“We need your help,” I said, almost breathless. My head darted around the bright white room as it opened out with each step. His wide, toothy smile remained fixed, but his beckoning halted as I caught sight of two soldiers stood behind the door. In their hands were yellow taser stun guns held at forty-five degrees, their arms folded at their fronts. Although they’d drawn me in, they weren’t the first thing I’d seen. I turned back to the dentist chair in the centre of the room, my attention following down the side of the arm to the two sets of clamps hanging down from the chair, each fixed with four bold, oversized screws. On the other side was a tall stainless steel table with dull metal instruments resting on a green paper cloth.
It was only then I noticed the nurse in dark blue scrubs, she held a stainless steel kidney bowl, inside rested a long syringe filled with a red liquid. I felt the ties snipped at my back and my hands were free to swing around to my front. White coat guy ushered me towards the chair as the door closed and locked at my back.
“Please take a seat,” he said, the smile still there.
“We need your help, please,” I replied, shaking my head, my eyes squinting in the first artificial light I’d seen for over two days. He took a step forward. I didn’t need to flinch back to know at least one of the soldiers was mirroring his movement, at the same time exposing the taser’s prongs. “What is this all about?”
The white coat’s sympathetic smile widened.
“We have to be sure. Please take a seat, sir,” he said and took another step toward me.
“Is it about my leg?”
His smile widened even further, shaking his head to the two at my back.
“Do you know what’s happening outside?” he said. I raised my eyebrows, not voicing my reply. “Yes, of course you do. Then you’ll understand why we can’t take any chances. We have to check you out? If you prefer you can just take your clothes off here. Once we’re sure you can be on your way.”
“We come here to get help.” The white coat raised his eyebrows, at least pretending to be interested. “It’s our friend, Nat. She’s been bitten,” I said and watched as his look turned to the nurse, as her eyebrows raised and they shared a look of interest.
“How long ago was this?” he replied.
I had to think for a moment, so much had happened.
“This morning,” I said, trying not to remember the details.
“How many hours?” the nurse added, her voice impatient. I no longer had any reference of time. I never wore a watch and my phone had died long ago.
“A couple of hours, maybe three.”
Their faces sank and I swapped my attention between them, but still he spoke as if going through the motions.
“Did you stop the bleeding?”
I gave a fast nod.
“After how long?” he replied. I shook my head again and tried to remember back. She was bitten out in the hills and we’d dragged her in to the cottage as quickly as we could. She was still bleeding when we got her inside. Was she still bleeding when I had to defend the building? When Andrew and Zoe were in?
“Half an hour, maybe,” I replied, hopeful. His face fell further and he shook his head.
“There’s nothing we can do for her I’m afraid.”
I felt the breath fall from my lungs.
“There must be something?”
“We can make her more comfortable, or,” he said and turned to the nurse. “We can stop the worst from happening.”
My eyes widened and the nurse took over.
“We can stop her from turning,” she said, her expression jaded, but maybe there was a hint of compassion behind. A radio squawked somewhere in the room, an urgent voice calling though, but using words I couldn’t quite catch.
“Now sir we need to get on, we have more to deal with than you can imagine,” the white coat said.
I turned, hearing movement at my back. The right of the two soldiers had stepped forward again and he held the taser out.
“Easy way, or the other?” the soldier said tilting his head.
I unzipped my jacket and as I pulled off each item of the clothing, I felt the eyes of the white coat and the nurse peering over every inch of my skin, the white coat stepping forward as I pulled down my jeans. The soldier stepped right to my back as the white coat peered down to examine my knee.
Nodding to the nurse and the soldiers, he stood and looked me in the eye.
“Everything sir,” he replied.
I drew a deep breath and turned to the nurse.
“It’s cold in here,” I said and pulled down my boxer shorts.
The radio crackled again as I pulled on my clothes and was hurried from the door, shoved to the side of the corridor by a blur of soldiers carrying one of their colleagues horizontal between them, his hands and legs bound as they rushed him into the room. I just about saw a blooded gauze pushed against his hand with blue gloved hands. The door closed and the guard who’d been there as I’d arrived, turned his fallen expression away from the door and looked at me, his face pale.
“Do you know him?” I said. The soldier didn’t respond, his face staring at mine like he was looking to share his pain.
He gave a shallow nod as I held my expression fixed.
“I’ve got someone like that,” I replied. “She can’t be helped, but it’s not always a death sentence,” I said. His eyes narrowed, longing for the rest of my words. “We know someone who didn’t die,” I said. His eyes flinched to my side and he straightened up, coming to a salute.
“Really?” came a female voice and I turned to my side and saw a woman, her hair silver white with green eyes fixed intent on mine. Cassie stood by her side, walking from the other door, straightening her clothes, her face full of alarm. “Where are they?” the woman said stepping into my personal space. I could feel electricity crackle off her words, my blood rushing with panic like I’d just made a big mistake.
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Reading out of sequence? Why? Here’s Chapter One