Ch. 5 : Encounter at the Hospital
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Eiea : You okay?

Eiea asked with a concerned expression. The fact I had been gloomily looking out the window for a few minutes now while clenching my 16-year-old birthday present in my arms like a life preserver must have been quite a sad sight. I would be lying if I said it didn’t represent my inner emotional condition. I was anxious at seeing my mom again.

I should be happy that her injuries were minor and that she woke up so fast but I still couldn’t help blaming myself for having caused them in the first place. What would she say when she sees me? Will she be happy? Will she scold me? Will she be… afraid of me? The nightmare of the previous night still lingered in my memory. It was different from my normal dreams, which I forget not even five minutes after leaving the bed. It crept through my subconscious, like a shadow on the pavement. A shadow with horrid proportions, hinting at the horrible nature of what was making it. The twisted form of my mother plagued the underside of my eyelids whenever I closed my eyes. I couldn’t even dismiss it as a simple nightmare, a dark apparition borrowing my mother’s skin. The warmth I saw in those eyes, that kind smile still apparent even when overlapped by hideous imagery wouldn’t let me do so.

 

Realizing I had lapsed into deep thought, I looked back at Eiea face to see it even more concerned than before.

Maria : I’m… fine. Just a bit apprehensive.

Eiea : That’s understandable. But I know Veronica, something like this won’t change her feelings for you. I’m sure she’ll be overjoyed to see you.

She made a comforting smile, but I failed to move my own expression. She was probably right but it didn’t make me feel better. She raised a hand before lowering upon my head, ruffling my hair in a playful way. I kind of wanted to be left alone in my gloom, enough that I wished she would resume driving with her hands no matter the chaotic ride that would ensue.

The hospital was a long way from my house. I was easily thirty minutes away due to traffic. I both liked and disliked that fact right now, as more driving meant more delay before facing my fears but also more time for Eiea to try and cheer me up. Don’t misunderstand, I appreciated her efforts. I just wished she would be less forceful. I grabbed her hand that was still patting my head and returned it to her while looking her in the eyes, trying to convey the message. Fortunately, she promptly picked up on it and didn’t say anything else. The remainder of the ride was silent.

 

We arrived at the Toronto General Hospital and parked in the parking for visitors. It was a Saturday and the parking was full of the cars of other visitors. I left my book in the car, hidden in the glove box at Eiea’s demand. We got assaulted by the heat the second we stepped out of the car, it was just we were parked on the edge of a volcano. Eiea seemed as unaffected as ever, not even flinching in her thick turtleneck and jeans. Now that I knew that she was a witch, I wondered if she had some trick up her sleeves to not feel the heat. Now was not the time to ask though, so putting it on the To Do list, I followed her into the building. The AC hit my face like a wind from heaven and I stopped in my tracks for a moment to appreciate it. Eiea went on to talk to the receptionist.

Eiea : Hi. We’re here to visit Veronica Grant.

Receptionist : Ah yes. Let me check for a moment. Bedroom number 45 on the third story.

Eiea : Thank you.

She gestured me to follow her as she walked in direction of the stairs. Once on the third story, it didn’t take long to find the right bedroom. Eiea candidly walked right in, but I hesitated. I gulped, summoning the small bit of courage I could find and entered as well.

 

When I entered the first thing I saw was my mother and Eiea looking directly at me.There was no one else in the bedroom, comped of only one bed, one of these curtains to give the patients more intimacy, a desk and a single window. Mom and I looked at each other for a moment that seemed much longer than it actually was. Fear started to creep up in my mind and every instant the feeling of wanting to run away grew. I took a single step backwards.

Veronica : Maria! I’m so glad you’re okay!

A relieved, ear-to-ear smile appeared across my mom’s face and small tears formed in the corner of her eyes. The expression blew away all of the doubts that had plagued my mind since yesterday. I ran up to the bed and hugged more forcefully than I should have, but she accepted it without flinching. Both the mental and physical tension I accumulated released and I found myself crying in her lap. I cried a lot. I don’t know how long I did, it could have been 10 minutes or an hour. The only marker I had was the awful headache that spawned from it. When I had stopped crying but I had still the hiccups, Eiea gave me some water from a pitcher that was on the table on the side of the bed. We didn’t talk for a while.

Eventually, a doctor entered the room. He was dressed typically for his profession, a middle-aged black man with large glasses.

Doctor : Hello everyone. I was told Veronica had some visit.

The doctor calmly explained that my mom had a minor concussion and that she had simply passed out from the shock. She was well enough to go home without a problem, but she wouldn’t be able to work for a week or two. He left us not long after.

Eiea : Thank god. You’ll be able to come back with us today then.

Veronica : Yes…

Mom seemed as if she wanted to say something,  but hesitated. I took her a moment to decide.

Veronica : About… what happened…

I was startled, not knowing what to say, but Eiea took it in stride.

Eiea : Yeah, we need to talk about that. Give me a second.

She gestured towards the door and it closed just slowly enough not to slam.

Veronica : !

Mom looked at the door and then at Eiea with eyes wide open. I did the same, trying to ask her with my stare why she was doing that before explaining what she had explained to me.

She paid it no heed though. She brought her hands in front of her, about 6 inches from each other and crooked her fingers like she was trying to “grab” the air. She then slowly turned her hands in opposite directions. It looked like she was trying to twist something that was in between her hands. But the result was much different. The air around the room seemed to start shimmering slightly and a breeze was created that seemingly came from all directions. Mom was looking everywhere in the room with a surprised expression, her hair moved by the indoor wind. A few seconds later, the breeze lowered in intensity and Eiea lowered her hands.

Maria : What did you do?

Eiea : I twisted the air in the room inwards, away from the wall in a loop. Like this, sounds won’t be able the leave nor enter the room.

Our voices had gained a weird echo, like the room had suddenly the acoustics of a gymnasium. It gave a weird impression, it felt like the air pressure in the room had suddenly intensified. Maybe it actually did. No sounds from outside of the room could be heard. The steps of people in the hallway, the rattle of steel carts delivering food to patients, the hushed voices of talking all died out. Eiea looked at us with a neutral expression.

Veronica : I’m gonna need an explanation, Eiea.

I turned back to find Mom with an annoyed expression. She seemed to have overcome her surprise and became annoyed at being left out of the loop instead. It was my turn to be surprised by her adaptability. Eiea, on the other hand, just made a knowing smile that seemed to say “As expected”.

 

In the following hour, Eiea told my mom everything she had told me yesterday, as well as what happened after she got knocked out. She absorbed it all with impressive ease. My mom having more mental flexibility than me to accept all of this threw me for a loop, to be honest. I couldn’t complain though, it was much better than the alternative.

Veronica : I see. With what I saw I’m forced to believe it. Is it really okay to tell me all this?

Eiea : It's not a problem. I can count on one hand the number of people I trust as much as you.

Mom smiled at Eiea with a somehow different feeling than normal. I couldn’t pinpoint the difference.

Veronica : So, except the fragment thing, sinners are pretty much normal humans, right?

Eiea : Well, some have fragments that directly change their body, but that doesn’t seem to be Maria’s case. There is also… something else that you need to know.

Eiea paused. While she was explaining earlier, her tone and expressions were carefree. Maybe it was because she had already told me, it seemed to be easier for her to share these secrets. But now her face became grave. I guessed it was something she didn’t tell me yet. She was clearly hesitating, or maybe gathering her resolve. She had not done so earlier, was what she was about to tell us so important? Tension returned to my body as I waited and I could feel the same thing in Mom through her hand grasping mine. But we were interrupted. Just as she was about to speak up, her attention was robbed. She glanced to the side, turning her body a little to look at the wall behind her. For some reason, she grew visibly angry. Her fists tightened, her eyes squinted.

Eiea : Someone is about to enter this room. Do not tell him anything that could be construed as unnatural. Stick to the story.

Veronica : Who is it?

Eiea : I’ll tell you later. For now please trust me.

We nodded in unison. She released her closed up fists and a wind blew through the room again. All the sounds from outside that were suppressed returned. Steps could be clearly heard on the other side of the wall and, a few moments later, knocks on the door. Eiea fabricated a smile on her face and answered with a fake merry tone.

Eiea : You can enter!

It was the first time I could appreciate her acting skills and, to be honest, it was unconvincing. Her body language and voice were filled with sarcasm. Hopefully this would go well.

 

The person who entered was a man that looked in his thirties. He was dressed in a proper suit, but his face was rough. He took in the entire room at once, scanning every centimeter like he was expecting someone to have a gun. His attitude made him look like he would be more at home dressed in a large brown overcoat with a wide-brimmed hat than a suite. He approach with a gait that could be called forceful, like he was ready to grab someone by the collar, but quickly nodded at us instead, keeping a distance of about 2 meters from Eiea and the bed.

Suspicious Man : Hello. My name is Chris. I’m here today to ask you three some questions about the incident that happened yesterday.

Eiea : Didn’t the police already interrogate us? I don’t know if they asked Veronica but…

She turned to look at Mom, who shook her head.

Eiea : Doesn’t seem to be the case. Are you with the police? You are not in uniform.

Chris : I am not a policeman, but I work with them.

Eiea : Is that so? Are you some kind of private detective or do you work for another organization?

Chris : You seem to have many questions…

Eiea : It is my right and theirs to know the identity and affiliation of someone before answering any question in an interrogation setting. You work with the police and you don’t know that?

Chris seemed uncomfortable for a while. He was on edge, like he was waiting for a tiger to crash down from the ceiling. He looked around Eiea’s face, but never in her eyes.

Chris : That is true, please excuse my rudeness. I am a private detective employed by the police to help in some cases.

Eiea : I see. What did you want to ask us then?

Chris then asked us many questions. What happened yesterday exactly. What did my mom remember. What did Eiea and I do after the incident happened, etc. We stuck to the same story we had told the police. Mom said she didn’t remember much of what happened. Eiea lied and told him that we were at her house for the night. Chris raised his eyebrows at that one, but seeing her unfaltering face, he didn’t say anything. After a while, he pocketed the notepad he had pulled out a few minutes earlier.

Chris : Thank you for answering all of my questions. I’m sorry for bothering you. Have a lovely day.

He left hurriedly, challenging the speed of my teacher the day before and nearly slamming the door. We heard his footsteps through the wall leaving in the same direction he came and, as soon as we could not hear them anymore, we all heaved a sigh. We were probably as tense as the guy.

Maria : Who was that guy. He looked afraid of something.

Before answering, Eiea did the same thing she did earlier, twisting the air and making the room soundproof.

Eiea : He lied when he said he was a private detective. He is in fact from a witch hunting organization.

Veronica : Witch hunters!? Will Maria be okay!?

Eiea : Yeah, don’t worry. I’ll protect both of you if needed. Even if they are witch hunters, they don’t really have means of identifying sinners in hiding. They need to see them using their fragments to be certain, since we look like normal humans any other way.

We were both relieved to hear that. She then told us that they were an organization operating in the shadows under the United Nations called the UNISPOA, or just SPOA, the United Nations International Society for the Prevention of Occult Activities. I had never heard of such a thing before, but if they were acting in the shadows it's wasn’t surprising. Still, having an organization acting under the UN be against us was an incredibly scary prospect.

Even with Eiea reassuring us it would be fine, I couldn’t help but imagining any number of horrible scenarios. And I didn’t even know what they were capable of yet. Hopefully I would never know. After some more chatting, Eiea released her soundproofing and asked with a truly cheerful tone this time.

Eiea : So, let’s go home!

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