The Warmth of a Hand

A Selection from The Fantasy Book Project.

-After being attacked by a group of creatures sporting daggers from the front of their chests, Nicodemus struggles to hold on to finish the fight against these evils.-

Nicodemus Pandit struggled for breath. He had already reloaded his revolver once before, and even though he could barely breathe, his left side torn open, blood pouring through the grated floor of the catwalk he now sat on, his hands worked of their own accord. Pulling the circle-clip that held the five extra rounds of .35 into his right hand, the two middle fingers of his left hand cradled the cylinder open and he let the circle-clipped rounds slide off the frame and into the chambers. It was a motion not done by thought, but by habit and muscle memory.

He could hear a whistling whenever he took in a breath and it was coming from his left side. There wasn’t much time left. He looked over to where several of the others had converged on one of those things and he could see that it was laying on the ground, not moving. Good, he thought, that was the second one down. Just one left, the one he had already put several rounds into. It was crawling towards him, having stopped going after the girl who was still kneeling inside what had been the glass bulb.

He thumbed the hammer back and pointed the gun towards the creature, the dagger in its chest was clanking on the metal grate of the catwalk. It was nearly dead. With the one that Christoph had killed, this one wasn’t long for this world, but he had to make sure. He fired, and the round took the creature in the eye. Its head didn’t move much, not like you would think it would. In plays at the opera, when someone got shot, they would fly backward, but in reality, a bullet just moved too fast to make a big show of its impact, in this case, the creature stopped its crawling, hovering there on hands and knees for a movement, then it collapsed to the floor. A wave of pain hit Nicodemus and he looked down. The left side of him was mostly gone, just a tattered edge of flesh just under his ribs with a hole that ended just above his belt. The vague awareness that he was going to die hovered just outside his thoughts. Oddly enough, he thought of his mother. She had been a very quiet woman. He had never known his father, but his mother was always warm and gentle. He could even feel her hands on his face. Her voice was soothing, “Here now, I have got you. Just hold on for a moment.” She was a little abrupt in her tone. Not like she used to speak to him.

Warmth spread through him, but then a bursting shock and he screamed suddenly, not in pain, but in awareness. He realized his eyes had been closed, but now they were open, a white film crossing over them and the world around him blazed into bright light again. Beside him, Meshiah was gently pressing her hand to his side. The shock of seeing his dead friend standing next to him again was overshadowed when he looked down to see himself completely whole, the ragged edge of flesh was gone and the blood just sat on top of the skin, which was new and fresh. She smiled at him, but quickly got up and ran towards Christoph who was laying in Vishna’s arms, him screaming something. Her bare feet made no noise on the metal flooring.

But no sooner had she gotten to the stairs leading down to where Christoph lay crumpled near the creature he had killed, but both the creature and Christoph’s bodies erupted in flames. Vishna jumped back, the burning ash wisping away like paper in a near-instant. Vishna turned to look towards her, his face stained with the ash, an oddly serene look on his face. She stopped in her tracks, covering her face with her hands and turning away. For the first time, Nicodemus noticed that she wasn’t wearing a stitch of clothes, her golden hair cascading down her back.

Struggling to his feet, he was still a little dizzy, he took off his knee-length coat and walked over to her. She stood looking down at the ash heaps on the floor. He took in the look of her, she wasn’t the same. Her body seemed, thinner than it had in her past life. She had been a normally curvy young lady in her youth, but now, there didn’t seem to be an ounce of fat on her body, only muscle and tendon stood out from her flesh. He placed the coat over her shoulders. “There’s nothing we could have done lass. He was already dead.” She turned to face him, her face fierce with her eyes looking away from him, refusing to make contact, her fingers fidgeting with the edge of the coat.

D. Michl Lowe

The Fantasy Book Project

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