I’ve always thought of myself as a normal person, though according to society’s standards I guess I’m not. I was a ‘nerd’. Texts books were leisure reading for me, always have been and still are. I excelled in my studies from day one to the point I was pretty much alienated from my peers. I had this undying fascination for everything around me and made it a personal mission to just become a sponge for every bit of information I could absorb. This had led me down a path of furthering education both in the classroom and around the rest of Europe, going on archeological digs, conferences and even leading my own lectures at top universities. I loved learning, and I loved sharing what I learned and passing that knowledge down to others who had the same spark in their eyes as me.
As happy as I was, I still felt the need to spread my wings and reach out even further, so at the ripe old age of 25 I was on a plane and headed west to some little middle-of-nowhere town in Connecticut, United States where I found where I belonged.
Sure, many people don’t think being a high school science teacher was anything too special, especially when I could have taught at well known universities in the UK, but I did. I loved it. Maybe it was to make up for my alienation during my own school years growing up, but being in the classroom with my students and watching them go from scared freshmen to proud seniors made me incredibly happy. It was always a joke in the school that I couldn’t go to a graduation without crying and it was true. I’d bawl my eyes out every year. These were my kids and I was a part of them every much as they were a part of me. We all learned from each other, we all grew together, we all over came our failures and celebrated our successes. My ideas and knowledge would live on in them long after I was gone.
While I saw myself as a ‘respectable scientist’, my fiancée, Raquel, would describe me as a big goof-ball. This was true. I played video games, was a cast member at the Renaissance Faire, I LARP’ed from time to time (I was the reason our school even had a LARP club), and I have a soft spot for Lego’s. I was undeniably the ‘biggest’ goof-ball Raquel or anyone else would ever meet. After moving to America I was dubbed the ‘Irish Giant’ seemingly overnight; a term that fitted me perfectly. Medically speaking a ‘giant’ is anyone who’s height deviates about 20% from the average and at a solid 7’6”, I’d say I fit the category. My pale skin, long red hair and thick Munster accent also seemed to add to my ‘character’.
I grew up just outside of Kilfinnane, in the countryside of Co. Limerick, Ireland. I was always bigger than other children my age, people often mistook me for someone three or four years older than what I actually was. People, especially relatives always used to say “He’s gonna be a tall one!” If only some of them really knew...
I was 6’3” by the time I was 16 and didn’t stop until I was about 24. But I did more than just grow in those years. I seemed to undergo a metamorphosis.
It started when I was 14. I began to have anxiety attacks; some lasted a few minutes and passed without issue while others would cripple me for up to an hour and it would take another hour or two just to recover from it. Then I got the physical changes; I was getting deep pains in my joints and bones, especially in my legs, and to the frustration of my parents, was constantly outgrowing clothes.
The most frightening change came when I was 19. I woke up one morning to discover several of my teeth loose and within the month they had all fallen out. They grew back in pretty quick though, but they were different. My new canines were much more pointed and even my molars in the back looked more like sharp dog’s teeth instead of being flat.
Lastly my sense of smell became more sensitive. I could smell bread being baked several houses away from us. Giants of folklore were said to be able to smell the blood of a human, well, so could I. I could recognize people just by their smell and if someone was close enough to me, I could literally smell the iron in their blood. For a while I tried to avoid people as much as possible, at least until I had gotten used to it.
I remember being in and out of hospital all throughout my youth because of this. My parents were desperately trying to figure out what was wrong with me. However, everything they tested me for came back negative and oddly enough, I had no actual health issues despite my size. No heart problems, no brain or thyroid tumors, my vision was fine, everything was normal. I was just big and no one knew why. Soon doctors began to tell me ‘maybe it was just genetics’ and would leave it at that.
Growing up in Ireland’s countryside where things like giants and fairies were a normal part of life, I was treated more like some mythical creature than the human I tried to tell myself I was.
“He’s got fairy blood in him!” my little Irish grandmother would always say in her little Irish accent. Though it seemed innocent on the outside, she honestly believed this and treated me noticeably different than how she treated my younger sister. She acted like I had some curse that would infect her too if she were to get too close to me and sometimes even drilled my parents saying that my size was due to one of their ‘un-confessed sins’ or some deal with the devil which would put even more stress on them. When she passed away, she had specifically requested that I not be allowed to attended her funeral for fear some ‘wee beasties’ would follow and steal her body so I was left at home while the rest of my family went to say their goodbyes.
I can say with certainly these are the reasons why I had my nose always buried in a book somewhere. I never used to leave home without something to read just so I didn’t have to look at people looking at me or focusing on the things they’d whisper as they walked past. It didn’t matter how softly they spoke, I could still hear them. People often had this misconception that I’d have some larger than life personality but in reality, I didn’t. I used to be incredibly shy and would stay away from social situations, preferring to keep to myself.
It wasn’t until I was getting ready to leave for America when things changed for me. I was visiting my family one last time and was talking with my younger sister. Lilith was always my ‘go to’ person, she may have been six years younger than me, but she was wise beyond her years, especially after she entered into her teens.
One of the things she said to me that night was, “Rowan, people want to see a giant, I think you should give them one.”
I’ve always said that was the best advice I had ever gotten. I couldn’t pretend to be something I wasn’t; it had been holding me back for so long. My long hair and Celtic knotwork tattoos up my arms may come to a shock to some but there was no denying, that’s what people expected to see.
Did I feel better? I did, but that didn’t make the questions go away. I always had this itching feeling that something just wasn’t right with me, something was different. Five years after I had moved to America, I got my answer. There was something different about me, very different. I wasn’t human; and as it turned out, I wasn’t the only one.
Friday after school was out I would always venture to one of the coffee shops in town and knock out any and all paperwork I had to do so that my weekends were free. I would take over one of the tables in the corner and get lost in test in test papers and Bob Seger for hours. This particular night I had gotten done everything I wanted to do fairly early. It was only about 5:30 and with plenty of coffee left in my cop, I figured I’d hang around just a while longer. I took a small sip of my coffee and just started to lean back in my chair when from the front of the shop I heard a few excited squeals and a girl call out,
“Hi Mr. O’Malley!”
It was a small town and I was bound to run into students, it happened all the time. This particular group of girls was from one of my morning biology classes. Right away they all jumped on the couch next to me and I was swarmed.
“I thought I didn’t have to see you until Monday.”
The girl, her name was Larah, gasped and folded her arms, “What kind of ‘hello’ is that? Way to be a jerk.”
“Jerk? How am I a jerk??”
“Because! I’m all happy to see you and you’re like ‘I thought I didn’t have to see you until Monday!’” Her friends all giggled at her really awful impression of me. I had her older brother in one of my classes a few years ago, I’ve known the family for a while, we’re always sarcastic with each other.
“I’m off hours, I don’t need to take this.” I started to stand up and she grabbed my arm to try to pull be back.
“No come back!”
“My little sister said you were mean.” It was one of Larah’s friends.
I stopped and looked at the girl, who was sitting on the couch; I recognized her from school but didn’t know who she was.
“Who’s your sister?”
“She’s one of the 6th graders that was touring the high school a few weeks ago. She said when they walked by your room you jumped out and were like ‘ooh little humans!’ and made a few of the kids in her class start crying.”
“Yeah, that sounds like me,” I pulled the chair out again and sat down; I had a feeling they were going to be keeping me there for a while.
“Yeah,” she continued, “I’m sad I never had you as a teacher.”
“What year are you?”
“I’m a junior.”
“Take me next year. I’ve had seniors in my Anatomy class before.”
“I’m taking all English electives for senior year.”
“Guess you’re not that sad about it, are you?”
The group started giggling again.
“Well, I’m going to college for journalism.”
“That’s what my fiancée does. She’s a sports journalist.”
“Oh wow, that’s cool! That she’s a journalist, not that she’s your fiancée. Wow, that didn’t come out right at all... Sorry I keep forgetting that teachers have lives.”
The group started laughing again, I just shook my head and sighed. Larah, the first girl who was talking to me, suddenly became excited and started poking me in the arm,
“Oh my God, Mr. O’Malley, guess what! You’re gonna be really proud of me!”
“What did you do?”
“Okay, so this afternoon when I got home I was reading a news article online about cloning.”
“and... that’s it.”
I rolled my eyes, “It’s a start.”
“No but like, they were saying that human DNA is too long to clone correctly, or something.”
I shook my head, “We can clone people.”
I nodded, “We can. Our DNA is just as complex as anything else. There’s only a 2% difference between us and say, a banana, any living organism. One of the tricky parts about human cloning is the ethics. It would shatter the beliefs of so many different religions and right now, we as a whole just aren’t ready for it. Think about this; say you have a sister that dies. They take your sister’s DNA and produce a clone. Could you separate yourself enough to believe that isn’t really her? If there was a clone running around, are they people, do they have the same rights as we do? Because they were essentially created in a lab, do they have souls even? It would open up an entire can of worms that we as a society just aren’t ready for.”
“What about test tube babies?” Some of the girls giggled at this too.
“Test tube babies aren’t grown in a test tube, I hope you lot know that. They’re fertilized outside the body, then implanted into someone. They still develop in a womb. It’s not like Mewtwo where he was grown in a tank.”
One of the girls got really excited, “Oh my God, Pokémon reference!”
“I know, I saw that movie too.”
“You like Pokémon?”
I looked the girl in the eye as I took a sip of my coffee, “My nerdiness knows no bounds, lass. But really, that’s a perfect example of what people think clones are. We have tried that, and it doesn’t work. For whatever reason, we don’t know yet, we can not artificially develop an organism outside of a living body. They’ve been talking for years about cloning wooly mammoths. They can’t just grow one. They need to take the DNA, then more or less create a mammoth - elephant hybrid, implant that in an elephant, and then go on to breed the hybrids. And that’s if you can breed the hybrids. Some hybrids are sterile.”
“Do you think it’ll ever happen?”
“No a human clone. Or like, a genetically modified person. Like they were talking about making super humans and cloning them for armies.”
“Ya know, I wouldn’t be surprised if it already did and they’re just hiding it very well. As a scientist, it would really open a lot of doors for us to study life. We could create clones for human experimentation, but at the same time, are we ready for those answers yet? I don’t think we are. That and in no time we’ll have clones rights activists and all this other bullcrap. Like I said, can of worms. A very big, messy can of worms.”
Larah shrugged, “I think that’d be scary if they made clones. I mean, if they’re just creating new life out of the blue, it kinda takes the value out of it.”
“Exactly, and there’s that too. Life is valuable, not everyone gets that, but it is. Whether you believe that we were created by someone or something, or that we were just an accident, either way, it’s rare and it’s valuable. I have no issue with studying life, obviously, it’s what I do, but I don’t think we should be tinkering with it.”
“See Mr. O’Malley! I am smart!”
“I never said you weren’t, I just question you... a lot.” She still didn’t like the sound of that and gave me a light smack on my arm and called me a jerk again.
“You should be proud of me, I read today!”
“Good, and you should make a habit of reading everyday. Especially the chapters I assign for homework so you know what I’m talking about the next day during class. Alright kids, I’m headin’ out. I need to make sure my sister isn’t tearing the house apart.”
“You have a sister?” this was the second girl from earlier.
“Yes, I have a sister. She just moved in with me earlier this year. Remember, teachers do have lives. I’ll see, some of you, on Monday... unfortunately.”
As I grabbed my bag again and stood up, Larah called out to me, “Oh! And what’s that supposed to mean?”
“Exactly what ya think it means, girlfriend,” and with that I snapped my fingers at them and turned to leave. The moment I turned my back they all burst out laughing and I heard one of them say “Girl, he just gave you sass, you gonna take that?”
My younger sister Lilith moved in with me back in January, just a few months ago. She had just turned 24 and, following my lead, wanted to try to start anew over here in the States. She’s a very talented artist and musician and had been picking up extra money playing violin and reading poetry at different open mics in the area; both of us are very ‘in tune’ with our Celtic roots. She’s good company to have around, especially when my fiancée, Raquel, is gone for long periods of time, it’s nice to not be alone in the house.
As I pulled up my street and into my driveway I noticed there was a piece of paper stuck in my front door and something orange and green sitting on the step. I sat in the driveway for a moment with my truck off to see if I could hear anything from inside the house but I couldn’t. The garage door was shut and only one light was on inside but really nothing out of the ordinary. After I got out of my truck and started walking up to the front door I noticed that it was a plastic Nerf gun sitting on the front step. I shook my head and once on my front step pulled the piece of paper out of the door and unfolded it. Inside it said,
‘Loser makes dinner tonight. May the odds be in your favor.’
“I guess Raquel is home.”
I picked up the Nerf gun and made sure it was cocked before going inside.
Only the light was on in the kitchen and everything was quiet in the house. I set my bag down next to the door and slowly walked down the front hall into the kitchen. Both the hall way leading down to the bedrooms and the den were dark. My house is just a two-bedroom rancher, there’s no where anyone could really go.
“Really Raquel, is this the best you can come up with?”
“You know I can smell you.”
I sighed, “Eucalyptus Mint from Bath and Body Works and that cheap hotel shampoo that smells like dish soap.”
I heard a rustling behind the couch in the den and I could see her stand up in the back corner,
“Are you for real?”
The moment I saw her I opened fire and she ducked behind the couch again.
“Damnit Rowan! You knocked my glasses off!”
“And I should feel bad about that?”
“Yes!” I saw her pop her head up from behind the armrest and shot another dart at her. That one missed but she popped her gun up and shot a few darts back at me.
“Really Raquel? Right in the neck?” I could hear her start to laugh from behind the couch.
“Did I hit you in the neck?”
“Yeah. That’s fine, you’ll have to lick it later.” Right after I said that I heard one of the bedroom doors open from behind me and when I turned around, I saw Lilith standing in the hallway.
“Wow... Yeah, I’m just grabbin’ a drink, then you two can get on with whatever you were doing.”
“I am not doing anything. However, your future ex-sister-in-law over here...”
“What!” Raquel stood up and fired another dart at me, which hit me in the back of my head. I whipped around and shot another few darts at her and she ducked behind the couch again and yelled.
“Rowan!” She got out from behind the couch and walked over to us with her glasses in her hand, “You broke my glasses.”
“Yeah...” with the gun tucked under her arm she held the frames in one hand and a popped out lens in the other. “I need these to function.”
“Don’t you have another pair?”
“No! I have a pair of sunglasses. Why are you such a butt?”
“I’m a butt? You’re a butt. You started it.”
“How am I gonna explain this to my eye doctor tomorrow?”
“Simple, that you were being a butt and decided to shoot your fiancé with a Nerf gun. He’ll believe that.”
I could tell she was trying so hard to hide a laugh behind her pout as she looked up at me. “I hate you...” she mumbled.
“I hate you too, sweet,” I said and kissed the top of her head. “So what are we doing for dinner?”
Raquel sighed, “Fuck it, let’s just order a pizza, I don’t feel like doing anything extensive tonight.”
“So you really thought you were gonna win that gun fight then, huh.”
Raquel pressed her gun up against my side and popped off another dart. That time it actually stung.
I decided to get a shower and change while we were waiting for the pizza to arrive. I was in the bathroom just getting ready unbutton my shirt when I paused. A dizziness suddenly came over me and I felt my hands start to shake. My breathing felt normal but I felt my heart starting to race. My first thought was I was having an anxiety attack, surely wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had one. I waited a few minutes for things to calm down, but they didn’t and that’s when I called for Raquel.
“You’re not having a heart attack, are you?”
“God no. If anything it’s probably just low blood sugar.” I was never actually diagnosed with diabetes, but every now and then I have symptoms of hypoglycemia if and could never pinpoint why. For a while I thought it was food related when I tracked it, it was pretty random.
“Oh Jesus Christ... Didn’t you each lunch today?”
“Want me to get you something?”
“A snackbar and Gatorade if we have any.”
After Raquel got up from the bed I started to sit up too.
“Are you okay?”
“I think... I’m feeling a little better.”
She came back over to me and held my face in her hands, “Rowan, you have to get this checked out.”
“I know,” I said, quietly.
“I have been telling you for months you need to have this checked out.”
“You say you know but you keep putting it off. You of all people know how important it is to have this under control. We’re getting married in three weeks.”
“You’re calling your doctor tomorrow to have this investigated.”
“Are the offices open on Saturday?”
“Then if they’re not, call on Monday.”
“I’ll be in school Monday.”
“Then call during your lunch period. I don’t have any assignments right now, I’ll call if I have to but I’m not letting you put this off any longer. You just went through this last week.”
She ran her fingers through my hair and pulled some of it in front of my shoulders, “I just wanna make sure you’re okay.” She sat down on my lap and wrapped her arms around my shoulders. She slid her hand under my chin and we began to move in closer to each other but the ringing doorbell interrupted us.
“Looks like you’re getting pizza instead, come on.” After she got off me she helped me stand up, I certainly wasn’t as dizzy as I was before, but I didn’t mind the assistance.
She stopped me right as we got to the doorway and she placed her hand on my lower back, “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’ll be fine,” and I leaned down to kiss her.
Lilith already had the pizza sliced and table set when we got out there.
“Rowan, are you dyin’ on us again?” she said.
“I’m tryin’ not to.” I smiled, but I could feel that dizziness starting to come back.
‘I’ll be fine after I eat something,’ I kept telling myself. I really didn’t want to upset Raquel again and hoped that whatever was going on would pass.
But it didn’t. I was only a two bites into my pizza when the dizziness got really bad again and I slowly lowered the slice back down onto my plate and seemed to zone out. Visually I wasn’t focused on anything, I was just staring into space.
I heard Raquel ask if I was okay, but I didn’t answer her.
“Rowan. Hello? What’s going on?”
I was too concentrated on what was going on inside me. My heart was racing again and all the nerves in my arms started to tingle.
“I need to lay down...” I got up from the table and walked into the den to go lay on the couch. As dizzy as I felt, I didn’t feel like my balance was impaired, I was able to move pretty easily. Things seemed to move in slow motion though, almost like I had tunnel vision or something. I collapsed onto the couch and put a pillow over my face to block out the lamp light. That was the last thing I actually remembered that night. The rest I heard from Raquel and Lilith later on.
After Raquel finished her pizza she came into the den to check on me.
“Rowan, what’s up? What’s going on?” She sat down next to me on the couch and shook my shoulder but I didn’t respond.
“Rowan! Get up, what’s wrong?”
“Want me to call someone?”
“Hold on, Lily. Rowan!”
Raquel threw the pillow on the floor and smooth my hair away from my face. She grabbed my wrist to check my pulse then dropped my arm and wrapped her hands around my face again,
“Rowan, please get up.”
I opened my eyes.
“Hon, are you okay?”
My upper lip peeled back in a snarl and a low growl escaped my throat.
The growl got louder.
“Rowan, stop it. This isn’t funny. What’s going on?”
I slapped Raquel across the face, knocking her down on the hardwood floor. There was a lot of screaming, but no one remembers what was said. I rolled off the couch and crawled up to her, keeping her pinned to the floor. She pushed at my chest, kicked at my legs, did anything she could to try to get away or get me to stop but nothing worked. I closed in on her, just about ready to bite her neck when, from behind me, Lilith had grabbed a kitchen chair and slammed it down on my back. After that I collapsed on the floor and Lilith had to help Raquel get out from under me.
I heard a soft repetitive beep beside me. I was laying on my back and felt a thin sheet over top of me and a dull sting in several points in both of my arms. I started to open my eyes but the room was incredibly bright and I closed them again.
“Mr. O’Malley.” I heard a man’s voice beside me; I could tell there were other people in the room.
“I can’t afford this...” My voice was groggy and I was still hesitant on opening my eyes.
“Mr. O’Malley? Are you awake?”
I started to feel a heavy throbbing in the back of my head and shoulders.
“Good evening Mr. O’Malley, I’m Sheriff DeJarnnett with the Hartford County police department...”
“My deputy Brendan Adams and your case worker Dr. Timothy Steen.”
“What?” I opened my eyes and tried to sit up. I was in a hospital room, two police officers to my left and a thin, nervous looking man in a suit trying to hide behind his clipboard to my right.
“Mr. O’Malley? Are you, with us, or do you need a moment?”
“What happened? Where’s Raquel?”
“That’s why we’re here. We have a few questions for you regarding this evening.”
“Ms. Bosco is in another room. She has a small fracture in her cheek bone, fractured nose and bruised ribs.”
“We suspect foul play here...”
“Whoa, hold on. Let’s take a step back here for a moment,” the skinny nervous looking guy stepped in, “Before we go ‘suspecting’ anyone of anything, why don’t get Mr. O’Malley’s account on what happened tonight.”
“I don’t even remember...” My voice was soft. I tried as hard as I could to recall anything that had happened but I couldn’t. After I laid down on the couch and closed my eyes that was the end of it.
The sheriff stepped up closer to my bedside, “Were you drinking anything tonight, Mr. O’Malley?”
“No... I wasn’t feeling well, but aside from that, nothing out of the ordinary.”
“Mr. O’Malley, did you ever strike your fiancée? Or have any history of violent behaviour?”
I swear I felt my heart drop, “No! No, oh my God, no, I’d never even think of doing something like that, I wouldn’t do that to anyone.”
“You’ve never been upset with her before...”
“No! Look, I know where you’re going with this and no! I never hurt my fiancée.”
“You’re an awfully big guy, Mr. O’Malley...”
“I understand that, but that doesn’t mean anything. I’d never do anything to harm Raquel. The thought has never even crossed my mind. Why you would automatically suspect something like this, I don’t know. I could understand if Raquel was constantly in and out of hospital for certain injuries but nothing like this has ever happened before.”
“Well, sometimes these things often go unreported...”
“I did not beat my fiancée!”
Dr. Steen interrupted again, “Sheriff DeJarnnett, I’m going to have to ask you to...”
“You stay out of this!” I snapped.
“You do have quite the temper there, Mr. O’Malley.”
“I do not have a temper!”
“Okay...” Dr. Steen said, “Things are getting a little tense right now. Let’s just hold our horses here. Take a deep breath...” he was about to put his hand on my shoulder but I looked him straight in the eye and snarled,
“I will bite you!”
Dr. Steen paused. He glanced over at the officers before he looked back at me.
“Go ahead, touch me, see what I do to you.”
“Mr. O’Malley, are you... mentally stable?”
I turned back to look at the sheriff, “I’d be fine if string bean over here wasn’t constantly cutting into our conversation.”
“That’s a ‘no’.”
I shot a glare back towards Dr. Steen and he backed away and hid behind his clipboard again.
I calmed myself and turned towards the sheriff again, “What did she tell you?”
“What did Raquel tell you?”
“What does it matter what she told me?”
“I want to know what she told you. Look, I don’t remember anything that happened this evening. Someone could have broken into my house for all I know. Last thing I remember is I fell asleep on the couch and that’s it.”
The sheriff took the report from his deputy still standing beside him and skimmed through it,
“6:24 pm, we received a phone call from Lilith O’Malley stating that she had with her an injured female, Raquel Bosco, who was struck by her fiancé, Rowan O’Malley. Officers arrived at 407 Spicer rd. in Bristol at 8:58. Ms. Bosco was bleeding from the nose and mouth with heavy bruising on her left cheek and stated she was having difficulty breathing. Lilith O’Malley was unharmed. Rowan O’Malley was face-down on the floor of the den and unresponsive.” He looked over the report papers and down at me. “This is what I was given.”
“Alright, but what about Raquel? What did she say to you?”
“She said you attacked her Mr. O’Malley. That is what she said. That you attacked her.”
The whole room fell silent. I had no idea what to think at that point. There was so much running through my head and on top of that I was trying so hard to remember what happened and still nothing. I leaned back in my bed and stared blankly at the wall in front of me as I tried to process everything. When I finally did speak, my voice cracked,
“Where is she? Is she okay?”
“I was just speaking with her, she is fine, she’s in another room...”
“I wanna see her.”
“Well right now, I think both of you need your rest. We’ll follow up with everything tomorrow after you’re discharged. Good night, Mr. O’Malley.” Sheriff DeJarnnett tipped his hat to me and motioned with his hand for everyone to leave the room. Just as I closed my eyes there was a knock on the room door. I thought, well, was hoping, that it was Raquel or Lilith, someone who could tell me what was going on. But it was neither of them. Instead a woman in a long white coat and short buzzed hair slipped into my room and quietly closed the door behind her.
“Yes?” I figured she was just one of the hospital staff.
She smiled at me and pulled up a chair next to me.
“Hi, I’m Julia, I’m your representative. If you don’t mind I just wanted to get some information from you real quick, check a few things, make sure you’re okay and I’ll let you go for the night.”
“Sure. No problem. I thought the hospital would have gotten everything.”
“I’m sure they did, but this is for my records. Identification stuff, you know.” She pulled out her own clipboard from her side bag and leaned it against the rail of the bed.
“So, Rowan O’Malley. When’s your birthday Rowan?”
“Fourth of December, 1981.”
“Okay, so you’re... 30, right?”
“Okay, where were you born?”
“Do you know what hospital?”
I shrugged, “I really don’t remember. It might be Saint James.”
“Okay... Rowan, what’s your mother’s name?”
“Okay... And your father?”
“Okay...” She started look at the heart monitor to copy down my heart rate and blood pressure. “What about your height and weight?”
“Jesus... 7’6” and 630lbs. Though that may have gone up...”
She smiled, “That happens. I’ll just put 630. Rowan, do you have any health problems? That you know of?”
I laughed, “Speaking of which. I might be diabetic, but I was never diagnosed. I’ve been having problems lately that look a lot like low blood sugar.”
“What kind of problems?”
“Dizziness, tunnel-vision, shakes, accelerated heart rate. It feels like an anxiety attack. I have yet to actually pin point it.”
“Oh...” She sounded surprised and not in a good way. “Does this happen frequently?”
“It’s becoming frequent.”
She made a note of this on her paper then turned her attention back to me, “We’re almost done here. Real quick, can you open your mouth for me?”
I thought it was odd but I did it anyway. She used a tissue to wipe off one of my teeth before she poked at it with her finger.
“They came in nicely,” she whispered. “Okay, and I’m just gonna take a few blood samples and I’ll let you go for the night. Sound good?”
“Fine by me.”
As she prepped my arm I noticed she would sneak glances at me every now and then and smile.
“You’re very pretty.”
“Never got a comment like that before. Though some of my students say I’m ‘man pretty’.”
She laughed. “Students? Are you a teacher?”
“Yeah, I’m over at the high school. I teach Biology.”
“Wow, very cool.”
She took four vials before she removed the needle and started to pack her things up to leave.
“Well Rowan, it was nice meeting you and I hope you’re feeling better the next time I see you.”
“Thank you. Have a good night. Oh, and Julia.”
“When can I see my fiancée? Raquel Bosco.”
“You can check out tomorrow.
“Oh, alright then. Thank you.”
“Goodnight,” She gave me one last smile and left me by myself in the room. The hospital was in a more rural area, so even when I looked out of my window I couldn’t see anything. I took a deep breath and found myself staring at the ceiling again. All of the panic and confusion from earlier began to set in but now my mind was a little clearer. I started to wonder what if I did hurt Raquel, how did I hurt her? How could I have hurt her like that? I felt bad, I really did. Honestly a lawsuit was the last thing on my mind, I didn’t care about that, I just wanted to know that Raquel was okay. Even if she was angry with me, as long as she wasn’t hurt. I closed my eyes and reminded myself that I’d see her tomorrow. Everything will sort itself out then. Hopefully.
The following morning when I woke up my neck and back still felt sore, my neck especially; those hospital pillows aren’t the most comfortable. Very quickly though, my mind went straight to Raquel and how I desperately wanted to see her. I had waited for quite a while for a nurse to come in and discharge me like the one nurse had told me last night but no one ever came. I was beginning to get antsy in my bed and just as I thought to myself that I’d wait a little longer another realization hit me; why wait?
To me, Raquel was the more important matter and sitting there and waiting just wasn’t in the cards for me. I grabbed a tissue from the bed table beside me and put it over my IV needle while I slid it out from my arm. I had a fluid bag in my other arm that I pulled out as well and removed the heart monitor pads from my chest. I thought the machine would just shut off but instead it flat-lined and beeped loudly. I made sure nothing else was attached to me before I rolled out of the bed and onto the floor so I could find the wire and unplug the machine. I paused for a moment, thinking that I heard someone walking towards my room but instead they walked passed and I sighed with relief.
Thankfully my clothes were left in my room in a plastic bag on one of the chairs; I got changed, made sure I had everything with me that I needed. It wasn’t until I was putting my watch back on that I realized I still had a hospital band on my wrist. I tried my best to slip the band under my watch so it’d be less noticeable.
I poked my head out of my room door and made sure the hallway was clear before I left. I found a nurse station at the end of the hall way and started walking towards them. I kept thinking that someone was going to recognize me or say something to me but even the nurses that walked past me didn’t give me a second thought. There was only one nurse at the station, an older black woman who was glancing back and forth between a security monitor and her mobile phone.
Without lifting her cheek from her hand she looked up at me,
“Can I help you?”
“Hi, I’m looking for Raquel Bosco.”
“And who are you?”
“I’m her fiancé.”
She lifted her head up and smacked her hands against her desk, “Get the hell out! Really? Oh mah God, she so little!”
“Yeah... she is.”
“Oh Heavens...” She started to type Raquel’s name in the computer, “Ya’ll aint thinkin’ a havin’ kids, are ya?”
I shrugged, “I dunno, probably.”
The nurse clapped her hand over her chest, “Oh sweet baby Jesus, bless her little heart.”
“She knows what to expect at this point.”
She glanced up at me again, this time she looked a little more concerned, “This ain’t why she’s in the hospital, is she?”
“What? No! No, it’s not that, something entirely different.” It was then I realized where she was going with all that.
“Mhmm... Well, she’s down the hall here, 212, sweetie.”
“Alright, thank you.”
“You have a good one now.”
She didn’t even wait for me to get out of earshot; as soon as I turned around I heard to say to another nurse who was walking by on the other side of the station,
“Girl did you see him? Did you see him? I just talked to the Jolly Green Giant over here. Look it! He was cute! He’s with that little Spanish chick that came in last night... I know!... Girl, come here, look it, look it him. Look it that cute butt. He got one a those bubble butts... I know! ... I just wanna hold his butt like a baby.”
I started walking faster down the hall. I felt my hand twitch, I wanted to cover my butt, but if I did they’d see it, so I had to stop myself.
It turned out Raquel was only a few doors down from me, so thankfully she was nearby. I opened the door slowly and peeked my head inside. She was sitting, propped up in her bed, too focused on her Kindle to notice me in the doorway.
She looked over at me and gasped, not because she was actually scared, she just didn’t expect to see me.
“Rowan! Oh my God, what are you doing here?”
“Looking for you.” I slipped inside her room and slowed the door behind me. I went directly to her bedside, knelt down next to her and hugged her. She laid her Kindle down on her lap and wrapped her arms around my shoulders. Neither of us said anything for a few minutes, we just wanted to exist in each other’s arms for a little while.
I lifted my head up and kissed her cheek, “I am so sorry.”
“It’s okay...” She pushed my head back down on her shoulder and combed her fingers through my hair, “It’s okay...”
The second time I lifted my head up she let me go, “What happened? I don’t know...”
“I don’t know, either.” she said, “I let you lay on the couch for a little bit but when I went to go see if you were okay, you came after me.”
“But how? Raquel, I don’t remember any of it.”
“I don’t think it was you, Rowan. I could tell just by the look in your eyes. I don’t think it was you.”
“Well...” I was terrified to ask, “What did I do?”
“Well, um...” she covered her mouth with her hands for a moment. When she finally did speak, her voice shook, “You slapped me and they were worried that my jaw was broken or dislocated, but thankfully it wasn’t... I did bite my tongue though... Um, when I hit the floor I cracked my cheek bone, here... And when you got on top of me, Lilly hit you in the back with one of the kitchen chairs and you fell on me broke three ribs on my right side. We called the cops and they think it was domestic abuse or something.”
“I heard. I woke up last night with a few cops in my room making it seem like you might be pressing charges against me...”
“They said the same thing to me, they’re pushing for me to sue so badly, I keep telling them it’s nothing to worry about. Early this morning they had a social worker come in and give me the whole ‘you’re safe, you can talk about it’ bullshit. They must think you regularly abuse me or something. If that was the case I’d be dead by now.”
“I’d never do that to you.” I brushed away a piece of her hair from her face and tucked it behind her ear. She glanced over and smiled at me.
I rested my head on her shoulder and felt her wrap her hand around mine.
“I’m surprised they discharged you this early.”
“I discharged myself.”
She let go of my hand and leaned away from me, “Wait, what?”
“Yeah. I talked to a nurse last night and she said I’d be fine to go in the morning. Well, no one showed up, so I just unplugged myself from the machines and left.”
She blinked at me a few times and shook her head, “Are you serious? Damn it, Rowan,”
“You are the reason I have this!” She held up her arm, along with her hospital bracelet she also had a tracker bracelet.
“Do I have one of those? Should I have one of those?”
“You of all people should have one of these! Oh my God... Does anyone know you just up and left?”
“The nurses outside do but I don’t think they cared about that... They were definitely more concerned about my butt.”
Raquel covered her face with her hand and shook her head again, “Do I want to know?”
“I was getting cat called by the nurses outside...” I mumbled.
Her hand slid from her eyes to her mouth and she was trying not to laugh, but she’s never been good at hiding that.
“I told them this is my body, and ‘no’ means ‘no’, but they didn’t listen. I was so scared, Raquel...”
She pushed at my shoulder, “Oh my God, stop! It hurts to laugh!” She was still laughing anyway.
“Shut up, you’re on painkillers.”
That time she punched me in the chest. We both laughed and smiled at each other. I rested my hand on top of her head was about to lean in to kiss her when the door room opened and a nurse came in.
“Good morning, Ms. Bosco... um...who are you?”
I turned around to her, “Hi. I’m Rowan, I’m with Raquel.”
The nurse raised an eyebrow at me, “Were you discharged?”
I could have lied, or I could have been honest and told her ‘no’ and that I just got up and left on my own.
“Yes.” I lied.
The nurse’s face became more stern now, “You’re on my list of rounds this morning. You weren’t supposed to be.”
“I had a nurse come in last night and tell me I was good to go right then.”
“Who was that?” She started to raise her voice now.
“Julia, I think her name was. She had dark, buzzed off hair.”
The nurse shook her head, “There are no nurses here named Julia, let alone one with a buzz cut.”
I glanced back at Raquel, then over at the nurse again and stood up, “Well then who was that.”
“I don’t know, sir...”
“Well you better find out. This woman came into my room last night and took down a lot of personal information about myself. She even took a blood sample from me. So you’re going to tell me that it was just some random bird that came in my room last night posing as a nurse? That’s gotta be the only explanation here.”
I even held out my arm for her to see the gauze pad and tape that was put over the drawing site. She shook her head and started to back up towards the door,
“I’m gonna go get a hold of security, Ms. Bosco, I’m gonna have another nurse come for you.”
After she left I turned back to Raquel, “So much for having a relaxing weekend.”
“You can say that again.”
I returned to her bedside and let her rest her head on my shoulder and the two of us waited for the other nurse to come in. While she was taking care of Raquel, she let me take her mobile from her purse so I could call Lilith and let her know what was going on. I went directly outside of the hospital and out into a little courtyard in between the buildings. I didn’t want anyone walking around to recognize me and realize I wasn’t supposed to be out yet.
Raquel has one of those damn Blackberry’s with the really tiny buttons that I can’t use so it took me forever to get to Lilith’s name and send the call out.
“Hey Raquel, are you out yet?”
“It’s not Raquel, it’s Rowan.”
“Oh, sorry. It was Raquel’s number.”
“Well yeah, because I’m on her mobile. I left mine back at the house. Raquel’s not gonna be ready to come home until tonight, I think she has another x-ray they need to do something, but I need a ride back to the house.”
“Um... okay, can you get a taxi or something?”
“No, my wallet’s at home too. Basically everything I need is at home. I need you to come get me. Just take my truck.”
“Okay... but I don’t have my American license yet.”
“Then don’t get pulled over. You’ll be fine.”
“But what if it’s that one time they do pull me over?”
“Lily, how many times have I been flying down the New York Turnpike and got pulled over?”
“A couple times when I was with you, actually.”
“But this is Connecticut, not New York, and you’re not speeding, so you’ll be fine.”
“But what if I do?”
“Lily, get in the damn truck and come get me. I don’t want to stay here for very long.”
“Long story, I’ll explain later.”
“Jesus Christ, it’s a ten minute drive on one road. You cannot fuck this up, Lily. It’s New England Urgent Care right on Farming Avenue. I’ll be out in the car park.”
“Okay, but if I get pulled over...”
“If you get pulled over, I’ll pay the fines off, it’ll be my fault, just get here.”
I hung up the mobile and dropped it in my pocket. I’d have to run it back to Raquel, which meant risking getting caught by hospital staff, then get out here in time to flag down Lilith when she got here. Even though she only moved here a few months ago, she still hasn’t gotten used to the cars over here. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t even a little bit worried about her, but at the same time I trusted her enough to call her in the first place.
I was able to get down the hallway and back into Raquel’s room with no one no one really noticing me. Before I left, I said good-bye to her, which involved a kiss and a long hug and she told me she’d ring me when she was discharged.
“Please be careful, Rowan. There’s some weird shit going on and I don’t want you getting hurt.”
“I know. I’ll be careful.”
We kissed one last time before I hurried out of the room and back out to the courtyard so I could get to the car park.
I was waiting outside for a good twenty minutes before I saw my black GMC Yukon slowly creep around the corner into the car park.
Lilith must have been driving like an old lady the entire time. She came in so slowly that my truck was having trouble getting over the speed bumps. She stopped the truck, and without turning the engine off jumped out of the driver’s seat and ran over to the passenger side.
“Come on! Was it that bad?”
“Was it? Rowan, I was scared... oh shit!” She went to open the passenger side door but slipped. Apparently she only put the truck into neutral, not park and it started to roll forward. If I jumped in through the passenger side, there was no way I was getting over the centre console to get to the pedals so I had to run around the front of the truck and get in through the divers side to catch it. She had the seat pulled up so far forward that I couldn’t fit inside; I had to push the emergency brake pedal down with my hand. Thankfully it wasn’t moving very fast but I didn’t want it getting to that point. Not to mention any large vehicle rolling off on its own is enough to scare anyone.
“You didn’t put it in park!”
“I’m sorry! I’m not used to this automatic bullshit!”
She skiddishly climbed into the passenger seat and sat there quietly while I had to wait for the seat to slide back far enough for me to climb in. I glared at her the entire time.
“Hey, I told you this was a bad idea... See, I should have taken Raquel’s car!”
I snorted out a laugh, “Yeah okay, because I’m gonna fit my fat ass in Raquel’s stupid little Mazda 6?”
“I love that car! It looks so happy!”
“You bought her that car.”
“She wanted this or a Prius. In my opinion, they’re both stupid cars.”
“You have a lotta nerve callin’ anything stupid!”
I had just gotten into my truck when she said that and just stared her down until she broke and finally started to giggle.
“You better watch it, ya little shit.”
“Why, what are ya gonna do, tell Mum?”
“Ya know what, I will tell Mum. I’m gonna ring her as soon as we get back to the house.”
“No! I will seriously hit you with a chair again!”
I was just getting ready to pull out onto the main street when she said that and I stopped short of the corner. If there had been another car behind us I would have gotten hit for sure.
“You hit me with a chair!”
“You looked like you were gonna eat Raquel’s face off! What did you want me to do?”
Suddenly the mood in the car changed. Our smiles faded, we both looked away from each other and fell silent. Something about that really bothered me. I took a deep breath and tried not to over think anything,
“Let’s just go home.”
Lilith nodded, “yeah.”
Neither of us spoke until we got back to the house and even then, we were both quiet getting out of the truck too.
After I unlocked the front door and pushed it open, I waved for Lilith to go in first. She didn’t, instead she stepped up to me and wrapped her arms around my waist and buried her face into my shirt.
“You’re still, you... right?”
I lowered myself a little bit and wrapped my arms around her shoulders,
“Lily, I will always be me. Nothing could ever change that.”
She rested her chin on my belly as she looked up at me, “That wasn’t you last night, Rowan. I don’t know what it was, but it wasn’t you.”
It felt so good to be back in school again. Crazy to think that no one had any idea what had happened just the night before. Everyone just continued on as if it were a normal day, and not wanting to cause any alarm, so did I. I chose not to talk about anything that had happened over the weekend. Honestly, I was glad it was over.
It was in between periods and I was waiting outside by my door for everyone to get inside. I loved harassing students passing by, especially the new freshmen that had no idea what to expect from me. Many of them had heard from any older siblings or friends to watch out for me. Every high school has a crazy science teacher; not only was that my role, but it was a role I filled proudly.
From just around the corner, I could hear a woman starting to raise her voice and calling after one my students. The student’s name was Dotty, it was a hard to miss name.
I looked back round the corner and saw Dotty, books clutched to her chest trotting down the hallway towards my intersection and following her was Francine Horton, one of the female gym teachers. It was very unusual for any of the gym teachers to wonder over to the science wing of the school; not only were we at the complete opposite end of the building, but we were also upstairs as well.
She was deliberately following Dotty, trying to get her stop and pay attention to her, but Dotty wasn’t listening. She rounded the corner and ducked into my classroom without even saying ‘good morning’. As Mrs. Horton got closer to my door I stepped to the side and blocked it off,
“What are you doing?”
“Is Dotty Griffy in there?”
“Yes she is. Why are you following her?”
“Look what she’s wearing!”
I glanced over my shoulder, and ducked to look into the door way, and saw Dotty sitting at her desk up front in black tights and a florescent orange jumper that was probably a size or two too big for her.
“A ripped sweatshirt, Mr. O’Malley, that exposes her bra strap. Dress code states...”
“Whoa, what? You followed her here over that?” I glanced back again, “She’s wearing a tanktop.”
“It’s a sports bra! She was just in my locker room.”
“I sure wouldn’t have known that by just looking at her...”
“She needs a different top on to cover that. She’s in your class now, just send her down to the nurse’s office and...”
“Hold on, you’re telling me that I am supposed to pull her out of class, interrupt her education, interrupt my class, over a shirt that you don’t like?”
“It’s a bra strap, Mr. O’Malley, and...”
Just as she said that the bell rang and cut her off. She narrowed her eyes and huffed, something she always does when she doesn’t get her way, especially with me. I just smiled at her said in my friendly Irish tone,
“A pleasure as always, Mrs. Horton, now if ya excuse me, I have a class to teach.” I emphasized that because I’ve heard from multiple students over the years that Mrs. Horton doesn’t do a whole lot of it actual teaching.
I ducked back into the room and pulled the door closed with me. She shot me a glare something nasty through the window before she finally left.
As I walked to the front of the room, I noticed that Dotty had her arms wrapped around her stack of books and resting her chin on the top. I tapped her desk to get her attention said,
“You’re fine, you’re not going anywhere.”
She smiled and whispered ‘thank you’.
“What did Mrs. Horton want?” another student asked.
I leaned my back against my white board and folded my arms, “She’s just being her ‘usual self’, to put it politely.”
Dotty turned to the boy next her, Kyle, “She followed me from the gym, screaming at me, that I had to put a different shirt on because of this,” she lifted the strap off her shoulder with her thumb.
Kyle looked confused, “Isn’t that a tanktop?”
I yelled, “That’s what I said! I would not have thought anything else of that. It just boggles me that there are some people that think that is more distracting than pulling someone out of class for twenty minutes to change a shirt. Really? It’s so stupid.”
“I heard you don’t like Mrs. Horton.” A few of the kids giggled when Kyle said this.
I just smiled, “As Mr. Mariano says, ‘happy faces’! But no, I do not always agree with the things Mrs. Horton says.”
“Didn’t you call her a penis once?” This really got the class going and I knew at that point I was going to have to explain that one.
“No. I did not call her a penis. The ‘incident’ you’re referring to was a few years ago, you were probably Freshmen at the time. She had gotten upset with me because one of her field hockey minions didn’t like the fact I said ‘penis’ in class, despite the fact it was a lecture on human reproduction and penis is kind of the word you need to use. She came up to me in the cafeteria and said I had ‘upset one of her girls’ and I said something along the lines of ‘it’s a human anatomy class, I teach mature, young men and women, not children, and if this girl is going to be offended by a medical term it would be in everyone’s best interest that she drop the class.’ Well, she didn’t like hearing that, one comment led to another and eventually I said ‘This is my class, not yours, I can say whatever I want. Penis!’ and then sat down and ate my lunch.”
A few of the kids who remembered that laughed and those who weren’t there laughed harder.
“Didn’t you tell her she was a bad Health teacher too?”
“I didn’t say she was ‘bad’, I said I could tell whenever my students had her for Health because I always had to go back and fix her mistakes. I just don’t understand how you can be a Physical Education teacher and be offended by everything. It makes no sense to me. It’s like a Creationist teaching Evolution theory. If you have no passion for it, why put yourself in a setting that’s gonna make you upset?”
Kyle chimed in one last time, because it’s Kyle and he’s one of those students that has a lot to say, “Because Gym teachers aren’t real teachers.”
I covered my mouth to try to hide the fact I was laughing but I couldn’t hold it in for long.
“Anyway...” I said, trying to get things back on topic. “We’re starting the Gunther Van Hagen dissection videos today, to prepare you guys for your lab next week. I wouldn’t use the term ‘gruesome’ but this may or may not be the first time you’ve seen a human dissection. To put it simply, it’s all the same stuff in the same location. It doesn’t look that much different than the cat we just dissected a few weeks ago. However, if you find yourself so inclined,” I pointed to a large rubbish bin in the back corner of the room by the windows, “Rubbish bin there, and rubbish bin in the front corner next to the door. I am not cleaning anything up if your lunch decides it wants to make a surprise guest appearance in the classroom. I’m gonna have your tests, well should have your tests graded and passed back by the end of the period for you lot. Sound good kids?”
A few of them nodded while others just continued to look a little frightened of the whole thing. While I set up the laptop and projector I was able to get a few of the kids to relax and laugh after I told them about my weird weekend in hospital and the nurses who wouldn’t leave me alone. I got the movie started, turned the lights off and went back to my desk in the front corner of the room to finish grading tests from last week.
A few minutes after I sat down, I heard a phone buzzing nearby and looked up at the class,
“Someone better not have their phone out.”
Some of the kids looked confused and shook their heads while others checked their pockets to make sure it wasn’t theirs.
One of the students sitting close to my desk pointed down at my bag and told me my bag was glowing.
It was my mobile vibrating in one of the pockets.
“No one ever rings me,” I said. Normally I remember to turn my mobile on silent but I forgot that day. “This is...” I noticed it was Raquel calling me, and there already four missed calls from earlier, “really odd... I’ll be right back...”
I got up from my desk and hurried to the classroom door. Raquel knows not to call me while I’m at school, I wouldn’t be able to answer anyway, but to get four missed calls from her; something wasn’t right. I stepped out into the hallway and answered the call,
“Raquel, is everything alright?”
“Oh my God... There was someone at the door...” she sounded out of breath and was talking quickly.
“There was someone at the door. He wanted to know where you were and was asking all these weird questions about you. I don’t know who it was but they were really strange. Like, the guy didn’t even look real, he was like, a robot.”
“What are you talking about?”
“He was just really creepy, Rowan, I don’t understand what I saw.”
“Did he leave?”
“Yeah, he just walked off and vanished, I don’t know where he went...” She paused for a moment and started to breath heavily into the phone, “I accidentally told him where you worked...”
“I’m coming home.”
“Lock the doors, shut all the blinds, do not answer the door for anyone. I’ll be home in a few minutes.”
As I hung up, another teacher, Megan Gallow was walking down the hall past me.
“Megan, watch my class!”
“I have an emergency at home, I gotta go, now.”
“Is everything okay?”
“I can’t explain.” I grabbed her hand and pulled her into my class room, “Mrs. Gallow is gonna take over from here. I gotta go guys.”
I grabbed my car keys out of my bag and hurried back over to the door again,
“Wait, Rowan, does Mike know you’re leaving?”
“I’m gonna tell him when I get down there...” I was just about to close the door but then poked my head back in, “and if anyone shows up looking for me, I don’t work here.”
I slammed the door behind me and plowed down the hallway. I haven’t run that fast in a very long time. Thankfully there were no students in the hallway, because I would not have been able to stop. I practically jumped down the stair case to the lower level and just as I was about to dart out of the stairwell I caught sight of a very pale man wearing a black suit, derby hat and dark sunglasses approaching the door from outside. I dove and slid on my side to hide under the window. The doors are always locked and the only way into the school was to be buzzed in by the front office.
After he pulled at the doors a few times with no luck I watched as he turned away from the doors and walked down the path towards the main office doors. His movements were very stiff and robotic, they were very unnatural. I don’t know what it was, but I felt sick to my stomach watching him move, it was eerie.
I figured if he was going to go through the front, I was going to go out of the back doors at the opposite end of the school so he wouldn’t see me.
I darted out of the stairwell and towards the back of the school where the auto shop room was and went out through the doors there. I got back out to the front of the building by going around the library, which kept me hidden safely out of side from the main office doors where this guy was going in and made a bee-line for my truck. When I got in, I didn’t slam the door closed, I let it rest on its lock and quietly watched the stranger stand still outside of the front doors. He didn’t move, I’m not sure if he tried to buzz the main office, but he just stood there, he probably couldn’t get in.
I checked behind me, making sure my path was clear getting out of the car park. I knew as soon as I started the truck he’d see me so I had to get out fast.
Sure enough the moment I started the engine he turned back over his shoulder and looked at me. I rolled the truck back and once I was straightened out, stomped on the gas pedal. I did things that day I had no idea a Yukon could do.
I sped up as I turned out onto the main street and felt the truck lean to the right and felt a lot of weight shift onto that front right wheel. Once I straightened out again I had the pedal down as far as it would go. The truck jumped a few times as it shifted gears before it steadied out. It was a single lane road, fairly residential area; I was going 85, pushing 90, had someone pulled out in front of me at any point I would not have been able to stop. I had hit 4-grand on my tach and it was only going up from there. I was going so fast I could literally hear the fuel hiss as it was being dumped into my engine.
I made the turn onto one of the back roads that led to my neighbourhood. It was a very hilly road and these hills were fairly steep. Each time I crested a hill, I heard my engine rev up; I would not have been surprised if my wheels left the pavement a few times. Somehow, but only the grace of God did my truck not slip, fly off the road and wrap itself around a tree and I was able to get into my neighbourhood okay.
Somewhat okay, I had to cut across several lawns because there was no way I would make the turns onto the next street without doing so and I think I took out a mailbox and a few bushes, but honestly it happened so fast I wasn’t paying attention to details. I cut across another person’s lawn to get onto my side street and was somehow able to stop my truck from plowing through my front door. It might have had something to do with me running it up onto the curb, but literally, the front of my truck was about foot away from my front step when it stopped. There were track marks that cut through my front lawn and across my driveway and I could smell burnt rubber and brake pads when I got out.
I didn’t want to break down our door, because then we wouldn’t have a door, so pushed on it lightly to check if it was open. I was happy to feel that it was actually locked, I was hoping that meant no one had gotten inside. I unlocked the door, pushed it open and stopped so quickly I almost tripped and fell backwards. I suddenly found myself staring down the barrel of a rifle.
Raquel was standing in the front hallway with my gun pointed at the door way. She was breathing heavy and tears were running down her face. For the longest four seconds of our lives we both stood there, completely still.
“Raquel, it’s just me.” Her finger was on the trigger and I could see a glint of copper from inside the barrel. “It’s just me, okay?” I slowly put my hand out and covered the opening of the barrel, “Open your hand.”
She took her finger off the trigger and slowly opened her hand.
“We’re gonna lower this, okay?” I pushed the barrel down very slowly until it was no longer pointing at my face. I took a step forward and grabbed the rifle at its midpoint and continued pushing it down until Raquel was forced to lower it to the floor.
She let go and after we both stood up she jumped at me, wrapping her arms around me and burying her face into my chest.
She was trying to say something but she was crying and sobbing so much she could hardly get the words out. I waited a moment for her to calm down and get herself together before I pulled her down the hall and well away from the rifle. We locked all the doors, closed all the blinds in the windows and huddled together on the couch in the den.
“I’m so sorry Rowan, I didn’t know who he was!”
“Did you ever find out?”
“No! And it didn’t occur to me that something was off until he left right after I told him where you worked. I really didn’t think... I didn’t know who he was, or what he was gonna do, I’m sorry!”
I tried to hush her and didn’t stop until she had finally settled down,
“I’m so sorry...”
“Not necessarily a bad thing, whoever he was, he did show up at the school.”
“What is going on?”
“I don’t know, Raquel, I really don’t. You didn’t ring the police, did you?”
“I wasn’t sure if I should have. After he left I got right on the phone with you.”
“Okay...” I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her in closer to me, “we should probably ring the police and let them know what’s going on. Something here isn’t right.”
“I hope this isn’t because you snuck out of the damn hospital!”
“I highly doubt they’d go through this much trouble over that though.... I’ve run into some weird characters since we were both in there.”
We both looked at each other. Raquel was just about to say something when there was a loud knock on our front door and both of us jumped.
“Who is that?” she whispered.
“I don’t know.” I started to stand up but she pulled me back down again. “What?”
“Stay here! If they think the house is empty they’ll go away.”
There was another loud knock at the door.
“I parked on the front lawn, Raquel, I think they know someone’s here.”
The knocking got more persistent.
“I’m gonna go check it out.”
“What are they gonna do to me?”
Raquel covered her mouth with her hands, “I don’t know...”
She was terrified, and I’d be lying myself if I said I wasn’t scared too.
“I’ll be fine.”
I walked into the kitchen and stood in front of the hallway. There was another loud set of knocks and I watched the door actually shake. I was slow, going down the hall. I picked up the rifle on the floor and stood right beside the front door. I couldn’t hear anyone outside, no mumbling, no scuffling of feet, nothing.
I rested my free hand on the deadbolt and waited a moment. It was completely silent outside. I slowly opened the deadbolt, making sure it didn’t click too loudly, and once free, I pulled the door open and pointed the rifle at whoever was on the other side.
There was no one. I felt a little bit of a chill. It would have been impossible for someone to run away so quickly without me hearing them, and it’s not like there was any place they would have been able to hide. There were no additional cars out front, or parked anywhere along our street. I closed the door and locked it again. I couldn’t imagine how someone could have darted off that quickly without me hearing them.
I stayed on the couch with Raquel, the rifle within reach just in case. With the curtains closed in all the windows in the den and kitchen, the only light that came in was through the skylights in the roof and being a fairly cloudy day, it wasn’t much.
Raquel hugged at her ribs, obviously she was supposed to be in bed resting but with everything going on while she was in the house by herself she couldn’t get herself to calm down. Every little noise or tap or creak made her jump and she stayed by my side on the couch.
I felt her fidget around a bit in her spot and eventually she took a deep breath and sighed,
“Great, I gotta pee...”
“Then get up and go.”
She leaned forward and looked down the hallway.
“I kinda don’t wanna go by myself...”
“Raquel, nothing is going to happen. I wouldn’t knowingly push you into a dangerous situation. I’m right here, just go.”
She sighed again, “okay fine...”
I helped her get up from the couch and let her walk on her own down the hallway to the bathroom. The thing that really got me was that Raquel isn’t normally like this. She’s not like this at all, as a matter of fact. She’s not a jumpy or paranoid person. Part of me wondered if it was because of some of the pain medications she was on, but I’ve never heard of someone getting like that before.
My ears suddenly picked up on something outside. It was definitely voices, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying. There were a few, I’d say around four or five and it sounded like they were coming from the front of the house.
I reached for the rifle and stood up slowly, not wanting to lose anything that I was hearing. I moved into the kitchen and stared down the hallway leading to our front door. The voices stopped and I couldn’t hear anything for a little while.
Then there were a few soft clicks and I saw the knob on the deadbolt turn.
The last thing that ran through my mind was, ‘There’s no freaking way...’
The door burst open and four men, two of them wearing riot gear, charged into my hallway straight for me. I was about turn away but one of them tackled me and knocked me into our kitchen table, which had a glass top on it, and it shattered on our tile floor. I tried to get away and into the den but I didn’t make it far before I was tackled again and pinned to the floor. One guy, I could have gotten off of me, two guys even, but four was even too much for me. There was a lot of shouting,
“Get him down! Hold him there!”
“Keep his head down, hold his head!”
I felt one guy dig his knee into my back, pull my arms behind me and zip-tie my wrists together.
There was a loud scream and I heard Raquel begin shouting, “What are you doing! Get off of him! What the hell are you doing?!”
“Get her! Keep her back!”
“Keep her back there!”
As soon as I caught glance of one of the men going after Raquel, I tried even hard to roller to my side and get the two guys off of me. The third guy, who was out of my field of view leaned his arm onto the back of my neck to hold my head down. I was able to twist away the first time and when I did, I growled at him.
It caught me off guard; I think it caught everyone off guard. I didn’t know I could do that.
One man pressed my head into the floor while a second pulled out a leather mask, it looked like something out of Hannibal, and wrapped it around my head. When they pulled the buckles closed, they caught my hair and I could hear it pulling out of my scalp.
“Don’t hurt him! I want him back in one piece!” This was a woman’s voice, but it wasn’t Raquel. “How is he?”
“He’s fightin’ us, Julie,” One of the men said.
A woman in a fitted suite and white surgical mask came into the den, just past her I could see Raquel being held back by the fourth man that came in. I recognized her buzzed hair, it was the woman from the hospital.
“Shoot him if you have to. I don’t need anyone get hurt.”
Before I could protest I felt a sting in the back of my arm and heat flow just under my skin. The woman walked into the room and knelt down beside me.
“Don’t worry sweetie, you’re in good hands.”
“Back off!” I have never heard Raquel’s voice sound so stern. “You stay the hell away from him! Rowan!”
“Um, who is this?”
“I’m his wife! I live here!”
Suddenly my eyes started to feel heavy and all the sounds around me started to blur together; I wasn’t able to focus on anything. I felt my body relax and become heavy, I felt the hands all lift off of me, there was no need to hold me down anymore.
“What’s wrong with him?” Raquel yelled, “What’s wrong with him? Rowan! Rowan, are you okay! Rowan!”
Just as I looked up, this woman lightly pressed her hand against my cheek and covered my eyes. Everything went dark and all the noise around my faded.
I started to come to. I was laying on my back and heard the hum of an engine beside me.
“He’s going to be fine,” I heard this woman talking again, “We’re going to take him to a place where he’s going to get the proper treatment for his condition.”
“But he’s not sick!”
“He’s not sick, but he’s not healthy either, ma’am. It’s for his own good.”
“I wanna say ‘goodbye’ to him.”
I could feel someone moving closer to me and someone grabbed my hand, I could tell it was Raquel. Her hand slid up my arm and onto my chest and I felt her kiss my cheek,
“Rowan, I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m gonna find out, okay? I’m not gonna let them take you away forever. I’m gonna get you home, I promise.” She kissed me again and touched her nose to mine, “I love you.”
I could hear her move away and heard someone else take her place next to me. I wanted to say something, tell her I would be alright, I wanted to hold her, do something, but I couldn’t move, I was trapped. I heard two doors close, the engine rev and soon we started to move.
“You guys didn’t have to be so rough with him,” the woman said.
“I didn’t want him biting me.”
“Yeah, we couldn’t really take any chances with him. I didn’t want him getting loose.”
“I think you guys would have been fine.”
I felt the woman hold my hand, it was then that I noticed the zip-tie had been removed.
She sighed, “Hopefully these marks go away. I can’t deliver him like this.”
“I’m sure Dr. Jager won’t mind.”
“Well, I mind. He’s my responsibility. Poor thing...” He could feel her stroking my hair and then pressing her hand against my face. The mask had been removed as well.
“He came out nice though,” she patted my shoulder, “He came out really nice. Almost looks like a giant you’d see in a story book. Look at that hair.” I could feel her running her fingers through my hair and pulling some of it in front of my shoulders to rest on my chest. “He kind of reminds me of Mufasa.”
One of the men laughed, “Yeah, he kinda does.”
“He’s pretty. I’m glad he’s my giant. How much longer until we hit DC?”
“We’re just passing Philadelphia now, so another three or four hours, depending on traffic.”
‘DC?’ I thought, ‘Why am I going all the way to DC? How long was I out for if we’re already passing Philadelphia?’ I noticed my breathing get faster. I was doing it on my own; I was starting to regain control of my body again. I started to open my eyes. At first everything was bright, and blurry, but then things began to focus and I noticed I was in a large ambulance and the woman from earlier was sitting right beside me with her hand on my shoulder. She looked down and gasped when she saw my eyes were open,
“Look who’s awake?”
“Where are we?” My voice was really deep and groggy.
“We’re still on the highway, we have a few more hours to go.”
“Where are we going?”
“Washington. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine.” She started to stroke my hair again, “Shhh, go back to sleep, sweetheart.” She reached for something under the stretcher I was on and I felt another burning sensation spread beneath my skin but this time starting out from my left forearm. Within a few seconds my eyes felt heavy again and I closed them.
“Is he okay back there?”
“Yeah, he started to wake up, but I got him.”
After that I blacked out again and didn’t wake up until we had reached our destination.