Neon Gray

Ripper and Alex. Alex and Ripper. That's the way its always been. Of course, Alex is changing, wanting her own things in life. Ripper however, refuses to move on from their intwined lives and struggles to cope with independence. Then suddenly, Ripper disappears. There's rumours he is dead. There's rumours he's addicted to drugs. And then there's the rumour he's just plain vanished. Alex is heartbroken. She thought she could live without Ripper. Her dad hadn't liked her being so close to a boy and wanted her to get some more girl friends. But then, Alex stumbles upon a sickening discovery. Ripper has changed in a way which is against every law of normal.

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4. The Beep Beep Beep really gets stuck in your head.

 

   The beep of a monitor awoke me. My eyelids were heavy and reluctant to open. My breathing hitched as I glanced around the room. I struggled to focus. The room swum in my vision, randomly blurring and warping. I groaned but nothing came out. Startled, I glanced down. A gas-and-air mask covered my nose and mouth. I reached up and ripped it off my face. Fresh air whirled down my throat. I took the chance to look at my hand. There was still dried blood under my nails, yet my hand was clean. I swallowed. A needle dug into the back of my hand. I could see the thick vein it had been injected into. Gagging, I rested my hand back down by my side.  

   “Alexia?” The voice was warm and silky. Also, it wasn’t too familiar.

   I frowned, more because of the blinding lights than the person. She was perched on the edge of a chair in my hospital room. A clipboard balanced on her knee gingerly and she wore an expression of disgust. A pinched, fake smile invaded her thin lips.

   “I,” she announced in a snotty voice. “Am Fiona Charleston.”

   And? I wanted to say. But I knew that, no matter where you are, you always remember your manners.

   “I’m Alex,” I whispered. I stressed my shortened name.

   Fiona shrugged delicately. She got to her high-heeled feet, tottering over to my bedside. Despite her snotty voice, she looked average. Short brown hair in a bob, an Asda skirt and top and plain high heels. I tried not to look like I was evaluating her.

   “I’m here to ask you a few questions.” She blinked her wide hazel eyes at me.

   I pushed myself slowly into a sitting position. I winced. I could see through the thin gown I wore that my left side was taped up tightly. Not that I couldn’t feel it.

   “Okay.” I answered reluctantly.

   She smiled a true smile this time but I couldn’t answer her with one. I stared down at my hands. I noted that the tag around my wrist was a little ragged. The date that had been stamped on it had worn off. My eyebrows pushed together.

   “Right,” Fiona started. She dragged her chair over to my bedside. I cringed away from her fake bubbly appearance. I wanted to shut off all the lights and curl up. She clicked her pen and licked her lips. “Let’s start when you met Ripper.”

  My jaw dropped. I thought she was here to ask me about why I was in the forest. Maybe about who hit me. But not this. Not about Ripper. I couldn’t deal with it.

   I licked my lips. “Um...can you repeat the question?”

   Fiona seemed flustered. She flapped her hands and said, “No matter, we’ll just move on.”

   I was taken aback. Why was she in such a hurry?

   “How about last week? When you found out that Ripper was gone?”

   Once more, the knife showed itself. Twisting this time, not digging. My head swirled. I mouthed the words ‘last week’ more than once. Sweat beaded on my forehead and my hands shook. Fiona’s mouth opened into a little O of shock. I gagged, again and again but nothing was coming up. Of course—if I had been unconscious since last week, they must have been feeding me fluids.

   “I’ll come back later, okay Alexia?” She said quickly, backing off. She skipped out of the room, clipboard in hand. As soon as she left the room, it became slightly less claustrophobic and slightly more bearable. I fumbled across my chest, finding more and more wires entering my body. One by one, I tugged them out, sending the monitors beside me crazy. I barely heard them. I sobbed loudly as I yanked out the wire in my hand. All the monitors went silent. I laughed crazily. Hopefully, they thought I was dead.

   Why did she keep using my full name? Why did she want to know about Ripper?

   Other questions flung themselves around in my mind but those two were the biggest and boldest. I drew in a broken sigh. I clambered over the rails at the side of my bed, careful not to hit my side on them. The floor under my bare feet was cool and solid. I tiptoed my way over to the door. The slap of my bare feet on the ground was eerily loud.

   I pulled the handle of the door gently. Whispers and shouts grew louder as I peeked out of the door. Nurses and doctors floated around, some scurrying quickly whilst others moved at less than a snails pace, on their phones. I frowned. I didn’t even think you were allowed phones on the ward.

   My phone. It had been in my pocket.

   I looked back into my room. There, on a chair in the corner, lay my clothes, neatly folded. I ran as fast as I could to them. I fished through the material. My fingers finally grasped something hard and I pulled it out. I pressed the button at the top, unlocking it. The screen lit up, showing the seven missed calls and twenty one texts. My eyebrows automatically rose.

   I flicked through them listlessly. Then, before I managed to read them, I scooted back into bed. I didn’t want the nurses to find me out of it. I chewed on my lip as I looked at the stray wires. Well, I couldn’t put them back in.

   I returned my attention to my phone. The messages were long and unimportant. A few from my mother on the night I’d gotten hit. Mostly consisting of worries and then full blown scariness. I deleted them before the guilt became too much. The others were from kids at school. They weren’t that deep, just a few Get better soon xx type things. Then, I looked at the seven phone calls. Five from my mother, one from Jake and one from unknown. I rolled my eyes. Vodafone, probably. I chucked my phone under my pillow as I heard approaching footsteps. I didn’t know what the hospital’s policies on mobiles were.

   The nurse was small and had flaming red hair. Her name badge told me she was called Amy. She placed her hands on her hips and scolded me about the wires. I hunched my shoulders like her telling off was affecting me. It really wasn’t. My mind kept slipping back to that night. Part of me, I was shocked to find, wished that no one had found me. Or the car had hit me harder.

   I just wanted to die.

   Life without Ripper was pointless. That sounded soppy, even in my head but—

  Amy looked at me. “Who’s Ripper?”

   I hadn’t realised I’d been speaking out loud. I coughed and blushed. “My best friend...and my boyfriend, I suppose. I don’t know. It’s complicated.”

   Amy rolled her eyes. She propped my pillow up. “Boys. Honestly. Trust me, it gets easier.”

   “It’s more difficult than you think,” I mumbled.

   “Really?” Amy stepped back. Her eyes shone with the possibility of gossip. “How’s that then?”

   My side started to ache. I put pressure on it but the pain started getting worse. Amy gasped and seemed to remember she wasn’t here for chit chat. She grabbed the wires and carefully reinserted them. I winced as they broke the skin. Her mouth went squint as she looked at the biggest one. The one that went into my hand.

   “This might hurt,” she said tactfully. I nodded and looked at the blank TV in the corner of the room. A sharp burst of pain bloomed in my hand but it was easy to deal with. It was a simple matter of facing it and moving on. Easy.

   Why couldn’t I do that with Ripper?

   It had been a week. It seemed pretty black and white by now—Ripper had no intention of coming back. Or even calling.

   Amy sat down on the chair Fiona had just been in. She fiddled with the watch on her breast pocket. I knew that she was still intrigued.

   Suddenly, her face darkened. “This isn’t Ripper as in the missing Ripper?”

   How many people are called Ripper? I thought sourly. Of course, I didn’t say this out loud. I meekly nodded.

   I heard her draw in breath. “You’re kidding.”

   “Nope.” I spat. I was losing patience with this girl. I glanced at her. “Surely you knew that?”

    “Why would I?”

    I let out a huff of annoyance. “Do you not watch the news? Do you live under a bloody rock?” I saw her flinch. “I’m sorry. That was rude. But still. You must have asked Fiona about it.”

   Amy drew back. “Who?”

   “The reporter. The one who was in here two seconds ago.”

    She gave me a wide-eyed look. “Alex. No one has been in here since this morning. I’ve been right outside your door all day and no one has been in.”

   My lips parted in shock. “But...you must have seen her! You must have!”

   I saw her lean towards the big red button on the wall beside my head. My eyes widened but before I could stop her, she jabbed another syringe into my hand and I blacked out. 

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