Read Anterograde Online

Authors: Kallysten

Anterograde (10 page)

Unable
to form words, Calden nods. Then he looks down, and realizes Eli isn’t holding
what Calden expected. In one hand, he has a glass of water. In the other, two
small, round white pills.

“Take
these?” he requests.

Calden
hesitates for a second—but really, why? Didn’t he just confirm that he trusts
this man?

He
swallows the pills without looking at the markings on them, chasing them down
with a gulp of water, and only then does he ask, “What are they?”

Eli
takes the glass from him and sets it down before climbing into bed. He holds
the covers open, patting the mattress to invite Calden to join him.

“Sleeping
pills,” he says softly. “You’re going to go to sleep, and when you wake up,
today will be gone. It won’t ever have happened.”

Calden
watches him for several seconds before climbing in. He lies there, on his back,
hands knitted together on his stomach, confused and aching somewhere deep
inside his chest.

“Okay?”
Eli asks after a moment.

“I
won’t remember it,” Calden says, “but you will.”

“I
will,” Eli repeats, throwing an arm across Calden’s chest. “I remember
everything that you can’t, because I’m your memory now. Anything you need to
know, I can tell you. And what you don’t need to remember, I can make
disappear.
And this? There’s no reason
for you
to
remember this
.”

Calden
shakes his head. “How is that fair?” he asks. “How is that fair for you? You
get to remember I failed, and I—”

“No,”
Eli cuts in, his arm tightening slightly. “You didn’t fail. You’re human, Calden.
I know you don’t like to be reminded of that tragic fact, but I assure you, you
are
human. And there’s only so much you can demand from your body before
it
fails
you
.”

Calden
wants to argue that’s the same thing, but his mind feels slow and he yawns
widely. His eyes close. There was something else, though. Something nagging at
him. Oh, yes…

“You
didn’t take me to bed,” he mumbles. “I wanted you to take me to bed.”

Eli’s
body shakes as he laughs quietly.

“We
are in bed, aren’t we?” he replies, and nudges Calden until he rolls onto his
side, immediately pressing his body along Calden’s back.

“But…
sex.”

In Calden’s
mind, it’s a full sentence, a question, a protest, an offer. Maybe Eli
understands because he kisses Calden’s shoulder.

“We’ll
have sex when we both want it,” he whispers. “Now sleep, love. We need rest.”

Calden
drifts off with a word of love lingering on his tongue.

 

(
next chronological chapter
)

 

August 15
th

 

 

Eli
was growing more worried every day.

For
the past two months, things had progressively been getting better. Calden’s
memory wasn’t improving one bit, of course not. The odds of that were
infinitesimal, and Eli had talked himself out of hoping for a miracle. He’d
already gotten one of those when Calden had
overdosed
; asking for two would have been downright greedy.

Still,
Ca
l
den’s
day to day life—and by extension Eli’s—was getting easier.

The
tattoo and diary had helped tremendously. Combined, they allowed Ca
l
den to
understand and accept his condition in just moments, and Eli didn’t have to rip
his own heart out every other day anymore by telling him about it all.

It
also helped that Ca
l
den was growing into new sleep patterns that, although
unusual, were familiar to him from his work at the hospital, and, more
importantly, worked for him. He now usually remained awake for two days in a
row before he grew tired and went to bed. Twice,
during an extended demon attack
,
he’d stayed up to four days, although the possibility of hallucinations and
worse made Eli deeply uneasy.

Being
back at the hospital and working was
the
most helpful part of it all. Every time Eli sat and watched Ca
l
den as he read
his diary, he could tell the exact moment when Ca
l
den started to read about
his work; t
he
moment when he realized that the one thing he valued above all else was still
within his grasp, even if his immediate memories weren’t. That was the moment
when his body relaxed, and Eli could read what he imagined was relief on Calden’s
features.

But
all the progress seemed to have come to a grinding halt. For the past few days,
regardless of whether Ca
l
den caught some sleep or not, he seemed to be plagued
with hallucinations. He refused to admit it was happening at all, of course.
Whenever Eli caught him muttering under his breath or staring at nothing, he
claimed he was just talking to himself or thinking aloud. Eli could almost have
believed him if his mood had not been increasingly more volatile.

That
very morning, when Eli had
come out of
his room, he’d found Ca
l
den ready to leave for the
hospital and annoyed that Eli was slowing him down. Eli was surprised Ca
l
den hadn’t run
off on his own. He was not, on the other hand, surprised that Ca
l
den, as anxious
as he was to be on his way, had not deigned to bother preparing coffee for Eli.
Some things would never change.

When they’d first walked into the staff room where
Samford was reviewing videos, she’d been all smiles and happy to see them. Or
at the very least, she’d been happy to see Calden. Of all the doctors in the
hospital, other than Eli of course, she was the one Calden got along with the
best, maybe because she’d been close to Calden’s father and Calden had a hard
time being actively rude to someone he’d known all his life.

She’d
apparently called
Calden that morning
to ask if he’d help her review a few videos of
surgery that hadn’t had the best of outcomes to see if they could figure out
what had gone wrong exactly. After less than ten minutes in Ca
l
den’s company,
however, her smile seemed a lot more strained. After twenty minutes, she
started throwing Eli worried looks.

It
would have been hard for her not to notice that Calden kept hushing some unseen
person in the room and berating them under his breath. Eli was debating whether
to suggest they go home for Ca
l
den to get a bit of sleep—even though he’d only been
up for a little over a day—when things took a drastic turn.

All
of a sudden, Calden pushed away from the conference table and jumped to his
feet. He seized the notepad he’d been scribbling on and hurled it at the wall,
shouting, “Liar! That’s not true!”

Samford
watched him, frozen in her seat, her mouth hanging open
. Eli
hurriedly
stood and moved to place h
imself between Ca
l
den and Samford,
both hands raised palms out in front of him.

“Ca
l
den?” he said
in as calm a tone as he could muster. “Do you want to tell me what’s going on?”

“Shut
up!” Ca
l
den shouted, but the words, like the
cup of coffee Calden picked up
,
were thrown at the wall again. “Shut up! It wasn’t my fault! They didn’t tell
me you were hurt. I didn’t choose!”

If Eli
had harbored any doubts about whose ghost was in the room with them, they’d
have vanished at those words.

“She’s
dead, Ca
l
den,” Eli said, taking a cautious step toward him
. “She’s been dead for almost three years, and you
know it. Think.”

Ca
l
den turned wild
eyes toward him. They were circled by shadows deep enough to look like bruises.
How could he look so tired when he’d been sleeping so regularly?

Unless…

Eli’s
throat tightened as he realized Ca
l
den must have tricked him. Of course he had. The
charade had been good, very good. Pretending to go to sleep in his bed instead
of falling asleep on the sofa. Reading the diary every time he ‘woke up.’ Being
careful to ask the same questions and not show he remembered things he
shouldn’t…

Only
Calden
would be so damn clever. And so damn stupid at the same time. Eli didn’t know
whether to yell at him or simply roll his eyes.

“How
long have you been awake?” he asked, but Ca
l
den wasn’t listening. His attention was back on the
wall. Back on his hallucination.

“No,
I couldn’t have,” he said again, pleading now. When he looked at
Samford
through
those crazed eyes, she gasped. “Say it’s not true,” he demanded. “Say you tried
your best. Say I couldn’t have done better.”

“My…
my best
?” she
stammered, pushing away from the table and getting to
her feet
. “My best for what?”

Ca
l
den pointed at
the
blank wall
. “Your best to save her. Say you didn’t let her die, Caroline.
Say it!”

He
ended on a shout that clearly frightened
Samford.

“Let
who die
?” she
asked, shaking
.
“I don’t understand!”

With
a wordless cry,
Calden gripped the chair
he’d vacated and threw it at the wall before Eli could step forward and stop
him. Startled, Samford moved back, away from Calden, and doing so she tripped
backward
and fell. She hit the floor
hard, her head striking the foot of the
wall
behind her.

Cursing
under his breath, Eli
ran to her and
knelt down
. When
he
cupped the back of her head
, he
was relieved
not to find blood, but she’d surely get a nasty bump.

“I’m
okay,” she mumbled as he helped her sit up. “I’m fine.”

“You’re
going to
the ER
,” Eli told her firmly, then turned a glare to Ca
l
den. “And you
are going home and straight to bed before you hurt anyone else, you
damn
idiot!”

But
Ca
l
den
wasn’t looking at Eli, never mind listening to him. His eyes were back to the
now-dented
wall
and he was shaking his head, lips moving on the same muttered words over and
over.

“I
didn’t. I didn’t know. I didn’t choose.”

“Ca
l
den?” Eli said
urgently, still kneeling by
Samford.
“Calden
, look at me. Riley’s not here. I
am. Look at me
.”

With
obvious difficulty, Ca
l
den tore his gaze away from what wasn’t there and
looked at what was instead. When his eyes fell on
Samford
, they
widened and he shook his head, taking a step back.

“I
didn’t mean…
Caroline
, I didn’t…”

“I’m
fine,” she said with a wavering smile. “It’s okay, Ca
l
den. But you
should listen to Eli and go home. Don’t you think?”

Ca
l
den shook his
head again, taking another step backward until his back was to the door.
Without another word, he
ran out, pushing
past the few people who had assembled there when they’d heard the commotion
.

“Ca
l
den!”

Eli’s
shout remained unanswered. He started to stand, but
hesitated
as he considered
Samford.

“I’ll
have someone
walk me down to the ER
,” she said. “Just go. Make sure he’s all right.”

Eli
didn’t need her to repeat it. He ran after Ca
l
den, catching just a glimpse of
him entering the stairwell. A rush of fear coursed through him
when he realized where Calden was going,
and he ran faster. Why did
they
always have
to end up
on the rooftop
?

He
reached the roof seconds after Ca
l
den and could have wept in relief when Ca
l
den was nowhere
near the edge. Instead, he paced back and forth, hands pressed to his ears. He
was right in the spot where Eli had found him, two years earlier, his heart
already slowing down from an overdose, a syringe next to him, the phone with
which he’d called Eli still in his hand. The memory slammed into Eli until he
was sure he would be sick.

“Not
true,” Calden muttered. “You know it’s not. I didn’t choose. I couldn’t have,
but I didn’t even know. I didn’t!

The
last was an agonized shout as Ca
l
den grabbed his hair with both hands.

“Ca
l
den,” Eli said
quietly. “You need to calm down. I need you to calm down. You’re scaring the
hell out of me.”

Wide,
bloodshot eyes settled on him. “Eli. Say you believe me, please.”

“I
believe you,” Eli replied automatically as he took slow, cautious steps toward Ca
l
den. “I have no
idea what she is saying, but I
do
know one thing. Sh
e’d
dead. I know that, and you know that. Don’t you?”

Ca
l
den lowered his
hands. His eyes were gleaming with tears. “I don’t know anymore. She knows
me
.
She knows everything about me. She always did. What if she’s right? What if I
just don’t want to remember she’s right?”

“Does
she know what you decided on June first?” Eli asked, taking yet another step
closer.

A
jolt shook Ca
l
den’s body as though Eli had just hit him. He became
very still and stared at Eli fixedly.

“How
do you know—”

“Don’t
ask me,” Eli tutted. “Ask
your sister
. Ask her what she knows about
June first
.”

Ca
l
den didn’t say
a word, but he turned his face slightly to Eli’s left, his eyes focusing on
nothing.

“She
knows,” Ca
l
den said brokenly. “How does she know? I didn’t tell her. I didn’t tell
anyone. I didn’t tell you. Did I tell you? How do
you
know?”

“I
don’t.” Eli raised a hand and curled his fingers around Ca
l
den’s wrist. “I
have no idea what
you decided on June
first
, because you wouldn’t tell me. You
said if you couldn’t tell what was real or what wasn’t, I should mention
that date
. You
said if whoever you saw knew about it, it proved that person was nothing more
than a product of your mind because no one else knows. So now you tell me. Is
your sister really here
?”

Ca
l
den looked at Eli,
looked at the empty space next to him, then looked at Eli’s hand on his wrist,
right below the tattoo exposed by his rolled
sleeve
.

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