4. The Sleeper
Reaching the unconscious girl, I pick her up gently, and pull her into the shade. Her face, though pleasing to the eyes, is covered with grime, and blood; her clothes are in a similar state. She is extremely pale, and is so light that she seems to be weightless. She is of a slight, yet athletic build and is of a height that would put her taller than most of her peers. Her hair is a bright red – orange, and is trimmed rather evenly all around to just above her shoulders.
Passing into the trees, her breathing becomes more even, though it still maintains a haggard edge, and sweat begins to bead on her brow. Carrying her deeper into the woods, I enter the secluded grassy knoll that I have made a small makeshift camp in. Carrying her past the empty fire – pit, I carry her into my tent, and set her down on top of my sleeping bag.
As I set her down, she shifts in my arms, and for the first time, I see the extent of her injuries. She had been stabbed in both the stomach and the diaphragm, and the injuries are fresh. Grabbing my pack, I sift through the stuff inside, and grabbing the metal case that stores my first aid supplies, which I open, and pull out a vial of antiseptic and some gauze bandages.
Kneeling beside her, I lift her shirt away from the wound on her stomach, and opening the vial of antiseptic, I ease out to drops of the strong – smelling substance onto the wound. She winces from the contact of the antiseptic on her damaged flesh, and then lays still, her lips held in a straight line. Measuring out the roll of gauze, I begin to bandage the injury. After wrapping the injury at least three times, I cut and tie up the loose ends of the gauze.
Moving to her other wound, I stop when I realize its location. S***, I’d have to pull her shirt off almost entirely just to treat it. Hmm…choices, choices. I could just go ahead and do it and deal with the consequences later or I could just try to let it heal on its own… Aw, screw it! The injury is probably too deep to be left on its own.
Gritting my teeth in irritation, I lift the shirt away from the other injury, zoning in on it only (However unpleasant that was. Focusing in on a diamond shaped wound caused by a knife isn’t exactly the most appealing. Yet it was either that or being classified as a pervert) Again I applied two drops of antiseptic, before binding up the wound with gauze. (And no my hands did not wander!)
Standing up, I pull a blanket over her prone form, and leave the tent. Picking up two small pieces of cloth, I fold them and dip them in the stream that runs along the West side of camp.
Heading back to the tent, I grab a canteen of water, and bring that along too. With the first rag, I clean the blood, dirt and sweat from her face and arms; with the second, I lay it horizontally against her forehead. Uncapping the canteen, I fill the cap with a trickle of water, and parting her lips slightly, pouring it down slowly so that she has time to swallow.
Placing the canteen beside her, I stand up and exit the tent. On an impulse, I tell her to sleep well as I leave, even though she can’t hear me. Grabbing one of the two fishing poles that I had brought with me, I head over to the stream, and cast my line. Sitting down on the ground of the stream’s bank, I wait for a bite.
After about 45 minutes, I feel a tug on the line, and begin to reel the line it extremely slowly, a powerful jerking of the line indicates that my target has taken the bait, and I reel it in with as much force as I can muster, without breaking the rods reeling mechanism.
Inspecting my catch as it draws closer, I am pleasantly surprised. I have snagged a foot and a half long largemouth bass. Grinning, I free it from the line, and place it in a large mesh bag. Carrying my prize back to the campsite, I place it in a water filled bucket meant for extinguishing fires. Heading back to the tent, I check on the girl.
When I enter the tent, she is thrashing about, her mouth forming words in some unknown tongue, her shoulders heaving, and her arms wind milling. Hustling to her side, I place a hand on her shoulder, and try to keep her still, while with my other hand I stroke hair and speak to her in soothing tones. Eventually, she calms down and again lies still, her only indication of being alive is the slight movement of her chest as she breathes.
Returning to my catch, I place it on a metal plate and strike it hard over the head, stunning it. Pulling out a boot knife, I cut off the tail and the head, which keeps moving even after being removed. Cutting away the offal, I cut out the edible meat near the pectoral fins and along the ribs and spine.
Sticking the edible meat in an aluminum mess – kit plate, I bring the remains to the fire pit and burn it in the fire. While I wait for the fish meat to cook, I begin my daily exercise routine. After about ten minutes, I check up on the fish and take it off the fire.
I bring the meat to my tent and try to feed some to the girl, but she remains asleep. Shrugging, I eat the fish alone. Halfway through, I feel something nudge my mind. Looking up, even if there wasn’t any thing their, I put down my plate and wait to hear if something happens. Nothing happens, so I say.
“Caleb? Are you there?”
Recognizing the voice, my brow furrows.
“Yes, Guardian this is Guard #02: Caleb Hannan speaking”
“Good. You will have to leave earlier than scheduled. I know that you are supposed to be on leave, but as of Friday, I myself will come to find you. Wait for me.”
I blink in response, today is Wednesday, and so in two days, I will have to either wake the girl and leave her here, or take her with me. Wait, why am I even worrying myself over someone I don’t even know, I could have left her on the street to die. Heck…that’s what I should have done. So why did I help her? Why –
“Oh – sorry! You needed something?”
“Yes, also while you are there, be on the lookout for any strange activity, such as sudden deaths, or disappearances. A Shinso vampire of high renown lives a few miles away, and she is on the move.”
The presence in my mind vanished abruptly, and I shook my head, trying to clear my thoughts. So a Shinso vampire is on the move. I wish she would give me more information. Guess it can’t be helped that she is always vague.
Looking down at the rest of the fish, I find myself with no appetite for it, so I bring it over to the fire and burn it. Watching the fire burn down, I count the stars out of boredom. Eventually, I put out the smoldering remnants of the fire and return to my tent.
Pulling out a ground cloth, I set it down and closing the tent door, I give the girl another capful of water from the canteen, before falling into an uneasy sleep.