the Somnus Stories)
By: M. Kier McCarey
Sinister night crept into the room’s open blinds; a piercing black that seemed to come alive with all the nite-owls and day-absent freaks. Warm and cozy in his queen-sized pillow-top bed, sleep still clinging to him, he rolled over slightly and smiled, then rolled back over. He felt the endearing loose embrace of his lover, his woman from behind. She stirred for only a second when he turned then he felt her cheek rest lightly on his shoulder, her sweet breath tickling his ear and back of his neck every so often.
“Mmm, g’morning.” She uttered, pushing back the dark from the room with her engaging voice, her words invigorating a lethargic form.
“More like good-night, sexy,” He stole a glance at the little black device at his nightstand, and reached to touch its blank screen.
It lit up his side of the bed briefly with white light, and he shook his head as if to throw off the claws that sleep still held on him.
“It’s, like, close to 11 at night.” He said settling back into the soft nest of his sheets, rolling over to face her.
On her sparsely freckled face, a smile emerged; her tender cocoa brown eyes peered at his faintly lit visage with unmistakable adoration. She snuggled closer, their noses touching, and a smile miming hers, lined his face. His hand slid from under the three layers of covers and reached to her face, his thumb stroking her cheek, tracing the faint dimple in it. A rush, heat flowed from his hand to the rest of his body. This woman in his bed, in his apartment meant a great deal to him, and yet it was unclear why.
“Vaelan, I…” She spoke his name, but was cut off by the nearby alarm on her side of the bed’s nightstand.
“Hold that thought, babe. I don’t want you to be late for work.” I said as she sighed, perturbed that the alarm clock had to strike 11:10.
She reluctantly removed herself from the nest of covers and Vaelan’s doting embrace, and slid onto the side of the bed, feet hanging and body forlornly posed. She ran a practiced hand through the messy chocolate éclair tresses, trying blindly to straighten it. The woman let her feet touch the ground, and she dazedly groped in the dark for her lamp. Her hand grasped the little knob on the side and drenched the room in light with a quick turn. The man called Vaelan winced at first but slowly his eyes adjusted to the light and his eyes saw all around him. His bedroom was neatly taken care of: the walls were a soft sage green accented by a grey and gold roll of trimming at the uppermost parts, the nightstands were some sort of cherry pine wood that didn’t quite match but were pleasing to the eye. The aforementioned bed was bathed in matching green sheets as well as a deep forest green and aurelian designs throughout, now all mussed by sleeping, and cuddling. He watched adoringly as she milled about trying to find what to wear, readying herself for work.
“God, it’s a good thing I don’t have to dress too formally for the clinic.” She said as she rushed from her dresser, to their closet (which somehow had more of her stuff than his in it, thereby making it her closet) and extracted an olive V-neck sweater from a hanger, as well as a slate grey skirt that would come to about mid-thigh for her. She held the top over her body and the skirt at her waist, inspecting it, scrutinizing her reflection in the mirror. She turned to her lover Vaelan, still holding up the clothes to her body like some mobile mannequin and asked,
“This look okay to you?”
He sat up some in his sea of covers, and put his hand on his chin in a faux-thinking gesture and pursed his lips up comically and replied,
“Personally…I think less is more.”
“Less is more? You want me to go out with less clothing?” she asked arching her eyebrow, skeptically.
“Who said anything about going out with less clothing?” He said smirking, lust twinkling in his brown eyes, like two distant dying wooden embers.
She held up a finger, warningly as he pushed the mound of sheets away and approached with desire, warming those dark brown orbs of his.
“Babe, you just said you don’t want me late.” She resisted some, but unable to really refuse him.
His hands rolled down her sides, momentarily resting to her hips as his lips honed in closely to kiss her cheek and all along her jaw-line. She shivered, as his teeth nibbled along that spot that oft times made her melt and give in to him. The clinic worker’s eyes fluttered, her heart performed a drum solo in her chest as his hard body pressed against her much softer one.
“This’ll only take a minute.” His words suggested, but she knew it would not.
His breath tickled her ear, making her reach around him and clutch the small of his back, as if holding on would weather the storm of his need.
A far-off ringing stopped his deft hands from exploring her curves more, and he turned to see his own phone blazing white light from his nightstand. Someone was calling him. The man called Vaelan let his hands fall from her body, smiling and shaking his head at the odds someone would call at the moment he’d try and seduce her from going to work as punctually as she meant.
“You’re lucky.” He commented as he backed away and turned to see who was calling, his touch lingering still on her skin, even as he slowly made his way to the other side of the room.
She turned and found her own lips curled into a goofy, shit-eating grin. She couldn’t help it, she didn’t know why but she was smiling. Her hand reached for the door, and she turned to find her man, her Vaelan sitting on the edge of the bed, a similar shit-eating grin on his handsome countenance. His face melted into a look of concern as he nodded into the phone, listening intently to whomever had called. He drew the phone away from his ear and looked at its screen, squinting at the lit-up screen and looking up from it, at his woman.
“Its 11:23 babe, you might wanna head out.” He said giving her a look of longing, of need. He pushed himself off from the bed and with four striding steps he crossed the distance between them and cradled her cheek in one hand whilst holding the phone up to his ear with the other. His lips pressed against hers, a soft farewell unspoken, and he backed away, albeit reluctantly, lest lust overpower his better judgment.
“Be safe, babe and call me when you’re about to get off work so I can make sure breakfast is ready for you by the time you get here.” He said in a genially warm tone, as if nothing would make him happier than to make sure his lovely companion was sated.
She wore that shit-eating grin like a designer accessory, her face alight at her man’s words.
“You are too good for me.” She said finally managing to find the words to express her gratitude.
“Yes, yes, flatter me later when you’re home for breakfast. It won’t do either of us any good for you to be late.” The man winked, and swung his hand back and slapped her butt playfully.
The bronze woman giggled and made herself leave. Alone, the man backpedaled and fell back into bed, his hand barely finding the switch to turn off the lamp at his bedside, falling asleep the moment his head touched the sage-colored pillow.
* * *
Roughly, three hours passed, and the blaring sound of an unfamiliar chime yanked a sleeping Vaelan from a deep dream he quickly forgot. Blindly he fumbled towards his nightstand, finally finding his still frantically vibrating phone, eager to be answered. Squinting he looked at the number and saw it was the clinic’s number, the very same where his beloved worked. His finger sluggishly pressed the call button to answer and he brought the phone to his ear, saying quite groggily,
“Hun, it’s only been,” he brought the phone away from his ear and looked at the digital screen of his phone, consulting the little clock in the top right corner. “-like 3 hours. You can’t possibly be-“
The voice that interrupted him was NOT his lover’s but the gruff and harried voice of a man, he spoke with a hasty tempo that betrayed his words,
“Mr. Vaelan, is it? I think you need to come down to the clinic, right away. She’s…oh, god, please just hurry.”
His blood froze; his eyes bulged from his head. All semblance of lethargy that once clung to him from his roused sleep was shaken off of him from sheer horror. He didn’t need to ask whom the gruff voice was referring to; Vaelan knew just by the distraught man’s tone that his lover was in danger. The man called Vaelan threw off the bunched up covers ensnaring him in the warm nest of their bed and lunged off the bed, nearly toppling over a basket of neatly folded clothes. Without prejudice, he threw on a red T-shirt, the nearest pair of jeans and mismatched socks and his classic black Chucks’ and bolted to the door narrowly snagging his keys and a zip-up black & white checkered hoodie. He clicked the tumbler to his door and carelessly slammed the door behind, before jumping down entire flights of steps to get to the ground floor.
Four flights of stairs later, he barreled through the lobby door and ran up the street. Without any thought as to how cold it was, Vaelan ran as the nippy night sought to slip its frigid fingers past the warmth of his skin and seep into the very marrow of his bones. He ran until each breath he took in felt as if he was inhaling frosty knives into his lungs, and still he ran. Finally he reached the clinic, throwing open the bullet pierced double doors decked out with Yule Tide decorations and rushed to the receptionist counter, where his beloved usually sat behind, looking bored. The walls were splashed intermittently with deep scarlet paint, whilst bodies lay on the ground, some stirring, some groaning and some did not move at all.
Vaelan hurdled over the receptionist counter and found nothing but a deep saturation of crimson in the thin carpet. Oh god, I hope she wasn’t sitting there, whenever whatever happened, happened, he couldn’t help thinking, repeatedly, panicking and praying it wasn’t her. I know it’s selfish, but let it be anyone but her!
The same gruff voice that was on the phone earlier, called out for someone to stabilize someone’s failing vitals. Vaelan pushed past frantically milling nurses and volunteer doctors alike, going to the sound of that voice. He turned a corner and found the source of the voice pushing a gurney. He was a pallid skinned medium height, stocky fellow with messily combed salt n’ pepper hair and a bushy mustache head to toe in blue scrubs and decked in a white lab coat now splattered liberally with blood.
“Close her up and send for a couple of ambulances! We have to make sure no one dies tonight!” he said ambling as fast as he can with the gurney at his side.
At the sight of Vaelan, he seemed to pale even more, despite the fact his skin was becoming the same hue of spoiled milk, the man Vaelan assumed was a doctor flickered his eyes downward, as if to signify the person on the gurney was who we was here for.
No, this can’t be happening, he thought most selfishly, frustration mounting eyes, screwed close to stem back an onset of hot tears brimming around his eyes. I’m dreaming this, all of this. It’s NOT real, he said in his head repeatedly as if saying it repeatedly would suddenly make it happen and alter the events around him. It didn’t. Goddamn it, it didn’t. His beloved lay in a bed, an unhealthy shade of olive, eyes half parted, hands clasping the rails of the gurney intently, as if holding onto it tight enough would somehow stave away whatever pain she was suffering. It wouldn’t. Vaelan rushed to her side as the gurney was wheeled by the gruff doctor past the lobby’s opening. With loving care, Vaelan stood by her, taking her hand in his, looking down adoringly.
“Everything’s going to be okay.” He said, not knowing or hardly believing if that was the case. What truth and certainty he could offer was his presence, “I’m here babe, don’t you worry about a thing.”
She gave a wan smile, her wincing brow unfurled from agony. Those luscious lips of hers twitched as if she wanted to say something, but perhaps the fog of anesthesia and whatever traumatic experience robbed her of her ability to form words. Vaelan’s face held a twinge of pain seeing her unable to even speak and he bent his lips to her hands and laid a soft kiss,
“Save your energy, hun. You’re gonna need it to recover from…whatever happened.”
His brown eyes looked up to the gruff-voiced doctor whom said not word since his call for the ambulance as Vaelan stepped into the room. Twin chocolate orbs beseeched an answer, a reason, anything as to why the woman he cared for was now laying in a gurney, fresh from on-the-spot surgery. The doctor merely said,
“Once we get her to a room to recover, I’ll fill you in on what happened.”
The worried man nodded his head mutely, not trusting his voice at the time being. They hung a right into a room that had been removed of the usual bench patient’s usually sat upon waiting for clinic doctors to check on them. Now there was what appeared to be an actual hospital bed (where they got funding for that I won’t be ungrateful enough to ask). The doctor and nurse parked the gurney parallel to the hospital bed and replaced his beloved to the hospital bed, hooking her up to the IV and the machine that monitors her vitals. The nurse began to administer more morphine to her, and she slowly slipped into a drug-induced slumber, her heart monitor beeping slowly and rhythmically.
“Mr. Vaelan, a word, please?” the doctor said, making sure his patient was comfortable at this point, before leading Vaelan outside.
The concerned lover gave his bed-ridden lover one last look then turned on his heel and followed the doctor out into the hallway. The nurse, a squat woman with a round face and a pulled tight high ponytail, milled out and closed the door behind her softly, smiling gravely before scuttling away, no doubt to more ailing patients. What the hell happened? He thought as he turned his attention to the gruff doctor whom he noticed looked intently at Vaelan with bloodshot eyes. Tonight was horrible, hell even, Vaelan could tell just by looking at the horror in this old doctor’s beady black eyes.
“What happened doc, why’d she have to go to surgery?” Vaelan asked rapidly, his voice thick with worry.
“Mr. Vaelan I’m afraid your fiancée was caught in the crossfire of a robbery tonight.” The doctor said wringing his hands nervously, a physical expression of his obviously tense demeanor. He continued,
“Earlier tonight about an hour ago, a hooded man, suspicious looking came in with his hands in his pockets. Most people that come through here are…less-than-savory characters so your fiancée probably didn’t bat an eyelash when he came up to the front desk where she was usually stationed. The difference between this particular patient and others was that he was carrying a semi-automatic pistol and had a particular problem with “our establishment”. He was jumpy, and when she tried to come around the counter to talk him out of doing something he might regret…”
Gruff doctor stopped and exhaled an exhausted breath, clearly dreading what came next.
“Please, doc, I have to know what happened.” Vaelan said, feeling anger heating his blood, and grief claw at his skin, tension rack his whole body. He had to know.
“He must’ve been one of those pro-life Christian nuts because he…shot her. He shot Somnus twice in her stomach, point-blank, in cold-blood for trying to help him, yelling after he did about how the Devil’s harlots not having the power to sway his righteous judgment on this “murder factory”, and he proceeded to shoot anyone wildly at anyone who tried to escape. 4 people suffered moderate injuries, 2 received critical injuries including Somnus.”
Cold, sharp grief clasped his heart tight, tugging on his heartstrings like they were some unfeeling musical instrument. The question he asked next, Vaelan was afraid to know the answer to,
“Will she be okay? Is she gonna pull through?”
“Hard to know, Mr. Vaelan. Though I was successful is removing most of the pieces of the bullet fragments, there were some small pieces I couldn’t account for. The bullet pierced her stomach and liver, two major organs that need to be intact to continue healthy body function. Whether or not she’ll pull through depends solely on her. Though for right now, she is stable but in critical condition.”
A Mack truck of emotion crashed into him. What felt like a cold spear shot through his heart and pumped icy blood coursing through his body. A day without her…he thought, but stopped himself. The idea of it was inconceivable. His eyes traveled down to her pained visage, and he reached for her hand. The usually soft, warm flesh was clammy, sickly. Deathlike, he thought and shook his head as if to rid himself of any negative thought rooting itself in his mind. The gruff doctor steered both Somnus and her worrying lover into a room and arranged all the right equipment to monitor her very frail condition, then left. Vaelan heard the door close behind him, and he pulled up a chair and sat at her bedside. The slow rhythmic beep of the heart monitor seemed the only thing breaking the deafening silence in the room. He kissed her palm, and felt hot wet streak slide down his cheek wetting the back of her palm.
“Please…God, Buddha, Krishna, whoever is up there watching…please spare her.”
He spent the whole night holding her hand, stroking her knuckles in little circles with his thumb, mumbling prayers and hoping everything would be okay when morning came.
Morning came and from troubled dreams the faithful lover was roused by the heart crushing continuous beep and the rushing of the gruff doctor and medical assistants trying so desperately to revive the unmoving form of his beloved fiancée. After a few minutes of frantic pace, and cursing and pleading, she was gone. Howling with rage, Vaelan fought to sit at her side, to try and wake her himself, but the nurses and medical assistants pulled him away as the gruff doctor hung his head low and cursed defeated. Just before Vaelan was pulled out he saw the doctor reluctantly pull back his sleeve and inspect his watch.
“Time of death is 8:04 A.M.” He said, his voice thick with regret.
He pulled the white sheet she was resting under over her head and turned away from the bed.
The image never left his thoughts.