The door opened. To blood.

Catcher was curled on the bed. Agatha was curled around him. In a pool of blood.

Her head was buried in his chest. Her little arms. Once white. Now stained red. Like Catcher's shirt. The sheets. The wall.

"What happened?" Lara lunged for the bed. Prying at Agatha's hands. To get her away from the blood. Agatha's head came up. "No mommy!" Her scream was hysterical. Horrified. Permanent. "I can't let go." It became a mantra. "I can't let go. I can't let go. I can't let go..."

Lara. Hindered. Moved to Catcher.

"Catcher? What is it? What happened? Why are you bleeding?" Her hands went to his side. And as soon as she touched. He kicked. And curled. And cried. "Help me." He whispered.

"I don't...what's wrong? Why are you bleeding? What happened?" She tried to find his eyes. In a mess of blankets. Clothes. Blood. And hair.

The stain was down his chest. Pooling around him. Agatha. Soaking the sheets. Splashed. And smeared against the wall.

"I'm calling the hospital." She turned.

She turned. And screamed.


But down the stairs. John didn't move. His eyes were on the paper. His lips parted. His ears deaf. His head down. His hands shaking. His thoughts raging.

Catcher groaned hoarsely. A gurgling scream. Lara turned back at the sound. Agatha began to cry. Her arms tight around him. Her eyes cinched closed. "Mommy!" She cried between Catcher's moans. "Help him!"

"I can't..." Lara stammered. "I don't..." She had no clue what to do.

She flipped around again. And took one. Long. Step towards the door. Only to hear Catcher. And Agatha. Cry out. And she flipped back.

Catcher's bloody hand was out. His other lost in the gore. That was his chest. It was reaching towards her. Agatha was hanging on. Scared. They were all scared.

"What Catcher? What?" Lara went down on her knees. Taking Catcher's hand. "What?"

He just lay there. Twisting. Writhing. Grimacing. Moaning. Spitting breaths.

With a sudden. Spewing. Cry. He rose to sit up.

"No!" Lara lunged to push him back down. Agatha cried out.

But Catcher held up against Lara's weight. And pushed her back. She fell to the ground. The carpet burning the backs of her thighs.

He cried out again. As he pushed his legs over the side of the bed. Agatha coming with him. His head dropping slightly. A new surge of blood washing through his fingers.

His cries became a function of movement. But with each one. His face grew more gray. More blood on his shirt. More terror in Agatha's face. As the blood dribbled in her hair. Down her face. Onto her room.

"Catcher what are you doing!" Lara screamed. Rising to her feet. On wobbly legs.

With a great groan. Splitting into a scream. Towards the end. Catcher rose to his feet. And almost fell back again. But Lara caught his shoulder. And he fell into her.

The combined deadweight of him. And Agatha. Nearly knocked her over again. But she held fast.

Agatha slowly slipped down his body. Her little arms tearing at his clothes. As she tried to find a hold. Catcher's manipulated body ground itself against Lara's. Blood spitting onto her. Smearing against her. Pooling beneath her.

"You'll kill yourself!" She tried to warn him. But he didn't listen. He went out into the hall. To the end. and pushed himself down the stairs. Taking it step. By blundering step.

Catcher slipped a little. At the bottom. Feet heavy. Eyes rolling. Head tipping.

Lara had to adjust her hands. Pressing. Pulling. Moving him. Her stomach sinking as she saw.

The couch was empty. The paper signed. The blanket fallen. The door open. John gone.

Catcher pushed himself. Heavy. To the doorway. Which was letting in lashing rain.

But there. Standing just at the foot of the porch. Calm and dry. Beneath a clear umbrella. Was an old woman. With a wrinkled smile.

"Hello." She said sweetly. "What's this then?"