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Awakening Chapter 16: Panic

by Otterpop


Blake burst through the doors of the church, and froze in place.

No one stood, and nearly half the patrons he noticed moments ago had already collapsed, with little pools of dark liquid spread around the floor. He so rarely saw blood, but something about what he saw didn't look normal. Some of it almost carried this eerily grim black hue, as if it was impossible for a human to have spewed up. He could already smell the horrid stench wafting into the air, and Blake covered his mouth and nose to avoid any vomiting compulsions. Did that man somehow do this to the townspeople? His people?

I have to help them! That single thought forced him to swallow, and muster every bit of strength as he rushed forward. So many people were convulsing or appeared disoriented that there was no way any of them were in a stable state of mind. He felt sick to his stomach approaching this awful blood and the sick patrons but he pressed forward. Blake dropped to his knees and began feeling around the pants pockets of a now-unconscious man; he thought it looked like the runner he'd encountered some nights ago. But that didn't matter right now.

As soon as he felt something, Blake pulled out a wallet. Useless. He fished the man's pockets again, and opened up the flip phone soon as he found it. Three buttons later he brought the device up to his ear.

A busy tone rang, and Blake grumbled in annoyance, frustration...and this unshakeable fear. This was no time for the line to be busy.

"Come on, come on..." He could feel the panic rise in his chest with every passing second of the same tune on the other end of the line. An unease sunk in, and he was sure his irregular breathing caused slight dizziness, and a painful knot had settled in his stomach.

A loud hacking caught his attention. Once Blake spun around, he watched a middle-aged woman hold her chest with a tight grip as she coughed and spat on the floor beneath her. And what she heaved was...a blackish-red liquid. It was a horrible color of blood that should not exist; something about it looked all manners of wrong. The woman convulsed horribly a couple more times, then fell back on one of the benches before coughing some more.

This isn't happening. This isn't real. The panic seized him even more. Why won't somebody pick up? Oh God, they're going to die right in front of me and all I can do is stand here and wait. They can't even tell that I'm here. I can't...I can't reassure them. Or me-

"9-1-1, what is your emergency?"

He almost did not register the words from the operator, but he did not miss the worry in the individual's voice. No, forget that; these people needed his help first and foremost. "Y-yes," he stuttered, pausing to swallow and compose himself. "I'm at the Hill Church, o-on Braxton. A bunch of people started coughing blood, but...it's not blood...please, they need medical help now."

"Okay, just keep calm." Was that suggestion intended for Blake, or the operator himself? He could not tell at the moment. "All three ambulances are busy at the moment, but I will inform them that-"

"Hurry!" Blake shouted. "There's a dozen people that are really sick, and they need ambulances, now!"

"I am aware of that, we all are," said the man in a cool tone. "What's your name, young man?"

Blake could barely make a sound in the seconds that followed. A part of him forget his own name, but the other part was too driven by panic to respond. How could he explain his presence here? Even if it wasn't too far from where he lived, he dreaded anyone asking why he had left his home without an adult looking after him. Maybe once ambulances arrived, he might be quarantined, but he was the only one who knew about that stranger and his dark powers...

He didn't think twice when he ended the call with a single button click.

Damnit, why did I do that? This entire day had gone all wrong. The Shadows, the sickness that suddenly spread in the church, the man and his strange words about him being "marked" whatever that meant-

Wait a minute. That wasn't the only thing that man said.

I'll have a predecessor who knows... He could not wait any longer. The scythe, the Shadows, and now the stranger's words. He had to talk to his mother, now. Alisha had to know something about what was going on.

He used the phone to find a number online, and dialed it. Like before, a busy ringtone emitted from the other end of the line. Blake groaned and paced for what felt like hours, not wanting to do this yet again. He waited, and waited, longer than the first phone call. He could only pace around the sickly group, feeling a churning in his stomach but helpless to actually do anything useful that could relieve these people of their suffering. The busy tone continued for ten seconds, then twenty more seconds. 

How long has it been now? I can't keep waiting, this won't help anybody! Every passing second felt like a season for him. His senses would no longer process any sounds or sights happening around him, and he felt at a complete loss as he did nothing but stand...

"Heights Hospital, do you have an emergency?"

Blake's vision focused up at the church benches and he halted in his tracks, forgetting he was pacing at all but not caring. He got through! Though, for a moment his mind drew a blank, and his mind screamed at him until he remembered.

"Hi, yeah, um...I-I want to know if, um, Alisha Douglas? Is she still in the hospital?"

"I'm sorry, there are a lot of patients right now." Her voice almost sounded a bit muffled as she spoke. "I cannot check on every one individually at the moment because of overcrowding-"

"Please, she's my mother!" he blurted out, his voice beginning to choke. "I haven't been able to find out about her for a week and I'm the only one at home and I don't know what I'm supposed to do! Please..."

No response. But he had never felt more desperate in his life as he begged for knowledge on his mother's condition. The truly overwhelming nature of this entire situation had finally dawned on him: he was barely a teenager, how was he supposed to handle any of it? And suddenly without his mother and without his friends...he felt so powerless and utterly confused.

"Alisha Douglas..."

Blake's heart skipped a beat, shocked upon hearing the start of a response.

"...that name does sound familiar. Can you give me a moment to check?"

"Yeah, yeah..." Not the answer he wanted, but something was better than nothing right now. The other end of the line fell silent; he was glad that music did not play in the meantime. He did not know exactly what she did to check for information, nor did he have a guess as to how long it would take. Even so, every few seconds of silence felt like torture for him as the unease pushed on his chest.

"Okay, here's her file." Blake pricked up and listened intently now as she continued. "She's not displayed the same symptoms as everyone else that's quarantined in the hospital, but her extensive medical history is worrying. It's probably why she's been cordoned off from other patients for a while."

"Yeah, she....she's been weak and sick for a long time. But, still able." His hands twitched and his pacing intensified.

"She's also been in and out of consciousness since her arrival. I'm sorry I didn't recognize her name initially. She's come in over the years for dehydration, low blood pressure, fainting spells. But...do you know if this near-comatose state is new? I'm sorry to be blunt, but it's important."

Blake had no idea how to respond. Usually, whenever his mother had her episodes, they occurred at work, when he was at school, in the middle of the night. More often than not he wouldn't find out about it until afterwards. Suddenly, he could not remember the last time he actually watched her faint or fall

Has she been able to avoid doing it around me after all this time?"Are you still there?"

Her voice brought him out of his trance, and once he processed her question, he stuttered as he tried coming up with an answer. "Y-yeah, I..." Come on, focus! "I...I don't know anything about it being this s-serious. She'd get dizzy and lose energy and lay down. But never that bad for long periods of time."

"I understand. She is being monitored at least, and her vitals haven't dropped...I'm sorry, that's all I can find out at the moment."

"Y-you said she's slipping in and out? Is she awake now?" His heart pounded while he asked the question.

"That I don't know. She's housed three floors above me so I couldn't tell you for sure."

"Is it, is it possible for me to see her?"

"I'm sorry, I don't know. If you were decontaminated and wore protection...the hospital isn't letting many people in right now, we're very overcrowded as is."

Blake's heart all but sank. He just wanted a moment with his mother. He felt completely and utterly lost. Even if he was only given a minute to speak with her or stay at her bedside, it's all he would need. He would do anything at this point. She's not sick like the others. She won't die. She can't die. I won't let that happen.

"Anyways, that's all I can tell you for now. I have to get back to other patients-"

"Wait!" Blake's own train of thought made him remember. "Can you maybe check one more name for me? If you have a moment?"

"Possibly. What is it?"

"June. June Cordon."

The pause following his response did not last long, for soon after the woman replied. "Actually, I do know that name."

She spoke so quietly, and with such a solemn tone behind her words. Blake's insides twisted around, and remained frozen in place after a couple of seconds. "What?" he finally croaked, barely able to push the word out of his throat.

"She didn't come up with symptoms...but she did start developing them only hours ago. Her condition has declined since."

His blood turned to ice, and every heartbeat that went by creating another heavy pang in his chest. His knees felt weak, and he thought he might just collapse onto the ground right then and there.

"She's not critical last I checked, fifteen, maybe twenty minutes ago? We are certainly hoping and praying for that young lady, like the rest of the patients here."

Blake couldn't even respond. The woman only said the honest and brutal truth, while simultaneously lifting his spirits the best she could. But she did not know what he knew, could not see what he had seen.

And that terrified him.

"I'm sorry, that's all I can say for now. I have a lot of patients so I...yes, I had to take a quick call......"

He did not listen to her any further, and suddenly the line was cut off. Blake stared at the church carpet, his arm slowly lowered until it hit his side, and the phone dropped to the floor with a brief crack. He couldn't move, he couldn't think, he couldn't do anything. His lips quivered and the tips of his fingers twitched; he ignored the strange sensation creeping up his spine and his mind lost all focus.

A soft hiss echoed through the eerie church corridor.

The sound was unexpected but not startling, and it did pull him back to reality if only for a moment. Slowly, Blake lifted his chin and turned his head. A shadowy creature peeked through the open church doors and gazed right at him. For the first time that day, that week even, Blake retained full control of his body with sharp intake of air, and the purposeful tensing of every single muscle in his body.

That strange man from earlier was somehow responsible for the blight overtaking his town, and the Shadows were linked to him in some way. The man's appearance had followed not long after these dark creatures first showed up in his hometown. All of it connected together, and he was determined to find out how. That single thought allowed him to take the first step towards the exit, right towards the creature.

The Shadow fled as soon as Blake moved, and the creature disappeared by the time he made it to the doors and breathed in a faint but sickly sweet smell in a gentle wind. He scanned every inch of the church's front lawn, the sidewalk, and the neighborhood beyond on the other side of the street. He would not let anyone or anything stop him from reaching his destination; he cared not that he would have to make the entire trek on foot.

A strange glint in his eye caught his attention, and he squinted. In the distance, by some trees at the edge of the neighborhood and make two blocks away, some Shadows gathered together in a black and almost formless clump. Something else stood up amidst the fray of gaseous darkness however. The source of what drew his attention: the faint gleam of a curved blade.

There was little hesitation on his part when he made the precision to bolt right for the group of monsters. They all noticed his approach and frantically tried to pull and carry the scythe away. But their small forms could somehow not handle the weight of the weapon, and could not carry it far before every one of them scrambled away when he got too close. A moment later Blake reached out, and pulled the scythe around with a confident swing. The Shadows continued to flee, but right now he did not care. His next destination was his top priority, he could no longer second-guess on that. Instinct drove his senses and and desires, and without another thought Blake began running.

With the scythe clutched in one hand he held behind himself, Blake tore down the sidewalks and headed straight for the hospital, aware of the call of sirens in the distance.


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Sun Jun 05, 2022 2:19 am
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Spearmint wrote a review...



Hi, mint here with another review! ^-^ There were a lot of things I liked about this chapter, from the descriptions to the phone call. The dialogue was especially well written, and it was realistic how the person at the hospital could only talk to Blake for a short amount of time. I also appreciated the story development– Blake has motivation and a clear goal now (to save his mom/June/the community), and I guess we’ll see where that takes him! :D

An unease sunk in, and he was sure the dizziness that his irregular breathing caused his slight dizziness, and a painful knot had also settled in his stomach.

This sentence didn’t quite make sense to me. Did you mean "...and he was sure his irregular breathing was causing his slight dizziness, and a painful knot…" or something like that? Or you could also rephrase this to “An unease sank in, along with a slight dizziness (most likely from his irregular breathing) and a painful knot in his stomach.” Just some thoughts!

A loud hacking caught his attention…

The description of the woman in this section was really good– I could visualize the scene, and I felt genuinely worried for her.

Though, for a moment his mind drew a blank and he forgot why he'd called in the first place.

This seems a little inconsistent with the next sentence, where Blake asks about his mother. Maybe you could add something about how he remembered in the next instant, or just remove this detail?

A moment later Blake reached out, and pulled the scythe around with a confident swing.

Yay, Blake got his weapon back! :] I am a bit concerned about the spirit, though– what happened to her? Did she leave the scythe on purpose, or was she attacked and forced to drop it?

Overall, this was an interesting chapter, and I’m looking forward to reading what happens next! Keep writing, and have a wonderful day/night! =D




Otterpop says...


Thanks for pointing out some things! I will be sure to look it over again and make some minor changes. Hope you enjoy the rest!



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Mon May 02, 2022 1:42 pm
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MailicedeNamedy wrote a review...



Hi Otterpop,

Mailice here with a short review! :D

An interesting change of tone in this part, which somehow feels quite familiar and yet unfamiliar to me. At least for me, this chapter was a good point to briefly talk about Blake and how he behaves. There are now so many situations that have built up over the last few chapters that have led to Blake now being on the verge of some kind of breakdown.

I really like that after the few "adventures" and moments where he has struggled and mediated, it continues to show that he is a teenager and completely overwhelmed with all the current situations. You portrayed that well, especially when he was on the phone.

It was a good interplay between "I have to go through this now" and "I don't know what to do next". I especially liked that change of his thoughts when he entered the church and had to decide to go on or stop. At the same time as his call to the emergency centre, it showed that he did not yet know what would happen next and what he could do. (Who knows in such a situation).

However, I found it a pity that we saw very little of his thoughts, and I think that you could sometimes insert his thought processes a bit more. Especially because you already have such a calm and good writing style, which leads to not rushing even the most exciting moments, I think that these short thoughts also contribute to understanding and interpreting Blake a bit better. This was much easier and more frequent in the beginning, but now I feel we don't get enough of it.

I thought at the beginning you were trying to describe his character and development by making him more "opaque", but I don't think that was your intention.

Another thing that struck me was how little we learnt about the scythe at the beginning, even though you used it in the last chapter to bring out the end. I thought in part that I had skipped a chapter. The transition to the people inside and the blood is understandable and so is the "loss" of the previous thought, but I think a short comment on that could be helpful. :)

In summary, it was an exciting chapter where we saw Blake again in a wide emotional and character arc.

Have fun writing!

Mailice




Otterpop says...


Thanks a ton for the review! You and Liminality and Spearmint have been instrumental in helping me improve this story!

You mentioned fewer thought processes from him, and I think I have to agree. This late in the story with all this happening, I really should include his thoughts more often, and I will look again at later chapters at some point and try to rectify this a little as it absolutely is very important this late in the game. So yeah, thanks again!



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Sat Apr 23, 2022 3:02 am
Liminality wrote a review...



Hi Otterpop!
Wow, this chapter was really something. I’d been hoping for a high-pressure scene as the payoff to all of the previous build-up and the events of last chapter, and this chapter was definitely it. Some of the details were a little puzzling for me, but I’ll get into that later in the review. I think Blake’s thought process in this chapter shows one of his character traits, which is that he thinks he should be able to control or change things that happen? First, he takes responsibility over the townspeople getting sick, whom he refers to as “his” people. Then, he sort of talks to himself as though there’s something he can do to stop his mother from dying. I wonder if that’ll turn out to be a strength for him, or a flaw?

Introduction

I like this opening line a lot better than the one in the previous chapter. It’s very fitting for this chapter, in my opinion, because this is a one where a lot of sudden and shocking discoveries are made.

I have a couple of comments on the description of the disease. I’m guessing the main purpose of it is to 1. Create horror and show what’s at stake 2. Suggest a supernatural cause. At times Blake’s description of it is a bit hard for me to follow? And it’s a bit hard for me to suspend my disbelief at points.

No one stood, and nearly half the patrons he noticed moments ago had already collapsed in little pools of blood. But the red did not look normal. Some of it almost seemed a little blackened.

Collapsed ‘in’ makes it sound like the pool of blood was big enough for them to ‘fall in’ to. Also I think blood is often a little dark or blackened when it comes out of the body? Unless it’s very fresh blood, like right from an artery. I might be wrong from this though, haha I don’t study the human body.
So many people convulsed or appeared disoriented that there was no way any of them were in a stable state of mind.

I think I said something similar in the last chapter, but writing ‘was convulsing’ instead of convulsed would help convey that the people are still shaking uncontrollably when Blake looks at them, if that’s what you’re going for.
And what she heaved was...a blackish-red liquid, a horrible color of blood that should not exist.

Is this like a Lovecraftian description? Like a colour that human beings shouldn’t be able to comprehend? I’d imagine something like that might make the situation seem all the more supernatural, but otherwise, I’m guessing Blake means something else by saying it “should not exist”. (Because like I said earlier, blood tends to darken in colour once it’s out of the body because of the lack of oxygen being pumped into it. I'm thinking blood that comes from the veins, rather than the arteries, and if it's arterial blood then, yikes, those poor people are probably bleeding out. So unless Blake really doesn’t see blood at all in his life, which I don’t think is the case, a colour of blood that’s close to black shouldn’t be that unusual to him, methinks?)

Besides this, I think if you’re looking to cut out some words when revising, a lot of the time adverbials might be good to remove. Things like ‘immediately’, ‘in seconds’, etc. For example:
He reached for another of the man's pockets, and located a flip phone in seconds.

I could tell this was all happening very quickly based on the context and the verbs alone. So I think your sentence here would be just fine without the ‘in seconds’.

The Call(s)

I like Blake’s ending the 9-1-1 call a little recklessly/abruptly. You do a good job of showing his panic there. I found it quite realistic.

The conversation with the hospital receptionist (?) felt a little odd, especially since he was in the middle of all these ailing people. From what I understand, Blake’s objective is to call his mother -> find out what the stranger meant about ‘predecessors’, etc. -> fix the problem/ stop the stranger -> so the diseases and curses stop. So the action itself makes sense, but somehow having him be in the same setting (inside the church with all those people he was trying to call an ambulance for earlier) when his plans have changed feels a bit awkward to imagine? Could just be me though.
"Yeah, she....she's been weak and sick for a long time. But, still able." He allowed some confusion into his tone when he responded.

‘allowed’ seems a bit of an odd word choice here. Is he sounding confused intentionally and thus allowing the confusion, or is it more like the confusion is leaking into his tone? Or is it that he is allowing his emotions to creep into his voice where before he was holding back a little?

The hospital staff saying June’s name is super devastating. I really like how you portrayed Blake’s emotions in that scene, it got to me.
He did not listen to her any further, and seconds later the line was cut off. Blake stared at the church carpet, his arm slowly lowered until it hit his side, and the phone dropped to the floor with a brief crack. He couldn't move, he couldn't think, he couldn't do anything. His lips quivered and the tips of his fingers twitched; he ignored the strange sensation creeping up his spine and his mind lost all focus.

This paragraph is just so good. The ‘crack’ onomatopoeia really works. It’s one of those rare moments where onomatopoeia enhances the drama and emotion of a scene. The long sentence from “Blake . . . crack” also works very well, this is a point where the scene should be dragged out to show how things are slowly sinking in.

The Shadows

I like this scene as the end to the chapter as well. The pacing feels just nice. It doesn’t feel like Blake recovers too quickly, but more like fear is driving him to take action rather than paralysing him. The mood and atmosphere here is very grim but focused. As with the other parts, I just have some comments and nitpicks about style.

Hsssss............

I feel like unlike in the previous paragraph, the onomatopoeia here isn’t so necessary. And it kind of draws attention away from the previous impactful beat. I think a sentence like ‘There was a hiss.’ In one line by itself would carry the same info just as well.

He would not let anyone or anything stop him from reaching his destination; he cared not that he would have to make the entire trek on foot.
. .
A ten-minute drive to the hospital would take longer on foot, but he didn't care.

I think this is another moment where an idea is restated more than it needs to be. Might be good to just keep one of these in your revisions. If you asked me, I’d prefer the first one over the second. There’s something very casual/ normal about the phrase “ten-minute drive” that doesn’t seem to fit the tone of this part.

That being said, I love the content of this scene. The silent action of Blake retrieving the scythe is a very epic moment. I think it marks a high point in his character arc as well, that now he’s being forced to fight for the people he loves, he’s putting aside a lot of that anxiety and hesitation to pursue a solution.

Overall

Out of the ones I’ve read so far, I’d say this is a stand-out chapter for me. It shows a desperate situation and a desperate character working his way out of it. I think the main points of feedback I have would be 1. Very sparing use of onomatopoeia is effective, but needs some breathing space around it to make it pop, 2. The blood cough descriptions and why they’re supposed to be horrifying are a bit unclear – is it because it shows the people are VERY sick, or because it’s VERY unnatural? (And I don’t know, maybe I’ve just seen a lot of dark shades of blood so blood being close to black just makes sense to me, or my idea of ‘black’ is a little lighter than intended here), 3. Changing the location when the intention/ goal changes might be a good way to improve the scene’s flow.

Hope you found some of this helpful, and keep writing!
-Lim




Otterpop says...


Thanks so much Lim! Your feedback was most definitely helpful and I definitely do have some changes to make.

I will add real quick regarding the comments you made about the blood (spoiler if this gets a smidge too graphic), but I can certainly understand where you're coming from. Fresh blood from arteries is a very bright and crimson red, as most people see it despite it being deoxygenated by that point. Bloody vomit can be a different story however, due to the presence of blood in the gastrointestinal system. It can range from a darker red to a brownish color depending on the contents of the stomach; blood that is expirated (from the respiratory system) vs vomited (from the gastrointestinal system) look very different both in color and in the patterns they create.
But to clarify the color of the blood here is darker than it should be even for blood coming from the stomach, since there is a more supernatural involvement here, but I should probably clarify that or at least make it less confusing.

And the reason I know all of this is because I have a bachelor's in forensic science and studied anatomy for a semester, bloodstains for a semester, crime scene investigation for a year, and more, so I'm well-versed in this subject, but I suppose I could have made some details a bit clearer on that front. Sorry to be a bit more graphic but hopefully it helps you understand a bit better!

Thanks again either way for the feedback!!



Liminality says...


Ah, I see! That totally makes sense. Thanks for the explanation, I didn't quite think of it as being 'blood from the gastrointestinal system'. I was just going off of what little I remember from high school biology class. ^^' I think more description on the supernatural aspect of the blood would be nice and help to establish how the reader is meant to relate to that scene.

Happy writing!



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Sun Feb 27, 2022 12:30 pm
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SalisRuinen wrote a review...



Hey! Salis here with a review!

You chose a very fitting name for this chapter because that's exactly what I felt while reading it: panic! Blake has gone through a lot lately but now things seem to have got harder than ever.

The description of all that he felt when seeing the people in the church and the condition those people were in ... truly unnerving. The line being busy when calling 911 is something completely normal but in this case it felt like the most horrible thing to wait for someone to pick up. And the way Blake behaved was completely normal, given that he's dealing with something no teenager should have to face.

If it was just the situation in the church, it wouldn't have been that bad, but all the mysteries around him, to the solving of which he doesn't have a clue, just made things worse. And after all the stress he had to go through, it seems like he didn't get much closer to the truth. Not just terrified but frustrated now, too. I hope that will change soon.

The one positive thing that happened in this chapter was Blake getting his scythe back. At least he can better defend himself now. All that's left is to get to the hospital as fast as possible but what he'll find there will be ...?!

Thanks for the great chapter and keep on writing!




Otterpop says...


And thanks for the feedback! Hope you keep on reading it too!




You flare, you flicker, you fade... And in the end, all your tomorrows become yesterdays.
— Megatron (Lost Light, by Roberts, Lawrence, Lafuente)