CHAPTER TEN ~ AWAKENING
He could feel soft kisses and touches being tenderly placed upon his damp skin by gentle lips, but the pleasantness and beauty were suddenly dissolving and he could no longer feel anything. Brian’s mouth opened and closed in a silent, but screaming and desperate protest.
It was cold and suddenly his limbs were heavy as if they were dead. It was hard to breathe… it seemed to take up too much energy, energy that he no longer possessed. Life was suddenly so very, very tiring… He did not want to feel this way. He wanted the warmth of his dream world with an overhanging bright moon that painted everything in silky light before laughing and playing upon the dancing surface of the pool.
It was all gone now and Brian clung onto the image with his mind, hoping that he could delay his mind’s arrival back into the grim waking world that was so empty without his love. It was all fading too fast though and bliss was being carried further and further away from him.
“Brian? Brian, wake up! Please God wake up!”
The sweet blanket of warm drowsiness was beginning to transform into a sickening, suffocating rug that was squeezing the strength from him. He gasped as the voice cut into him, burning him with fizzles of cold pain that scorched and sliced him. He felt so cold, as if ice had gathered upon his brow and he could not move. The darkness had trapped him.
Then he was drowning and an icy wash was coating his soul in a thick layer of terror as he saw the gaping whirlpool opening up beneath him preparing to suck and pull his mind from reality. He could feel himself slipping away and sliding down a dark, unknown path he had never truly faced the reality of before.
“Brian!” the voice yelled.
He suddenly recognised it and his own voice was finally free. “Nick!” he gasped, choking on the emotions that battled within his throat.
He was rushing to the surface where a filmy, oily darkness tried to prevent him from breaking for air. “Nick!” He heard his own voice, a weak croak crossed with a splutter and a painful cry.
Finally his eyes were open as he pushed away the darkness. He screamed as light painfully and mockingly danced upon his eyes to split them with scorching pain and then arms were safely encasing him. He was shaking and desperately trying to draw his breath while he shivered form the cold that seemed to have lodged within his bones.
“It’s okay,” Nick soothed. “I’m here. Thank God… I thought you were dying…”
Brian weakly clung to Nick, feeling his heart hammering hard in his chest to make him feel nauseous. He felt as if his own body were made of quivering water that would vaporise into steam and nothingness at any moment. If it were not for Nick, he doubted if he would even be able to sit up without falling.
He stared vacantly about the room, scrutinising it curiously as if he had never seen it before. Everything seemed blurred as if it were a fading dream or faint hallucination.
Nick gently drew away from Brian and he saw the red, blurry eyes that dribbled fat tears onto pale cheeks. Nervously Nick ran a trembling hand through his blonde hair and then placed it against Brian’s cheek as if to check to see if he was alive. He pulled the arm away and then embraced Brian tightly again. “Brian, you’re so pale, so cold…” he whispered.
Brian tried to shake himself free of the unpleasant sensations. The transition between dream world and real world was always disorientating, but it had never been painful or frightening before. It were as if he were being thrown from beautiful heaven into the torturous bowels of blazing hell, except that he was freezing.
“Brian, please stop this,” Nick begged. “It’s becoming harder for you to wake. Next time you might not be able to wake up.”
Brian gulped slightly and closed his eyes to take a few, calming deep breaths. It was nothing, he told himself. It was always dull and dreary in his own world now. Soon he would not have to worry though. He thought of Karine and the evening they had shared together. He could still feel the magic that had seemed to flow through his toes when his feet had brushed against the water. He was a part of her world now. The pain and confusion would be over soon. He always felt better with Karine where everything else would melt from his mind. There, there was no worries or uncertainty about what he should do. There, there was only perfection. Here it was not so easy. Karine’s world began o mist over slightly with the haze of reality and the choice was harder, the correct path blurred.
“I’m okay, I’ll be fine,” he replied.
“You don’t sound so sure. You’re voice is shaking,” Nick said while he rubbed Brian’s shoulder.
Brian gently took his hand and moved it away from him. He did not want or need Nick’s concern. He had the decision in his mind. He had chosen Karine and he did not wish to face the confusion of facing his love for his friends. He could still remember Karine’s lips and their whisperings of love for one another. That was what he wanted to choose. He would not let his heart change that.
“It’ll be over soon Nick. I know what I’m doing,” he said softly.
Nick frowned for a moment and then his face paled even more as his eyes widened. He shook his head furiously. “No Brian, no! You can’t live in a dream!”
Brian slowly swung his legs around so that he was seated on the edge of the bed and reached for his jeans and a shirt. “Why not?” he whispered, trying not to think of anything but dressing himself. He had to stop his mind from wandering and dwelling on his choice.
“You-you just can’t!” Nick said flatly.
“Nick, I am leaving. I’m sorry but I am going. I want to be with her.” A beautiful simple life… all that would matter was himself and Karine and their happiness as they kissed beneath the canopy of blossom flowers.
“The witch?” Nick spat. “The witch who wants to murder you?”
Brian found his stomach quivering within him as if death were already reaching out to test its soon to be victim. ‘But I won’t die, I’ll pass into Karine’s world,’ he tried to reassure himself.
Nick folded his arms at the silence. “When?”
“Soon,” Brian said as he stood up and buttoned his shirt. His heart was thumping harder as death’s fingers began to squeeze but he tried to ignore it and focus on other things. He thought of the trees and the flowers and the calm water… he was so close to attaining his dream world now.
“It’s tonight isn’t it?” Nick said urgently. He flung his arms up into the air. “God damn it! I won’t let you go through with it! I won’t let you die for a dream!” Nick yelled desperately.
Brian backed away in shock at the outburst, cringing like a frightened, wild animal. “It’s real,” he whispered, ignoring the tremble of his words.
“How do you know?” Nick contradicted. “How do you know? For all you know, it could be just a dream… something conjured up by your imagination. You don’t know what’s going to happen!”
He felt cold again and his body was beginning to twist and writhe in confused fear. He tried to think of Karine but suddenly he could no longer draw her into his mind. All he could see was death watching him… all he was aware of was the strange man before him. The man his heart screamed at him was his loyal, close friend.
He did not want to think about it…
“I’ve made my choice…” his voice was wobbling again and he felt no certainty anymore. He gulped as his rapid heart beat sent sickening shudders throughout him. “I need walk.” Rapidly he crossed to the door.
“Brian!” Nick hissed as he followed him.
“Nick, leave me alone!” Brian snapped harshly. “You’re making it worse!” Nick and hi feelings for his friends were confusing him…
“I’m not dropping this!” Nick grabbed his arm, just as AJ walked out of the bathroom.
There was another tweak within Brian’s heart as something deep inside cried at the loss of his friends. He felt no connection to them… there was something with Nick because he had spent a lot of time with him but only something small. With the others, it was like looking at strangers, but something kept screaming at him that it was all wrong…
AJ frowned and his eyes narrowed. “Nick, I thought Kevin told you to leave Brian alone! Kevin almost pummelled you yesterday!”
“He’s got it wrong! Brian’s sick and I want to help!” Nick protested.
“I want to talk a walk,” Brian declared. He pushed Nick’s hand away. If he stayed… it would hurt too much… He wouldn’t be able to go through with tonight if he stayed with them now where their faces could pull at his mind and make him sob and cry for something lost and loved.
AJ turned to him. “Nick’s right you do look pale, but maybe the air will do you some good.”
Brian nodded and removed Nick’s arm from his shoulder to continue down the stairs. He needed to walk and stay away from them.
“I’ll come,” nick said and Brian inwardly screamed as he heard him beginning to follow.
“You’ve done enough!” AJ hissed. “You stalking him is not helping you sort this problem out! He needs time!”
Brian quickly stepped down as fast as is weakened muscles would allow him, leaving AJ and Nick to their whispered argument. Nick wouldn’t tell AJ and even if he did he wouldn’t believe it. He ignored Howie and Kevin’s calls for breakfast and instead pulled open the front door, closing his eyes as the wind blew against him
In the air it felt much better and cleaner. He felt free as the wind whipped his hair and pulled teasingly at his clothes. He began to walk along the beach path for a few minutes and then glanced up towards the house to check that Nick was not following him before setting off his own quiet walk.
The sun was shielded between the grey clouds which hinted at a little light rain to come and moisten the hard, baked sand. The wind was cool but the ground beneath his toes was warm and comforting. Tentatively he avoided the sharp stones as he walked but soon found that they did not hurt that much when he did step onto them. It was strange… he could feel the rocks tearing and ripping at the skin of his bare feet to leave them red and blood smeared, but he felt nothing. There was no pain. It was almost as if nothing could harm him. It did not matter what the world flung at him because he was invincible. He was more a part of Karine’s world than this one. This was like a misty dream.
Waves crashed and toiled upon the surface of the sea in an almost hypnotic motion, nothing like the calm surface of the pool in the grove where he would spend every evening indulged in loving with Karine. He wandered if there were beaches or seas in her world, it would be nice to swim with her in the sea.
He came to a small cluster of rocks that stretched out and overlooked the sea that eagerly tried to crash and drown them in waves of foamy saltiness. He stopped for a moment and cats his eyes out to sea. He could still remember being on that little boat as it rode over the waves with the others laughing and smiling about him.
And suddenly he was sad.
“Guys…” he whispered. He stared at the water, watching the faint light flickering from the surface. He closed his eyes as he felt a burning longing in his heart for them again. He missed them. It felt as if he were a thousand miles away, as if his mind were not even a part of the world they shared anymore.
He slowly sat down upon the sand and scooped up some of the brown grains into his hands before slowly watching as they seeped through his fingertips. He could feel his memories of this world doing the same thing… He knew it was happening. He knew something was different.
He sighed as he closed his eyes and tilted his head back to face the cloudy sky he knew towered above him. He could feel his beating heart in his chest telling him he cared about them, but there was no evidence in his mind to support that, only this strange, far away memory of the boat.
He turned his thoughts back to a shady forest where the moonlight filtered through the leaves to cast speckled shadows upon the dew dropped grass and then he could see her dark eyes watching him and a teasing smile wandering across her red lips. He was sighing at the thought of her and his eyes opened, suddenly wide and bright. His heart was almost leaping out of his chest at thoughts of her. His body was tingling of the mere thought of her…
His stared back towards the beach house, even though it was not visible with him seated upon the sands. They cared about him and they did not understand because they had never met Karine. He knew it looked bad from their point of view but why could they not respect him and his own happiness? He could make his own decisions.
“I’m sorry guys,” he whispered.
He slowly stood up and stretched his arms. He could smell the wet salt of the sea and feel the wind almost lifting him off his feet with light airiness. He stared up at the clouds and saw a single sunbeam trying to slide through the thick greyness. This was his last day here, he realised. He would never walk this life again after tonight.
He trembled at the thought and something dark sent a cold shudder through his spine. He knew he wanted this but he could not help but fear it. He thought of Karine and smiled at her image to banish all uneasiness. He would be in her arms again soon and this time it would be more than for one night at a time. He would be able to see her as the sun danced through the silk of her hair and brought out the dazzling brightness of her eyes.
He began to clamber up onto the rugged rocks, not caring when his foot sipped and spilt blood onto it. Pain did not matter when his mind was so elevated by happiness. He was no longer a part of this world. His love for Karine protected him against the sensations of pain.
He pulled himself up onto the jagged point which stood a few metres above the surface of the sea. He smiled as the wind caught him in its zephyr grasp even more and the waves crashed against the sides to send huge sprays of water flying up into the air. He carefully stepped forward, feeling the slimy wetness of the rocks beneath his feet. He could see the sea even more clearly from this slightly higher location. He saw the white capped waves playing before him while the sun fought to pierce the clouds and illuminate their watery display.
He tilted his head slightly. In a strange way he felt that it was beautiful, not like the peaceful and colourful prettiness of Karine’s forest, but in some other way. This was his world. This was where he lived…
But he knew that he belonged with Karine.
“I’m gonna miss this,” he murmured to himself.
He peered over the very edge at the deep water below and suddenly he felt the most overwhelming desire to leap in amongst the waves and join them in their antics.
“Hey Brian, catch!”
A splash of water was suddenly hurled at his face and he laughed as he felt the coolness soaking his hair and dribbling out down his face.
“AJ, I’ll get you back for that!” he called as he began to swim towards his friend.
Another spurt of water was hitting him and he turned to see a laughing blonde haired face grinning at him before he stuck his tongue out.
“Nick!” he cried.
He gasped slightly and then took a step away from the edge. He remembered… he remembered swimming out into the sea with the others. The sun had been sparkling upon the rippling water and he had felt the smoothness of the water massaging his skin under the heat of the summer day. He remembered being happy… why was it so far away now? The only placed he seemed to fit was with Karine, but he knew he had once been perfectly content here with the others. So strange…
Another memory was floating along the surface of his mind… he was holding Karine beneath a midnight sky. Looking up he could see the prickles of starlight shimmering on the carpet of eternal and beautiful darkness. There was water beneath his feet while a lightness filled his heart. Her breath was against his neck and he could hear her murmuring her love for him.
There was no choice. He knew what he wanted more than anything. He wanted to hear her voice again. His stomach crumpled with weakness when he thought of never seeing her. He smiled at the memory of Nick and the others and vowed to remember it when he passed over. He would remember them and think of them… but he could never be with them after tonight. He wanted Karine and love. He knew it was wrong to cast his friends away but this was something special…
He looked down at the water, his head feeling clear for the first time since waking up. He wanted to swim again in the sea once more. He wanted to swim in the water of the real world before he never saw it again. He stepped closer to the edge and then raised his arms and closed his eyes and prepared to jump.
He heard the scream, but he was already leaping through the air and then he was surrounded by the cool smoothness of water. He opened his eyes to be met by a blue blur and then he was bursting above to the surface in a flailing ecstasy of water droplets. He smiled to himself, loving the feeling of the water on his body… but suddenly he was being grasped in fearsome arms and he gasped in pain as someone seized his neck with powerful arms. He was being dragged through the water and he flung his arms out in fear as he cried out above the splashing of the waves.
His legs were suddenly trailing against the wet ground as the water became shallower and then finally he was released and he fell to his hands and knees gasping in pain. He raised his head and then found hands gripping his shoulders as he was forcefully shook.
“What were you doing?” an angry voice screamed. “Were you trying to commit suicide?”
Brian angrily pushed the arms away and dragged himself out of the water to the sand. He ran a hand through his dripping hair and wiped his eyes before swinging around to confront the one who had ruined his swim. Nick.
He rolled his eyes and shook his head. Nick did not understand. “I was swimming, Nick,” he said flatly. It had been his last chance to swim in the sea and try to regain some more memories of the others to take with him into Karine’s world and Nick had spoilt everything.
“You could have drowned!” Nick cried. “Those waves are strong!”
“And I am a good swimmer!” Brian replied as he stood p to try and brush some of the irritating wet sand from his arms. “What’s the big deal?” he snapped.
“You should never come out swimming alone!” Nick stepped forward and seized Brian’s arms again. “Never! Anything could happen! Stop trying to kill yourself!”
“I’m not going to kill myself! I just wanted to swim!” If he died then he would never see Karine again. He had to die when he fell asleep and he had to be secure of what he wanted. He was ready for that. He knew he wanted the beauty and love. He couldn’t have either if he tried to drown himself.
“You’re crazy,” Nick muttered.
Brian’s head shot up and his eyes narrowed in fury. “I am not crazy! I am not nuts! My dreams are real, you just don’t understand it! You only see what you want to see!”
“I am seeing you fade away from me!” Nick screamed. “You think I want to lose you?”
“I am sick of arguing with you Nick!” Brian cried. Every day this was happening and he was tired of the screams. By yelling, nick only pushed Brian further and further away. What had happened to the laughing man in the water who had so childishly flung water at him? He unclenched Nick’s hand and turned away from him.
“Why won’t you wake up from your dream Brian? Why can’t you see what’s happening to you?”
Brian stopped but refused to turn again. “I know what’s happening and I want it to happen.” He sighed and then spun around to meet Nick’s gaze. “I love her, I want to be with her. Wouldn’t you do anything for the person you loved?”
“Not if it destroyed me.”
Nick did not understand the completeness he felt when Karine was with him. She did not destroy him, she made him see who he really was. She made him see that he did not have to be a Backstreet Boy to be loved. “She’s not destroying me.”
“Isn’t she? She’s going to kill you!”
“I won’t let you twist this into something it isn’t.” Brian turned away and began to walk down the beach. “I’m leaving Nick. I love her and I’ve made my choice. I’m sorry, but this is how I want it to be. This is my last day with you guys. It would be nice if you did not shout at me.”
The words became louder as he strode away, until they could only be carried to Nick via the cold wind.
It was quite a long walk back to the beach house and Brian was surprised at how far he had come. He turned to stare behind him several times but he could not see Nick anywhere. If only Brian could show him Karine then he knew that he would finally see why Brian had made his choice.
“Where have you been?” Kevin asked.
His cousin was waiting for him on the porch of the beach house when Brian finally returned, still wet from the water and now beginning to shiver a little as his body temperature dropped. “Swimming,” Brian replied simply.
“Are you crazy?” Kevin thundered. “You’re sick and you shouldn’t be in the water! You better come inside.”
Brian had no choice as he was dragged inside. He watched Kevin fluster as he searched for a towel but although Brian shivered he did not feel very cold. He had felt icy all day and now was no different.
“You really are pale,” Kevin said as he wrapped a towel about Brian’s shoulders.
“I’m better now,” Brian murmured. He was clear about what he was doing.
“You sure? You still seem kinda vacant and there’s this far away look in your eyes. It’s weird… Like you’re in some other world almost.”
Kevin had no idea how right he was.
Brian smiled uncontrollably as Karine entered his mind. He glanced at the clock and watched the hands crawling slowly around the face. Soon he would be walking with her barefoot in the forest again. His breathing was becoming quicker in anticipation. He had already decided what he was going to do… take her beneath the petals that danced form the blossom trees as they fell and then she would be his as he proposed to her and sealed their love for eternity.
“Brian, are you listening to me?” Kevin asked.
Brian tuned himself back into reality and smiled again. “I’m fine. I’m happy.”
Kevin frowned at the cryptic response. “You really have been a little odd lately. I really hope you and Nick can sort out what’s happened between you, but I swear if I catch him hurting you again… and you make sure you tell me if he tries anything. He had no right to get that angry with you. What were you fighting about?”
Brian waved it aside. “Just stuff. He won’t respect my choices.”
Kevin sighed. “Well tell him where to shove it. Wait there, I’ll get you a hot drink.”
Brian slowly watched him go. All his movements felt slow as if he were performing them in thick syrup or mud. His dreams used to feel like this… you can never move quickly in a dream or even speak very loudly. It seemed like that now. Everything was quiet.
For a moment he knew he had returned to the world upon the beach but now he was enchanted by his love again. He had returned to this world to make a competent decision and now it was made he was rapidly drifting away again. The colours were runny and watery and nothing felt real anymore…
“Hey Brian, are you feeling better?” a voice asked.
Brian turned his head and nodded as he saw Howie standing by the door. He smiled again. He smiled a lot at the moment, trying to show everyone that what he was about to do was right.
“Good, but you still don’t look too well. Why are you all wet?”
Brian looked down at his clothes and tried to laugh, but form the look on Howie’s face he knew that it was rather strained. “Me and nick just messing.”
“You two made up now?”
Brian shrugged. “I don’t care.” Nick was determined to ruin Brian’s happiness. He wanted to shatter Brian’s love and wipe Karine from his memory. At least Karine was sorry he was losing his friends. Nick wasn’t sorry that Brian would lose Karine if he stayed here.
“Don’t say that!” Howie chided. “He’s your best friend and he thinks the world of you! He would do anything for you!”
It did not feel like it.
“Remember that time he helped you when your ex girlfriend left you?”
Brian furrowed his brow and tried to draw the memory from his jumbled mind, but it seemed to be lodged in somewhere where he could not reach it. He lowered his head, wanting to find some recollection of that event… but it was not there.
Howie suddenly reached out and patted him on the shoulder. “You two will get through this.” He stood up. “I’m going out for a while, you need anything?”
Brian slowly shook his head. He was trembling. He could no longer see his life and suddenly he could see how clearly it was all fading away.
“You take care of yourself. I’ll see you later.”
“Bye,” Brian murmured. He gulped slightly and raised his head to watch Howie go. He stared across at the clock and noticed how little time he had left on this world. “Karine,” he whispered.
He wanted her. He wanted to be with her… but suddenly he was not so sure he wanted to leave.
He thought of the salt water of the sea as it gleefully met his body and the light feeling of weightlessness that had covered him. That was all real, that had not felt like a strange dream he was trapped within.
A mug of steaming liquid was suddenly placed before him. Brian reached out and took it, feeling the warmth soaking into his hands. He sighed and then held the cup to his face, inhaling the delicious aroma. “Thank you Kevin.”
“It’s okay,” Kevin replied. “I just hope it brings some life back to you.”
Brian turned his head to catch himself in the mirror and stared aghast as a ghost stared back at him. His eyes were sunken into his head amid dark circles and his cheeks were pale and waxy like the dead. His eyes were dull and grey… and it was because he was dying.
He was dying.
He stared back at Kevin, his eyes wide to see his cousin clearly. He would never see Kevin again. Kevin was family… What about his family.?
‘What about Karine?’
Last minute fear was closing in as he heard the clock striking the house, like the grim roll of the death drums. He suddenly stood up, the cup of hot chocolate falling from his hands to stain the plush pink carpet below his sore feet, suddenly aching with pain after having cut them on the rocks.
“Brian? Brian, what’s wrong?” Kevin crossed to him in concern. “What happened to your feet?”
Brian stared at him and then began to back away. He had to escape… His heart was screaming at him. Why was his mind so distant from Kevin’s? Why was he so apart from his family?
He was going to die…
He would not let fear snatch her away. He’d made his choice… He would not let it be changed. He knew what happiness awaited him. He was always confused when he was awake, this time was no different…
He whirled around and began to run as fast as his cut and damaged feet would allow him. He was gasping in deep, heavy breaths as he tripped up the stairs, ignoring Kevin’s calls from behind.
He slammed the door to his room shut and slid the bolt across before pressing his back to the wood.
“Brian!” Kevin called. “Brian! What’s wrong?”
He covered his face in his hands and found tears there. He stared at them on his hands as if they were drop of his own blood… they were drops of his soul, his soul that was leaking away…
His time in this world was drawing to a close. He was weak, he was tired, he wanted to sleep… but he did not know if he was ready to die. He thought he had been before Nick and the others became involved.
The warm tears continued to fall and slowly he slid down the door until he was miserably sitting upon the carpeted floor. He clasped his hands in his lap and leaned his head back, ignoring the sound of Kevin’s hands as they furiously banged against the door.
He pulled the towel about him and wrapped himself within it. He had felt cold all day and now it was becoming worse. He felt weaker than ever as he cried silently to himself.
“What do I do? What do I do?” he whispered desperately.
This morning when he had woken up it had been clear as the water he had walked upon. He had still felt Karine’s touches and gentle kisses and the sanctity of the that world. It always changed here in this chaotic place. There was one thing he knew though… he loved her. He was meant for her. No one had ever had him breathing so fast. No one had ever made him live for them. She was heaven.
But that world seemed far away now and uncertainty and fear were crawling about him in anticipation.
And then there was the guys and his mixed feelings for them.
‘What do I do?”
He stared up at the ceiling and ignored Kevin’s cries and his urgent conversation with AJ while he asked what was wrong. He wanted to shut out their voices. He covered his ears and pretended that everything was going to be okay. He pretended that when he fell asleep, he would be able to have both his friends and Karine.
“What’s going on?”
He recognised Nick’s voice and he stifled a cry as his hand flew to his mouth. All of Nick’s words were rushing about him and then there was the memory of them playing in the sparkling water waves while they laughed.
“Let me talk to him alone. I know what’s wrong.”
“No go away,” Brian whispered to himself. He crawled away from the door, as if the wood were not enough to separate them. He stayed by the wall, not wanting to seek refuge in his bed like he normally did. He knew that the next time he lie down there, he would die.
“Brian, talk to me,” Nick begged.
Brian shook his head furiously and wrapped his arms about his knees. “Karine, Karine Karine,” he whispered over and over again. He thought of her dark hair, her skin and her lips…
He smiled and for a moment his tears were blessed with brief happiness at the thoughts of her sweet soul. He imagined that there was no choice anymore and nothing difficult about leaving his life behind. He pretended that Nick did not exist…
“Brian… please…” Nick was crying. He was sobbing.
Brian bit his lip to stop himself from crying himself and forcefully he pushed away the urge to open the door and fall into Nick’s welcoming arms. He glanced at the time, but that did not matter. He knew that he could sleep now and forget about this life.
It had to be done now before he cracked under everything he was feeling and fell and lost Karine forever.
He gave a slight sob as he clambered to his feet. This was his destiny… It ahd to be. He wanted this hard life to be over. He didn’t know how to choose so the only thing to do was to keep the door locked and fall asleep before he could break down. He wanted to be with Karine, but the final step scared him.
He remembered holding her hands in his as they stood inside the crystal cave with the light shimmering rainbows on every surface. He remembered kissing her and teasing her as they lie beneath the canopy.
Trembling Brian slowly made his way towards the bed… suddenly it was no longer as inviting as it had been every other night. Suddenly it seemed to be made with black cloth that was used at funerals. He remembered seeing such a cloth at a relative’s funeral. Pale faced and teary eyed he had watched the cloak of death fold down.
He opened his eyes, suddenly realising that they had been closed and took a deep breath, feeling the air soar to his aching lungs. There was no turning back.
He slowly lie down and pulled the blanket over his body, his head resting lightly against the pillow. It was cold and no matter how hard he held the covers to him his skin still seemed to feel like ice. He shivered as he felt his body beginning to relax. He was so tired… sleep seemed so welcoming… but yet so frightening.
But now the pain was vanishing and he felt something incredibly warm and soothing washing over him.
He could hear her voice calling to him and almost feel the wind. It had never felt this real before… it felt as if the wind were in the room with him and now he was beginning to hear the gentle murmur of the stream. This choice was no longer scary for his soul. He was now more aware than ever what he was giving his life for…
“Karine,” he murmured with a smile resting on his lips.
“Brian!” a voice suddenly screamed. There was a loud banging as Nick hammered on the door, threatening to jolt him from his pleasant trance. He did not want that anymore though. He had been afraid all day of this moment, never quite sure if he was prepared but now he knew he was. He could feel his heart burning with love and excitement and everything about him was beginning to fade and drain away.
He opened his eyes and suddenly he could see her bending over him, tears bubbling in her eyes in joy.
“I didn’t think you were coming,” she whispered.
Brian said nothing and only reached out to take her face and draw her lips to his own in a sweet loving kiss. “I love you,” he whispered.
She smiled, her tears falling onto his face. “I love you,” she murmured.
The scream came from somewhere else and then he heard a terrible crashing noise. Suddenly Karine and the forest were gone as he was yanked back into the waking world by the atrocious noise about him.
Startled and afraid he cried out as hands grabbed him and began to shake him. “Brian, wake up!” Nick screamed. “Don’t do this! Don’t do this!”
Brian felt sick and dizzy and he everything was out of focus. He tried to reply but his lips would barely move. He was so cold…
Suddenly everything swung back into view and he could see Nick’s blue eyes crying above him as his friend clasped his hands and pulled him into his arms. Brian began to sob at the sight of those eyes and tremble. He had almost drifted into Karine’s world completely where he would have been away from Nick.
“You’re so cold,” Nick whispered as he held him close. “Stay with me. It’s okay… don’t cry.”
Brian clung to Nick dearly for a moment but he felt sick and numb. He loved Nick as his friend but…
“Karine!” he sobbed suddenly.
It was gone and he was surrounded by fear and confusion again. He could no longer hear Karine or feel the forest growing about him. It was all gone. He choked and felt his heart and stomach trying to violently wrench themselves from his body in nausea as he realised that her love was gone.
“No… I want to sleep,” he whispered, trying to throw Nick’s arms off of him in vain. “Please…”
“Brian… no. You want to live, I know you do…”
“I-I-I…” he stammered crazily. “I… don’t… know…”
He had been living in two realities for days now and it had always given him too contrasting points of life. He could make a decision in one but never make the same choice in the other. He had just managed to reconcile his fears. He had been prepared to die in that moment he had been wrapped in soft drowsiness but there was nothing peaceful now.
He grabbed Nick close and rested his head on his shoulder like a baby while he was rocked. “Nick… I love her!” he wailed.
There was too much pain flowing through his body, every part of him was burning as needles cramped his organs to send torturous turmoil screaming around his veins. He remembered her touch and he seized hold of Nick even tighter. She was gone…
He was screaming… he could hear his own voice wailing in misery but still he clung to Nick… no longer knowing who he was crying for.