Back to Normal: Chapter 26
I was in the casino at the time of the explosions on the Mina. When the first one happened, I instantly heard and felt my leg break as some large piece of metal hit me and knocked me down. I felt the intense heat of the fire and knew that Pam had been sitting on that side of the room. I crawled towards the flames and saw Pam on the floor. She was under a table and the flames prevented me from reaching her. I braced myself for the pain and reached under the table, feeling my skin burn as I pulled her out. When I had pulled her far enough from the fire, I took off my jacket and put it over her face, smothering the flames in her hair. I closed my eyes and felt Sookie’s panic, but at least I knew that she was alive.
Within minutes, crew members had fire extinguishers on the flames. Then I felt a second explosion but it was far above us. Sookie’s panic turned to the familiar sleepy hum, and then my own panic rose. She was unconscious and most likely injured. I tried to stand, but my leg was too badly broken to support my weight. I couldn’t walk and also knew that I was too badly injured to be able to fly, especially while carrying Pam. I began crawling towards the door, pulling Pam behind me by her leg. I was making slow progress when I heard the third explosion. Then the floor suddenly began to tilt and bodies slammed into me as we all hit the wall together. I turned and tried to find Pam among the bodies around and on top of me. I was pushing people off of me and then saw her burned face and grabbed her by the shoulders, trying to extricate us from the heap against the wall. When I heard the fourth explosion, I knew that the ship would most likely sink. I still continued my crawl, pulling Pam, towards the door. I had to get to Sookie. The water began to rush into the room and people’s screams grew louder. Pam was pulled from my grasp by the rushing cold water and I turned and reached for her again. I flattened out and crawled on my belly, making better speed, and when I grabbed her, this time I took off my neck tie and lashed our wrists together with it. I could feel dawn’s approach and knew that we could not make it very far at our slow speed, and that most likely I would fall into my daytime stupor before I could find Sookie. I cried out in frustration and looked around the room to decide my next move. The water level was rising as was the panic in the room. The rushing water washed Pam and me up against a wall and I grabbed onto a pipe that extended from the floor to the ceiling. I removed my belt and wrapped it around Pam’s waist and through the opening between the pipe and the wall. I secured it tightly and then checked the tie on our wrists to make sure it would hold as well. Then I sat back and waited. I thought of Sookie and my tears fell without shame. I could not save her this time. That was my last thought as dawn took me.
I woke to the sensation of cold and pain and the intense pressure of the water on my body. I immediately remembered where I was. I tried to feel Sookie, but could not. I opened my eyes and saw Pam’s burned face below me. We were under water, still tied together and secured to the wall by my belt around Pam’s waist. The room was filled with lifeless bodies suspended in the water all around us. I noted some movement across the room as a vampire began to awaken and swim. I unhooked my belt and re-fastened it around my own waist in case we would need to return to the ship and repeat our routine for another day. I held Pam’s lifeless body to mine and began to swim towards the door. Every kick of my leg produced excruciating pain, but I kept going. I swam through a maze of tunnels and doorways trying to find my way out of the ship. It was a surreal and frustrating journey. I spotted another vampire swimming ahead of me and began to follow her lead, hoping that her sense of direction was better than my own. I knew that my senses were impaired by my injuries and could only hope that that was also why I could not feel Sookie. Or perhaps the depth of the ocean had had some effect on it.
When we were finally free of the ship, I began to kick towards the water’s surface. It was a long and painful swim. When I broke the surface, there were already several other vampires in the water. I scanned the horizon, but saw no vessels. I knew that we were too far out to sea for me to swim or fly to safety even if I had been uninjured. And I knew that my injuries were fairly severe, and Pam’s were even worse. As frustrating as it was, I realized that the logical thing to do was just to wait and hope for a rescue. Would humans think to come back for us? The cruise line was vampire-owned. Surely, someone would know to come after dusk and find us. But those very vampires were just waking themselves, and so I knew that it would most likely take time for a boat to come. And so we waited.
When we spotted the ship we began to swim towards it. There were about twenty or so in our group. We could feel that dawn was approaching and I started to worry. Could we get to the ship in time? Should we turn around and try and go back down to the Mina for the day? We would surely all burn in the water without the protection of the ship’s hull. We kept swimming and every stroke sent a jolt of pain through my leg. I dragged Pam along with me by her wrist like a giant rag doll.
When I reached the ship, several vampires had already climbed the ropes and were on deck. I heard screams and some sort of scuffle and hoped that the hungry and injured vampires hadn’t killed our rescuers. I hauled Pam up the ropes over my shoulder, but it was a slow ascent with only one fully-functioning leg. When I reached the deck, there were dozens of human crew members standing back watching us with wide eyes, leaving a clear path towards a door. I tried to limp towards the door, but fell and dropped Pam onto the deck. Another vampire, a man who looked Japanese, came up behind me and started to lift Pam. He saw that we were tethered together and stopped and untied the tie on our wrists. Then he lifted her and carried her to the door and beyond. I tried to stand again, but could not walk. So I began crawling towards the door. The Japanese vampire reappeared and helped me up. I placed my arm over his shoulder and using him as a crutch, we made our way into the belly of the ship together.
My new savior brought me into a large room with several other vampires already in it. He left me to sit on the floor next to Pam and then walked over to a table against the wall. There were several dozen bags of blood, presumably from a blood bank laid out on the table. He picked up three of them and brought them over to us. He and I both drank a bag, and then I placed the third one above Pam’s burned mouth, letting the blood drip into her through the tube extending from the bag. The Japanese vampire stood to leave, and I said, “Thank you.” He bowed deeply.
“You are most welcome.” His accent confirmed that he was Japanese. Then I watched him go to help distribute the blood to others as more vampires came into the room. With the blood in me, I could feel my skin begin to heal from the burns, but my leg still ached badly. I thought of Sookie. Was she alive? I could not feel her.
When she and I had been separated by great distance before, I could still feel something. When I was hiding at the beach and she was mourning my death in Louisiana, I still felt something. There was always a connection. Why could I not feel that now? Because I was injured? Were we too far apart physically? I didn’t even want to think of the possibility that she was dead. I didn’t have the strength to face it. I watched as a few seemingly uninjured vampires began to close the doors to this room. I was relieved that we seemed safe for the coming day and closed my eyes. I knew that I had a little more time before dawn, but I was so exhausted and in such pain that I was out before the sun rose.
When I next woke, I was aware of noise and activity in the room. I opened my eyes to the wheels of a metal gurney where I had last seen Pam. I sat up and watched two vampires in white uniforms wheeling her out the door. I realized that we were being cared for by emergency personnel. The ship must have docked. How long had I been asleep? I tried to feel Sookie, but was confused. Was that still nothing? I couldn’t be certain. Could she still be alive? Why didn’t I feel what I should? A vampire medic approached me and asked if I needed a gurney. I stood and was able to limp out of the room unassisted. When I reached the deck, two vampires escorted me down the ramp and to one of many trucks lined up parallel to each other. We were back in Long Beach and the whole area was busy with people, mostly vampires, caring for the injured and whisking them into the trucks. I saw Pam being wheeled into the back of one. My escorts led me to one, but I stopped, and said, “I need to find my wife.”
“We’ll help you with that. Right now you need to come inside and get some blood.”
“No. Where are the humans that were rescued? There were rescued humans, were there not? Were they brought here?”
“Um…Yes. There was a rescue, but I don’t know where those people are. Let me get someone to help you with that. Please come inside.”
“No. I’ll wait.”
A tall dark-skinned vampire appeared with a clipboard almost immediately. “I need to find my wife. She is a human. Sookie Stackhouse. No, Sookie Northman.”
He began to scan a list, then turned a page over to another. “I don’t see that name.” He stopped and looked back to me.
“No, keep looking. Please.” I was starting to get agitated.
“I’m sorry, sir. I don’t see her.” Then I started to raise my voice.
“Check again. Stackhouse. Northman. She’s got to be on one of the lists!”
“ERIC!” I heard her call my name. My gods, that was her.
I started to try to run in the direction from which I heard her call me and then I saw her. She was in my arms and we were both crying. She was alive. Why hadn’t I felt her? What was wrong? She brushed her hair off of her neck, and I sunk my fangs into her flesh, letting her blood sooth all the pain I felt. My anguish began to lessen as I drank, and then I closed her wounds and just held her. She was alive.