CHAPTER EIGHT ~ LOST
‘Lift me higher,
High as heaven can be…’
Brian lie back on his bed, his arms spread out and his eyes closed. He tried to shut out everything that he was feeling and instead imagined that he could feel the light wind gently passing over his skin and the lulling sound of rustling leaves in a forest reaching his ears. Above him was a dark sky, thick like deep velvet and speckled with a light spray of sparkling stars. He was so close that he could almost reach up and touch their warm, welcoming light with his outstretched fingers…
But suddenly the light was cold and he felt it burning his skin as something jolted along his arm and through his body. Something was shrivelling his skin and sucking the life from him, leaving him with only a pale, shadow for a soul.
His eyes snapped open and he gasped. What at first had seemed beautiful and tantalising now had grown into something grotesque and sickening and he was left clinging onto something that had turned out to be nothing.
He was cold. He was scared. He stared above him at the starless ceiling, seeing nothing but grubby white scored with faint cracks. Why was he here? The last thing he remembered was staring about him at a dazzling room where the walls sparkled like a magical rainbow and the light from the moon sent shivering hues rippling along the surfaces, and in his arms had been Karine.
Now they were empty and he felt cold, his heart filled with a sense of loss and loneliness. He tensed and untensed his fingers, longing for Karine to touch him and reassure him of his own well being. He missed her…
But this wasn’t Karine’s forest with blossoming trees and the soft rain with the wind that could tease pale pink petals from their perch and cause a trickling of leaves that would form a soft carpet beneath bare feet.
He was home now. This was where he lived, away from the serenity and pure beauty of nature, and instead surrounded by cold, dull light that made him shudder unpleasantly.
His hands were tightly clenched and he could feel the sweat pasting his fingers to the palms of his hands and perspiration building up beneath his arms. He turned his head and saw the bright beams of the sun trying to push their way through the narrow crack, showing him that something alive lay beyond the dullness he felt about him.
He turned away from the light and closed his eyes again, murmuring Karine’s name over and over again. He did not have to live in this world for much longer. All it would take was two more dreams and then he could hold her forever and never look back at this life ever again.
He was going to die. He was going to be with her. He was going to walk forever below a midnight sky with her hand in his. He wanted that. Maybe they could have their own dear family to love and raise…
But now other faces were flickering into his mind. He could see a loving woman with a smiling face and a proud man, both clearly parents and faces that he should know. Then there were four other faces, the four that he was staying in this house with and suddenly it wasn’t so easy anymore. They were no longer distant as they were in the forest, but agonizingly real. Suddenly he was faced with the prospect of never seeing them again…
Already he could barely remember anything about them and something about that struck a knife carving through the folds of flesh that protected his precious heart. He could recall sitting with them on… what had it been?… a boat. He was on a boat. The water sparkled in the sun and the waves splashed harmlessly against the sides of the boat. There was laughter and excitement as they gazed about them and the wind whipped through their sun bleached hair, spraying them with the salty aroma of fresh seawater.
Nick was beside him, a grin splitting his face cheekily as he reached down to cup a hand full of water before hurling it through the air onto Howie’s head. Each drop of water was reflected by the sunlight and split into a thousand different colours for a brief second before landing upon Howie’s dark hair…
That day had not been dark or depressing or full of thoughts of a pitiful existence. He had been happy. Why did he not have that now? Why could he not remember anything else related to that bright day?
But it still wasn’t simple. He could feel Karine’s soft, dark hair flowing through his fingers and taste her skin as his lips pressed against her neck as they sheltered beneath a tree in the rainfall.
His cheeks were suddenly damp and a tear ran down his face. His heart was beating faster and faster within his breast and as he clung to the image of her, the images of them began to fade into insignificant shadows.
He could not return to his old life if he wanted, too much had happened and too much emotion had ran through his veins, touching every part of him with something so beautiful and warming that it could never be erased or forgotten. He thought of how easy it was in her world. The thoughts of Kevin and the others and even his family would be drawn out of his mind until they were faint, whispers of a ghostly life that he could no longer remember. Under a canopy of leaves and fragrant flowers he could promise her forever with no regrets, but here his mind was divided between longing and love and loyalty and fear of death.
He slowly rose form the bed but he felt sick… weak…
He crossed to the bathroom and splashed cold water onto his face while a haunted reflection of a broken soul watched him with weary eyes. His skin was pale, his eyes dull… barely recognisable.
They were in the kitchen, their voices raised cheerfully in banter and laughter that trickles through the house like a warm wind. Something inside still was pleased at their presence but his mind only told him one thing: strangers.
He felt out of place.
“Hey Brian!” AJ said as he raised his toast and smiled. He suddenly froze and the smile disappeared abruptly from his lips. “What’s up? Are you sick?” His brown eyes burned with concern.
“My God, you’re so pale!” Kevin gasped. “Should you be up even? You look like walking ghost!”
“I’m fine,” Brian replied, but his voice was quiet and trembling as it left his throat.
He could sense eyes piercing into him and turning his head he saw Nick’s blue eyes watching him, an unreadable expression upon his mouth. He looked away from Brian, his face pale and melancholic at Brian’s abandonment of them.
If only he could understand. If only Brian could show him…
‘It’s so difficult…’
“Do you want something to eat? Or drink?” Kevin asked as he rushed to his feet, grabbing a glass and pushing it beneath the tap to fill it with water.
Brian slowly shook his head. He could see anxiety on their faces but he felt so far from it that it was like he was watching ants scurry about on the distant horizon where their life did not matter to him.
“You didn’t eat yesterday,” Nick accused, his blue eyes flashing slightly.
“He’s right. You’ve not been yourself lately. You been acting kinda strange and distant. Like your in another world almost,” Howie said gently.
“I feel a little faint,” Brian confessed. He could feel himself fading from this world. He could feel himself tottering upon the thin border between the mysterious dream world and the reality that was fast dissolving into nothingness. He felt nothing here anymore. He felt no emotions… almost like he was already dead.
“Maybe you should sleep,” Kevin suggested as he shoved a glass of water into Brian’s hand.
“He’s been sleeping too much recently,” Nick commented. “I think he needs a little fresh air.”
Brian glared at Nick, knowing that the blond was determined to keep him away from Karine and everything that Brian wanted. Gone was the laughing Nick form the brief memory that had drifted into his mind and now there was nothing but this cold monster opposite him. Something inside told him they were once close, but that was all gone now. Was it the fault of Karine? Or was it more than that? He didn’t know anything anymore when he was here… the only thing he was sure of was the confusion and disorientation.
“Maybe Nick’s right,” Kevin said. “You have been shut up in your room a lot lately.”
“I’m fine,” Brian whispered as he stared down at the water, watching the ripples upon the surface. “Really I am. I think maybe I do need rest.”
“I think you need a doctor,” Nick said. “We don’t wanna take chances and you look terrible.”
Brian stared at him again, his eyes narrowing. “No,” he said firmly. “No doctor! I’m not crazy!”
“Hey,” Howie interjected. “Who said anything about being crazy? We’re juts worried because you seem a little unwell.”
“Why ate you interrogating me? Can’t you understand?” Brian snapped. “I want to be left alone!”
“Brian!” Kevin cried, alarmed at the sudden temper.
“I’m fine, I’m fine!” Brian screamed. “I’m happy! I’m doing the right thing! I don’t need your lectures!” He suddenly flung the glass down upon the floor, sending a pool of water sliding across the tiles as well a hundreds of fragments of glass that glittered in the sunlight. Brian jumped back, slightly shocked by the sudden violence.
“Bri…?” AJ asked, confused by the outburst.
Brian stared at his hands. Somehow a piece of glass seemed to have bounced up and sliced a tiny cut into his finger. A tiny dribble of blood oozed from the cut.
He gasped as hands suddenly gently clasped his shoulders and found himself gazing into Kevin’s green eyes. He cried out and pushed the hands away. “Get off of me!” he screamed hysterically as he roughly shoved the bigger man away. “Don’t touch me!”
“Brian, what’s gotten into you?” Kevin asked.
“I know what I’m doing!”
Brian was running from the kitchen, sobs burbling in his mouth like the dying gasps of a fish starved of oxygen and flapping uselessly on the hot sands of a foreign shore.
He was almost tripping over as he stumbled up the stairs, choking on his own despair and confusion that he could not seem to grasp or comprehend. He could hear someone chasing him and he desperately rushed along the landing towards the sanctity of his dark room where he could be away from the torment the others awakened within him.
‘Think of Karine. That’s my choice. Think of her…’
He chose her. That was the only thing he was still sure about. The longing and desperate desire he constantly felt when he was not with her.
His hands fumbled for the handle of the door but before he could push it open someone had grabbed him fiercely and pinned him back against the wall with a strength that Brian could not match in his deadened state.
“I’m not gonna let you run away from this Brian!” Nick hissed. “You have to fight this or it will consume you! You need a doctor!”
Brian shook his head, still sobbing and gasping for his breathe. “I need Karine.”
Nick shook his head. “No you don’t!” he said angrily. “She has made you believe that! Look, she’s pulling you apart piece by piece!”
“I’m fine when I’m with her and she didn’t mean to cause all this!” He tried to punch Nick’s arms again, not wanting another argument with him. He managed to unpin himself a little, but Nick flung him back even harder.
“Bullshit Brian! She is a witch! Don’t you get it! A witch! She has trapped you in her candy house of delights and she’s gonna cook you in her oven!” Nick cried, his hands pressing so tightly against Brian’s arms that the fingers had turned purple and the face was pale with rage.
Brian shook his head. “No! he screamed. “No, no, no! You don’t understand1 you don’t know her! She’s good, she’s kind, she’s gentle!” he sobbed. “She loves me!”
“She does not! It’s all an act!”
“How do you know!”
“I know from just looking at you! You’re so confused!”
“I don’t care! I’ve decided that I want her. You don’t get it Nick. I’m in love! Why can’t you let me be happy? I’m sorry I’ll leave you but I’m in love!”
“Leave me?” Nick said, his voice growing quiet in sudden shock. “What do you mean? Brian, what do you mean by that?” His stubby nails pressed into Brian’s wrists as his grip grew firmer.
Brian closed his eyes, a tear falling from his eye. “I’m sorry but I love her. I’m leaving. Two more dreams and I’ll be gone forever,” he whispered. “It’s what I want.”
Nick suddenly released Brian and took a step back in horror. “S – she’s going to kill you isn’t she?”
Brian shook his head, still crying. He held his hands out, begging for Nick to understand. “No Nick it’s not like that,” he tried to explain. It had been his decision.
“She’s going to murder you! How the hell can you let that happen?” Nick whispered, suddenly visibly beginning o tremble as colour drained form his face. “How can you accept that? She can find another way!” He screamed the last sentence hysterically as tears began o flow. “You can’t die!”
Brian shook his head as he wiped his eyes. “I love her,” he finally managed to say.
Nick stared at him aghast. “You’re crazy. How can you believe this? It’s a dream!”
Brian found himself sliding down against the wall until he hit the carpet below. “No it’s not,” he confessed. “It’s more than you can ever imagine.”
Nick shook his head again. “No,” he whispered. “I won’t let her take you away from us! We love you! Your family loves you!”
“But I love her!” Brian wailed. “Do you think it’s been easy for me? Do you think it’s easy to choose? I don’t… I-I…”
“You don’t know what you want!”
“That’s not true!” His gut was churning at the lie that turned his skull inside out as he sought for the correct answer.
“I won’t let her take you!” Nick screamed as he leant down and grabbed Brian by the neck before hauling him to his feet. “I’m fucking not gonna let this happen! This stops right now!”
Brian cried at the brutality of the treatment, tears running from his eyes as he sobbed in fear at what was about to happen. Nick was desperate. He was crying as well as Brian. He didn’t understand. Brian didn’t even understand…
‘God help me…’
“Nick?” a voice cried incredulously from behind them.
Brian saw his dark haired cousin through a veil of tears. He blinked and watched the rage bubble into Kevin’s features, his thick eyebrows furrowing in anger at Nick.
“Nick, what the hell are you doing? He’s ill! Let him go, now!” he commanded.
“You don’t understand Kevin1 he’s dying and he wasn’t going to tell us!” nick snapped.
But Kevin did not listen and physically seized hold of Nick before throwing him hard against the wall. Nick cried out and then crumpled to the floor sobbing and crying in a shivering heap.
“Brian,” he begged.
Brian stared from Nick to Kevin and then back to Nick, knowing that the tears were because of him. Everything was because of him.
He suddenly wrenched his door open and slammed it shut before locking it. He heard Kevin banging on the outside, begging him to come out before he turned his anger upon Nick.
Brian curled himself up onto his bed as he listens to the insults Kevin hurled at Nick, threatening him with violence if he ever touched Brian again.
Confused, lost and alone, Brian could only cry.