Chapter 2 (new beginnings)
"boy, tell me your name" the raggedy man says, I'm shocked, he's been awake for a day now and not paid the slightest bit of attention to me, his voice is very deep and rough, I think he's an American from the accent. I clear my throat, "um Owen" I say, a slight tremor to my voice, I haven't said anything to poly, but he kinda scares me. Ever since that morning two days ago, when his wounds seemed to heal overnight. "what are you here for?" he asks, "pneumonia" I reply, quicker this time. "ah! I thought I smelled death on you" he sniffs the air, "but no fear, tell me Owen, do you fear death?" his words make me even more wary of him, what did he mean, smelled death, I pluck up the courage to reply, " I used to, I don't want to die, but in the time I've had to think about it, I've come to at ease with it" he looks at me with intent interest, "acceptance? It's another word for bravery, that's an admirable quality in someone so young, and especially in wartime" his words confuse me, how am I brave? "and what of all the soldiers off fighting In the war, are they not brave?" "they are either foolish or sheep following the flock, fighting for a country and beliefs that will crumble anyway" whoever this man is, he has a silver tongue, I hate to admit it, but he's made me question the world I live in, is this war just, or is it simply prolonging the inevitable. The man and I talk throughout the day, he asks me about my life and challenges my opinions, I have to admit, I enjoyed it, someone to tell me what no one else has the guts to say to me, I ask him his name, but he avoids the question and makes it clear not to ask again. I'm still very scared of him, but whilst we are talking, I'm becoming more comfortable with him. I'm not saying this is what I want to be doing with my day, but its better than lying in bed waiting for the end.
Day seven. I've taken a turn for the worse, I spend most of my day on oxygen, not being able breathe let alone talk. Even so, the man continues to look at me with interest, he never talks, just watches, as if he wants something.
Poly comes and visit me at a round about lunch time, she sits with me a while, checks my oxygen. "not long now" she says, with a surprisingly calm tone. Maybe I was wrong, maybe she can deal with her first death, but then I see, her face starts to redden and a tear wells in her eye. It makes me sad. I want to comfort her, say that it'll be Ok, but I can't, I'm still unable to speak, it's infuriating, being helpless and weak.
She puts her hand on my shoulder, as her way of saying goodbye, she knows that this could be the last time she'll ever see me. She lets go of me, a tear trickles down her cheek. She turns, and walks away.
As soon as she's out of view the man gets out of bed with ease, for someone who was almost dead a few days ago, he moves swiftly. He glides over to me and comes close, I can feel his breath against my ear. He whispers, "I can offer an escape, a way out of death, a fresh start, I can do this now, you only need nod" I wonder what he's talking about, how can he save me? What escape?
He stands over me whilst I ponder, he looks impatient, but he holds his tongue. I ask myself, how much do I even know about him, how can I trust him? Finally I think, but what if he can? I make my decision, I begin to nod my head. Suddenly the raggedy man lifts his head as if he's heard something, my eyes flicker round in their sockets, looking for the thing that disturbs him, I see nothing. Within an instant, I hear the splintering of wood, followed by fearful screams, then I hear something that shocks and confuses me... I hear howling.
The raggedy man strides towards the door, almost as if he's going to try and fight off, he disappears behind the wall, I hear him shout in his rough voice, it gets louder and rougher until soon its beastly. I tremble in my bed, still to weak to move or breathe, I scream, but even that turns into a slight croak. Moments later a blur comes flying through the door, I almost didn't see it. The blurry figure flies through a bed curtain ripping it off of the ceiling. The curtain covers the figure and it lies limp on the ground. I stare with a mixture of fear and curiosity, whatever the figure is. It's not human.
A few seconds later, a bulge grows on the curtain, a ripping sound and a terrifying growling echoes in the room. The curtain tears, revealing a horror that I'll never forget.
The monstrous beast stands at twice the height as I, it's covered in course brown hair, its arms and legs are long and thin, bulging with thick muscle, its head is that of an animal, like a dog. Its long thick fingers hold deadly claws, that look as sharp as a razor. And in its snarling mouth it holds what seems to be an infinite amount of blood stained canines.
The beast doesn't seem to be interested in me, instead it focuses on the door that it was recently flung through. A long silence, only filled by the heavy breathing of the beast, makes the the wait seem much longer than it really is. As crazy as it sounds I'm anxious to see what makes this horrifying monster wait so patiently for. I don't have to wait long for my answer.
An even more spine chilling growl vibrates through the room from the door, my eyes alternate between the beast to the door, my heart bets like a drum in my chest, my entire body trembles. Then finally, it comes.
Another beast emerges, larger and more muscular than the brown one. It ducks its head under the door, and stares down the smaller one. This one is almost the same as the other, only a few features are different, its hair or fur is scruffy black colour, it has numerous scratches across its body, the most distinctive being a large red brand on its arm. The same brand as the raggedy man!
It takes a few moments to accept this impossible idea that I've developed, but I cave all the same. This new beast, is the same man that's been lying next to me for the past few days! I study the brand again to make sure... yes I'm certain it's the same. I look at him shocked and confused, how has he changed into something so twisted, monstrous... impressive. The brown monster growls at the raggedy beast that sound makes me shake violently, my spine feels like it's frozen. The growl dies down and the beast looks almost smug. Then the branded one returns with an astounding roar that makes the whole room shake, it completely deafens me and feels like it lasts for minutes. Almost instantly the smugness fades from the other beast, it takes a step back... it's afraid!
Then the raggedy one bounds toward the other, teeth snarling, claws ready to slice. The brown furred one hesitates, but quickly recovers, it begins to charge as well, more cautiously. Within seconds they collide, I hear snaps of bone and ripping of flesh. The two clash at the foot of my bed, the raggedy one has broken the others arm, and ripped at most of the skin, blood spits through the air, the smaller one is getting a few lucky strikes, nothing major. The brown one latches onto the others throat, the raggedy man grunts, he clasps his fingers around both its jaws and begins to rip his jaw open, within seconds he's free of its grasp, but he doesn't stop there, the smaller beast begins to scream and squirm, the shrieks are almost pitiful, moments later I hear the jaws pop and barely a few seconds later the raggedy beast rips its jaw apart, its head in one hand and the rest of its body dangling limply in the other.
I'm in a state of awe, both amazed and petrified, what I have just witnessed will stay with me for ever. The raggedy beast stands there for a few moments, eyes swapping from hand to hand. Finally he turns his head and looks at me, he drops the corpse to his feet, then starts to walk towards me. As he does I notice him changing, his muscles shrink and I hear bones and joints pop and crack, his arms and legs get shorter, claws retract back into his fingers and his head twists and shrinks back to human size. Hair starts to shed and his features return to human.
By the time he reaches me, he looks like the same man he was, just a few minutes ago (except less clothes). He looks over me, "are you all right" I find it funny, he was the one who just had a monster attached to his throat, I cant reply, all I muster is a slight wheeze, then I start coughing and spluttering, my chest hurts and my throat tightens, I feel like I'm drowning, my head feels like its about to explode. I can feel it edging closer. This is it. This is the end.
The man places his hands on my shoulders and says to me, "this is it, time to decide, do you want my escape?" I wonder what he's talking about, then I remember, his 'way out of death' id nod but I can't control myself, I writhe there for what seems like forever, the man comforting me trying to calm me down.
He reaches for my oxygen tank, which must have been knocked over in the commotion, and place the mask over my mouth, I breathe deeply taking in the cool air, it feels like I haven't breathed in years. I take breath after breath, it helps but I can still feel the cold of deaths embrace, the man asks me again more rushed, "this is your last chance, do you want my help?" I take a deep breath and muster up only one word, "...help" he nods, and comes close again, I hear his jaw start to pop and crack and then an incredible pain surges in my shoulder, it only last a couple of seconds but its worse than the feeling of death. He stands up again and waits, my shoulder starts to tingle, then my arm, soon my whole body starts to tingle, I feel waves of heat wash over me, my head feels like its splitting in two, my breathing steadies and I become more aware... I feel life!