TITLE: The Collected
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy
Through the glass of Emma's bottle, the tiny basement room appeared curved and distorted. The door crashed open and the Collector limped over the threshold. He dragged his left leg behind him, smearing blood across the floor with his foot. Emma's heart sank. He needed her talent again.
The Collector staggered toward her. Glass bottles of various shapes and sizes occupied the shelves of the curio cabinet where she waited. Spotlights illuminated the carefully placed bottles, casting colorful shadows. Emma prayed he'd pass her by, but it was a wasted prayer. She knew what he needed, and none of the others could give it. His eyes scanned over them all, but stopped on her.
His fingers trembled as he grasped Emma's bottle and loosened the lid. He left the cap on until he brought it to his lips, and in one fluid motion he removed the lid and inhaled, drawing Emma into his body.
A wave of his pain smacked into her and she gasped. She could feel the heat from his left leg as it throbbed with each beat of his heart. He squeezed his eyes closed blocking Emma's vision of the small room. When he opened them again the room tilted and he plopped down on the only chair.
Fix it Emma heard his thoughts as if he were speaking out loud. And no funny business. If I have to force you this time, I'll make you remember George for me. Do you want that?
He placed one image in her mind, but it was enough: George. Beautiful George frozen with his hand pulled back and balled in a fist. A snarl of fury mixed with fear distorted his features.
Emma's stomach flipped and the Collector chuckled. George's haunting image faded from her thoughts as the Collector struggled to control his nausea.
No, she didn't want to remember George for him. It was bad enough when he made her watch his memories of that day, but far worse when he forced her to relive her own. She would do what he needed, without a fight.
She scanned his body. A silver-dollar sized bruise marred his right palm and a clean gash extended from below his left knee, down and across to inches above his ankle. Blood oozed from the wound and saturated his left pant leg, sock and shoe.
Emma focused on the crescent bruise on his hand. It was easy to fix. It itched as the few broken capillaries healed and the small amount of blood was absorbed. Task completed, she moved onto the more difficult leg. She braced herself for the pain she would feel when she repaired this more serious wound.
A pulsating ache radiated from his bone as she mended it and tears welled in his eyes. The pain was as sharp and hot as a flame sterilized knife. The skin surrounding the wound prickled as it melded together and smoothed.
She examined the finished product through his eyes and smiled to herself. She still had it. The calf looked perfect. Not even scar tissue remained. It was as if there had never been a wide slash across his calf at all.
The Collector stood. The room spun around and he collapsed back into the chair, nauseated. He had lost too much blood.
Do you want me to fix this, or not? Emma said.
"Fix it," he growled.
Then sit still and let me.
Every bone in his body throbbed as she stimulated the marrow to make more red blood cells. This was the worst part. The Collector gasped and hissed in pain. Emma smirked.
Her chore complete, his shoulders slouched with her exhaustion. She longed for him to release his hold on her, exhale and return her to her glass cell.
He had other things in mind. He always did.
Just let me go. I've done what you've asked.
"Don't you want to see how I got her?" he said.
"You're no fun."
Her vision hazed around the edges, as if she were gazing through the bottom of a glass. The kaleidoscope of blurred color blinked away and was replaced by the image of a city street at sunset. Her head turned and she realized she was sitting on a bench looking out of the Collector's eyes. A newspaper sat on the bench beside her and she noted the date with sadness.