Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (Page 128)
23. THE CHOICE
ANOTHER SCREAM ON TOP OF MINE—A SHRIEK LIKE A CHAINSAW CUTTING through rebar.
The hunter lunged, but her teeth snapped closed an inch from my face as something yanked her back, flung her out of my sight.
The fire pooled in the crease of my elbow, and I screamed.
I wasn’t alone, there were others screaming—the metallic snarl was joined by a high keening that bounced off the walls and then cut off suddenly. A thrumming growl was grinding underneath the other sounds. More metal tearing, shredding…
“No!” someone howled in an agony to match mine. “No, no, no, no!”
This voice meant something to me, even through the burning that was so much more than that. Though the flames had reached my shoulder, this voice still claimed my attention. Even screaming, she sounded like an angel.
“Beau, please,” Edythe sobbed. “Please, please, please, Beau, please!”
I tried to answer, but my mouth was disconnected from the rest of me. My screams were gone, but only because there was no more air.
“Carine!” Edythe shrieked. “Help me! Beau, please, please, Beau, please!”
She was cradling my head in her lap, and her fingers were pressing hard against my scalp. Her face was unfocused, just like the hunter’s. I was falling down a tunnel in my head. The fire was coming with me, though, just as sharp as before.
Something cool blew into my mouth, filling my lungs. My lungs pushed back. Another cool breath.
Edythe came into focus, her perfect face twisted and tortured.
“Keep breathing, Beau. Breathe.”
She put her lips against mine and filled my lungs again.
There was gold around the edges of my vision—another set of cold hands.
“Archie, make splints for his leg and arm. Edythe, straighten out his airways. Which is the worst bleed?”
I stared at her face while the pressure against my head eased. My screams were just a broken whimper now. The pain wasn’t any less—it was worse. But the screaming didn’t help me, and it did hurt Edythe. As long as I kept my eyes on her face, I could remember something beyond the burning.
“My bag, please. Hold your breath, Archie, it will help. Thank you, Eleanor, now leave, please. He’s lost blood, but the wounds aren’t too deep. I think his ribs are the biggest problem now. Find me tape.”
“Something for the pain,” Edythe hissed.
“There—I don’t have hands. Will you?”
“This will make it better,” Edythe promised.
Someone was straightening my leg. Edythe was holding her breath, waiting, I think, for me to react. But it didn’t hurt like my arm.
“Shhh, Beau, it’s going to be okay. I swear, it’s going to be fine.”
Something was digging into my scalp and something else was yanking tight against my broken arm. This tweaked my ribs, and I lost my breath.
“Hold on, Beau,” Edythe begged. “Please just hold on.”
I labored to pull in another breath.
“Not—ribs,” I choked. “Hand.”
“Can you understand him?” Carine’s voice was right next to my head.
“Just rest, Beau. Breathe.”
“No—hand,” I gasped out. “Edythe—right hand!”
I couldn’t feel her cold hands on my skin—the fire was too hot. But I heard her gasp.
“Edythe?” Carine asked, startled.
“She bit him.” Edythe’s voice had no volume, like she’d run out of air, too.
Carine caught her breath in horror.
“What do I do, Carine?” Edythe demanded.
No one answered her. The tugging continued on my scalp, but it didn’t hurt.
“Yes,” Edythe said through her teeth. “I can try. Archie—scalpel.”
“There’s a good chance you’ll kill him yourself,” Archie said.
“Give it to me,” she snapped. “I can do this.”
I didn’t see what she did with the scalpel. I couldn’t feel anything else in my body anymore—nothing but the fire in my arm. But I watched her raise my hand to her mouth, like the hunter had. Fresh blood was welling from the wound. She put her lips over it.
I screamed again, I couldn’t help it. It was like she was pulling the fire back down my arm.
“Edythe,” Archie said.
She didn’t react, her lips still pressed to my hand. The fire warred up and down my arm, sawing back and forth. Moans escaped through my clenched teeth.
“Edythe,” Archie shouted. “Look.”
“What is it, Archie?” Carine asked.
Archie’s hand shot out and slapped Edythe’s cheek.
“Stop it, Edythe! Stop it now!”
My hand dropped away from her face. She looked at Archie with her eyes so wide they seemed like half her face. She gasped.
“Archie!” Carine barked.
“It’s too late,” Archie said. “We got here too late.”
“You can see it?” Carine said in a more subdued voice.
“There are only two futures left, Carine. He survives as one of us, or Edythe kills him trying to stop it from happening.”
“No,” Edythe moaned.
Carine was quiet. The tugging against my scalp slowed.
Edythe dropped her face to mine. She kissed my eyelids, my cheeks, my lips. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”
“It doesn’t need to be this slow,” Archie complained. “Carine?”