Moonsilver Transfusion Chapter 1
The night sang of life while I waited for Charon to bring me back my love. Fireflies floated through the air, competing with the stars of the moonless night. Crickets chorused in the wild garden planted around the border of the fenced-in yard. Their singing was occasionally punctuated by the sound of rubber rolling over pavement, but that was the exception, not the rule. Only these few insects braved this hour, too late to be called night, but too damn early to earn the title of morning. The city’s most restful hour, for humans and animals.
In their absence other things stirred, perhaps strengthened by the presence of so many dreaming souls. Glimmering shadows flickered along the tall picket fences, shapes moved in the corners of your eyes, and you could feel a host of gazes that were not there. These things were not of the Twilight nor the Dream, but native to the earth, the crossroads. I’m not sure what they are, but they feel akin to the great entities that slumber beneath the earth, spirits.
These little shadows nattered around the yard as I performed my monthly vigil; snippets of wordlike sounds rustled beneath the leaves. Then something else rippled through the soundscape, the soft splash of a long pole thrust into the surface of a river. Sploosh… Sploosh… Sploosh… The ferryman’s approach. Then I heard the soft scraping of wood on wood, a boat against a dock, and the spirits scatter like startled birds, a ripple of movement and shadow. With their leaving, I stood, stepped down from the newly built porch and shook out a blanket that had been folded beside me. It's black, of course.
Holding the blanket out in front of me, I walked toward the center of the yard. A sliver of blackness opens in the air. A pale figure fell through and I swept forward. My arms closing on a skeletally thin body trapped within the blanket.
“Abby.” My packmate’s voice rattled around my name and her corpse-cold lips found mine. We held the icy kiss until my jaw started to chatter.
“Welcome home,” I whispered and looked up into golden irises, the only trace of life in her sunken face. Her leathery lips stretched into a smile below a dark triangular hole where her nose should be. I cupped her clammy cheek and she groaned.
“Did it…” Her voice gave out as she began to pant rancid, stinking breath. The skin around her nose hole fluttered as she forced her lungs to fill to capacity, “Is Cliff?”
“He’s alive,” I said, giving her a nod. “Thank you.”
“Good.” She gasped before her body began to shake violently in my arms.
“Sssh, I got you.” I whispered, sweeping an arm beneath her legs I lifted her into my arms. Even with the blanket, she scarcely weighed more than Secret. Bone-thin arms clasped around my neck as I carried her to the house. The door opened as I reached for the knob. Secret, my cat-eared daughter, gave me a small smile as she stepped out of the way.
She was supposed to be in bed, but I certainly wasn’t going to argue about it now. I gave her a small nod of thanks. “Start the tea, will you?” I asked as I walked into the house and strode to the living room. An IV stand stood ready, and various plastic-wrapped packages were waiting on the coffee table. I laid Victoria down and flicked on the light.
The sudden brightness blinded me and drew a hiss from Victoria, but she didn’t complain.
“Abby, you h-h-have to go,” she protested. “There’s… There’s…”
“Whatever it is, it can wait,” I told her firmly. Blinking rapidly to clear my vision, I found the electric blanket thrown over the back of the couch and pulled it down over her. Thumbing it on, the little red light came to life. The IV bag was connected to a small box below it, a saline warmer. Victoria needed warmth, fluids, and food, in that general order, when she returned from her service with Death. This little machine helped with the first two. I quickly captured her shivering arm and slapped the top of her hand, trying to shock her withered veins back to life.
Victoria made a small whine of protest.
“You came back human this time. It will be fine,” I told her. The last time she’d come back in her wolf form and trying to find a vein under black fur had taken a few jabs.
“I d-d-don’t n-need-”
“Little pinch.” I cut her off and slid the needle into a blue vein on the top of her hand and taped it down. “There! Good girl.” I connected the tubing and thumbed open the flow.
She growled, “Ab-b-by listen. You-aaaaaaaAAAAAH!” Her head rocked back to scream as every muscle in her arm flexed in an involuntary spasm as the warm saline entered her vein. I fended off her left hand from attempting to claw out the needle in her right.
“Easy, easy,” I soothed, gripping her hand with mine. She squeezed back with bone-crushing strength as her face relaxed from a scream to a grimace.
“You're sure that's not embalming fluid?” Victoria said through tightly clenched teeth. “Feels like a knife in my veins.”
I didn’t let go. “That's your frozen body thawing. Be glad your bladder’s empty or you would have wet yourself.” Three days in the twilight brought Victoria to the brink of her own death. Our bodies healed amazingly fast, but the phase of the moon determined the precise speed. The first time Death dumped her back into the crossroads it took her nearly two days before she could stand without wobbling and she’d slept eighteen hours a day for a week.
Now, between the warmth, the saline drip, the refrigerator full of protein, and constant nursing, she’d be back to her tall, curvy self in six hours. The trade-off was that she spent nearly every minute of those six hours in agony that no painkiller could touch as her body rebuilt. Only the tiniest trickle of Luna’s power reached us during the new moon.
Secret brought out a steaming kettle of green tea as a feverous sheen of sweat spread across Victoria’s corpse-pale forehead. I poured the tea into a squat travel mug and offered it to her.
“Abby, listen to me.” Victoria pushed the mug back. “You have to go. Shades are gathering to the north of us. In the neighborhood around Kelly Butte Park. Something is about to happen.”
“Drink your tea,” I responded sternly. That would be Mill Park. I looked northward briefly and shook my head. The city could fend for itself for a few hours until Victoria’s dusky scent sparkled with life again.
Her golden eyes stared directly into mine, “If you don’t go, it might be like the bridge again, Abby. I will be fine. Secret can do the rest.”
I held her gaze. Yes, she’d be okay, but I didn’t want to go. I wanted to be with her as she went through the healing process. Hold her close and protect her while she was vulnerable. Let her fall asleep against me as I tried not to think about Cliff alone in his hospital bed. We’d just forced Joy back to the Dream a day ago. The last thing I wanted to do was deal with some new thing that ate human souls for breakfast. I was tired, dammit. A plaintive canine whine slipped from my throat.
Victoria’s cold fingers touched my cheek, and the corners of her mouth played up into a smile. “I’ll be here when you get back. I promise.”
“You better.” I kissed her hard, then shoved the mug into her hands. “Drink your tea.”
She gave me a weak nod and took a tentative sip. Then downed the steaming liquid in hurried gulps. I repacked my medical bag while she clutched at her stomach, her internal organs noisily remembering what they were there for.
I shouldered my bag and stood as she fell back against the couch.
“Any other details other than something bad is happening and a lot of folks are gonna die?” I asked.
Victoria shook her head. “I noticed it on my way back to you. Death commented that you could stop it if you hurry, but wouldn’t tell me any more.”
“Death is going to be the death of us,” I sighed.
Victoria grinned, “By definition.”
I turned to Secret, who had been watching all of this silently, leaning against the recliner. “You’re in charge until I get back.”
“Me?” She squeaked and stood straighter.
“Yes, you. Follow the routine from last time. Make her finish her tea, then protein shakes, then warm the chicken and beef. Help her get to the bathroom. Clean it up if she doesn’t make it. You know how.”
Secret gulped at the mention of cleaning but nodded. Least squeamish nine year old in the city, I’d bet.
“Good girl.” I gave her a quick hug and Victoria another kiss before rushing out the door. I flung my bag into my beat-up hatchback and headed north, muttering under my breath about how hard I’d slap Death if this proved to be a false alarm.
Sadly, Death is rarely one for crying wolf.
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