Alice wasn't one to stomp, but her feet fell heavily on the tile floor of the hospital as she walked.
Two days after that conversation with Carter; he doesn't come to the store, he doesn't call, he doesn't answer when she calls. Then out of the blue two days later, she's in the hospital. When the nurse led her and Erica into the room she felt her rage drain into the worry and sadness it was hiding.
"Alice?" Carter looked up from his book. He was sitting on the edge of his bed with his feet in bandages. She had so much to yell at him for but it all died behind her teeth at the sight of him. He looked well rested considering everything. Erica was the first to speak up.
"Who are you?" She asked, Alice's tunnel vision expanded slightly to encompass the other person in the room. To Carter's left there sat another man in a brimmed hat and khakis.
"I'm his brother, you're Alice and Erica?" He guessed, not indicating who he thought was who. Alice and Erica both apparently had the same thought, which was to ignore him.
"Dude! What happened?" Erica drew her attention back to Carter. His brother didn't seem to care and continued doing his crossword puzzle from a book of crossword puzzles.
"Guys I'm glad you're here." Carter completely overlooked Erica's question. "I want to talk about the spell."
"Oh yeah, the spell," Erica spoke up again before Alice had a chance. "We have gotta try it again, this time with more people so it'll work better, but you didn't answer my question." She gestures wildly once again to his hospitalized condition. "What happened?"
"I went outside without shoes." He rolled his eyes. "But this isn't what's important, Alice." He addresses the quieter sister. "The weasel, he's some kind of…I dunno a god or angel or something." He throws the book to the bed without bothering to mark the page. "He told me things, things about myself only I could know." He tries to stand but winces on his bandaged feet. He topples back over and sits down, head hung. "He told me things about the world, and things about you," Carter concluded. Alice froze.
"That's pretty heavy, guy," Erica said to the tense atmosphere, sucking in air through her teeth. Carter looked up cautiously, but Alice just stared back at him.
"What did he tell you?" She asked stiffly.
"...I know about your condition
Alice's face went white.
"Ooh," Erica made a seemingly involuntary noise of discomfort. "I'm just gonna…" she trailed off, beelining out the door and leaving the two to their discussion. Carter's brother cleared his throat, also uncomfortable, and pulled his boxy headphones up over his ears.
"You know…" Alice seemed like she was about to burst into tears. Carter panicked.
"Wait it's ok, we don't have to talk about it." He spoke quickly. Actually, tears started streaming down her face. "Or we can! If you want, what do you want?" He looked wildly around the room for help, but his brother was adamantly pretending he couldn't hear them. Erica was the only other visitor and she'd wisely ditched the situation. "Don't be sad, how can I help?"
"I'm not sad." She huffed, wiping her face with her sleeves.
"No, I'm mad." She looked up from her shirt with venom in her eyes. Carter felt his stomach turn to ice.
"How could you? Do you have any respect for me? For my privacy? I can't…" her voice choked out as the frustration tears welled up again.
"I'm sorry!" He tried to apologize. "I didn't know what was going on. He kept telling me things and I don't know where my head was…I stood out in the cold so long I froze my feet." He finished quietly. Alice stared angry silent daggers at his bandaged foot as she thought. Then she turned and walked back into the hallway after her sister.
Carter sat on the bed and nervously twiddled his thumbs as the girls had a quiet but hostile discussion. He didn't look up until he felt something tapping at his arm. On his left, his brother was handing him a Dumdum from the fistful he took from the bucket at the front desk. It was a blue one, they usually fought over the blue ones.
"Thanks." He said quietly, taking the candy. His brother made a small grunt in return and never looked up from his crossword. After many minutes of hissed deliberation in the hallway, the girls returned to the room.
"Alice wants to be happy that you're OK but she can't while she's mad at you," Erica explains while a red-faced and still angrily sniffing Alice stands by.
"I understand," Carter says in defeat. He'd completely blown it, but that was for him to lament later. Now there were more important things to discuss. "Please, we need to talk about the spell." He tried one last time. Alice and Erica exchanged a look.
"What about it?" Alice asked stiffly. Carter had to swallow hard to force words out while she stared at him like that.
"I met someone, the weasel. He wants our help."
"Why?" Alice interjected sharply.
"He said we're the only ones he's been able to communicate with." Carter leaned over the bed and reached under it to grab a backpack. From inside he pulled the diamond earrings they'd used for the spell.
"How do you have those?" Erica asked in more wonder than anger. Alice didn't comment or even seem surprised.
"Why do you have a backpack?" She instead asked.
"Well, I figured I'd be here for a while so I packed." He shrugged, holding the earrings in his palm.
"The ambulance let you pack a bag?" Erica asked. Steven actually paused before answering this one.
"There wasn't an ambulance, I biked here." He said slowly. Both girls' faces twisted to shock and they snapped back into their usual roles in conversation so easily it was almost comforting.
"You did what?" Alice's concern couldn't be displaced by her anger. She paced to the window to see sure enough a familiar mountain climber was chained to the bike rack.
"Woah, biking to the hospital on frozen feet." Erica's eyes widened. "That's metal."
"It is not metal, it's shortsighted and dangerous. Why didn't you take an ambulance? Why didn't you call him?" She pointed at the other guy still solidly minding his own business. "Why…why..?" didn't you call me?
"I can't afford the ambulance, I don't have health insurance." He defended. "And besides, these are what's important." He held the earrings out again. "Whatever we did to them that night was to help you talk to dead people right?" He clarified.
"That was the idea," Erica crossed her arms but Carter continued.
"These are the key, they reached out and he's who answered." Carter continued. He placed them on the bed and stared at them. All three of them stared at the earrings.
"What are we doing?" Alice finally asked. Carter bit the nail on his thumb.
"I was hoping you'd know what to do." He confessed. "This is all he said to do."
"Oh." Alice shook her head slightly in understanding. "I see, we're skrying." She said simply. Erica made a noise of agreement and took the earrings from Carter. She cleared the papers and water cups from the table by the window and placed the earrings on the surface.
"Hey!" Carter's brother yelled in sudden irritation. Erica had swept her arm across the table to clear it and now didn't acknowledge the damage as she stared intently at the little gems. They refracted the light from the window and sparked. He pulled his headphones down again and elbowed his way out of the room, clearly done.
"You know you didn't have to dump everything onto the floor," Carter remarked.
"I see something." Erica finally spoke.
"What?" Both Alice and Carter moved closer but saw nothing.
"Yeah, it's like a ferret or something."
"That's him! What's he doing?" Carter shoved a little and Erica shoved him back much harder.
"He's leaving." She shakes her head slowly, eyes never leaving the earrings.
"What does that mean?" Carter asked the room. Alice played with her braids as she thought.
"Now might not be the best time, or he may not like hospitals." She mused aloud.
"Wait, wait!" Erica got their attention. "Do you hear that?"
The room fell silent.
Then as they all listened, whispers grew around them. Hundreds of hushed voices, no recognizable words. They were so quiet one might not hear them over the sound of the vents or the sound of your own thoughts. The whispers overlapped closer and closer the longer they listened until they finally all aligned into one voice. One horribly uncanny voice that was so clearly not human.