"Laure? Laure! Are you alright?"
I groaned as I sat up, eyes rapidly adjusting to the dimly lit room. Seeing that I was awake, Lukas launched himself at me, wrapping his wiry arms around my neck, engulfing me in a bone-crunching embrace. As he murmured what sounded like 'thank God' and 'you're alive' to himself, I took the moment to capture his image in my mind.
His wavy blonde hair, now ruffled, fell across his forehead, just tickling his blue-gray eyes, the exact color of the ocean. Although coated in dust and dirt, his lightly tanned skin was still an unmistakable contrast with my arms, an unnaturally pale color for someone who lived and breathed in the sunlight. He was at least two inches shorter than me and muscular for his age.
Being in Roscoff Psychiatric Hospital hadn't affected Lukas the way it changed me. My gray eyes were surrounded with shadows from a lack of sleep and looked empty and haunted. I was pale and permanently looked sad. Lukas, however, still looked as if he had never faced years of suffering from whatever reason he was in the hospital for.
“Lukas,” I said, heaving myself off of the surprisingly comfortable desk I had been stretched across. “What happened to your feet?”
His feet were black with dirt, covered in tiny cuts, burns and other marks. He shrugged it off. “I got a few burns, none serious, from the fire and something cut them. I'm fine, seriously.”
“If you say so,” I sighed, noticing him wincing in muted pain as he moved to the window with a slight limp. “But you don't look too fine.”
He ignored me and fixed his gaze on something outside, probably the burning hospital since that was the only thing to see due to the lack of interesting scenery. I strolled across the room and absorbed my surroundings, trying to piece together our location.
There were desks, at least two dozen, lined up in rows and all facing one side of the room. The walls were decorated with various posters. After a closer inspection, they were mainly maps of the Old World and 'Did you know...?' facts. Stacks of documents were piled on a larger desk at what I considered to be the front of the room and ancient textbooks had been arranged on bookshelves at the back.
We were in the abandoned schoolroom.
A couple of centuries ago, after all the people had fled to cities after the war, the hospital had been used as an actual hospital, one for people who were ill instead of mental. A town had stretched for the now empty mile between the hospital and the edge of the desert. All of the children were too sick to go to any of the regular schools so they had to take lessons here, making sure that they didn't miss out on too much.
I joined Lukas at his perch by the window. The hospital was blinding to look at, almost as if the sun had landed on Earth upon the arrival of dawn.
“Lukas?” I murmured, watching the flames dance before my eyes. “Can you see something over there?”
He shrugged. “No. You must be delusional from breathing in all that smoke.”
I squinted out of the window, trying to spot the thing that I believed I had seen, silhouetted against the restless fire. As soon as I found it, I pointed it out for Lukas.
“It's a person. They're running straight for us.”
Under five minutes later, the man was laying on the same desk as I had been after Lukas knocked him unconscious. As soon as we realized that he had been coming for us, we had found the nearest weapon (a wooden leg broken off of a chair) and were ready to pounce as soon as he came in. He didn't look too dangerous, laying peacefully on the desk.
Well, that was what I thought back then. Now I know the truth.
He woke up gagging, retching dryly onto the patchy carpet. Lukas grabbed my arm and we stepped away from him.
“Help me!” he spluttered, slapping his hand against his chest. “Please, help me!”
So we did. Help him, I mean. We rubbed his back like he was a baby. We scavenged around the room to try and find water. We tried to make him sit up and tell his story, something he did after much hesitation.
His name was Corey Hidimin and he was a doctor from Velsann, one of the smaller cities in the New World. He had been working a night shift when he saw a mysterious pair, one man and one woman, walking through the hallways. He guessed that it was just his imagination since the main doors were locked and shrugged it off until he heard the scream, just like the one I had heard at least ten hours before. The pair returned, the woman striding forward and the man walking slower to look through the doorways of each room. By now, Corey had unlocked the main door and ran outside to escape.
That was when the hospital erupted into flames.
Corey had sheltered behind a couple of bins and slept while the fire burned, waiting until it was light to set foot outside of his hiding place. The first thing he saw, after noticing that most of the city was in ruins, was a page from a textbook and a scrap of paper floating around in the breeze like a snow white but slightly grubby butterfly.
Roscoff Psychiatric Hospital
Five-day, 18, April
This was on Three-day one week ago. I came as fast as I could to find you before it was too late.”
I smiled at him. “Your timing was a bit off but I'm fine. Thank you.” No one heard the silent 'for now' I added under my breath after stating that I was fine. After hearing Corey's story, it was just a waiting game until the next tragedy struck.
“There are believed to be demons living on our Earth today,” Corey recited. It was the textbook page he had discovered along with the note which brought him here. “They take the form of a human. There main aim on Earth is to possess human life, capturing enough to destroy the world before allowing other demons to walk upon the land.”
I shuddered at the thought. I had never been the type of person to believe in demons but now that was my only conclusion. I was willing to believe anything after the previous night.
“These demons possess human life while the life in asleep or in a form of unconsciousness. They will wait beside the Life, weaving into the unconscious mind. The Life will begin to experience dreams involving demons, convincing the Life that they are on the same side and twisting all of the memories. This will make the Life believe that they had always been possessed. The Life will awake with a scream, the demon finally conquering it. A possessed Life will inherit or gradually develop the powers of the demon who conquered it.”
Lukas and I looked at Corey with pale, blank faces. We were the only known survivors from the hospital, meaning that everyone else had died in the fire or were possessed. Now, it felt like it was me, Lukas and possibly Corey against the entire world.
As the sun began to set, Lukas came running inside after gathering supplies from the storeroom the other side of the hospital, the only part of the building which had survived the flames. He had a torn piece of paper cradled in one of his hands.
On one side there was a crudely drawn map. There was an outline of Acire (formerly known as America before the war). The hospital was marked on along with few other locations.
Velsann must have been the first target, although I failed to see what was so special about taking over the patients in the hospital. I had less of an idea of why they wanted mental patients as well as regular ones. They were too unstable to be able to control the mind of, even though it would be easier to make them believe that they were on the same side as a group of demons. Lukas thought that anyone sick would be easier to control but I had my doubts.
“Laure, it makes perfect sense. There's no point in controlling the minds of perfectly fine and healthy people when you can have the ones that are easy to pick off.”
I wasn't surprised to see a location and date sprawled across the other side of the paper since Corey's story made me expect a direction to follow. One concern crept into my mind, especially when the words didn't change after each time I desperately read them over. I was worried about the building they were going to, probably at that exact second.
Korehtz Government Quarters
Two-day, 29, April
We will find you, Laurali.
They were planning to take over the government.