Elijah was taken off the streets, beaten and violated, then dumped in front of a hospital in the middle of the night.
After returning home, things start to change. His mood swings are violent. His appetite increases and becomes bizarre. His belly begins to swell.
Elijah is pregnant--something unnatural and impossible--and no one can understand why, until Elijah begins to understand the forces at work around him.
The black sedan pulled up to the hospital at full speed. Through the tinted windows, nothing could be seen. The driver slammed on the brakes and, before the car had come to a full stop, a body tumbled out of the back door. Then the vehicle skidded out of the parking lot.
A man in the waiting room saw the pale form fall to the ground and the black car speeding away. He cried for help as he ran outside.
Lying on the ground was a boy. He was stripped bare, wearing only dried blood and bruises. His breathing was rapid. His skin was cold.
The man, Phillip, tore off his jacket and threw it over the boy's body. He couldn't let him stay exposed as the nurses ran to the boy's aid.
"Somebody get a gurney!" one nurse yelled to the others. She dropped to the ground next to the boy and checked his pulse. It was there, slowed and stuttered, but there. Another nurse rushed out with a gurney rolling behind her.
Phillip lifted the pale, lifeless body from the ground and placed it gently on the stretcher. The boy was then rushed into the hospital, Phillip pushed out of the way and forgotten. He walked back through the double doors in time to catch the aftermath of the boy being admitted. The receptionist was calling the police, nurses were rushing around, and doctors were frantically being paged.
In the ER, the boy was being carefully checked out. He was unconscious. The nurses had no way of knowing exactly what happened to him. The dried blood caked on his thighs worried the personnel.
They ran all the necessary tests. He had one cracked rib and a fractured femur. His blood test cleared their fears of STDs. They performed a rape kit and sent it out to a lab.
The next morning, he woke up.
He shot straight up out of bed, heart beating rapidly, making the machine beside him screech. He gasped for air as he ignored the pain shrouding his body. I need...I gotta escape...get away, he thought, looking around but not taking in the room. He regretted moving as soon as he did it. Pain ripped through him, making him freeze in terror. He couldn't let them hurt him again. He just couldn't.
People rushed into his room. The boy began to scream. "Please!" a nurse pleaded. "We just want to help you!"
"Liars!" He whipped his head around, looking for an exit, an escape route.
"No, I promise! We just want to help you get better!" A small woman approached him. The boy flinched away, pulling his legs as close to his chest as he could. This action made him aware of the cast on one of them. He relaxed slightly.
"Where am I?" he asked.
"You're at the hospital. You were dropped here yesterday by some strangers in a car." She took a hesitant step forward, causing the boy to whimper. "My name is Bella."
He took in the room full of unmoving people. They were waiting patiently for him to calm down. Seeing their concerned faces helped him relax. "You're not going to hurt me?" he asked in a small voice.
"Oh, honey, no. Never. We just want to help you, Elijah."
He cocked his head at her. "How do you know my name? Can you call my parents?"
"We already have. They’re on their way.”
“How do you know my name?” he repeated.
The nurse smiled wearily at him. “You were missing for quite a few days. You were all over the news. Nobody has stopped searching for you since you disappeared.”
Elijah pursed his lips but didn’t say anything. A different nurse, a male nurse, checked his vitals then said in a gentle voice, "The police wanted to speak with you. Would you let them?"
The male nurse nodded. "I'll let them know."
Elijah took in his surrounding. He hadn't expected them to leave him alone. He had just gone mad, screaming and thrashing until they calmed him. Even though he had calmed down, he could still be a danger to himself and others.
There were two detectives, both dressed in pressed, black suits, badges pulled out to prove they were who they said. They looked at him with all the pity they could muster, but he could tell that they didn't care to be here.
"Hello," the first one said, stepping forward. He was a little on the plump side, with a thick mustache over his lip and his tie slightly loosened. "I'm Detective Brant."
Elijah nodded and took in the other officer. He was more fit, almost handsome with broad shoulders and an angular face. One his left wrist, Elijah could see a tattoo peeking out from under his pressed shirt sleeve. He couldn't have been much younger than Detective Brant. "I'm Detective Ryans," he said, offering a hand to shake. Elijah flinched and backed away from the offered hand.
Detective Ryans' cheeks turned pink as he realized his mistake. "I'm sorry. I forgot."
"It's fine," Elijah said softly.
Detective Brant rolled his eyes and took a seat before he started speaking. He told Elijah about the situation, how he had probable cause for protection, and how he would be the most important evidence in his case. He made promises of finding his rapist and bringing him to justice. Elijah just nodded appropriately, not really listening. He already knew the truth. They weren't going to catch them, the horrible people who had done this to him.
"Thank you," he said as they stood to leave.
"Someone will return to take your statement later today. We will find them, Elijah. I promise," Detective Brant said.
They left. Bella, the female nurse from earlier, came back in. "Your parents are here. They’ll be in to visit in a few minutes. Do you need anything? Food? Drink? Pain medicine? A bathroom break?"
Elijah shook his head and closed his eyes. He hated the bright, fluorescent light and the sanitized smell of the hospital. He wanted to go home and be lonely. To escape humanity for a little while. That was all he wanted.
His parents showed up shortly after. He was met with his sobbing mother and the concerned face of his father. His mother, Debra, clung to him, creating a tear stain on the shoulder of his hospital gown and his father, Mark, held his hand silently. There was a glassy look in his eyes that showed Elijah how he truly felt.
"When we get home, you're never walking anywhere again. You're going to be put through driving school immediately and we're going to buy you a car. Until then, we'll take you to and pick you up from anywhere you want to go," Debra mumbled into his shoulder. She was reluctant to let her son go. When he'd disappeared just seven days before, she'd felt helpless, guilty, and angry. Thoughts like, "What if they never found him? If I hadn't made him walk home, he'd be with us. How could somebody lay their hands on my child?" were her constant companions throughout the ordeal. Now that her son was back in her arms, she wasn't going to let him get away so easily.
Mark spoke with the doctor. He was given the gist of all that had happened, including theories on what had happened to their son while he was missing. He was devastated. He was told that they could return home within the next two days and would have to return to have the cast removed from Elijah's leg. The doctor recommended seeking therapy for Elijah in due time. Mark thanked the doctor and returned to the room.
The family sat quietly together, oblivious of the dark presence lingering the room. It lingered in the shadows, watching over the boy with the mark. He was the Carrier. He was to be protected.
His parents were pulled out of the room to speak with a doctor again. Albeit, they were extremely reluctant to leave. Elijah didn't mind. He didn't like their nervous hovering. He knew now that his protection would always be on the forefront of their minds. He wouldn't be surprised if he wasn't allowed to return to school.
Elijah was happy to be without their presence for a few sweet moments. He glanced at the tray of food the nurses had brought him over an hour before. It sat there, completely untouched and getting colder by the second. They told him he needed to eat, to regain his strength, but he had no appetite. How could he when every time he closed his eyes, horrifying flashes of everything that had happened to him ran through his mind. He could still see, smell, and taste the blood. He could hear guttural growls and angered moans. His muscles were sore and aching all over again.
And over all, Elijah could still hear the whispers of, "He's the one. The one. The Carrier."
They haunted his every memory. They overshadowed every good thing that had ever happened to him. The words physically struck him with the force of a thousand rounds from a machine gun.
Elijah was so deeply invested in thought that he missed the movement of people around him until a hand grasped his wrist. Panic set in within moments, causing his heart to surge and his breathes to stutter. His skin began to crawl and his muscles twitched.
He didn’t hear his own screams.
The nurses knocked him out again.
When he came to, there was a man sitting next to his bed that was not his father. His mother was dead to the world. His father was gone. Glancing out the window, he saw it was dark. Elijah rubbed his eyes and propped himself up, ignoring the stiffness of his muscles. The man next to him seemed to have dozed off. He didn’t look hurt or like he belonged in the hospital after hours. But he had to if he was there.
Elijah reached out to touch him, gently poking his arm and drawing his hand back quickly. The man jumped back into consciousness, blinking and looking around panickedly. He saw Elijah, staring at him curiously.
“Oh, you’re awake,” the man muttered. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to fall asleep here. I just wanted to check on you.”
Elijah looked on in confusion. The man was very attractive--sharp jaw line, high cheekbones covered in a small amount of stubble, wide eyes rimmed with thick, dark lashes, pale green irises, and a straight nose. He was clothed in plain off-white scrubs, attesting that he did, in fact, belong at the hospital.
“Why are you in here?” Elijah asked, his voice coming out so softly that it took the man a moment to register what he said.
“Sorry. I didn’t introduce myself. I’m Philip Mann.” He stuck out his hand to shake, before he remember the state he first saw the boy in and withdrew it. “I was the one that saw you...being dropped off here.”
“Oh,” was all Elijah said in reply. He didn’t offer his name or thank him. He’d learned where kindness could get you. A lesson that was quick and brutal.
“I, uh, just wanted to check on you. You were in bad shape when you were brought in.” Philip scratched the back of his head awkwardly. "Anyway, I can see now that you are perfectly fine. Well, not perfectly fine but you're not dead or dying, so that's cool. I'm just going to go now."
Philip paused, not quite sitting, not quite standing. "Yes?"
"What if I have questions too?"
"Why are you in here? You don't look like you belong in here."
The skin between Philip's brows puckered in confusion. "Isn't it obvious?" Elijah shook his head. "A man in the hospital, not injured, not hooked up to machines. I'm not here for anyone else. It should be obvious."
"It's not," Elijah murmured.
Philip leaned toward Elijah and whispered, "They think I'm crazy."
"Why would they think that?"
Philip scowled at the wall. "I witnessed a murder that nobody else saw."
"I don't see how that makes you crazy."
"It was in a crowded room."
“When I told the police, they checked the cameras, asked other people that were there, and there was nothing and no one. I was checked in last night because of these hallucinations. But I know what I saw. I know what I saw.”
Elijah cocked his head at the angry man. His lips were pouted, hands gripping the chair arms tightly. “So you were just written off?”
“Kinda, yeah. Technically I wrote myself off, checked myself in because apparently I’m seeing things.”
“Will I be? Written off, I mean.”
Philip studied the boy. “No, you’re too cute, too innocent. They wouldn't let anyone get away with this, even if they find nothing against anyone.”
Elijah didn’t question what he said. He knew what Philip meant. Someone would be put away for this. Even if they hadn’t done it. Even if he didn’t want it to be that way.
“How’d you get to this part of the hospital?” Elijah asked after a couple beats of silence.
“The night nurse fell asleep.”
“Yeah. I just walked right past her. I wouldn’t be surprised if they came looking for me soon, so I should probably go. Don’t want to get caught on my way back.” Philip saluted Elijah and stood up. “Maybe I’ll see you around, Elijah. It was nice meeting you. I’m happy to see you’re as right as can be.” And then he skipped out of the room, as if he had not a care in the world.