Wanderers of Ruin

Discussion in 'Completed Fan Fictions' started by Rain, Feb 20, 2011.

  1. Rain

    Rain New Member

    Suddenly, fear had paralyzed me. I was fucking afraid of what I’d find out at the other end of that line. Lindsey. I looked over quickly to my right, at a dishevelled nurse who looked like she hadn’t slept in days. She weakly smiled at me. I couldn’t bring myself to return it.

    Instead, my fingers slowly and deliberately started to dial Lindsey’s number. From what seemed like far away, I heard the beep of the keys, and when I put the phone to my ear I felt like I was stuck in a dream. As I listened to the rings, I can remember walking to the edge of the balcony and leaning over, surprised to find that the horizon was starting to be tinted red from the sunset. But, not just red, because the very fringes were pink and I could see a hint of the darkness waiting to come. It was startlingly beautiful, and drew me in like a fish is to water.

    I guess the start of that sunset sticks in my mind because… well, it was the last thing I’d be able to see beauty in, find beautiful, for days.

    As the phone rang, the dreamlike Gerard suddenly realized he hadn’t smoked since this morning. The sight of that sunset did something to me, put a little more of me right than my mental work by Mikey’s bedside had done. Suddenly, I was filled with this huge craving for a tar stick, and dimly realized that I could do nothing about it. The craving was so bad it made me forget why I had a phone to my ear in the first place.

    The ringing seemed to go on forever. I was about ready to hang up, but thank God, I didn’t. On the last ring, I suddenly heard her. I would have recognized that voice anywhere.

    “Hello?” Lindsey! She was still here. The woman I married was still able to answer her cell phone. The sunset deepened as my mood suddenly soared. I quickly thought back to Frank after he’d talked to Jamia. Maybe, just maybe my wife would be different than everyone else in this hospital. Looking back, I can’t believe I allowed myself to think such a thing. But, I can’t blame myself either. My world that day was nothing more than that hospital full of sick people. I could still foolishly hope that things were different in other parts of the country, the part she was in. I wasn’t even thinking about the states the news mentioned to be infected.

    “Lindsey?” I said happily, knowing that my one word was anything but a question.

    “Hey…,” was all she could get out before my already broken world shattered. Suddenly, a string of coughing filled the background. Wet coughs that sounded exactly like Mikey’s had.

    It was all I could do not to let the phone drop to the ground.

    “Lindsey!” I shouted loudly, startling the nurse behind me, and even myself. But, fuck, I wouldn’t have been able to control it if I had tried. And still, my wife coughed.

    “I… I was going to phone you, but you beat me to it,” she tried to say, before pausing to cough again. “Gee, I’ve got that flu. They finally left me alone so I could reach you. Fuck, everybody’s so sick!” My stomach was suddenly full of lead as I finally remembered that she was in one of the states that Kathy Harris had mentioned. Oh God, not my Lindsey.

    “M… Mikey’s got it, Frank said Jamia does, oh fuck, but not you!” Suddenly my voice was hysterical and high, screechy and not like myself at all. This was worse than when I was talking to Dr. James, much worse. My world had been turned inside out this morning, and now it fell into a fucking black hole. I lost myself again, worse than after I’d run away from the doctor. So badly I can’t remember anything clearly. I wish I could have, but I fucking can’t.

    My memory of that whole time is foggy now, but I must have been a mess. It was something I never wanted to hear in my life. Lindsey told me she’d waited until she was absolutely sure she had that flu, and then she waited some more to figure out what exactly to say to me. She told me she was in the hospital, and she… she knew she was never coming out. My wife said she loved me. She said her Famous Last Words. Lindsey told me that we’d meet in some kind of afterlife when this was all over with such conviction, but I couldn’t believe her. How could a God give us some kind of heaven after doing what he did?!

    I nearly broke down, finally realizing that everyone I loved was going to die. That I was going to die eventually from this, because it seemed that way. She told me that everyone was sick, and there were bodies in the streets and in pits and in houses and she was going to be one of them. But, my wife wasn’t hysterical or crying, only sad.

    I think the thing that was the worst to hear was how she told me she hoped that death would come quickly. Like any thought of fighting had completely left her. After she’d watched ones close to her die, she just accepted her fate like a blind robot. It took all I could not to scream at her, completely lose it and say how dare she give up. I’m fucking glad I didn’t. Because now, I realize that I’d actually accepted my soon-approaching plague death the minute I heard that first cough. Shouting would have been pure, useless denial. Neither of us needed that.

    I looked like a maniac. My hands and body were shaking, and my free hand was clasping the railing so hard it hurt. For her sake, I tried to keep my voice even as I said I loved her. Again, Lindsey told me that we’d meet in the afterlife, and not to worry because she loved me too, and that would never change. I can remember a single tear sliding down my cheek as I said I loved her, again and again and again. My Lindsey sounded so tired. But, she still found the strength to say it back, over and over.

    Her last words that she ever spoke to me were “So, I guess this is goodbye.”

    Before I could respond in any way, I suddenly heard the stomach-curdling sound of vomit. She’d timed it just perfectly. God, fuck, she’d known all along she was going to be sick. I wanted to shout, I wanted to cry, but it was like my voice was completely gone. Even now, I can remember exactly how hard I tried to force something out of my scream-broken vocal chords, and how exactly I failed. Before I could even tell her I loved her one last time, or even say goodbye, the line went dead.

    As if in a dream, my hand went limp and Frank’s phone went flying to the ground. I was in complete and total shock. Everything was a shade of grey. My wife was dying, my brother was dying, and everybody else wouldn’t be far behind. I looked down at the ground below and seriously toyed with the idea of just hurtling myself over the edge and ending it all right now. Jesus, I might have actually done it if it hadn’t been for that nurse.

    “Hey, my daughter was a big fan of your band. I know this won’t help any, but take these,” a completely unfamiliar voice suddenly said on my right side. I slowly turned to see the nurse standing there, with a lighter and cigarettes in her outstretched palm. My eyes scanned them blankly.

    “Here, they’re mine,” she added, then shoved them into my hand. “I was always meaning to quit, I might as well start now.” Numbly, I just stared at her, watching with an open mouth as she walked away. Suddenly, that damned craving was back, yet another mental failsafe, and I lit up one of those toxic tar sticks as fast as I could.

    The shock I was feeling was like nothing I’d ever felt before. I’d been low when I was on the drugs, but this was so completely different. I was unable to feel anything except emptiness, the kind of that made me wonder how far down jumping over the balcony would take me. But, I knew I didn’t want to go back into the hospital, not yet, not ever. So, I made my way over to the corner, by the door, so I could watch the sunset, and I smoked.

    With every puff I tried to drown out the names playing over and over in my head. Lindsey, Mikey, Frank, Ray, Bob, Gerard, Mom, Dad, Lindsey, Mikey, Bob, Frank…. It just went on and on. The emptiness grew and grew.

    Smoke wafted through the air. How many cigarettes had I had already? I couldn’t remember. But, I do know that the sun went down. It was nearly black out, and I could see the city lights when Ray came. Without saying a word, he knew who I called and what I had found out. He tried to comfort me. He softly said words that held no meaning, until he realized that it was all useless. Only when he knew what was behind my blank stare did he tell me why he’d come to find me in the first place.

    Mikey was awake. Suddenly, a little bit of feeling came rushing back, just enough to make me realize that while I still had a brother, I needed to spend as much time with him as I could. Somehow, I jumped to my feet and yanked Ray up at the same time, and rushed through that hallway to hell.

    When I got to the room, I saw that my brother was really awake. He was sweaty, clammy, and coughed consistently, but his eyes were still the same. Mikey told me that it was starting to hurt. Not just his throat, but his muscles too. My stomach churned. He asked me if we’d phoned Alicia, and when Bob and Ray looked down, that was all he needed to know. Mikey asked so many questions that night. I couldn’t figure it out, but now, I realize it was a way for him to distract himself from the pain, at least for a little while.

    Mikey vomited twice, and at least it wasn’t blood. I guess you really couldn’t have called it puking, but he choked up bile. Bob somehow found some food, which we all managed to choke down but my brother. When Mikey finally passed out, completely exhausted, that marked the end of April the nineteenth.

    The twentieth was when the screaming started. I didn’t even realize I was asleep on the floor until I heard his cry. We all jumped to our feet, only to see Mikey’s arm contorted with a bitch of a muscle cramp. Immediately, I ran to his side and put an arm around him, just to let him know I was there. I didn’t expect him to throw up blood all over me again.

    Once the cramp had finally stopped, I ran to the bathroom to wash myself off, trying not to puke with the idea that I was covered in his blood yet again, in my brother’s death blood.

    I did anyway.

    While I was puking my stomach out, Frank had run to try and find a nurse. He thought that they could give Mikey morphine or something. Later, he told me that he’d run down the hallway full of dead and dying, only to find it deserted. He’d gone to three different wards, only to find the few nurses remaining curled up on the floor. The one that was lucid enough told him that all the other nurses had either gotten sick or fled the city. And also, they had no pain medication left. They’d used it all up yesterday, and Mikey had gotten some of the last of the strong stuff. Frank pleaded and asked if they had anything else that would help, and the poor nurse said only Tylenol.

    But, that didn’t stop him. Frank got in the elevator and went to another floor, only to find it in worse shape. When he finally stumbled back into our hospital room, he looked like a man that had gone insane. At first, the only thing he said, over and over, was that he tripped over a dead man, just lying there on the floor. We only heard the rest after he’d calmed down.

    Sunday was the day of screams. I’ll never forget the sound of my brother asking us to stop it, stop the pain. Even on my deathbed, I’ll hear those cries as clear as ever, and I’ll never be able to wipe out the image of his body tense and twitching from those fucking cramps. His legs, his arms, everywhere suffered a convulsion at some point. They almost scared me as much as his breathing. His coughs were nearly constant now, so bad that he’d rock back and forth, and the worst of them would cause him to spit up blood and phlegm. And, fuck, they were so wet. It sounded like he had a swimming pool in his chest. That’s the only way I can think of describing it, a fucking swimming pool. Everything was so bad that I didn’t even think about smoking, and that used to be my biggest craving.
     
  2. Rain

    Rain New Member

    All we could do was stand there. No help was going to come. There wasn’t going to be a miracle cure. We couldn’t even find any fucking Tylenol. We could do nothing, nothing except watch my brother die, like fans watching an NFL game. It sickens me to think about it, even now, and it doesn’t hurt any less than it did back then.

    That night, Mikey started to see things. The first was Alicia. Then, our parents, and after that, people we hadn’t seen in years. The worse the cramps got, the sweatier and clammier and sicker the rest of him did. I didn’t sleep at all. Instead, I sat by his bedside, holding his hand and telling him that everything would turn out okay in the end. I wasn’t sure if I even believed in an afterlife, but in the end I knew that if Mikey died, at least the pain would be gone. He’d be released.

    Thank God that I had Mikey those first few days. If not, I might have gone insane. Staying by him and with him until the very end gave me a purpose. It took my mind off of my dying wife, the one who couldn’t answer her phone anymore.

    Mikey saved me in a way. The worse things got, the more I realized that I could handle whatever came next. Watching the last days of my brother was the hardest thing of all, even harder than if I had to do this with Lindsey. Taking turns cleaning the bedpan, washing his face, and simply being there, all of us learned how to say goodbye. But, a part of me died during that time, and it’s a part that I’ll never be able to get back.

    At one AM, on April twenty-first, Mikey thought I was Alicia. That was when I truly knew that I could handle whatever life decided to throw at me next. I had to sit there and listen to him say that he loved me, loved Alicia. For his last comfort, I pretended to be his wife, and I didn’t go completely crazy. By then, he was fading in and out of consciousness, and when he woke up again he was lucid. I still don’t know if I should have been thankful for that or not.

    Mikey screamed a lot in those last hours. I could see the muscles twitching in pain, and there was nothing I could fucking do. Mikey started fighting to breathe. It sounded like he was drowning, because with every breath I could hear the fluid that was building up inside his lungs and choking him to death. Bruises appeared on his skin, and sweat soaked his forehead. As his life slipped away, so did that part of me that could see the bright things in life. My happiness left me, only to be replaced by cold logic.

    I couldn’t even cry.

    At three in the morning, Ray started coughing. At ten past four, he ran into the bathroom and puked his guts out. He didn’t come out for twenty minutes, but we could still hear him crying behind the closed door. I didn’t have any tears left to give, so instead I tore another part of myself out and prepared it for his death.

    Five-thirty marked the end of Mikey’s screaming. We all crowded around his bed then, three healthy and one sick. I held his hand as I watched him fight for every breath. Thanks to that, I saw that his screams of pain had been replaced by his eyes bulging. It wasn’t the sound of his watery breathing that would haunt me in my nightmares, it would be those eyes. They always said that eyes are the window to the soul, and Mikey’s told his story all too well. My brother was in the worst pain and misery of his life, while I was watching him, completely healthy.

    Six-twenty was when his breathing turned into gasping. The sweat had soaked his gown straight through, and we could smell that his bladder had completely let go, but we stood there all the same. All four of us were numb, frozen husks. It would have been easier if Mikey was unconscious, but he was completely lucid. That’s what broke us. But, that’s also what taught us to say goodbye.

    At six-forty-five, Mikey gripped my hand as hard as he could. I was startled so badly that I jumped. Instead of letting go, Mikey pulled me down towards his face. I’m still ashamed to say that I cringed. I could smell the death coming from his mouth, I could see his face that was straight out of a nightmare, and for just a second I was convinced it was a monster that grabbed me, grabbed me to drag me down to hell.

    Either Mikey didn’t care, or he understood, because he just kept dragging me down until my ear was just above his mouth.

    “I… love… y-you… all. Gee... I lo-love… yo-u-u….”

    Those were the last words Michael Way ever spoke, the words that finally killed that part of me I’ll never find again.

    With that last syllable, Mikey suddenly choked. I jumped up just in time to miss being doused by the bloody vomit suddenly coming from his throat.

    Michael James Way died on April the twenty-first, at six-forty-six in the morning. A loving husband, my brother, a friend, and a hero to many.

    The last thing I remember is collapsing on the floor and crying until it hurt.
     
  3. Chemical 30

    Chemical 30 Just 'That' Girl

    Poor Mikey...but at least he's not in pain anymore
    But Ray's going next...oh dear.....I'm just expecting to cry at every chapter now
     
  4. Rain

    Rain New Member

    Haha thanks, I guess that means I'm doing my job as an author then? :)

    Here's the fifth chapter, enjoy!

    ***

    Chapter Five: The Vigil

    Mikey was dead. I wanted to tell myself that I simply could not wrap my head around those three words, but I knew it would never work. As my shoulders heaved and the tears tricked down my cheeks to the cold linoleum floor, it wasn’t denial that was making me cry. Instead, it was the emptiness, the horror, and the frustration that I couldn’t lie to myself at the time I needed to the most.

    A bomb could have gone off and I wouldn’t have noticed. My whole word had shrunken until all that was left was my grieving mind. If I would have been a little saner, I would have felt complete embarrassment at being in the position I was in, but not at that moment. Eventually, the tears couldn’t come anymore, and I just became limp on the floor.

    Minutes and seconds passed. There wasn’t a sound in the tomb, besides Ray coughing. Out in the hall, I could dimly hear some people screaming, but frankly, I didn’t give a shit. Looking back, I think that everyone in that room was in a state of total shock. You know how they used to say that death never seems like it’s really going to happen until it does? That was the case with us. Even as Mikey was choking out his last few breaths, we all had this small hope that maybe, just maybe, he’d get better. But also, it was so much more than his death that kept us all silent.

    Mikey… oh God. That was the only coherent thought that went through my mind. It wasn’t just the fact that he was dead. No, it was the pain he had to go through before he passed on. Closing my eyes, I could see his screaming, twitching body as clear as day, feel the bloody puke hit my face. His voice screamed for us to make it stop, to please make it fucking stop. All of those memories occupied the shallow level of my conscious thought, but much deeper down, I was also trying to comprehend what it all represented.

    This wasn’t just a freak flu, this was a fucking plague. Outside the room, people were lying on cots. States away, my wife was dying or dead. Dr. James had told me that everybody who comes into contact with the flu gets sick, and everybody that catches it ends up dying. Everybody. And that included us.

    I wasn’t nearly ready to die. There was so much more I wanted to do, so many more things I wanted to see, and there was no way I was ready to watch my other band mates go out like Mikey did. I wouldn’t have wished that on anybody, even my worst enemy. All of the pain he’d gone through only served to scare me even more about when my turn would finally come.

    My brother had screamed his head off in pain before it ended. When we were kids, Mikey never cried like that. It never changed as he grew older. That fucking flu made him scream worse than I’d ever seen, so the scale of pain must have been through the roof. And now, Ray was sick. Somehow, even in the dimness my grieving mind created, I remembered how the man had gone into the bathroom to puke. There was no denying that he had the flu. It was only a matter of time now.

    I just laid there, frozen. In a childish way, I hoped that if I just stayed like that, maybe, just maybe, time would stop, that everything would freeze and no more death would happen. In a perfect world maybe, but sadly, I was existing in a living hell.

    Mikey.

    After an unidentified period of time, I heard shuffling coming from the other side of the room. I paid it no mention. My world was Mikey’s death, and the others that were coming soon. Also, I knew that if I moved I might risk seeing him. I wondered if I could take it.

    Mikey. My brother was dead. The man I’d spent most of my life with, one of my closest friends, dead. I’d never hear him laugh again. He’d never crack one more smile. He’d never say my name in that funny way. His bass would never feel his hands again. Michael would never turn thirty. Everything was done and gone now. All I had left were memories, fucking memories.

    Had he really risen up so high after The Black Parade, only to be brought down like this? It all seemed like a fucking sick joke. Maybe soon I’d wake up in my bunk and get ready to play a show. Ha-ha, Gerard, what a nightmare, Mikey would say, and then, we’d both laugh, enthusiastically, for a long time.

    Except, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. Mikey was lying dead just feet away from me. I was scared to get the virus, but part of me would welcome the plague with open arms. It had only been a few days, but my world had changed so dramatically that death didn’t seem like such a bad idea. It was an escape from all of this. Even if nothingness came after, at least there I wouldn’t feel any pain.

    I just laid there, thinking about my dead brother, and death in general. I was in the worst shock I’d ever experienced, and even to this day I still can’t forget how it felt to lose all desire to move. In the distance, I could hear the screaming in the hallway and realize how much it sounded like Mikey’s had. I could hear Ray’s coughing on the other side of the room, and a muffled sob from someone else. We were all a fucking sorry sight.

    Oblivion passed into oblivion, and all blended together. Even through my shock I started to become aware of this pressure building up in my lower body. I was shocked stupid, remembering my childhood with my brother, so it didn’t even occur to me what the feeling was until the last possible second. But then, it hit me.

    I had to piss.

    The sheer absurdity of it all suddenly threatened to send me into a hysterical fit of giggles. How something so fucking normal could happen in such a doomsday time had just seemed impossible, but yet, it was right in front of me. I had to go to the bathroom.

    I realized that I couldn’t wait much longer or else I was going to piss in my pants. As I tried to get my limp noodle muscles to actually move me into a sitting position, I couldn’t help but smile at how ridiculous this all was. My brother was dead, and I had to take a piss.

    When I finally got myself to my feet, making sure not to look at the bed, I realized that the three other men were looking at me like I had gone insane. My eyes went wide with a kind of wonderment, which scared them even more.

    “Gotta piss, I’ll be right back,” I mumbled to my friends, trying to stifle a royally bad case of laughter. Without another word, I set forth into the sterile tile bathroom and shut the door behind me.

    The laughter finally came as I started doing my business. At first slowly, then louder and louder until I was laughing like a maniac. It all seemed so funny. And, what made it even funnier was wondering what I was going to do when I went back through that door. Go and lie on my piece of floor again? The very idea of it seemed so ridiculous. My shoulders shook as I washed my hands, right in time with the scary, frightening laughs.

    “Gerard, a-are you okay?” Frank’s voice flitted in through the wooden door, sounding frightened and alarmed. About time, my crazy mind thought, which sent me into another set of hysterics.

    “Gerard, can you open the door?” His voice was even shakier, but I knew he was trying to make it as calm as possible. The rational part of me that was being pushed away, the part that was alarmed and even more scared than my friend, suddenly started pushing my nerves to get my limbs moving. Hysterical Gerard fought back tooth and claw, but eventually, the good won.

    I slowly made my way to the door, with my laughing taking on a whole new level of insanity. Even to this day, I’m still scared by what happened to me in that bathroom. That’s something I never want to go through again. When I finally clicked the lock open, I could almost hear Frank sigh with relief.

    As soon as I’d unlocked the door, Frank opened it as fast as he could. Within seconds, I was staring into his anxious, scared face, and his arms were gently around my shoulders. And still, I laughed.

    “Shh, it’s okay, Gerard, let’s just… just sit down,” he whispered to me, in the same way a mother would talk to her infant child. I let him lead me two steps, until my dead brother came into view. Holy fuck. It shocked me into complete and utter silence.

    Frank kept gently trying to tug me, but suddenly, I couldn’t move. It took him a few seconds to realize that I’d quit laughing, and when he did, his eyes went even rounder than mine. I wasn’t even aware of him at my side anymore. The fucking smart lot of us hadn’t even put a sheet over his head. If we had, I wouldn’t have stopped and stared in horror at what used to be Mikey. Oh Jesus.

    Mikey’s body had relaxed in death, but not without letting go of everything else. There was a wet blotch on the blanket where his bladder had let go, and I could smell that his bowels had also followed suit. Suddenly, the stench was everywhere, and I tried to fight back a gag. There was bloody vomit and bile all over the sheets, and it had dried onto his pale neck, making him look like he’d died from a slit throat. It was clustered around his mouth and all over his face. The blood around his mouth was especially gruesome. He looked like Hannibal the Cannibal in that movie The Silence of the Lambs, right after he’d finished off those two guards. But, God, that wasn’t nearly the worst of it.

    His eyes. Mikey’s fucking eyes, they were frozen open. Those once friendly windows were wide open, telling exactly how much pain and agony he’d died in. The bloody, black vomit he’d choked to death on was starting to dry in his open mouth. It was his final silent scream, entirely told through his eyes. Those fucking eyes that weren’t closed, but instead staring at me, as if still screaming Gerard, make it stop, make it stop!
     
  5. Rain

    Rain New Member

    I dropped to my knees and choked out bile, my empty stomach’s excuse for puke. Only once I had righted myself did I realize that Frank was beside me, and that he’d done the same.

    “Somebody fucking shut his eyes!” Frank suddenly exclaimed, his words meant for either Bob or Ray. The two men looked up with dazed eyes, as if noticing my brother’s pitiful state of death for the first time. They looked confused for a few seconds, until their eyes finally widened in the realization that had gripped me and Frank so morbidly. Ray stifled back a gag, but it seemed like Bob was invincible. He jumped to his feet way faster than I thought he would, and made his way towards my brother’s dead body. It was like he was trying to cover up those eyes before Mikey could turn into a zombie and kill us all, and he only had seconds to do it. I was completely frozen in numb awe, just standing there like an idiot.

    The memory of Bob gently closing Mikey’s eyes would stay with me forever. Even now, it seems like only yesterday that he shut my brother’s eyes for the last time. When that was done, he whispered something that only the dead man could hear, and lifted the bloody sheet over his head. And, that was it, the last task was finally done.

    It was almost like he freed me from a chokehold when he covered Mikey’s face. When I saw those features disappear under the solid veil of the sheet, something in me finally relaxed, and my stomach quit turning. The grief was still making everything foggy, but at least I could think some kind of rational thought now. As I looked at his unmoving form under the sheet, I finally remembered something that Dr. James had told me. He said that I should make funeral arrangements. I knew that grief had to be put aside, yet again. Once everyone was dead I’d let myself go, but while I was still living, I couldn’t afford to shut down.

    The room was silent as we all stood there, gazing at my dead brother. All four sets of eyes were focused on the lump under the sheet, trying to think about what was supposed to happen next. The only other sound was Ray coughing up a lung. Fuck, he’s getting clammy, I realized with dread. And then, with that thought in my head, I finally found the inner strength to say what needed to be said.

    “Guys, we need to make funeral arrangements.”

    My voice was steadier than I thought it would be. Ray, Frank, and Bob looked at me with shocked eyes, and then shared an uncomfortable glance with each other.

    “We… we can’t just leave him like this. Dr. James told me when we first came here that I should have done that before… but, I just couldn’t,” I told them, with my voice barely above a whisper. With a dead man in the room, it only seemed right to be as quiet as we could. Bob and Ray looked at each other, finally understanding. Frank just stared at the floor.

    “Yeah… yeah, we do. But, where do we call?” Bob asked. Ray was too busy coughing.

    “I don’t know,” I replied. “Is there a phone book somewhere?” Frank was getting more and more agitated, and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I was close enough to the man to see how hard his hands were clenched together, and how he was biting his lip in a way that make a small drop of blood appear in the corner. He looked like a person who needed to say something, but just couldn’t get it out. And with seeing that, I suddenly felt sick with dread again.

    “Hey… I’ll go find one,” Ray whispered, his voice hoarse and rough from all of the coughing. He was in no state to go anywhere, but nobody protested when his feeble attempt to stand up resulted in a fall. Now we all knew that we were living on borrowed time. Bob helped our guitarist to his feet, and they started to head towards the door, one leaning on the other.

    Mikey, I wish this had never happened.

    This sudden thought that pushed its way into my head wasn’t rhetorical, but like I was actually talking to my dead brother. It scared me. It frightened me a hell of a lot, so I pushed it into the back of my mind, telling myself to focus on the task at hand and nothing else.

    Ray and Bob hobbled towards the big wooden door, our only barrier from the screaming dead. Frank looked even more agitated now, more frantic, more manically hysterical than I’d ever seen him. Just as Ray went to turn the doorknob, that awful sentence finally came out of his mouth.

    “It’s no use, it’s all mass graves now!” he suddenly shouted, and then his small body was wracked with shuddering sobs as he slid to the floor, tears streaming down his face. We all immediately came to his side, and for once, I couldn’t think about Mikey.

    “Shh, Frank, it’s okay,” I whispered. “Just tell us when you can, no rush, okay?” He meekly nodded, and continued to break down in front of us. I never knew exactly what was going through his head, but I think he was finally letting it all out. Jamia, Mikey, Ray, and everything else he’d seen. Later, he would tell me that he hadn’t cried at all since the whole ordeal started, not until that moment. And, as he broke down in front of us, the only thing we could do was put a hand on his shoulder and whisper him that god-awful lie, everything will be okay.

    I don’t remember how long he stayed like that, just curled in on himself and shuddering until there was nothing left to grieve over. Sometimes it seems like forever, and sometimes it seems like it lasted only seconds. Through the whole thing, I would sometimes glance at my brother’s dead form and crazily think Mikey, it’s all a shame, isn’t it?

    As all things must come to an end, so did Frank’s breakdown. The grief slowly faded away in the background, ever so slowly, until finally he looked at us with clear eyes and spoke that one sentence.

    “I’m okay now.”

    We only nodded, trying not to embarrass our friend any more than he already was. Even to this day, I still firmly believe that nobody wants a witness to their own personal breakdown, and Frank was no exception. With everything that was happening, I still couldn’t shake my grief. With every thought I knew there was his name in the background. Maybe I couldn’t hear it, but it was there, a ball of lead in the bottom of my stomach. Frank took a deep breath, and then was finally ready.

    “Do you remember when I went to see if there were any painkillers for Mikey?” This wasn’t a question, so he kept talking with his shaky voice. “Well… I was trying to talk to the nurses, to see if there was anything. I told you guys that there wasn’t a single fucking thing left, but there was also something I was keeping from you.

    “One of the nurses on that other floor laughed when I asked her. So, of course, I wondered why she was laughing, and she told me there was no hope left. The laughing wasn’t funny… it was hysterical. She said that they were piling the dead in a garbage truck that came every day, and dumping them… du-u-dumping them in a pit! But, she didn’t stop there, she told me I was a retarded man for even trying to get him medication, because sooner or later I’d be joining him. But… but, that’s not what got me. Jamia is probably in one of those pits, you know, where she was ended up being infected before Detroit.

    “I don’t even know where she’s buried!”

    And with that last final sentence, Frank started to shudder again, picturing his dead wife in a black pit surrounded by other decaying bodies. My blood ran cold as I imagined my Lindsey in a mass grave. I pictured her dying like Mikey did, except alone in a stretcher in a hellish hallway. I didn’t even think about trying to phone her again, because I knew she’d be in no shape to answer.

    Fuck, Lindsey, you never deserved this. Nobody did.

    I looked over at Ray and Bob, only to find them looking downcast, their inner darkness surrounding them, taking them over. I just knew that they were thinking the same thing I was, that our significant others are going to wind up in a huge pit, if they haven’t already. And, the worst thing was, none of us ever got to say goodbye to them.

    For a while, we stayed what we were, four haunted men that were looking death in the face and trying not to give up. You have to imagine, it was so hard to stay strong it was unbelievable. My brother, our friend, our bandmate had just died, and Ray was coughing up a lung. We knew he was next. It took a while, but finally all of us were patched together enough to try normal thinking again.

    “If… if they’re doing that, then what happens to Mikey?” I asked quietly, unable to look at Frank.

    Mikey, I never wanted this for you.

    “That nurse told me that every day in the afternoon, somebody will bring a body cart along,” Frank whispered. “If we’re in a room, we just open the door and they know.” Strangely, all of us nodded in blank acceptance.

    “We can clean him up at least. We owe Mikey that much.” It was Ray that whispered this time, and his voice was even worse for wear than before. His clothing was starting to show all the sweat his body was producing, and suddenly, I understood. Ray wanted to help take care of Mikey before he got too sick to move.

    So, that was what we did. Slowly and solemnly, we each went to do a different task to prepare Mikey for his burial. Ray, coughing, found a clean hospital gown for Mikey in the ward’s laundry room. Frank found some body soap, and Bob got some water ready to clean him. They all knew without speaking that it would be my job to wash my brother off, and I was both grateful and angry at the same time for that. But, in the end, I knew in my soul that I wanted that job. I needed it to help with a proper goodbye.

    When my turn came, my hands didn’t tremble, my empty stomach didn’t turn, and my eyes didn’t water. Yet, I was grieving all the same. Once everyone had left the room, I got Mikey out of his soiled gown and threw it out the window. The stench was still there, but I knew I couldn’t do anything about it until they took him and we could change the bedding. Fuck, probably the mattress as well.

    Slowly and lovingly, I took the wash cloth and cleaned the sickness off of my brother. Death had started to cool his skin, but with his eyes now closed, he almost looked like he was sleeping. As I worked my way upward to his face, my hands still didn’t tremble, but I found that empty spot in my heart growing wider and wider, never to be filled again. Why did I have to live on while he died in pain? I wondered a lot of dark things as I scrubbed his neck, and that was only one of them.
     
  6. Rain

    Rain New Member

    When I got to his face, tears finally started to fall again, but only little ones. It was like I was leaking more than anything, and I didn’t even realize I had cried until I’d cleaned up the last spec of blood.

    Mikey, it was never fair.

    After I’d cleaned his hair the best I could, it amazed me how much better he looked. It seemed as if Mikey was only sleeping. Maybe he’d wake up after all, and then ask what the hell he was doing here. But, no, I knew that would never happen. My brother was dead, along with my wife, and probably my parents. Blind hope seemed transparent and foolish, especially as I stared at Mikey’s body.

    Looking back, I now realize with all of my mind that I thought I’d never feel happy again. How could I? How could anyone, after seeing this misery? My brief flights through the hospital hallways were enough to last me a lifetime. Even though my speed made everything blurry, I can still make out the faces in torment, still see the tensed limbs and purple bruises, but none of that will amount to those wild eyes that stared back at me. They looked at me with panicked hope. Even today, sometimes in my dreams I hear their voices calling out to me, asking me to stay. Each one of those lost people wanted somebody to hold their hand as they went towards that unknown event of death. Even when hope was gone, all they wanted was a warm hand to help them through. And I think… wait, I know that always bothers me the most.

    Once I had cleaned off Mikey the best I could, I dressed him in the clean hospital gown. I wished we could have gone back to the venue to get better clothes, but I knew that was impossible. Who knows what would be waiting for me there? Yet, that gown was enough. All I wanted to do was to give my brother some dignity back, and I fulfilled my task, because Mikey looked like he was sleeping, not like a dead monster.

    It was only when I finished my grim task that I realized my band mates had left the door open, open and waiting for the mortician. I wondered where everybody else was, but I figured that it didn’t matter. As long as somebody held vigil with Mikey, that was all that counted.

    I tried to tune out the pained cries of make it stop! They sounded all too familiar and all too real, but I couldn’t keep them out completely. It also made me realize that the stench just wasn’t coming from our room; it was wafting in from the hallway as well. I grimaced, trying to keep from imagining what was outside.

    So, instead of letting my mind wander to dark places, I waited. In that uncomfortable chair, I sat by Mikey’s bedside, silently waiting to say goodbye. It was a death vigil, and something I wish I never had to experience. Even when the other three men came walking in, everything stayed silent. Instead of making a noise we just positioned ourselves around his bed, waiting to say goodbye. It should have seemed endless, but strangely that was never true. In what felt like only seconds, I heard creaking wheels inch closer to our door.

    The wheels inched little-by-little towards our room. When they paused, I could hear grunting and something that sounded like a sack hitting the floor. This repeated a few times, and only served to prolong the agony. But, finally, the wheels stopped at our door.

    Without a word, a man in a green mask, green gloves, and an isolation gown made his way into our room. He stood in the doorway, not saying a word. Instead, his waiting silence asked what he needed to know. Is he dead?

    Bob, Frank, and Ray looked towards me. I was his brother, it was my job to answer. At first, I tried to respond with words, but my vocal chords had frozen up. Instead, all I could do was sadly nod. The gowned figure made a gesture to the hallway and another man came into the room, taller but dressed the same. Both of them stepped up to the bed and paused, hands behind their backs. I knew they had too much experience with this. They were waiting, watching to see if we wanted to say goodbye.

    Ray went first.

    He was coughing so hard that he could barely stand up, but Ray managed to walk to Mikey’s bedside and say the words “Bye, Mikes.” Then came Frank, who held my brother’s hand and whispered something that nobody else could make out. From the way Frank looked when he was speaking, I’ve always thought that it was a prayer he’d learned long ago, but I would never know for sure. Bob leaned down and told Mikey that he’d see him later, and then stepped back. And then, it was my turn. Even though I knew it was going to happen, it still caught me off guard.

    It took me two steps to get to his bedside, and for that small eternity I was more filled with grief and sadness than I’d ever been. This was really the end. This was the final goodbye. I had only seconds to say farewell to my baby brother, who had always seemed so immortal to me. After all this time, there was only a minute to say goodbye to the person who’d been with me since childhood, and always there through everything.

    Mikey, it was hardly enough.

    When I reached his bedside, I choked on a sob. I took Mikey’s cool hands in mine and kissed his pale cheek, feeling one of my tears reach his skin. This was the last time I’d ever touch my brother, and nothing before was as horrible as this. Not even the loss of my wife, because I never had to watch her die, never had to hold her cold hand like I was holding my brother’s now.

    “Goodbye, Mikey,” was all my cracked voice managed to say. I couldn’t take anything longer. I held onto his hands for a few seconds after that, telling myself to remember, to always remember what I’d lost. In those few seconds, I had never felt so alone.

    I still can’t remember what finally made me let go, but when I did and stepped away from my brother, the two men quickly went to work. The tall one gripped his armpits, and the short one got his legs. With a quick grunt, they lifted Mikey up out of the bed. I numbly followed them and stood in the doorway, watching with morbid awe as they carefully placed him on a strange cart that was carrying bodies. The tall one took a sheet and draped it over Mikey’s frame, careful to tuck his arms and legs into the cart so they wouldn’t hang limply.

    With a fierce squeak and another grunt from the men, that cart started rolling. They didn’t have room for any more bodies, so they slowly made their way towards the entrance of the ward. We stood there the whole time, watching his body, until Mikey finally disappeared around the corner.

    That was the last time I ever saw my brother. It was only after the cart was gone that I realized we were all supporting each other somehow, and the action said more than words ever could.

    Mikey, I never quit missing you. Never.
     
  7. Nukyster

    Nukyster Active Member

    So what to say about this? It's misery, cold plain human suffering and you portrayed it in words. I think every person can relate to Gerard, one way or another. because it's pretty much the core of human suffering, the pain of losing someone close to you and the agony to see them go through so much pain. What struck me a lot was this line: She said her Famous Last Words.
    There, in the face and blunt, I like that. And I like that you explain a lot of things, like why saying goodby to Mike was harder then to linsey, which is -the way you discribed it- seems completly reasonable.
    Overal, once again very good written, good pick of words, great way to discribed emotions not just Gerard's put from them all. Ray will be next right? and I feel so bad for Frank he doesn't say much but I wouldn't be suprised if he literally went insane. Personally if I was either one of them, I'd get on top of the hospital and drop myself off. I mean no more hope, I think that's worse then death. The waiting, that must be agony. You make me think a lot,

    X Nuky
     
  8. Rain

    Rain New Member

    Thank you so much! I'm glad that I'm making you think about things outside the story, in all seriousness. I'm hoping to become a novelist someday, so I write my fanfics as practice for that, and to hear comments like that really makes me feel like I'm doing my job, so thank you :) And thank you for continuing to read this fic!

    ***

    Chapter Six: The Terror​


    The days that followed after I watched Mikey roll out of sight have never left me. I wish that they could have blurred and distorted like before my brother died, but that wasn’t the case. And now, I’m stuck with a nightmare that never quite leaves me, and never will until I take my last breath on this earth.

    I can never do it justice. Describing that hellhole of a hospital and walking past the sick and dying… well, that was something that a person would have to experience themselves to fully understand. Watching my best friends die, fuck, it still gets me at night sometimes. I hear their screaming, and I keep nursing them, only to watch them slip away, one by one by one, powerless to do anything to stop it.

    It took a few minutes for us even twitch after Mikey was wheeled away. We were all left with this empty hole in our chests, trying to tell ourselves we couldn’t comprehend what was happening, but completely unable to do so. The four people in the doorway knew that he was never coming back, and our moral support was gone. He’d walked down the tunnel of light, into that place that none of us could follow.

    The first one to move was Frank. The man in the stretcher right beside the door finally noticed us standing there, and grabbed Frank’s shirt as hard as his weak hands would allow. Frank clung to me to keep from flying forwards, and I clung to Bob to keep from falling. Even though I didn’t land on my knees, I was forced to look into the dying man’s face.

    He wasn’t old, but he wasn’t young either. He had a thinning hairline and crooked teeth, and must have been quite attractive back when he was in his prime. That wasn’t the case then. He’d been sick for a while, because blood was caked on his clothes and on the stretcher. The hospital’s lack of staff became all too apparent to me then, because the stranger was still wearing a business suit. I barely had time to flinch before he opened up his mouth in a pitiful rasp.

    “Greta?” he wheezed. “Greta? Stay, darling, it hurts so bad….”

    Frank gave a small yelp and jumped back with fright, yanking the patient’s hand away in the process. Frank all but shoved the three of us back into Mikey’s room and slammed the door shut, but even then, I could still hear the patient talking.

    “Greta? Darling, come back. I’m so lonely… so… lonely.”

    He kept droning on and on, his wheezing making me want to scream. When I turned away from the door, Frank was standing by the window.

    The other three of us quickly joined him, desperate to get away from the dying people in the hallway. The only noise in the room was Ray coughing. We all stood there, men at vigil, trying to think about what happens next. Where do we go with a dying man among us? How do we move on now that Mikey is dead? Where do we want to be when the rest of us get sick? Should we just jump out the window and get it over with right now? The silence stretched on and on, until I finally knew I had to be the one to break it.

    “Guys… what now?”

    My brother was haunting the back of my mind with every waking thought, and yet, I knew we had to take some kind of action. Mikey was dead, but I was still alive, and while I was still healthy I had to help take care of my friends. They needed me to stay strong, just like I needed them to do the same.

    After I spoke, I ended up with three blank pairs of eyes staring me straight in the face. They still stayed silent, so I prompted them with some more words.

    “Should we stay here? Or… or go somewhere else?”

    That sentence was all it took for my friends to snap out of their dead trances. Three pairs of eyes traveled to the bloody, stinky bed, and grew wide with disgust, like they were waking up for the first time and only now noticing how filthy their surroundings were.

    Silence filled the room again, but thoughtful instead of deadened.

    Ray coughed, again and again. We all looked at him, because we suddenly realized that where we went was his decision. Ray was getting worse by the hour, and we knew that it was only right to let him choose where he wanted to die. And, as he coughed, I think we knew what his answer would be all along.

    “I really don’t want to stay here,” he told us, his voice raspy and broken. “Not after Mikey, not ever. This place is hell, but worse.” We could hear the screaming through the thin walls, but was it my imagination that there were fewer than before?

    Mikey, why did you have to die here? With how you must have felt, hearing those pained cries while you took your last breaths, how did you stay as sane as you did?

    “Ditto. There’s… there’s nothing that they can do for us here anymore, anyway,” Bob said, adding his two cents in. I mean really….”

    The screaming was starting to get louder and louder in my mind, and then I knew that I’d rather be anywhere but here. Besides, while I stayed in this room, I stayed with Mikey’s ghost, and I knew I couldn’t handle being in there to watch another friend die. Part of me was paying attention to what was being said, while another section was lost in memories, playing a game with my brother, back when he was eight.

    “You know what I’m going to say,” Frank added, and his voice was meek and tired. He sounded like a man that had seen too much tragedy in too short of a time. We all did, even though we didn’t realize it ourselves.

    “I don’t want to be in the room where Mikey died,” I said quietly, remembering him as a kid, smiling his little ass off.

    “So, it’s settled then,” Ray croaked, and we all nodded our heads in agreement.

    “Well… where do we go?” It was Bob this time.

    “People will be sick everywhere.” Frank said, simply voicing a fact we all knew already.

    “I… when I can’t move anymore, I think I want to be on the bus. It’s the only place here we really know,” Ray added, talking about his coming death so calmly, and so rationally that the insanity inside of me wanted to scream, yes, the bus. Why shouldn’t it end where it all started? It was only logical.

    “Guys… today they started using the arena as a makeshift ‘hospital’,” Frank said quietly. “Are you okay with that? I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have touched the bus… yet. We should still have time.”

    I wondered how Frank knew this, and I realized he must have learned it at the same time he learned about how they were burying the bodies now.

    We all thought about it for a minute. Why leave this building of death to stay at another? All we’d hear is screaming and crying for lost love ones. But yet, that would be everywhere now. The sickness was spreading, slowly and dangerously, like gangrene. Soon, everybody would be dead and this hell would end up everywhere, polluting everything.

    In the end, we realized the simple truth. If we were all going to die like Mikey did, it might as well happen in someplace familiar.

    “Yeah, I am. Let’s get there before they think we all died already and take the bus too,” I replied, and ended up answering for all of us.

    We didn’t need to say anything else. It was actually quite amazing how in tune we’d become with each other ever since my brother got sick, and how one word said a million different things. My one sentence got the other three men moving before it was even completely out of my mouth. Frank opened the door and went into the hallway, followed by Bob and Ray. I lingered where I was, looking at the stained bed. I wanted to get out of there as fast as I fucking could, but still, he held me back.

    “Gerard?” Bob called softly with concern. My mind didn’t even register the chaos in the hallway. Instead, I just stared at the bed, knowing what leaving the room meant and not quite wanting to come to terms with it. Mikey.

    There was a pause, and then Bob came back into the room again, sighing and putting a comforting hand on my shoulder. I became aware that I was biting my lip and my fists were clenched into tight balls, all because I was thinking of that bed and what it represented for me.

    “Gerard? We’d better get going.”

    “Yeah,” I whispered, but still made no move to exit the room. Instead, I was seeing Mikey getting married, and remembering how goddamned happy he was that day. Leaving that room, it meant the end of that era of my life. Here, my life had gone from being happy and hopeful to trying to deal with this empty world the plague was creating. Here was where my brother had died, and here a large part of me would always rest. Leaving this room was just as much of a goodbye as watching his body disappear out of sight, and I was trying to come to terms with that. After we left, there would be no real traces of Mikey Way, and no remembrance of the pain he had suffered, except for the filth on the sheets. Just memories, and memories were fleeting.

    In real world time, it didn’t take me that long to start moving again, only about thirty seconds. But, to me, it seemed like ages. The other guys were suffering just as much as I was, but he was my brother, and in the end that meant so much more, made his loss even more painful. I didn’t need to increase the numbness, it was already as strong as it could be, instead I had to stitch up the wound with crude strokes and hope it would hold. Eventually, I put one foot in front of the other and started towards the door. I only stopped once, and that was to acknowledge my brother’s memory one more time with a whisper.

    “We never had long enough.”

    After that, everything dimmed again. I can remember walking single file down the hallway to the elevators, trying to not see the glazed eyes of the already dead, and trying not to smell the horrible stench. We only stopped once, and that was when Frank had to step over a dead man who’d fallen out of his cot.

    “Shhh, it’s okay. Just don’t look,” I whispered to him quietly, and put my hand on his shoulder to reassure him. He only managed to give me a weak smile.

    “They all start looking like Jamia after a while.”

    “It’ll get better once we get out of here, trust me,” I said, trying to comfort him. It didn’t work that well, but it was enough to get my friend moving again. I don’t even know how I kept putting one foot in front of the other, to say the truth. Even now, the only word I can think of to describe that hallway is hell. That whole hospital was just a mass grave, full of screaming people and cold skin. There wasn’t any staff in sight anymore, and all of those poor souls were left to die with only the fellow sick for company. It was no wonder they screamed and shrieked so loudly.

    Mikey, at least you had us at the end, I thought to myself, a small comfort in the sea of pain.
     
  9. Rain

    Rain New Member

    Part of me was scared that the elevator would quit working or something bad like that, but fortunately that wasn’t the case. I was in the back of the group when the steel doors slid open, and nearly ended up with my ass on the floor because Ray jumped backwards and screamed, frightened. He started crazily coughing seconds later, but suddenly, I saw what had scared him so much.

    There was a dead nurse sprawled out on the elevator floor.

    “Jesus fuck,” Frank cursed venomously, but his voice was scared more than anything. Bob was shocked into silence, yet went and closed her eyes. But eventually we all stepped into that moving grave, because one elevator ride with a dead nurse was better than backtracking through those hallways of hell.

    Even though we had no clue where we were when we stepped out of the elevator, we walked all the same.

    When we were getting close to the exit, I heard this hoarse voice calling my name. I don’t know why I turned, since I didn’t want to talk to anybody at the hospital besides my friends, just wanted to get the fuck out of there, but for a second, I thought that voice could have belonged to Mikey. Instead, it was Dr. James, sitting on the floor by a cot.

    He didn’t say much, but I could see that he was sick. Even though he was in the very early stages, his skin was shiny with sweat, and his coughing was deep and wet. That poor man said he was glad to see I was getting out of the building. When I asked him why he hadn’t left, he simply told me that a doctor couldn’t leave his patients in times like these, no matter how bad they might be. By then, Ray had started to shake from the exertion; the sickness had weakened him so much, and the doctor noticed this.

    Dr. James’s last words to me were simply “Take a wheelchair, your friend won’t make it all the way back on foot.”

    Ray tried to get nasty and refuse the wheelchair, but he knew it was a hopeless battle. Eventually, he broke, and ended up collapsing in the chair by the entrance doors, wracked by another coughing fit. His hacks sounded so eerily close to Mikey’s that it made my blood run cold, and my pulse skyrocketed.

    Mikey, why? Why any of us? Why did I have to be denied that wonderful, happy life I had finally started living?

    We waited five minutes before leaving the hospital. Even though we were desperate to get out of there, we had to wait for Ray to get over his coughing fit. In a numb, dark way, I tried to do the math in my head to quit thinking about my brother. Ray had gotten sick early this morning, and Dr. James said the flu-like symptoms lasted for one to three days before it got really bad. Ray had until tonight, or at the very most he had until Wednesday, such little time to get ready to die.

    When Ray quit hacking, he barked at us to get our asses into gear. I had to admire him for that. Even though he knew that he was facing death, he still tried to stay strong and be himself until the very end. Even moreso than Mikey, because Mikey wasn’t prepared for what happened to him in at all.

    I had no clue how to get back to the venue, but thankfully Bob had an idea. Since I had been in the ambulance with Mikey, I never saw the way we were going, but my other friends had time to study a map. The long journey back to our bus was something that’s not really worth mentioning in detail. I really don’t think that sore wrists from pushing that damn chair, Ray continually trying to walk but lacking the strength after a few minutes, and the sight of sick people sprawled on the streets is really much to mention, or something that I want to bring up again. We did end up looting a grocery store, though… well, sort of. There was nobody working there, and we really needed to eat something, so we grabbed some junk food and put a few dollars at a check-out in case anybody was watching.

    The walking took way longer than it should have. Pushing that wheelchair slowed things down, but we were all feeling so dead inside, and really didn’t have the heart to walk fast. We were all thinking of Mikey, Ray, and all our loved ones that had gotten sick. My thoughts switched from Lindsey to Mikey constantly, and my mood got blacker and blacker. I couldn’t help but remember the first time I’d made love to my wife, and I now wanted to kill somebody because she surely must have been dead by now. I’d tried calling her one more time, only to hear the answering machine. I never tried again.

    The sun was starting to set when we finally got to the venue. Ray was shivering now, even though it was pretty warm for an April day, and he kept complaining that his ass hurt from the wheelchair seat. We were all so deep into our own memories that we didn’t notice how out of order everything looked around us.

    There was trash on the ground. Lots of it, along with stray spots of bloody puke. Everything seemed to be completely trashed, and it made my stomach turn. Had all of this really happened in those few days we watched Mikey die? But, that wasn’t the worst part. When we got to the entrance, we saw sick people sprawled out by the doors, by an older lady sitting behind a cheap table. Right away, when she saw Ray, she jumped up and nearly attacked us.

    “You’ll need to sign him in,” she said, sounding angry and demanding. Right away, I felt my already black mood start to turn into anger. “And, we need that wheelchair, it’s now officially government property. But, I guess it wasn’t yours to begin with, was it? We have no room for him, you’ll have to get him to wait out here until a bed frees up. It won’t be long.”

    “Hold on a fucking minute, we aren’t here to let Ray just lie in a cot with other dying people,” I said angrily, completely pissed at how she was handling us. We had to give her the wheelchair?! Bullshit. We hadn’t even acknowledged her! Frank and Bob sensed my growing rage, and put their hands on me to try and get me to calm down. Normally I didn’t get angry often, but this wasn’t a normal day. Nothing would ever be normal again.

    “Sir, I really don’t want to deal with your whining right now. I’m instructed to send all sick into the arena and to confiscate any property that might be of use to the United States of America. Now, come with me!” Her dark brown hair kept hitting her face, and even that aggravated me.

    “Whining?” I angrily spat out. “What the fucking fuck? You have no business telling me what to do. Now, excuse us, we’re going to the back.”

    I started to lead the group around the block to the back gates, but that nasty lady had the nerve to grab my arm. I know she had probably seen a lot of death and was on a short fuse, but even now, the thought of her arrogance at the time still makes me want to punch something.

    “Sir, I’m the one that tells you what to do, understand? Now, I say stay here! You have no business being in the back, that’s for government officials!” After those words, I was just about ready to get violent. Bob saw this, and thankfully came to the rescue.

    “Look, miss, we get that you have a job you need to do,” Bob said in the most polite way he could muster. “But, you see, we’re from the band that played here a few nights ago, My Chemical Romance. Our bus is still in the back of the venue and we have some things we need to get from there.” Even though he spoke as nicetly as he could, that old hag wasn’t swayed in the least.

    “And I’m Frank Sinatra. Look, unless you want to get arrested, you’d better come with me!”

    What cops would be well enough to arrest us?

    The lady’s face was starting to get really red, and Bob’s hands curled up into fists. Instead of reacting to her, he turned to us and said four simple words.

    “Come on, let’s go.”

    Without another word, we sped off down the street and to the back of the venue. The old hag couldn’t have caught us if she tried. When we finally got to the back, Frank started laughing in that smartass way he always did, for a moment forgetting everything that had happened, and startled the only man in sight.

    “Oh man, government my ass!” he shouted, and I couldn’t help but smile a little to myself in spite of it all. The whole back part was completely deserted, except for the crew busses and a man sitting in a steel chair. When he saw us, he got up in a hurry and ran to the gate, seeming amazed to see another healthy person. Right away, he called out to us.

    “Hey, who goes there? Access here is restricted, you know.” His words were meant to be threatening, but he just seemed happy to be talking to healthy people. I was still too pissed off at that old hag to answer, but Frank saved the day this time.

    “Hi, um, we’re the band that played here a few nights ago, My Chemical Romance. Look, we were at the hospital a few days ago and just wanted to come back to our bus. See, it’s sitting over there, off to the left. We just wanted to come back to somewhere we knew, you know?”

    The man regarded us thoughtfully for a minute. His blond hair was cut in that style that you see every other forty-year-old man wearing, but his features were soft and kind. In the end, he just smiled and opened the gate, showing that there was still a little unexpected kindness left in a world full of misery.

    “Sure, but come in quick,” he said with care. “My daughter liked your band an awful lot. I’m… I’m sorry about your bassist, that must be tough on you guys.”

    Mikey. I bowed my head.

    “Thank you, um…,” Frank tried to say, tactfully changing the subject.

    “Morton. Morton Gregory. Don’t worry, nobody has touched your bus yet. I thought maybe you boys would come back.” His unexpected warmth after that old hag made my mood a little better.

    “Thanks, Morton. Um… the lady at the front told us this was government only, is that true? I don’t see anybody here.” Frank felt like saying that as we went through the gates, wanting to find the answer. Ray’s wheelchair nearly tipped over because it ran over a bump.

    “Oh, Joy? She just likes to say a bunch of bullshit. We’re not really government. They just appointed us to write down the names of everybody that comes through here and to organize them, since we’re still healthy and all that, and everybody they have is getting sick. I organize, she does everything else.”

    The four of us stared at each other for a second, all thinking the same thoughts. Joy?! I kept wondering what kind of name was that for a person like her, stunned. Even Ray was shocked into silence with that one. Morton read us like an open book, because he started chuckling.

    “I see she got to you fellas. Don’t worry, I’ll deal with her if she makes a fuss. It’s nice to have any kind of company that can still walk.” That was all he told us before beckoning for us to go on. When he saw Frank crank open the door, which was slightly ajar, he went and sat down in that chair again. Morton never said another word.

    We helped Ray out of the wheelchair and up the steps. He was already getting weak, and could barely walk. His coughs were sounding nearly as bad as Mikey’s first did, and his hair was damp with sweat. I didn’t want to have to go through it all again, but it became even more apparent that Ray was going to slip away faster than my brother had.

    Even to this day, I’m proud that I could still help Ray into his normal bunk after seeing the remnants of Mikey’s blood pooled on the floor, still not cleaned up. In a flash, Mikey was suddenly puking all over me again, and I was still screaming. Part of me will always be screaming. I can push it away, lock it up, bury it, but it’ll never go away fully, only hide for a little while. Even though there were flies buzzing around the soiled carpet, to me it still looked as fresh as the first time I’d seen it. But, even though I was disturbed by the sight, I managed to barely flinch.
     
  10. Rain

    Rain New Member

    You know what’s funny? We didn’t even wonder where the rest of our crew was, and everybody we were touring with. I mean, shouldn’t somebody have cleaned that up? I guess tragedy does that people and gives them selective thinking, but I still think that I should have wondered more about where they went during the coming days of hell. But maybe, just maybe, I already knew where they were, in some black pit covered with dirt.

    When Ray finally settled into his clean mattress, it took him only two minutes to fall into a shallow, troubled sleep.

    Bob quietly shut the curtains to his bunk with tender care, and all three of us spent the next half hour cleaning up the smelly spot of puke on the floor. Surprising even myself, I was able to do it with steady hands. Even though in my mind I was shaking like a madman and curling up in the corner, in the reality my friends saw I was calm and collected. Maybe a little too cold, but weren’t we all? They never knew that as all three of us tried to sponge my brother out of the carpet, I never quit hearing my screams filling the empty bus as I held my dying brother in my arms.

    In the end, we were left with a pink stain on the carpet, but it was so much better than what had been there before. At least now I could look at it and tune out the screaming, and there wasn’t a smell anymore. But, cleaning up the lingering remains of my brother had taken a toll on all three of us, and we were all left looking pale and tired. We ended up sitting at the small table in the front of the bus, staring at each other like we were all complete strangers.

    “Guys, I’m going to turn on the radio. We might as well hear what’s going on while we still can. I mean, it’s not like the power is going to last forever,” Frank said, and for some reason that always stood out more than a lot of other things in my mind.

    I never did suspect that Frank would pick up the radio station from Illinois. As he fiddled with our junky radio, trying to find a signal, I never really did think that he’d find the station. We didn’t even know at first that he’d picked it up. Instead, we just sat there and listened to the music with barely half an ear. We tensed only when we heard the familiar jingle of the news. First, we all looked at each other, and then our eyes travelled to the radio, not quite believing our ears. This station, and this voice that was filling our ears was from a lifetime ago.

    “Good evening, and this is Kathy Harris with the evening’s one-minute flash. New reports are coming in that the city of Detroit, as well as our own, are going to be put under military quarantine starting tomorrow. It became known before that centers in Nevada and other infected states were put under the same procedure.

    “I am to inform the public, yet again, that the quarantine is not to be violated. No traffic will be allowed to leave or get into the affected cities. Any violation of these terms is punishable with death.”

    We all looked at each other with mild shock. Bob flashed me a look that pretty much said really, you could have fooled us. Then, the three pairs of eyes went back to looking at the radio. The news report had interested me so completely that I hadn’t thought about Mikey at all. For the first time in hours, he had completely left my brain.

    “Now, I could tell you all bullshit about how if you’re sick that you should stay indoors. I would be, but really, almost all of my superiors are dead and dying right now. Guys, it’s no use. Just please, don’t end your life before it needs to. Two of our DJ’s already committed suicide, and pretty soon I’m going to be running this station myself. I’m really not in the mood, so please don’t do it before it’s supposed to happen. Thank you.

    “This is Kathy Harris, signing off yet again.”

    When an old Aerosmith song started playing, we just sat there and stared at each other. It really wasn’t any surprise that the infamous Kathy Harris had gone a little loopy on the airwaves. I mean really, who wouldn’t? But, the idea that Detroit was being quarantined just put us all in a blacker mood. I tried to think about what would happen next, and at least tried to comfort myself by saying I wouldn’t live much longer anyway.

    Fuck, did that ever turn out to be a fucking lie.

    That whole night was tense and silent. What were you supposed to do when you knew that the rest of your life was just borrowed time? We couldn’t find the nerve to talk, and we couldn’t stand to hear Ray’s strangled breathing coming from behind the curtains. So, we did what any normal person would have done to shut out the world. All three of us went to bed.

    I do remember that was the night I couldn’t sleep. I just lied there, staring at the familiar ceiling, and wondering where all the time went. Now that I had time to think, I asked myself a lot of things. Where was Mikey now? Was there really an afterlife? Did death hurt a lot in the end? Was there just nothing after death? And, I cried, softly, so that nobody could hear me. When I finally did fall asleep, I dreamt of Lindsey and Mikey standing on the other side of a closed, black gate, staring at me in horror.

    That night was the last time for weeks I would have the capacity to think that deeply. The next day, Ray got much worse, and by the afternoon he’d puked up his first wad of blood. You know, it was Frank that got hit with the bloody puke that time, not me. I’ll never forget when I helped him wash it off, because he was a fucking mess. That’s all I’m going to say, to save him some dignity.

    Morton came onto the bus occasionally to bring us food, and to see how Ray was doing. God bless him, because if he hadn’t been there, we probably would have starved. None of us were going to leave Ray. I’m just so glad that Morton was kind enough to make us take care of ourselves, and make sure we stayed alive for as long as possible.

    We took turns watching over Ray. It took him until nearly midnight to start screaming. Before that, we’d started sleeping in shifts, because we knew that had to start sometime. Like Mikey, Ray couldn’t keep any food down either, but at least Morton found us some pyjamas to make him a little more comfortable.

    When it wasn’t my turn to watch Ray, and I wasn’t sleeping, I’d go and talk with Morton. Part of me still thinks I should have stayed with Ray all the time, but in all honesty I couldn’t have done that without going insane. I needed some kind of break. Morton told me a lot of things in those few visits. As we stood together, smoking cigarettes, I learned about his daughter Denise, and his wife Charlotte. That poor man had lost them both within days of each other, among other sad facts he told me. He also said he should have quit smoking, but I was glad that I could get my fix somewhere.

    I could tell more about the last few days before Ray died, but I can’t bring myself to do it. You have to understand, I was so numb and dull at that point a lot of it seemed like a dream. First Mikey, then Lindsey, and now Ray. I was slowly being left alone. One, by one, by one, I was going to lose them all. How else is a sane man supposed to handle that, except by shutting down? I made sure I was there as much as I could be for Ray, and Morton, but in all other areas, life was just dull pain. Like a toothache, in a way.

    April twenty-third was a struggle to get through without screaming myself. Ray started begging us to stop it, to kill him. He told me where some Tylenol was, and asked if I’d feed him both bottles on the bus. He begged me to do it. He wanted to end it without pain. Ray had seen how much agony Mikey had been in before he died, and had watched my brother choke on his own bloody bile, and I can’t blame him for wanting an easier way out, but I never gave in. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider it, and consider it hard, but in the end, I didn’t fold. Somehow, I hoped that he would get better. It would turn out that through everything I’d never quit wishing for a miracle.

    Ray lived until eight-oh-nine in the morning, on April the twenty-fourth. Like Mikey, he choked on his own bloody bile, and like Mikey, he died in the worst pain imaginable. He was like a brother to me, and watching him go like my brother had only made me die a little more inside.

    After he left, I couldn’t find any more tears to cry. I was so empty. So fucking gone except for all the sadness and anger at things I had no power to change. Instead of crying, I crawled into my bunk and just laid there, shaking and feeling absolutely nothing except for emptiness.

    Somehow, I think that’s worse than if I would have cried all the tears in the world.
     
  11. Chemical 30

    Chemical 30 Just 'That' Girl

    Ugh....this is such an amazing story.
    You put so much emotion into you characters and I feel like I'm with them; watching this all go down
    This is simply amazing
     
  12. Rain

    Rain New Member

    Thank you so much! I'm so happy you're enjoying the story so far :)

    ***

    Chapter Seven: The Heartache

    Life moved on. Somewhere in that dying mess that was supposed to be me, I still knew I had a purpose, but it all seemed so worthless. My brother was dead. Another person I loved had just died. Lindsey was gone. And now, everything else was going to follow. As I laid there in my hollow shell of grief, I longed for the sickness to take me. If only the grim reaper would come calling and take me in his icy arms, this would all end, this pain would stop. I felt like I deserved the painful death that had taken the people I loved, because I was still here while they were rotting away.

    Why did I have to be the one to live? Even to this day, I still can’t accept it fully. Why couldn’t it have been Mikey? Ray? Lindsey? What did that nonexistent God want so much from me to keep me in this hell called life?

    At some point, Bob and Frank came and sat down on the bed. I can remember the two of them with their faces full of trickling tears, both putting their hands on my side in an attempt to comfort me, to comfort each other, but I still couldn’t cry. Not after Mikey. Instead, I only felt empty, like that part of me that could love and see the beauty in life had never been there in the first place.

    You know, before the sickness, I was a happy man. After the hell that all of us had gone through to make The Black Parade, somehow, I found how to live. The angry man that had needed the drugs and alcohol to justify himself had slowly started to fade away, to quit existing. I had quit the drugs before we made The Black Parade, but that angry person was still there. Even though I was sober, and life was way better than it was before, it still wasn’t beautiful. The Gerard that had helped craft Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, and wasted himself to the point of stupidity, he wasn’t a nasty man, but misunderstood. Or, he felt like he was. It’s so hard to explain now, because in time things get distorted and muddled up, and suddenly you wonder how to separate fact from fiction, especially when those memories are from another world, one that has long passed.

    The person who had used to be so messed up and confused was still there before The Black Parade, and somehow stuck around after it. Even though I was drug free and happy, I could still feel him, waiting for his time to strike again. Of course, he didn’t control me anymore, but he was always in the background, whispering in my ear. But, then things changed. Things clicked. Meeting the woman that would end up being my wife at Projekt Revolution, creating my comic book series, waking up and seeing the sun shining, everything just started adding up. And then, the nasty person got quieter and quieter.

    It’s so hard to describe exactly how I felt, but it was exhilarating. For the first period in my life, I could wake up and appreciate everything. I wasn’t afraid of living, and I was the happiest I’d ever been in my life. Before Mikey had gotten sick, I had this whole wonderful future right ahead of me, and I planned to take advantage of it as much as I could. But, things change.

    People die.

    And as I felt Bob and Frank beside me, it seemed completely impossible to find happiness in anything ever again. The time before I left that bus in an ambulance seemed like a sick dream that had never happened. Not sick as in twisted and disgusting, but it’s like being a prisoner and looking through the fence at the river, knowing that you used to be able to go swim in it but won’t ever again. That’s the only way I can really think to describe what I felt in a way that anybody would understand.

    It seemed like the three of us were suspended in our feelings of incurable doom forever. What were we really supposed to do after another friend died? It wasn’t like we could just get up and go eat breakfast. How exactly does a person move on? We didn’t know, and we never would. Instead, I finally turned and looked my two friends in the eyes, at my comrades in this world of growing ruins.

    I moved as far into my bunk as I could, which allowed my friends to come and sit more comfortably. Even though I still couldn’t tear up, I was feeling the loss of Ray so powerfully that it made me feel like a black hole. We all were just empty husks back then, with our hollow eyes and lead-filled stomachs, and because of this we ended up in stasis. Stuck in one place, just sitting there, alone, but yet together in our grief.

    I really don’t know how long we would have stayed like that if Morton hadn’t come. Probably until the sun went out, but thank God that he was there, always there, forcing us to keep living.

    His footsteps were as quiet as death as he made his way onto our inner sanctum. For some reason, I remember hearing a hint of a tune being hummed, and then abruptly stopping as Morton saw the sorry state we were in. Quietly, he set a tray of food on the table and made his way over to us.

    “Is he…?” Morton couldn’t even say the “d” word, and his voice cracked before he would even try. Of course, the older man knew the answer, but there was enough sense of normality left in that bus that he asked anyway.

    His gaze fell when we responded with three blank stares.

    After that, he stood there for thirty seconds, waiting to see what we’d do. When we just kept staring at him he finally sighed, and took a step closer to the bunk.

    “Boys, you’d better eat a little bit of something,” Morton tried to sooth us with a sad voice. “I… I know this whole thing is tough. I had to watch my wife and daughter die, so believe me, I know what’s going through your heads somewhat. But, you need to eat, and then take care of your friend. Besides, if you eat, you’ve got a better change of staying healthy.”

    The second he finished that last sentence, we all just looked at him, and suddenly, Bob started to laugh. Hysterically, madly, and it frightened me enough to sit up straight and try to get him to calm down.

    “Bob… Bob… it’s okay, it’s okay…,” I uselessly said, my voice frantic despite the numbness that had taken over my mind. Morton got down on his knees and tried to look Bob in the eye, and I could see on his face that he was wondering what the hell he’d done to set our friend off like this. But then, a few words trickled out between Bob’s laughs, and they made my stomach turn.

    “Stay… healthy… fuck….”

    Then, he kept laughing.

    It took five long minutes for Bob to finally calm down, and all the while I was thinking about those three words. Stay healthy? How? If everybody was getting sick, wasn’t it only a matter of time? Looking at Frank, I knew that the exact same thing was running through his head. When Bob’s laughter finally trailed down into chuckles, and then to just his shoulders shaking, Morton tried to apologize.

    “Boys, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to, and I didn’t know that would happen. I was only trying to help in the way I know how.” Neither Frank or myself felt any anger towards Morton, because we understood all too well that this much tragedy can do funny things to people. I found myself remembering how I’d started laughing minutes after Mikey died, and understood even more.

    “Don’t worry about it. Things happen,” was all I could find to say to my new friend, but that ended up being enough. I looked over to Bob, just in time to read the mortified expression on his face. He sighed and put his head in his hands, because he was suddenly embarrassed as hell.

    “Can we forget that ever happened?” Bob whispered through his hands, and suddenly I felt that horrible emotion run through my veins again. Pity. This damned plague had changed all of us, and brought out things that nobody wanted other people to see, the fucking worst. I wondered if Ray was sitting in some kind of afterlife now, wondering if begging for us to kill him ended up turning him into a coward. Then, I wondered if I would end up doing the same when my turn came.

    “Yeah, don’t worry.” Frank’s reply was quiet, and I could hear pity and embarrassment on the fringes of it.

    “I brought you boys some sandwiches I got from the supermarket a few blocks down. Come and enjoy them while you can, since I don’t think there’s going to be any fresh food for a while.”

    Thank fuck for Morton being there. I honestly don’t know what we would have done without him.

    “Then, we’ll take care of Ray after,” I added, trying to move on, and trying to escape from the numbness, the emptiness, that was threatening to eat me alive. Maybe if we could somehow find a purpose, a thing to do next, we would find something to keep living for, no matter how small.

    Finally, we managed to get out of my bunk and make our way outside. On the way out I noticed that Morton had closed the curtains to Ray’s tomb. That man was smart enough to realize that nobody wanted to eat their meal with a dead man, so we ended up sitting in a circle outside. Spring was creeping into the air, which I barely noticed when we sat on the pavement for our silent meal.

    After fifteen minutes, we’d choked down a bland sandwich, drank from bottles of water, and just stared at each other. When the time finally came for us to start with that awful task, each of us stood up without a sound. Even now, it saddens me to remember what we had to do and how it had suddenly become a necessity. In that dream world we all used to be a part of, this would never have to be dealt with, and that almost saddened me more than anything else.

    The three of us turned to go back on the bus, and at first didn’t notice Morton heading off the other way. I wouldn’t have noticed at all, until I heard Bob’s voice call out to the man.

    “Hey, you don’t have to go away.”

    With that sentence Morton turned around, scanned us for a second to see if that would be a good idea, and then came to join us. I can remember some part of me feeling relieved. After all, in a world where everybody was dying, wasn’t it nice to have another healthy body around? Besides, after all he’d done, Morton was already a friend to us, more than we could ever ask for.

    This time, it was quicker to get Ray ready for burial. I want to deny that it was because we’d done this before, but I can’t. Even Morton knew the ritual. When Frank and him were looking through Ray’s clothes to find something decent for our friend to be buried in, I helped Bob wash Ray off. It was hard, but still easier than Mikey. Everything seemed easier than Mikey. I loved Ray, don’t you dare get me wrong, but I had known Mikey my whole life, and he was the first that I had watched die from that fucking plague, which made the blow twice as hard. Mikey had been the one to create the empty spot, and Ray had dug that hole deeper, much deeper.

    As I helped my friend scrub that skin and get all the blood off, I couldn’t feel anything. Not even despair. I felt tired, worn, and it was almost as if feeling any emotion would take too much work. Almost like it wouldn’t matter anyway what I felt, since no matter what, I’d be dead at the end anyway. The part of me that was awake and aware was fucking scared, because this was worse than the depression that I’d gone through before I’d gotten clean. That night when I nearly killed myself I had felt this, and it scared the living shit out of the part of me that was still human.
     
  13. Rain

    Rain New Member

    After the whole process was through, Morton told us that they came to pick up the bodies around five pm. They wouldn’t come to this area, so we’d have to take Ray into the arena and put him by the door. None of us wanted to do it, but we all knew that we had to.

    We had to say goodbye.

    “What do we do until then?” Bob had asked, and we did the only thing we could think of. We ended up doing what had been done with Mikey, and the only respectful thing. We held a vigil.

    I still don’t know how long we sat there by Ray’s bedside, but I can remember clear as day how Morton had politely excused himself. We took different spots around our friend, so we ended up in a rough circle, the dead man and his three friends. Most of that block of time was spent in silence, but for a few minutes, words were dared to be spoken.

    Bob had been looking worse than ever. Horrible, but we just thought that it was because of all the death. For the past few minutes, his head had been buried in his hands, and I thought he was going to lie down on the bunk soon. I mistook it for fatigue, but when his voice meekly poked its way through his hands, I was proven sorely mistaken.

    “Guys, I’m sorry about earlier,” he started, making Frank and I straighten with surprise. “You know, when Morton was trying to cheer us up. I… I just thought it was so funny, I don’t know why. Keep us healthy, yeah. I mean, everybody gets sick, right? What’s the use?”

    “I don’t know, Bob,” I answered quietly, afraid to raise my voice in the presence of the dead. “I really don’t fucking know. I don’t know if people are immune to this. If they are, it’s very few. But, just in case we are, I think we should keep trying to stay here… stay alive.” I found myself saying these words, but I truly didn’t believe them myself. It was like I was on autopilot and spitting out everything that should be said, yet I was feeling nothing, absolutely nothing.

    “I don’t want to die,” Frank softly added. “I’m afraid now, after seeing what happened to Mikey and Ray. I guess I’ve always been afraid of death, but now… it’s worse, you know?”

    “Yeah, I get it,” I answered.

    “You know, when I was younger, they’d always told me there was this heaven.” Frank’s voice was trembling now. “Of course, I believed them, but the older you get, the more you doubt. Until this happened, I thought that there was some kind of afterlife, even if it wasn’t as fucking happy as Heaven is supposed to be. But, now… now, I’m not so sure. If God was kind enough to create heaven, how could He have let this happen?”

    “I’ve been thinking about that a lot actually, but I really don’t know, and I’m scared. It’s only a matter of time….” Bob couldn’t say any more after that, instead he put his head in his arms again and started shaking.

    Mikey, Ray, Lindsey, are you in a better place? Or, are you just nothing now? I couldn’t help but think that over and over as I rushed to Bob’s side, with Frank flanking the other end. I really didn’t want to think about death and all the technicalities, but in that moment during Bob’s silent breakdown, it hit me again.

    Keep on living.

    Even now, I can’t explain why that sentence made its way through my head, but next thing I knew I was right by Bob, saying the thing that he needed to hear.

    “Look, they’re… they’re dead. I feel just as crappy as you do, but we can’t change that. We just can’t. I know that there won’t be another morning where I won’t wake up and think about them, but do you think they’d want us to just give up? Do you think Mikey would have wanted that? Any of them? No, they wouldn’t have.

    “Sure, we might get sick. Hell, we probably will. But, right now, while we’re healthy, we have a chance. We aren’t sick yet. As long as we’re here, they aren’t gone. We still remember them, and we will until it’s our turn. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t cry or feel sad, I’m just saying that we shouldn’t swallow that bottle of Tylenol quite yet. Things… things can get better. Not as good as they once were, but not like this either.”

    My voice shook and cracked, but Bob looked up at me all the same. It seemed like he wanted to believe me with all his heart, but he’d already thrown in the towel. Frank just stared at me with a sudden glimmer of hope in his eyes, and he managed to give me a small smile. I am not afraid to keep on living, like I used to sing, right? But, Bob… fuck, Bob just looked at me, blankly, like nothing I said had any affect on him.

    “Sure, Gerard, sure.” That was all he managed to say to me. After that, he just sat there, staring at the closed curtains of Ray’s bunk, and no more was said until it was time to bring our friend’s body to the arena.

    You know, I think this is going to sound a little crazy, but looking back at it now, it almost seems like Bob knew how things were going to turn out in the end. What each of us was destined for, even if we didn’t know it ourselves. Some nights I still wake up and see that dead look in his eyes, like he was already six feet under with maggots in his mouth.

    Half an hour before the bodies were due to be picked up, Morton came with an EMT stretcher they used for patients. Nobody knew where he’d gotten it from, and nobody had asked. Then, we had solemnly loaded Ray on the stretcher and took him outside to the last day he would ever see again. After a few last words, and more small tears, we brought him into the arena. I still wasn’t able to cry. Instead, I stared blankly ahead, a pallbearer on the journey to put another man in his grave.

    On the evening of April the twenty-fourth, I had to say goodbye to yet another friend. Four had narrowed down to three, but I comforted myself by silently thinking at least Mikey’s got another friend with him now. No tears were shed, since we had none left to give.

    They threw the bodies in a fucking garbage truck, like they were trash. If Morton hadn’t turned me around when he did, I probably would have snapped.

    The rest of that night is a blank to me, but we must have cleaned up Ray’s bunk. I didn’t want to think about my brother, my wife, or my friends, but yet they must have constantly been going through my mind. I don’t even remember sinking into a deep, deep sleep, and probably, that’s for the best. The safety mechanisms of the human brain are there for a reason. There’s only so much grief a person can take before disappearing completely.

    That next day was the calm before a storm, the biggest one that would shatter my world, the one that would nearly ruin me completely. Morton woke us up the next day and made us all go and take a shower, saying that we smelled worse than his dog he had when he was a kid. Up until then, the idea of showering didn’t even occur to me, and thankfully, it was a welcome distraction. While there was water hitting my skin and soap in my hair I didn’t have to think about them. Instead, I could just focus on the warmth hitting my skin and the little relief my clean hair gave me. It distracted me so much that I even took the time to shave, even though it wasn’t like anybody would care.

    We all stayed healthy that day. I always will remember that the most. Even though almost all of that day was spent lying down in a numb daze and listening to Kathy Harris’s radio station, it was still slightly peaceful. The calm before the storm.

    That day, Morton told us about his daughter’s fifth birthday party and how his wife had made this special cake for her. He said that it was one of the happiest days of his life. We all learned that he wasn’t from Detroit, but since he was still healthy, the government transported him here to help with the flu. Joy was apparently from the south end of town, and the military wanted them both because they hadn’t gotten sick yet. That story alone gave us some small hope that maybe we would stay healthy. After all, Morton had been around the sick longer than we had, and he was fine.

    We even played cards that evening. It’s strange how in even the worst circumstances, something can still be normal, isn’t it? Bob even laughed at one of Morton’s jokes, and for a little bit, it almost felt like a normal day, like the flu hadn’t even happened in the first place.

    That night, I dug out an old photo of Mikey and me, and another one of my wife. I couldn’t find one of Ray. Then, I put them both under my pillow so that the other guys couldn’t see them and worry about me. When I was finally tired enough to sleep, I took them out again, so that the last thing I saw before I fell unconscious were the smiling faces of those who would never leave me.

    I ended up waking to the one thing I never wanted to hear again. Coughing.

    Frank?! Bob?!

    My thoughts were suddenly screaming their names as I bolted out of my bunk to see if that sound was what it must have been. For a few frantic sections I searched the bunks, only to find them empty. When I finally had the brains to look straight ahead, I saw Frank and Bob sitting at the table. That awful question was at the very end of my tongue, and I would have said it if I hadn’t gotten my answer right away.

    Bob leaned over in a small fit of hacks.

    No!

    That was all I could think. I stood there paralyzed and unable to move for a few seconds. Sure, I’d known it was coming, but somehow I had hoped things would be different. Maybe, finally, there would be an exception; maybe we could be spared.

    But, the other part of me had already hardened to tragedy, and that’s what gave me the final push to sit down at that table to look my friends in the eye.

    “Shit,” was all I was able to say. Frank only nodded, and Bob barely even blinked. His eyes were red rimmed from crying, and he was starting to get sickly pale. There was a thin sheen of sweat covering his skin, along with all of the other telltale signs of the flu. It took a few seconds for the truth to hit me, but Frank beat me to it.

    “It’s going faster than the others,” he whispered, and it seemed like Bob didn’t even hear him. When I finally understood what my friend was saying, it didn’t come as thoughts from my own brain, but instead, as Dr. James’s voice. The flu like symptoms didn’t last for more than a few days, which meant that it could only be a day until the blood puking stage, and it looked like a day was all that Bob would have.

    In another few sunsets, another person I loved would be gone.

    “Bob?” I whispered quietly, but he just kept staring like I wasn’t even there.

    “It’s no use; he’s been like that for a while now,” Frank said, quietly, like he’d lost all hope. “I found him like this when I woke up, and I don’t fucking know how long he was here before that.”

    “What do we do?”

    “What we’ve done before. We just need to be here for him,” Frank answered, the sadness in his eyes mirroring what must have been in my own.

    I knew there was no other way we could help our friend, but suddenly my fists were clenched in frustration. It was so fucking unfair, and that made me want to punch Frank for a few horrible seconds. I felt so helpless about all of this, I didn’t want to watch another friend die, didn’t want to see the life leave his eyes knowing that I could do nothing to stop it. Those thoughts were what finally made my body relax, because I just wanted to throw in the towel, I felt so fucking defeated by all of this. Anger wouldn’t get me anywhere.
     
  14. Rain

    Rain New Member

    “Gerard? Don’t you fucking give up now too, or I might have to punch you in the face. I’m serious.” His angry tone was strong enough to make it believable and give me the motivation to sit up, to pull myself together again.

    “It’s just so… so hopeless though” I replied. “I want to kill something.”

    “Remember what you said yesterday? And, now we have Bob to take care of….”

    Frank was going to continue on, but then Bob finally turned to us with an annoyed look on his face.

    “You know, I’m right here. You don’t have to talk like I’m not in the room,” he said angrily, marking the end of our conversation.

    We tried to talk to Bob. We really did. Both of us tried to be there for him, and even Morton tried to let our friend know he was there for him, but it all failed. Bob just lay in his bunk all day coughing, listening to the radio, and pretending to sleep. The only time he’d get up was to go and puke in the bathroom. It was like he’d already decided he was dead, and now he was just waiting for it to happen. It reminded me of Japan, when I thought I was never coming back home and nothing could change my mind, and because of those memories, I tried everything to raise his spirit. But, like I said, Bob had already decided that he was dead.

    I guess I should have seen it coming. I should have known. All those years ago I was in that position and giving that look, one I should have known better than anybody else, and still, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t even think about it. What a fucking dumb asshole I was to just think that it was the sickness that was making Bob act that way.

    No matter how many times I told myself that it wasn’t my fault, that it was his choice, and all those other excuses, I still blame myself. I still think I should have seen the signs. After something like that happens, you can never quite forgive yourself, even with all of the logic in the world behind you.

    That night I had trouble sleeping, so when I finally did fall into an uneasy, deep slumber, I didn’t hear Bob quietly sneak out of his bunk. Frank must have been sleeping just as deeply as I was, but somehow, my guilt always seems to fall back to only me as the one who didn’t hear it.

    As quietly as a sick man could, Bob crept into the bus bathroom. When he got there, he fumbled for three different types of pills. Advil, Tylenol, and Sudafed. He filled a huge glass up with water and crept back into his bunk, where he slowly swallowed as many as he could.

    When I woke up, when my eyes opened, I knew that something was wrong. It wasn’t because any supernatural premonition bullshit, absolutely none of that. I had left the privacy curtains open a crack so I could see Bob’s bunk, and when I opened my eyes, that narrow space of color was the first thing I saw. After two seconds, I realized that there shouldn’t have been an arm hanging off the side at that angle, it would have been too uncomfortable.

    Everything gets faint here again, but I do remember bolting out of bed and throwing open the curtains to Bob’s bunk. More fragments, but I saw the bottles and the stray pills that surrounded my friend, which somehow reminded me of a bed of roses. I realized what had happened seconds later, but I still grabbed Bob around the shoulders and pulled him to the floor. Frank was still asleep.

    My whole body was shaking as I tried to feel for a pulse. I knew what to expect, but I still did it anyway. By then I was in such a frantic, frayed state that I didn’t even try to give him CPR. Instead, I slapped him on the cheek, poked him in the shoulders, and pulled on his hair.

    “Bob?” I started out quietly. “Bob? Bob!? Wake up! Wake up! Not you too! Wake up or I’m going to kick your ass, you stupid shit!”

    And then I was screaming at my friend who couldn’t hear me anymore, screaming those two words, wake up, over and over and over. I had the blackest sense of déjà vu from when I held my puking brother in my arms, which made me feel even more frantic, even more scared.

    “Shit!” Frank shouted as he jumped from his bed to help try and revive our friend. The screaming, shouting, and crying went on for a long time before we finally couldn’t take it anymore and just gave up, realizing how futile our actions were. Bob was gone.

    Time completely slips away from me here, and the only thing I can really remember is feeling so alone. All my friends were dying or dead, they were almost all gone, and Frank was the only person I had left. That hole inside of me got so wide that I nearly fell in, and the only way I could save my sanity was to block everything out. If I still somehow stayed the person I used to be before the plague, I probably would have been embarrassed that I was so weak, that I had to block out everything because I couldn’t deal with it head-on. But then, back then, the only thing that mattered was to keep moving, keep living, keep surviving, and it didn’t matter how you did it.

    Morton must have found us bent over Bob’s body, and in time we must have taken him over to the body pile to say another tearful farewell. I still can’t fucking believe I don’t remember any of it, but that’s the truth. In my bad moments, it still kills me that I can’t recall saying goodbye to one of my best friends, and I wish that I could change that. Even if it would have been the most painful thing of all, at least I would still have the fucking memory.

    Some time during that day, Frank started coughing. I don’t remember that either, but I was told that happened on the same day Bob died. I guess that’s also why I was in such a fog, because now, I was the only healthy person left.

    Apparently, the next day, Frank found me in my bunk with tears trickling down my face, and they didn’t stop for over an hour. I was just this dark hole of grief, and after my friend saw that he wasn’t alone, he came and joined me. We spent most of that day in the premature darkness of my bunk, waiting for death, waiting for the eternal darkness, waiting for our number to be called, and all while grieving for our loved ones that died.

    The next day passed in a blur of images and emotions. Two things are still clear from that time in my life. First of all, I can remember lying in my bunk and wondering how the hell I could have thought that I had the stamina to stick around long enough to take care of my friends. The second one was of adding Bob’s picture to my makeshift memorial by my pillow.

    On the twenty-ninth of April, Frank threw up his first wad of blood in the toilet, and that was when everything came into focus once more. I didn’t want to go through it again, but I knew I had to. Morton brought the food, but I did everything else. I found a container to serve as a puke bucket, extra blankets to warm his shivering form, and listened to his one-sided conversation about the afterlife. I didn’t sleep that night.

    He was slipping away quicker than the others. I can still feel it all like it was only yesterday, and sometimes in my dreams it actually is. Morton couldn’t take Frank’s screaming, so he just left food at the door, but I didn’t feel any anger at him for that. Frank was in more pain than any of the others, but he didn’t beg for the pills like Ray had. The blood kept coming out of his mouth and the stink of urine started to fill the air.

    And then, Frank’s limbs started twitching from the cramps.

    It was then, during mid-afternoon on the last day of April, I did the worst, most cowardly thing of my life. The thing that would haunt me for months, a shadow over my life, and change who I was and how I looked at the world forever.

    When Frank’s limbs started twitching, I realized that this was it. Frank Iero had the plague. Frank Iero was dying. Gerard Way wasn’t going to join him anytime soon, maybe never, and he’d be the sole survivor of this life.

    After Frank died, I would be completely and totally alone.

    I couldn’t take it anymore. After this, I’d have nobody, and the nightmare would be complete. When I watched life fade from the last person that knew who I had been before this tragedy, it would just be me, stuck in an empty world full of death. There wouldn’t be anybody around to remind me that I’d actually once lived in my old life where I was happy, and nobody else to carry on the memories of the people who had passed. Everybody in my old life would be dead while I was still here to suffer, aimless, in this living hell, with nothing or nobody left to live for.

    It would just be me and the ruins.

    Frank screamed again, and again, and again. It was then that I realized that his death would bridge the gap between before and after, cauterize the wound, and amputate the limb. Complete the transformation of human to ghost.

    I can’t take this. Not another person. I just can’t! I fucking can’t!

    My body was shaking everywhere as I got to my feet, and tears were trickling down my face. I stumbled as I got my coat, fell as I tried to get down the hallway, and ran into the table. I didn’t even realize that I was whispering “I can’t, I’m sorry,” over and over and fucking over.

    You’re going to regret this for the rest of your pitiful life, motherfucker, Mikey whispered inside my head, but I wasn’t listening. I couldn’t bear to.

    “Gerard!” Frank screamed at the top of his lungs, in a terrified, shrill tone that I’ll never be able to forget. Fuck, he knew what was happening, and he needed me. He needed me to be there, until he died, to help him through that last stage of life. I couldn’t find the balls to stay with him until the end, so I would just leave him there, leave him like the fucking coward I was. I couldn’t take it. I wasn’t in my right mind at all, and my mind had finally snapped. I know that doesn’t redeem me in the least, but part of telling the story is trying to make the listener understand everything, no matter how painful it is for me to admit it. I was selfish, taken by this frantic madness, only thinking of myself, and no amount of words could ever make me forgive myself, even now, with everything that’s passed.

    “Frank, I’m so sorry,” was all my strangled vocal chords managed to produce.

    I took off running as fast as I could, and became what this hell and my own cowardice had turned me into. A ghost of the streets, a man alone, the forgotten “hero”.

    And, most of all, a wanderer of the ruins.
     
  15. Rain

    Rain New Member

    Interlude of Insanity

    “Gerard!” he called, but suddenly he was so far away. So very, very far away. Morton even tried to chase me, though nothing could catch a man running away from his own imminent doom. I was on my own, like fate had willed.

    Whitewashed. Everything was incomprehensible, and my body was running on pure instinct. Streets flashed by, feet twisted in sidewalk cracks, and cries came from an unaware mouth. It was the closest that true madness would ever come, and it was all a blurring fury.

    Somewhere, I fell and scraped my hands, but just like a dying animal, I didn’t care.

    Some cars had dead passengers, making the nightmare even more real. To my insane mind it seemed as if they were grinning, which pushed me into a terrified bolt for my life.

    Wanna ride, sunnyboy?

    I screamed.

    They were all coming for me now, coming with their rotting hands and maggot-filled mouths, ready to drag me down forever. My ghosts refused to go away, and refused to let me forget that I was completely alone. I would wander forever, as the stars had written. Downcast in my shame. Unable to live, but unwilling to die.

    Businesses blurred into suburbia. My wretched limbs burned with a fire that would never go away, and my mind raced in illogical, mad leaps. They were gaining on me, their stench just under my nose.

    The partially insane man that was me cried out, feeling their cold hands grasping for my limbs.

    Mere minutes passed, and limbs quaked with a tremor I had never felt before, but they were still gaining. I couldn’t let them beat me.

    Suddenly, a dead man was right by my feet, grinning at me with his freshly-deceased face. He beckoned for me to come, and suddenly my face hit the pavement with searing pain.

    Come with us, coward, they hissed, voices sounding like twisted snakes.

    “Frank!” I screamed over and over as the dead overtook me, and all breath left my body. That was when my life escaped from my wretched fingers and fell into theirs. They knew it was no use, and I could hear them singing the words welcome to the dead parade through decayed vocal chords.

    It was then that I truly understood that I had lost.

    Instants later all breath left my body, with no intentions of coming back.
     
  16. Nukyster

    Nukyster Active Member

    okay this might not be the nicest thing to say but the thought: what a bitch! crossed my mind several times. and don't get me wrong, please don't! It's more of a: no, she can't possibly... how can she... she's not going to...

    But you did, you kind of pushed me downt to earth and made me sad, and thinking. You write so powerfull and thought through. It's not a: Gerard was so sad that Mikey died and left the wrong in tears. It's no 'basic' writing, it's not just a story that goes from point a to b. It's, once again, true human suffering and reading it completly points out how much thought, energy and strenght you lay into it. I seriously hate what Gerard did to Frank and you wrote that so fucking painful, yet honest and understandable from Gerard POV. I mean I 'get' (as far as I can get how it should feel to lose so many friends in such short periode of time, not even to mention in what way) that GErard didn't wanted to go through that again. But did you have to make Frank cry out his name like that? Jesus I was planning to actually clean up and do something remotly functional today. Well I can toss that off, I just want to read more. If I were you I wouldn't even question to publish a book, because I would read this if it wasn't a mcr fic. I think a lot of so called autors could even take some notes from this story, your story.

    I think that this is the first non-slash I've read on tbp. And it's so worth it, sometimes writers make their OC so annoying and mary-sue, but yours are so human. Jesus fuck and the way Ray died, tragidy after tragidy, it's so fucking depressing and harsh and yet I want to read more because I am very curious how your going to continue now that you killed them all of. Well, the plague did but I hold you responcible as well:p! Fuck, there is just so much death and chaos and you don't let that go, you keep giving us information how fucked the 'world' is at the moment everyone starts dying. What else can I say then; give me more give me more give me more!

    X Nuky
     
  17. Rain

    Rain New Member

    Haha, I totally get what you mean! Thank you so much. I know that I say that every time, but every time I say it, I mean it fully. From start to finish, I devoted three years of my life to writing this like I was writing an actual novel, and it makes me so happy to see that others are enjoying it as much as I enjoyed writing it :) I figured if I was going to go to all this trouble, I'd do this the best I could and write Gerard like I would any other OFC. This story actually started as a oneshot I wrote four years ago, about a man wandering in a dead world, going home so he could kill himself. Somehow, I wound up with this!

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! More is on its way now, enjoy!

    ***

    Chapter Eight: The Aimless

    What the hell? Where am I?

    I was lying on a sidewalk, and the sun was starting to set. I opened my eyes and took in the pink sky, littered with streaks of purple and blue, and for a minute realized that some things would always stay normal. The sunset. Hadn’t I looked at something like this that night when we were at the hospital?

    Wait… hospital?

    For a moment I was confused as hell, and in those few seconds I realized that my back was in some serious pain. I was lying on a sidewalk for fucking sake. As I tried to remember what part of my life involved a hospital, I turned my head to the left to see if there was anything around that would make getting up difficult. And then, I saw him.

    There was a dead man only inches away from my nose.

    “Shit!” I screamed, and leapt to my feet. I started clawing at my own face, somehow thinking that those flies were eating my flesh. When blood started dotting my fingertips, I stopped, shocked, and that was when it all came rushing back to me.

    Mikey… Mikey was in the hospital. Lindsey… Ray….

    Almost everything came back within seconds, filling me with a numb horror and making me feel sick to my stomach. It felt like only moments ago that I watched all my friends get sick, only to get taken away to God knows where. But then, the final realization clicked into place and made the nightmare complete.

    Frank.

    “Wha… what have I done?!” I suddenly whispered to the dead man. In a matter of seconds his company ceased to be the most important thing on my mind, and the horror slowly filled me. I left Frank alone. I left my last friend alone to die in pain. There was Morton, but Morton hadn’t been able to take the screaming. Frank would die alone. He’d choke on his blood, and in his last waking thought, wonder how I possibly could have left him alone like that. I loathed myself, and loathed what the sickness had turned me into. I felt like a spineless little wimp, and it seemed like I had never been considered a hero, a good man, at all.

    Unable to take the revulsion, I leaned over and puked.

    I still don’t know why, but as I choked out the last bits of bile my panic reflex kicked in. It was more than an urge; it was a need to find Frank. I could maybe make up for this horrible mistake if I started back right away. I lurched off to the right, ready to run, even though I was still upchucking. The panic started, the dread, the inability to take it all, and suddenly a sentence popped into my head.

    Wanna ride, sunnyboy?

    I then finally remembered my insane rampage, and why I had woken up on the sidewalk in the first place. The safety reflex in my brain took over, forcing me to calm down and try to remember exactly how I had gotten here. Lurching off into the blind horizon would be no way to try and retrace my steps. I pressed my back against the wall and let myself slide to the ground, rubbing my sore face, and trying to push my way through the dim fog of my panicking mind.

    “What are you looking at?” I told the dead man in a very annoyed tone. I even crinkled my face and sneered. Thankfully, seconds later the rest of my senses came back, safe and worried, but I was still shaken by those few seconds of insanity.

    Thankfully, the poor soul hadn’t been deceased for long. Even though he was giving off a putrid smell and his body was swarming with flies, he still looked quite human. Nothing was puffy or misshapen, and he still looked very much normal. If it wasn’t for those glassy eyes staring me straight in the face, I might have been able to fool myself into thinking he was asleep.

    My eyes closed as I tried to forget he was there, and attempted to put all the flashing memories in order. First, there was Morton screaming. Buildings, parking lots… and the dead. Did I hear people coughing? Even today I still can’t remember, but it seemed like the dead were chasing me. In my panic, I thought everybody was coming after me. Especially Mikey, and he had maggots in his eyes.

    Maggots… maggots… suddenly the nightmarish image was all too real for me to handle. Yes, Mikey had maggots in his eyes, maggots in his mouth, and his skin was rotten and decaying. The others were there too, along with the people at the hospital, in the arena, and everywhere else, all of them trying to catch the man who couldn’t get sick. Maybe I was already dead and gone. Maybe….

    Gerard, listen to yourself! Honey, you aren’t dead. Don’t you remember how hard you were running? Ever heard of lack of oxygen, dehydration, or simple madness? I mean, something must have snapped like a twig to make you leave Frank, of all people.

    The voice of my dead wife in my head was enough to bring me to my senses, just long enough to realize that the sound wasn’t real, that my mind was talking to itself. But still, that was enough to clear my head. For a moment, I forgot about all of my dead loved ones, all the grief, all the sorrow, and just concentrated on trying to remember why I woke up on the sidewalk. Frustrated and tired, I rubbed my face, and suddenly a fragment came back to me.

    The grinning dead man, and then… pain. Pain coming from my face. In my hysteria, I thought the dead were coming to get me. And then… welcome to the dead parade, followed by no more breath. But, was that because of ghosts, or because I ended up hitting my head against the sidewalk really hard when I tripped? Either lack of oxygen from my panic, or a hard blow to the head ended up knocking me out. I tried to reason everything out as calmly as I could, but shivered when I thought about how long I must have been lying next to that dead man.

    Even though being near the guy creeped me out, I still stayed there for a while. As I tried to put my thoughts in some kind of numb order, I came to realize that my legs were extremely sore from all the running. Even though my mind was numb from all of the grief, there was still enough of me there to realize that I had better rest before trying to get up, or else I’d just fall on my ass and make myself too sick to make it back to the bus in time. But, once the daylight was nearly gone, I knew I had to get up and try to find Frank. He was slipping so fast, and I had to try and get back to him before it was too late. I couldn’t have lived with myself if I hadn’t.

    The night was turning cool, but I never noticed. Even though it was the very end of April, the night was still chilly here, but I almost welcomed it. Anything to keep that deep well of guilt and despair from making me go insane again. As I pulled up my fragmented memories to try and find a way back, I kept my eyes open for any sign of life. If I was lucky, I could run into a local who would be able to tell me where to go. If I was fortunate, I’d find another living soul.

    How could the flu have made everything so empty, and so quickly?

    That was all I could really think as I walked down the silent streets, squinting at signs and trying to find my way. There were a few lights on in some of the buildings I passed, but nobody was in sight. The sight of it chilled me deeper than any kind of freezing temperature.

    I must have wandered the empty streets for at least an hour before I realized I was hungry. Actually, I was starving. The last time I had eaten was in the morning, and it had eventually ended up on the sidewalk. Plus, my crazy running mustn’t have helped any. But, my thoughts were always about Frank, wondering if he had died yet, if there was still time. Part of me knew that he must have hated everything about me after what I did, and all of me agreed that he the right. Many years of friendship can just crumble into dust when that person leaves you at the time you need them the most.

    I wanted him to hate me, after all, he deserved to hate me. Even to this day, I still can’t shake the guilt, the feeling of blame. I wasn’t strong enough to stay. I wasn’t nearly as strong as I thought I was. I am hardly the “saviour of the broken,” as some of the fans used to call me. After what I did to my last friend, I’m anything but that, if I ever was at all.

    My mind dwelled on everybody I had lost, sinking deeper and deeper into panicked despair with every minute. It didn’t help that instead of getting closer to the arena, I ended up getting even more lost. The thick apartment buildings and huge businesses started to thin out until I was making my way through a light commercial area, with the largest thing around being a grocery store.

    I stopped at the door of the store, suddenly realizing that there might be a map inside. Sometimes, they carried them by the cash registers. All I needed was a goddamned map, or something else that could help me find my way back. And food, I remembered again that I needed to eat. I went up to the doors, and thankfully the store was still open. It took me only a few seconds to realize that the small building was completely deserted.

    When I walked through the doors, I was frozen from the sight of all that food. My completely empty stomach growled, and the next thing I knew I was wolfing down the nearest thing in sight, a box of cinnamon buns. Even though they were stale and hard, and the sugar made me queasy, they got the job done. I hoped that I wouldn’t puke from the stale sweetness, so I went and drank a bottle of water to try and calm my stomach down so I wouldn’t vomit. It was a very close call.

    How fucking stupid am I?!

    I could have hit myself from the frustration. As I sat by the boxes of bottled water and tried to choke another one down, I just had to wonder what extreme stupidity made me eat cinnamon rolls, of all the fucking things. I could have waited thirty more seconds and found something that wouldn’t make me want to puke. Now I was sitting in an aisle, choking down water, and hoping I wouldn’t get sick everywhere. I was wasting precious time, and it made me want to kill something. Every minute here was another one I’d lose with Frank.
     
  18. Rain

    Rain New Member

    Mikey, are you at peace now?

    It took about ten minutes for my stomach to finally calm down, and when it did, I started to look for something I could take with me. Who the hell knew if I’d be able to find any more food until I got back? So, I took all I could comfortably carry, which was a bottle of water and a stale loaf of bread, and then I started to look for a map.

    I couldn’t find one at all.

    There wasn’t one to be found anywhere. I checked the by the cash registers, all the aisles, and even the magazine racks. Nothing. The realization hit me way harder than it should have, and I became so frustrated that I completely trashed the magazine racks and pushed the cash register off of the desk.

    That was my biggest mistake of all, the one that ruined everything, and the one that I would never be able to come back from. Thanks to my stupidity, my fucking stupidity, I would never be able to repent for that unforgivable sin.

    “There you fucking go!” I screamed at the cash register as I kicked it as hard as possible, until my foot throbbed through my shoe. “Why don’t you have a motherfucking map?! Why not?! All I wanted was to find Frank! You took my friends, my wife, my family, my job, and my happiness, and now I can’t even have a simple fucking map! Go fuck yourself! Just… just go fuck yourself!”

    For some reason that I still can’t explain, that poor piece of equipment was the entire reason why my life was destroyed. It killed Lindsey, it murdered my brother, and it choked all of my friends to death. The thing somehow turned me into a coward, and it ended up showing me parts of myself that I never wanted to see. I hated it more than I had ever hated anything else, and I wanted it to pay for everything that had gone wrong in my life. I wasn’t even alarmed that I was freaking out like a lunatic, because in that moment I realized that the person I used to be died the minute I ran away from my last friend.

    The “saviour of the broken” was gone, and the hero of the damned was just a lie. Gerard Way couldn’t even stay to say goodbye to his last friend. Like I said, I wasn’t the good man that people used to think I was, I was a fucking failure, and that was what made me the angriest. I couldn’t even find my way back to the fucking tour bus to get back to Frank before he died.

    When the doors to the store opened, I was screaming at the cash register to go screw its mother, and then fuck its uncle up the ass, complete nonsense shit that got me nowhere. I was so absorbed with hating a piece of equipment that I didn’t even hear the swoosh of the automatic doors opening.

    “Hey, who the hell are you?” a voice shouted at me, and it was loud and angry enough to make me pause and look up for a minute. That moment was enough to make the anger evaporate, only to be replaced by terror.

    “What the hell are you doing in our store?”

    There were two men in front of me, and one of them had a gun pointed at my face.

    Oh, fuck.

    The first man was about twenty-five, with and enough piercings and tattoos to make the cinnamon buns in my stomach turn. In contrast, the other person was as plain-faced as could be, dressed in clothes way too big for him in an attempt to be “gangster,” and only looked to be about eighteen. He was the one holding the gun.

    “What kind of fuck-up would do this?” The older man yelled, and at the same time wildly gestured at the mess I’d made on the floor. “‘Cho a pervie or something?”

    “Man, what are you doing in our store? Eating our food, taking everything that belongs to us? This is our store man, and you’re trespassing!” He started wildly shaking the gun, and his finger was too close to the trigger for comfort.

    “Please… please, don’t shoot, I didn’t know! I was just looking for my friend,” I said frantically, trying to keep the fear from my voice while slowly putting my hands up in the air. Wasn’t the gesture supposed to say I didn’t mean any harm? My stomach lurched when I saw the older man curl his mouth into a sneer.

    “Put ‘cho arms down, ******, ‘cho look like a fucking retard!” His voice was enough to make my arms snap to my sides without a sound.

    “Look, I’m… I’m trying to find my friend. His name is Frank, and he’s at the arena. Please, all I wanted wa… was a map. And I needed food, I didn’t know this was your store, please believe me.”

    Even though I was scared shitless, I still managed to talk coherently, thank fucking God.

    “If ‘cho know what’s good for ‘ou, get down on ‘dat floor and put ‘ur fucking hands behind your head, understand?” the older man yelled at me, and I complied wordlessly without a sound. A large part of me wanted to just be shot and get it over with, but I still had a reason to live. Frank. While he was still drawing breath, I could still have time to get back to him.

    I had told myself in the hospital that I couldn’t just give up while I still had friends to take care of, and while I was under the stare of that gun I knew I had to keep that promise, no matter what the cost. I had fucked up majorly, but I still had a chance to redeem myself.

    “What the fuck do I do wit’ ‘cho? Stupid ****** in my store, I have to deal wit’ ‘cho,” he said, and then paused for a minute, seeming to look thoughtful. “Jackass, ‘atch him while I leave to think ‘bout ‘dis.”

    The kid must have nodded to the older man or some other kind of gesture, because the next thing I knew the doors had swooshed again, and the store was completely silent. Eerily, nervous quiet, because I knew that my fucking life was on the line, simply because of the gun in that kid’s hand. As I felt the gaze of that gun, for the first time in days, I knew something for sure.

    I didn’t want to die, because I still had a purpose in life. If only for a little while, I had someone to live for. Frank. I wasn’t alone, yet, and I needed to get back to that bus to be with my friend. I needed to. Failure wasn’t an option, because I didn’t think I could live with knowing I left my friend to die by himself in pain.

    Well, this is a picnic, isn’t it?

    Shut up, Mikey! I didn’t know why his voice had suddenly popped into my head, but at that moment it scared me. How I could even hear his voice so clearly, how I hallucinated it at all, I still can’t explain it. Maybe it was a part of my subconscious trying to get through to me, or maybe I was just crazy. I’ll never know for sure.

    Come on, Gerard, there’s a way out of this and you know it. Just quit being a dumbass and figure it out. Remember, “Jackass”?

    Even though my brother’s voice was stronger than ever, I wasn’t so focused on it anymore. In the seconds that passed after the older man left, my brain suddenly jumped into gear again. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking, but the fake voice of my brother started to make me think about how to get out of that fucking trap. I closed my eyes and tried to think about what the two men had said to me, how they had acted, and how they looked at me. Seconds passed, but it seemed like days inside my mind, nervous days where I was waiting between life and death.

    My mind worked towards some kind of solution, so slowly from the fear that it was painful. I went over every detail, trying to remember everything. Soon, things started to slide into place. The dark man seemed to be the most dominant, the most badass, and the most violent. The kid, he was just there. Even though he had been the first to say anything, he wasn’t the most violent. Had the gun shaken as he pointed it at me? I refused to call him a man, even though he must have been eighteen. He still had a boyish, innocent look to him, and he didn’t seem comfortable at all in the “gangster” clothes he was wearing. Finally, I knew what I was going to say, and that I’d better do it quick before the other man came back.

    “He calls you Jackass?” I asked him as quietly and calmly as I could. Even though I couldn’t see him, I heard him tense up and his feet shuffle, and right away I knew that I had hit a nerve.

    “What’s it to you? You might not want to talk anymore or I could blow your brains out.” He was trying to sound angry, but failed miserably.

    “You didn’t answer my question.” Somehow, I managed to be calm. My cowardly self had found something deep inside that had made my hands quit shaking and steadied my breath.

    There was a pause.

    “Yeah, yeah, he does,” the young man whispered, which started to give me an idea of why exactly he was here in the first place.

    “What is your name? It can’t hurt to tell me,” I asked steadily, the very portrait of serenity. My hands were still on the back of my head, but my eyes had fluttered closed and my breath had deepened. When I try and think back to why I had ended up being so calm, I think the only reason was that a large part of me was okay with death now. If I could choose, I didn’t want to die yet, but the sickness had made me realize it was going to come sometime in the future, and after you see everybody you love leave this earth, it doesn’t make death seem so horrible anymore, especially when it’s coming from the hands of a scared teenage kid.

    “Louis. Louis Randall.”

    “Louis… I like that name. It suits you.” I was trying to befriend him somehow and make him start trusting me. In the past, I had met so many people, and after a while a person starts to just know if that certain stranger is a good person or not. You see how they act, how they move, and you can start to see underneath the skin and figure out who they really are beneath it all. Louis was no exception, and I started to feel a little sorry for him.

    “He doesn’t think so. He can’t think of anything better to call me, so he just uses the word ‘Jackass’. Says my name is a white-boy name or something like that…. I like my name though; it’s the same as my dad’s.” His voice had lost all traces of anger, and by doing that Louis had yanked away the velvet curtain. He was exposing himself for what he really was, just a scared kid.

    “Why are you with him? If you don’t mind me asking, of course.”

    “First of all, who are you? I’ve told you my name,” he replied, and that was when I heard a soft thud. Since he couldn’t see my face I allowed myself a small smile. After all, he had just put the to his side instead of pointing it at me.

    “Gerard Way. I used to sing in a band,” I told him numbly, somehow managing to talk about my previous life without showing any pain. It was truly a stroke of God, since my mind had somehow been numbed enough to make it seem like I was talking about another person.

    Actually, I was talking about another person, one who lived in another life, one completely different from this reality.

    “Why are you here?”

    “We were playing a few shows right here, in Detroit. None of us really had any idea how bad any of this shit was until my brother got sick. He was our bassist, and it all started with him puking up blood all over me.”

    “Go on. What happened to the rest of your band?”

    “Well… after my brother died in the hospital, our lead guitarist got sick. We… we all knew what was going to happen, so we wanted to get back to our tour bus. It was the closest thing we had to home here. So, we went back, and I watched him die. Our drummer killed himself a day after he started coughing, and now the rhythm guitarist is nearly dead. I just wanted to get back to him.”

    “Shit. You’re… you’re a long way from the arena,” he whispered, his defences weakening even more. All through my little speech, I had managed to stay calm, but just as quickly as that blessed control came, it was trickling away.

    “I’m lost, I was looking for a map,” I told him softly, and my voice was beginning to tremble, I was losing it. “I was so hungry, and then when I couldn’t find a map I took it out on the cash register. I… I just want to find my way back. My… my friend needs me, you’ve got to understand. Please, you’ve got to fucking understand.”
     
  19. Rain

    Rain New Member

    He didn’t answer me, but what came after was the next best thing.

    “I can relate… sort of,” Louis told me in a shaking, weak voice. “My mom and dad died, then my sister, but I didn’t get sick. Everybody in our building is dead or dying. I couldn’t take it, and just ran. Then, he… he found me. He saw my jeans and my polo shirt and nearly killed me, but everybody gets lonely. We ended up going back to his place and he ‘fixed me up’, and here I am.”

    Fuck, he really was just a kid. Louis was just like everybody else being left in this fucked up, apocalyptic world. Scared, alone, and then that creep found him. I did feel sorry for him, and I didn’t hold it against him that he’d held me at gunpoint.

    “If I can ask, why are you with him?”

    “Everybody gets lonely, Gerard. Even though he’s completely insane and decided to just take over this grocery store, he’s still somebody to talk to.”

    I took a deep breath in, trying to get ready to say what came next. The more he spoke, the more Louis had started to grow on me. At the start of all this, I thought I’d just ask for him to let me go quietly, but now I wanted to get him away from this hell. He was just a scared kid who had lost all of his loved ones, like me, and just a fucking scared kid that needed somebody to turn to, somebody who wasn’t insanely obsessed with a fucking grocery store.

    “We… we could leave,” I tried to say with conviction, pushing past the fear that tried to grip me. “There’s bound to be a backdoor, while he’s out, the both of us could run. You could tell me how to get back to the arena, and you can come with me if you want. I don’t mind, Louis, I know you’re a nice person. You’re a nice person in a living hell.”

    There was a pause, so tense and stiff that I thought I’d go insane before it ended. My heart had started pounding again and my eyes fluttered open, and off in the distance I could make out the meat section. Finally, Louis spoke.

    “Gerard, I don’t want to hurt you,” he whispered in a defeated, shaking voice, and then I knew he would never come with me. “He’ll make me hurt you. But, I can’t leave, he might kill me. I hate guns.”

    “I want you with me, Louis.”

    “Gerard… I…,” he started to say, but suddenly the doors whooshed open again. I heard Louis scramble for the gun, and I knew I had failed. It was too late, there was no way we could leave now. My fate, whatever it was, was sealed. My breath started coming in spurts, and I closed my eyes.

    Lindsey, I might be with you soon.

    “Good, ‘cho hold him nice?” It was like a fucking nightmare, and suddenly there seemed to be no difference from the dark man and the grim reaper.

    “What did you decide?” whispered a voice trying to regain its composure.

    Letmeliveletmeliveletmeliveletmefuckinglive.

    “Blow his motherfucking brains out.”

    No! Frank, I tried. Oh God, I tried. I tried, I tried, I tried and now I’m dead. Bang bang, I’m dead, I’m dead and I failed you. Oh God, I tried.

    My thoughts started to race in illogical order, and I squeezed my eyes shut. Why was I acting like this if I had known before that I’d welcome death? That dying wasn’t so bad? It took a while, but down the road, I realized that anything can change your mind about it, and sometimes, in the most illogical of places. Not that a gun pointed at my head was illogical, but you get the point.

    I tried to picture all of the people I’d loved in my head, all smiling, and all with me. They were going to be with me when I died, grinning and welcoming me home. In moments, I was picturing them so vividly, and trying to prepare myself for death I suddenly didn’t want. I knew I couldn’t run because one of them would get me, and that was what made it even worse. The panic and failure of it all nearly made me deaf, but part of me was working enough to hear what came next.

    “No! We don’t need to,” Louis said frantically, trying to stop it. Thank fucking God, thank motherfucking God. “It’s not like we need more dead bodies in this town, is it?”

    “‘Cho trying to prove me wrong?! Saying I’m wrong?!”

    “Not at all!” Louis replied frantically, trying to vouch on my behalf. “I’m just saying, if we can make sure he’ll never come back, we don’t need to kill him. I don’t want any blood on my hands when there’s enough in the streets already.”

    There was a pause.

    “Boy, ‘cho might be onto something. Get the fucking car, I watch ‘dis ****** ‘till ‘cho get back.” And, that was the end of that, he made it clear. As the sheer realization that I was still alive had sunk in, I suddenly wanted to vomit. My tired body was slowly figuring out what getting a car meant, and despair started rising in my chest.

    In the distance, I heard the hum of an engine, and then I was being yanked to my feet.

    The older man made me walk to a small blue car by holding me under gunpoint, and forced me into the passenger seat. I tried to fight it, but when I felt that circle of cold metal pressed against my skull I went limp, and through all of that I silently cried out for my friend who was so far away. The minute that car door was slammed shut, I realized that I would never get back to him.

    Louis drove for over an hour, and all that time the dark man pointed that gun at me, just knowing that if he moved for even a second that I would try and jump out of the car. Why the hell he was so obsessed with getting me away from “his” store I’d never know, but it turned my life down a road that I could never come back from. Just thinking about what might have happened if I had just left that goddamned store instead of pulverizing a cash register made me want to vomit, made me want to scream and hurt something because I’d fucked up so badly.

    Even though I didn’t look out the window, I knew the city was getting thinner and thinner. After a while, I knew we were driving through the country. I just fucking knew, and I felt like curling up into a ball. With every passing mile, I knew I would never find Frank again. I just knew that his voice would always haunt me in my dreams, pleading for me to stay, but I’d never get back to him.

    Frank, I tried. I tried to get back to you, I fucking tried. Please forgive me, God forgive me.

    By the sheer vibrations of the car, I knew that Louis was seriously speeding. And, why not? It wasn’t like there was any traffic. For a second, I wondered what happened to the military quarantine, but I just assumed that they all had gotten sick. Besides, I didn’t care. I had failed, and that was more than enough.

    Even as the car door opened and I was shoved on the side of the road, and even as the tires squealed and turned the other way, my only thoughts were of Frank, and of everybody that was now lying in the dirt.

    He cackled as he tossed me onto the road, and even after the silence enveloped me, I didn’t move. I had failed. Gerard Way had fucking failed, and it started to eat me up as I lay unmoving at the roadside. I had left my last friend alone to die, and here I was, a stray that didn’t deserve to be here, didn’t even deserve to move. He was a ghost of all the things a man had done wrong. I couldn’t even get back to Frank. I could never repent for that sin, the one that would change everything, the one that will haunt me until my dying days.

    I couldn’t save any of those I loved, no matter how hard I tried, and that one fact will always haunt me in my nightmares, never stopping until I pass on to the next world.

    “I wish things could have been different,” the wanderer whispered to the ruins.
     
  20. Rain

    Rain New Member

    Chapter Nine: The Reckoning

    Gerard, get off the fucking road! Are you retarded?

    I opened my eyes as quickly as I possibly could, startled to death by the voice that had come from nowhere and everywhere at once. Darkness had enveloped me, and the stars were twinkling overhead like they had done for thousands of years. For a few seconds, I was disorientated and groggy, trying to figure out where I was and why I was imagining my brother’s voice again.

    Quit moping and get off the road! Do you want to get run over?!

    My dead brother had now progressed to shouting, so I tried to move myself somehow. As I rubbed my eyes and struggled to sit up, it still took me a few seconds to remember where exactly I was. Even though the horror of it froze my breath in my chest, I still got myself upright and stumbled off the road, only to collapse once my feet hit the grass.

    “You happy now?” I sarcastically asked the air before I had a chance to think. Fucking hell, now I was talking to people who weren’t there. Good. Fucking great!

    But, still… I waited to see if I would hear his voice. Real or not, any form of Mikey’s voice stirred up emotions inside of me that I couldn’t quite put a finger on. I was also still groggy and couldn’t think exactly straight, but I was coming out of it. As my brain slowly turned all of its switches into the “on” position, this new kind of despair overtook me. I had experienced a fainter version of it before, but this was stronger. Much stronger.

    “Mikey?” I whispered quietly, still longing for the imagined voice. Even though I knew it was insane and I wasn’t going to get an answer, I couldn’t help myself.

    I waited for a few more seconds, and even strained my hearing, just in case a reply came as a whisper. You see, the thing you’ve got to understand is that I wasn’t going insane at that moment. I wasn’t even on the fringe. I never understood it at the time, but as I look back on it now, I realize that I was just lonely. Alone in the dark, where all of my monsters could come and find me. They could tear me to pieces or eat me whole, and nobody would even know. Ever so silently, they could sneak up and engulf my insides, chewing out my blood vessels and cutting off my thoughts, until I was nothing but a walking corpse. When a person is faced with that danger, is it really so horrible to listen for that familiar voice? That voice, real or not, that will let you know that the world always wasn’t this way? That in fact, there really was a time when you laughed and smiled, when you had friends, and when you made love with the woman you thought you were going to spend the rest of your life with?

    I tried to turn my mind to other things after I realized that my dead brother wasn’t going to talk anymore. Slowly and tenderly, I raised myself into a sitting position, being careful not to twist myself the wrong way. My body had been through hell, even if you didn’t count the powernap I had on the road.

    Why the hell had I fallen asleep on the road anyway? What the fuck was happening to me?

    The moon wasn’t to be seen that night, so I couldn’t make anything out. Everything around me was varying shades of black heaped on black. I couldn’t even see where the road was, and I had to feel for it on my hands and knees to get my bearings. It took me a minute, but I dimly realized that I wasn’t going anywhere until the sun came out. Even though that feeling was slowly threatening to choke me, I was still level-headed enough to realize that even the stupidest person wouldn’t try to walk around in this. I could run into a barbed wire fence, meet some kind of fucked-up animal, or even get hit by a car. Not like there was anybody left to drive, but I had to busy my imagination somehow.

    The feeling was whispering in my ear now, telling me to sleep, prettyboy, sleep, sleep and never wake up. Part of me welcomed the idea; the other part was scared shitless. I’ve always been honest, and I admit that I’ve never had the best mental health. Back before I got sober, even back before my grandmother died I’ve known that. I knew this feeling in the past, and I had gotten to know it well, especially when we went to Japan and I thought I was never coming home. It was Lady Void, goddess of suicide, death, loneliness, grief, and all those things a person can never forgive themselves for. The name hadn’t come until that dark night when I needed it, but she had always been there when the times got rough. Lady Void, my true mistress.

    I wouldn’t have been able to fall asleep, even if I had tried. I still don’t know how long I’d been asleep, but Lady Void was more than enough to keep me busy. She was always part of everything, and yet she was always part of nothing. I didn’t come to realize it until that night when I was alone in the darkness, but Lady Void wound her cold fingers around every person at one time or another. She was the concubine for humanity, giving herself freely to anybody that even thought of asking.

    Some called her depression, some called her “suicidal thoughts,” and some would just call her unhappiness. We all try to kill her. Humans black her out with medication, push her away with words, and even end their lives to silence her voice, but in the end, nothing makes her go away forever. Everyone had a name for the feeling. Different languages, different cultures, and hell, I’d even heard “Captain Snips,” but to me she would always be Lady Void.

    I wrapped my arms around my body and turned so I was lying on my back, so that I could look at the night sky. Even in the blackest of evenings, I’d come to learn that there was some kind of light, some kind of star poking through to shine some hope on the lost souls down below. The twinkling of the heavens above me was just enough to keep the Lady from choking me to death, enough to make me remember that my life wasn’t always this way.

    Remember when we were kids, and Mikey was still in junior high? The part of me that recalled the world before it died suddenly made me smile. Yes, the two of us were three years apart, and to kids that age it can mean the world. For a few fleeting minutes I remembered our life back in Jersey, and how it was alright, even though that place wasn’t the best to grow up in. We had turned out okay, hadn’t we? Before all this had started we were on the top of the world, and that must have said something.

    But, then I got to thinking about my other friends, about each and every one of them, then good times we had together and how they used to give me those asshole smiles that never meant anything bad. The amnesia the stars had infected me with slowly started to fade away, and suddenly all I could remember was how they looked like after they died. Bloody and bile covered, arms swinging the wrong way, eyes that were open but didn’t see anything….

    Yet, you didn’t get to see everybody dead, didya, sunnyboy?

    “Shut up.” My weak voice didn’t do any good though, because that voice was all in my head, like the others that were plaguing me. But, what was done was done. The monsters inched even closer, and Lady Void wrapped her arms around me even tighter.

    Suddenly an old rhyme came to mind, and I couldn’t even remember where it came from. I must have found it somewhere, but I just couldn’t place it. All I knew was that it was from a long time ago, maybe the twentieth century, yet all the same it seemed to fit my current life completely.

    Every silver lining has a dark, dark cloud;
    Always after the sunshine comes the rain;
    They say that after the night, the dawn is sure to be bright;
    But don’t forget the night will come again.


    “Shut up, I know the night will come again,” I whispered, but it was no use, my thoughts wouldn’t leave me alone.

    Frank, the one I had left behind. My biggest failure out of all of my fuck-ups I’d ever done in my life. I had managed to forget for a few minutes how I had left my last friend, but now the memory was back, and bigger than ever.

    I tried to get back, I attempted to tell myself, but it was all for nothing. Tried or not, I had still failed. I didn’t want to think about what had probably happened to Frank after I left, desperately didn’t need to, but I still made myself. It was punishment for the sin I had committed, misery in exchange for misery.

    Had he still called out for me? Yes, he probably did. Did Frank ask Morton where I was? Did he cry? Was he angry as hell for me leaving him alone to die? I let my imagination paint the picture for me, and that picture was fucking horrible.

    What if I had tried to come back after the dark man dropped me on the side of the road? That entirely new thought made my breath freeze in my chest. The car had been going fast, we’d been driving for a long time, and I had just assumed that I was too far away to make it back before he died. But, what if they were fucking with me? What if we’d been going in circles around the city limits just to screw with my mind? A horror-filled panic started to eat me up, until I remembered Louis.

    He had been a scared kid in a bad situation. Louis was a nice person. He just hadn’t been the type to drive around in circles just to fuck with a man who’s really down on his luck, especially since he wasn’t doing to good either. I would have been able to tell if the older man had forced him to do that, and besides, he wanted me out of the city as fast as possible anyways, going around in circles would have completely contradicted that. No, instead the dark man had told him to just drive, drive, drive and rush the wanderer to the ruins. Lady Void got her way in the end.

    Frank, the Lady whispered in my ear, and I didn’t even try to tune her out. I didn’t deserve to shut out her voice after what I had done. What if I could have made it back though? What if there had been a car on the side of the road, one that wasn’t abandoned by the owners that I could have driven? I couldn’t have hot-wired the damn thing, I had no clue how, but what if the key had been in the fucking ignition? Of course, I would have had to move the dead passengers, but if I could have started the engine, I could have made it back in time. But now, there was no way I would see Frank before he died. Too much time had passed; Frank had been slipping away too quickly in the final stage for him to live through tonight, and I couldn’t get back there until dawn at the soonest.

    The last memory Frank Iero would ever have of me was how I’d abandoned him.

    It didn’t matter that I fucking tried to make my way back. It didn’t matter that I had been held at gunpoint and dumped on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. All that needed to be known was that I failed my last friend.

    Life is your punishment, Lady Void started whispering this to me, over and over and over, until I realized she was right, knew she was right. Partially, at least.

    Why was I the one to live? Out of everybody in the band, everybody in the world, I ended up being part of the handful of people that hadn’t gotten sick. Even though the shallowest layer of my brain still thought there was a chance I’d come down with it, deep down, I knew that I was fucking immune. I had been around so many sick people, touched the dead, had bloody barf crawling with germs on face, and I was still here. It had been over a week now.

    “Hey, look at this. Remember how there was that freaky flu that was going around in Colorado that we were warned about? Apparently it’s in Kansas now.”

    I flashed back to before it all started, on that day when I looked at Ray’s newspaper. The strangest things were crystal clear, like how the sun was shining in the window, and how I could smell the coffee that Bob had spilled on the carpet earlier that day. Then, I remembered Ray’s face, remembered the old me, and wondered how things could have gone so horribly wrong in such a short time. None of us dumb fucks had any idea that it would all start with bloody vomit on the bus floor, fucking bloody vomit.
     

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