Blinking against a too-bright light, Weston tried to inhale. The air stabbed his lungs like knives, and when he coughed, the pain worsened exponentially. He was covered with a thin sheet, and the smell of soot surrounded him.
“Easy.” An unfamiliar female face appeared above him. “You inhaled a lot of smoke. We’re getting oxygen set up for you. Take it easy.”
Reassured by her soothing voice, Weston closed his eyes again.
The next time he opened them, a mask covered his mouth and nose. The light wasn’t as bright now. He tried to sit up, and a hand pressed his shoulder.
“You need to be still.” The voice sounded like the same woman as earlier.
“Andy.” Weston couldn’t even understand himself through the mask.
Apparently the woman—a nurse, he guessed—had some practice at translating oxygen-mask speak. “Your friend is in the next room. He’s unconscious. Try to breathe normally. I’ll find out what’s happening with him.”
Weston nodded his thanks and stared up at the white ceiling, listening to the nurse’s footsteps fade and trying to sort out his memories of what had happened.
A fire. Someone had set fire to the library as soon as Mildred was out of the building.
The crash in the main room must have been the arsonist breaking out through one of the windows so Andy and Weston wouldn’t see him.
Someone had chained the back door shut.
Someone had wanted Andy and Weston dead badly enough to make sure they couldn’t escape. Badly enough to destroy the entire library.
Andy should never have come to Dayfield. The town had never been a good place, but Weston hadn’t realized exactly how deep the darkness ran until Andy showed up.
“Your friend’s doing better.” The nurse walked over to stand beside Weston. “Still unconscious, but the doctor says he’s going to be fine.”
Weston started to speak, but his throat was too raw and sore to make another sound. Instead, he simply nodded again.
For a little while, he dozed off and on, waking each time someone entered the room. He expected his mother to show up, but she didn’t appear.
Finally, a male doctor carrying a clipboard entered with the nurse Weston had seen first. Without a word, she removed Weston’s mask.
“Try taking a breath,” the doctor said. “Slowly.”
Weston obeyed. His chest ached, but the sharp pain had faded enough for him to draw in some air.
He put his hand on his throat. “Water?”
The doctor nodded. “We’ll get you some. How are you feeling?”
Like I almost died in a fire, idiot. “Hurts.”