Nancy Kilpatrick

The June Special Guest Writer is Nancy Kilpatrick

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Nancy Kilpatrick


by Nancy Kilpatrick

They treated him like a monster. Everybody did. And he didn’t deserve that. He didn’t do anything. Nothing at all. He wasn’t responsible, it was the others. He was the victim here. A real victim. All this nasty business because of that stupid woman... It was so wrong.

The nurse arrived and went about the work of nursing, sans comfort. This one was young and fairly pretty, with brown hair and eyes, though a little plump for his tastes, but she did the things the other nurses had been doing over the last week since he’s regained consciousness into this living hell. She took his temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, all that from the automatic readings so that she didn’t need to have any physical or verbal contact with him. Yeah, he was a pariah.

“I’d like my pillow fluffed,” he said, not because he needed it fluffed—that wouldn’t matter. He just wanted to see how she would react.

Her head jerked up as if she hadn’t heard a sound in ages. Without even a glance in his direction, she moved to the side of the bed, pulled the pillow out from behind his head, made a great show of pounding it into a new shape, then, carefully, pushed him forward with latex-gloved fingertips on his shoulder as if touching him might infect her in some way. He couldn’t even feel it through the fabric of the hospital gown, but that, too, didn’t matter. In fact, it was a plus.

Once the pillow was in what she deemed to be the right position, she moved his shoulder back. Without a word, she hurried from the room as if he might have the audacity to ask for something else and she had to get out of earshot fast.

“Bitch!” he muttered to her back. “Every last one of you!”

Now that he was back from the dead, so to speak, he was bored. Seriously bored. It was just a question of when they’d let him out of here. He could use a drink. And a cigarette. Neither one was possible in this place. The only thing that cut the boredom was the pain. He didn’t think he’d ever been in such physical pain, not even as a kid when his asshole step-father beat the crap out of him for killing the neighbor’s cat. That was nothing compared to this.

At least he had a morphine drip and he could self-regulate. With both arms and legs in casts, he had to gum the clear plastic tube hanging beside his head. He did that now, only to find that nothing came through the tube. He glanced up; the morphine release syringe hanging on a tripod next to the bed was empty and the stupid nurse hadn’t changed it. But she wouldn’t, would she? None of them would. They were punishing him. They were like sheep, sentimental slobs, soap opera addicts so pathetic they’d hang on every word of a sobbing woman. But he was the victim here. The real victim. Look at his body, broken, bandaged from head to toe! And now, craning his neck had caused pain to slice through his shoulder and back as if a hot rod had been plunged into his muscles. Yeah, and look how they treated him!

“Hey,” he yelled. “Hey! Somebody get in here and turn on the damned TV, will ya?” But nobody came, of course. Why should they? They blamed him for the accident. Well, damn them to hell, it wasn’t his fault!


When he woke up, the TV was on. His eyes focused on the small screen. A soap. Right. It would be. The bed next to his was empty, had been, as if they didn’t want anybody too near him. Fine with him. They could all go to hell!

“Mr. Hammersmith.”

His head jerked around. “Who the hell are you?”

The old woman smiled one of those beatific smiles that only the old and nearly toothless can manage. “I’m Mrs. Shade.”

“Shade? Like window shade? Or are you shady?”

She laughed, one of those sweet-old-lady laughs that most people seem to love. Harmless old lady. Annoying old lady.

“What are you doing here?” he demanded.

“Oh, I’m just a volunteer, Mr. Hammersmith. I visit people in hospitals and other institutions, those who have no one else visiting them. People alone often feel a bit hopeless. I just want to help.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t need or want your help, but you could change the channel.” He nodded towards the TV where some woman was crying and a man was holding her. Yeah, right. Real life. Bullshit!

As Mrs. Shade switched channels, stopping at a game show, she said, “Mr. Hammersmith, I have the feeling that you’re lonely.”

“So much for your feelings, lady. Not lonely. Not at all.”

That damned smile again. “Well, I came by when I discovered you’d not had any visitors or even next of kin who might phone or visit. Everyone should have someone who cares what happens to them.”

“Ha! Like you care! You’re just an old bat with nothing to do before you die.” He could have laughed but he wasn’t in the mood. “Look, lady—“

“Mrs. Shade.”

“I’m just recovering from a bad accident and want some peace and quiet so if you don’t mind—“

“Oh, I wouldn’t deprive you of that. Certainly not. I’m sure you’re in a great deal of pain and—”

At her words, a fierce and fiery snake shot through his spine. His mouth opened involuntarily and a cry slipped out. He rode the pain for the long moments it slithered through his spinal cord, desperately biting on the clear tube for morphine that was not there. “Damn those bitches!” he yelled when he could articulate it. “Fill the goddam morphine!”

“Here,” Mrs. Shade said, “let me help you. I’ll get the nurse.”

She trundled out of the room at a snail’s pace, which he saw through his fog of agony, returning with the young nurse. While he writhed internally, they chatted like he wasn’t even there, and certainly not in extreme and relentless pain.

“And I worked as a nurse before I retired, but that was a dozen years ago. My, this apparatus is much more complicated than in my day. Do you have children, Laura?”

The nurse named Laura smiled and said, “Yes, a toddler. He’s twenty months and getting to be a handful.”

“Oh, that’s the age! I remember my daughter at two…”

And on and on they nattered while the nurse took her damned time changing the morphine syringe in the machine. Finally she was done and the two douchbags walked out the door together. But what did he care. He gummed the tube and saw a couple of drops run down into the needle stuck into the vein just above the cast covering his left arm. The drug kicked in at last and he exhaled wearily.

The old woman poked her head back in the door and said, “Is there anything else you need before I go?” That stupid smile again. “I’d be happy to bring you books and magazines.”

He didn’t even bother answering her, just closed his eyes and bit down on the tube again.


“You’ll have to appear in court,” the lawyer was saying, staring only at the papers and not at his client.

“Why? I didn’t do anything. It wasn’t my fault.”

The lawyer, whose name he thought was Lawson or Lawrence or something like that had been appointed by the court to represent him. Not that an innocent man needed representation but, as they say, the man who represents himself has a fool for a client, and he was no fool!

The lawyer paused for a moment, barely glanced at him, then said, “Be that as it may, the law is the law, and you’ll need to appear in court for sentencing. Your history of impaired driving won’t help but I expect your injuries could work in your favor when I ask for a continuance. If that’s denied, perhaps the judge will take your estimated recovery time of a year into account when sentencing.”

“Right!” He snorted. Damned lawyers and judges. What did they know about pain? It was all so wrong.

“As I’ve told you, the law stipulates two to five years for involuntary manslaughter but the judge has discretion to reduce that, depending on circumstances. If we’re lucky, you might serve six month, or no time at all in jail, especially if you can show remorse.”

“Why should I be remorseful? I didn’t do anything wrong.”

The lawyer looked at him blankly, licked his lips, and then went back to his papers.

“All right, Mr. Hammersmith, let me go over with you again how—”

“We’ve already been over everything. Twice. That’s enough. Get out!”

The lawyer had a look on his face that said he wasn’t used to being talked to this way. He sighed, gathered the papers atop his briefcase and slid them inside, clicked off his expensive-looking pen, then stood. “We’ll continue another time, when you’re feeling up to it.” He made his way out of the room as one of the orderlies came in with a food tray.

“Supper time!” the cheerful young punk said. Arms full of tattoos, skin studded with metal, hair in one of those Mohawks, the color bile green.

“Jesus! How come they let people like you work here?”

The punky kid’s smile turned to a scowl. “Maybe because I’m caring and sympathetic, even to sociopaths?”

“Go to hell!”

“If I do, Mr. Hammersmith, I’m sure I’ll meet you there! You probably run the place.”

At that, another pain shot through his spine. But, dammit, he wouldn’t show this kid he was suffering.

The punky orderly placed the tray on the table and moved the table so it stretched across the bed, then uncovered today’s lousy meal. He glanced at Hammersmith. “Too bad you’re in pain. But, at least you’re alive.”

The pain left him speechless so that he couldn’t respond.

“I’ll be back in a few minutes to feed you,” the orderly said, turned and walked out.

Once the pain subsided, he caught his breath. The nauseating smell of mushy, micro waved food filled his nostrils and cut off any sense of hunger. Just as well. By the time the punk orderly returned to feed him, the food would be cold, just like it was every meal, every day. They were all blaming him.

This was so wrong.


“Mr. Hammersmith. May I call you Evan?”

“Who in hell are you?”

“I’m Reverend Francis, of St. Margaret’s, the church down the street. Mrs. Shade mentioned you and I just stopped by to see if you needed anything.”

Great. Now they were hell-bent on saving his soul. Like he had one! “I don’t need anything, Reverend. Wasted your time coming here.”

The minister smiled and took a seat. “It’s never a waste of time to minister to one of God’s children.”

“I’m not a child and I don’t believe in God. Or the devil, unless that’s me, which everybody seems to think I am. What I do believe is that earth is a hellhole.”

The minister smiled patiently. “Well, whether or not we believe in God, he believes in us.”

“I don’t think your God believes in me, unless he’s a sadist. I’m the victim and I’m being treated like a criminal.”

Reverend Francis had clearly heard statements like this before. “God forgives all, even if the people around you don’t, or can’t.”

“What’s to forgive? I was in an accident. My body is broken. Maybe your God can forgive everybody who’s blaming me for something I didn’t do, but I can’t.”

The minister paused. “You were driving that night.”

“Yeah, of course I was. And?”

He paused. “I believe you’d been drinking.”

“I’d had a glass of wine. Is that a sin? I guess it is in your books.”

“You’re alcohol level was far over the limit.”

“What is this, the Inquisition? I had a bit to drink, like people do. What’s the harm?”

“The harm is that a woman was seriously injured, with brain damage, and her child—”

“Look! That stupid woman crossed against the light. That’s not my fault.”

“Mr. Hammersmith, under God’s law, when one takes responsibility for his actions—”

Pain zapped through his arms and legs, starting at the base of his spine and shooting out as if he’d been electrocuted. He barely had time to yell, “Get out. Now! Get the hell out of here!”

He was only vaguely aware of the minister leaving. Pain racked him, zigzagging, alternating sharp then dull, the signals hopping along his nerves to the endings then back again until he could hardly breathe.

It seemed to go on for minutes but he knew it could only be seconds. The pain had been growing worse each day since he’d regained consciousness. All the broken bones from when he flew through the windshield and into the air then slammed against the tree. Everything broken. He’d lost consciousness quickly and that saved him from knowing about it then, but now… Now that he was recovering, the pain just kept intensifying and all the morphine in the world wasn’t enough.

He chewed on the drug drip anyway, trying to get enough into his system to allow him to lose consciousness, even though the tube wouldn’t give more than his daily dose, which he’d reached. His throbbing head fell back against the pillow. Everybody was wrong. He was the victim, not the stupid woman who walked in front of his car. Not her stupid kid, and at least the kid died fast and didn’t suffer, not like he was suffering.

If that religious guy was right and there was a God, he saw no sign of him. And besides, if there was a God, any God, then people should know that and stop blaming him for something that wasn’t his fault anyway. It was her fault, not his! What a sick world!


“I’ve brought you a few magazines, Mr. Hammersmith.” It was that old lady again, hobbling into the room, placing the magazines on the bed beside him.

“Yeah, well, you may have noticed I can’t really hold a magazine to read it, can I?”

She looked a little befuddled, as only old people can. “Oh. Well, maybe I can read to you.”

He sighed heavily. “Look, lady—”

“Mrs. Shade.”

“Right. Look, thanks for the magazines but no thanks. Just go. Don’t come back.”

Instead of leaving, Mrs. Shade took a seat by the bed. She reached out a hand and touched his torso, about heart level, where his rib bones were broken. Through the sheet and the hospital gown he felt heat flowing into him.

“What in hell are you doing?”

“Just making contact, Mr. Hammersmith. Heart contact. I wanted to feel your heart beating.”

“Take your hand off me, lady, or I’ll call for the nurse.”

She smiled that sickly-sweet smile again and said, “Oh, Mr. Hammersmith, I’m not sure she would come, are you? I really do understand that they’ve been treating you like a monster. But then, they blame you for the accident.”

She removed her hand and suddenly a ferocious pain stabbed him in the chest. The fierceness of such a knife-edged attack left him breathless, unable to speak, to scream, to do anything but lie as if comatose while the nerves in his chest exploded. Maybe he was having a heart attack!

Sweat broke out from every pore and his muscles trembled. He was going to die. This time, the pain would kill him, he just knew it! Well, damn it! Bring it on! He didn’t mind dying. He minded physical pain!

Through the ceaseless agony, he heard the old woman say, as if reading his mind, “No, Mr. Hammersmith, you won’t die. Not yet. You’re still relatively young, with much life left in you. This too will pass.”

He’d gotten through enough of the physical torment that he could snarl at her, “Pass? You think this will pass? It’s not passing, it’s getting worse!”

“Things get worse before they get better.”

“Take your fucking platitudes and get out!” he gasped, his vision still blurred, but the pain seemed to be easing a little. He caught a few deeper breaths, and felt the trembling subside. As his vision cleared, his body shivered from cold; his hospital gown was soaked.

“Let me help you, Mr. Hammersmith. That’s what I’m here for.”

“I-don’t-need-help,” he growled between teeth still clenched again the attack.

“Don’t you? It seems to me that you do. I know Reverend Francis was here yesterday. And I know you sent him away too. But really, this isn’t getting better, its worse, isn’t it? And most of your pain is because you don’t accept your part in what happened.”

How dare she? The old bat was hitting him when he was down. That’s the only reason he could think of that he was even listening to all this BS.

“You know, lady, it’s a good thing I’m trapped in this hospital bed. If I wasn’t, I’d have kicked you out on your ass by now!”

“Mr. Hammersmith. Everyone is guilty of something. It’s just a question of ‘fessing up. It’s that simple. Admit your part in things and life becomes easier. For you, for those around you. It’s a simple exchange, really. You give something, you get something.”

He wanted to yell at her, no, scream at her. He longed to be able to leap up out of this bed and throttle the old bag!

“Really, Mr. Hammersmith. I don’t think you have anything to lose by admitting that you drove drunk, that it wasn’t your first accident while drunk, and that you are directly responsible for killing a child and severely and permanently injuring her mother. You have a lifetime of cruel, callous and unconscious acts, monstrous acts that have resulted in pain and suffering for others. It’s a fact, all of it. Admitting it can only easy your pain. Give yourself a break, Mr. Hammersmith. Do that, and others will give you a break.”

He longed to be free of these casts so he could throw her out the window! But suddenly the bad sensations returned, without warning, turning his body electric again with high-voltage sparks of blinding, searing pain. He could barely stay conscious. His body shuddered, close to convulsing, staggering though immobility, unable to stand the onslaught.

“Admit your responsibility, Mr. Hammersmith, and the universe will open new doors. One thing in exchange for another. That’s a rule of life; the old goes out, the new comes in, and change occurs. You’ll be a different person, I guarantee it.”

It was as if one of those doors opened inside him, one clear and pain free. He saw a door in his mind, one with a transparent window that beckoned: Enter here. Something was on the other side of that door, something better than this and he thought: What the hell, what the hell, what the hell…! I’ve got nothing to lose. Anything’s worth a try! At the very least, if I tell her what she wants to hear, she’ll go away!

“Okay, okay, I did it! All right? Did you get what you want?”

“Did what?”

“I was drunk. I had drinks.”


“And what?”

“The woman.”

“Okay, I didn’t see her. Or the kid.  Maybe I saw the kid, I don’t know. Okay? Is that it? Is that what everybody wants to hear? Satisfied?”

“I think the universe is satisfied, Mr. Hammersmith.”

He gummed the morphine tube and found it empty again. “Shit!” he yelled.

Mrs. Shade looked at the self-regulator, then stood. “I think the tube might just be twisted. I’ll fix it for you.”

While she worked on the machine, she said, “You know, admitting guilt is really only the first step.”

He bit the tube. Nothing. Then, finally, a couple of drops.

“There is still the question of reparations.”

Before he could respond, in a split second, as if a magnet had sucked the iron from his body, the pain disappeared. He blinked in disbelief. “What the…?” His body hadn’t felt this light, this pain free…ever! He began a laugh that plunged to his gut and soon turned uncontrollable. “I don’t believe it! It’s gone! The pain is gone!”

He turned to the old woman. “It’s gone!” he said again, feeling his face stretch into a smile of astonishment. “You were right! All I had to do was take responsibility for what I did and now I’m free.”

She reached over and patted his chest with that warm-like-fire hand. “I’m happy the physical pain has dimmed, Mr. Hammersmith. I think things have resolved the way they should and you’re now where you deserve to be. Admitting guilt. Free of physical pain. Now there’s only restitution.”

He laughed, almost crying in relief. For the first time since he’d regained consciousness, his body felt alive, real, pain free. He just might recover after all.

Mrs. Shade hobbled to the door and he called out after her, “Hey, lady, good tip.”

With one backward glance, she grinned. “My pleasure. And I’m so pleased to have met you, Evan Hammersmith. Oh, and by the way, have you guessed my name?”

He felt confused. “Guessed your name? I don’t get it. Your name is Shade, right? Mrs. Shade?”

“In one sense it is, Mr. Hammersmith? My daughter is Gheena Lewis, nee Shade, and Suzy Lewis was my granddaughter.”

His breath caught. The woman and kid he’d hit.

He thought for a moment, quickly rearranging the letters of her name in his mind but he didn’t get far with that before he noticed her grin looked oddly toothy. He realized that what he was seeing didn’t really resemble teeth. These were sharp and pointed, a mouthful of daggers. Not just that, but her face was morphing before his eyes. The sweet-old-lady look altered as if the lines imbedded in her skin ran together, drawing a roadmap of deeper lines gouged in flesh that took on the quality of parched, abandoned earth. The whites of her eyes disappeared completely until the entire eye was red with a black glow behind. The dry, crinkly skin of her arms, her hands, her legs, all of it distorted until she became something other. Gruesome, grotesque. Terrifying!

His throat constricted and his skin turned clammy. His heart fluttered madly in fear. He registered surprise: fear, an emotion. One he did not remember ever feeling. Like lava racing down a mountainside, a range of scalding emotions washed over him in fiery waves, as intense as the physical pain that had vanished. Guilt, grief, remorse, horror, self-loathing… Responsibility. A lifetime of responsibility for a lifetime of irresponsible actions, for all the pain and sadness he had caused others and the negativity he had spewed into the world.

“What’s happening to me?” he cried.

And in an instant, as the demon before him laughed and glanced at the morphine drip, he knew. She had changed the syringe.

“What did you drug me with? What?”

“You wouldn’t know the chemical name, but it’s a drug used for torture. Oh, and the effects? They seem to be permanent. Fitting, don’t you agree?”

Whatever invaded his bloodstream forced back the physical pain and filled him with emotional pain of equal weight. Killing emotions that sliced him to ribbons and left his mind reeling. Emotions he did not know he was capable of; he had no knowledge of how to cope.

“It’s that deal-with-the-devil thing, Evan Hammersmith. And the devil got her due!”

The demon laughed, the sound grating, rubbing his anorexic soul raw.

The thing that retreated, eyes gleaming like the fires of hell, whispered in a voice that caused shivers up his spine and sent his mind reeling in terror, “Welcome to my Hades, Evan Hammersmith. Prepare yourself for a long and well-deserved stay!”

Evan sensed his reason slipping down a bottomless well. Finally, he saw clearly why everyone else despised him because now he hated himself. Self-loathing left him hopeless. Despicable, inhuman, unlovable, he longed for release from this unbearable dark weight of who he was. If he could move, he would jump out the window to his death, but he could not move, and would not be able to for a long long time. Time. It stretched before him: hours, days, weeks, months, years of scalding emotions, agony, and no relief in sight.

He screamed for help, but no one came. There would be no sympathy for this particular devil.

Award-winning author and editor Nancy Kilpatrick has published 21 novels, over 220 short stories, and 6 collections, and has edited 15 anthologies. She wrote the non-fiction book The goth Bible: A Compendium for the Darkly Inclined, the graphic novel Nancy Kilpatrick's Vampyr Theater, and has contributed scripts to several comics and graphic anthologies. Her most recent project is Thrones of Blood, a six-book vampire novel series for adults (no character sparkles). Volumes 1, 2 and 3 are available in print and ebook: Revenge of the Vampir King; Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess; Abduction of Two Rulers. She lives in lovely Montreal. Besides writing, her passions veer towards travel, where she enjoys macabre items and hotspots tucked away in the vast curio cabinet we call Earth. Her current fascination is jeweled skeletons, of which she has now seen eleven.

Website: nancykilpatrick.com
Facebook: nancy.kilpatrick.31
Twitter: @nancykwriter

Below are the first three books of her Thrones of Blood series: