Author: Carlyle Labuschagne
Genre: Supernatural Suspense
Hosted by: Lady Amber's PR
Carlyle is a USA Today bestselling author from South Africa, who has won an award for her SF fantasy series the Broken Trilogy. This series broke ground not only in her country but in many where the genre of SF is concerned. Mixing African tales into worlds most of her readers describe as highly imaginative and unique. Her Dystopian Romance book, Dead of Night is a multi-award nominated tale set in a world where love is outlawed, described by readers as breathing new life into the genre.
Her goal as an author is to touch people's lives, and help others love their differences and one another by delivering strong messages of faith, love and hope within each world she writes about. She loves creating villains you have a hate, love relationship with and always explores imperfection as a strength in her heroes and supporting characters.
"I love to swim, fight for the trees, and am a food lover who is driven by my passion for life. I dream that one day my stories will change the lives of countless teenagers and have them obsess over the world literacy can offer them instead of worrying about fitting in. Never sacrifice who you are, it’s in the dark times that the light comes to life."
Willow was told that at some time during the night, she had sleepwalked her way out of her room and down a series of corridors, managing to slip into the service elevator undetected and find her way into the vast basement area a floor below the morgue. She'd traveled so far down underground that she'd been discovered in the maintenance section; the area where medical waste was stored until pickup.
Back in her room and safely in her hospital bed, Willow fought the tendrils of sleep as she sat surrounded by her sketches. Her hands and fingers moved of their own accord. Lines, curves, and soft edges blurred together to form an outline of the face that haunted her. She grabbed another piece of paper and started another sketch; her soul bleeding out onto the paper in shades of gray and black, soft and hard edges, smudged, defined curves and lines forming a heart surrounded by flowers captured inside a birdcage made of rib bones.
Nurse Benson entered with a tray of hot soup. “Willow? I thought you should eat before you sleep,” she said in her ever calming voice.
Willow half smiled back at her and pulled the blankets over the sketches as if ashamed of the secret she didn't quite understand.
“I’m okay, thank you, Bertha.”
Willow and Nurse Benson had become good companions in the last three weeks. Bertha was an older lady, who had no children of her own. Her husband had passed almost four years ago. Taking care of Willow was her latest purpose in life. Even after her shift ended Bertha came to spend time with Willow every lunchtime, bringing homemade cookies and sometimes bread with her. Willow hadn't the heart to tell her that her baking was awful. And Bertha's friendship was a welcome reprieve from the boredom of the endless days in hospital.
“Why are you really here, Bertha? Willow asked as the nurse stood with an expression of someone keeping a secret they were looking to relieve themselves of.
“I’m that obvious, huh?”
She placed the soup on the eating tray and wheeled it over to Willow.
Willow smiled, and adjusted her position on the bed as the delicious smelling soup got wheeled her way.
“I feel awful that I didn’t notice you were gone last night,” Bertha said, unpacking a spoon wrapped in a napkin from her purse.
“It’s not your fault,” Willow took a deep smell of the soup and her stomach growled.
“My child, in your condition you could have died! I feel terrible. Your immune system…”
Willow interrupted her. “Bertha, if heart failure couldn’t take me out, what makes you think anything else could?” She grinned sheepishly as she dipped into her soup.
Bertha gave a tight smile.
“I’m not sure what happened,” Willow said between spoonfuls. The soup was as almost as delicious as it had smelled.
Bertha sat down on the edge of her bed. “It’s not the first time you’ve left your room like that,” she began.
Willow’s eyes narrowed on Nurse Benson, the spoon suspended midair. “You never said anything before. I don’t have a record of sleepwalking…?”
Nurse Benson took a napkin from her Mary Poppins like bag and tucked it in the collar of Willow's gown.
“You need to slow your words, child. You know that accent of yours can be hard to understand.” She sat back with her hands in her lap.
She looked at Willow, "Don't worry yourself about the sleepwalking, it will blow over. A heart transplant is a serious trauma to the body and mind child."
She tipped her head to the side. “Stranger things have happened to heart recipients before.”
Willow arched her eyebrow in question.
“How about I bring you some articles about it?” Bertha offered.
She took another spoonful of soup. Her big green eyes searching out the nurse’s. It wasn’t the best soup she’d tasted, but it was made with love, and that in itself made each spoonful feel like it was calming from the inside. Nurse Benson took her chart from the foot of the bed, noticing the shift-nurse had given her a mild sedative. She looked up and smiled at Willow.
They fell quiet as the sounds of the slow beeping machines coming from other rooms filled the space. Nurse Benson shifted uncomfortably on the bed, not sure if she should tell Willow that she was concerned about her symptoms after all. Instead, she decided to give the girl the rest she needed. The sooner she got out of the hospital the better for everyone involved in Willow’s transplant. As sad as it was to see her go, it was a case of moving on and forgetting.
Standing from the bed, she sighed and said, "You should get some rest,"
Adjusting the strap of her purse. “You need your sleep.”
She returned to clasping her hands before her, reminding Willow of a sweet old church lady, which she knew she wasn’t. She’d seen bertha throw enough tantrums, often swearing at the staff.
Willow watched after Bertha as she made for the door.
“I don’t want to sleep. What if it happens again?” she asked Bertha.
Dropping her eyes as she felt the shame of sounding like a frightened child; the last thing she wanted when her recovery was about finally becoming an abled adult.
Bertha stopped at the threshold and smiled warmly.
“Do you need me to stay?” she asked, almost as if she’d been expecting it.
"I won't let you wander off again, child."
Willow felt pathetic, she shrugged and answered shyly, “Ja, you can’t guard me all the time…”
“Oh. Yes. I. Sure. Can.” Bertha chucked her purse across the room where it landed perfectly on the sofa-chair.
Willow gave a soft chuckle, almost choking on the soup.
Nurse Benson walked over to Willow, hitting her on her back, “Easy child, breathe.”
Willow gasped, taking in a breath before the laughter erupted again. Nurse Benson removed the soup from her tray.
"Okay, I think your meds have taken effect."
“This is me, happy, funny me.”
Bertha wiped her bangs from her face and smiled down at Willow. “If I’d ever had a daughter, I’d have liked her to be just like you.”
Willow closed her eyes for a moment, feeling a swell in her throat.
“We'd make an odd combo, you and me.”
“Why’s that?” Bertha stared at her through her lashes.
Willow fell back into her pillows. “Well, I don’t really eat baked goods, and you seem to bake, like, a lot. And well I just keep eating them because...” she blushed at her confession.
The medication had taken hold and her thoughts were suddenly outspoken and as if coming from someone else.
Nurse Benson stifled a laugh. “I wondered when you would actually say something.”
“You sabotaged my cookies intentionally then?” Willow’s tongue was starting to drag.
She blinked, trying to push away the fog creeping over her.
“Stay with me please?” she pleaded, her eyes finally drooping.
Bertha took her hand.
“I will. You don’t have to be scared.”
“Okay.” Willow’s eyes shut as the drowsiness took over.
“Oh, and please check in on Tyler in room…” she said, lids still closed.
“I know. You do not have to worry about him. I’ll let him know you’ll visit him soon.”
Willow tried to put up one last fight against the sleep, having this overwhelming feeling, as if she might never wake up the same again. First she had to say one more thing to Bertha, just in case she didn’t make it back to reality.
“Bertha,” was all she got out.
What she had wanted to tell her was, how scared she had been about what she’d seen and felt in that basement. But she’d slipped into sleep too soon with the ominous feeling pursuing her. Singed behind her lids was the non-distinct face that stood out in the shadows of that basement. A face that only she had seen - with it the overly encroaching feeling, like one she’d never experienced before. The haunting face was somehow part of her now.