Written by: Trinity Archangel
Feedback to: Outlaw5919@aol.com
CHAPTER ONE - 5 STAGES OF DEATH
One more step - that was it. Nick signaled for Brian to keep it going just a few more minutes, sweat rolled off every inch of his body and his voice trembled, but Nick kept it going. Brian glanced at him from out the corner of his eyes from far across the stage and gestured a "no" with his head. Non-vocal communication.
Instantly, the others fell back and AJ ran up front popping like there was no tomorrow. A horde of front row fans went mad, screaming and reaching out to grab at him.
Crowd participation was incredible. For a moment, he pointed the mic at the crowd and they all sung the words for them. Grinning pleased, he fell back with the rest of the group to finish off the song.
Brian frowned; his heart was throbbing out of control; he couldn't keep this up much longer. Praying silently for it soon to be over, the familiar cry, "Alright!" was brought to his ears, expressing the end of "Everybody, Backstreet's Back."
The stage lights dimmed and Brian sighed, grabbing at his chest. An eruption of screams beckoned them to do more, but the five of them ran off stage, Brian lugging behind.
"Yes! AJ, you are the king of poppin'!" Howie complimented in an out of breath manner, slapping him on the back.
Too out of breath to respond, AJ smiled crookedly at him, hands rested on knees panting.
Fatima tossed a towel at him and smiled, clapping pleased at their performance. "Well done boys, one more act and we can go home," she informed.
Good, Brian thought. He couldn't take much more of this. Grasping tightly onto his chest in a far corner, he silently attempted to catch up to his breath, he felt like he was going to explode. Faintly, his name was repeatedly being chanted back outside.
He glanced through blurry eyes at his watch, in a few more minutes they'd have to go back out for the closing act. He'd have to hurry and reclaim his suspiration. But he felt vertiginous and extremely tired. Trying with much difficulty to focus, he held fast onto his chest, struggling to breathe hunched over. Sweat climbed down his face and rolled off his nose during the attempt.
Suddenly, he began to gasp for air instead. Kevin came over to him and placed an encouraging hand on his back. "You look great out there man! Let's go, let's go, one more and we're outta here!" he rejoiced, psyched up manner not even noticing Brian's inconspicuous breathing.
Reaching a longing hand after Kevin, Brian rasped, "Kevin…I…I'm having…trouble breathing..." To just intimate his condition, it hurt and put him out of breath. But Kevin was already onstage, blowing kisses at the audience, judging by the explosion of screams.
"C'mon B-Rok," Nick cajoled, following Kevin out.
Why wasn't anyone paying him any mind? His heart felt cramped and heavy, when it thumped his entire body shook. It pounded off the walls of his chest like a drum, or a caged animal yearning to emerge. Inhaling as well as he could, he followed the others out and assumed his position. The lights, the noise, the fans, the music. All couldn't be heard over the thumping of his heart. Standing irregularly, he awaited the others to resume their positions as well.
When everyone had gestured their adjustments, Nick begun to sing the first verse of "All I Have to Give." Brian would be up any minute but he swayed onstage like a leaf blowing in the wind.
"I don't have, a fancy car, to get to you I'd walk a thou-"
Just then, a colossal thud startled Nick and he spun around to see Brian's knees give way and collapse, gagging on the floor of the stage, holding onto his chest. His feet had kicked over a mic stand and his legs tangled in the cord. Screeching static surged through the ears of the audience, causing them to block their ears.
"Brian! Oh my god!" Kevin screamed worried, running to his aid. Howie dropped his mic and followed him. Millions of frightened gasps detonated throughout the auditorium, staring at Brian having a heart attack.
His body jerked every which way, throwing a fit of panic struggling for air. Kevin as well as the others hadn't a clue on what to do, but they knelt down beside him, holding his body down, calling desperately for paramedics.
Almost contiguously, a team of paramedics rushed to his aid, including manager Johnny Wright. "Brian, Brian, if you can hear me, squeeze my hand," he stated calmly, outstretching his hand to him, trying to get around a paramedic who was shining a small flash light into his eyes.
As quickly as a stimulus would respond, Brian's hand shot up and grabbed the sleeve of Johnny's shirt tremoring and still his body vibrated. Johnny peered worriedly into his dilated pupils and cadaverous complexion and saw his every being crying for help.
"Move outta the way, now." A paramedic instructed him, shoving him away sternly. An IV was already protruding from his forearm when the stretcher arrived.
A devastating hush fell over the crowd. Quickly, they transferred him to the stretcher and rolled his gradually relaxing body offstage to the ambulance outside, Johnny and the others not too far behind.
Brian saw everything as a vortex, staring into the faces of paramedics and on occasion, he'd see one of the guys running beside him. All the noise that everyone was making was reduced by the respirator attached to his mouth.
He was so scared that the pain of the IV running up his arm and the intolerable pain of his heart were barely a bother. This wasn't real. They were pushing him at an exceedingly fast rate, and so death was creeping up to him. His eyes slanted, and darkness swarmed around him.
Back at the auditorium, not one fan had shifted his or her position. Silence was the only noise being made as everyone waited patiently, hoping to see someone come and set things right. A few fans were crying, others scrutinized the stage meticulously, waiting for something, anything to transit. They didn't know what to do, where to go, the silence was deafening.
Like a saint sent from heaven, except dressed casually in jeans and a dress shirt instead of the expected white fluorescent robe, Lou, (accompanied by two officers) picked up the mic Brian had kicked over and spoke.
"A few minutes ago, Brian had a heart attack…I'm sorry y'all had to see that - but our prayers are with him... And, y'all just go home now, I'm sorry," he said, in an abysmal Southern drawl.
For a brief minute, the fans stood there glaring at Lou through tearful eyes, refusing to move.
As if agitated, the two officers leapt off stage and begun forcing fans away, pushing them back, telling them to make a peaceful and orderly exit. Reluctantly they went, but as they left, someone sent off a chain reaction chanting Brian's name softly, in respect. Delicately, yet rhythmically, everyone took it up as if some catchy phrase or lyric. Disgusted, the officers scowled and proceeded to force them away.
The waiting room, heavily scented with medication was cold and hostile, yet sinister, with a dark purpose. All and all, it was a quiet, moonless night; the receptionist sat up at the desk in ER, contentedly rummaging through some computer files.
Outside, the faint sounds of an ambulance siren augmented as it hurriedly approached the hospital. She didn't look up for an instant, this was routine. Everyday people came in and out, but this person was Brian Littrell.
Within a few seconds of the siren stopping, the ER doors sprawled open with a loud bang, when the doors fell back against the hospital walls. Startled, she glanced up and a blur of paramedics torrented into the heart of the hospital. She shook her head; it was all too familiar.
Outside, Johnny and the others had just pulled into the parking lot of the hospital. Johnny tossed open the door of his car simultaneous to Kevin. "No, Kevin, you can't come inside stay here," he ordered, pushing him back into the car.
"Why?!" he asked, in an outraged manner.
"They'll recognize you," he explained, looking at the worried faces of the rest of the boys.
"Damn," he mumbled, getting back into the car and slamming the door angrily.
"I'll be back!" Johnny called over his shoulder as he ran into the hospital.
Kevin had grimace on his face; sometimes he hated being a Backstreet Boy. Instead, he jumped into the front seat. Rolling down the window, he slid his upper body out the window and sadly watched Johnny run into the hospital.
This time of year the air was thin and cold. When you exhaled, it seemed as if you were smoking. Sometimes, the sudden change in temperature like in Florida was the number one cause of heart attack. That could explain Brian's sudden change of, "pace."
But at the moment, no one thought of climate changes to be the cause. When in rehearsal, Brian would tucker out faster than the rest of them, but they would always insist he do more. Brian knew what he was capable of doing, and they had no right to try and exceed his limits.
The guys sat in the back of the car silently blaming themselves, watching the clouds of breath emerge from Kevin's lips. Howie zipped up his Nautica jacket and blew into his hands. Kevin was steady looking ahead, without word, or without even looking at his face, they knew he was deeply, deeply, worried.
They all wanted to go inside and confirm Brian's condition, but sometimes as a Backstreet Boy, sacrifices had to be made.
A light drizzle begun to fall, just to expand the harsh, cold weather they were already experiencing. Kevin sighed and watched his breath vaporize around his face. The second that cold rain dropped onto his head, he ducked back into the car and swore.
"You ok Kev?" Howie asked sincerely. He grunted in response, staring at the rain, which, at this point was pouring heavily. No one said anything more to him; they sat bundled up in the backseat, glad for the warmth of one another.
"I'm worried," he admitted finally, running his fingers along side the door handle.
Lurching open the door, Kevin swung his leg out and started from the car quickly. Nick grabbed hold of his jacket and pulled him back. "What are you doing? Johnny said we can't leave." Nick reminded him.
Kevin scowled at him. "Look man, that's my cousin in there. I don't care what Johnny said. Now let go, I'm getting wet," he warned, roughly pulling away from Nick's hold. He slammed the door behind him and ran from the car, arms covering his head.
With only the building lights to guide him, he ran blindly toward the hospital, splashing through puddles. The rain was so heavy you couldn't see three feet in front of you, it was like a shield of rain. He barged into the hospital and stamped his feet onto the tile to knock the water from his boots. He then shook off this waterproof jacket and ran his hand quickly through his hair to get the water out, which it tossed off in tiny rivulets.
As if the water itself wasn't icy enough as it slid down his chest and back, the below zero temperature inside made him shiver. Zipping up his jacket halfway, he wiped off his eyes with his hand and looked around for Johnny, but he didn't see him.
"Hey, somebody, I need to speak with a doctor now," he demanded loudly, turning around in the ER.
"Can I help you, sir?" the woman up at the desk asked, peering through the glass shield in front of her. Kevin turned around to see where the voice was coming from.
"Yeah, you seen a team of paramedics rush through here a minute ago?" he asked, advancing toward her in quick pace.
"Yes sir, they are in the operating room-" He pointed down the hall presumptly, in a non-verbal way of asking her if that was the direction they went. "Yes sir, but you can't go in there..." she said when she realized he was already heading down the hall. Quickly, she hurried around her desk and barricaded him from further entrance.
"Why can't I go back there? That's my cousin back there, I wanna know what's up with him," Kevin said annoyed, trying to get around her.
"I'm sorry sir, unless you're a doctor, nurse or authorized personnel, you can't get back there," she explained, gently pushing him back.
"Well, I want to speak with a doctor now."
"Sir-" she protested.
"Now." He said sternly.
"Ok, I'll see if I can get you some help, ok?"
"Look, I don't need no help, I just want you to get me a doctor, Brian, my cousin's name is Brian."
"Ok, sir, but please sit down," she begged, seeming like a small child compared to Kevin towering over her.
"Fine," he grumbled, watching her scurry down the hall.
When he figured she was actually going to retrieve one, he felt a tight grip on his shoulder. "What are you doing here? Didn't I tell you to stay in the car?" It was Johnny. He spun Kevin around to face him. "And I hope the others aren't in here either," he exhorted, looking around for them.
"No, it's just me," Kevin informed mellowly, his boots squeaking as he headed for a seat.
"You're just lucky nobody recognizes you," Johnny lectured, sitting beside him in the black leather seats. Kevin slumped over and covered his face with his hands, rested on knees. "And you're dripping wet, Kevin, I want you back-"
"Look, Johnny," Kevin shouted sternly, looking up at him. He glimpsed around the room to see if anyone had noticed him yelling. The only other person in there was an old man, and he coughed, unconscious of what was happening. Kevin lowered his voice to a steady tone. "Will you stop acting like my manager and act like my friend?" he asked, eyes searching for signs of compassion on his face.
"Look, Kev..., I'm really sorry about this, really I am…"
"Whatever," Kevin said, breaking in his voice, before he resumed his position with his hands under his chin. He sniffed, but not a single tear rolled down his reddened cheeks. Johnny didn't know what to say to him. He didn't want to get into their family affairs, but Kevin was right, he needed a friend. NOT a manager.
He placed a comforting hand on his back, but said nothing. Kevin glanced at him from the corner of his eyes, but his attention was soon brought up to the doctor standing above him.
"Someone here request to see a doctor?" It was a woman's voice. Kevin stood up abruptly.
"Yeah, that's me," he informed, peering down slightly at the 5' 10" miss. "Look, I need to know the condition of my cousin, what's wrong with him?" he started. She held out her hand for him to stop. He became immediately agitated with her actions and narrowed his brows, said, "Look, I don't need any doctor B.S. right now, can you get to the point please?"
She caught him with a firm look, as if to say she wasn't putting up with his bullshit. He realized he shouldn't have been so rude, but when he went to apologize, she spoke. She started harshly at first, but it gradually reduced to a soothing tone, which all but drew away his attention.
She was serious, but gentle, as if understanding his reasons to be upset. "Get it?" she asked. Her brown eyes caught hold of his green, and his body relaxed. As if captivated with the young beauty, he suddenly became calmer. Without removing his gaze, he asked an uncertain question, hoping she hadn't already answered it while he was busy not paying attention.
"What does he have?" he questioned in a pacific tone, noticing her eyes drop to his wet Tee. Feeling a bit bare, at the moment, he crossed his arms to grab hold of his elbows.
She brought back her gaze an answered professionally, " intravascular coagulation."
The brief friendly moment was returned to a more serious atmosphere. Kevin wasn't exactly sure what the hell it meant, but his brows formed a line of trepidated.
"God, is he ok?" he asked, concern easily detectable in his voice. She stared into his wounded eyes-the worst part about being a doctor was to tell the patient's family that they'd be ok when they really weren't. It was only to keep them peace at mind, and not bring any anxiety upon themselves. But it was a boldfaced lie.
Instead of a direct answer, she said, "It's usually cured by anticoagulants, but he has a more…severe case, he needs open heart surgery."
Open heart surgery. Kevin turned away from her, so not to see the tears rising in his eyes. Surgery again? This was the second time, what the fuck was wrong with the doctors? Were they doing something wrong, did the first team that operated on him screw up? Nothing should be wrong with him, nothing.
Johnny looked up at Kevin with his head hung, back turned to the doctor. He stood up and grabbed Kevin, drew him in for a deep hug, and Kevin held onto him like a small child would, feeling secure his father's arms. He patted his back sensitively and assured him that Brian would be ok. Another lie.
"Sorry, miss um…" Johnny started, looking to her for help.
"Dr. St.Clair," she acquainted, feeling sorry for Kevin.
"Dr. St.Clair," he said, speaking to her from around Kevin, " - do you have any idea when he'll be out of surgery?"
She pushed back the sleeve of her medical coat and glanced down at her watch. "I can't give you an exact time, he might be undergoing surgery as we speak… but, you are welcome to stay here if you'd like…"
Kevin's body shook rapidly as he cried quietly on Johnny's shoulder. "I dunno if we can do that," Johnny started, feeling a bit sentimental himself.
Dr. St.Clair looked sadly on at Kevin. Sure she'd been through this before, but every time it seemed different. "You can always come back tomorrow. Just ask for me up at the front desk…and..."
"Ok," Johnny said cutting her off short, but in a friendly manner. "Come on Kevin," he coaxed, pulling his jacket over their heads. Without saying another word, he led Kevin over to the door and departed to his car in the rain, Kevin still holding onto him for support.