20 juin 2015

Chapter 14

   “Is it warm enough?” he asks, very conveniently.

“M-hm…” I swallow. “How do you do that? With the heat and the…smell. There’s nothing in here! It just looks like a shimmering white shell.”

“All in the power of will… which seems to be one of your greatest qualities, by the way. I have a feeling you’ll fit right in, Lily Brandt…” he says with hardly concealed warmth.

He seems…happy. Happy that his freak gift unintentionally makes it okay for him to have feelings for me. And every fiber of my body, human or not, wishes for him to remain so. I need to get out of here! Because soon enough, I will no longer have the strength to resist him.

His fingers leave my cheek and find the end of the bandage around my head. Then, very delicately, he starts to unravel it. Bit by bit, my skull feels lighter and my face starts getting used to no longer having a frame. Towards the end, Peter gently holds my head up, and slips the folded bandages right underneath.

“You still have a wound at the back… But if this goes well, it will heal along with the transformation… Oh and I was right. The swelling is decreasing, and your features have undeniably changed. You’ll see…”

He then moves to my arm, picking out the broken pieces of the cast, then very slowly lays my elbow back down in the same position. Besides the tingles, it’s as if he’s not touching me at all. This is torture. Supernatural torture.

Finally, he starts untying the splint immobilizing my hip and leg, before ending with all the minor bandages left. I wince a few times, but I also notice that distraction is not such a bad painkiller.

When he’s done with me, I feel lighter, and honestly, very much exposed. My wounds look shockingly gory, and I wonder how Peter managed not to make a face while uncovering them.

“There… You didn’t make a sound. Did I hurt you?” he asks, with anxious, earnest eyes.

“I’ll… I’ll be okay… Peter, do you think this was the right thing to do?”

He puckers his eyebrows and reflects on it for a moment, then delicately sits next to me on the mattress.

“Under the circumstances, yes… I think so. All we need to do now is keep you perfectly still… and just see how your state evolves.”

“And what if it does?... You’ll ask Vlad if you can ‘keep me’?” I ask cheekily. But he only looks mildly amused.
“He might not have given you the best impression, but he’s my closest friend. You know, he risked his own neck by going there with me. I have authorization, he doesn’t. So… please make sure you never mention that, if you ever meet the others…”

“The ‘others’…How many are there exactly?” My throat feels dry all of a sudden.

“Well, if Earth is just a ‘garden’, then…” he kids, but quickly notices how unreassuring his answer is. “Don’t worry about that for now, though. I’m sure you understand why we’d rather… keep you secret for the time being. Lily… no one can know!” he pleads, his eyes boring into mine. His words are so intense they freak me out.

“I won’t tell! I swear! But do you realize what you’re asking of me? If someone comes, it’s not like I can get up and run! Besides, where would I hide? I’m in very, very foreign territory!...” I ramble on, as his features quickly soften.

“The brooding bubble will keep you hidden for now; we’ll take turns in guarding it… And as soon as you’re better, I’ll tell you everything you want to know…”

“Why not start now?... You filled my brain with nothing but bits and pieces of information today, and they all felt like the tips of several icebergs at once… Is Earth really a ‘Garden’ to you? And why would you need Nirav to get there, but not to travel to the other Spaces?... What are we talking about here? Alternate dimensions? Space portals? Black holes?...”

Now that I’ve got him here, he’s telling me everything I want to know. Be careful though, too many questions might raise suspicion

“Energy. The keyword is Energy… To put it simply, imagine that our Spaces are like… FM radio waves. We know those waves well, and we can read them precisely enough to harness them. Whereas Earth, and all the other elements like it, are on AM. We know of their existence, but only Nirav is attuned to them, so only he can…leap from one wave to the other. We wouldn’t know how…”

“But… what about the creators of these “Gardens”? How did they get there?”

“With Nirav’s skills as well. There were others with slightly similar gifts that also helped, but he’s by far the best at it…” As he says those words, a quick but sinister frown digs a passing crease between his eyebrows. I sense a story there…

“What’s wrong?”I venture.

“Nothing… I’m just… worried you’ll want to run for the hills if this gets too much, when there aren’t many hills around to run to,” he winks, with strained supernatural humor. “Just… can you please promise me to keep an open mind? I have so much to show you!... I know, I’m asking way too much.” Oh, you think?! “Forgive me… Let’s not think about that for now. Just know that I’m here, and you won’t have to face anything alone; starting with what you’re currently going through…” he vows.

“Yeah, about that… Are you… stuck in here with me? This place doesn’t seem to have a door!”I say, working my flirty-shy approach. What is wrong with me?

He smiles and seems to wickedly appreciate the idea, then leisurely lowers his eyes to my lips.

“A small confession… I’m glad these haven’t changed,” he whispers, raising his thumb to the corner of my mouth. I swallow hard. Torture, torture, torture. “I wonder how it feels…”

His words remain suspended in the hot air, and very carefully, making sure he doesn’t touch any injured part of my body, he leans down, and softly lays his warm lips over mine.

My heart threatens to beat its way out of my chest, as a million contradicting thoughts and emotions take over. I feel him exhale, as if letting go, and his lips start to stroke and melt into mine, in a slow, heartbreakingly sensual cadence. Don’t give in Lily… focus on how sore you skin feels, and hold on to that…

Oh who am I kidding. Kiss him, kiss him!

He stops very briefly, keeping his eyes closed and his forehead against mine, then whispers, “You may not see it now, and I can grasp how scared you are… but there is one constant that I will prove to you, no matter what; a constant you’ll need to bear in mind if ever things get rough... : I love you. I love you.”

He kisses me again, and this time, I so give in. It’s such sweet torture that I oscillate between bliss and tears.

I know I’m out of my haze when I feel his lips slowly detaching themselves from mine, and the perfumed air filling the unwanted space between us. His forehead lingers on mine, and he takes a few moments to control his breathing and open his eyes. He then sits up and looks at me with a tender gleam in his eyes. He doesn’t seem to expect an answer. Instead, he gives my cheek a last stroke before lithely standing up.

“This place doesn’t need a door”, he says playfully, as his raised fingers wave towards one end of the incubator. A slit opens in the façade, as if the whole thing were made of silk! “Sleep… We’ve given you too much to take on for one day. I’ll be checking on you every once in a while. In the meantime, if you need anything, please just say my name…”

I give him a dazed, tentative smile. A smile that reluctantly disappears as soon as he steps out of the bubble.

I have to sober up, to think straight. He’s just said he loves me, and all I could think of is how to get away from here…

They believe I’m turning into one of them, because of Peter’s drawing. And they have never seen this happen before.

I, however, have a different theory.

Peter didn’t exactly draw me as ‘one of them’. He specifically drew me as Leetah. And for some strange reason, it has evaded them that maybe, just maybe, I could be turning more particularly into her.

And from what I know of her abilities, I might turn out to have more control over this, than they could possibly expect…


“I’m sorry, did I startle you? I thought I heard…”

Peter enters the bubble once again. Third time in the last few hours, and third distraction from my… experiment.

“No, I’m okay. Must be sleep-talking. Too much on my mind I guess…” I smile cautiously.

“You’re sweating!… I’m sorry, I’ll ask Vlad to reduce the heat level,” he promises, while very invasively staring at every inch of my limbs and face, for a sign of change. “Your complexion… it’s getting very faintly darker. You can’t see it yet, but it’s clear to me… This is really happening!” he says with evident wonder.

I nod, trying to look somehow unafraid, as he kisses my palm, steals my breath with a smile, and leaves.

Panic rises to the surface and makes my lower lip tremble. ‘This is really happening!’ I’m losing myself, bit by bit… My experiment has to work!!!

For the past hours, I’ve been remembering everything I’ve read about her. ‘Leetah – Elfquest. Healer and gatherer.’

Healer. How could Peter miss this?!

In the books, she would spread her fingers wide over a wounded body, just like Peter does for drawing, and then she would concentrate intensely, and… her energy would cure the hurt Elf. I know, it’s just a comic!... That’s what the little voice in my head has been telling me all along. But with everything I’ve seen today, nothing should seem impossible anymore…

And yet, every time I spread my hand over one of my wounds, and concentrate hard enough to break a sweat, I end up feeling deeply stupid.

I’m no supernatural creature!!! I’m just Ginger from Paris, with the dysfunctional family, the pathological forgetfulness of keys, and the now obvious cataclysmically bad taste in men…

A faint noise makes me jump, and I loosen my silly healer’s pose just in time to see Nirav’s dark, imposing silhouette entering the silk meringue. He stands at the slit-shaped entrance, politely nodding, as if asking for the permission to enter. For once, I allow myself to stare at him. He’s clad in a thigh-length dark-reddish coat, and dark pants I can barely make out, both of textile I’ve never, ever seen before. Man, he’s tall! Probably taller than Vlad, and definitely tanner. He’s got this fierce gaze that makes me want to look down. I nod back, and he relaxes as he advances towards me.

What is he doing here?

He stops a tactful few inches away, and points towards my arm. I think he’s about to play some other Elf-trick, but nothing happens. It takes me a second to realize that he’s actually asking if my arm, the one whose cast he fractured, still hurts.

“Oh! No… it’s better now,” I reassure him, puzzled by why he would even care.

He looks away, as if he doesn’t really know what to do with himself, then turns back to me with a very subtle start of a smile. He nimbly pulls an object from his pocket, while stealthily looking over his shoulder, towards the entrance.

Once he’s sure we’re alone, he holds out his hand and slowly opens his fingers to reveal… yellow hard candy?!

I gape at him for a second, confused. He lifts his chin and advances his hand, as if urging me to take it.

I reach out, undecidedly, and grasp the small pastille. The brand is carved in the sugar; I know it well. Oda even brought some of it for hospital guests! …A small souvenir from the Garden?

He nods again, curtly, and twists around to leave, as if not wanting to stare at me while I eat it.

“Um… thank you!” I mumble.

He gives me a polite, profile smile and steps out.

How incredibly strange!!!...

Somehow, his nice initiative has tripled my resolve.

One day, I will need him.

             A deep glare of determination etches itself on my face, and with one last excruciating surge, I concentrate my entire being on the open fracture wound on my arm.

             And then…

I suddenly sense a deep, deep, disturbing shiver, coming from my very insides, and nausea…Staggering nausea… I muffle a strained moan, and have the swift reflex of looking at the wound, as it feels like it’s been set on fire.


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