Word Count: 1,090
Cancer’s fist came flying at my face, sending a bolt of pain through my jaw. Everything was fuzzy and disorientating for a second and I stumbled back several steps. I had been completely expecting that though; it came as no shock. I got ready to defend myself. He looked like he wanted to murder me in those next few seconds and I was a little bit scared for my life.
‘Cancer, stop!’ I held both hands up in the air, never once letting go of my gun. ‘It had to be done!’
‘You had no right!’ He was screaming at the top of his lungs.
‘That wasn’t him! He was de-’ I had been about to say dead but stopped suddenly. ‘It wasn’t him.’
He punched me again, half-heartedly this time and slumped down next to Rayn’s body. I clutched my jaw, trying to ignore the throbbing pain. I didn’t blame him even remotely for his reaction.
I stood there uselessly, not sure what to say or do. Cancer was holding Rayn’s hand, staring at him. I didn’t know whether I should stay there or if he wanted to be left alone. Cancer was not going to be functioning well in these next few moments, he was breaking down bit by bit, and even I could see that. Now that we had no set destination in mind, now that all our hope had been crushed and we had lost such an important person, I knew that the world was going to get that much harder.
I wondered for a split second what Robby was doing. I wondered if she was safe and happy, had she gotten into much trouble for the diversion she had created for us? A part of me almost wanted to go back there, despite how much effort we had put into escaping from that place. I just needed to be around company though. Rayn was the one who had held our little group together; he was the glue. What was going to happen now that he was no longer around?
It must have been at least an hour later that Cancer returned. His hands were covered in dirt and he looked completely worn out. He had just buried Rayn that much was obvious.
He said nothing, just climbed into the car and started the engine up. Rayn’s s stuff still sat in the boot of the car.
We drove around aimlessly for ages. Atlanta was no longer a safe option and Cancer started driving us out of there. A few minutes later he said something, his voice was dry and cracked: ‘You don’t need to be saying sorry for anything. It wasn’t your fault.’
‘He was a good guy.’
‘He was. He didn’t deserve the life that he had.’
I thought that maybe talking about it might make Cancer feel like he could cope with it a little better. I tried to get him to. ‘He seemed like a really genuine person.’
‘When he wasn’t scamming people in casinos or stealing shit, yeah, he was.’ There was a ghost of a smile playing at Cancer’s mouth at the memories. His eyes gave away how he was really feeling: tired, depressed, drained. A million emotions must have been flooding his mind right now but he was trying to be stoic about it.
I wondered if he had ever lost someone before. Probably, but I doubted that none meant as much to him as Rayn did. I thought briefly about telling him that I knew how it felt, but I didn’t want to. I’d just make things worse. Besides, what else could I say? I couldn’t tell him that it never gets any easier, he’ll miss him every second of every day. He’ll worry that he’s going to forget what Rayn looked like, what he sounded like. He’s going to worry that he’ll forget Rayn’s mannerisms, his likes and dislikes, what made him human. The grief would stay with him forever, hanging over him like a giant grey cloud crushing any happiness and a hole where his heart should be would take up residence in his chest. It would never get easier.
You might be able to see why I didn’t want to tell him this.
I still missed my parents so much. It hurt all the time and every second that I breathed was a physical and emotional effort to not just curl up into a ball and die.
The only thing that kept me alive was their memories. The fact that they’d want me to carry on fighting played a huge part as well.
‘Rayn would want you to keep on fighting, you know.’
Cancer wasn't really listening to me. ‘He wasn’t supposed to die.’
‘Everybody dies.’ I sighed a little. ‘He wasn’t supposed to die the way he did though, I know.’
It was too violent, too abrupt. Nobody deserved to go out that way. My mind took me back to Harry Acker, for some reason. It wasn’t a place I wanted to go but I couldn’t help wonder if there would be anything left of him. Would he just be a skeleton? Or a lumpy mess of muscle and bones? Did the zombies pick him clean or had they gotten distracted before they could finish him off?
‘He used to say he’d live forever.’
I smiled at that. ‘Maybe his spirit will. His memories will, anyway.’ It had sounded nicer in my head than spoken out loud. Out loud it just seemed fake, something someone might say to a small child who had just lost their pet goldfish.
‘It’s pathetic. Part of me believed him.’
I realized I should shut up and just listen to him talking about Rayn. Nothing I said was registering with him; he was still in shock. My words sounded feeble anyway. I was no good at consoling people; I never knew what to say or what to do. So, for now, I just sat and listened to him talking about his best friend.
‘He went through too much to die like that.’ He was tearing up again.
It was honestly heart-breaking, watching this unfold before me. What was I supposed to do? What was I supposed to say?
He pulled the car over to the side of the road and just sank his head into his hands. The sound that came from him didn’t sound human. His shoulders heaved with each sob that tore from him. He was completely breaking down and I was so fucking useless.