The sounds of the city filtered dimly through the quiet of the city park. A flickering streetlight provided the only absence of darkness. Two men blinked into vision whenever the light shone briefly; one lay motionless on the ground and another squatted down on the ground beside him. Daren regarded the prone man, ignoring his surroundings. He feared no interruption because he knew with accurate certainty that there was no other living creature near. In fact, there were no real living creatures right where they were.
Daren’s eyes never left those of the prone man, watching intently for the first breath the man would take. The first real breath he would give this man. Daren was a patient man; he could wait for centuries if need pressed him. But tonight the odd sensation of time escaping him made him uneasy. “Take that damn breath!” he muttered, but did not move to aid the man. He just waited. If the man would not breathe on his own, his effort would be wasted; the blood he had given him would be wasted.
The man choked, coughed and took one long, ragged breath. Daren smiled. “Evening,” he said, as if they had just met during a leisurely stroll in the park. The man’s eyes shot open and he gasped another painful gulp of air. “Lovely evening, don’t you think?” Daren made himself comfortable on the ground, watching the gasping man with strangly luminent eyes.
The man was in obvious agony and confusion. His mouth formed the words ‘help me’ but no sound escaped his lips but that of the painful gulps of air that he managed to gasp.
“You see, I’d love to sit and chat with you awhile.” Daren continued in his cocktailparty tone, “but dawn is breaking early this time of year and you do not want to lie here when that happens.”
The man watched him in helpless incomprehension. But the breaths came a little bit easier each time. The pain, that seemed to go with it, spread from his lungs to his stomach. He clutched it in agony and finally groaned a few audible words. “Why don’t you help me, bastard, get an ambulance …. for crying out …aaaaarrgh!”
“Trust me,” said Daren, getting up and dusting off his clothes, “you do not need an ambulance.” He smiled down at the man and reached out a hand to him. “Get up and stop being childish. We have things to do and discuss.”
While doubling up from another bout of pain, the man looked at the outstretched hand with a mingling of disbelief and anger. He looked from the hand to the stranger’s face and into the bright smoldering eyes. His angry words died on his lips.
“Come on, my son,” Daren said brightly, pulling the man up by the hand that had started towards his own. “Time for us to find a place indoors.” He looked up at the sky and saw the first fleck of light in the east. “Time to bloody hurry.”