Chapter 9 - Let's Go AgainMature

Sam
transported Amanda and I back to her house. I thanked him for all that he did
to make this night great, and the ride he gave us. After waving him goodbye, he
departed and left me with the still-sleeping Amanda.

It had been
a long time since I took in the night sky, so I chose to do so now; doing so
eases the mind. The full moon was out today, and it was shining brightly onto
the land, illuminating it with the glow. Stars, there were many, their lights
seemingly dancing about the black tapestry that was the sky.

Amanda
stirred, reminding me that she still had to get home. Obviously, I wasn’t going
to be able to just carry her in or awkwardly leave her on the doorstep and
expect the parents to answer.

I gently
shook her. She yawned and turned her head away from me as though she knew I was
bothering her on purpose. Despite this, I had to keep pestering her.
Eventually, my antics proved successful; Amanda stretched, nearly hitting me in
the face with her outstretched arm, and then opened her eyes up.

“Whoa” she
gasped, scrambling out of my arms. She looked around, then back at me, slightly
confused. “Did I pass out?”

“No… you
just fell asleep. Sorry, but I had to wake you up. You’re home now” I
responded, gesturing to her house.

She shook
her head a few times to get out of her tired daze.  “That was… you know… that was fun Jordan. I’m
sorry that I didn’t take too much of a liking to your friends”.

“Don’t
worry” I replied, “they felt the same way about you, but now they’ve changed.
At the same time, it doesn’t look like much has changed at all. I think I like
it that way”.

“Is this
going to start another one of those stupidly romantic moments between us?”
Amanda joked, but I knew she was right. More than once in the two days I have
been here had we shared such a scene.

I opened my
mouth to speak, but she held her finger up to my lips to stop me. “Please… I
don’t mind. I just like to joke”.

“For all you
know, I was trying to make a comeback” I commented, a smile forming.

She removed
her finger, leaned forward and kissed me. “Jordan… if you ever need help with
what you’re doing… just remember you don’t just have me but your friends. I’ll
see you tomorrow?” she asked me for clarification.

I could only
shrug. “I can’t guarantee anything… I’ll definitely be kept busy trying to bury
holes in their argument. Who can tell when I’ll be done?”

She did a
poor job of concealing her disappointment, which really burned my skin; I
didn’t like to see her unhappy, but my job had to come first. “Well… just promise
me that as soon as you get the chance… you come?”

It was my
turn to kiss her. “Of course, Amanda. Now you should go to bed or you’ll just
wake up and be all grumpy as usual”.

After a
small laugh, she unlocked the front door, waved goodbye, then left me standing
outside on the sidewalk.

I didn’t
bother to ask her if I could stay the night in her backyard as I did the other
day, and rather I decided to go out on my own somewhere closer to the church so
I’d be more prepared to approach it come the morning sun.

It was a
cold night too. Even though I wasn’t one to shiver in cold weather, I found
myself doing so now. The temperature had to have dropped rapidly since I first
arrived at the bowling alley.

This was the
night; I should be more alert to foreign sounds. I hadn’t seen Hunter since he
was able to reclaim his bike from my clutches, so naturally I began dreading
the moment he suddenly popped up on the horizon.

I stayed
behind the cover of the foliage by the sidewalk as I made my way back to the
vicinity of the church. It wasn’t thick, but in the night it was the best
camouflage I could use at the time, and the night did well to conceal me.

As I should
have expected, the shouting started. Quiet at first, barely audible, then it
began to increase gradually as I figured out Hunter and his gang was wandering
by. Just seeing him burned right through my skin… I wanted to run out randomly
and snap his neck, leaving his corpse on the street. He didn’t deserve to do
anything to me or Amanda for that matter.

“He took my
damn bike! Took a while, but I hunted the bitch down and got it back. I hope
he’s feeling down… that fucker needs to know not to mess with me. Why… why the
hell is he here? I swear, I’m gonna pay him a visit one day after I track him
down, and you all are coming with me. The car wasn’t a complete accident, so
why don’t I finish where my work started then?” That was Hunter’s voice.

“Dude, you
were wasted when that happened. You really meant to kill someone?” said one of
his friends.

“Of course
not. But it happened. That bitch should be dead, and I’m sending him back to
his grave. I bet he’s trying to haunt me or some shit like that, and I won’t
let him get to me” was Hunter’s response.

I ignored
the rest of the conversation; I heard what I wanted to… and what I didn’t.
Hunter was on the move after me. I should have expected for him to be sending
his friends out after me like dogs to sniff me out. He’d have to try harder to
get me if he doesn’t want me to recreate when I took the bike off his hands, which
seemed to embarrass him quite a lot.

I waited for
an increasingly long time as Hunter and his group of minions slowly passed by
on their bikes, allowing me to breathe easily for now. Hunter wasn’t exactly
the smartest kid, but if it came to a fight between us I wouldn’t bet on myself
either to beat him. His dad takes him out hunting too, so for all I knew he
could track me down like a deer. No… that’s far-fetched… but it is Hunter… so
better not count even the most ridiculous things out.

Their
shouting left eventually, so I assumed I was safe for now. I returned to the
sidewalk since the danger had passed. Still, I took off at a sprint. The best
thing to do was to put distance between the two of us.

The bike had
been a nice transportation device to use to my advantage. Thinking about it
just made me miss its convenient purpose even more. My feet could only carry me
so far before they told to quit it and sit down. I should have asked Amanda for
her bike, but the thought slipped from my mind.

Part of me
desired to run back and take the fight to Hunter, but the more reasonable part
of me argued and held me back, probably saving me from a potential hazard. Part
of me desired to run back and locate Amanda, but the other part of me knew that
she had probably fallen asleep, and deservedly so; she wasn’t one to stay up
late. Who exactly could I turn to? Paul didn’t have any property to speak of,
was still in the hospital, not to mention the trauma he recently went through.

I started
making my way to the local park which was in the same direction as the church
that was my objective. At night, it wasn’t full of activity at all. However, I
remembered Brant saying that he and Jack were going to be hanging out there.
Maybe they would be willing to give me some assistance.

It was
getting late, probably 10:45 at this point, so clouds of doubt began forming in
my mind that they already had departed from the park after getting tired. I
crossed the virtually empty street quickly and to the parking lot. I saw some
figures hanging out in the center of the park and moved towards them.

Their faces
soon appeared, allowing me to recognize them as the friends I had gotten so
used to seeing over the many years we’ve stuck together. I needed them now more
than ever. Hopefully they wouldn’t be mad knowing that I had deliberately lied
to them earlier.

I was pretty
obvious approaching them, but they didn’t notice me until I reached the center
itself. My mannerisms certainly gave off the feeling of me not wanting to say
something important.

Brant saw me
walking towards them and waved. “Hey J. I didn’t think you were coming back to
the park”.

I shrugged.
“Well… I don’t have a place to stay for today… so I thought I’d just stay with
you guys. Combine that with the fact I have no ideas-“

Brant sighed,
interrupting my talking. “Is this about that church thing you told us about? I
thought you said that was under control”.

I couldn’t
lie out of this one, not saying I had an intention to. “Listen guys… I wasn’t
honest with you. It was meant to protect you though!”

“In what
aspect?” Jack questioned me. “You should know we’re not the type of friends
that would abandon you. Friends wouldn’t leave each other in first place
anyways”.

“I didn’t
want you to worry about my own problems. As I said, this isn’t a normal
mission; I got it from the afterlife itself!” I responded, trying to make a
point.

“You forgot
to mention the afterlife in that previous conversation” Brant said darkly,
probably wondering what else I could have lied to him about.

“If you
worried about me, you’d start pouring all of your time into helping me, and I’d
rather you guys stay in school and not be distracted. Sorry, this is just the
sort of thing I had to at least try on my own” I said, and hopefully I was able
to show them the light.

They fell
silent momentarily. “Well… we know the truth now” Jack spoke up. “So you can
consider us distracted. We’re in it together, J”.

Brant
nodded. “We’re willing to help you. Next time you got a problem…” his voice
trailed off as he realized that I was only here for a week.

“I can count
on you guys” I filled in the empty space. “I apologize for that, but at least
you seem like you understand why”.

Jack smiled.
“You can always hang out at my house for the night. I know you’ve got that
gotta-be-invisible protocol thing of yours, so you can just crash in the
sunroom and I’ll alert you when you have to go”.

This was
pretty generous. “You sure about this?” I shouldn’t have asked.

“Of course.
Why wouldn’t I be?” Jack answered. “I’m gonna help you out so long as you need
it”.

“There you
are” Brant said, gesturing to me. “You’ve got your night residence. Now, if you
don’t mind, refresh me on whatever this church thing is”. I’d never admit it to
the others, but Brant was the smartest of us and when he was working out a
problem, he always demanded for the facts so he could gather up all of the
necessary info.

I lapsed
into the shortened explanation. “Basically, there’s this group of protestors…
angered beyond imagination… and they think religion is bad and should be
destroyed. The only way that I could use to get rid of them is to show them
their idea is wrong, but they’re really bent on the thought that they’re right
and everyone else is wrong”.

Brant
ingested all of these realities and didn’t seem to like how the odds pointed so
drastically in the protestors’ favor. “Well… let’s look at this realistically.
No matter how screwed up they are, they’ve got their holes. It’s like a
contract; you have to examine it for all of the parts that you can expose
should it be used to be turned against you”.

“Trial and
error” Jack chipped in. “That’s the easiest and safest way to find a solution
to your situation, or any situation in general”.

I shook my
head. “I don’t think that’s going to work against these guys. I kind of already
dismissed the idea of continually pestering them and hoping that I won’t be
embarrassed”.

Jack nodded,
seeing my reasoning. Brant stepped forward. “I’m sure that if you just review
their argument you’ll find something to use against them. Simple enough, hmm?”

Jack
shrugged and waved his arms. “Better yet, just call the authorities! They’ll
solve this quick enough now, and you won’t have to lift a finger! Did you ever
think of that?”

Brant and I
were taken aback. Was something as simple as calling the police was overlooked
this entire time? I thought back to what George said to me when he gave me my
objective, and he didn’t mention it at all. We were so busy looking at the big
picture that we didn’t just throw the picture away and started looking around.

Jack let out
a nervous laugh and looked around at us. “You’re joking, right? You… you didn’t
call the cops? Something as simple as that just passed your mind?”

I nodded
slowly, the truth pretty stunning to even myself. “Well… I just wanted to dive
into things… it’s possible that the option slipped from my mind in the heat of
the moment”. Here I was trying to make excuses! I almost laughed at how
pathetic that was.

Brant
shrugged. “Doesn’t look like you need much help from here. Just dial the number
I guess…” He was just as surprised as me.

Jack started
stretching. “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m about ready to head out and
get some sleep in. Tomorrow is a school day after all”. He gestured to me. “You
ready too, J?”

I nodded and
walked over to join him. “Yeah, I’m alright. If I’m going to get anything done
I better go or I might collapse on the floor”.

“Don’t want
that to happen” Brant said, smiling.

Jack started
strolling off to his residence and gestured for me to follow. “I guess you’ve
got quite a big day coming for you tomorrow, so the faster we get moving the
better off you will be”.

After waving
goodbye to Brant, Jack led me out of the park which was slowly becoming
consumed by the darkness of the night. Only a few streetlights showed the way
in the old area I used to call my home. It had been a while since I had gone
over to Jack’s house, so I had forgotten where exactly it was. Thankfully, he
seemed to know.

“It’s just
around the corner” Jack said, pointing ahead of him to make his point. “Listen,
if you ever need any help after the church thing… I’d rather help a friend than
have to do my Algebra homework”.

I offered a
small laugh. “Nobody wants to do Algebra work”. I answered his previous
question. “I think I’ll be able to go the rest of the way by myself. The police
should be able to clean the situation up efficiently”.

Jack
shrugged, and that ended our talking. This allowed me to open my ears up to a
new sound, causing me to curse for my laziness. Hunter’s shouting was coming
somewhere nearby! If I had been cautious I wouldn’t be in this type of
predicament.

“Is that who
I think it is?” Jack asked, though it was more of a rhetorical question than
anything else.

We had
nowhere to run or hide. The only alternative that presented itself to us was to
stay in our place and face the bitch that ruined my life. Jack looked at me,
reading my determined facial expression.

“You can’t
possibly be thinking about trying to fight them off, can you?” he exclaimed.
“They have the numbers, the strength… we’ll be eating pavement by the time he
reaches us!”

I clenched
my fists, looking towards the direction I heard the incredibly loud shouting
coming from. I knew I was outnumbered and outgunned, but this wasn’t the time
to think, but to do. He was beating me in this little game of cat and mouse.
What if the mouse bit the cat’s foot? I would draw blood and frustration, two
things that could assist me in bringing Hunter’s full force off of my back.

“Listen,
Jack, I have my reasoning. If we just get a few hits in at Hunter at least,
he’ll be pretty pissed. All we need to do is make him angry, confused,
etcetera. Besides” I said, cracking my knuckles “isn’t it about time somebody
gives this kid a taste of his own medicine? I know that if it’s going to
happen, it’s going to be me”.

“As much as
I love being heroic, we’ll maybe get in one lucky hit apiece. Do you really
expect to win a fight? Neither of us have even been in a fight before!” Jack
pointed out, a fact with would horrify me under most circumstances, but I
ignored it in this situation.

I reviewed
what sort of trouble I had wound myself into. Hunter was coming with much more
people than Jack and I, and those people were not the type that would lose a
fight.

My desire to
throw a punch at Hunter’s face had overtaken my need to run away and not make a
stupid decision. It was too late at this point to turn around, so standing my
ground was now my only choice.

Hunter came
around the corner; his bike wheel was visible first, then his head materialized
from behind the brick building. He turned and saw me instantly, a smile playing
on his lips as he noticed my presence and most likely figured out for himself
that he had the upper hand.

Jack was
shaking next to me, terrified, and I felt incredibly evil for having to drag
him into this conflict between me and the creature that now stood before us.
Hopefully he would forgive me later, but that was my last thought at this
point.

Hunter
tossed his bike aside, a surprising action considering how much he admired and
loved his ‘precious’ bike. His three friends that accompanied him were forming
behind him in a lopsided triangle.

He laughed
loudly, more for the joy of being flashy and loud than for being triumphant. He
was enjoying every second of this and over exaggerating everything he could.

“You know, I
knew I’d find you one day” Hunter said, the beginning of one of his victory
speeches, “but I didn’t know it would be this easy. You’re pathetic Jordan, as
I always said”. His friends responded with a laugh.

Before he
could continue, I was going to do something that no one ever dared to do;
interrupt Hunter. “Coming from the kid that does alcohol and drugs all the
time, that sounds like more of a compliment”.

In school,
Hunter took it as an insult to have someone speak while he is talking, even
when it was one of his followers. Naturally, he shouted back. “Shut the fuck up
bitch! In case you haven’t seen it, genius, you’re outnumbered. You got no room
to talk, dumbass!”

“Outnumbered,
not necessarily outgunned” I spat back, getting into a fighting pose.

Hunter
pointed at me. “I started to hate you when you walked in thinking you were so
high and mighty. You know what; you’re not better than shit! You’re dead, and
I’ll make you stay that way if I have to!”

He really
was a heartless bastard. Without thinking, I charged into the battle without
making sure Jack was staying by my side. I lunged at Hunter, but my obvious
move was easily avoided, and I received a kick to the chest, nearly knocking
the air out of me.

Jack backed
me up though, and took a swing at one of Hunter’s friends, connecting it with
deadly force. Taking advantage of the distraction he caused, I punched Hunter
right in his eye, taking a moment to enjoy the pleasure of his shout of pain
and anger.

“I throw you
back to hell!” he screamed, elbowing me in the chest, knocking me backwards.
One of his minions followed up with a punch to my head, hitting me on my right
cheek. I stumbled backwards, almost falling back on the ground.

Jack wasn’t
holding up well, and neither was I. I took a few wild strikes at Hunter, with
one of them nailing his shoulder, giving me an opportunity to attack again,
this time sweeping his legs, letting him fall and hit his head on the pavement.

“Who’s
eating pavement now?” I snickered. Someone came to back the fallen delinquent
up, but Jack roundhouse-kicked the savior in the chest, sending him flying
backwards.

Hunter had
gotten back up. He still had his three buddies alongside him, but we were doing
better than I though. Hunter had a black eye and a few bruises, though most of
his accomplices were untouched.

They rushed
at once, overtaking Jack and I quickly. The only thing my mind could register
was the immense pain I was feeling. I felt tears streaming down my face as I
lost all of the feeling in my body.

I charged
forward just to try and get out of the mess, and even though I managed to do
so, Jack had not. His body was lying on the ground, and he wasn’t moving. I
felt especially bad at that moment. It was my fault he was feeling this pain.
If I had just let him go, he wouldn’t have had this happen to him.

“Hey! What
the hell are you doing?” I heard someone shout. I turned back to see Brant
rushing to the scene. He had diverted Hunter and his group’s attention to him,
allowing me to go back into the fray to assist Jack. I kicked Hunter in a place
that gave him a lot of pain when I hit it. He crumpled down on the ground into
a ball to protect himself from any further damage. Brant tackled one of the
friends, face-planting him on the surface. The two of us ganged up on the
last-standing fighter, who soon back off and ran for Hunter.

“Dude, get
up!” he shouted at Hunter, helping him up on his feet. We had left the group in
considerable pain, but they were starting to regroup and preparing to jump back
into the battle without a doubt.

Jack didn’t
look good; his face and all of his exposed skin was covered with blood and
bruises, and we couldn’t tell how bad his injuries extended under his clothes.
I clenched my fists. While his agony was, all-in-all, my fault, I felt a
growing rage at Hunter for doing this to him.

With Hunter
and his cronies back on their feet, I waited for one of them to restart the
brawl so we could counter easily. However, it was Brant he rushed forward first
and rammed into the guy next to Hunter, toppling him over. Hunter and I met
each other halfway between the sides that were established and started having
an all-out punching war.

Neither of
us bothered to block the strikes thrown. I got in a few good hits on him, and I
felt as though I might have managed to break one of his ribs. All that I could
hear were loud shouts and people screaming curse words.

Eventually,
the pressure of the blows sent me tumbling on the ground. Hunter was just too
good of a fighter for the likes of me. He stood over me now, grinning. He tried
to slam his foot down on me, but I rolled out of the way. He tried again, but I
repeated this action and stood myself up. I didn’t know just how long I could
last against him before I gave in, but so far I hadn’t been doing awful; maybe
I was able to hold my own in these skirmishes.

Brant came
to my aid and pounded his fist into Hunter’s skull, sending him spinning down
the street from the force of the blow. I looked around and saw that Brant had
made short work of the opposing combatants; they were lying on the ground or
struggling to their feet.

“Fuck, you
assholes!” one of the downed cronies exclaimed. Hunter had moved over to join
his group, who at this point had begun reconsidering fighting the monster that
was Brant.

“Hunter,
let’s get the hell out of here!” came another shout. Hunter himself was in
disbelief by how we had bested him, which is the reaction I hoped to get out of
him; angry, confused, and defeated.

Even with
all of these emotions throwing a party inside of Hunter’s head without a doubt,
he wasn’t ready to continue the battle. After staring at Brant and I hard, he
turned around.

“I’ll find
you again, Jordan. You’re lucky your friends were here to back you up you damn
coward, but next time they won’t be around to save your ass you shithead!” With
that one last yell, Hunter ran off and retrieved his bike, an action that was
soon followed up by his friends. In less than a few seconds, the fuming
teenager and his allies departed from the scene. Hunter’s trademark night
ramblings that could be heard throughout the neighborhood had been silenced. It
was as if the impossible had just occurred.

Brant was
breathless next to me. He was sitting on the ground now trying to rest, and I
didn’t blame him. If he hadn’t shown up, there would be no way I could have won
the bout.

“Thanks… for
that” I said, gesturing to the now-empty battleground. Some of the pavement was
stained with blood, reminding anybody involved in the previous events what had
just happened.

Brant
shrugged. “No need. We’ve got each other’s back, J… we’re friends. It’s what
we’re for, isn’t it?” he replied, nudging me. He always was the strongest out
of my friends, a fact which he certainly proved today.

“If you
didn’t come back here, though… he would’ve beaten the shit out of us. He’s not
fighting for the sake of making a point, but just to make me bleed out” I
responded.

He shrugged
once again. “Whatever he says about me not being there to help you, he’s dead
wrong. It’s Hunter… he’s just trying to off-set you to try and surprise attack
you later”. He glanced at Jack who was still lying still on the ground and
nodded towards him. “We have more important matters on our hands right about
now. We might need to take him to the hospital”.

The two of
us both helped Jack up onto his feet and slowly dragged him off to the parking
lot back at the park where we had met each other earlier. Brant had taken his
car, so we were lucky to have a mode of transportation at hand. We hoisted
Jack’s body into the backseat and buckled him in tightly and making sure he was
moderately comfortable.

After all
this was completed, Brant turned towards me and asked the question I had feared
he would ask. “Now, what the hell happened back there?”

I took a
deep breath. “It was my responsibility. I… instigated the whole thing”. I
started crying. “I thought we’d just rough him up a bit… now look what I did to
Jack!”

Brant glared
at me for a second, but the angry look soon disappeared. “I’m sure he’ll be
fine. But why would you toss him into a position to get beat up in like that?”

I took a
deep breath. “I thought the two of us could just punch Hunter and his friends a
few times… I obviously overestimated my own talents.

Brant still
looked annoyed by the stupidity of my decision. I didn’t feel justified in my
actions by one bit, and now guilt was starting to form clouds over me. I hoped
Jack wouldn’t hold this over me, even though I so deserved it.

“I’ve got an
idea for you; stop trying to bring the opposition to Hunter and just focus on anything
else other than him. He’s like an anchor; he’s dragging you down. Ignore him as
well and as much as you can”.

I shook my
head. “You know Brant, it’s hard to pretend to forget about the guy who ruined
your entire life” I retorted, even though this wasn’t completely true. I had no
problem getting rid of my bad memories in the afterlife, but without the
majestic feel of it they began to haunt me.

“I know it
is, but if you want to succeed you need to at least try” Brant responded. I
could tell he was trying to be helpful, it just seemed like he wasn’t doing a
good job at it, which wasn’t really his fault. Hunter was just one of those
kids that was impossible to ignore.

I let the
conversation to fall down and dissipate into nothing. It had started to make me
feel uncomfortable. Jack was still unconscious, and the only thing that I could
think about was how it was me who hurt him, put him into that scene where the
only way out was full of pain. I wish I could rewind and fix whatever I had
done wrong so far on Earth.

So far, no
progress was made on the church problem, not even the smallest dent was made in
the protestor’s argument. Hunter continued to rampage the streets, and now he
had a thirst for revenge against me for defeating him in combat. Jack was injured
and Brant was pissed off at me, not to mention I put George in a mood too back
at the bowling alley. What had I done right this whole time?

Amanda. She
was happy at least, right? But even then I wasn’t being fair to her. I died and
came back, but only for a week. She only gets one week of me when I know that
the two of us would want much more than that.

My strength
was on its last legs at this point. All of the anger and sorrow that I did and
did not warrant had started to pile up inside of me and causing an interior
emotional meltdown. If I didn’t turn things around soon enough, I might as well
sit back and give up.

Brant and I
entered his car, still no word spoken between us. In complete silence, a cold
blanket, we moved through the county. I was surprised when Brant took a right
to Amanda’s street rather than take us to the nearby hospital, the same one
Paul was stationed at.

He leaned
over and opened the door for me. I looked back and forth from him and the
sidewalk in front of Amanda’s residence. What exactly was he doing? I waited
for him to give an explanation.

Brant didn’t
look too amused that I was expecting him to enlighten me on his abnormal
action. He gestured to the open door and nodded, an clear notion of ‘get out of
this car’.

“Okay, I want
to see Jack at the hospital just as much as you” I started the necessary
conversation. “Now for some reason you want me to stay away?”

Brant
nodded. “I do, Jordan. You’re my friend… I like you”. He pointed over at Jack.
“But when you go pulling off shit like this, that’s when I say hit the road”.

His voice
was steady, determined. I had to argue back. “I know I screwed up, just because
of that doesn’t mean I’m not sorry for it! I didn’t intend to have this happen…
I know it was my liability all the way… I still care about his safety!”

“Go do your
church thing, or whatever occupies you while I go and get this kid to the
hospital. Get anywhere near him and you might just explode him next time.
Besides, think about it… do you really think you’re the first face Jack would
want to see when he wakes up?” He let me ponder over this for a second. “He
sure as hell would say no and shove you out the door”.

With a
strong push, Brant sent me tumbling forward onto the hard concrete. I turned
back to look at him, the sadness and the anger present in my facial expression.
It didn’t seem to halt him one bit.

“Do me a
favor… or at least do Jack a favor… and stay away from us for a bit. Alright?
Coming back to life was something I was ready to celebrate, but with you
screwing up our lives, physically and mentally… I’d rather you just stick with
Amanda for now”.

Since when
had I messed up my friends mentally? “I’d like to know how I screwed you over
mentally, Brant, because I know I haven’t, unless you wish to tell me
otherwise.”

He shot his
hands in the air. “Oh, I don’t know” came his sarcastic reply, “maybe when you
thought of stealing Anna and Hannah from us when you already had a girlfriend,
maybe that was when I questioned you, maybe with all of this church stuff that
was when I questioned you.”.

“I didn’t
even try to whisk them away! In fact, I didn’t even try one bit. And believe
me, I don’t like this stupid church thing either! I don’t think it helps that
you’re just a major asshole sometimes!” I hoped he would drive away soon. His
argument was tiring me.

But Brant
wasn’t done. “That doesn’t mean you still try to keep them. For fuck’s sake,
they’re the only girls that will ever get close to us. Sounds stupid, yeah, but
that’s just me analyzing my chances”.

“Just listen
to yourself!” I shot back. “You don’t even have an argument! At this point,
you’re just making excuses! I know what I did, and I’m sorry, but doing this to
me… it’s just-“

“Not fair?”
Brant responded, cutting me off. “Wake up. Wake the hell up, Jordan. Life is
not fair by a longshot. It’s especially unfair to people like me-“

“What!?
WHAT!?” I exploded, my anger finally at its boiling point. “Life isn’t fair for
YOU? Did you get hit by a car, Brant? Did you lose your life? You’re looking
pretty fine right about now!”

Brant put on
a solemn expression as he realized just how deep of a cut he dug into me.
Without a reply, he slammed the car door and departed, going over the speed
limit as he dashed out of the neighborhood.

I was
breathless from the heated argument. Not only that, but I was fucking pissed
off. Brant had no right, absolutely no right to do that to me! Hurting Jack was
my fault, but not letting me repair that and then blaming everyone else’s
problems on me was all because of him.

We were
friends. We were meant to stick together through any situation. Now this
incident had destroyed everything, and Brant didn’t help that one bit. If I
hadn’t fought Hunter, maybe none of this would have happened. Then again, if he
hadn’t launched all of these offenses at me, this situation would be much
different than it was currently.

I turned
around and observed Amanda’s house. It was quiet, and there was no doubt in my
mind they were all sleeping. However, one light was turned on. No doubt someone
had woken up to the shouting that had just taken place.

I saw the
window in the lit room open up. Before I could find a place to hide so that I
could avoid any trouble, I noticed that it was Amanda who was looking out into
the night.

It didn’t
take long for her to spot me sitting down on the group. She called to me in a
sharp, whispered “hey!” I didn’t even hear it too well, but my attention was
already on her.

“Jordan,
what are you doing? I thought you were heading out?” she asked me. I couldn’t
lie to her, could I? I’d have to tell her the truth.

“It’s a…
long story” I responded, trying to weasel out of this situation. Feeling bad
about this, I went on. “In short… I…” a tear ran down my face. “I assaulted
Hunter. One of my friends was thrown in the conflict and… he’s… he’s not
looking good”.

Her look of
disappointment following this cut into my soul, but it seemed as though she
understood me differently than Brant did. “Why would you go after Hunter?”

I left her
query hang in the air for her to answer for herself. “How did your friend get
involved in this? I doubt he jumped in it willingly”.

“I… I…
mainly threw him into it. I thought, you know… maybe I could beat Hunter up…
and it didn’t go nearly as I had hoped for or planned” I said. This was the
truth right down to the last letter.

“Why would
you do that to? Fighting isn’t your thing, and I don’t know your friends well…
but I doubt they don’t like it either” she replied.

It felt as
though I had to explain something to my mother, and this added on a new level
to the awkwardness of this conversation. At least she was trying to comprehend
me, unlike Brant.

“I told you…
I forced him… I’m sorry about everything did, and I tried to fix it… but they
wouldn’t let me”. This was also completely honest.

“That was
all the shouting then” Amanda concluded, shaking her head as she figured it
out. “I hate it when friends argue. We’re friends for a reason, so why go at
each other’s throats?” These were some useful words of wisdom.

“I don’t
know… Brant snapped and got all out-of-control”. Maybe this wasn’t as clear as
my other statements. “I know I have to deal with all of this anger for what I
did, and I don’t care, because I know I deserve it. But Brant… he blamed
everything on me… even stuff I didn’t even do! He… he brought back the car accident…
just to try and offset me. He said… for me to… stay back. Not see Jack”.

Amanda had
been entirely silent during this long monologue, and I couldn’t judge her
reaction to it from her facial expression. Was she going to agree with Brant or
me, or just neither of us? It was a senseless disagreement that the two of us
will probably never make a compromise over, looking things over as they were
now.

“Why… I met
your friends, they seemed nice… why would they bring back up… that day? It was
hell for everyone… that’s not right for him to go about it like that” she said,
her voice shaky as she recalled the evil event.

“Honestly… I
don’t know. I’ve screwed too much up ever since I got here, and it’s going to
my head. What… what the hell did I do right? When I think, all that comes to
mind are my various failures”.

“Hold on”
Amanda said. Her head disappeared from the window, and her light was turned
off. I was wondering what she was doing when she emerged from the front door,
still wearing her day clothes.

“I couldn’t
sleep” she offered a quick account. “Anyways… there’s no need for you to beat
yourself up. It’s not like you’ve wasted all your time. You tried, didn’t you?”

“I didn’t…
or at least George thinks that to be true”. His yells rang loudly and clearly in
my skull as though he was living in my brain relaying the message over and over
again.

She came
close to me and shook her head. “If you talk like that, if you think like that,
then you will believe yourself to be a failure. It’s as simple as that. You are
what you think”.

I sighed.
“Maybe… I guess these events have tossed me into some sort of flux… I’ll just
settle down for a bit and see if I get better”. I tried taking a few deep
breaths to settle myself down.

“See? All
you needed was a little sense knocked into you” Amanda said half-jokingly,
punching me lightly on the shoulder. “Forget about your friends for now if
that’s how they feel and think of how you’ll apologize to them”.

“Apologize?
Amanda, I’m not the main villain here. Brant was in this just as much as I
was”.

“You’re the
one who assisted in injuring that friend of yours. Your other friend is the one
who insulted you harshly. One of you has to step up to the plate and set the
record straight, and I doubt your pissed-off accomplice will”. Sometimes I
wished to have Amanda’s brains, as it seemed mine were malfunctioned.

“You’re
right… as always” I added with a laugh. “I’ll be the better man then.
Hopefully, he’ll be in a forgiving mood, or I might make this worse”.

“It’s a risk
at least I’d be willing to take” Amanda responded.

It felt as
though that was the end of that discussion. I shrugged and turned to head out,
but Amanda held me back. She brought me into a kiss and then let go.

“You know
you don’t have to leave just yet… right?” she told me to make sure I knew.

I kissed
her. “I have to. Goodbye, Amanda”. I waved to her as I took off down the
sidewalk. As much as I knew wasting time was bad, I didn’t mind too much when I
was with friends.

I looked
behind me and saw she was waving back. Why did life have to tear us apart? I
dreaded the day I had to finally say goodbye to her forever. Would the words
even be able to escape my lips? I dismissed these terrible thoughts and brought
my focus back on much less depressing things.

I retraced
my steps. From the bushes that had previously hidden me from Hunter, to the
park I had met with Jack and Brant, past the street where the brawl had taken
place. The blood glistened in the moonlight as if the memories were being
brought back on purpose to disturb me.

Cold grasped
me as I searched around for a warm place I could take shelter in for the
meantime. Nothing promising appeared to me, so the rest of the night found me
wandering around aimlessly looking for a lodging.

My mind
drifted off after abandoning its attempts to make me fall asleep just for the
sake of it. What exactly was my purpose? I felt as though out of every question
that I could ask myself now, this was the most important one. My main objective
was, of course, getting this blessing to protect my family from evil. But did I
really care about that? My family was on the line, and who knew if the evil was
already at work? Yet the only people that bugged me were my friends. Amanda
especially… I loved her, and I couldn’t leave her. I had spent so much of my
time on Earth so far with her, time we earned to have. Weren’t we just the
perfect people? Me and her… we were inseparable. My family, my friends, which
one was the biggest impact on me? Who and what was I?

Before any
more ridiculous questions popped up in my mind, I shut my brain off the day and
concentrated on one simple though; forward. My feet were on autopilot now,
driving me forward to the church. If I did get to the church, I’d have no
energy. But, it would be worth it; the looks on their faces when they see the
police show up and bust their asses and throw them in jail!

It was an
easy solution; contact the cops, let them swoop in and take care of the
protestors. They were, after all, the professionals, and should make quick work
of this simple predicament. However, I did have some doubt.

I viewed
life at, what I liked to call, a ‘realist’ perspective, fundamentally saying
that I looked at things as they are; so if something is negative, I see it
negative, and if it is positive, I see it positive. I also tend to look at all
of the ways a situation can play out. In this case, I felt as though it may not
succeed, though I couldn’t quite tell why.

The sky had
not changed color at all during my journey, and I was unable to guesstimate the
time. Tired, demoralized, and confused, I kept going with the hope that maybe I
could settle this dispute right here, right now, and have the rest of my time
on Earth to do what I wanted.

I’d prove
those priests, Pearson and Gregor, just how wrong they were to give up. I’ll
show George that he was unjust in accusing me of not trying anything at all.
I’ll show them all. My family will be safe, and I won’t have to worry about
them.

The roads
were completely empty as I crossed them back-and-fourth, over and over again.
It was as if everything was at perfect rest, all except me. Before I gave
myself the chance to think about sleeping again, I shook my head furiously to
diminish the thoughts.

The familiar
farmlands were starting to arise before me. From what I assumed, I had traveled
for hours down these roads. The normally crowded freeway was near-abandoned. If
I had a bike, the church would be just a little less than another hour away,
but on foot that time could be doubled, even tripled.

I wasn’t
sweating, but I could feel the stress I was putting on my body. I was putting
too much weight on my legs as they collided with the pavement, and they were
begging for me to rest. Of course, that wasn’t an option now that I was on the
road.

I needed a
distraction, that’s all. All I was thinking about was how I just could have
avoided Hunter, Jack would have taken me home, or I could have just stayed at
Amanda’s, and maybe she would have been nice enough to lend me her bike.
Sometimes, I surprised myself at how incompetent I was.

There were
so many stars out today in the vast, black canvas that was space. From my
point, they all looked white and burned brightly. As I walked, I glanced at
them occasionally when I began thinking erratically of terrible things.

I was so
wrapped up in the night sky that I almost didn’t realize that the exit to the
church was opening up before me. A farmhouse was next to it, and without
thinking I snuck inside of it. I searched around the interior and I soon
located a ladder. I scaled it and say a secluded spot that was hidden from all
view. I jumped into it and closed my eyes, quickly falling asleep. Did I once
think about how I broke into a residence? I was too sleepy to care.

If I hadn’t
have heard the rooster calling in the morning, the farmer living in the house
would have caught me. I got up so fast that my movements rustled the hay I was
on. When I heard someone downstairs, I started getting nervous. Breaking in and
entering wouldn’t be taken lightly.

I scrambled
about for a hiding spot. I found the perfect spot right above the ladder, which
could allow me a quick escape if needed. The man was climbing up; I could hear
the ladder creaking as he advanced up it. My mind was racing as I thought of
what would happen when I got captured. I was so close to the church, and I
didn’t want to be taken even farther away from it, and possibly into custody.

I heard hay
rustling in front of me. I peeked out of my hiding spot momentarily to see the
farmer moving away from my position. It was now or never, get held or finish
this duel between me and the protestors.

I leaped out
of my nook and slid down the ladder. I burst through the front door, no doubt
making a huge racket. I kept going to the forest that laid in front of the house,
hoping the thick bushes would cover my retreat.

So, I had
made it then. Such a close call for just desiring a simple pleasure of life! I
had to watch myself more carefully before another bad condition like this pops
up. However, the break was worth it; I felt recharged and ready to wrap up the
church problem.

It was in
the distance; I could see it now. However, there were no cars. Shocked, I took
off at a sprint to the location, amazed at how the protestors were nowhere to
be seen. The black-haired man, who became infamous to me as a major bastard,
was not running about and encouraging the crowd. In fact, the church looked
like an ideal household that would fit in a ghost town; not one person was
visible as the structure rose on the horizon.

Nothing was
changed, either. From when I first arrived, I recalled a few smashed windows
and vandalized walls. None of that was present at all. The building was still
colored pure white, and the windows seemed to have been replaced. Had the
church done some remodeling?

I was
finally on the lot of the church. I circled around it to make sure I wasn’t
hallucinating, but further investigation showed that no trace of the villainous
oppressors was present.

I opened up
the church doors to emptiness; nobody was inside. Not a sound was heard. All of
the furniture was in order as it would have been during a normal meeting. What
was I looking at? The past or something? My mind refused to believe that I
really was seeing this.

My heart
rate had jumped up a few thousand notches, and if I didn’t settle down it might
just blow up. Confused, angered, and frustrated, I ran about the church to
retrace my steps over and over again. I looked virtually everywhere, came up
with every possible solution, but nothing close came to mind. Except…

“What if
they covered their tracks?” I muttered to myself. This statement sounded so
true I had to say it to see how it sounded. It really didn’t seem ridiculous.
Maybe they were smarter than I thought and anticipated a police force
investigating the situation.

“Okay…
okay…” I calmed myself, or at least attempted to. I was breathing heavily as
the truth did dawn on me; I was tricked. The protestors must have fixed
everything just to mess with me and to protect them from the cops.

Tricked!
Fooled! And worst of all… outsmarted. I thanked my lucky stars that I didn’t
call the police beforehand or I would’ve been made an unreliable witness and
look like a fraud. I should have known they wouldn’t be so stupid and clumsy
with their ravaging. All I wanted was a quick, easy end to this, but it didn’t
look like that was the case.

As if on
cue, the train of cars appeared. A trickle soon turned into a stream as the
protestors began to take their positions surrounding the church. I could see
them grinning; it was a trap. It was just me and the church, alone. If I left,
no one would be able to halt them wrecking the place.

It was a
cleverly made set-up so that there would be no way for the police to intervene,
or the priests. I realized quickly that I was doomed. I had not prepared for
this scenario, and now I had to pay the price.

I cursed for
being so inconsiderate of the other options. It was checkmate, unless by some
miracle I was able to fend them off. At this point, it didn’t look likely. I
noticed the black-haired man emerging from a car in the front row with a grin
of triumph on his face. It took me a while to observe his car closely enough
until I remembered that it was mine.

The
black-haired man wasn’t just any ordinary black-haired man. He was Mr. Feworth.

Go figure
for him to be here of all people! I bet Hunter gave him all the information he
needed to pin me down so I was helpless. It really was as gray of a situation
as you could get.

“Well, it’s
good to see you looking so well” Mr. Feworth was ready for Round Two, however I
was not. This would be a rather quick defeat, at least. My family… I had failed
them. I can’t believe that this son of a bitch killed them all! I loved my
family, now they’re as good as dead.

“Did you
ever once think that we were so goddamn stupid enough as to leave behind
evidence? You stupid fuck!” Mr. Feworth shouted, adding a laugh which was soon
joined in by the crowd. They hadn’t brought their signs, and they probably
didn’t even need them.

“This is
what happens when you try and assist for the cause of something so evil. You
got beat, kid, simple as that. Now, you better step out of the way or we’ll
just trample through you”. As awful and far-fetched that sounded, it was true.
He was the sort of man that wouldn’t care about killing a kid.

I swallowed
hard. I take one step off of this church and my family is as good as dead. I
stay here, then I’m dead. Either way, it’s a lose-lose situation; my loved ones
die either way. Might as well perish as a hero than a villain I guess. I could
have sworn I felt George staring at me as I stood.

I was
getting hot and becoming sick to the point of throwing up, which I almost did.
What could I do? My time on Earth… it really was wasted. I can’t leave or stay…
either way, I won’t be able to show my face anywhere. I’ll… I’ll be nothing…
just a failure.

“Are your
ears clogged with shit or something? Get the hell out of our way!” Mr. Feworth
warned me. He had a finality in his voice; if he had three warnings to give,
this was his last. Move or die, move or die… I can’t move. Not just because of
my family… but I literally can’t move. My feet feel glued in place. Death is
the only end result. I have no moves left. I’m… I’m done.

I sat down
on the steps and smiled, closing my eyes. Might as well get ready for the
oncoming pain then, hmm? No use trying to defend against an immovable object.
I’ll openly embrace the cruel fate given to me. I’m ready.

“You all
better back off right now, or I WILL call the cops!” I heard a woman shout.
This obviously wasn’t one of the protestors, unless they really did care about
inhumane practices such as running over children.

I opened my
eyes to see a little old lady with light-reddish hair and gardening clothes
standing beside me, a cellphone in her right hand, a trowel in the left. She
must have come to tend to the church gardens and saw what was happening.

The
protestors looked unpleasantly surprised; they must not have anticipated the
appearance of this little old lady, judging from their facial reactions. The
cops would spell the end for them if they ever popped up. Even though she was
short in stature and not the definition of well-built, this woman had managed
to scare them.

“What do you
think we’ll do when that happens?” Mr. Feworth retorted, and from knowing
Hunter, I knew he was just using a hollow threat to offset her. Like father
like son.

This woman
wasn’t like the people the Feworth’s could bully around easily. “Well, if you
want to cover your tracks you may, but you’ll have a few more bodies to hide
this time and a few dozen tire tracks, something a few minute’s time can’t mend
for you”.

Mr. Feworth
constantly kept opening and closing his mouth, searching for something to say.
Some unrecognizable sounds were emitted from him, but not one easily
understandable word. This old lady not only saved my life and my family’s, but
stood up against none other than Mr. Feworth himself and shut him up. Not only
that, but with his face turning as red as it was now, he had been publically
humiliated before his peers that were driven by him so much.  Without his guidance, they didn’t have
anything to say either.

Shouting a
curse word, Mr. Feworth disappeared inside the crowd and towards the car that
had once been owned by me. He opened the door and slammed it so hard I could
have sworn I heard something break. He backed out of the road and drove away so
fast that he didn’t care about the two cars he had accidently bumped into in
his haste.

Soon, the
rest of the crowd dispersed following Mr. Feworth’s motion. Soon, all I could
hear were loud complaints, wheels turning on gravel, and tripped car alarms.
The old lady stood as still as a statue and stared down the protestors as they
departed. Eventually, the last car pulled out of the lot and drove away into
the distance. That was the last of them… for now at least.

The woman
turned around and held out a hand to help me stand up. Taking it, she lifted me
up with a smile. She was the one who had saved my life, and I was entirely in
her debt.

“Thank you…
so much for that” I said, still in a daze from the curious turn of events. “I
don’t think you know just how thankful I am. Getting rid of them… was critical
for my future”.

She merely
shrugged in response. “I wasn’t going to stand and watch something like that
play out. I was just bluffing, too. See this?” she said, holding up the phone.
“Hasn’t worked in a year”.

I laughed.
She was up to challenging these cruel people, and not only that, but gambling
about it too? Maybe I wasn’t alone in this war between these dreadful people
and the protectors of this building.

She gasped.
“Oh, I feel so rude. I didn’t even think of introducing myself”. She nodded to
me. “I’m Jessica Herphan IIII. You look… familiar I must say”.

“Wait a
minute… Jessica?” I responded. George had mentioned that name back at the bowling
alley, and this Jessica’s last name matches his. Is it possible that she knows
about him?

“Why, yes.
Does that bother you?” she asked me, questioning my curious question.

“No, no… it
might bother George Herphan, though…” came my shaky and uncertain reply.

She looked
at me strangely. “George Herphan… how would you know him? He’s… been dead for
quite a while.”

So she did
know him! I always wanted to know more about George, the mystery-man of the
afterlife, and this woman may have the answers. What could I ask her first,
though?

I didn’t
care all too much about anything else at the moment. Now that the opportunity
to learn about George was present, I had to take it. I wanted to know about
him, I wanted to understand him, things I was not able to do previously.

“Well… you
see…” I couldn’t tell her about the afterlife and reveal my identity, could I?
“My family’s related to them, and they mentioned him a few times. He was… uh…
important in our history”. Hopefully that was a convincing lie.

She leaned
back, looking around is if someone invisible was looking over her, which,
knowing George, may be true. She gestured to the church steps. “Sit” she told
me. “It is a rather long story, so I wouldn’t want to keep you standing”.

The two of us
sat down on a step. I looked into her eyes as she clearly struggled remembering
all of the details she wished to recall. She raised her hand as though trying
to catch something in the air. This old lady was an interesting character, not
in George’s manner, but that she was complex.

“It was…
years ago. So, so long ago. My great-great-great-great-grandmother fell in love
with a sweet man named George Herphan. He was really attached to a church…” she
gestured around her. “This very church. It’s why I tend to it… it’s in my blood
to stay with it”.

Getting off
of the current subject, I had to ask her something. “Well, I’m trying to beat
these protestors off pretty much by myself… can you… help me?” I laughed. “It
sounds silly, recruiting people for this… but I need all the help I can get.
Would you be up for it?”

She didn’t
even ponder it for a second. “Of course. I hardly know you, you hardly know me…
but I believe we both have a common enemy, hmm?” She nodded, then continued.
“We can get each other’s backs in this”.

After a
little bit of awkward silence, she took a deep breath and returned to the story
she had been telling me. “Anyways, this man, George, was very kind and such.
They were madly in love. But just a few years after they got married… I think
George was only in his forties… he caught a disease and… he passed away. It had
happened so fast”.

It took a
while for me to fully take in this information. The facts all added up on top
of one another. George looked young because he was probably preserving his age,
and he was in his forties when he passed away. Jessica was his wife… that was
why he went to see her then.

A feeling of
sadness overtook me. George had a terrible life, barely having the chance to
live it all. “That’s… that’s very unfortunate” I replied, my eye contact having
dropped to the ground.

“Now, this
is when things become rather… odd. According to legend… this is truly hard to
believe… George reincarnated himself for a week and came back to her…
Jessica.  It’s more, as I said, a legend…
definitely not the truth. Wouldn’t you say?” the old woman began to wrap up her
story. “All through her life, Jessica had this weird feeling of someone
constantly looking over her, watching her… and it was as though George had
never left her at all”. She waved her hands. “It is, as you can tell, a very
confusing and probably untrue story. Interesting nonetheless”.

I nodded
with mock-understatement. George was happy because he was masking the pain he
left for losing his life so early. He didn’t take me on this mission for the
sake of it… maybe he did, I don’t know… but it could have been that my death
was much too similar to how he died very early in his life.

“Thank you…
for everything. I think I’ve learned what I’ve had to” I said, standing up.
This woman and I were going to be the last line of defense for this church, and
if we didn’t stick together, it would fall without us.

“I’m sure
you and I will make a difference. We’ll get people to fight with us, we’ll get
rid of these awful people” she said, instilling hope. I trusted her for saving
me back there, so her words didn’t sound false.

“We need to
stay on the same page, the same schedule” I explained to her. “There can’t be
another incident like this. I hope you’re up for long hours of hard work
blocking them off. I’d like to get Pearson and Gregor on board the effort train
too if they’re in a helpful mood”.

The woman
had no worries. “I’ll be here every day if you’ll be up there with me. Ask
around for help too. The more we have, the better of a chance we have of
beating them off”.

It seemed as
though everything had been settled. I waved. “I’ll see you then”.

She smiled,
waved back, and walked off back to her garden. She took a sideways glance at
me, and it was then when she probably realized she didn’t ask for my name. Her
mouth opened to form a question, but I was already running down the block. It
would be ideal to keep my presence known to the people I have already alerted
previously.

I guess
today wasn’t as bad as it almost had been. There were still plenty of
relationships and problems that have to be mended before I depart. Sadly, I
still had no way to go about half of those issues. It was, as of now, a work in
progress.

At least I
finally had an ally in my war against the protestors. We were at a standstill,
but there was no doubt in my mind that they were already orchestrating
something to tear apart their opposition, which was only two strong, but would
hopefully gain more momentum in later times.

The bleak
mood wasn’t as bad as it had previously been, but it was still present. I had
begun to turn the tides of all of these conflicts. Soon enough, I have faith in
luck giving me the benefit for once. Then once that was done, I could end my
last day on Earth with the one mission I saved for the end. I hadn’t decided
how I would go about it yet, but it was going to happen.

The sun
hadn’t begun to set yet, and still resided proudly over the surrounding
landscape. The afternoon only just started. There was too much to accomplish as
of yet, but a new confidence had overtaken me. Maybe I could do this… no… I
would do this. I wasn’t going to lose. I can’t lose. Not now.

The End

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