Yes, I'm counting down the last three days until Necessary Evil of Nathan Miller is available in paperback. Today I have another excerpt for you:
“And now in breaking news, Caitlin Lockyer has been found. In the early hours of this morning, a man discovered her body dumped on a south-west beach. Sources say that she was left on the beach to die, but she was found in time and moved to hospital in Perth, where she remains in a critical condition.
“A police spokesperson would not confirm whether the girl known as the Absent Angel is alive or dead…”
Let me know when you work it out, won't you? I don't feel dead…
“Oh, turn that down. She's waking up… Get a dressing over that one and we can make a start on these ulcers…”
Unfamiliar hands touched me. Unfamiliar voices talked about my injuries as dispassionately as a GPS giving directions.
Was it safe to open my eyes? Were they helping me, or did I need to fight my way free? My head felt full of thick fog, so the thoughts were slow to surface.
Pain made the decision for me – twin pains. A sharp pull on my hair as someone tore the skin from my back. I cried out, so I didn't hear what the low voices murmured. Cold metal touched the side of my neck.
Going to cut me again. Going to hurt worse…
“No!” I shouted, or tried to. My voice rasped in my throat.
I couldn't feel my hands, but I still tried to use them to push myself upright to a sitting position. The moment I put weight on them, feeling returned. Pain shot up every one of my fingers, through my wrists and up my arms, like electrodes attached to every nerve. My scream sounded squeaky and weak, which is why I heard the snip of the scissors.
I opened my eyes to see bright light, briefly blocked by what was unmistakeably my hair.
The scissors cut my hair, I realised. Taking everything away from me, even my hair. Bastards.
“You promised!” I sobbed out. “You promised you wouldn't let them hurt me again. Please, come back!”
He was shot. You saw the blood. If he wasn't here, was he even alive? Did they kill him?
I shook my head, trying not to see the picture in my memory: his shock at the spreading patch of red on his shirt, over his chest.
I focussed on the grinning pictures on the ceiling above me. Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse…
Eeyore I liked. He looked sympathetic. I wanted to scream at the rest of them or scratch their eyes out. Stop grinning at me like my pain is funny!
A concerned face came into view. “She's awake. Honey, can you hear me?”
“Yes,” I told her impatiently. “Where is he?”
“Who, honey? They can't hurt you any more,” she said soothingly. Dropping her voice lower, she murmured, “We need to give her more pain relief. This isn't enough.”
They could hurt me and he'd promised to protect me. But he couldn't if he was dead and I couldn't sleep until I knew where he was. I didn't even know his name.
I ignored the soothing woman, who didn't know what she was on about. “Where are you? Please, come back. You promised.”
Carefully, I pushed with my elbows and not my hands this time. I struggled to sit up and see where I was. Where he was.
Gloved hands weighed on my shoulders, pushing me down. I took a swipe at the hands, growling, “Don't touch me!” as I collapsed on the bed again.
I turned my head as a shoe squeaked on the vinyl floor. The soothing woman now had a syringe.
She was going to give me something that would make me sleep. They'd kill me in my sleep and I'd never wake up!
I struggled to rise and this time they didn't stop me. Every head was turned away from me to the door of what I recognised as a hospital room in an Emergency Department.
Hey, the news got something right. I was in hospital. But which one?
I heard his voice. I finally saw his face clearly as he pushed past an orderly to enter the room. The face of the man who killed another in an effort to protect me, before the police shot him… Fuck. Focus. Memories could wait.
“Don't let them hurt me again!” I shouted at him as I lunged for the syringe with my uncooperative fingers, before my arms gave out and I was lying flat on the bed again. I couldn't feel if I'd managed to snatch the syringe or just knock it out of her hands. I didn't have the energy to lift my arm to check, either.
My eyes didn't leave him. His face looked pale and a bit scared, though he tried to keep his voice calm. He had no shirt on and a white dressing, spotted with a little fresh blood, looked like a misplaced breast pocket on his bare chest. He said something about being in hospital, but I didn't catch the words.
“I'm so tired, but I'm scared to sleep,” I told him, my voice starting to give out as my eyes filled with tears. “What if, when I wake up, you're gone and I'm still there with them? Please…” I didn't know what to ask him for. Please don't be dead?
He promised he'd be here, again.
I could feel my mind going under. Like drowning in a warm bath, only I could still breathe. He promised. Even if he was dead, he was shot trying to help me.
“Thank you.” I tried to say the words, but I wasn't sure if they came out right. Even the ghost of someone killed trying to help me deserved my thanks.
Is he a ghost or is he real? I thought but was too tired to give voice to it any more. As a ghost he couldn't protect me. Directly above me, all I could see was a blurry yellow bear.
If this kills me, Winnie the Pooh, I'm taking you and your smug smiling face with me to hell. This last thought followed me down into a spiral of darkness.
I decided to do a little reading of this chapter on YouTube for you, too: