Unbound (The Sifter Saga 2)

South Contreau

A team of doctors and nurses burst through the infirmary doors with a bloodied mass on a gurney. Medical jargon and shouting permeated the ward as they moved their patient into the intensive care unit. The young stranger had been found, covered in blood, by a group of hikers, near a network of caves, in the surrounding woods. His wounds had appeared so severe, they hadn’t expected him to survive the move to the hospital, but he had persisted.

Once secured in a sterile environment, the nurses tried to cut away his clothing, but the material wouldn’t give. They carefully disrobed him, all save for a silver bracelet on each arm they couldn’t remove, and stared in wonder as the impossible happened. The rips and tears in his muscle tissue reformed and his darkened skin closed up on its own. Red splotches of blood caked his body, but underneath was flawless skin. In two hours the young stranger had gone from near death to merely unconscious.

Baffled by his progress, the doctors on staff ordered him to be taken to a special room in the hospital ward until he woke up. They wanted to know who this young man was, where he came from, and how he was able to do what he did. If they could find a way to duplicate his reaction, then the medical world would be changed forever. Not to mention they’d all become incredibly rich, but after the fourth day passed, they were all questioning whether or not he’d wake up at all. As more time passed, they feared his secrets would die with him.

A golden hue blanketed the white isolation room. The nurses had dimmed the lights as much as possible, so as not to agitate his recovery. Wires and tubes were connected to various parts of the stranger’s body making him look more like hardware than human. The fragmented events of what had happened raced through his subconscious. His mind wandered in a dreamlike state unaware of where he had been taken. He was still too weak to wake up, but he instinctively understood that his physical wounds had been healed.

A nurse checked his IVs and made a note of their levels. A soft erratic beeping from the heart monitor was the only noise in the room, other than the stranger’s breathing. The monitor’s volume had been turned down to its lowest setting, as his patterns alternated between that of an athlete sprinting and someone in a deep dreamless sleep. The nurses were sure they were too jumbled to be accurate. They had tried three different machines to remedy the malfunction, but they all read the same. If it wasn’t standard operating procedure, the nurses would have turned them off completely. His attendant checked off her hourly duties on her chart for the next attendant, when the beeping stopped.

The nurse quickly moved to the young man’s side and checked his wrist for a pulse. When she couldn’t find one, she tried his throat. The stranger’s head rolled to the side. Stress lines crinkled on his forehead as he clinched his jaw. She leaned down and put her ear to his mouth listening for breath. A low groan emitted deep within the young man’s throat and he mumbled something incoherent. The nurse leaned in closer, intrigued by the sudden change in her patient’s status, unaware of what was happening just beneath the surface of his skin. She hoped he was coming out of his trance and could finally shed some light on the conundrums he had created upon his arrival.

Her ear was almost touching his lips when the stranger screamed, flailing his arms and legs at his side. The slender nurse screamed and jumped back in fright as her patient opened his eyes. The once dull silver bracelets on each of his arms now glistened as they expanded with a life of their own. His left bracelet flattened and engulfed his arm creating a metallic fist. The right elongated and filed down to a point. His gray eyes were cold and then the whole of his eye crackled with a faint neon green light. The blade, that had just before been the stranger’s right hand, sliced through the IV line and cords connecting him to the bed. The remaining wires and needles attached to his skin were pushed out of his body, on their own accord, and dropped to the floor.

The nurse thought she had gone crazy; too much work and not enough sleep. She reached for the panic button at the side of his bed, when the stranger suddenly stood up and threw her against the wall. He lifted her off the ground with his metallic fist and slid the blade firmly under her throat.

“Who are you? Where am I? Where is Hobbs?” he asked.

The nurse was too afraid to speak, her life flashed before her eyes in a series of unfulfilled doldrums. This wasn’t the way she was supposed to go. She was supposed to be drinking flowery drinks, next to a large body of water, away from this wasteland. She had given her life to the service of others, why was this happening to her? What had she done to deserve this?

“Answer me!” demanded Stephen, pressing her harder against the wall.

“I’m a nurse. You’re, you’re in the South Contreau General Medical Facility,” she mumbled.

“And Hobbs?”

“Who?”

“The man I was with,” he said.

“You were found alone.”

Alone? That doesn’t make sense. Where is Hobbs? he thought.

“How long?”

“Four, maybe five days,” she stammered.

Five days? What in the name of the Creator happened to us?

He tried to remember the last thing that had happened, but there was only darkness. He was moving purely on his instinct to survive. He barely remembered bouncing to this world and he hoped his captor would give him all the information he needed.

“How did I get here?” he asked.

“You were found by the caves.”

Caves?

“Where’s my dagger?”

“You weren’t brought in with anything other than what you were wearing,” she said.

He looked down at his white and green checkered nightgown and, for the first time, became aware of the draft down his backside.

What in the dreg happened to us?

“It’s standard procedure,” she added, attempting to justify the action.

“Where are my clothes?” he asked embarrassed.

“Closet to your left,” she said.

She wanted to ask him what kind of material his clothes were made from and if he could get more. She wanted to know how he had defied death and who he was, but her words failed her. Stephen eased her back onto the ground. She wasn’t a threat to him. The nurse watched the metal around his hands liquefy and return to their dormant state of two dull metallic bracelets. It was too much. What little grasp on her sanity she had left snapped.

The young sifter heard her suck in her breath as her body prepared to scream. He was surprised no one had come running into the room from her first outburst and he couldn’t risk another. He wasn’t sure what state his body was in when he arrived, but if he was in a hospital, then he could only guess. He was supposed pass through this world unnoticed and he had no intention of providing any answers he was certain the medical staff had.

“Sleep,” Stephen commanded.

The nurse crumpled into his arms and the young sifter gently placed her on the bed. He changed into his old tie dyed shirt and green cargo pants. He laced up his black and white sneakers and ran his fingers through his shaggy, unkempt hair. It felt good to be in his right attire again. He peaked out the door and looked for a way out. The hallway was clear for the moment, but he wasn’t sure how long it would take before his nurse’s absence was noticed. It was now, or never.  He closed his eyes and his clothes shimmered and changed into a pair of green scrubs that matched those of the woman on the bed.

He followed the signs out of the building, careful to avoid the attendants going about their daily routine. He had to find Hobbs and he needed to find their weapon. Without it, trying to kill the gilean was going to be impossible.

Unbound
Cover Art by April Meeks

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