Hero of War (Part 19)

Light assaults the thin skin of my eyelids. The pain, the heat, the dizziness– all of it is gone. Voices pierce through the faded pounding of my heartbeat. The air smells of iron and antiseptic.

I open my eyes to Steven’s face. His brown eyes glisten with concern. He chews on his bottom lip, same as he did every time he studied for an exam during high school and college. His black hair lies splayed across his forehead, glued there by a combination of sweat and dirt. He smiles. The chip in his front tooth is gone.

A hand shoos him away. Another face appears, one with delicate white skin and crystal blue eyes. A golden halo glows above her head, illuminated by light as pale as her complexion.

An angel… My brain tells me because my mouth is incapable of speaking.

My head lifts up on its own, pulled upward by an invisible thread. It turns in one direction then another. My eyes scan the blurry faces milling around the room– walking about, seated somewhere, lying in a bed– searching for the one face I longed to see.

The angel’s hand presses down on my collarbone, pushing my back into the soft confines of the bed.

“Don’t try to move just yet.” A voice says. It was lower and harsher than I thought it would be. “You just got out of an operation and you don’t want to strain your stitches.”

Stitches? Do dead people need stitches?

“You’re lucky your friend brought you in when he did; the septic shock almost killed you.”

The information in my brain mixes and melds into an incomprehensible mess. Words split in half and rearranged, creating golems that run amok inside me.

Unable to process, I ignore the angel’s words and turn to ask Steven where Sophie is.

I open my mouth… But he isn’t Steven. His cheekbones are too sharp in comparison to Steven’s dulled structure. His jaw is far too angled, resembling the edge of an isosceles triangle.

And he has no chip in his front tooth.

Lloyd’s eyes lock with mine, confused yet steady.

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