Lamia


I was walking back to my lab, when the woman screamed, "My friend's going in to labor!  Her water broke!  We need a wheelchair!"  I raced into the nearest ward, looking for a wheelchair.

“Wheelchair?”

"Give me a second to take the restraints off, and you can have Daphne’s," the nurse said, getting up from behind her desk.   She started on one of the restraints holding the old woman’s arms.

"Hurry!" I said, fumbling with the other restraint.  "There's a woman in labor out in the hall!"

The old woman, free of the restraints, lunged up and surged out the door, her mouth opening wide, revealing a row of barracuda-like teeth.

"She's a Lamia!" the nurse shouted.

"Maybe you should have... Fuck!"  I sprinted out the door.  The old woman was bearing down on the terrified laboring mother.  I dove, and tackled her around the knees, fighting my way up her body to hold onto her head, just in case.  With the supernaturals, you never knew how much was folklore and how much real.

"Get her out of here!" I shouted at the woman with the laboring mother, trying not to yelp, as the old woman raked my arms with her nails, flailing to crawl away from me.

The nurse ran up and injected her with something, and a second time, and again.  Finally, the lamia went limp.  I crawled off slowly, ready to jump on her again in case she decided to follow the trail of amniotic fluid leading down the hall.  I helped the nurse haul her up and back into the ward.  We tied her into the chair again.

"What the hell are you thinking, keeping a Lamia this close to a maternity ward?" I demanded, as another nurse bustled forward with a first aid kit.

"I thought the sounds and smells might rouse her a bit."  An old man shuffled into view.  "I am terribly sorry if she injured you."

"I'll be ok," I said, letting the nurse swab the scratches with peroxide and silver nitrate.  I hissed air through my teeth.

"She gave up what she was to be with me," he said.  "And it's killing her."  He reached down to touch her face gently.

"She doesn't...?"

"Hasn't for years," he said, shaking his head.  He reached down to touch her face.  "So we could be together.  We knew that surviving on my blood, or plasma alone wouldn't keep her going forever, we just thought she would at least outlast me."

"I'm sorry," I said, biting my lip.  “I didn’t think they could… I’m sorry.”

“Quite all right,” he said, his eyes never leaving her face.

“Mr. O’Connor, her room’s ready for her again,” a third nurse said, walking up.  He hooked his cane over one of the chair’s handles, and started to wheel her back to her room.

“I think we’ve had quite enough excitement for one day, haven’t we, sweetheart?”

I left them and walked back to my lab.  I tried going over my notes from the latest round of results, but my mind wandered.  The way the old man touched her face, looked into her eyes.  I looked over at the specimen refrigerator across the lab.  I got up, and walked over to it, standing in front of it, staring at the stainless steel surface for a long time.

An hour later, I walked into the lamia’s room with a bouquet of flowers.  Her husband sat in a chair next to her bed, holding her hand.  She was still out.

"You didn't have to do that," he said, standing as I entered the room.

"Yeah, I did," I said.  "It was my fault she frenzied.  I just hope I didn't hurt her taking her down like that."

"You didn't.  She’s hard to hurt," her husband said.  I closed the door behind me, and pulled the flowers out of florist's box surrounding the vase.  Beneath it was a small, styrofoam pod, cold to the touch.  I pulled it out and handed it to him.

"What's this?"

"Cord blood," I said.  "From my son Jacob."

"But, what if he needs it later on, gets sick?"

"Jacob and his father Paul were killed by a drunk driver three years ago," I said.  "I was holding onto it, thinking maybe when the cloning technology was better... but I want you to have it for her.  I think it will help."

"You're giving up your chance to have your son back."

"I... never… wanted children," I said, looking down.  "I had him because Paul wanted him so badly when we found out I was pregnant.  I could barely handle the stress of a baby with Paul there doing most of the work.  Cloning Jacob is a pipedream I held onto, to assauge my guilt over being a lousy mother.  I think it will do the two of you far more good than it will ever do me, because I don't want Jacob back, I want Paul.  And Jacob was not and will not be Paul.  It wouldn't be fair to anyone. This is a far better use of his blood.  Give it to her and I hope it helps."

I turned to leave the room.

"Thank you," he said.

"If she needs more, let me know.  Sometimes my lab gets unusable vials... I can pass it along."

"Why?"

"Because I can't have Paul back, but you can have..."

"Daphne."

"You can have Daphne back.  My card's in the flower arrangement."

Several years later, I attended Mr. Jeffrey O'Connor's funeral.  He was survived by two sons from a previous marriage, and his widow Daphne O'Connor.  I stood in the back of the crowd by the grave, and tried to slip away before anyone knew I was there.  She caught up to me at the car.

"Dr. Stinson."

"Mrs. O'Connor, I am very sorry for your loss."

"As am I for yours," she said.  "Thank you, for giving us the years we had left."

"You're welcome."

"I won't be needing your help anymore," she said.  "After I wrap up the estate, I'll be joining Jeff."  She nodded toward the grave.

"Is that...a good idea?"

"I will be slipping into a hibernatory state," she said.  "I will sleep next to my love for centuries."

"What about when you wake up?"

“With any luck, I won’t,” she said.  “Thank you for letting me chose.”  She leaned forward and kissed my cheek.  

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