21 - The Devil Himself

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Hospital.

The word rang through my mind over and over as we rushed to the nearest emergency centre. I felt cold everywhere, like someone had dumped ice-water over the top of my skull and not bothered to hand me a towel.

Hospital. Hospital. Get to the hospital.

Time passed by in a blur of worry and barely repressed panic. I was dimly aware of the presence of others—Rokim and Lisa and oh my god why Rian—but it didn't provide much relief. It was too close, too goddamn similar to before.

To the incident, just a little over three years ago.

No matter how I tried, I just couldn't get it out of my head. Prof was hurt. Prof, who I'd known nearly ten years, who was a friend of the family, who gave me pointers on how to cook, who was never anything but kind, who sent me off to France when he knew I needed to get away, who wasn't allowed to get hurt because it was him, because it was Prof

And then the car screeched to a halt.

God, I fucking hate hospitals.

We pulled up to the medical centre and scrambled out of the cab. The building loomed before us ominously. I think one of us managed to remember to pay the driver, but it was difficult to be sure. My mind had gone blank.

We ran inside and things happened, all in one big scared haze. There were people everywhere, getting in the way, loud and annoying and sad. We got to the information desk. The clerk bobbed her head and pointed to the left. We moved—elevator. Hallway. Bright lights. Formaldehyde. Room. 

Then Prof.

I stopped short when I saw him. He was lying on a bed, his long frame sprawled out on pristine white sheets. A familiar pang ripped its way through my right side, but I smothered it by pressing a palm on my ribcage. I noticed Rian looking down at me from the corner of my eye, but my gaze was fixed on Prof.

His left leg was wrapped in a cast but his eyes were open. I scanned him quickly, still in panic mode. He was wearing one of those hideous hospital gowns, his clothes in a rumpled heap on a nearby chair. Nothing missing, I noted. Open eyes were a good sign, right?

We all rushed to his side, trying not to stumble over one another in our haste. "Prof?" I murmured breathlessly, the frantic run over here finally catching up to me. "You're not . . . you're not dead."

He looked over all of us, eyebrow raised. "I see you're sharp as ever, Hanna."

We all let out a collective exhale of relief. Sarcasm meant he was fine.

I covered my face with my hands, trying to keep them from shaking, but also to keep away the traumatic memories that threatened to flood through me. Suddenly three years ago seemed like only yesterday.

I forced myself out of my thoughts, instead turning to Prof concernedly. "Seriously, Prof," I began. "Are you oka—" I stopped myself. "No, dumb question. A better question is," I corrected, "what exactly happened?"

Prof surveyed me amusedly and chuckled, but winced when the movement aggravated his injuries. His dark brown hair was mussed out of its usual neat form, and his black-framed glasses were sitting broken on a table nearby. A few cuts and bruises poked out from underneath his hospital gown. I shuddered at the thought of how much worse things could have been.

Prof opened his mouth to answer my earlier question. "I don't think it was necessary for you all to come rushing over here," he began wryly. "Accidents happen. It was just—"

"Damien!"

A new voice interrupted us, and we all snapped our heads to the open door on our right. A slight, finely-featured blond man was standing there with a stricken look on his face.

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