"How do I do that, Grant?" I spit out. And I wanted to know what the hell he meant by when something went sideways. I'd seen serious shit go sideways and it was never pretty and at times bat shit weird.
"Sammy, naturally, to the best of your ability. I'll also give you my cell phone number if there is something that feels bad to you. Just call either number. I'll be here in five minutes because I am usually the one that answers all of the calls. I just live down the street." He finally met my eyes and I saw that he was dead serious.
"Okay, I get that. But how do I watch over them?" I was utterly confused and trying to keep up. Damn, this wasn't some janitor job but like, some sort of important task.
Smiling he said, "We have a bank of monitors that cover the building."
He waved his hand and I followed him into a room right off the lobby and saw what he'd been talking about -- there had to be twenty or more screens, along with a scrolling set of pictures at the bottom of the wall. Stunned, I saw a few of the monitors had a bed in the middle with someone sprawled out asleep. I didn't really focus on anyone in particular because my mind was still wrapping around the whole 'job' I was going to be doing, apparently by myself in a few hours after dark. I bit a gulp back and tried to stay focused on the words spilling out of Grant's mouth.
"We are a sleep clinic with some special clients. There are more rooms but these are the ones that currently need to be monitored." He turned to me and said, "They aren't humans here, but supernatural creatures that need to be watched over carefully. If you see any signs that they are being attacked you hit the button here and report." He pointed to a large red button on the right corner of the desk. "That will trigger an immediate response."
I was pretty sure that I looked like I'd just swallowed a damn frog, but Grant continued, saying, "Then lock yourself inside this room and wait until this phone rings." He pointed to a slim red phone and nodded. "And for no reason are you to open the door until someone calls and says it is all clear. Do not accept the word of anyone outside the room, only from the phone. This is one of the most important things for you to remember."
Gulping I asked, "So this ain't a normal sleep clinic at all is it?" I hadn't seen anyone hooked up to machines with wires and cords so I was pretty much assuming there weren't any medical doctors looking over reports in an office while the patient waited for drugs or shots.
Meeting my eyes he said, "Sammy, you survived West Virginia and that little zombie invasion. So we know you are strong and realize not everything is what is seems."
Gulping again, I nodded and waited for the final shoe to drop.
"We run a 'sleep clinic' to protect supernatural creatures. It is a safe zone. But not always -- the rogues are rising and we need to be vigilant." He made it sound all so humdrum, but at the same time I knew I'd stepped off the known world into the darkness again. My past began flooding my thoughts and I was drifting into the hell I thought that I'd escaped.
Suddenly my memories of West Virginia pushed into my thoughts, flooding out anything that Grant may have been saying.
I was in West Virginia and in my mom's house. She'd just freaked out about my grades and smacked the living fuck out of me. I was just a kid and she was a total bitch. The thing is she was right, I wasn't doing good in class, because I hadn't been in school for more than a month when she started going off on me and leaving huge welts and dark bruises on my skin. It was now almost November and I skipped more than I went. Finally one of the teachers tried to get me to tell her if my dad or my mom were beating me, but I saw no upside in telling her anything at this point -- I was too old to be put in a cute foster home with some fake Disney sort of family, and besides my mom would go postal if cops came to the house because of me. She probably wouldn't even leave a body if she was mad enough. There were plenty of abandoned mines and cut out holes in the mountains where a person could be fatally disappeared. I swear it was fucked up around my neighborhood.
Once she wore out her hand she snarled, "That's it. I'm heading out to get some ice for my hand. You better be studying when I get home." Yeah, ice for her hand by way of a tumbler of whiskey. She still reeked from the drinks she'd been knocking back from before she'd started knocking me around the house. I never saw it as a home, because to me, homes were supposed to be happy and welcoming places, not just a bed and a bitch of a mom. If I hadn't had my grandma, I would have ditched the bitch when I hit eight or nine. It was easy to get lost in West Virginia, and there were church going folks who really cared. But that was years ago, and I was too old to pull off that sort of deal.
I kept my trap shut, and soon she'd taken off to find her ice for her hand and her whiskey chaser. It was all I could do to keep silent while she stomped around getting ready. As she hit the door she said, "Don't wait up. I may be late." I was quiet and didn't smart ass something to get beaten further. I was pretty sure she'd cracked something on me, but it wasn't the first time.
Nodding, I kept my face still until the door shut, then I grunted and went to the freezer and pulled out a bag of frozen peas. I kept them not for eating, but because I knew they worked well when something was bruised, and dear old mom didn't eat veggies as a rule. She claimed she was allergic. So as long as I resisted nibbling on them, I had an ice pack always ready. She didn't put them in her drinks like she did the ice trays. The current two steel trays were half-assed filled with murky water. I took the time to add more of the questionably healthy H2O, cause my mom would be drinking later and she would blame me if she didn't have ice. Yeah, she was the one who'd half-filled them, yet I'd take the hits. Sad to say it wasn't my first rodeo.
Once I fell back on the couch, I turned the TV on with the remote. First few channels were repeats and crappy ass shows I wouldn't waste my brain cells on; even as a kid I knew there was some serious shit on TV that wasn't worth my time. Then I caught a news show. It wasn't from my town -- we were too far out in the sticks and just caught major parts of the state on news. The dude was talking about missing folks. Not just like losers trying to avoid bills, but like moms and kids and stuff. The guy showed pictures and there was a number to call if anyone saw those folks. I didn't recognize anyone and thought it was creepy. I continued flipping while worrying how my mom was going to be when she showed up. That kept eating at me. Finally I reached for the phone and called my grandma. She picked up on the first ring.
"Hi Grandma." My voice shook -- I was breaking the unspoken family rule. That one where you don't tell outsiders. I kept thinking that grandma was family so it wasn't really wrong. My stomach hurt but so did the rest of my damn body.
"Sammy, baby what's wrong?" She sounded sweet and worried.
I scraped a hand over my face trying to keep from sobbing while tears ran down my cheeks. I was such a fucking baby, but I hurt.
"Mom's mad at me and she went out," I coughed between hiccups while my tears streamed unstoppably down my face. I felt ashamed but I hurt so much.
I heard a sigh, then, "To a bar?"
My turn to sigh, "Probably. She said she'd be late. She was really mad."
"Grab up some clothes in your book bag and get on that rickety bicycle of yours and come stay here. I'll handle your mom. Come now in case she gets home earlier than usual." Grandma knew her daughter. I said thanks and quickly hung up.
I think it took me all of five minutes to hit the road. I took care to lock up the house and didn't bother to write a note. She wouldn't be able to read it when she got home; I was pretty sure of that from her past evenings out, and besides, Grandma would fix it.
The night was crisp and cold. I could feel in my young bones that winter was nearly here. Winter was so cold it was death. I was happy that it wasn't that cold yet, my teeth didn't ache, and I wasn't shaking too much in my winter jacket on the bike. The leaves had long since changed colors and dropped to the ground. I'd picked up some money raking leaves, but with the miners being shoved out of jobs while the environmentalist and the owners fought out shit in court and on the news, I wasn't getting nearly as much as I'd gotten before that crap. I took the short cut through an old walking path and breathed in the scents of trees and night. I reached my grandma's place around a half hour later. She wasn't too close to my mom's house, but just far enough away to make me feel safe.
My grandma didn't leave the front porch light on -- waste of energy. After I'd dumped my bike next to the garage, I headed to the house. The front door was unlocked and it would be warm inside. I could smell the smoke of hardwood burning, so she must have started a fire in the fireplace. I had to bite back tears; I was safe.
"Sammy, is that you?" 'Cause she'd left the front door unlocked that was a good question. But knowing my grandma, she wasn't waiting to be robbed.
"Yes, grandma. I'm coming." I wasn't stupid; I knew to announce my presence.
Sure enough, once I opened the kitchen door I saw grandma had pulled out the shotgun -- hopefully loaded with buckshot but given grandma, it could be anything -- and looked me over saying, "Okay, so it's you."
"I did call." I spit out with a dry mouth.
She lowered the shotgun and said, "Yeah, honey you did. I am sorry, but something is happening around here and I am a tad skittish."
Nodding, I avoided saying anything more, but I did understand. Something wasn't right.
"Sorry to bother you, Grandma. But mom's really ticked off that I didn't get all "A's" or something." I saw some cookies on the counter and ducked my head, not meeting her eyes while my tummy rumbled. I hadn't eaten since the morning. And all that consisted of was some dry cereal with some OJ that my grandma had dropped off last weekend.
She put the shotgun on the counter top next to the plate of cookies, and went to the fridge and pulled out a carton of whole milk. An unheard of luxury in my house, since my mom thought milk was a waste of money, and she only got me the instant powdered stuff. No matter how that stuff is mixed it tastes fake and chemical. I tried adding flavors, but all it did was make a chemical-flavored liquid. Knowing my mom's view on milk, my grandma simply pulled a tall glass out of the cupboard and poured me a drink. After putting the carton back into the fridge she set the glass next to where I was standing.