The Night Folk stood by the bonfire, waiting for Kevin’s approach. There was one more than last time.
Kevin tried to count them and failed. Counting was no longer something he could do.
A memory ribbon fliffted out of the bonfire. It drifted past his face in slow motion so he could see every detail.
A young woman sat at a receptionist desk. Her wavy honey-blonde hair was fixed up in a deliberately untidy bun. She smiled bright at the young man before her. His bangs hung heavy and long in his eyes. She got out of her seat and bobby-pinned his bangs above his forehead. He smiled at her.
The moment disappeared.
He whimpered for its loss.
They stood still, patiently waiting. Their white star-like eyes held no expression, no emotion.
Kevin crawled over to the one in the middle and bowed his head.
It was difficult, but he raised his hands.
The Night Folk took hold of them.
He cringed in anticipation of what he would lose and gain next.
Kevin woke to pain.
Pain that coursed through his bones like blood and filled them like marrow.
He wanted to scream or cry.
He did neither.
Ambrose and Barbara exchanged a look.
“I don’t like this. Barbara, are you sure—-”
Another prolonged howl.
He clenched his teeth. “I don’t like this.”
But he let her follow him up to the bedroom.
Still smells like garbage.
Scent is bone, flesh, and blood. If his bones and flesh are changing, his scent should change as well. Should change into something pleasant. Like baked cookies. That would be awesome.
Barbara glanced at him. “You okay? You look like you want to throw up.”
“Because I do want to throw up. Rotted stench. Be glad you can’t smell it.”
She took his hand and squeezed it tight.
They stopped outside the bedroom door.
Kevin let loose another howl.
“If he hurts you, if he looks anything like a threat to you, I will tear his head off. Just so you know.”
Ambrose opened the door.
The concentrated garbage stench kicked him in the throat.
He doubled over, coughing and gagging. His breaths came and went in hard wheezes.
“It’s all right.” She rubbed his back in soothing patterns. “Shh, it’s all right.”
The touch of her hand and its gentle movements calmed him. He went down on his hands and knees and bowed his head.
Barbara crouched. “You okay?”
He coughed a couple more times and nodded. “But I’ll be so much better once I get out of here.”
“My poor kitten. You could stay out here and I’ll check on him.”
He rose to his feet. “Over my staked and dead body.” He gagged again.
“Just stay here. If I need you, I’ll scream my head off.”
“I can do this.”
She smiled and shook her head. “No, you can’t. Stay.”
“Barbara, I….” He pressed the back of his hand against his mouth as his stomach lurched in uncomfortable ways.
“I’ll be fine. Stay here.” She entered the room.
Ambrose tried to follow her.
His stomach sent up his most recent meal and then some.
Heat radiated through his skin, making him feel weak and miserable. He leaned his head against the door frame.
If he hurts her…
He unsheathed his claws.
If he tries…
He gagged again, but nothing else came up.