All other considerations evaporated, and Henry sprinted from the old graveyard on foot. By the time he made it through the trees Niles had caught up with him, and wordlessly pulled him onto the back of his motorcycle. They sped together to the outskirts of Tortus Bay, where the Anderson Warehouse sat unperturbed beneath the cool noon sun. Inside, Kara lay lifeless on the floor. A dim halo surrounded her. How many of that day’s falls and wolf bites had been hers to bear? Too many for the woman—for any person—to have sustained.
Henry was the first at her side, taking her limp form by the shoulders and calling her name. Her lips were purpling; if she breathed, it was too shallow to be felt. Behind him others filed in. They had followed in the wake of the motorcycle, and now fanned themselves out with somber looks on their faces. Teresa was one of the last inside. She had only just elbowed her way through the crowd when she cried out “Wait! Stop!”
But it was too late. Henry had already placed his hands over Kara’s heart, and closed his eyes to focus. Once more the magic of the village flowed through him. It filled his body, streaking from his mind through his chest and finally into the tips of his fingers. This time a horrible burning sensation came along with it, as though white fire and not blood coursed through his veins. Everybody but he saw the black rot on his arm expand, growing into a complete sleeve. Everybody but he saw the black rot on his shoulder leach onto his chest.
Kara drew in a loud, shuddering breath, and opened her eyes. Henry opened his own, but saw nothing. He fell down beside her, writhing.
Teresa’s house was quickly transformed into something akin to a field hospital. What few stretchers she possessed were set up on her lawn, for the use of those too hurt to walk, but not so hurt that they needed constant attention. Beds and spare mattresses had been set up inside for people more critically injured.
That is where Henry awoke that evening, confused for a time by the sight of Teresa’s kitchen, until his mind caught up with his body. He was lying on an inflatable camping mattress, which had lost most of its air on either end. “Kara,” he said, trying to sit up. Nausea forced him back down.
“Shh.” Niles sat beside him, holding his hand. They were on the floor to the side of the table, off of which someone’s arm dangled. The counters had been cleared, and people slept there as well. It seemed that every spare inch had been giving over for makeshift beds. Not everyone got as lucky as an inflatable mattress. “She’s fine,” he said. “Up and helping out. I can go get her, if you want. I’m supposed to tell Teresa when you wake up, anyhow.”
“Yes,” Henry said, but he did not let go of the man’s hand. He squeezed as tight as he could manage.
Niles smiled, and brought his lips down to kiss Henry’s forehead. That sensational smell of sweet bread and lumber hit his nose, undercut by something foreign—but pleasant. Gasoline? “You did good. I’ll be right back.”
Cold dread worked its way through Henry’s gut. Stale sweat slicked his body. In Niles’ absence, the stench of clotting blood overwhelmed the room. He did not need to lift his head and look down upon his body to know that his injury had escalated. Not only could he not move his left arm, or any of the fingers on his left hand, but he could not feel any of it whatsoever. It was as though the appendage did not exist at all, so that he could only convince himself that he had not undergone an emergency amputation by reaching out and feeling the clammy flesh with his good hand.
Then the door opened, and his anxiety was pushed aside in a rush of light and movement. Kara skidded to a stop at his side, and then threw herself on top of him in a fierce hug. “You idiot,” she said, wiping away her tears. “You absolute moron. You saved my life.”
“You saved mine first.”
“Who’s keeping track anymore? How are you feeling?”
“Like I jumped into a pit of wolves.”
She ran her fingers along the crook of his elbow. Once, that would have been ticklish. “It’s a complete circus outside. The whole village knows the truth now. A line of volunteers are keeping non-injured people away from the house. They all want to see you.”
He sighed. “That might be worse than when they all thought I was insane.”
“Everybody in a ten mile radius with so much as a bruise to complain about is going to want to see you,” she laughed. “How did you discover that you could do this?”
“Clint,” he said, remembering. “I left him back in the Tortoise Shell. Is he okay?”
“Leia dragged him out. He’s not feeling great, but he’s still alive because of you.”
Behind them the door opened again, and several more people entered the room. First amongst them was Teresa, who gently nudged Kara out of the way to take her place. Her hair was completely frazzled, and there was a wild bloodshot quality about her eyes. “How are you feeling?” she asked.
“Can’t feel the arm anymore.”
“You shouldn’t have been so rash.” She took his forearm and pressed her forefinger deep into the skin.
“Take it easy on him,” Niles said. He was hovering back near the door, looking on with a worried face. Beside him Sofia wore a different expression. Her eyes were hard, and her jaw locked. There was no telling if the blood on her clothing was from tending to the patients around the house, or if it was leftover from her encounter with Mathas Bernard.
Henry gave a one-shoulder shrug. “I still can’t feel anything.”
Teresa continued in this manner, twisting and prodding every bit of his arm, trying to elicit some sort of response. Nothing came. Henry didn’t like looking at it. All that came to his mind was necrosis; decaying flesh, and grisly medical operations. So he let his eyes wander, and they eventually found their way back to Sofia. She nodded to him, very slightly.
“Listen,” he said, “about Mathas, I—I wanted to say that-”
“You don’t have to say anything,” Teresa whispered, bringing her hands from his arm to his chest. “And you certainly don’t have anything to apologize for. Now, tell me when you can feel my fingers.”
He could not do so until her hand was in the center of his chest. “That’s not good, is it?”
“It’s better than nothing,” she said, sitting back. Some of her manic energy ebbed off into exhaustion. “You have a great gift. I’m sure you realize that you cannot use it again.”
“What are you saying?”
“Henry, I’m afraid that this rot is heading for your heart. A small amount of it might be there already. If you use this talent again, it may very well kill you. I cannot say that you have long to live, even if you abstain.”