A few more tears rolled down his cheek, but he couldn't care less about wiping them away. The machine next to him beeped a continuous and monotone tune. He did not look at the numbers, but he was sure the rhythm chimed slower than it should have. This waiting game had become cruel torture to Blake, but what else could he do? The pressure and helplessness was nauseating, and much as he wanted to he could not bring himself to stand.
How long had he sat here, powerless? Ten minutes? Twenty? Longer? Time had all but escaped his understanding, and somehow his response was to clench both his fists into tight balls, the fingernails digging right into his palm.
Whether perhaps the pain snapped him out of it or it was just instinct, Blake lifted one hand, and very gently set it on the bed. His mother's left hand was limp, fingers curled in a little, the palm facing slightly upwards. Slowly Blake's own hand slid towards hers, but he flinched as soon as they touched. Even with a medical glove on, he could feel how little warmth escaped from her fingers. A crushing overtook Blake's head and it fell forward, right onto the side of the hospital cot as he squeezed his mother's hand in a moment of complete and utter surrender.
Mom, please. You have to wake up. I need you right now. Please. Please be okay...
A tingle in his fingers made him clutch her hand even tighter, and he desperately fought back tears. Another tingle later he pushed his face even further into the bed sheets. Something brushed the tops of his fingers...in a slow, back-and-forth motion.
Blake's head lifted with a start, and he began to stand as disbelief washed over him in a great wave. Alisha's eyes were twitching a little under the lids, without a doubt, and Blake held his breath for a few seconds. He looked down to see her thumb gently rubbing his fingers in a clearly conscious movement.
"Mom?" He gasped so quietly he almost didn't hear his own voice.
He wasn't dreaming. Within seconds his mother's eyelids flickered open a sliver, opening further until he could barely discern a pair of pupils. They stared up for a second, squinted, blinked, looked around. Her gaze then found and settled on him. It was a knowing stare, glazed with exhaustion yet also a sense of familiarity the longer she looked. Her eyebrows shifted, and suddenly small tears welled up in the bottoms of her eyes.
"Mom..." His voice cracked as he gripped Alisha's hand with both of his now. He forced back his own tears and mustered the strength to ask, "Are you...are you okay?"
Why would you even ask that? It seemed stupid to ask given her current state, but it was all he could think of. Alisha attempted to lift her head but gave up due to the strain. She tried the same with her hand but lifted it maybe an inch off the bed before it fell back down on the bed sheets. Her eyes then scanned the room until they eventually settled on the tubes sticking out of her nose and mouth. She stared for what felt like ages, and the glaze over her eyes changed. Suddenly there was this ashamed look on her face, and for a few moments she turned her head away from Blake.
He reached over and grabbed her hand again, pulling down the mask covering his face. "Mom, I know it looks bad. But, you, you're not getting any worse, right?"
Alisha twisted her head back and faced the other direction, and Blake guessed his attempt to make her feel better fell short. Despite her inability to speak and even with her head turned the other way, Blake could see the emotions clouding her face. He squeezed her hand even tighter.
"I'm not gonna leave. I'm here. But...Mom, I can't deal with everything going on right now without you."
She merely squeezed his hand in response and looked back at him. A second later, her brows furrowed and she leaned towards him ever so slightly. Her gaze rested hard on him, such a pressing look that he could not ignore for some reason, and Blake curled in his lips a little. She never looks at me like that, he thought. I...have to tell her.
"There's, umm, some things that have happened lately. Weird things, confusing things." He paused but an insistent twitch of Alisha's head lessened the hesitation only slightly. "I've been...seeing things lately. A-and I don't know a good way to explain it..."
The sweat on his palms increased as he struggled with words. His mother continued her insistence with some rather tight hand squeezes, but Blake was at a complete loss at how he could say it. He'd never had to explain this kind of thing to anyone before! So how could he say it right here before his very sick and incapacitated mother?
No, no, he had to go about this differently. Start somewhere else. Start with someone else...
"I saw, well, saw this strange man, at the cemetery by our church," he explained before long. "He said-" Blake paused to remember it exactly. "-something about one of my family members being marked because I could see things. And, and I know how crazy that sounds, but, I found something, something weird, in your..."
He was losing his train of thought again, and his mother still appeared just as confused, though perhaps a bit concerned now at the mention of a stranger. Blake inwardly told himself to calm down, slow down, and try again.
"Mom. There are things going on, and I think you might know why, or at least know something about it."
The confusion was still there but at least she had the determination to listen intently, so Blake wasted no time. "I've been able to see things, for a long time. And, I didn't say anything about it ever; maybe you'd think I was crazy, but I know I'm not, not anymore. I was worried, worried that you or my friends or the whole town would think there was something wrong with me, so I didn't say anything to anyone. I didn't know if I would ever tell you, until I..."
Blake trailed off, because Alisha was no longer looking at him. Her gaze was fixated on something just to his right. It was such an intense stare that he knew she had already tuned him out somewhat. So he turned his head, confused, then twisted his neck even more until he was looking almost directly behind himself.
As soon as he laid eyes on it the realization crept up his spine and shocked him to his very core. Though he figured something like this was the case, it wasn't any less disbelieving. Blake swallowed nervously, barely able to get the question out if his mouth.
"You...can see it. Can't you?"
He looked back at his mother, whose gaze shifted to him soon after. She did not need to nod or shake her head; the watery look in her eyes said it all. Blake's chest tightened a little, but he managed his strength to reach back and take hold of it, bringing it closer to her. Alisha's stare followed the blade, before she looked the staff up and down with this eerie, knowing look. Their gazes locked once more.
"You can see it..."
He turned his head the other way, losing all feeling in his body for a split second. Another question came to his mind, one that needed an answer.
"Do you know? That other people can't see it?"
She lay still momentarily, but she gave him the faintest nod after a couple more seconds.
Blake gasped in disbelief. Not only can she see it, but she even knows other people can't see it? Why? She knew this all along and she never told me? How could she never tell me about any of this? The Shadows could have hurt somebody. That man already hurt the people here, and some have even died, and she never told me!
A tightness came over his chest as the hurt set in. He wanted to ask his mother about everything, he wanted to know what more she'd kept from him. But right now he could only ask yes or no questions, and it hurt that he couldn't do more than that.
Now he knew though: Alisha knew what the scythe was, meaning the stranger's words about his lineage were true. Why then did she keep this from him for his entire life?
"So that's why," he breathed, his voice louder but also shakier. "That's why I can see spirits, and these shadowy things. That guy said it because of someone related to me...and now I know it's through you. Because you know about it. Because this belonged to you and your family."
What other explanation was there? He found the scythe in her room after all, so why would he have thought anything different? He looked at his mother, wanting some kind of response that would tell him how he was supposed to feel about this grim truth.
Instead, he saw her shaking her head.
Blake stared in confusion at her reaction. "You know about this thing, you have to know about everything else, or at least some other things?"
Alisha reached out and grabbed his wrist so quickly, and with such unusual force given her state. She looked at him, looking at the scythe, and back at him. With her free hand she gently tapped her own chest, and shook her head.
The confusion rose within him as he tried to figure out her mixed signals. Thinking about what he'd said, he stopped and tried to put it all together. "So, you know about this, but you didn't use it?"
Alisha shook her head once, then a second time, all while staring at the scythe. Blake still did not understand and continued shaking his head for what felt like hours, unable to figure out what his mother was trying to tell him. Alisha eventually stopped, having realized what she did was not working. Instead she lifted a finger and pointed at the scythe, pointed to herself and shook her head in the same moment. She repeated the same gesture two more times.
Soon the realization struck Blake. If he thought he understood this right, the truth was a shocking one. "You're saying...this thing didn't belong to you? This isn't yours...?"
After a few seconds, she shook her head once more, slowly. Blake looked the scythe over, trying to figure out what his mother had just revealed. Was she actually telling that this weapon that no one could see, that was locked in her room...it wasn't even hers to begin with? But it wasn't his! So then-?
"Mom." He held his breath. "Who does this-?"
A whirring of static electricity echoed throughout the room. Suddenly the ceiling lights flickered, catching Blake's attention. A few surprised yelps rang from outside the hallway. They soon turned into screams when the lights flashed off suddenly.
The entire building shook without warning.
Blake bumped his chin in a soft thud when he hit the floor face down. When he propped himself up, he noticed the flashing hallway light illuminating something near the door of his mother's hospital room. Its silhouette was barely visible. But he could easily, and unfortunately, distinguish the shadowy form.
"Not here too..." Blake stood but the creature did not move. It just stood at the now-open doorway, staring at him with gleaming silver eyes. Or, at something past him?
He spun around. Alisha could barely lift her head as she stared right in the direction of the Shadow, her eyes concerned and full of unease. She then glanced in Blake's direction before long.
"You see that thing too?" he asked in disbelief.
Her gaze fell back onto the creature, and Blake faced the Shadow again. The flashing lights were distracting, but something did not feel right. It looked ready to run, so why wasn't it? It took Blake's eyes a few seconds to adjust, and when they did that's when he noticed something in the creature's mouth. A necklace it looked like, faded and dull, faintly visible as a gaseous black swirled around it. Hanging at the bottom was a pendant. No. A rosary. A dull green stone was embedded in the top of it. Blake's heart lurched as the sensation of urgency and horror took over.
He bolted for the door and the creature, which fled as soon as he moved. In the same instance he uttered only a single word with a voice coated in terror.