Between Life and Death
I looked around, but try as I might, I couldn’t see very far into the darkness. I could barely make out the trees in front of me. It was just too late at night for me to be able to see. We were too far away from any sort of light source, and the canopy of trees blocking out the moonlight didn’t help with my situation.
"I guess I didn't think this through. How am I supposed to see anything?"
After me and Claire had finished our conversation we had had in my bedroom, I turned off the lights so as to make it seem like I had gone to sleep. Then Claire jumped from my window to the ground below prompting me to follow. She promised she would catch me which I was sure of, but still, jumping from a second window wasn't something you look forward to.
Luckily, Claire kept her promise and caught me without much effort. It really amazed me that I had this much trust in her. From there she told me to hop on her back piggyback style. When I asked why, all she said was "You'll see."
The moment I managed to find a good grip, Claire jumped from the ground to a nearby wall. And from there she leaped onto the roof of my house without making a sound. She asked "Are you ready?" but didn't even let me reply. Before I could open my mouth, Claire crouched before leaping into the air and landing on another rooftop, once again without making a sound. Then she proceeded to do it again and again, each time with me at danger of losing my hold on her.
I would be lying if I said I didn't at least yelp once.
Once the houses and buildings thinned out and Claire could no longer jump from roof to roof, she ran onto a highway due east. Whenever a car came nearby, Claire dashed into the forest to avoid detection and just continued running. Sometimes she ran along the highway and other times she felt it more convenient to weave between the trees. But eventually…
"You were pretty terrified back there," Claire reminded me, completely ignoring my previous question.
"No I wasn't!" I asserted.
"You sure…?" Claire put her finger to her chin in a cutesy sort of way and contemplated over something. "You were holding onto me pretty tightly."
"And you even threw up the moment I set you down."
"How could I not throw up after how fast you ran coupled with all the jumping around that you did? Count yourself lucky that I had the decency to throw up when you set me down and not before."
Seriously, though. Claire was insane. She didn't even consider giving me a heads up. It would have been a miracle if I hadn't barfed after all that. I mean, from what I could gather from the roads signs, we had traveled 45 kilometers. And the clock on my cell phone showed that it had been 15 minutes since we had left my home. So with some simple math—45 kilometers divided by a quarter hour—that meant Claire was running at 180 kilometers per hour!!
Vampires truly are insane.
Anyway, we still had a problem.
"I still can't see." I couldn’t even see Claire who was directly in front of me. We had walked far into the forest, away from any lights that may come from street lamps or cars. I was effectively blind.
"I could turn you into a vampire," Claire suggested.
"No way!" I shot her down immediately. There was no way I would even willingly give up on being human so that I could become a vampire. It just didn't feel right to.
"I was only kidding. Plus, if we did take that course of action, you'd pass out for a few hours. We're on a tight schedule, so that wouldn't be ideal."
"So do you have any other ideas?"
"Just one. I learned about it from that friend of mine."
"The one you mentioned at the cafe?"
"Yep. She once told me that vampire blood was compatible with human blood. Not only that but humans that have vampire blood in their veins are able to then use limited vampiric abilities. Of course, this all eventually goes away once your body gets rid of all of the foreign blood."
"That's interesting but how does it help our situation?"
Claire tapped below her eye with her finger. "Vampires can see almost perfectly in the dark. So if I give you some of my blood, you then will gain the ability to see in the dark, among other things."
"Okay….." I said skeptically. "This won't turn me into a vampire, right?"
"Like I said, the effects wear off after a while."
I was still a bit wary, but if it meant helping Suzuhara, then I would take my chances. Plus, Claire had been trustworthy up to this point, or else I'd be dead by now.
"Alright," I agreed reluctantly. "How does this work."
"While the process of me turning you into a vampire is fairly straightforward—only requiring me to drain all of your blood—giving you my blood without medical equipment is a bit...painful."
"What do you mean "painful." Like a bite on my neck."
"Um, it's more like a punch a hole in your chest kinda thing…"
Punch a while in my what?!!
"What the hell! You knew we would be in this situation and it didn't occur to you that we might need this so-called medical equipment!"
"No, no. I really hadn't thought of this," Claire swore as she frantically waved her hand in front of her chest.
"Why can't it be like the reverse of turning someone into a vampire?"
"Don't ask me. That's just how it works."
"Well, isn't there a way to make it less painful, like not punching a hole through my chest?"
"Tearing off your arm should also work," Claire mentioned matter of factly.
"How is that any less painful?!!"
"Would you rather have me rupture your vital organs?"
Mmmmmm!! She had a point.
This damn woman. She just had to drag me into a bunch of crap.
I just have to remember that this is all for Suzuhara's sake.
"Alright then, if that's how it's done. Just let me take of my sweater first."
I hesitantly stretched out my arm, but Claire still had something left to say.
"I need to do something first."
Claire held out her left arm and flattened her right hand before bringing it over head. And in just a split second, her arm came crashing down, her right high ripping cleanly through her left wrist. Blood splattered everywhere and even on my face as her left hand flew passed me and off into the distance.
And there she stood, hand completely severed leaving only a shredded stump of meat that spewed out blood.
"Are you ready," she asked with a smile. You couldn't make out an ounce of pain in her expression.
I nodded and Claire pulled back her right arm.
I thought it'd be best if I closed my eyes, but for some reason, my mind came up with a question out of the blue. It was a question that I should have asked in the beginning but hadn't thought. So I opened my eyes to ask "Wait! How is my arm supposed to survive this?!"
But her fist was already less than a meter away.
My mind only registered a loud boom followed by a sound like tree branches being broken. It had happened so fast that I wasn’t pushed back as much as I should have, only stumbling back a few meters before falling to the ground.
Shortly after, the back of my shirt started becoming damp and cold. My mind couldn’t register why that was because what came afterward completely overrode my thought.
An inexplicably excruciating searing sensation came from my left side. When I went to grab my side with my left hand, all I found was warm blood spewing out from where my arm used to be, now a useless stump of shredded flesh with bits of bone stick out of it. My entire arm and shoulder were missing.
My heart started beating so fast I thought I was going to die and the agonizing pain only intensified. I clutched at my side and rolled around on the ground and in my pool of blood as I frantically kicked my legs. And all at once, the pain multiplied once again. At this point, the only thing my body wanted to do was scream. And so I screamed louder than I thought possible. It was the type scream you'd only hear in horror movies.
"Yuuta! Yuuta! Calm down. You'll be fine."
I couldn’t even make out what Claire was saying. The pain was overwhelming every other one of my senses. The only reason I knew she was nearby was because she tried grabbing on to me to keep me still.
"Just bear with pain for just a minute and it'll all seem like a bad dream by the end."
I didn't know what she was saying or what she was doing. But her voice sounded almost soothing, something I never thought I'd describe her as.
Claire kneeled next to me and brought me closer to her. She tried her best to keep me from thrashing around, even putting one of her knees on my chest.
Something warm began to cover my severed limb. Somehow, in the midst of the agonizing pain, something made my feel relaxed. It was such a faint sensation, though, that I though mind was playing tricks on me. But I soon lost track of those thoughts and the pain returned.
With the forest being as dark as it was, I couldn't make out reality from a dream.