With the inured woman hanging off her shoulder, Tam fought up the beach to the house and tried the front door, which was, of course, locked.
"You idiot." The woman's head was hung down, but she managed a weak laugh. "Did you think it would just be open?"
Tam sighed. “Well, where is the key? My back is getting tired.”
"Check the rug..."
Tam looked down to see a welcome mat. It read, "GET LOST" in bold letters.
"Can you stand for a second?" The woman nodded. Tam let her go and lifted the rug, under which was a small brass-colored key. She opened the door and helped the woman into the darkened house. Only the evening gloom, coming in long, broken red streaks through the front door outlined the anteroom. Tam felt around for a light switch, but the soaked woman motioned towards an opening by a flight of stairs. "Never mind. The kitchen is on the left."
Tam took that to mean they were meant to go there and procure the first aid kit. Eerie shadows formed by the kitchen's arched window panes stretched across the tiled floor and over an island in the middle. The woman pointed to a cabinet, head still hung low and her short, dark hair dripping everywhere.
"In there somewhere." She let go Tam's shoulder and hobbled to a wooden dining chair near the island.
Tam searched through the cupboard. It was empty of everything, save what felt like a plastic box; the med kit. She took it down and opened it up on the island's granite counter.
"Have you ever used one of these before?" asked the woman, looking up with stern eyes.
"No. I've never had to.”
"Wonderful. Well, it's time to learn. Do you see something like a small bottle?"
Tam moved some things around and quickly located the only bottle in the kit.
"That's a saline solution."
Tam turned the bottle over in her hand.
“Before we can dress the wounds, they have to be cleaned of blood and sand. Just pour it over the cuts slowly. Be careful not to spill any; there's not much." The woman pointed a gloved finger to her mangled thigh.
"Isn't there a light I can turn on to do this?"
"No. Just hurry."
Tam opened the bottle and began applying the solution. There were three major gashes bleeding out from behind the wetsuit. Whatever attacked her, it tore through the fabric and went fairly deep into her skin, maybe down to the muscle. One running along her left thigh, another snaking up her left arm, and one across her right shoulder. The woman winced as the saline went into the cuts.
Tam's hand jumped, spilling some of the solution to the floor. "Am I doing this right?"
"Yeah. You're doing fine. It's gonna burn going in. Now there should be a small spray can. Do you see it?"
Tam returned to the kit and found the spray. "Got it."
"Ok. Now spray that over the wounds."
She turned to do so when something caught her attention out the window. A rainstorm had started up rather suddenly and a thunderbolt flashed, lighting up the falling water. Tam thought she might have seen something else moving in the downpour; a vaguely alarming figure, formed of rain and shadow, hobbling up from the ocean, but she tried to focus on the task at hand and not think of her encounter in Chicago. The spray on all three wounds, she was ready at the kit.
"You're doing good, kid." It sounded odd, the way the woman said 'kid'. She didn't look much older than Tam. Five years at the most. She'd place her at 25 or 26 to her 21. It didn't matter. "Now, we have to close the wounds," she continued.
Tam was afraid of that. Anything more invasive then applying the medicines was sure to prove disastrous. She felt her palms starting to sweat, and she couldn't keep her eyes off the window. The rain was heavier now and thrashed against the glass. The beach became completely obscured behind the storm. A thunderbolt shook the whole house and lit up the kitchen.
"There will be a needle and thread in there.” Her trance was broken by the woman's voice. “That's the only true way to suture this, but I'm not gonna make you do that. Look instead for a pack of butterfly closure strips. We can use those in their place until I'm recovered enough to finish myself.”
"Ok." Tam breathed a sigh of relief, but as she moved the contents of the kit around, she couldn't find anything like that. "What do they look like?" Her voice was weak and shaky.
"Like a first aid bandage, except with a narrow part in the middle."
She looked everything over, but there was nothing similar to her description. "They're not here!"
"Crap." The woman glanced at the window herself and stared into the rain intently as another thunderclap rolled. "I was afraid of that. Alright. You're going to have to use the other method, after all. Please, tell me you can sew."
Tam nodded quickly.
"Good. Sewing skin isn't that different than sewing fabric. These are long wounds. You're going to use a simple running suture on them. There's two tools in the kit: a fine-toothed forcep and a needle holder."
Tam was starting to panic. "Got them!" She took the two surgical tools in each hand and looked back towards the woman expectantly.
"Calm down. You're doing fine." The woman's voice was amazingly smooth, soothingly so, despite her injuries. Clearly, she was taking the situation better. Tam tried to just focus on her words.
"The needle should come already threaded. The most serious wound is the one on my leg. We'll start with that. The rest I can live through."
"Are we in a hurry?" asked Tam, kneeling down with the materials in hand.
"Maybe. Don't worry about that right now. Grasp the edge of the wound with the forcep and pull it up."
Tam felt queezy as she raised the cut flap of skin, revealing a dark red underneath. Blood trail of blood gushed out, pooling crimson between the tiles. The woman grimaced.
"Now take the needle with the holder and push it through the skin. Don't be gentle. It will take some force."
Tam started puncturing the needle through, then lost her nerve as it pierced the upper skin.
"Can't you do this?"
"I don't have a proper angle, and I can barely sit up. Keep going."
Pushing the needle all the way through this time, it came out the other end.
"Do you think you can handle it from here? I'm starting to pass out." The woman was talking faster now as the pain grew worse.
"No! Don't pass out on me!" Tam looked up to see the woman's eyes fluttering, just on the verge of closing completely. This was bad. She started working quicker, tying off the bites and looping the thread around over and over, till it ran the full length of the gash. She glanced back up. "How do I finish it?" The woman was already gone.
Another flash came from the window. Tam saw it now. A figure was there in the rain. It stood like a statue as the storm pounded against it. But this was no phantom. A defined head sat atop two broad shoulders. It was a man.
"There's someone out there! Do you know him? Please, wake up!” Shaking the unconscious woman did nothing, except draw get the stranger's attention. He lumbered towards the window.
Tam went back to the suturing. Another few loops and she would be done. The wound began closing up. FLASH! BAM! A bolt might have hit the house, because the hair on her neck shot erect as she was blinded by a white flash. She dropped the forcep as a human-shaped shadow was cast over the room.
“NO!” Tam's eyes shot to the window. He was peering right at them, hands drawn to the glass. Long, wet hair covered an impossibly pale face, like he'd been underwater for too long and was now wrinkled and bloated. Two dead eyes sat deep in their sockets and his expression was filled with hatred. The man snarled, exposing a mouth full of jagged, inhuman teeth. Over its tall frame it wore a blue trench coat, soaked and in tatters. Tam tugged the woman's arm.
"Don't...move..." the woman whispered.
They were both frozen in place, but the man refused to look away. He dragged a bony hand down the glass, making a squeaking sound. The act wasn't fooling him, that much was horrifyingly obvious. Tam retrieved the forcep and tied the suture off best she could at the end. It wasn't perfect, but close enough.
"Where is that sword of yours?" The woman's words hung like daggers in the air. Where was it? Had she left it outside? No. The anteroom. She'd dropped her bag in there.
"In the other room! I'll go-" The woman slouched over and fell into Tam's arms. The creature at the window suddenly sprang to life. He groaned, balled up his fists, and smashed his hands through the glass, sending shards everywhere.