Hollowmen, p.14
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       Hollowmen, p.14

         Part #2 of The Hollows series by Amanda Hocking
 
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“Is she going to be okay?” Boden asked.

  “Let’s just get her to a bed. ”

  Then I was moving, floating away from the ground, and everything went black again. There was pain, intense and sharp, but I couldn’t hear or see anything. Only the pain permeated my sleep.

  “I found half a bottle of vodka,” Boden was saying when I opened my eyes again.

  I was in a different room, not the kitchen. There were no cupboards, and the walls were painted a strange blue color that made me seasick. Daniels was beside me, doing something to my abdomen that I couldn’t see but hurt like hell.

  “That’s better than nothing,” Daniels said and took the bottle from Boden.

  “She’s awake,” Boden said. He stood at the end of the bed, staring down at me, and his face was fraught with worry.

  “Remy, I’m trying to clean out and disinfect your incision,” Daniels said, keeping his voice calm and smooth. “It’s going to hurt, but I have to do it. ”

  “No,” I moaned and tried to shake my head. “No. Stop. ”

  “Remy, he needs to do this,” Boden said.

  I closed my eyes, and then my abdomen was filled with liquid fire. Everything inside me burned. I arched my back and gritted my teeth, trying not to scream because I didn’t want to frighten Max or Stella.

  The pain became too intense, and I blacked out again. When I woke again, all I heard was voices. I couldn’t open my eyes, and my body felt like it was floating on a cloud of flames.

  “You did this to her!” Boden was shouting angrily. “You’re the one that cut her open! You need to fix this!”

  “I’m trying!” Daniels insisted. “I’m doing everything I can, but there’s not much more I can do if she has sepsis. I don’t have a proper clinic – ”

  Something clattered loudly, and I wasn’t sure what it was, but I thought Boden hit something or knocked something over.

  “What do you even know about clinics?” Boden asked. “I thought you spent your time running a butcher shop back at the quarantine. How could you do that to her? Didn’t you have some kind of oath where you first do no harm?”

  “I didn’t do that to her,” Daniels argued. “My job was to draw blood and take care of her. I was in charge of monitoring her and keeping her alive. So that’s what I did. It was the other doctors that cut her up, and… I never wanted this to happen. ”

  “Just fix her, okay?” Boden sounded uncharacteristically desperate. “Don’t let her die. ”

  “I promise you, I’m doing everything I can for her,” Daniels assured him.

  Then it was gone again. I was back into the blackness. And at first that was nice because I couldn’t feel anything. A numbness had taken over me.

  But when I opened my eyes, a bright white lamp was shining above me. Four faces hovered above me, all hidden behind surgical masks, so all I could see was their eyes as they dissected me. I tried to move but my arms were pinned down. When I screamed, nothing came out, because my mouth was blocked with a leather gag. I was freezing cold, strapped naked to a table.

  I was back in the quarantine. I was in the operating room. I didn’t  know how I got back there. Or maybe I’d never left. Maybe everything had been a dream, and I was still trapped inside, where they would be cutting me up over and over again.

  I struggled against the straps but I couldn’t get free. I wanted to scream at the doctors and beg them to stop, but they just ignored me, the way always did when they operated. They wouldn’t even look me in the eyes. They just talked calmly among themselves, like I wasn’t even there.

  Then I felt the blade slice into my stomach. Even when I knew it was coming, it never made it easier. But they weren’t just cutting my stomach. I could feel their knives all over, as they sliced up my legs, my arms, my chest, anywhere they reach. They were dicing me up.

  “Remy!” Daniels was yelling but I couldn’t see his face. He wasn’t in the operating room with us, but I could hear him. “Remy, stop! Please!”

  “Let me go!” I screamed, and I could actually hear my own words. The gag wasn’t in my mouth anymore.

  “Boden!” Daniels shouted. “Boden, I need your help!”

  “Please,” I was begging with tears streaming down my cheeks. “Please. Don’t hurt me. ”

  “Nobody’s gonna hurt you. ” That was Boden’s voice, calm and soothing, and I felt his hands, strong and warm on my arms. “But you need to settle down, or you’re going to hurt yourself. ”

  I blinked, unable to understand what was happening, and the vision of the operating room cleared. Boden was sitting beside me, pinning down each of my arms. I was freezing, and my teeth began to chatter.

  “What’s going on?” I asked, and my throat felt raw. I wondered how much I’d been screaming.

  “You’re clothes are soaking wet, so Daniels is taking them off,” Boden said. “He’ll put you in dry clothes so you don’t get pneumonia. ”

  Boden had loosened his grip, and I looked around. Daniels must’ve already changed my shirt, because I was wearing a warm, dry sweater instead of the old dirty one I’d had on before. He was in the process of taking off my pants, and they were around my knees, clinging wet to my skin.

  “Are you okay?” Boden asked.

  “Yeah. ” I nodded. “I’m okay. ”

  I tried to sit up, but I couldn’t. My body didn’t seem to want to work that way, and pain spread through me.

  “Don’t sit up,” Daniels said. “I’ve got it. You just rest. ”

  Page 40

  I lay back, and he started sliding off my pants again. I didn’t feel any real shame at having him undress me, since he’d had to do it before in his capacity as my doctor. He’d actually seen me naked dozens of times before, and nothing inappropriate ever came of it.

  Boden let go of my arms, and for reasons I didn’t fully understand, I grabbed onto his hand, gripping tightly.

  “I’m sorry,” I said.

  “Why are you sorry?” Boden asked with a crooked smile. With his free hand, he brushed back the hair from forehead.

  “I don’t know. I just feel like I should be sorry. ”

  “You don’t need to be,” he assured me.

  “How’s Max?” I asked.

  “He’s good,” Boden said. “He’s worried about you, of course, but he’s fine. ”

  “And Stella?”

  “She’s good, too. ” He smiled. “She said that if you need her teddy bear, you can have it. It always makes her feel better. ”

  “I think I’ll be okay,” I said, smiling back. My lips were dry, and it actually hurt to smile.

  “Good. But just get some rest, okay? You need to sleep. ”

  I wanted to stay awake and talk more, although I’m not sure what I would’ve said. But Boden was right, and I was out the instant I closed my eyes.

  I woke up on and off after that, but I was never awake for long. Max came in to see me, and I remember promising him I would be fine, but that was about it. I mostly slept and had vivid nightmares, usually about the quarantine, but sometimes about other things, like Blue the zombie. But in my nightmares, Blue always won.

  “Remy. ” Daniels was shaking me awake, but I tried to resist. “Remy. Come on. You need to eat something. ”

  “I don’t want to eat,” I mumbled and tried to roll over, but his hand was strong on my shoulder.

  “You know, it would be so much easier for me to save your life if you weren’t fighting me all the time. ” Daniels sighed. “Remy. You have to eat. You haven’t had anything in two days, and you can’t fight off the infection if you’re starving to death. ”

  “Two days?” I opened my eyes and looked up at him. “How long have I been asleep?”

  “Two days,” Daniels replied. He had a plate covered in canned tuna, mashed potatoes, and spinach, and he held it out toward me. “Eat. ”

  “Two days?” I asked dubiously, and I pushed myself up
so I was sitting a bit. My stomach felt sore when I moved, but it felt much better than it had before.

  “Yeah, I thought you might go into a coma there for a while,” Daniels said. “But your fever broke this morning, and your color’s returned. I think you might actually live. ”

  “Thanks. ” I took the plate from him, and using the fork he handed me, I tentatively started to pick at the food.

  “Remy, why did you wait so long to tell me about that?” Daniels asked. “That would’ve been a simple infection with a quick fix if you hadn’t waited so long. ”

  “I don’t know. ” I ate a mouthful of tuna, even though my appetite hadn’t returned, but I knew I had to eat. “I was mad at you. ”

  “You were mad at me?” He sighed. “So your plan to punish me was to kill yourself?”

  “No, I didn’t think it would get that bad. ” I shook my head. “I don’t know. I didn’t want to bother anybody. ”

  Daniels looked at me seriously. “You have to stop that, Remy. We need you, but you need us, too. You can’t keep going like you’re going to save the world all by yourself, because you’re not, Remy. You just can’t. ”

  I gulped down the food and nodded. “I’ll try and do better. ”

  “You have no choice now. I’m going to be checking that all time until I’m certain it’s healed up okay. ” He pointed to my abdomen.

  “Is everybody mad that I held us up for so long?” I asked.

  “No, there’s been a snowstorm,” Daniels said. “We probably wouldn’t have gone even if you were feeling okay. Plus, Serg needed the rest, too. ”

  “How is he?” I asked.

  “Fine. Better than you, actually. ”

  “Have there been any zombies?” I asked.

  “Nope. The snowstorm seems to have kept them at bay. ” Daniels smiled at me. “Do you see that, Remy? You were out of commission for a few days, and the world didn’t end. ”

  27.

  It was another day before I was up moving around more like normal. It was weird when I finally got to explore the house and see how the boys had set it up like a home.

  I had my own room, what I’m presumed used to be a little boy’s room. Boden shared the master room with Max and Stella. Daniels and Serg shared a small pink bedroom, but it only had one twin bed, so they took turns sleeping on it and the floor. Clark slept downstairs on the couch, and when I asked Daniels about him, he just shook his head and wouldn’t elaborate.

  It had stopped snowing, and it appeared to be warming up. The several inches of snow were melting. When I stared out the window, the icicles were constantly dripping water, almost like it was raining.

  “When are we going to leave?” I asked.

  “Um … one more day,” Boden replied.

  I turned away from the window to face him. They’d found a deck of cards, and Boden, Clark, Serg, and Max were sitting around a battered table playing poker. They were using pennies from a huge jar they’d found in the girl’s bedroom.

  “One day should be fine,” Clark said, and there was an authoritative undercurrent to it.

  Boden sat up straighter after Clark spoke, and it occurred to me that Clark was his boss. Boden believed in the army and the order of it, so that meant that in Boden’s eyes, Clark was in charge now.

  “Are you sure we should wait that long?” I asked, and Boden glanced over at Clark instead of answering me.

  “One more day should be fine. ” Clark smiled at me, but there was something condescending about it. “There’s some scotch in the kitchen. Will you be a sweetheart and get me a glass?”

  “Really?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.

  Boden bit his lip and looked over at me, his eyes wide. He was actually pleading with me not to say anything, so I sighed and decided to just go with it.

  “Fine,” I said. “Does anybody else want a glass?”

  “I’ll take one,” Serg said cautiously, as if he was afraid I would snap at him.

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  I went to the kitchen and poured two glasses of scotch. We’d really lucked out with this house. It didn’t have anything in the way of food, other than a few bottles of alcohol, but it was otherwise untouched by marauders or zombies.

  Almost all the furniture was still here and in good shape. It even had a fireplace and a wood-burning stove, so we could stay warm and actually cook our food. Plus, with the snow outside, we could collect the snow from outside, and boil it down to fresh, pure water.

  It was a nice setup, and it would be a shame to leave. But we were still too far south. It was early spring, so there was snow now, but it was already warming up and melting. If the cold really did work to keep the zombies away, it wouldn’t be cold enough for much longer to do that.

  “Two glasses of scotch,” I said when I walked back into the dining room. I set the scotch down in front of Serg and Clark. Serg politely said thanks, but Clark reacted differently.

  “Thank you, sweetheart. ” Clark put his hand on my waist and tried to rub or grope me or something, but I stepped quickly away from.

  “Sir, it’s your turn,” Boden said sharply, trying to draw Clark’s attention back to him.

  Since Clark was acting gross, I went to see what Daniels and Stella were up to. I found them in the pink room, playing dress-up with what the little girl had left behind. Stella’s teddy bear was in a pretty new frock, and Daniels was wearing a sparkly veil. Stella thought that was hilarious, and she kept giggling at him.

  “Hey, guys,” I said, leaning on the doorframe and smiling despite myself.

  “Hi. ” Daniels grinned at me, without any hint of shame at wearing a little girl’s tiara. “We’re playing pretty princess. Care to join us?”

  “No, I think I’ll just watch. ” I came in the room and sat down on the bed behind them.

  “Here!” Stella handed Daniels a necklace covered in giant plastic jewels. “Put this on. ”

  “Anything you say, Princess. ” He dropped it over his neck, and that only made her laugh harder.

  “See, Remy. ” She pointed at him and turned to look at me. “He’s a pretty princess!”

  “Yes, he’s very pretty indeed,” I said, and Daniels laughed at that. “But you look even prettier. What do you have on there?”

  Stella stood up and twirled around so she could show me. It was a pink costume, the kind little girl’s got from the Disney Store to play dress-up in. She’d put it on over her sweater and pants since it was rather cold upstairs.

  “Very pretty,” I said, sounding dutifully awed. “You know what would make you even prettier?” She shook her head. “If you let me do your hair. ”

  Since I’d met her, Stella’s hair had been a mess of knots and tangles. Even when Bishop and Nolita had attempted to clean her up, her hair had never gotten untangled. That was probably because nobody carried a brush.

  “Can I do your hair?” I asked her. “I make the prettiest princess braids you’ve ever seen. ”

  She thought about it, and then nodded. “Okay. ”

  “Come here. ”

  I patted the bed in front of me, and Stella came over and hopped up. I leaned over and grabbed the brush from the bedside table and started the arduous process of carefully brushing through her hair.

  “So what are the rest of the guys doing downstairs?” Daniels asked. He leaned back against the wall behind him and took off his tiara and veil.

  “Playing poker still,” I said. “How come you’re not playing with them?”

  “I don’t really like poker. ” He shrugged, but I felt like he was leaving something out.

  “Did you know Clark?” I asked, and he looked up at me. “It seemed like you knew him when he first got here. You said his name. ”

  “I didn’t know him well,” Daniels clarified. “But he was the general. Everybody knew of him around the quarantine. ”

  I’d hit a snarl in Stella’s hair, and she win
ced so I apologized. She was actually taking it pretty bravely, considering how knotted her hair was.

  “What did you know about him?” I asked.

  “I don’t know. ” He picked at his jeans and shook his head. “I didn’t really know him, and I wasn’t privy to that many rumors or gossip. ”

  “But you did hear some things?” I asked.

  “Nothing, really. ” He sighed. “Just …”

  “Just what?” I pressed.

  Daniels chewed his lip and looked down at Stella. I got the sense that he didn’t want to say something in front of her, and I seriously considered sending her away, but then Daniels spoke.

  “I asked Clark to sleep on the couch downstairs. I told him it was longer then the twin beds and it’d give him room to spread out. ”

  “But that’s not why you asked him to do that?”

  “No. ” He let out a deep breath. “Boden was sleeping with Stella, but you were by yourself in the room. And…” He shook his head. “I don’t know. ”

  “You were afraid to leave him alone with me or Stella?” I asked.

  “No. I don’t know. ” He ran his hand through his hair and stared out the window.

  My heart dropped. “Did I do something bad bringing him back here?”

  “No, I’m sure he’s fine. ” Daniels tried to shrug it off. “And he’s a soldier. He’ll be an asset if we have to fight more zombies. He’ll be… he’ll be good. ”

  “Daniels,” I said.

  He forced a smile at me. “Really. It’s fine. I’m just paranoid. ” He knew I wouldn’t let it go, so he changed the subject. “Stella, your hair is looking so good. ”

  “Thank you. ” She smiled at him.

  I’d brushed it out, and I’d moved on to a French braid. It had been a very long time since I’d done one, but I remembered it. When it was all neat and done, I grabbed a hair tie from the bedside table and finished it up.

  “There you go, Stella. All done and beautiful. ”

  “Thank you. ” She hopped off the bed, touching the braid tenderly.

  “That does look really great,” Daniels said as he stood up. “I didn’t know you could do girly things like that. ”

  “Well, you may not believe it, but back in the day, I used to be a girl,” I told him with a wry smile. “I used to wear dresses and put on makeup and even do my hair. ”

  “No way,” Daniels gasped and pretended to be stunned.

  Page 42

  “Let’s go show Max!” Stella grabbed my hand and started pulling me out in the hall.

  I’d actually wanted a moment alone, to find out more from Daniels, but he followed us. She dragged me all the way down the stairs to the dining room, where she proceeded to show off her new do and clothes for the guys.

  Serg and Boden responded in the appropriate ways, telling Stella that she looked very nice. Max was more focused on the poker game, so he offered a very quick, “Yeah, pretty,” before turning his attention back to the pile of pennies in front of him.

  “When are you gonna play dress-up?” Clark asked me, totally ignoring Stella. He leaned back in his chair, the glass of scotch in his hand.

  “I… I’m good,” I stammered. “Daniels was actually the one playing dress up. ”

  “Got the nice beads to prove it. ” Daniels gestured to the necklace he hadn’t taken off.

 
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