Title: EXSANGUINATION: DYING IS THE EASY PART
Category/genre: YA Thriller
Author: Tim Collins
Chosen by editor Kyra Nelson
Fifteen-year-old Marc focuses on maintaining perfect grades, keeping a
tight circle of friends, and avoiding school bullies long enough to
escape his small town. Following a near-fatal stabbing, Marc learns with
every near-death incident, the men in his family are rewarded with
increasing superhuman strength and an irresistible pleasure high, but a
cursed darkness grows on their souls as well. Now, Marc fears what
darkness awaits him.
After his father's death, Marc enlists the help of family friend to
decipher his dad's last words: "It doesn't have to be a curse."
Unfortunately, not every friend wants to see him cured and some would
even prefer him dead. As pieces of Marc slip away into violence and
apathy, a cryptic family journal offers him the only clues to fight the
family curse. Can he find a cure before the family curse claims another?
We live in a flawed design. A failure of the greatest magnitude. The human body. It provides little protection from the elements, beasts of nature, or sharp objects just to name a few.
That’s how my freshman biology teacher theorized it. Quack or not, I knew many of his ramblings were true. Yet, I still felt the need to test this particular thesis. As if dropping an apple from a great height and expecting gravity to ignore it, I slid the blade of the black handle Henckles paring knife across my wrist.
A searing pain radiated the length of my forearm. The fingers on my injured arm twitched uncontrollably. The knife clattered a bloody Christening on the white tile. I stared down at the knife.
My eyes turned to the red trouble flowing from my wrist.
Flawed design? Check.
Blood spurted from my wrist, free flowing across my palms and down the length of my fingers.
“Dad!” I screamed.
I grabbed anything I could to cover my wrist. The bare kitchen offered nothing more than a dirty dish towel. If the cut didn’t kill me the bacteria surely would.
The red puddle turned my head inside out. A sludge of bile attacked the back of my throat.
My legs crumpled as I reached for the phone. I flailed my arms but came up with only air and a seat in a pool of blood. The knife sat next to me, taunting me.
Not a butcher’s knife. Not even a steak knife. A farging paring knife.
“Dad!” I screamed between hurried breaths until my throat hurt. My furball of a dog, Clyde danced around me, licking my face and wrist as I found myself firmly planted on the floor.
“Dad, I need help.” My yell faded to a whimper. “Go get Dad, Clyde. Go get him.”
Clyde’s tail dropped with my sobbing words, but he refused to leave my side.
Loyalty. Clyde’s gravity.
I pulled at the long hanging curly chord on the phone. It stretched and strained but the hook wouldn’t release its grip on the receiver.
“The most important thing is to remain calm,” Dad said from the other side of the island. “It’s better to handle this on your own, but I’ll give you some pointers to get you started. Slow your breathing. Gather your thoughts. Don’t waste energy. Be rational with decision making.”
“Rational? I’m dying.” Panic overwhelmed relief. “I think I’m going to pass out.” My body lurched left.
“No! No! Stay with it. Pick yourself up. Dial nine-one-one. Tie the dish towel tighter. What else you can do?” Dad encouraged me but made no effort to help.
“Raise my hand over my head?”
“Is that a question?” He shot back.
I lifted both arms whilst keeping pressure on my wrist.
“Good. What else?”
I glanced at the sink, breathing deep through my nose. “I could fill the sink with cold water and slow the blood flow.” I tried standing, positioning my arms above my head.
“Maybe not the greatest idea, but you’re thinking.” Dad moved around the island closer to me. “But aren’t you forgetting what to do first?”
Not closer to me. Closer to the coffee pot. He needed a steaming hot cup of hangover juice for his morning mug.
He picked up the receiver and handed me the phone. “Since I’m here.”
My head danced in circles. “Call nine-one-one?”
“That’s right. I’ll dial this one for you.”
I grabbed the phone creating a crimson handprint on the receiver.
A long stream of blood flowed down my arm collecting on my shoulder. Irrational or not, I feared I lost memories when I lost blood. Tears hit my cheeks. More memories gone? What if the blood puddling on the floor were memories of Mom? I had none to spare.
The phone trilled. I stared into the pool of red hoping for Mom’s face, but I saw only hatred for Dad. How could he stand there?
My head bobbed.
“Nine-one-one. What’s your emergency?” a calm female voice answered.
“Hello. Do you have an emergency? Can you talk?” The voice stuttered.
“Watch your wrist.” Dad pointed to my drooping arm. A small drop of coffee crested the side of the mug adding to the mess on the floor. “Damn.”
“Hello, do you have an emergency?” The female voice regained composure.
“Water.” The only word I managed.
“Is someone drowning? Are you at the creek?” A high-pitched creek pierced my ear. No one in this town ever wanted to mention the creek.
“No. Couldn’t turn the cold water on.” My voice stammered.
“Do you have an emergency?” Her voice changed tone three times.
“Come on, Kid. You can do this.” Dad kneeled close but remained outside the circle of blood.
The woman whispered. “Are you unable to talk because someone is threatening you?”
“I’m cut. My wrist. Bleeding bad. Lots of blood. Need help.” I sounded like a Geico spokesperson. A few grunts and I’d have myself an audition tape.
“Can you tell me your address?” she asked.
More information? I wanted to scream, send help, but I focused on Dad’s chestnut eyes and gathered myself. “Allison. I’m on Allison Road. Small house. Blue with orange shutters.”
“Do you know the house number?” she asked.
“Two. Zero. One.” I lost the last number somewhere in the puddle of blood.
“Alright, we’re sending help to two-zero-one Allison Road.”
“No.” I summoned what strength remained.
“You don’t want help?”
It’s quite probable this girl needed to be fired.
“Two-Zero-One-Five. Alright, help is on the way. Please remain with me on the line until help arrives.”
I pointed to the phone mount and flicked my index finger. Dad understood.
“No, thank you?” He asked.
I attempted to show him a single finger, but my arm weighed a million pounds. Surely it should have been lighter given all the blood I lost.
I leaned back against the island and stared at the kitchen light. “Why?”
“Why what?” Dad stepped around me and fished the phone out of the blood before placing it back on the hook. He didn’t even wipe it clean.
“Why are you going to stand there and watch me die?” If this is who I was to become, maybe dying would be the right choice.
“You think that’s what I’m doing?” He scoffed. “Listen, if I loaded you in the truck and drove you to the hospital, you’d be more likely to end up dead seeing how I’m still drunk. Let’s pretend I don’t crash, it would still take us twenty minutes. Maybe fifteen if I ran the lights. The ambulance gets here in twelve minutes and the best part is when they do, their focus will be on you and only you. We can’t say that about the hospital.
“I’ll unlock the doors and put Clyde in his crate. That should save them an extra minute. I’ll come check on you at the hospital once I sober up.” Dad never blinked. I swore I saw a small twinkle in his smile.
“But.” Everything in my narrow field of vision turned cloudy.
“But nothing. Just remember, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” He clapped. “Come here, Clyde.” My dog. The only thing in the house who tried helping me. “Try lifting that arm over your head some more. Or at least lay down flat and put it on your chest.”
His silhouette faded with Clyde in tow, but I heard his voice. “Milt? Morning. Just wanted to let you know it’s started. Late bloomer I guess.”
The slamming bedroom door shook the house.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
The blood clinging to the edge of my elbow ceded its grip and fell to the floor. Dad saw fit to crack the doors open when he unlocked them. A subtle winter breeze joined my pity party.
Nothing left but to hope death didn’t ride on the wind today. If so, he better be bad ass like a firing breathing skeleton riding on a nightmare black horse.
I opted to lie flat on my back and bring my arm around to my chest. This allowed me to defeat the monotonous dripping sound. A small victory, but small victories were all I had left.
“There’s two light out on the ceiling,” I yelled.
I was laughing.
I considered making a blood angel on the floor, so it would be a memorable one for the paramedics. Humor. Humor and delirium offered small victories.
The cold November air offset my warm pool of blood. I wondered if my mom’s last moments were like this. Lying, freezing in a wrecked automobile after our neighbor’s Christmas party.
December 23rd. I bet she planned on wrapping presents when they got home. Dad needed one more drink. Always one more.
Did he refuse to help her too?
“Mom’s blood is on your hands!” I screamed as my thoughts drained down a black hole. “And so is—”