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One more struggle

And I am free

G. G. Byron, 1846 Richard Bachman 2003

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EPILOGUE

The room was clean and quiet, with a small window casting the glow of a lazy late-afternoon sun on the walls. Nurse Cardiff pulled on the sheets, tucking the corners neatly under the mattress. The elderly lady wasn't too concerned that her activities were going to wake up the patient who was lying in the bed. There wasn't much chance that the young man would be waken up by anything, not even a loud claxon or a complete high school fanfare marching into the room would be able to accomplish this impossible task. William August Byron had been in a catatonic state ever since that rather unfortunate incident with the ETC last autumn, and the chances for him to regain consciousness were almost non-existing. Nurse Cardiff thought that it was a terrible shame, a heartbreaking waste of a young life. She had not known her patient before he ended up in the IC ward under her care, but she thought that the young man had a most handsome face and kind, gentle features. She could only imagine that he was a most endearing boy, mistreated by fate as God Himself had deserted the poor child. So she took care of him instead, and as best as she should, washing and tending him, tucking him in at night so he wouldn't be cold, and pulling back the sheets in the afternoon, so he wouldn't be too warm. She talked to him, and sometimes, when she had done her chords and had some spare time left, she would sit by his bed and read one of her favourite novels to him. She didn't exactly know why she thought he would appreciate that, but there was something about the young boy, that told her that he liked to read. That he adored stories. Especially classics like that of Dickens, Summerset or Dumas.

"Is this him? Are you sure?"

Nurse Cardiff turned around and met the eyes of a dark-haired woman who had just walked into the room together with young Dr Fendman. The woman's eyes were ink-black, not a shade of brown was in there. How unnatural and how odd they looked.

"Nurse Cardiff."

"Yes, Dr Fendman?"

"By the devil, he looks awfully pale! Whiter than a corpse even."

Dr Fendman scraped his throat uncomfortably, before he continued to address the nurse.

"I like to introduce you to Misses -"

"It's Miss, my good doctor, mind you."

"I apologise. This is Miss Lucinda Byron, miss Cardiff. She is mister Byron's aunt and possibly only remaining relative. She has travelled a great distance from England to see him."

"Please to meet you, Miss Byron." She politely extended hand to the woman, which she fully ignored.

"Pleasure, and do call me Luce. All my friends do. And since you take such good care of my poor little nephew, I must insist you calling me so."

"It's my work to take care of the patients. Besides, William is absolutely no trouble at all."

"Bet he is easy to attend. All he needs is couple of spoonful of mashed food and a sponge bath now and then. I've plants in the conservatory that need more attention and care, the poor lamb!"

The woman moved toward William and for a moment, nurse Cardiff thought that she might want to give the boy a hug, but instead, she reached out with her hand, and caressed his cheek with butterfly fingers that barely seemed to touch the skin.

"My poor, darling boy." She cooed. "I came as soon as possible. I know how long you've been waiting for me to bring you back. Now I'm here. Luce is here and everything is going to be all right again."

She brought her mouth close to his right ear, and whispered softly so that the doctor and the nurse couldn't hear.

"You thought you could just turn your back on me? After all that I've taught you? After all that I did for you? You're wrong, luv. You're mine! I have your fate in my claws!"

"That's what you like to think!"

She gazed up, her coal-black eyes catching sight of the spirit that had appeared at William's bedside. Dr Fendman and nurse Cardiff were both unaware of its presence, the hateful expression appearing on the face of the woman who had claimed to be the patient's aunt however, was more than clearly visible to them.

"You stay away from him!"

She didn´t utter a word, she didn´t have to.

- Well well, isn't that something. The old spirit lingers long they say. In this case it's the dusty Victorian soul that doesn't know when or where his grave is dug. -

"I knew you would try something like this! Give up Luce. He's back in Sunnydale with the slayer. Where he belongs."

- Didn't you learn anything from your demon-friend? When there is still a breathing, living body, a physical form to attach his consciousness to, there is still hope. William Byron is not free from me yet. I should know, for I'm the one who's going to bring him back. -

"He won't come back. He will never wake up in this place again."

Luce threw her head over her slender shoulders and laughed, making the good nurse feel uneasy and Dr Fendman considering the possibility that the madness ran through the Byron family line like sap through vines.

-You pathetic silly little soul! You cannot materialize yourself to save him. You don't even have any real powers! Have you forgotten who you are challenging, my boy? I am not the personification of evil. I AM evil. The source of it all, the stinking well in the desert that never dries. How DARE you to think that you could stop me from whatever I wish to do? -

Her eyes flashed gold, and her smooth white skin became green and scaled. A split tongue slithered over her lips as she spat out her hate like venom. Only the soul could see her changing into this hideous creature, which was more like her true form than anything else. William stepped back from her, his appearance still calm and poised, as a small smile crept up his lips.

"A fellow got to try."

There was a gasp and suddenly, there was movement in bones and muscles that had not stirred for months. Nurse Cardiff caught sight of it first as she was keeping half an eye on the boy, and she saw how his eyes started to bulge and how his mouth stretched to swallow oxygen like a fish on dry land.

"Dr Fendman! The patient! Something is wrong with the patient!"

The doctor tore his gaze off the peculiar guest (something about her, something about her cold unnatural eyes, had mesmerized him) and turned to the catatonic young man, whose chest was heaving up and down in violent shocks. His lungs seemed to be filled with liquid, and a horrible, disgusting smell came up as a black gooey substance bubbled out of his nose and mouth.

Nurse Cardiff was absolutely horrified.

"Dr Fendman?!"

"He's choking! My God, where does all this black stuff come from?"

Luce watched how the patient lying in the bed was heaving and flopping, his face and hands turning blue while the eyes rolled over white. She uttered a scream and her black hair changed into a nest of hissing black and red ring snakes. She ran up to the soul, her upper lip pulled back in a spiteful sneer, teeth pointed and hooked.

"What have you done you miserable worm?!"

"Me? Nothing! Got friends in high places, you see. Although you wouldn't know, not anymore ever since they kicked you out of there."

"This is NOT fair!" She shouted and looked up, careless now whether the others in the room could hear her or not; "This is NOT how it should be! You screwed up! You were the one who made the fatal mistake! You've lost your chance with this one! He should be MINE now!"

Dr Fendman leaned over and breathed into the patient's mouth, ballooning up his cheeks. He breathed into his patient again and again, his hands pressing on his chest.

"Breathe dammit! Breathe!"

The smell of decay hit him like a slap on the back of the head. My God, he thought to himself, it was as if he was breathing into a rotting corpse.

"Nurse! Call for medical assistance! He needs a tracheotomy!"

"YOU BLOODY CHEATER!"

"Miss, I would have to ask you to leave this room!" Dr Fendman insisted rather sternly. "The situation is critical!"

`This is not over! You hear me! William Byron, you and your delusional demon friend are going to end up in the infernos of hell! I promise you that!!"

"Miss! You really have to leave now!" Nurse Cardiff tried to grab the woman who was apparently hysterical by her arm to drag her outside, but to her bewilderment, her hand passed right through her, as if she was shaped out of nothing but thin air.

"Good Lord in heaven." She whispered.

"Oh shut up about the Cheating Old Git! I've had about enough of Him to last me the rest of the entire century!"

She turned, ink black eyes glancing malignantly at the astounded nurse, her ruby lips curled into a hateful grin.

"Oh, and don't bother trying to save him." She nodded toward the patient, struggling for breath. "His cards are laid, complements to that God of yours! Even I couldn't save the poor wretch from his web of intrigues. What could a bunch of worthless human beings do?"

She turned around on her heels, and paced out of the room without opening the door, her body passing through the material like a beam of sunlight through the water a shallow lake. Through the small glass panel, nurse Cardiff's gaze followed her walking in the corridor, her high-heeled shoes crossly ticking on the tiles. She watched her till she disappeared again through another solid barrier, the double door at the back end, and then, she finally turned around, her face pale and her hands shaking, and staggered over to the phone to call for assistance.

When they arrived, her patient had already stopped heaving and gasping and flopping. Everything had stopped, even the beating of the heart, which was the last organ to give up the futile struggle. His eyes were still open when the Dr Fendman wrote down the young man's name and filled in the time of death in the blank form, and told her to call the morgue to collect the body. After the medics had left, she was alone with him for a short while, and she had chance to say goodbye to her sweet boy. She leaned forward and carefully, she moved her fingers over his eyes, closing them.

"I don't know what happened to you." She whispered, sadness straining her voice. "But I'm sure she didn't got it right. William Byron will not spend eternity in hell. God is kind and forgiving. And I do believe that you're a good boy. You will be carried away by them to a much nicer place."

She placed a kiss on his damp forehead and wiped away the last tears from his cheeks. Although he had never spoken a word to her, she somehow knew that he would appreciate that. He looked like he was sleeping now, quiet and peaceful, his hands resting by his side.

The spirit that had been watching over him for the last six months stood by the side of the bed. He was facing nurse Cardiff, and saw how the kind woman kept caring for him till the very last moment. Although the he was not visible to her, it seemed that she could still sense his presence. She stayed in the room, and took a book from the nightstand. A copy of David Copperfield. The corners of the pages were curled and the cover was worn. She sat down beside his bed and opened it on page 246.

"It will take a while before they get here. So maybe I can keep you company and read a little to you."

She read to him in that quiet little room, while the sun stretched the barred shadow of the window and the yellow glow cast on the walls turned to orange, then red. it was only after sunset, when William Byron's soul had finally departed from this world, that she closed the book and placed it back. The entire space seemed much darker now, and much, much colder. Quietly, she stood up and walked out of the room, closing the door behind her.
The End.