Though everyone from the doctors to the nurses to Becky told her to get some sleep, Emma didn’t want to. She feared that if she did, she would have another dream of her mother and wind up sleepwalking again. The next time it happened, Becky might not be there to stop her; she might end up walking right out a window. If something that terrible didn’t happen, the nursing staff might have her in restraints like a crazy person.
Eventually Becky had to leave, giving Emma one final hug. “Get some rest, kid,” she said. “You want me to bring you anything from home? Some books maybe?”
“It’s all right. I should be going home tomorrow.”
“Right. I’ll see you first thing in the morning.”
There was a television in the room for entertainment, but Emma never watched TV on a regular basis. Flipping through the channels, she found a local feed of the Rampart City Symphony Orchestra, performing a concerto by Grieg. Closing her eyes, she imagined her mother still there, older now, about fifty-two. She would probably look like Sylvia Joubert, except for the eyes. Her father would be a few years older than her, more Aunt Gladys’s age. He would be bald and gray and probably a little overweight despite Emma’s nagging that he take care of himself.
She badly wished they were still here. She missed them so much. No wonder her concussed brain had conjured up a dream like that, of her angelic mother telling her how special she was. Not that special, she thought. She hadn’t been able to help them, just as she hadn’t been able to help Dr. Brighton or to save anything from the offices upstairs. All of her research was gone. At least that terrible thing in her closet was probably destroyed as well.
With a shiver she thought of the monster again. The creature had certainly been as black and evil as the thing in the closet. Were they one and the same? Maybe the object Dr. Dreyfus had found had opened some kind of gateway, letting the horrible creature through.
She shook her head. This was nonsense. Monsters, evil objects, and dimensional gateways were all the stuff of science fiction. She had dedicated her life to studying science fact. Donovan was right that there probably was a more logical explanation for what she had seen. The eyes could have been goggles or something similar to give the appearance of glowing red eyes. As for the claws, anyone good enough at metallurgy could make something like that. She put a hand to her stomach, thinking again of how the creature’s claws had barely grazed her and yet from the doctor said, the cuts were deep. Not deep enough to ruin any of her organs at least. Still, if it had actually put some force into a swing, it seemed entirely possible for it to cut a man in half.
She shivered at such a thought. She wasn’t a science fiction writer and she wasn’t a police officer either. She had made her statement to Donovan. That was enough. Maybe she could remember something else later, but for now she had done what she could. As usual, it wasn’t enough.
Her mind turned to Dr. Brighton. There was no word yet that it was him who had died, but it seemed logical. The only others who would have access on the weekend were the cleaning staff and building security. The cleaning staff and security wouldn’t have been up there, not with the presentation going on. But then again, Dr. Brighton shouldn’t have been up there either. Maybe he had wanted to catch up on some work now that he was running the department or maybe he just wanted to take a nap in peace.
She felt a stab of guilt at the latter thought. She wished she had gotten to know Dr. Brighton better. As she had told Ian, she had read his work. Not just some of his work, but all of it. At one point—long before she was born—he had been the top expert on meteors in the world. Once she learned she was going to be working for him, Emma had entertained thoughts of him being a mentor to her, sharing his wisdom. She thought he would take her under his wing and treat her with grandfatherly affection the way Mr. Graves did.
That certainly hadn’t come to pass. He had hated her. Hated her because she was young and because she was a woman. That prejudice wasn’t unusual, but she had hoped it would be different with a scientist of his caliber. Maybe twenty or thirty years ago it might have been. Maybe if she had been male or older he would have liked her. Maybe he wouldn’t have been up there when the museum exploded. Maybe he would still be alive.
She sighed at this. She had gone through this with her parents. Maybe, maybe, maybe. There was no changing the past, though; time travel was just another bit of science fiction. That knowledge didn’t make her feel any better about any of it. She shouldn’t have argued with Dr. Brighton about the equipment. She should have done more to be understanding, to befriend him.
Despite her best efforts, she fell asleep late in the night. She had the strangest dream. Mrs. Chiostro was beside her bed, wearing a white nightgown and with her hair down. The old woman smiled at her and said, “It’s all right, dear. I’m going to give you something to help make you better.”
Emma mumbled something incoherent. Then she heard a second woman’s voice. “You better hurry. That night nurse is three doors away.”
Turning her head slightly, Emma saw a woman in camouflage pants and a green tank top. Without her glasses, Emma couldn’t see the woman’s face clearly, but she recognized the dark red hair. “Sylvia?”
“Shit,” Sylvia hissed. She came over to the other side of the bed and bent down. “Just relax, Emma. Agnes is going to take care of you.”
“What’s going on?” Emma asked.
Sylvia looked up at Mrs. Chiostro. “You want me to knock her out?”
“There’s no need for that. You really should have changed your appearance, though. I told you that hair was too recognizable.”
“Yeah, it’s a pain in the ass to take care of too,” Sylvia said. Emma knew she must be dreaming, because Sylvia’s hair began shortening until it was almost military length. What remained of it turned completely gray. “Happy now?”
“You shouldn’t do that in front of her. What if she remembers?”
“She’s not going to remember. Are you?”
Emma stared at the newly shorn Sylvia for a moment and then shook her head. Sylvia patted her cheek and smiled. “Good girl.” She looked over again at Mrs. Chiostro. “Are you going to do it or dawdle all night?”
“The stopper was stuck. It’s been a while since I used this on anyone.”
“Just hurry up. Otherwise I’m going to have to knock out that damned nurse and then the kid.”
Mrs. Chiostro’s hand touched Emma’s cheek, turning Emma’s head to face her. The old woman held up a dark gray bottle with the word “Restoration” written in curly script on a yellowed label. “I’m going to give you a teaspoon of this medicine to help you get better.”
“What is it?”
“Just an old family recipe. Trust me.”
Mrs. Chiostro looked so kind and harmless that Emma did believe her. She opened her mouth to let Mrs. Chiostro dribble the medicine down her throat. It tasted like her mother’s cinnamon toast, except burnt, which was what usually happened when Emma tried to make it. Sylvia poured some water down Emma’s throat to wash the taste out.
Emma heard footsteps approaching, as did her two guests. The old women stood up, Mrs. Chiostro stopping the bottle and then dropping it into a pocket of her nightgown. “So long, dear. I hope you feel better soon.” With a flash of white they disappeared.
The door opened, the night nurse peaking inside. Emma closed her eyes, feigning sleep as the woman checked Emma’s vitals. When she opened her eyes again, Emma saw the room filled with golden light. At first she thought she must be dreaming again, but this time her mother wasn’t here or the two old women.
Dr. Dreyfus sat beside her bed. “Hello,” he said with a smile. “How are you feeling?”
Emma put a hand to her head, which felt remarkably clearer than the night before. She wiggled her ankle, which also seemed markedly improved. Only the cuts on her midsection didn’t seem to have gotten any better. “I’m better,” she whispered.
“Do you want a drink?”
“Yes please.” She took the glass of water he handed to her. As she did, she noticed a Mylar balloon hovering over the nightstand. It featured a cuddly teddy bear against a pink background with the words, “Get Well” in blue. She frowned slightly at this, the balloon seeming more at home in a six-year-old’s room.
“I hope you don’t mind I bought you a little something. I thought it might help cheer you up, make the room seem a little less sterile.”
“It’s very nice. Thank you,” she said.
“I’m sorry about how the other night ended.”
“It’s not your fault.” She took another sip of water and then said, “How’s the exhibit? Did Karlak make it?”
“He’s fine. So’s the exhibit. But I wouldn’t blame the Egyptians for wanting him back after what’s happened. This is the second time we’ve almost lost him.”
“Maybe there’s a curse,” she said, thinking of all the supposed curses of the pharaohs for trespassers.
“If it is, it’s going after the wrong people. It should be going after me, not you.” They said nothing for a moment before Dr. Dreyfus patted her hand. “I didn’t get a chance to say how much I really appreciated you being there.”
“I was glad to do it”
“Seeing you there in the front row, knowing there was someone there on my side, really helped me do it—until, you know—”
The door opened, Becky standing there, glaring at Dr. Dreyfus. He must have noticed this glare, as he stood up immediately. “I’ll see you back at work. I hope you feel better.”
“Thank you,” she said, watching him squeeze by Becky through the door. Looking up at the balloon, she decided it really did brighten up the place after all.