He heard the voice calling to him, but it seemed to echo as if emanating from far away. It penetrated his thick cocoon of tranquil darkness and lodged itself within his mind. The voice was familiar to him.
He felt himself being pulled away from the blanket of blackness and he was aware that there was another world on the other side of his tightly closed eyelids.
"Come on, Brian. Wake up," the voice persisted.
Slowly he began to open his eyes, but he felt so sleepy. An invisible force seemed to be trying to push them closed again and prevent him from seeing where he was.
He winced as a whirl of bright whiteness shone on his face and his eyes flickered closed again.
"Brian, can you hear me?"
Yes, he could hear the voice but he preferred this velvety night which he slept within. It wrapped him in a safe, soft layer of slumber that protected him from the harsh light that dazzled him so.
Another colour suddenly flashed into his mind. Red. Blood red. Blood covering a white floor.
Blood. Blood stuck to his hands…
The blood. The blood that had covered his hands… the blood from the man he had murdered.
Suddenly the darkness was not so pleasant and protective. It was full of images of his attacker and voices seemed to echo and chant within his mind.
'Murderer, murderer! Brian is a murderer!'
He gasped slightly and forced his eyes to open and drag him back into the world of light and away from the dark guilt.
His eyes stung from the light, but he kept them open as his mind took in the white, hospital walls that surrounded him. He turned his head and noticed the dark haired man seated beside him, his green eyes staring down at him in relief.
"K - Kevin?" Brian murmured, smiling at the sight of his cousin.
For a moment, everything felt right. Kevin was here to fix things for him. Kevin would know what to do. Kevin could help him to persuade everyone that it had only been an accident.
Kevin returned the smile. "Glad to see you awake, Brian. You scared the hell out of all of us."
Brian allowed his eyes to drift about the rest of the small, hospital ward. A hospital? Why didn't he remember coming here?
Maybe everything had been a horrendous nightmare induced by his weary mind… he couldn't be a killer.
"I'm gonna get the others," Kevin said, beginning to stand.
"No!" Brian weakly stretched his hand out to Kevin. He did not want the others just yet. He did not want Kevin to leave him alone with nothing but his blood filled thoughts. "Don't leave me."
Kevin nodded and slowly sat back down. He tilted his head and sighed at him. "Brian, what happened to you?" he asked. "I was so worried when I found you unconscious."
"U - unconscious?" Brian felt his entire body freeze. He remembered feeling weak as his own blood escaped from the knife wounds that had covered his arm, had he passed out? But that would mean that everything was real, but it couldn't be, Brian didn't want it to be real…
'Please be a dream. I want a normal life. I don't want to be a murderer!'
"When I arrived at your house, you were lying on the floor bleeding! There was blood all over the floor!"
Blood. That one word sent an icy chill quivering through his skin. It hadn't been a dream. As nightmarish as it seemed, it was all sickeningly real.
"I was lucky I got there in time. You almost bled to death. The doctors had to fight to save you. What happened? They said it looked like you'd been stabbed…"
Brian could hardly breathe. His chest felt tight as if it were being crushed and there was a lump of sickness attempting to push it's lumpy way up his throat. He gulped and swallowed hard.
"Brian, what's wrong?"
Brian turned to stare at Kevin but all of a sudden his face was not so comforting, but a sharp reminder of what he would lose. Kevin wouldn't want to know him once he found out about what had happened.
Brian realised that his eyes were growing wet as fat tears attempted to trickle onto his face and release the grief that they carried.
"I want this to be a dream. Tell me it's a dream, Kev," Brian pleaded, his voice sounding weak and frail.
"Brian, it's over now. You're going to be okay," Kevin said, placing a hand upon Brian's.
Brian slowly rolled his eyes down to the hand. His hand was the hand of a murderer. He jumped and jerked his fingers away from Kevin's as if he were contagious. Kevin should touch someone like him. Someone whose hands had been covered in the blood of another.
"Brian?" Kevin asked, puzzled by his reaction.
"Don't touch me," Brian snapped. Kevin should not be touching someone like him. He was tainted. He was a killer.
"Brian, what happened to you? What's the matter?"
Brian did not reply as he struggled to sit up on the uncomfortable bed. He stared down at his arms, remembering the knife wounds that had scored them and noticed that they were now covered in bandages. He touched one of them curiously, as if trying to distract his mind from the memories.
"Brian, talk to me!" Kevin said, grabbing his arm. "We've been so worried about you!"
"I don't want to talk about it," Brian snapped, trying to pull his arm sharply away from Kevin.
"All right, all right. I understand." He released Brian and placed his hands on his lap before staring at Brian's face. "We're all just so worried and the police want to talk to you about the attack."
Police? His heart tried to submerge itself within his chest to hide away from the word that drove stabs of fear driving into its chambers.
Police… they would send him to jail…
His hands grasped the edge of the bed and his breathing became harder as the same bloody image crept through his mind, taunting him with the awful action he had taken. Now he was going to pay for it.
His eyes flickered closed as he remembered the gurgling moan that had burbled from the man's lips as Brian's knife plunged straight into his heart.
"Brian?" Kevin said, trying to shake Brian out of his trance.
"I didn't mean for it to happen," Brian found himself saying quickly, the words rushing to escape from his mouth.
"What to happen?" Kevin pressed gently.
He could hear ragged gasps that sounded as if a soul were fighting for life. He could feel his chest heaving sickeningly with each breath his body took and his heartbeat was loud in his ears getting faster with each second.
He hadn't meant for it to happen…
The sob caught him unaware as it bubbled up through his mouth and then he felt the tears trickling slowly down his cheeks.
"Brian, come here." Kevin wrapped his arms about him and Brian did not resist the strong embrace. He rested his head against Kevin's shoulder as another sob sent shudders through his body.
"Kev, make it better!" Brian begged. Please make everything better!"
"Shush," Kevin soothed, holding him comfortingly. "It's gonna be all right. Don't worry."
Another sob came from his mouth and more tears soaked into Kevin's jersey as Brian cried his tears onto his shoulder.
"No. No, it's never gonna be all right!" Brian sobbed desperately. "Kevin, I murdered someone! I murdered someone!"
"What do you mean?" Kevin asked and Brian felt his cousin tense slightly.
"The man who attacked me! I killed him!"
Kevin sighed. "Brian, you're mistaken! You haven't killed anybody! You were just delirious from the blood loss!"
"No! He was dead on the floor!" Brian pulled away from the embrace. He had to tell someone. He had to release the guilt that was eating away at his mind.
"There was no body. You haven't killed anybody! There was just you and the blood," Kevin said, staring into his eyes, but Brian could see a flicker of doubt in his cousin. Kevin suspected but he did not want to believe it. Brian didn't want to believe it either but there was no mistake…
"But it wasn't my blood!" Brian replied. "I murdered him, I know I did! I saw his dead eyes staring at me as I held the knife in my hands that was still covered in his blood! I murdered him!"