping on the door. Lizzie didn’t look up, her chin stayed resting on her chest. Spittle ran down her cheek, and she felt like she was on the verge of sleep no matter how hard she fought against it.
“Lizzie? You okay in there.” Lizzie recognized the nurses voice. The nurse was persistent as she was already turning the knob as she spoke.
“Go away.” The fight gone from her voice.
“I just want to-“ Annie didn’t get to finish as she saw the mess Lizzie was in, the pile of shit, urine, and teenager all together in one large mess on the floor. Lizzie tried to kick the door closed but couldn’t find the strength to put any force into it. She was a flailing person on the floor, acting like she had one too many beers at the fraternity kegger.
“We need to get you cleaned up. Sheriff’s department is here.” Annie said as she moved around, behind Lizzie. Then Lizzie felt the woman’s hands under her arms and Lizzie was being lifted.
“Get your hands off of me.”
She tried to wiggle free but the woman had a really strong grip. The more Lizzie tried to twist out of it, the tighter those hands clamped onto her underarm and it was really beginning to hurt. She tried to push herself up, thinking a change in direction would get her free from the nurse or that the push against her would send both of them backward. Instead her feet slipped out from under her putting her more into the control of the surprisingly strong woman.
She was defeated. This woman had her.
“It’s going to be okay.” Sarah said. Lizzie looked up to see her standing there in the doorway. She looked like she was about to cry, worrying about her friend. Behind her stood a large burly man wearing a dark colored police uniform. He was watching her without any kind of compassion, his face showing the frustration of being called there for someone who was obviously crazy. Lizzie couldn’t give two shits if the man thought she was crazy but her friend, her friend was dead. She shouldn’t be watching her with those eyes, wearing that same expression she had when she told her she’d dumped Roland because the bastard had cheated on her.
Annie saw where she was looking and called out to the police officer.
“Do you mind. She’s been through a lot. Give me a minute to clean her up and I’ll have her out to you.”
“Sure.” The man said, but made no movement to leave the room. He just stayed there watching them, that bored impatient look pasted on his face.
“Do you mind going out into the hallway?” Nurse Annie said as she helped Lizzie into the chair positioned in the shower. Lizzie hadn’t noticed that she had stopped fighting the nurse and had helped her. She was vaguely aware of anything other than her friend. Annie and the officer didn’t seem to see her. They just talked around her like she wasn’t there. Did they not see this hideously disfigured woman standing between them? You would think the nurse would be rushing to her, calling her a doctor, or that the police officer would be asking her questions. Such as ‘With you being dead, how did you manage to get to the hospital,’ and ‘do you know who killed you?’
Lizzie’s head was really beginning to hurt as too many thoughts kept trying to come to the forefront and people talking around her. It was all too too much. She just wanted to collapse and pass out. Wait, I’m already sitting… It didn’t help as she still felt too much weight on her.
Lizzie felt the nurses hands leave her and she immediately wanted to slump forward and fall to the floor. Why did she need to stay sitting up anyways. She was already covered in yuck, let her just fall over and die in it.
She watched through the haze of her closing eyes as Annie closed the door so that Sarah and the officer were trapped outside. Then the nurse turned back to Lizzie. Lizzie looked up at her but her face was gone. The snake face had returned. Who had she last seen with a snake face? She vaguely remembered who it was but it had been a nurse. Were they all snake people?
“Lizzie!” She heard a voice try to reach her, and knew it was Sarah. Was it a ghost Sarah or dead girl in the hallway Sarah? She didn’t know and she didn’t care. She didn’t care that the nurse was a snake anymore. She just wanted to sleep. Here, the floor looks nice. I’m just going to lie here for a bit.
“Lizzie, wake up!”