Through the haze of thoughts that came to his head, he tried to think of what it was. Symptoms, what were they? Why do I shake? Too warm to be cold, I thought. Does anyone have a blanket? Am I getting a cold? Wouldn't that just be the best right now, a cold when I'm sitting here in shock.
The world moved slowly for him, his eyes working to be sure, but turning this way and that on worn hinges in much need of oil. His eyelids drooped and his mouth sagged open and it seemed to him that time would come to an end before he was able to force them shut again.
"Wh-who would d-do this?" he said to his lap, is neck craned in the exhaustion of spilled blood and adrenaline.
The sirens were closer, Casey could here them only a few blocks away. She held Joe tightly, trying her best to warm him with her own heat, fighting as the shakes he was jostled by threatened to take them both off the bench. She knew she wasn't supposed to have moved him. Everyone knows that moving someone recently involved in such a serious trauma has the chance to paralyze the injured person, but she couldn't stand to leave him in the street. She loved him, child or not.
"Quiet now, the ambulance is close,"
"I'm just tired," Joe said, closing his eyes.
"Stay awake for me, Joe. You can't sleep right now."
One of the police officers came over with his clipboard and pen in one hand, the other pressed to the radio on his shoulder.
"Are you tired?" he said, his voice piercing the haze of Joe's desire just to sleep.
"You've gotta stay awake for me bud, ok? The paramedics are on their way to take care of you," He looked sternly at Casey who clutched Joe like a stuffed animal, "You need to try and keep him awake, miss. Keep him talking or he could slip into a coma, ok?"
Casey nodded, the word 'coma' sending little shudders through her chest as she thought of him sleeping and never waking up. She ran a warm hand through his hair and kissed his cheek.
"Can you tell me a story?" she asked him.
Joe's mind was sluggish and crowded like too many people trying to get through a small door. He licked his lips, still staring down into his lap and shook his head.
"I just want to sleep, just let me do this,"
Hospital beds. Innumerable nurses wearing innumerable gowns. Doctors with clipboards and spectacles and concerned faces who poked and prodded with blood and test tubes and strange syringes. Casey saw them all as his eyes closed again, ghosts that walked through the front of her mind with haunting precision.
"If you won't tell it on your own," she stammered, "then you at least have to help me tell it,"
His eyes came open in slits as she began.
There was a woman once named Jane, and she loved a man named James with all of her heart. Jane woke up before James every day in order to watch him wake, and only pretended to sleep at night until James was sleeping.
Jane, however, was married to a man from across the city,
"Stay awake, sweetheart,"
She was married, I said, to a rich and powerful nobleman in the northern part of the city. What do you think his name was?
Joe's eyes stayed in slits but he spoke as clearly as he could. Casey let go a breath she'd been holding.
His name was Marcus. He said slowly. Marcus Wellbridge.
"A perfect name,"
Marcus slept in a different chamber than Jane did, only bringing her into his room for sex or to complain about her absences in the afternoons. He would become angry, yelling about how she hardly cooks for him anymore and that there is no passion in her eyes when they make love. Jane refutes these truthful accusations as best she can, but in her eyes the nobleman always sees the truth.
"Where does she go in the afternoons?" Casey asked and Joe's eyes came open slowly.
The sirens stopped warbling and the EMT came to a fast stop in the street, two men poured from the back carrying an orange and white stretcher and a third and fourth man exited from the cab. They huddled around Joe, helping him off of the bench as best they could and sitting him on the now chair shaped stretcher.
"You moved him to the bench, miss?" One of the EMT's said to Casey and she nodded, "Ok well let me tell you, if he's got any spinal issues you'll probably end up liable, ok? You never move a victim of trauma like this and--"
"I know I'm sorry," She said and stood up to be next to Joe, "I just didn't want to leave him in the street, I didn't want to see that."
"Let's hope he suffered no serious injuries then," he said coldly.
They loaded Joe into the ambulance, a low drip of morphine running through his veins. Casey tried climbing in but they stopped her at the back.
"Bus is full ma'am, we need this space. The officer here will take you to the hospital where you can wait for him."
Casey started to protest but the ambulance doors were pushed shut by the two men who sat in the cab and the officer who'd scolded her earlier had taken her by the arm.
"We'll be there when they are, miss," he said and fresh tears ran from her eyes. The story would have to wait, she though.