Scary and damaged.
A short story. It comes with a TRIGGER WARNING. Stay safe.
Title lyrics: 'Say Something' by A Great Big World
For more dark and twisty stories (which all come with a trigger warning), look in The Dark and Twisty Place.
He wakes up with a start, feeling the empty bed beside him. He rubs his eyes and looks around, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. He glances at the empty place beside him, staring at the neatly pulled back blankets, the slight ruffle of the sheet below that indicated where she once lay. He hears her light footsteps approaching and he sits up, looking towards her in her dark. She is walking slowly, arms outstretched slightly as though to feel her way back to him.
He says her name softly in the dark and she stops, looking up at him. He senses that something is wrong in a way that he can’t explain and he holds his breath, waiting for her to respond. She sways and he leaps from the bed, barely making it in time to catch her before she hits the ground. She collapses into his arms, and even in the dark he can see that her eyes are not focusing on him. Her body is covered in a thin sweat and she is shivering even though the room is warm. He whispers her name, feeling her heart beating rapidly against his chest. Her head lolls around and she breathes in shallowly, mumbling something he can’t quite understand. He takes her hand and squeezes it, trying to control his voice as he asks her what she took. She shakes her head as tears start to form in the corners of her eyes. He asks again, a hint of panic entering his voice as he hears her breathing becoming increasingly shallow and rapid. She shakes her head again and shivers violently. Her grip on his hand loosens, becoming slack. Her eyes close and her rapid breathing stops, plunging the room into complete silence. He stares for a moment, expecting to wake up and find her curled up beside him. He shakes her slightly, saying her name again. His voice is barely audible and the silence drowns it out, and he can’t be sure that he has even spoken. He shakes her again, saying her name louder, hoping she can hear it above the sound of his heart screaming inside his chest. She remains limp in his hold. Panic taking over and his fingers fly to her neck. He presses them against her jugular, waiting.
She hasn’t got a pulse, oh God there’s no pulse.
He covers her mouth with his, blocking her nose and breathing into her, praying that his air will be enough. He breathes into her twice and places his hands against her chest, pressing down firmly five times, trying to kick-start her heart. He does this three times before checking her neck again. His heart skips a beat when he feels the light thudding against his fingertips. He puts his ear to his mouth, and relief washes over him as he hears that her shallow and rapid breathing has returned. He gently places her on the floor before stumbling over to the bedside table and grabbing his phone. With trembling hands he dials 911 and puts the phone to his ear, trying to control his breathing. When the operator picks up and asks him what the emergency is, he is barely able to get the words out. He returns to her, scooping her up in his arms and giving the operator all the information she needs. He stays on the line until the ambulance officers arrive, pressing the phone into his ear so hard that it hurts. Her breathing grows weaker with every passing minute, but it does not stop again. After what feels like an eternity he hears a knock on the door and he runs towards it, opening it and allowing the ambulance officers to enter the room. He chokes over his words as he tells them his suspicions, hoping against hope that he is wrong. The officers rush over to her, taking her vitals before lifting her onto a portable gurney. The movement wakes her and she opens her eyes, staring at the faces around her in fear. She says his name in a panic and he steps into her view, holding her hand as they move her.
“I’m sorry.” Her lips quiver. “I didn’t…I didn’t…”
“It’s okay,” he says, although nothing about this is okay. “It’s alright. I’m right here.”
She tries to say something else but it gets carried away in the breeze. They reach the ambulance outside and the paramedics lift the gurney into the back of the van. She breathes in sharply and vomits on the floor, covering it in a sickly yellow liquid littered with little white pills. Some of the pills are partly digested, but most of them are whole. He looks down at the mess and fights the urge to vomit himself, trying not to think about the fact that he had been asleep in the other room while she had...While she had…He can’t bring himself to finish the thought. She looks away, closing her eyes as the tears stream down her face. She throws up twice more on the way to the hospital, and though the paramedic assures him that it’s a good thing, that it is getting the pills out of her system, he still can’t fight the panic mounting inside his heart. Once they reach the hospital he watches numbly as they unload her and race towards the ER. A nurse offers him a chair in the waiting room but he’s frozen, unable to take his eyes off her retreating figure. He stands there for what could have been minutes, hours or days, staring at the last place he saw her just before she disappeared around the corner. He is aware of someone touching him on the arm, trying to guide him away, but he shakes them off.
He doesn’t deserve comfort.
His lips taste salty and he roughly wipes his face, turning away from the glass doors to the ER. A lump forms in his throat and he strides towards the entrance of the hospital, resisting the temptation to run. He hears someone call out after him but he ignores them, barely making it out in time before a wave of bile erupts out of him, splashing onto concrete and staining his boots. He looks at his boots in confusion.
When did I put those on?
Out of the corner of his eye he sees a little girl and a woman her assumes to be her mother approaching him. He straightens up and wipes his mouth, taking a deep breath in.
“Ewwwwwww,” the little girl says, tugging on her mother’s arm. “That man throwed up. Am I going to throwed up, too?”
“Come on, honey,” her mother says anxiously, pulling the girl closer to her. “Let’s go see the doctor.”
He looks up to see the nurse from earlier standing behind him. She is holding a paper cup. “Would you like some water?”
He takes it and rinses out his mouth.
“Thanks,” he mumbles, crushing it in his hand. She nods, glancing down at the putrid mess in front of him.
“Come on. Let’s get you cleaned up. I’ll get someone to deal with this.”
He follows her back into the hospital and down the corridor. He can feel the eyes of the other people in the waiting room burning into him, judging him. You couldn’t save her. You couldn’t help. After a minute they enter an empty room and the nurse turns to face him.
“Wait here. I’ll be back in a minute.”
He looks at her, seeing her for the first time. She is young, probably around the same age as him. She has auburn coloured hair and very striking eyes. She smiles and he notices that one of her teeth is twisted slightly, like it ran out of room to grow so it tried to make itself as small as possible. His eyes automatically drop to her bare arms and he stares at them, feeling the ache inside his chest spread.
“Are you okay?”
He looks up at her. She looks kind. Whole. Undamaged.
She gives him a small smile and pats him on the arm. Her fingers are warm.
“I’ll be back in a moment,” she says again as she turns to leave. The door closes behind her, leaving him in silence. The sound of his thudding heartbeat fills the room.
He has no idea how much time has passed when she finally returns. She smiles sympathetically and hands him another paper cup filled with water.
“The doctor will be here in a minute,” she says quietly. “Can I get you anything? Is there anyone you need to call?”
He takes a moment to process the question. Who could he call? Who could possibly have anything to say that would make this hurt a little less?
“No,” he says eventually, shaking his head. “It’s just me.”
Me. Not us.
The distinction isn’t lost on him.
The doctor comes to speak to him after what could have been an hour or a week, but all he can hear is white noise. He watches the doctor’s lips move, waiting to hear what he is saying, waiting to understand, but the only phrase that slips through the static in his head is, “You can see her if you want.”
He follows the doctor down the hallway and into a stark white room. There, in the corner of the room, is his heart, bundled up in a blanket. He lingers in the doorway.
“Is she going to be okay?” His voice cracks.
“Only time will tell.”
He nods, brushing back the mist from his eyes before entering the room and sitting down in a chair beside her. He takes her hand in his, noticing the fresh cuts for the first time that night. He wonders briefly if the hospital staff noticed them too before spotting a long line of stitches on her other wrist. He vaguely recalls seeing a white bandage wrapped around her arm earlier that night, but the memory is ready becoming blurry. She coughs softly in her sleep and he looks up, not bothering to wipe the tears now falling freely from his eyes. He gets up and lies beside her, wrapping his arms around her and closing his eyes. He holds her against him, praying that she knows he is there, and that it is enough to keep her holding on.