The Holy Dark
The Darkness, Book 1
by Stephanie Burke
Beautiful Trouble Publishing
eBook ISBN: 978-1-61788-294-4
With the clock ticking down and London dissolving into chaos, it is only a matter of time before American ex-patriot Dr. Kaylla Montgomery and a jackal shape shifter named Holy Dark come together and fight as one, or give into a fate that is darker than death itself.
Beautiful Trouble Publishing
If she could, she would paint the walls red with the blood of her detractors.
Kaylla could feel them, their accusing eyes on her as her heels clicked loudly in the controlled chaos and suffering that echoed along the clean white walls of the hospital.
Her eyes glanced over them as she moved, assessing each face as she passed. Some were ravaged, worried, and filled with concern. Others were angry, made impotent by fear, and still more were blank, staring off into space, at nothing. There were a few heads that turned in her direction. Those were the ones that bothered her the most, like she had the answers to what ailed them. Those impatient hope- filled eyes—
“Dr. Keller.” She tore her gaze away and focused in on the rather tall, stern-faced man who stopped her. “Dr. Anderson,” she nodded, acknowledging the doctor she had seen and even assisted a few times since her move to London, England. She respected the man, which was saying something about his level of intelligence. Most people looked at her and saw a walking publicity device or a tool to be used and discarded when public eyes weren’t focused on Hillingdon Old St. George Hospital. Dr. Anderson, however, looked at her as if she was just another colleague.
“Dr. Robert Zeyas is waiting for you in theater number four. Do you know the way?”
“Yeah,” she nodded once before correcting herself. “Uh, yes, Dr. Anderson. The ward nurse told me everything was set up and waiting.”
“Well, good luck to you then,” he offered her a tired smile. “And I am sure that all of this—” He waved his hand in the air, “—misunderstanding will be cleared up in no time.”
“Thank you.” She offered him a weak smile in return and clutched the strap of her messenger bag across her body, the only action that showed how anxious she really was.
He opened his mouth as if he wanted to say something more, and then gave a small shake of his head before giving her arm a sympathetic squeeze.
She watched as he hurried away, diving into the needy masses that awaited the miracle aid, that they prayed he could deliver.
If they had even an inkling of what might be happening to them—
She could not concern herself with them right now. She turned and hurried onward, knowing that her time here was limited. Following the directions of the ward nurse, Kaylla swiftly made her way past silent halls toward the staircase that led to the basement. With each step, a deep feeling of foreboding filled her. She would deal with the scientific revelations that caused her fear later, just as soon as she proved herself innocent of homicide.
“Dr. Kaylla Keller,” an elderly but still strident man called out, pulling her from her own anxious thoughts as he held out one steady hand. “An honor. Would you like a locker for your belongings?”
“Thank you, Dr. Zeyas.” She shook his hand, noting the strength in his palm as she allowed him to pull her into his domain. “No thank you on the locker,” she smiled as she stepped into his outer office. “But do you mind if I leave my jacket here?” She gestured to one of the chairs set before a large paper-covered desk.
“By all means, dear lady,” he smiled. “I know you must be anxious to have this nasty bit of work done.”
She dropped her coat and reached for the scrub coat he held out for her. “If you are ready to start?”
“Do you mind if I record?” she asked after donning the clean white coat. “I want to keep a visual record for my own files.”
“Oh excellent, excellent,” he gave her a reassuring smile, his bright blue eyes filled with good humor. “Please do. I have no objection to being on film.”
Nodding, Kaylla opened her messenger bag and pulled a compact video camera from its padded protective case.
She flipped it on, ensuring that she had placed the empty memory stick in its appropriate slot before following the doctor into the operating theater adjacent to his office.
This area of the morgue was brightly lit and she adjusted the light meter on the camera appropriately as she got a sweeping of the room.
Through the wide viewing window, she could see the bright white of the walls, the neat line up of surgical tools along the sturdy counter, and finally— the sheet-covered cadaver lying still and cold on a steel table.
“Shall we get started, then?” the medical examiner asked, his grandfatherly aura melting, replayed with a serious and business-like demeanor.
“Yes, Dr. Zeyas,”
“Well then, acting as a Presiding Officer in Special Court, I, Doctor Robert Zeyas, will attempt to determine the death of one to Mr. Kenneth Welsley.”
That said, he approached the body and whipped back the sheet. “It seems our lad was having an extremely bad run of luck,” he explained as Kaylla focused on Dr. Zeyas’ earnest, pale face before swinging the camera back to the body. “Mr. Welsley returned to his flat about half-seven to find his wife had committed infanticide and was in the process of consuming the corpses of their two daughters, aged three and five, respectively.”
“My God,” Kaylla winced, her stomach rolling, before pulling herself back under tight control.
“God indeed.” Dr Zeyas sighed sadly before continuing with his recitation. “Our body here, one mister Kenneth Welsley, contacted the authorities before his wife took a notion to expand her crimes by doing away with him as well. In the ensuing struggle, it appears that Mrs. Earnestine Welsley fell backward and upon initial investigation suffered a major contusion to the back of her head, her occipital and mastoid. Her examination will take place after we deal with Mr. Welsley, and the remains of the little ones, however… But it is already agreed that Mrs. Welsley was dead before the authorities arrived and took Mr. Welsley for questioning.” He made a motion to the pale, almost purplish arms that were severely lacerated and, from what Kaylla could see, held several teeth bites. “Note the defensive scratches and bites on his arms, neck and face.” Kaylla carefully recorded the torn and lacerated skin, the places that showed deep pink of muscle tissue where the skin had been roughly torn away in chunks and along his chest, neck and face, before moving around the body to get a better shot of Mr. Welsley’s corpse again.
“It appeared to be a clear case of self-defense. See where the forearms are scored? Also note that his hands and knuckles are bruised and lacerated. This man fought hard for his life.
“But now comes the puzzling question, Dr. Keller. When the authorities were interviewing him, Mr. Welsley had some type of psychotic break and began attacking the constabulary. Maybe the strain of finding his children cannibalized at the hands of the woman he trusted the most was too much, but that is mere speculation. When he went mad in the interview room, the authorities were forced to use your Pacifier, Dr. Keller. One jolt as prescribed and then Mr. Welsley joined his wife and children in death. That brings us to why you are now present.”
“Yes,” she said as she agreed with his summation of the matter. “One shot from the Pacifier should not have harmed this man. The nanocytes go directly to the nerve cluster in the brain that support major motor functions and shuts them off for a period of no more than point five two seconds. It is enough to knock a human being unconscious and harmless without the strain to the heart and lungs that traditional tasering causes.”
“Then there is the fact that there is no other physical reason for Mr. Welsley to have passed,” the medical examiner continued. “He enjoyed good health, was a non-smoker, nor did he drink to excess. He’d had a physical for his job just three days ago and all the same stats check out. No heart or lung disease, no major illness, no disease or aberrations. I repeat, Mr. Welsley enjoyed good health, not even ever having so much as a broken bone.”
“And his place of employment?”
“Mr. Welsley was a chef and therefore was not exposed to any caustic or dangerous chemicals.”
“Then you are focusing your attention on the brain?”
“Yes,” Dr. Zeyas nodded. “It has to be the brain, so that is where we shall start.”
He snapped on a clear full-face mask and a pair of thick blue gloves, offering a pair to Kaylla. Nodding her thanks, she placed the camera beside the cadaver’s arm and began the process of pulling on the tricky gloves.
But as she snapped the right glove into place, there was a faint yet audible scrape, the soft sound of metal against metal.
She jerked her eyes to the camera, noting that it had moved a few inches. Odd.
Curious, she picked it up, checked to see if it was still running—it was—and then shook her head, her eyebrows wrinkled in confusion. Dead bodies don’t move, she reminded herself. She must have placed it in an awkward position and it shifted on its own. Making a note to be more careful of her equipment, she adjusted the sight window and once again focused on the medical examiner.
“I am unsure as to what I’ll find when I open up the cranial cavity,” he began kindly, “but I promise I will be both fair and objective while being very thorough, young lady.”
“Thank you, Dr. Zeyas.” Kaylla was ready to defend herself and her nanocyte projector stun gun to the fullest. She ignored the foreboding feeling still dwelling in the back of her mind and focused in on the task at hand.
She watched calmly as he used a scalpel to cut from ear to ear, keeping his lines neat and above the eyebrows. He then pulled back on the skin flap, easily removing the scalp from the skull.
“Odd,” he muttered loud enough for her to pick up on camera. “There is almost no osseous membrane holding the scalp in place.”
Kaylla pondered that while the doctor pulled out a marker and drew a line on the exposed skull parallel to his incision.
There was the electric whirr of the bone saw as Dr. Zeyas started using the small round-bladed cutting tool. Kaylla zoomed in on the body once more and paused…
What—she thought, eyes widening as she recorded a definite finger twitch from the deceased Mr. Welsley.
What the fuck? The man was dead.
The finger twitched again, and Kaylla felt an overwhelming sense of wrong. “Doctor?” she began, just as the whirring sound of the blade was dulled by its first contact with flesh—and then a nose-burning stench filled the room.
“What in God’s name—Dr Zeyas,” she gasped, stepping back as he completed the cut and used a bone chisel to remove the bone flap on the top of Mr. Welsley’s head to gain access to the brain.
Kaylla resisted the urge to cover her nose and instead breathed in deeply, allowing her brain to process the stench. It was an old coroner’s trick, used to get the body accustomed to horrible smells so it could block them out much faster.
Another trick was to apply mentholated rub under the nose. Sadly, she was lacking in the medicated ointment. Kaylla’s body began to shake at the sickly-sweet scent of rotting meat, amazed that it was coming from a fresh cadaver. The man had only been dead for a few hours. It was far too soon for necropathy to set in.
She focused on the head again, and gasped as she saw Kenneth Welsley’s eyes had opened. It was not a twitch or a trick of the camera or lighting. The dead man’s eyes popped open, milky white and strangely aware. The horrific sight chilled her to the bone.
She could hear her breath rasping as her brain tried to assimilate what her eyes were seeing. A movement in the corner of the viewfinder’s sight caught her attention and she moved the camera down to see his hands lifting, reaching—
“Dr. Zeyas!” she shouted, panic in her voice; heart racing as she observed the impossible was becoming true right before her eyes.
“Dr. Keller?” the medical examiner asked, looking up as he used a scalpel to sever the spinal cord and Kayla watched in disbelief as the eyes closed and the grabbing hands fell limp. She shifted her camera to the doctor who now stood holding Kenneth Welsley’s green and gray rotting brain in his two hands. “Yes?”
“He—he—” she stammered, pointing to his arms. “He moved.”
“Hmm?” the medical examiner looked down and shrugged even as he observed the exact placement of the cadaver’s arms were amiss. “The body stores electrical nerve impulse, Dr. Keller, sometimes for hours. It was possible the residual nerve activity was burning itself out. You mentioned the phenomena several times in your published studies, though I have to admit this movement was a bit dramatic.” He shrugged as if a dead body moving was nothing. “I see it all the time.” With his reaction, she decided that she had better not mention anything about the eyes opening until she could show him video proof.
Before she could comment again, he turned and placed the greenish-gray mass of brain tissue into a metal bowl attached to an organ scale. “I can say with absolute certainty that Mr. Welsley’s death had nothing to do with your Pacifier, Dr. Keller. It appears that Mr. Welsley was in fact a walking dead man and didn’t even know it.”
Kaylla, with effort, pulled the camera away from the body and back to the doctor himself, amazement making her heart race once more. “Doctor?”
“This amount of necropathy does not happen within mere hours, Dr. Keller. I am afraid we are dealing with something much more serious than brain aneurism—and this is not the first case of this…” His lips pursed in frustration before he continued, “…viral infection—as much as I can figure—I have seen these past weeks.”
He stepped back from the scale and turned to face her, stripping his gloves from his hands. “We are not sure how it—this virus—is passed, but Mr. Welsley’s brain was rotting slowly while he was alive. He must have been in tremendous pain.”
The doctor looked over at the body once more before shaking his head sadly. “Again, this is neither here nor there. I shall fill out the paperwork absolving the Pacifier of all culpability in the death of one Mr. Kenneth Welsley in this matter, Dr. Keller. This man was dead before he even confronted his wife.”
“Virus?” she asked, her hands shaking despite her best efforts to hold them still. If this was connected in any way to what the doctors who contacted her for help reported… “The people are going mad because of this virus?”
“Yes,” he sighed, suddenly looking rather defeated. “If this rate of infection keeps constant, we are calling in the ECDC, the European Center for Disease Control. It is equivalent to your American CDC and I believe they will act just as swiftly.” He looked back at the brain. “I have never seen anything like this in all my years.”
Dr. Zeyas made a few notions on a pad and shook his head sadly, his shoulders sagging as if the weight of the world rested on them. “It kills indiscriminately—man, woman, young, old, race and background are not a factor. We are not even sure how the virus is contracted, but it doesn’t seem to be airborne, thank God. It is slow-moving, which gives us hope that a cure can be found.”
“Do—” she began before pulling her courage together. “Do you mind if I have a sample of the brain matter?”
“Oh yes, you are something of a biologist and you are on staff here,” the old man smiled. “I would have gotten a sample to you sooner or later, as it were. But yes, I will release a sample to you…if you do something for me.”
“May I have a copy of this recording?” he asked, a tired smile crossing his face. “I would like to keep a backup for my files.”
“Absolutely,” Kaylla agreed without an argument. If what she suspected was actually happening, then this video might be the key toward the ending of this new viral plague.
She flipped off her camera as she watched the doctor don a fresh pair of gloves and remove a small chunk of the rotting brain matter. He carefully stored the sample in a protective shatterproof sterile glass jar before slipping his gloves from his hands and exchanging them for a fresh pair.
Once that had been accomplished, he carefully disinfected the outside of the jar and placed it in a small metal cold box used for transporting samples. “We were going to contact you on this one anyway because it is understood that you have strong medical connections in the private sector and access to a very sophisticated lab.”
“Yes sir, I do.” She followed Dr. Zeyas from the operating theater into the hall. The doctor stopped to strip off his jacket and gear and tossed them into hazardous waste bags for disposal. Once back into his office, she placed the camera inside its case and dropped it into her messenger bag. After a moment of hesitation, the doctor handed her the cold box.
“We can find no means of transmission. It is not air- or water-borne. Casual contact does not pass on the virus. We are looking into digestive transfer, like with the mad cow disease scare, but we have come up rather short, I’m afraid.” “I may soon have access to some information that may shed a light on this,” Kaylla promised. “As soon as the scientists I am working with give me information, I will bring it to you. They seem to have some knowledge of what is going on. It was what I was working on before I was called in about the Pacifier.”
“Then I pray to God that you can help us find a clue about this thing, Dr. Keller, before we find ourselves at ground zero, helpless in the face of a full- fledged epidemic.” The seriousness of the statement left them both momentarily frozen with fear and uncertainty. Dr. Zeyas took a deep breath and nodded at Kaylla. “I will start the paperwork absolving you of any culpability in this matter.”
Then, noting her shaken expression, the doctor smiled and patted her softly on her shoulder. “You have been through a lot, my dear. I suggest you take yourself home and have a cuppa to relax before you do yourself harm. I recognize the signs of too much stress and not enough sleep, young lady. Take a break and then start on this tomorrow with fresh eyes. The dead are going nowhere and it is vital that you are alert and well rested when dealing with his matter.”
“I understand, Doctor.” Her voice was thin and reedy as she again shook his hand and turned to don her coat. She made her way up the stairs and back through the facility. But the dead may already be going somewhere, she thought to herself, fearful of opening her mouth and letting the merest suggestion of inner thoughts slip out. There was no use in causing more of a panic…now.
“He was biting me!” someone wailed, drawing her attention to the shifting tensions in the waiting room. A tearful woman tried to explain to a doctor, who was helping her hold a swaying man upright. “He was trying to bite me! It ain’t right! I thought he was taking the piss—”
As she passed through the narrow corridors, instead of the pitiful injured, suddenly each person in her mind’s eye looked like a virus carrier.
She winced as she watched children cough on their mothers, cough in the air, cough and all over each other. Every one waiting for assistance was a threat. Each ill child was a potential plague carrier, waiting to infect everyone around them. Each person inside the hospital was a threat to humanity on a whole.
Again, her heels clicked along the tiled floors as she made for the main doors, pulling her cell phone out of its side case to check the time. trot.
“Shit,” she gasped, as she broke out into a fast
She had to get home, to the meeting that had been planned for the past week.
With her inclusion of this new evidence, there was no denying that London, England was indeed ground zero for the world’s latest and most deadly pandemic since the Black Death.
The team of scientists she had connections with would be waiting for this crucial information and— more importantly—the video. There was a clue there that she was missing. It was troubling that she could not piece together what her subconscious was trying to tell her.
The dead were beginning to walk amongst the living and with this new proof, life, as she knew it—as anyone knew it—was about to change.
Once outside the hospital doors, she noted the darkening winter night sky and cursed softly to herself. She had to get home for that conference call.
At a brisk walk, her home and basement lab was only twenty minutes away from the hospital. She intentionally bought her home in this location, to ensure a quick and easy commute to and from the hospital. A shorter traveling distance also made transportation easier for the patients who helped her with her experiments at her personal lab. Now, even that short distance made her home seem too far away.
Through the street or through Kensington Garden? She took a moment to debate her best course of action.
Even thought it has been announced to the public to avoid such places after dark, she decided on the park. If she ran, she could be home in fifteen and still have time to make the all-important video conference call that suddenly had become vital for everyone’s further existence on this planet.
Clutching the strap of her messenger bag, she darted across the street and began the run through deeply shadowed walkways of Kensington Gardens.
Fear gave her feet wings as she dodged around slick patches; doing her best to keep her breathing calm and regulated in the icy air.
She was almost there. With her heart pounding and her blood racing, her anxiousness eased a little as soon as she could make out the perpetually lit front door lights of her house. She was going to make it, with time to spare. She leaned forward into the cold wind, putting a little more speed into her run when— “Omph”
Something slammed into her chest with enough force to knock her off her feet.
Kaylla immediately hit the ground and rolled to her side, her fight or flight instincts already sharpened by what she had seen, going into full panic mode.
She struggled to her feet and whipped around to see what hit her and just in the nick of time, threw her hand up in front of her face.
The man who attacked her lurched forward, reaching for her in silent fury.
“Get away!” she screamed, backing up. The crazed man kept coming, grabbing for her as she ducked his swinging hands. Her backward flight was halted as her back thunked into the cold metal pole of a street light and then the man took advantage by lunging forward.
Screaming, Kaylla pulled her messenger bag before her like a weapon in front of her body and let swing with all the force she could muster, into the man’s face. She only gave a moment’s thought to be grateful that the information in the camera’s memory was stored in a stick and that her sample was in a heavy metal box, as it slammed into the side of the silent man’s head with a sickening crunch.
The sound of her camera was not the only destruction she heard. She also was close enough to hear the wrenching, twisting low pop, crack of bone snapping as the man’s neck twisted at an unnatural angle. Almost instantly, the smell of sweet rotting meat filled the cold night air, and the scent of death surrounding her.
Instead of falling down or releasing her, the man seemed to shake, jerking his listing head forward. Then in a macabre slow motion, regardless of his obviously broken neck, he reached out and gripped her left arm. In the dim light of the street lamp, Kaylla could see the unnatural white of his eyes, see the red speckled drool that flowed from his mouth, and knew this was a victim of the virus. Then the world began to move at triple the speed as his head dropped and he bared his teeth.
“No!” Kaylla screeched out, jerking her arm around wildly as she felt his teeth slam into the flesh just above her wrist. It felt like a heavy blow that caused her wrist to almost instantly go numb for seconds before a fiery burning sensation exploded into the most intense pain she had ever felt.
“Argh!” she bellowed, absently noting that something echoed her cry just before some great beast slammed into the two of them. It scratched through her coat to the soft flesh of her chest while knocking them all to the ground, the force of the fall ripping her wrist free of the clenching teeth.
Tears were blinding her and a sob tore its way from her throat as she blindly groped for the strap of her messenger bag and hurriedly scrambled to her feet.
She cast one last look at the shadows cast by her savior and her attacker struggling in the dark before she took off running full tilt for home.
This time she did not stop until she nearly slammed face first into her front door. With shaking hands, she input her alarm code. Sobs screaming in her throat, she forced her door open just far enough for her to slip through and slammed it shut behind her.
“Oh God,” she whimpered, dropping her messenger bag to the floor before the beeping of her computer caught her attention. “No!”
She ran to the wide flat screen she used in her den turned office and stared at the blinking message waiting for her.
Video conference canceled. Will reconvene in one week.
She was too late. The worldwide conclave of doctors who contacted her looking for answers and offering just about anything in their power for her assistance—over. Her personal video meeting was over before it had begun.
The pale green fonts on their damning screen of blue time blinked back at her. How could she—it couldn’t be too late! In desperation, she dropped into the desk chair before the computer screen and began to scream.
“No no no no no no no! Fuck!” she wailed. She had vital information to share and she had been just two minutes late. “Fuck!” she screamed again, her nose burning, her eyes flooded with tears as fear began to take hold.
“What am I going to do?” she cried, her chest heaving with each word. “What am I going to do?”
She tried to calm herself taking a deep breath. It was when her heart rate was actually dropping into something akin to normal that she was suddenly made aware of the heated agony radiating from the bite.
“Oh God,” she whimpered, “Oh God, oh God, I’m dead.”
Now it all made sense. The defensive wounds on Mr. Welsley, the lady in casualty screaming about the man she brought in, the way that thing went after her; it was all about the bite. The virus was not airborne or water-borne, or even carried by foods. This virus was transferred through a bite… and she’d been bitten.
She ripped her coat from her body and peered at her wrist, whimpering as she noted how inflamed the bite area had become. Even as she sat watching, her body shaking, long tendrils of dark red began to climb from around the wounded wrist and up her arm.
“So dead,” her voice was broken and shaky as she stared at the living death that was slowly taking over her body. “I’m dead, fuck, oh Jesus. Please, God…”
She threw back her head and screamed her impotent anger to the empty room. Oh, God, she was going to die! She was going to turn into one of those— those undead things.
She had the possible answer; she could be holding the key in her messenger bag and she was going to die before anything could be made from it. The world was going to die and she was going to turn into a hideous undead monster…because of a bite. “Why?” she screeched in rage. “Oh, God, why?”
She clutched her arm to her chest as the pain grew steadily worse. She knew that there was the living death virus and it was creeping up her veins and…
No. Something, some small voice in her head became defiant. It grew until it was a roar that drowned out her fear. She would not end like this.
Her tears eased, and with her eyes burning in newfound determination, Kaylla rose to her feet and made her way toward her basement lab.
She stumbled past the prostatic man exo-suit that was sitting in the corner, one of her latest and most successful projects. She stopped and placed one hand on the chest designed to give paraplegics unlimited mobility, and wondered if she ever would see the project to fruition. She moved onward, past the tools of her trade and the fruits of her labor to her workbench, her mind calming as she took one more look at her ravaged wrist and settled on the only plan she could fathom for survival.
She swept everything from her worktop with her right arm, grateful that the thing had taken a bite out of her left, non-dominant limb.
Her right arm was her steady one, the favored one, the one that was still functioning.
Worksite cleared, she made her way over to a set of locked cabinets that banked one wall of her lab. Her mind fuzzed for a moment, before she could recall the letter and number combination code, and pressed her thumb against the identification pads.
When the cabinet doors slicked open, she reached for two containers. One was filled with prepared morphine injections, the other filled with vivacaine. The morphine was intended for pain and the vivacaine was used via injection as a local anesthetic. She also piled on a rubber hose and hospital sterile pad and a bottle of alcohol. She carried her burden over to her worktable.
She flicked on the bright lab lights with her elbow and dropped her equipment on the table, taking a seat at the high industrial stool, before spreading out the sterile pad. Her left fist suddenly clenched of its own volition.
Kaylla froze, looking down at her arm as if it belonged to someone else. She stared in horror as her fist involuntarily spasmed again, her fingers making a fist, clenching and releasing it.
The infection was spreading rapidly, first down to her hand and fingers, and then up—
She had to move!
Taking up the hose, she tied it tightly around the middle of her forearm, just around the center of the ulna and radius—the two forearm bones—about three inches above the eerie, evil-looking red lines that were beginning to swell in her veins as the infection spread upwards toward her heart.
Once the tourniquet was applied, she flipped open the cap of the morphine and depressed a little from the sharp needle, ensuring that there were no air bubbles inside the syringe. She took a deep breath and located one swelling vein just above the rubber hose. She gave a silent prayer as she slowly slid the needle in, depressing the plunger to shoot a dose directly into her arm.
Almost immediately, her mind began to calm and her breathing slowed.
Good. The more rapidly she panted, the faster her blood pumped though her veins, carrying the deadly toxins more quickly to her heart.
She began to look at what she was about to do objectively, as if the infected arm belonged to someone else. To think about it any other way would prevent her from doing what needed to be done.
She reached for the second syringe, readjusting her arm on the padded table, ignoring the clenching fist when it made her arm jump. The numbing vivacaine was shot directly into the gaping wound site and then around in several spots an inch below the rubber hose, just above the red lines that were growing like tree branches up her—the arm.
The vivacaine’s numbing properties would almost instantly go into effect and would last up to twenty hours. When she pressed a thumbnail around the sluggishly bleeding bite mark and felt nothing, she knew it was time.
Her bone saw was exactly where she left it, razor sharp and ready for use in its harness beside her table.
With an amazingly steady hand, she picked it up 32 and set it down on the pad beside the numb arm. So many times she used this saw, and was so very careful about not cutting herself. Kaylla uncapped the bottle of alcohol with trembling fingers. She tried to be as detached as possible when she doused the saw and her arm in the cold liquid. Once that was done, there was no more reason to delay. She picked up the saw and flicked it on. The whirring sound reminded her of the green gray mess of a brain that poor Mr. Welsley possessed after the infection spread to his cerebral cortex. It only firmed her resolve. She would not wind up like one of them, one of the undead, alone and damned to this existence, while haunting the remains of her flat, slowly and rotting slowly from the inside out. She would not!
With new determination, she pressed the whirling blade onto the muscle of her am, wincing as she could feel the pressure increase, but thankfully, no pain. Blood welled and sprayed up, flowing like rivers over her skin as the saw cut deeper into her am.
“Oh God!” she sobbed once, but did not relent. She continued sawing, ignoring the blood that splashed in her face and turned the white hospital pad crimson in seconds. She ignored the tug and pull of her arm and the clenching and unclenching of the infected fist. Oh God, she was cutting off her own arm.
Throwing her head back, she screamed out her agony, her pain, her frustrations, and her fear to the wind as she held the blade steady.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck, f—,” she sobbed, her breath hitching around each word as the blade finally stalled and her severed limb dropped onto the table below.
She had done it. She had cut her arm off.
In shock, she flipped the automatic shut-off, stopping the blade before dropping the gore encrusted saw from her fingers.
Again she tried to look at her arm with a sense of detachment, knowing that it was one of the only things that kept her from passing out.
This was not happening to her. This was happening to someone else—anyone else…poor fool.
There was the matter of bleeding to be seen to, she thought, her mind stuck in a minor fog of morphine and shock. She was in no condition to suture anything.
She looked around the room, feeling more and more lightheaded…until the moment her eyes caught sight of the small welding torch she kept harnessed by the saw.
Cauterization it was.
She looked into the raw, bleeding stump, noting how the blood was steadily flowing out despite the tourniquet and decided it was better to go ahead and finish her crude surgery before she bled to death.
She first flipped open another prepared syringe filled with the numbing agent and injected the incision site, noting that it was a neat, clean, straight cut. She used at least two more vivacaine syringes, ensuring that her whole arm was numb, knowing how oddly nerves reacted to burns. Taking a deep breath, she reached for the torch.
It was a small trigger-operated torch with a built-in igniter. She rarely used it, only pulling it out when she needed to solder or weld some copper piping. But, like all her equipment, it was cleaned and maintained and ready to go. She had only to turn on the fuel source from the back, pick it up, and squeeze the trigger. It popped on without any difficulty, shooting out a cool white/blue flame.
For one moment, she held the hot steady fame up to the light before she looked at the mess of her arm, a mess of her own making.
She was going to die if she didn’t do this. She had already done the hard part; lowering the flame to the stump of the arm and—
The smell of burnt flesh choked her more than the smell of rotting brain. The stench of that acrid black smoke almost made her gag. The sound of her own flesh sizzling and the fat popping made her hand holding the torch tremble.
She had to continue with this. She had to survive. She had to live; she didn’t want to die.
So she held the torch to the stump until the flesh blackened and cracked, until it blistered and bubbled, until the bleeding stopped and the wound was totally cauterized.
She flicked off the torch, dropping it to the table next to the rotary saw.
“This is going to hurt when the vivacaine wears off,” she whimpered to herself, tears continuously flowing down her face. “Kaylla,” she added, “You are a mess.”
Her right hand was shaking badly now, almost making it impossible for her to grab another syringe of morphine. She flipped the cap off with her thumb and injected it into her veins before she took a close look down at what she had done. She needed the mental support, and damn it, the pain-killing effect of the morphine was going to be really appreciated when the numbness began to fade away.
She looked down at the blackened stump of her arm, the blood liberally splashed on the table, the heavily soaked hospital pad, the used syringes, and beside the used bloody saw was—The hand, her hand—it was still clenching and releasing into a fist. Her goddamned amputated hand was still moving.
It was all that her abused mind could handle. She felt the room grow hazy and a rush of waves washed loudly through her ears.
Then she was falling, falling sideways off her bench and dragging everything that was on the table with her.
She heard the saw start up as she hit the ground, watched as it spun in uncontrolled wild circles, getting ever closer to her face. She found that she could not bring herself to move.
This new form of death came closer, spinning out of control and she just closed her eyes. Mere inches from her nose, the rotary saw sparked as it cleaved through its own cord. With a hissing, sputtering sound, it stopped dead.
But Kaylla was already too far gone to notice, her consciousness fleeing, as did her dreams of a normal life and ever walking fearlessly out through London streets again.
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