a little game of hide and seek
my hands are of your colour,
but I shame to wear a heart so white
- Lady Macbeth, William Shakespeare
He stretches slowly, hearing his bones pop with every move, the neck muscles protesting loudly, as he tries to massage the sorest spots. The day was too long and the hour late, nearing ten at night. He was ready to take a break and go to the cafeteria, hoping to fill his stomach, close his eyes for a couple of minutes, and rest, even if just a little - in his profession, even ten minutes of shut-eye were often a blessing. As he heads to get some food, his mind finally lets in all the thoughts that were blocked before, too busy to notice much more than his pilling up responsibilities - furrowing his eyebrows, only now realizing that he had not heard from Nora all day. He thought she would visit, but it was more an assumption than actually being informed about her plans in any way; he just figured that by this time, she would need his help to soothe the voices in her head. He sighs, never in his life expecting to have problems connected to the supernatural, and plans to check his phone after returning from the cafeteria - but in the end never gets there, a strange noise catching his attention instead.
At first, he is willing to dismiss it, being used to the most peculiar noises happening randomly in the hospital, usually in those rare moments when it was quiet enough for anything to break through the multicolored cacophony of sounds filling the walls of the enormous building. But now, the low sounds seemed to stick to him, clinging to the eardrums and vibrating in a way that proved to be nearly impossible to ignore.
Slowly, he tilts his head, curious despite the fatigue and the mercilessly outstretching length of the day. There it was again, as if repeated pounding of something heavy, metallic, and then a faint chilling noise coming from inside the walls. In a slightly wary state, he passes the hallway and walks forward until he reaches the door to the staircase; putting an ear against the metal door and flinches when the familiar sound invites itself once more; the same clatter but more distinct. He starts to feel nauseous as his mind tells him what he already knew but didn't want to comprehend or take in, blocking out the potential consequences. His eyes close for a few moments, some childish part of him hoping that he confused the sounds and the sensation creeping in under his skin, causing the hair on the arms to stand up - but now, his muscles strain in a different way, a strong need for action growing even though the more rational aspect of his personality wants to blame the whole thing on exhaustion. Act. Help. Protect. He grabs the handle on the door and jumps slightly as the sound rings out again, his hold tightening automatically. Someone was shouting down there, and the screams were getting louder, muffled yet much clearer - even though he was sure there were many layers of concrete and metal separating him from the dread that seemed to seep from the underground.
He quickly writes the code in a small alarm box placed on the wall and walks down the stairs; there is no way that the screaming came from the floor above. The only possible place where the sounds could be coming from was the basement of the building. The acoustic there always carried the sounds far; people hearing all sorts of unearthly noises and avoiding going there if possible. However, the employees working there, such as the plumbers and the mechanics - just shrugging it off casually, often being the ones responsible for the racket in the first place.
He keeps going down, and with every passing moment, his pulse rushes faster and faster, heart pounding against the ribcage, footsteps echoing as he goes, all the way down to the boiler room. Passing pipes of all shapes and sizes, searching for the source of the unusual sounds, carefully, taking each step. He looks to the sides, steam very visible even in the faint light available there - sweat appearing on his forehead as the temperature increases, the long-sleeved shirt under the scrubs becoming damp and sticking to the shape of his spine. He listens to his shoes scrape against the floor and feels the adrenaline levels rise, blood pounding in his head with fever. Something tumbles down, and something else breaks, ringing out so loudly that he feels it in his teeth. It sounds heavy - quickly, he moves forward, breaking into a run, passing each door, confused more with every fleeting second.
Again, the scream continues, piercing his ears as he finally recognizes it, blood freezing in his veins, body overwhelmed by fear. Of course, it was her voice all along. How could he not realize this before? Well, maybe he chose not to; the denial set in deep, telling him not to believe his own senses, the possible truth too terrifying to let in. He won't let anything bad happen to her.
Are you sure it's not too late already?
He moves the thought away immediately, not letting it stay, tearing it away from him like a beast that wants to claw into the tender meaty flesh, eagerly ripping it apart piece by piece. Forcing himself to focus only on the task at hand, he finally finds the right door, the only one cracked slightly open, a beam of cold blue silver light slipping out and coloring the floor next to it. He stumbles in and gapes at the scenery with growing disbelief.
There she was, lying on the cement floor, in a space with not enough light to spread out all the shadows away, twisted into a little ball of pain, broken and bent old chairs spread on the ground next to her, strange pieces of red metal thrown all over the room. He looks closer, still confused, trying to take the entire scene in, brain pushing to put the picture together, staring at the metal until the shapes become familiar - smaller fragments of pipes from the central heating system. He nods slowly, noticing bolts to match, lying close to his feet, further confirming his suspicions. A new scream causes a jolt of electricity to curse through his muscles, forcing him to jump back to life and run to her.
But then a voice stops him mid-track, somehow, blocking him almost against his will - like shutting off all the lights in the room, a complete blackout of senses - he thinks absentmindedly as the sudden inability to move vanishes as soon as it appears.
And who might you be?
He looks to the right and notices a calm but slightly irritated man standing in the shadows, wearing a long elegant, grey coat and resting his body weight against a solid-looking, tasteful cane. The bottom of it looks like oak, smooth and expensive, and the top with its carved, animal-shaped head appears to be, made out of bronze. He seems to be around fifty and about 6 foot 1 in height. The man takes a few steps forward, stepping more into the light of the lamp above him - one of the few sources of light in the otherwise dark and unwelcoming space. Charlie gazes up and feels almost magnetic energy surround him, broad shoulders, a strong jaw, and a pair of dark steel blue eyes gazing back at him. The stare is alluring and dominating, dangerous. Like watching an earthquake just before the ground swallows you up - you know you should move, but you're stuck in place.
Another cry breaks through his distracted thoughts, grabbing his attention and causing his chest to tighten painfully.
Well, look at who we got here. It seems that little miss Eleonore has found herself a friend.
The man says, partly amused and in part restless, as if he was disturbed in a very ill-manner way by this peculiar intruder to his private game, looking displeased by the additional and unplanned actor on the stage.
Who are you, and what is happening here? What did you do to her? Why is she in pain?
The stranger taps his cane casually a few times against the concrete floor before answering as if lost in thought. Charlie looks distracted for a second at Nora and notices that each sound makes her body jump slightly as if low currents of electricity and light were moving under her skin. He wants to go to her so badly, but the man coughs meaningfully, causing Charlie's eyes to drift back.
I have to admit, I am rather surprised by this small intrusion. You see, dear boy, this one here is very unsociable, and has difficulty finding new friends. But then again, I didn't know her a few years back. I hear that she used to be a life of the party once - though I find it hard to believe. Then again, sins and tragedies have a way of changing people. Don't you agree?
The man continues, not seeming to notice the questions, appearing to be more focused on the sound of his voice, almost mesmerized by it, covering himself in it like a warm velvet shawl. Charlie's hands roll tightly into fists, knuckles growing white, blood beginning to boil. He looks back at her and winces, her body seeming to shrink from the pain, his eyes set desperately on her fragile form. He stares, hypnotized as the light above her head and the darkness around them seem to display her agony as if she was on a stage in some grotesque theater. He notices the blood coating her fingers, leaving deep rusty trails all over the floor, and then shifts his stare to the man standing in the small distance - at his immaculate, clean hands. My hands are of your colour, but I shame to wear a heart so white - the memorable words he read a long time ago ring out in his mind, and he feels anger grow inside him, sizzling. He's ready; ready to move and to do anything, just as long as all of this stops. He shifts forward, but the man blocks him, suddenly standing just inches away; the tension builds between the two, the pressure in the room increasing, thickening the air.
She needs to pay the consequences; a contract has been set in motion, and we have been waiting for more than enough.
What...? No. What in hell are you even talking about? Do you even hear yourself?
She broke the rules, and now the poison is spreading.
The man notices Charlie's eyes widen and enjoys the confusion on his face; all of this was just amusement to him.
Ah, you seem to be surprised by this. I guess she has not told you everything then?
Told me what? What rules, for fuck sake?! What poison?
Ah, manners, dear boy. Temper, temper. It's not polite to curse in front of a lady. Then again, she won't be around for much longer.
Something snaps in him like a rubber band, causing his insides to sting and throb. He plunges for the man and attacks, trying to knock him down and push him out of the way, but the other guy is surprisingly strong - as if he wasn't fighting with one person, but many. He blocks him with just one arm over Charlie's chest, the elbow directed up and pressing beneath his throat, while the other arm leans securely on the cane. The sides of his lips lifting, a crocked razor-sharp smile coloring his face as he towers over him, deeper wrinkles appearing in the corners of his eyes - yet there is a certain tone in his voice that gives him away as it vibrates with growing irritation.
Don't be ridiculous, you fool. You can't stop me or the thing that's happening to her. She knew the consequences, and there's always a price to pay for death. But perhaps this outcome surprised even her.
Charlie's eyes widen, but he doesn't stop - instead, fights with double force, finding a better footing and pushing the man forward - it feels like trying to relocate a bulldozer. But nothing that lunatic had said or done mattered. He only had one focus, and that was her.
You're insane. Get out of the way, old man. Now.
I told you there is no way out for her, no redemption. She took the life of the wrong person, and there was so much more at stake than she could even imagine. Perhaps...
He finally decides to throw Charlie off with a low growl, visibly consternated with the prolonging interference, and then keeps on talking as if there was no battle to begin with, no confrontation. As if this was just for fun, and he was getting rid of a misbehaving child.
Perhaps if she would choose her victim more wisely, this wouldn't even be an issue. Just a life lost, nothing more - but she chose wrong, dealing with powers she could never comprehend or wrap her mind around - too many incompetent people roaming this earth, dear boy, way too many.
He seems so pleased with himself, and it slowly sets Charlie into a state of white, blazing fury that he never suspected himself of. He reaches the man with impressive speed and presses a fist to the side of his perfectly square jaw, the blow sending the guy back with force as he stumbles back and hits the floor with his side; roaring out in rage and spitting-out heavy invectives through his teeth. Yet he doesn't get up at first, instead groans again and pulls out something from underneath his body - a chunk of the red metal from one of the broken pipes - he stays down, the pain and the turmoil recognizable on his face.
There is nothing you can do to stop this, you imbecile. Her faith is already sealed.
He turns his stare from the man and sees her - scraping her nails against the floor, her eyes out of focus, her fingers leaving more bloody trails, strands of hair covered with dust and dirt falling to her face. Too much to see, to bear. He runs to her without thinking, pulling her carefully up to a sitting position, and she screams from the sudden change. He can almost physically feel all of her pain as her body strains. It’s loud, overwhelming, nearly pushing the air out of his lungs. She doesn't look at him, but her body language says it all, shooting a jolt of electricity through his nervous system that terrifies him, blocking out everything else. She is ready to die, here and now, the pain too excruciating to endure - he can feel his throat getting tight, reality blurring out as he experiences something for the very first time in his life - it's unbelievable but true. I feel you, sensing everywhere; in my bloodstream, my bones, under my skin. With all my senses, Nora.
This lasts just a fracture of a second, but it's enough - unexpectedly, without any warning, he knows exactly, what to do, a sense of clarity coming over, his mind made up, something deep in the guts telling him that this would work.
He pulls her up, forcing her to stand up and look at him, waiting until her hazy stare finally meets his, finding something in those weary, lost eyes that makes him lean forward. A strange kind of assurance, growing and bursting in his cells, one by one like multicolored glass; it feels like energy that wants to reach hers, the images of blue and orange light touching filling his mind as he bends down gently. She freezes - the surprise caused by the warm touch; and how close his body is against hers breaking through the chaotic and confused state - his lips pressed against hers, his arms tightening around that bruised, tortured body. Tense at first, her hand pushes against his chest, wanting to pull away, seeming like a wild animal caught in a trap, desperately wanting to break free from the familiar hands that felt like home but now seemed like bars in a too-tight cage.
The energy of the one she lost, nearly tangible and bleeding out of her pores, as he holds her close - things that he cannot explain, happening around them, filling the air and coloring their rushed breaths, constantly shifting, breaking, and flickering.
Once again, she tries to break free from the hold. But after a while, her fingers soften without her wanting or permission, as do his kisses against her lips. Her hands move up, sliding against his neck and grabbing onto his hair, pulling him closer as everything seems to slow down around them. She takes it all in, surprised by how her body reacts to him, how it craves the touch; her senses are on fire, blood sizzling and catching new flames with every breath. It's strong, crumbling, on the verge of overpowering all of her - but for the first time in a very long time, it is not caused by pain. She wraps her other arm around his back, wanting to become one with that blazing white light she feels between them, purifying everything in her that was wounded, broken, and scarred. She feels tears of relief under her eyelids as the strain in her body eases down. Yet her pulse rushes like never before. So many contradicting feelings, like being crushed into dust only to be rebuilt with the softest care.
He separates the kisses now; one, two, free. Softer, kinder, full of... He moves away as she stares at him with wide grey eyes, fearing to take even a single, quivering breath. She lets go of his hair, hand sliding down, fingers barely touching his skin or clothes - as if she might get burned by even the air around them. Slowly, she moves her hands away completely - wrapping her arms tightly around her thin torso. Her mind is stuck now, thoughts going blank, just ringing out silence in her ears. She looks confused. Did that really happen? The question was more than visible on her face.
Are you okay?
Charlie asks gently, focusing only on her state and not what he just did. There was nothing that mattered more at that moment that knowing she was going to be okay. Everything else could wait. She looks around, disoriented as if she did not hear him, moving in different directions, feet dragging against the floor. She stares at the mess everywhere but doesn't really see it, eyes sliding against the fragments of pipes, the ruined chairs, and water leaking from the damaged construction. Did she do that? She moves her hands up and stares at her fingers - they are dirty and covered in blood, filth, and rust. Well, that seems to answer the question. She moves around a couple more times and stumbles on her way. She seems to hear some noise behind her and turns her head that way.
She looks up at him as if she doesn't recognize who he is, staring at the worried look on his face - the pain visible in his eyes. She blinks, all those emotions running through him, making her snap back into reality, finally regaining some sanity. She stumbles his way and puts her arms around him tightly - then something breaks deep inside of her, and she bursts into tears, pressing the cheek to his chest and burying her face into his clothes, whole body trembling.
I'm so sorry, Charlie.
She croaks out and coughs, her voice hoarse from hours of screaming.
Don't be, please... it's okay.
He murmurs soothingly into her ear, and she trembles again.
What are you even apologizing for?
He asks, whispering the question.
For making you go through this. It's not your battle.
Do you mind if I decide that?
No, no... please don't joke about this. I can't take your light tones, not after... everything.
Nora, I decided this, alright? This was my decision. On the day I met you, I made a conscious choice; to do whatever I can to get you out of this, to help. And I am not backing away now. Are we clear?
He pulls her away from his chest and lifts her chin, making her look up at him. He sees her wet eyes, and something breaks in him as well. He bends down and kisses her softly, just one brief kiss. He looks back at her, watching as her face turns surprised, eyes widening. And somehow, that makes him smile.
That was just to grab your attention. You can relax now and stop digging your nails into my skin... thanks, that's much better. So, are we clear?
She stares at him and feels all the good energy going through her. Like a gold, warm light, slowly filling her up - replacing the freezing, blue one that was there before and that seemed to linger in her since she could remember. She stares at that kind smile of his, and manages, to gradually relax. No longer so awkward and disconnected. She sees him as he really is. Her savior, the protector - and most of all, her friend. A friend that one day started to be a little more.
Yes, clear, even if you're making the wrong choice.
You always need to win the argument, don't you?
He lets go of her and looks at her hands.
We need to clean that up quickly. I don't want you to get an infection...
He starts to say but does not finish, eyes darting somewhere to the background; she stiffens, sensing his tension, and then the realization slowly hits them both. They forgot about something, or more to the point, someone. She turns around. Funny that she could just throw him out of her head like that after everything. They notice him again, standing there, a bewildered expression on his face - no longer on the ground but standing straight, only slightly leaning on his cane. There is no more pain on his face, just curious wonder, and fading anger.
A healer, of course. That explains why you have not visited us yet. I guess Alister failed to tell me some crucial details concerning you, my dear.
He says and stares at them for a few moments. Processing the game changer, which he did not anticipate, with surprising composure and then just leaves, disappearing into the corridor, his cane and the heels of his leather shoes causing surprisingly little sound for such a massive, heavy figure. There was something about his face. It made Charlie think that the strange man was enjoying the new challenge that fell into his lap. He looks down at Nora and finally lets himself breathe out all the tension and weight he had kept on his shoulders until that very moment.
Don't you feel like this day has been long enough?
He asks her in a tired voice.
You have no idea.
When Lady Macbeth returns from Duncan's chamber, she holds out her blood-stained hands and says, “My hands are of your colour, but I shame to wear a heart so white,” claiming that although, she has Duncan's blood on her hands, she feels no guilt.
https://theprose.com/post/230936/with-all-my-senses ( the beginning )
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