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   Chapter 35 34.

On Her Knees By Chyna McCartney Characters: 21642

Updated: 2018-07-27 10:12

"Butterflies?" I hissed. At that moment, I felt the searing pain of my wounds being washed with the antiseptic without warning. I grabbed onto fistfuls of the coffee colored linens, in part to distract myself from the pain but also to anchor myself to the present reality, holding a horrid memory of that room with Christian's fire at bay.

"Terribly sorry, my dear, " came the doctor's apologetic murmur. " Like I said, there is still some pain to be had even with the localized anesthetic since I cannot risk administering anything stronger. "

My teeth ground together with the force with which I was fighting to keep my jaw clamped shut to abate the cries of pain.

"This pain is temporary, like everything else, " he murmured again, perhaps attempting to be comforting but I didn't take it as such.

"That's not true, " I ground out. That 'nothing last forever' crap never sit well with me. Some things did stay with you; some scars would never fade away. But in my experience, it was always the ugly ones that lasted longest; it was always the ugliest stains that were hardest to erase. I had become accustomed to pain and it had taken a liking to me; if nothing else, Armand and Marcus and their band of monsters had taught me that much.

In fact, in some way I had brought most of the pain I had suffered at their hands upon myself. I was like a piece of iron that would not succumb to the furnace's flame; difficult to mold, impossible to control. And so, the blacksmith hammered me into some semblance of submission. With force and might they bent me, rather literally, to their will.

Yet, still, I had never shaped myself out to be exactly what they wanted, and to that end, I suppose there would be more pain to come.

I uncurled my fists from around the sheets. Certainly, this antiseptic felt like acid being doused onto my exposed flesh but there was more to come. There was no point in whimpering about it now.

"You are accustomed to pain, " Raphael said in his still quiet voice. Not a question but a statement of fact. The solution was gradually losing its sting and I could hear the clattering of the metal instruments again.

"Something like that, " I confessed. "Are you going to tell me what butterflies have to do with any of this? I could use the distraction."

"Very well, " he responded, dabbing at the wounds. "The antiseptic has liberated most of the pus, coagulated blood and debris. I will attempt to excise some of the dead tissue now. Do you know what a dermal curette is, Teryn?"

"It's used in debridement, " I replied, recalling my reading on wound care from my biological mother's stash of anatomical texts. When I was little, I had always thought I had wanted to be an E.M.T.; treating injuries and being part of the natural healing process was always the most intriguing thing to me.

"You're going to use it to scrape away some of the necrotic tissue but since some of it may be attached to living tissue, there will be pain, but nothing too intense for the lidocaine."

"Indeed. Most of the damage is to the epidermal layer, to the stratum basale even down to the muscular layer in some rare places. It is interesting that even your contractile function has not been inhibited to some degree, though I imagine that even the smallest movements are agonizing...Truly curious indeed, " he mumbled, almost marveling.

"Your wound pattern is definitely indicative of sustained force. More assuredly the work of a vampire since we are more resistant to fatigue. Such force was wildly exerted, evident of the extreme degree of variance in the extent of the damage from one wound to the next; no uniformity at all. Yet the violence still seems so calculated..."

"What do you mean?" I could hear Marcus' voice in my head, commanding me to kneel at his feet. Again, I relived the taste of blood in my mouth mixed in with my own defiance.

"The rage your assailant must have felt is obvious and the damage inflicted is great but so often in cases like this, the more immediately mortal wounds are inflicted unintentionally since in such an emotive state, inherent selfishness erases any concerns for anything outside of the absorbed self. It would have been easy for someone of my kind to have torn your flesh more severely; expose far more muscle tissue-- nerve damage even. Yet you can still move, there is no paralysis. It appears as though your attacker was aware of his own strength. As if in his deranged, enraged state there was an awareness of what would be too much damage...

He brought you to the edge of the precipice and somehow pulled you back just in time to stop you from falling. He wanted to hurt you but not too much..."

"His goal the entire time was to maim severely, but not to disable, " I chimed in. The realization hit then as I stared forward at the iron headboard. "He had knowledge of my limits and his actions were implicit and deliberate. It must take a lot of practice to possess that kind of restraint..."

The vampire Marcus' whimpering in my ears, begging me not to go as I slipped into unconsciousness echoed in my mind and I was left with a cold kind of rage.

"Yes, someone skilled;" Raphael replied sullenly. "An artisan of torture if there were such a thing." He blew out a gust of air; almost a sigh but not quite. "I will try to be gentle."

There was the first tug of the metal blade against my skin and I rested my head back down atop my folded arms. I knew what he must be doing with those instruments; I could visualize him making short shallow strokes with the blade held at an angle. The sensation was uncomfortable, to say the least, and I heard the distinct clink of metal on metal as I imagined he was tapping the blade against the side of the metal tray to get rid of any organic matter that clung to it.

I focused on that sound, allowing my mind to drift out like a raft at the heart of the ocean until every thought of Marcus and every recollection of feeling from that moment seemed far away.

I vaguely recalled Raphael mentioning something about having to remove a few eschars and the sensation of tugging becoming that of tearing as he switched from a curette to a pair of surgical scissors but I was never truly present, mentally at least, until he spoke again.

"I have seen this degree of calculated violence only one other time and that was many centuries before you were born." Perhaps it was the emptiness of his voice that drew me back.

"Does th

s' testimonies, his guilt was apparent. So, I watched them lead him to the gallows several days later, his parents of course in absence..."

"But he was their son..." I heard myself say. To me, it seemed that parents, in general, were just destined to fail their children-- in the most demonstrable ways at that. Or perhaps, I was just projecting my own experiences with my parents onto Raphael's story.

"They never claimed him as their son before, " the doctor replied. " He was a deformity and to do so then by appearing to oppose his sentence would have been even more catastrophic to their image with the villagers screaming things like 'accursed' and 'touched by the devil' at him as they slipped the noose around the frightened child's neck.

The noble family had the guard responsible for setting him free on the night of the murder executed but no one came to even watch him die. They had other sons--other heirs and soon Tomas faded into memory.

But I could not forget him. His face haunted my dreams and I heard his guttural noises every moment I was awake. The memory of him would not let me rest as if I myself had hung him with my unwillingness to defend him..."

"You couldn't possibly blame yourself for that." I felt like I should be consoling him. The metal instruments clattered and fell into the metal tray. "You couldn't possibly have --I mean you were friends with him at the very least. You were the only person that didn't abandon him..."

"But what did I do to save him? He stood upon the gallows alone and I crouched in the shadows and watched as they cursed and mocked and spat at him...I felt that I had to do something to honor his memory.

It was ignorance and the hatred that this ignorance had incited that had killed him-- he was something the humans did not recognize; something they did not quite understand..."

"And so, you made it your mission to understand; to erase the ignorance and ensure that others understood?" I finished for him.

"Yes, " he sighed. "I became a doctor to understand first, what people like him might face; what made him so much less capable of functioning like any other person. "

"And did you find your answer?"

"Yes, " he replied. "You can sit up now if you wish. I am reluctant to reset your bandages because I do believe there was talk of you having a bath before I arrived; I am sure that Giovanni can work his way around gauze and a few inches of tape to assist you when that is done."

I accepted his proposition, turning to see him while pulling what I could of the fabric that draped around my waist, up to cover my breasts.

"I found out what condition had afflicted him at birth, only to realize that it was not the condition that mattered."

He paused to drape one of the unused towels across my chest, allowing it to hang from my shoulders and leaving me free to cross my arms over the white cloth.

He now toiled with the tools from his medical bag, using another towel tipped in some of the saline solution to gently clean each instrument before returning them to the bag. I watched him tend to his tools as he spoke

"You see prejudices are not specific to any one illness or deformity; whether they be a matter of physical differences or disagreeances on the basis of principles. Rather, anything different or difficult to rationalize or quantify is a threat to those who find such things to be contrary to their own system and I realized that I became and continued to be a doctor because I thought that if I could understand the innermost workings of every creature, then I would understand where these prejudices came from since I would be able to ascertain what constituted those differences on the most basic, anatomical level."

The medical bag was closed with a soft thud and all that was left on the edge of the bed was a white towel upon which rested a pile of bloodied gauze and whatever other contaminants and pits of dead flesh Raphael had removed from my wounds.

The doctor looked up at me with cobalt blue eyes now alight with some strange sense of understanding; of secret gratification at the attainment of what to him might be the ultimate knowledge. "So, I lived among your kind, who were viewed as inferior and in the process learned both nothing..." he smiled at me. "And everything."

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