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Awakening Chapter 17: Rush

by Otterpop


The outskirts of downtown Jordan Heights were practically barren. Blake spotted two people around the sidewalks of some shops, but they disappeared before he could get very close. The townspeople had become exceptionally cautious it appeared, or were already sick somehow. Or, they were fearful for themselves or their friends and family.

Despite his determination and knowing where he was headed, his mind was still a wreck. He nearly fell face first on the ground had his legs not caught up to him, and the scythe about slipped out of his grasp multiple times while running....even if he almost lost his balance because of the weight when turning a corner.

He did not know exactly, but Blake was sure the hospital had to be less than five minutes away by now. He didn't know what would happen once he reached his destination, but he was desperate. All the while the strange man's ominous words kept replaying in his head as he ran.

You can see them also...Who in your lineage was marked by darkness?...You have a predecessor who will know...whatever reason he protects this town, we will destroy it...I will start with them, and those already bound by affliction will be next.

He had far more questions than answers. And whatever happened in the church, whatever that man did, was a horrifying memory that made his stomach twist and churn. He tried to shake the images out of his mind, but it only kept replaying, over and over again.

His throat tightened. No, he told himself. No, don't get sick now...

Blake turned one more corner, and observed the top of the hospital building just a few blocks away. He dare not breath with relief; his heart still pounded with panic and fear.

He was running at top speed when making his way across the parking lot. But the small crowd of people gathered near the entrance made him skid to a halt. He gasped for air only a little as he stopped, but his lungs adjusted before long. He kept the scythe behind his back and carefully stepped towards the group. While a few briefly glanced his way, none made any comments or question towards him.

"We are limited with letting people in, we're overcrowded as is!"

"Sir, you've already seen your wife twice this week, we don't want you getting sick!"

Blake propped himself on his tiptoes and looked around. More than a dozen people tried getting into the hospital, and only two staff attempted to prevent that. Some of the townsfolk wore some kind of face mask, others didn't. While glancing at the crowd Blake suddenly dropped down as he saw a familiar gruff-looking face. June's father. I can't let him see me...

A breeze picked up as the cloud cover above intensified. Realizing what he wore, Blake pulled the hoodie over his head so his face could not be easily seen by his neighbor.

June's father stood on the other side of the crowd, and the hospital staff member closest to Blake, a woman with two face masks on it looked like, was merely trying to keep the crowd back. He took his chance and crept towards the front of the crowd, coming in from the side so he did not have to wind around people all weird with his scythe still clutched. As soon as his gaze locked with hers, he spoke.

"I...I was hoping...to see my mother?"

The woman had a glazed look in her eyes. She did not appear sick otherwise, but exhaustion certainly floated around in their hazel depths.

"You could be at higher risk due to your age," she finally said, her tone full of such disheartened regret. "If you had another parent who could-"

"I don't have another parent," Blake quickly interrupted, feeling his chest tighten and his voice falter. "It's just me and my mom. But I'm not sick, and neither is she! She's just weak and tired and separated from everyone else because she's not sick! Please, I have to see her!"

The woman merely stared at him for another moment, but then her eyes slowly widened. She eyed the ground, and set her sights back on his face. Then strangely, she knelt down to him a little.

"You mean Alisha? You're the one who called?"

Blake was astonished he was face to face with the woman he'd initially contacted from the hospital. He figured she was just a nurse or receptionist, not out here on the front lines. But he had to set that aside and nodded his head to respond to her. "Yeah. My name's Blake. Blake Douglas."

The staffwoman turned her head a moment, stared at the ground again, and then a glint of determination revealed itself in her eyes. In a low voice she said, "Head to the side of the building. Be discrete. I'll meet you at that door in a few minutes, and we'll get you decontaminated. Okay?" Her eyes darted towards Blake's right in a brief flash before she stood up again and backed up.

The astonishment remained on Blake's face still. Why would she choose to secretly help him? Everyone else was just as desperate as he was, and they didn't even know what he knew. But if he was being given a chance, he could not pass it up, nor did he want to question it right now. He very slowly backed away after giving the woman a subtle nod. She spoke to the other staffperson in a hushed voice, while Blake continued stepping away from the crowd and ensuring no one paid attention. With care, he began making his way towards the side of the hospital the lady had indicated. Before he casually disappeared around the corner, Blake looked and noticed only one staff member stood in front of the hospital doors now.

The side of the building was quieter, almost desolate, with only a few doors along its wall. Blake attempted to pull on the handle of the door closest to him but it would not budge. And so he waited. The hand holding the scythe shook a little, though after a couple of long breaths of air his hand did manage to relax somewhat.

Some seconds later, a click and a squeak caught Blake's attention as the door opened wide, revealing the woman from the entrance. With her hands she ushered him inside, and in the most careful way possible Blake entered and ensured the scythe did not collide with the doorway in any fashion. The door closed, and she locked it behind them.

"All right," she finally said. "If you want to see your mother follow all my instructions for preventative procedures, understood?"

Blake nodded tersely as she rattled off instructions on cleanliness and limitations, or something like that. He barely found a brief moment to lean the scythe up against a nearby sink before he washed his hands for over a minute, let the woman take his temperature, and answer a series of questions related to symptoms and visiting procedures. Afterwards she gave him a face mask, a surgical cap, shoe covers, and a blue gown just a bit too big for him. The moment she looked away to do something, Blake reached over and grabbed the scythe. She'd said nothing unordinary, but that did not stop him from holding his breath.

"Follow me."

That single command sent his heart racing. Blake followed the woman down the hospital hallway and soon as they reached some kind of lobby, he observed a throng of people that crowded the walls and floors. Some were nurses or residents, but most looked to be ordinary citizens and patients. Many appeared sick, some appeared worse than others: pale faces, hobbled figures, and the smells of vomit and blood were uncomfortable but bearable. With difficulty he stuck right behind the woman as she led them toward a staircase.

"The first floor is primarily for the lobby, incoming patients, and surgeries," she explained as they climbed a flight of stairs, exiting through the second floor entranceway. "Your mother is being held on this floor, sequestered from the serious cases."

Even so this floor was also a mess. Men, women, adults, children, seniors, so many people were strewn about on beds and in rooms; some were even slumped at the floors. Some had masks but most coughed or talked with staff. Confusion and fear permeated the very air, and Blake kept his chin down, not wanting to look at anyone to keep his own emotions in check. No one paid him any mind it seemed, but his chest remained tight the entire walkway.

No wonder they don't want anyone in here, he realized in a horrified disbelief. I wish I wasn't seeing this.

"Here."

Broken out of his slight trance, Blake let the woman lead him to a closed off room that was completely silent as soon as they entered. A figure lay in a hospital bed, unmoving, with tubes in both their mouth and nostrils. A nearby heart monitor chirped, slowly, every beat leaving another pang in his chest. She'd always been tired, weak, sickly...but Blake had never seen his mother in this state.

The staffwoman reached for the clipboard attached to the end of the hospital bed and looked it over as Blake trudged towards the head of the cot. "She was last conscious about two days ago, but even then it wasn't for long. Her oxygen intake was lower than normal, and the hospital has been giving her small amounts..."

His ears shut off completely after that. When he finally made it to the side of the bed, all he could do was stare. She lay very still except for the slight rise and fall of her chest, and the thinness of her face was very apparent and startling. Was this change in appearance recent...or had she always looked like this? Thin, pale, so devoid of emotion; fear crept up his spine once he concluded that he did not actually know the answer. His arms fell towards his sides, and a strange sense of both limpness and stiffness overcame his entire body. He barely heard the gentle clang as the tip of the scythe's blade tapped the floor.

"...you alone for the time being; I want to check on other patients."

Blake barely caught those words and in his periphery noticed the woman leaving the room and closing the sliding door behind her. Soon the room fell deathly quiet, save for some muffled murmurs and machines tuning away outside. Blake silently ordered himself to stop shaking numerous times; he finally acted on it by leaning the scythe against a nearby wall, with the blade portion on the bottom. He shakily pulled at a nearby chair and sat down as close to the bed as he could get. His chin could lay on the pastel green bed sheets, but he couldn't even reach out for her hand, too stunned by everything to move a muscle.

This silent moment with his unconscious mother finally sent the emotions spinning in a chaotic vortex within his mind. His lips quivered, a pain tightened his chest, and his voice wavered as he quietly released his thoughts out.

"Mom...please. I'm so sorry I didn't say anything, and now I can't..." He took in a few breaths of air in hopes of calming himself, but to no avail. "Please, Mom. I need you so much right now. Don't...don't leave me...please don't leave......"


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Wed Jun 08, 2022 2:37 am
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Spearmint wrote a review...



Hi, mint here with a review! ^-^ I really liked the pacing of this chapter; it feels like things are moving a bit faster now (perhaps because of the setting change). This was also quite an emotional chapter-- I hope Blake's mother recovers soon!

Some speculations I had while reading: I wonder if the nurse will come up again later? The way you mentioned that "Her eyes darted towards Blake's right in a brief flash" makes me feel like she can see the scythe. The way she also glanced at the ground multiple times seems to imply that she was thinking about something... Not to mention the fact that she let Blake in but not the other people. It might all just be because she's a kind person, but I can't help suspecting more here... >.>
I'm also curious about June! Will Blake see her afterwards, or stay with his mom? And like Lim mentioned, it's been a while since Cameron and Amelia have shown up in the story, so I'm looking forward to finding out what they've been up to as well. (Though I suppose they're likely at home, if they're not sick.)

Blake spotted two people around the sidewalks of some shops, but they disappeared before he could get very close.

I think it'd be nice to add in a quick description of the stores somewhere around here. Are they closed up because of the sickness, or are people still manning the shops? It's a super small thing, though! :]

Even when he reached the parking lot he did not slow down. However, the small crowd of people near the entrance did make him skid to something of a halt.

To me, these sentences seem to contradict each other a little. I feel like in order to skid to a halt, one does have to slow down? Maybe something like, "He was still running at top speed when he reached the parking lot. However..." would sound better?

"You could be at higher risk due to your age," she finally said, her tone full of such disheartened regret. "If you had another parent who could-"

"I don't have another parent," Blake quickly interrupted, feeling his chest tighten and his voice falter.

I like this bit of dialogue-- it sounds realistic and flows well. And nice job showing both the nurse's and Blake's emotions! C:

A single door stood at least twenty feet before him; he spotted two other doors along the length wall of the building also. But the other entrances looked much further away, and so he focused on the closest one.

I don't think these details are necessary unless they'll come up again later. Simply saying that Blake "attempted to pull on the handle of the closest door" would probably be enough!

His arms fell towards his sides, and a strange sense of both limpness and stiffness overcame his entire body.

What happened to the scythe here? >.> Did it fall along with his arms? I'd appreciate a quick description to help me visualize this part! ^^'

"Mom...please. I'm so sorry I didn't say anything, and now I can't..." He took in a few breaths of air in hopes of calming himself, but to no avail. "Please, Mom. I need you so much right now. Don't...don't leave me...please don't leave......"

Who's cutting onions here? :') This was a beautifully written moment, and I really sympathize with Blake. I hope he's able to figure out the Shadows and heal the town soon!

Overall, I enjoyed reading this chapter, and I'm excited to see Blake unravel more of the mystery! Keep writing, and have a wonderful day/night! =D




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Tue May 03, 2022 2:07 pm
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MailicedeNamedy wrote a review...



Hi Otterpop,

Mailice here with a short review! :D

Furthermore, the whole situation is coming to a head and on a large level of narration, I think you also manage well to present it in such a way that one feels a certain hecticness and worry as a reader and thus also reads the chapter unusually quickly (or it was shorter than the previous ones. :) ).

I noticed that we have taken another step here and the chapter can be divided into two parts. First still Blake, lonely and alone and trying to take care of himself respectively find a goal and in the second half where the woman helps him to the hospital. What I particularly like here is that despite Blake's few thoughts, you can see a little bit how the whole situation is changing and that you already hinted at that very early on. The fact that a lot of things are escalating now is a good point for the story.

As already mentioned, I think the narration is very good here, what I really miss more is a more frequent insertion of Blake's thoughts, especially in the first half when he comes to the hospital and more of that inner side shows itself there. Later, when he gets help from the woman, I think it's fitting that the story here focuses more on the outside world.

Blake has reached such a point for me that I think he's breaking everyone down. So much has happened in the last few chapters and above all, he realises that he is no longer alone with his worries, so that at some point I wait for the moment when Blake completely loses his nerve (if you can say that he already had that a little bit when he rebelled against the man or during the phone call in the last or penultimate chapter).

In terms of pacing, I thought that the pace had already picked up a bit here. At least I had the impression that a lot of things jumped from one section to the next. I can understand that this is also an implementation for this chapter, as it is a transition, but at the same time, I think this would be solved, simply with the insertion of several thoughts from Blake.

As a reader, you can still understand why Blake is doing this, but sometimes you find yourself back at a point where you're a bit puzzled, or at least where you wonder why isn't he getting suspicious or how is he feeling at the moment (especially when the lady told him to use a back door?).

However, I did like the chapter. Even though it seemed short or a bit fast for me, I liked that jump on and I think the chapter also reads better if you go straight on to the next one.

Have fun writing!

Mailice




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Sat Apr 23, 2022 9:30 am
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Liminality wrote a review...



Hi Otterpop! Lim here with another review.

Description

Something I like about this chapter is how realistic it felt. Practically, that means there were a lot of details that showed what the world was like beyond just Blake’s story. That made the events happening seem more believable to me.

"Sir, you've already seen your wife twice this week, we don't want you getting sick!"

For example this quote was a nice detail. I also like that June’s father was in the crowd there.
The descriptions inside the hospital were also hard-hitting. The one about how “some were even slumped at the floors” really hammers in the horror of the situation. A supernatural plague taking over an entire town is a scary concept and having details like these makes that very concrete for the reader without having to pile on more and more death or ‘explicit’ horror happening.

Something that could be worked on is maybe to check and see if some descriptions aren’t essential to the story / atmosphere/ characterisations. I know when writing I tend to go on tangential descriptions now and then, kind of like a buffer for when I can’t quite think about or deal with the next thing that needs to happen – but ideally when revising, we cut those out to narrow the focus (unless the scene is supposed to be something chaotic, like entering an unfamiliar marketplace).

It’s not a super big problem here, but I just wanted to point out that for this section:
He tripped on a crack in a section of old sidewalk, nearly falling face first on the ground had his legs not caught up to him. He overcorrected two other times when he almost ran into some street lamps. The scythe about slipped out of his grasp multiple times while running. Keeping the weapon behind him as he travelled was no easy task, but it seemed like the best way to keep up the pace...even if he almost lost his balance because of the weight when turning a corner.

Maybe just one of these images/ sentences would be enough to get across that he’s having a hard time walking.

A few people on the opposite side of the street noticed him with sharp turns of their heads, but no one said or did anything.

Unlike the crowd outside the hospital, since people noticing Blake here doesn’t seem to be important to him or to the plot, maybe lines like these could be left out.

I think it's just more noticeable for me as a reviewer here when some things could be cut, since this is a very tense and emotionally-loaded chapter.

That included his mother, and June, among too many other innocents.

As a side note, this line made me wonder where Cameron, Amelia and their mother are.

Blake’s Thoughts

Blake kind of repeats the thought process of ‘what he knows right now’ almost every chapter, and it tends to be in the same format each time. I think a reader who read one chapter every few days would probably not notice it, but reading the chapters back-to-back you kind of see that repetition happening. I think it might be nice to change it up or find some way to embed this information into the events that are happening. For instance:
1. “that man was somehow the cause of the sickness” -> Since Blake was already having a flashback to the stranger’s comment on his ancestor (?), he could also be flashing back to how the people in the church were felled by his red-glow magic.
2. “he was desperate to see his mother and his best friend.” -> I think the fact that he’s walking in a daze by himself to the hospital is enough to show this.
3. “ his mother likely knew something...and the people at the hospital were in danger.” -> This is also quite evident from the scenes inside the hospital that follow, and the flashback where the “predecessor” line is said.

So in this case, only the first point needs to be conveyed in an ‘extra’ part, in my opinion, and that could be meshed quite nicely together with the italicized dialogue from the stranger which Blake is remembering.

Supporting Characters

"You could be at higher risk due to your age," she finally said, her tone full of such disheartened regret. "If you had another parent who could-"

Ah I had a sneaking suspicion this would be the same lady from before, and it turned out to be right! I just found it neat that you’ve managed to characterise someone who’s not part of the main cast and just appeared for one scene so far.
The woman merely stared at him for another moment, but then her eyes slowly widened. She eyed the ground, and set her sights back on his face. Then strangely, she knelt down to him a little.
"You mean Alisha? You're the one who called?"

This was such a great moment. This character seems like a compassionate person, and I like that she gets a chance to shine here. It kind of reminds me of the runner who talked to Blake a few chapters back. I like how you make the supporting cast likeable like this, as it makes me sympathise with Blake more when he says he wants to protect the townspeople.

Overall

The main point of the chapter for me is at the end when Blake confesses to his mother that he’s made a mistake. I think that’s a good point for his character arc and kind of makes me think communicating better is going to be one of the ways Blake will grow in the upcoming chapters. I like how the chapter built up to that scene. I think since the stranger was introduced to the story, things have been really finding a stride, if that makes sense.

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




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Sun Mar 06, 2022 12:51 pm
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SalisRuinen wrote a review...



Hey! Salis here with a review.

This was honestly a heartbraking chapter for me.

If the last chapter's main theme was panic, this one would undoubtedly be fear. Chapter 15 had its terrifying moments but with this one I was reminded what real fear is. It's not about being afraid of eerie creatures and events. That's nothing compared to fearing for a loved one's life.

I actually saw a person close to me in such a condition and every single thing Blake experienced on the way to his mother and after seeing her again, I have felt before and felt all over again now. He's also just a teenager so it must have been that much harder for him. I had a great deal of curiosity at the beginning of the chapter as to what answers Blake's mother might give him but by the end of it I only felt worry for the poor woman. I think that in the tough time he's going through right now not knowing what's happening around him is a bad thing, but losing a person whose support he knew he could count on is much worse. So I pray she'll be OK.

I like that you showed that so many other people from the town are going through the same hell as the main protagonist and the pain and fear are shared by everyone. It makes the situation even more nerve-wrecking than it already is. Hopefully the cause of this will be discovered soon enough and the people of Jordan Heights will eventually be able to go back to their normal way of life. I'm counting on Blake to deal with this, so he better be up to the task. Given his mother's condition, though, I'm not sure how things are going to work out.

Thank you for the great chapter! Keep at it!




Otterpop says...


Blake's emotional journey/change is definitely important for this story and despite the circumstances with the story and the emotions at the forefront of this chapter, I am happy that it seems to be observed by readers (though it seems capable of eliciting a more visceral reaction than expected).

I do appreciate you letting me know about that with this review, and hope you come to enjoy the remainder of the story should you read it further, thank you.




Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.
— Helen Keller