Tara was on her feet as soon as the door opened.
“Where’s Alek?” she demanded of Nic as he entered. “Is he alright?”
“Tara, please,” Nic said patiently. She crossed her arms, about to warn him not to lie to her, but when she met his eyes, the serenity there made her pause. There was no mockery, no taunting gaze as if he were purposely trying to agitate everyone around him. Jace and Bentley were watching him with concern; however, the Brit kept his attention on Tara.
“Aleksander is ill,” Nic informed. “He was given a medicine, a sort of serum, but he overused it.”
“He ODed,” Bentley rephrased as Tara tried making sense of what as being said.
“In a way, yes.”
“But.. but it’s Alek. He couldn’t do something like that. Abuse drugs? Why?” She was surprised by the anger she felt.
Nic shook his head. “None of us would have thought it. But he’s stable now and allowed one visitor.” Tara nodded and allowed herself to be guided to the medical bay where she had been escorted from an hour before.
The sight of Alek laying on the cot made Tara miss a step, and she would have tripped if the hand on the small of her back had not been there to steady her. “The shackles are a precautionary measure,” Nic tried to reassure. “We’ll be right out in the hall if you need us.” He motioned for Emily and Ivara to follow him out of the room.
Tara took a seat in the chair where Emily had sat. She took one of the clothes from the bedside table and dipped it in the water bucket, then wrung it out and used it to wipe away the sweat accumulating across Alek's forehead, dripping down his temple.
A teardrop ran down Tara's cheek, and she dipped her head to wipe it away. As she did so, she spotted the most bone-chilling sight.
Tara had been focused on his pale features, his eyes roaming quickly beneath beneath their lids as if in a nightmare. But now her attention was caught by the veins running from his heart. The right of the boy's chest was covered in a network of blood vessels which glowed beneath the surface of his ashen skin. It was a complete network, a cobweb of the sickly illuminacent blue-green. Their glow pulsed in sync with his heartbeat.
Tara stood so quickly that the chair toppled backward. Her knees were shaky as she turned away from the horrifying sight. She felt as if the floor were dropping out from under her as she stumbled into the hall.
They were waiting there as promised. Emily stepped toward the distressed girl, but Tara held up a hand to stop her. "Is he dying?" she croaked, her throat suddenly dry.
"He's stable," Nic answered. "Trying to heal himself-"
Tara found the energy to sound stern. "Is Alek going to die?"
"We.. don't know." A short pause. "Tara?"
"I just want to be alone right now, okay?"
Nic put out an arm to keep the girls at his side from following the brunette as she disappeared down the hall.
It was not like it had been in the nightmares where his blood had boiled and muscles has burned, as if he were being baked alive from the inside out. The more was more meticulous than that.
There were a thousand spiders, nails on their eight feet, crawling along the sinew of his muscles. They climbed through his blood veins and broke his skin to reach the surface.
Alek tried to swipe away the arachnids, tear them out, but there was something disabling him from doing so. He was Prometheus, bound down and forced to take his punishment as the creatures tore at him.
Alek pulled at the restraints, but even through the fever he could feel the cuffs digging into his skin, unyielding. The pain was a burning so heated it was icy. When he opened his mouth trying to catch a breath, he could feel his throat chafe with a scream.
He knew there was no waking up even as he felt his energy to fight draining. His head fell back, his muscles relaxed, and Alek was plunged to an even darker pit.
This one was devoid of any pain. There were no restraints, no creatures tearing Alek apart.
The sunlight painted leaves above him a translucent green, casting light shadows across the grass. Alek sat up and glanced around. The details of the scenery below were blurred, but he could easily make her out from where she sat, crouched beside the tree.
"Whisper?" Her azure locks spilled over her shoulders, which were left bare by the strapless ruby-red dress she wore. everything about her was the same aside from her wide eyes. Rather than glassy mirrors, reflecting everything back, they were a a blue as deep as the ocean waves.
"No," he lips formed the word. Then, in a breathless voice, "No, you can't... you can't be here."