Opening my eyes, I looked up. There was a face just inches from mine, as if they were peering over me. Trying to move, I realised that I was lying down. I felt weak – too weak to move. My throat was raw and my tongue felt swollen in my mouth.
The room was dimly lit with a single light bulb that hung from the centre of the stone ceiling.
Where am I? I wanted to say, but my swollen tongue couldn’t form the words inside my mouth.
I looked up at the face again, my eyelids feeling like weights hanging over my eyes. I hadn’t felt this rough since getting drunk and making a fool of myself at my passing-out parade at police training school. But I had been hung-over back then – this was different. I felt as if I’d been drugged. I could only see half of the face peering down at me – the top half. His eyes stared over a blue surgical mask and down at me.
“How are you feeling, Kiera?” he asked, his voice sounding muffled from behind his mask. “Are you okay?”
What was going on here? Had I been injured? With my heart beginning to weigh heavy in my chest, I looked into those eyes and shook my head and it felt like a dead weight. I tried to speak again, but couldn’t, so I slowly shook my head from left to right to let them know that I was far from alright.
Whoever it was that hid behind the mask must have seen the utter fear in my eyes, because they squeezed my shoulder and said, “You’ll be okay, Kiera, you’ve just come back from surgery.”
Surgery! I screamed inside. What kind of surgery?
The surgeon, if that’s what he was, squeezed my shoulder again and a bolt of pain twisted its way up the length of my back, like a red-hot poker being dragged across my flesh. Despite my dry and swollen tongue, I screamed in pain, arching my back off the bed.
“Calm yourself, Kiera,” the surgeon tried to soothe. “I’ll give you something to ease the pain.”
He turned away and moved to a small silver trolley that was beside the bed. And as he did, I could see a shape hiding in the far corner of the room. Whoever it was, he was masked in shadows. I stared through the gloom at him and he must have sensed – known – that I could see through the darkness – because he turned away from me so that I couldn’t see his face. Apart from my bed and the bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling, the room was barren. The walls were featureless and made from grey stone.
Where am I? I wanted to scream out again but I couldn’t.
Turning, the surgeon stepped away from the trolley and came towards me. In his hand, he held a needle.
Instantly my mind began to scream, NO! NO! NO! What was he going to inject me with? I didn’t want to be unconscious again. However bad the pain in my back was, I wanted to stay awake, I wanted to know – see – what they were doing to me. Slowly, he came towards me and I noticed his forearms for the first time, they were muscular and covered in hair – bristling black hair. Holding the needle above my face, I could see that the syringe was full of a pale blue liquid – it looked like detergent.
Shaking my head from side to side, I tried to inch my way back up the bed and away from him. But as I did, pain exploded inside me like a bomb going off in my spine. The force of it making my back feel like it had been ripped apart, my ribs and spine dismantled. I locked-up with pain and the surgeon seized my arm.
“Hush now, Kiera,” he said again, bringing the needle close. I tried to pull back, get away but the pain was too intense and raw. Even though every one of my survival instincts was screaming for me to get away from the surgeon, and whoever it was that lurked in the corner, I just couldn’t move.
With my eyes bulging in their sockets, the surgeon raised my left arm, and inspected it closely.
“How am I meant to find a vein in these conditions?” he asked, and I wondered if he were talking to the shadow in the corner.
“Just get on with it,” the shape in the corner barked. The voice was deep and emotionless.
“I need more light,” the surgeon said, his eyes screwing-up as he inspected the crook of my elbow.
“Just do it!” the shadow barked.
Then, looking into my eyes, his almost seemed to smile as the surgeon said, “You’ll be okay, Kiera, I promise.”
I felt a scratchy feeling in my forearm and a warm feeling seemed to flood through my body. As my eyes began to feel heavy, I realised that I recognised the eyes which peered back at me over the top of that surgical mask…I had seen them in a picture…a photo…above the fire…at…Chapter Twenty-Two
…I sat bolt upright and grabbed the crook of my elbow. I scratched at it with my fingernails, as if trying to claw away whatever it was the surgeon had injected me with. I didn’t want to be unconscious again, I had to get out of the room, away from the surgeon and the man in the shadows. Scrambling to my feet, I got up, almost tripping over Luke who lay curled next to me. Even seeing him wasn’t enough to convince me that I was awake and the surgeon had just been someone in my nightmare.
“Kiera,” someone whispered from the other side of the overhang.
Spinning around, my mind showing me a series of shattered images reflecting needles, surgical masks, shadows and…
“Kiera,” the voice came again.
“Keep away from me!” I groaned. “I don’t want to go under again!”
“It’s me, Isidor,” the voice said, and looking through the darkness, I could see that he was propped against the wall of the overhang. His knees were drawn up to his chest and he was reading a book. Even though my eyes could see that it was him, my nightmare still hung about my head like fog and my brain told me it was the surgeon trying to trick me into going to him.
“Leave me alone!” I hissed.
“Kiera?” he said getting up and coming close. “Are you okay?”
“Please,” I said, shying away from him, not wanting another injection.
Then his hand was gently touching my shoulder and he was pulling me towards him. “Kiera, you’ve had a nightmare, that’s all.”
I looked into his eyes and they twinkled back at me, blue and clear. The tips of the black flames he had tattooed up his neck were now lost amongst a spattering of stubble that covered the lower half of his face and neck. “It’s me, Kiera,” he smiled.
Slowly, the last fragments of my nightmare melted away, as I realised that I was no longer in that barren room with the surgeon and whoever it had been lurking in the corner.
“There was a surgeon…” I whispered as he guided me back to the spot where he had been sitting. Looking back over my shoulder, I could see a shaft of pink sunlight cutting through the gap where we had earlier entred the overhang. The sun was setting outside and I knew that it wouldn’t be long before the others were awake.
“Sit here,” Isidor whispered as he slouched back against the wall. He held the book open across his knees and gave me a sideways glance. “Wanna talk about it?” he asked.
I didn’t, so I changed the subject, “What are you reading?”
“ ‘Ryder’ by Greta Maloney,” he said, closing the book and placing it back into his rucksack.
“Any good?” I asked, wanting to find another subject to talk about other than my nightmare.
“It’s creepy,” he smiled at me.
“I thought you would’ve had enough of creepy,” I half-smiled at him, “Especially after everything we’ve been through recently.”
“You can’t ever have enough ‘creepy’,” he smiled back.
“I guess,” I said, looking away from him. Silence fell between us and I knew that if I were ever going to ask him about being a half-breed this was my chance. So turning to face him, I said, “You said Kayla was your sister. How can that be?”
Staring ahead, Isidor laced his fingers together over his drawn-up knees and said, “I’m almost two years older than Kayla, but she doesn’t know that I exist. I didn’t know anything about her either until recently,” he started to explain. “My mother and father are Lady and Lord Hunt just like Kayla’s. As far as I’ve been told, my mother had a terrible time carrying me as an unborn child. She was sick constantly and spent most of her time in bed at Hallowed Manor. Doc Ravenwood cared for her, but he suspected that something wasn’t quite right. He expressed his fears to my father, telling him that my mother’s life could be in danger because she was carrying a half-breed. My father was thrown into a panic as he had never revealed his secret to my mother about being a Vampyrus. So one day, when my mother was screaming in pain, they gave her a sedative to calm her, and Doc Ravenwood used that x-ray-thingy to take a peek at me inside of her.”
“A bit like an ultrasound?” I cut-in.
“I guess,” he said, still not looking at me. “Anyway, what they saw terrified my father, for even as a fetus I had my wings. Nothing like this had ever been seen before. Most half-breeds didn’t start their change until adolescence and as we know, that change killed them. But there I was, inside my mother’s womb, already looking like a Vampyrus. Apparently, my father went into a blind panic and for days he was thrown into a fit of despair. What was he to do? He couldn’t tell my mother – what would he have told her? That for years he had been masquerading above ground as a human when really he was nothing more than a vampire bat? No, he loved my mother deeply and feared that she would have left him
“So, Doc Ravenwood and my father made a decision which would change all of our lives forever. When my mother went into labor they kept her heavily sedated, and when I was born, my father snuck me away down into The Hollows, where he gave me to his sister to raise as her own,” he said, his voice dropping to a whisper.
“But what about Lady Hunt…your mum?” I gasped. “What did they tell her?”
Turning to look at me, his eyes shot with what looked like tears, he said, “They told her that I had died soon after birth. They kept my mother sedated for days, passing in and out of delirium, so she was not to know any better. Days later, when she did finally wake, they told her their lies, saying that they had buried me in that graveyard beneath the weeping willows at Hallowed Manor.