He made his way through the crowd, students eagerly shuffling aside to let him pass. It was as if somehow they sensed in him the power to end her suffering. When a young man dressed only in boxers and a lettered shirt stepped forward from a cluster of solemn dorm mates, the man stopped. He recognized the boy.
âYou are William. You are the one who called.â
âYes, sir,â the young man said while nodding. His eyes were wide and frightened as he pointed ahead to a closed door painted prison grey. âSheâs in there, sir.â
The man looked at the door, and then back at the boy. âIs she alone?â
Williamâs shoulders slumped with embarrassment. âI tried to stay with her butâ¦â his voice trailed, dropping to a hoarse whisper. âShe looks bad, sir. She wouldnât stop screaming for me to get out. I got scared. Iâm sorry.â
âItâs alright, son. You have done well.â The man laid a hand on the boyâs shoulder with an encouraging smile that reflected none of the sadness he felt. âSheâs going to be okay.â
But her cries were becoming more tormented by the second. He quickly continued down the hall to the grey door. Behind it, he found her all alone. Her thin, pale body was curled on a beaten sofa in the center of the room. She was drenched in sweat. Dark hair plastered against her face, framing a beautiful canvas contorted with anguish. He placed a hand gently on her forehead.
Her eyes fluttered open. âDaddy?â
âIâm here, sweetheart. Everything is fine now.â
Sobbing in relief even as another surge of agony ransacked her strength, she gritted her teeth. âIt hurts.â
Squeezing her hand, he spoke in a voice thick with regret. âI know. Iâm sorry. Letting you come here was a mistake. Iâve waited too long.â
She was lost in the pain and didnât seem to hear him. âI see horrible things. I did horrible things. There was so much blood.â
It hurt him terribly to see her in such distress. No matter what the others said, this girl had truly been his daughter. But right now, his love for her could not matter. He had a job to do. There were things he needed to know. There were questions he had to ask.
âWhat do you see?â
âBodies, hundreds of bodies littering the groundâ¦â The words broke off as she rolled with another wave of misery. âTheyâre burnedâ¦old and young, women and children.â She sobbed again. âI think I burned them.â
âIâm going to give you something to stop the pain. It will help you sleep.â
âPlease hurry, Daddy. Make it stop.â Her body shuddered. âI canât take any more of this.â
She lifted her head, giving him a good look at her face. Surging veins had crept like black spiders from the corners of her eyes, transforming the surrounding skin into dark pools. She was deteriorating rapidly. If the process wasnât slowed, the human form would soon be lost.