Brian felt sick. All around him there was a suffocating blackness. He could feel the soreness of his head. For a moment, a brief spasm of fear filled him. Was he still in the water?
He gasped slightly as he remembered those icy splashes of salty water burning his skin… But he wasn’t in the water anymore. He was in this new place. Safe.
His head still hurt a little and his throat was sore, but he felt better. He was lying on something soft. The warmth enveloped him and protected him from the cruelties of the waking world. He allowed his mind to drift. He had room for dreams again now that he was not on the verge of death anymore. Or was he dead? Was this the afterlife? No, it couldn’t be. Not with his head still complaining.
He tried to move an arm. It felt heavy. He felt tired. He didn’t want to move. He twitched his fingers slightly and then felt a light pressure as another hand was placed atop of his fingers. The hand was warm so Brian let it remain there. He knew he was not alone in this dark world.
He lay there for a short while, listening to his own natural breathing, he could feel the comforting rhythm as his heart beat away in his chest. How far away he was from that exhausting time in the sea now… But the memories were faint now. He only remembered them as fuzzy pictures. The emotions, however, lingered in his mind a little longer. The fear was still inside of him. Was he truly safe here? He wondered if he would ever feel completely safe anywhere again.
A sudden vision invaded his mind. Dark eyes filled with a cold hatred. A steel blade only centimetres from his throat. He winced slightly. Then he was beneath the waves. The coldness filled his entire body making him shiver all over. It hurt to breathe. There was no air. He began to take deeper breaths but still his lungs were not relieved. There was no air. Only the water that ran down his throat…
He felt his body beginning to choke. He wanted the water out of his body, he wanted to breathe again…
He wasn’t in the water. He knew he wasn’t in the water but he still could not breathe. He choked and coughed horribly. He heard his own moans of fear as they escaped his terrified lips. He could not open his eyes. He could not wake up.
A hand was pressed against his forehead. Pete? Was he here to torture him even more? He squealed and tried to wriggle away. His heart was racing in his chest. The sound of it hammering so fast and hard made him feel sick. Was he dying?
“Brian!” The voice was anxious, scared.
He knew that voice. He recognised it and loved it. He wanted to wake up and be in the world where that hand was. There would be no icy water there to torment him.
There was a loud buzzing noise that filled his ears. An alarm? He had to get out, he had to get away from here…
He was still coughing and fighting for breath. His hand was being squeezed.
“Brian, wake up! Come on, Baby Duck! I’m here!” the voice was sobbing now.
He wanted to reach it. He tightened his fingers about the hand and tried to pull his mind from the awful reality it had locked itself in.
Then there was footsteps and loud voices. The hand was wrenched from his own and he cried out in fear.
‘Don’t leave me! Please, don’t leave me alone here! Mommy, I’m scared!’
He felt a mask placed over his mouth. His eyes opened and he looked about in terror as nameless faces peered down at him and held the horrible thing over his mouth. He gulped and felt the air rush into him.
“You’re okay, Brian. Just breathe.”
He received the air the mask gave him and closed his eyes again. Sleepiness began to wash over him again. He didn’t want to sleep, he wanted to wake up. he had to wake up. then the face came to him… Sammy. He had a baby to look after.
‘Don’t let me fall back to sleep! Let me wake up! He needs me! I’m scared I won’t wake up again! Let me see my baby! Don’t put me to sleep!’
But no one heard his silent pleas.
Sammy felt a little better as he wiped the dry, sticky sleep from his eyes. He sniffled slightly and pulled the blanket close to him. His throat hurt whenever he was cold. He lay back down and then realised who was beside him.
“N – Nick?” he asked.
“It’s me.” He replied. “AJ and Howie are here too.”
Sammy smiled and then it faded. “Where’s Daddy?”
“He’s sleeping. He needs rest like you do. His mom’s with him.”
“Did the opo… opie…”
“Operation?” Nick said. “He had it and he’s going to be just fine.”
“Good,” Sammy replied sleepily.
Brian was safe. That was all that mattered. He smiled to himself. Soon, he would be home again. Now he had a family that loved him.
AJ patted him on the head. “How you feeling?”
“Sleepy,” Sammy replied.
“Yeah, you’ve been through a lot, huh?” AJ said. “You’re a brave boy though aren’t you? Brian’s so proud of you.”
Sammy smiled again. He hoped Brian was proud of him. That was what he wanted. Brian… his daddy. He missed him.
“Can I see daddy?”
“You’ll see him soon,” AJ replied after a moment or two.
“Can we go home soon?”
Nick pulled the blanket around him. “Just go to sleep, hey?”
Sammy nodded and snuggled back into the pillow. He gave a small yawn and then allowed his eyes to close.
Nick waited for a few minutes until he was certain Sammy was fast asleep. He turned to AJ. “Coward,” he said.
“Me? You could have told him! Why do I have to?” AJ replied.
Nick had tears in his eyes. “How are we supposed to tell him?”
“Wait until he’s better,” Howie suggested. “Then we can tell him the whole story. Maybe he’ll understand.”
“He’s five years old, Howie! How’s he supposed to understand!” Nick snapped.
“Shush, Nick!” AJ warned. “Do you want to wake him?”
Nick looked at the sleeping child. He looked like a little angel with his blond hair and he looked so happy…
Did he have any idea that his world was about to shatter again?