Chapter 10 - When There's Nothing LeftMature

It took much
too long to leave the church, almost as extensive and stressful as the previous
trip towards it. My mind was disturbed by many a problem, causing a vicious
headache to erupt. I obtained headaches too easily, and often. I wished for
them to stop, but sadly a genie was not in my general vicinity.

The freeway
was now jam-packed with cars, pressing me to the very edge of the road as I
wandered to whatever home I could find for myself. Amanda was the only option,
at least the most reliable one, but I might have to become more hidden than a
public neighborhood. Too many people have seen my face, and with that came
information of my whereabouts, especially from Hunter, who already sold me out
to his father. He was probably already spreading the news to get some mindless
teenagers to fight with him.

I soon came
across a familiar branch from the main pathway. The hospital could be reached
by taking it, and if I decided to go there I could visit Paul, who should be
available this time for when I arrive to visit him.

Thinking it
to be better to check in on how he was coming along, I headed in that
direction. If that doctor blocked me off again, I’d probably do something
desperate and stupid. Something was going to work in my favor today, and
nothing would stop me.

The familiar
hospital rose up before me, and I looked around. The parking lot was packed,
swarming with cars. A wave of nervousness took over me as a worry of a long
waiting line entered my head. On a busy day like this, something like that
could delay me for much too long, and in this current haste-ish mood I was in,
wasting time wasn’t a good option.

I nearly
fainted when I looked in through the front door and got a glance at the long,
winding line that ran through the complex, destroying any chances of visiting
Paul yet again. No… not today.

The front
doors were flown open, going far off of their usual swinging arc and slamming
into the walls behind me. I was angry at life for purposefully trying to screw
me over, ever goddamn time. Life always was around the corner with another
trick, another plan, but I wasn’t going to let him enact it this time. Victory
meant outsmarting the minefield he built just for my agony.

Judging by
the amount of people crowding the room, I assumed that the wait would last for
an hour, an hour that I didn’t have the desire to spend. As much as I despised
making myself an enemy to the public, I had to. There was really one option,
and it was the one I wanted to take.

So I walked
through them, simply and casually. There were angry shouts and shoves that were
concentrated at me, but I was forced to ignore them for the sake of winning
this battle I had now thrown myself into. Life must have been surprised by this
movement, but he regrouped quickly.

They started
to try and cut me off from my passage to the reception desk now, commanding me
to turn around. I can’t stop now, though. I’m almost there, and halting would
only result in a punishment I cannot handle, even if I tried to do so. I get a
little more aggressive making my way to my destination, an action I hated, but
it was necessary nonetheless.

Finally I
made it, breaking through the mass grouping of entities. The receptionist sat
before me, looking rather confused, probably due to the uproar I caused to get
to my current position. People were still angry at me for jumping ahead, so I
had to be quick.

I nearly
shouted the words at the lady behind the desk in my rush. “Please, can you tell
me where a Paul Hundson is staying at?” I had forgotten the number easily after
my first failed attempt to see him, so I needed a refresher. As soon as I got
the number, I could just make a run for the room to get away from any trouble.

She looked
over her computer screen for a moment, then looked up at me and pointed down
the hall. “Room 218b on the second floor. The elevator’s just down there, and
the stairs are next to them”.

I nodded and
dashed off to the stairs, which were much faster than the elevator in
comparison, and the more rapidly I moved, the harder it would be for someone to
catch up to me and bring me in to some sort of punishment, probably just a
removal for the premises. Something as simple as that was so much more
deadly-sounding to me, so I had to avoid capture at all costs.

I took the
steps two at a time to quicken my pace, eventually reaching the second floor
landing. I looked behind me, then both ways down the hallway. Paul was nearby,
just at the end. I ran to go meet him. Was today the day I would be able to see
him?

There was
not one doctor in sight that could turn me around. Not one roadblock was in my
way. Paul was right in that room. As much as I wanted to see him, I was worried
about how it would look. He broke his leg, but got surgery on it, making the
situation sound much more serious.

After a few
deep breaths, I took a step forward. I closed my eyes and opened them a few
times, still trying to get a grip on myself. Finally, I leaped inside the door,
not caring about any previous uncertainties.

Paul was
lying on the bed with his broken leg elevated on a platform. Other than the
leg, no other injuries were visible on his person. His eyes were wide open and
staring into the white ceiling. He turned to face me, probably having heard me
walk in.

“Hey…
Jordan? What… what are you doing here?” he said, greeting me. He didn’t look
happy to see me, and rather just puzzled by my appearance. Slowly I approached
him, looking him over again. He could have gotten off worse from the fire
knowing his luck, so I was glad to see him looking better than he could have
been.

“I just…
wanted to have a visit. See how you were doing”. I slowly made my way over to a
chair next to his bed. Suddenly thinking myself delusional, I made sure check
out his condition again.

“I don’t
mean to deter you from whatever you’re doing” he replied weakly, coughing
afterwards. He nodded towards his broken leg. “And don’t let that deter you
either. It’ll mend”.

Paul was a
terrible liar, and I realized he had just broken his honesty code by hiding the
truth. I glared at him until he finally figured out what he had done. With a
deep breath, he let the details out.

“Okay, you
got me. I’m sorry… really sorry… but I couldn’t see myself telling the truth
about this”. The conversation was off to a bad start, though I was too curious
to notice this as extremely as I should have.

He looked
back over at his leg. “I’m stuck in here for another few weeks. The doctors
said it was a terrible case… but that it can be fixed, at least. The longer I
stay here, though…”

“The harder
it will be to pay them the money you will ultimately owe” I muttered, ending
his sentence with the only way I knew it could. Paul wasn’t one for fortune and
endeavors like it. When will life cut him a break? When will life cut us all
one fucking break?

My mind
drifted back to when Amanda and I briefly discussed about maybe finding a way
to raise money to help pay the hospital bill we all knew would be completely
out of his reach. She thought it was impossible, and so did I. The only reason
I mentioned it was to try and implant some hope into the situation. Reviewing
the disaster as it was now, it may be the only option.

The problem
is, Paul would want me to consult him on this matter, and would just shut it
down and claim he could beat through the trouble himself. Today is one day
where no is not an answer, and neither is yes, for they are either too negative
or too bland.

“It’s crazy,
a longshot… but maybe we can obtain money for you” I told Paul nervously, not
wanting to hear the response I already anticipated.

But it
wasn’t the reply I expected, at least not yet. “We? I don’t have… friends,
really. And even my relatives don’t know that I’m cooped up in here”.

“Amanda.
She’d be willing” I countered, even though I was uncertain on her cooperation
due to the ridiculousness of the suggestion. My friends might not care for
that, but even so, they couldn’t be a guarantee, especially after the fight.
That still haunted me…

I shook my
head a few times and said the only thing I could muster. Even if Amanda told me
I wasn’t a total failure on my trip here on Earth, I couldn’t help but feel it
was anyway. It was time to do something right, whether it be the church problem
or Paul’s problem.

“Listen, I
don’t care if I have to run through every land and swim every body of water. I
am going to do something that is going to help you, and darn it it’s going to
work!” I proclaimed, watching my swearing when talking to an adult.

My little
speech seemed to have little impact on him, and it wasn’t hard to deduce why.
His eyes shifted back up the ceiling, his body relaxing back into the position
I had found him in when I first entered. He looked into that ceiling because he
could literally do nor think of anything else he could possibly manage. To him,
his life was trash, and truthfully… it was. Seeing him lying there so hopeless
destroyed me. This is how a many truly looks when he has given up entirely and
lost the desire to continue, rather preferring to sit in their current spot.
Rewinding myself to just a few hours ago, I remembered myself looking the same
why when Mr. Feworth had me cornered.

The
Feworth’s… the church problem… Brant… Paul… I’d take care of each problem
individually and with the same amount of concentration. I needed to step back
and collect myself, gather up my thoughts, and set out some battle plans. As
much as I liked Paul, he didn’t want to talk to me obviously, and I felt as
though the conversation had ended anyways. My mouth opened a few times to try
and find out the right thing to say, but Paul wasn’t even concentrating on me,
moreover acting as though I had already left the room.

I wished to
see him, and that’s what I got. Definitely not what I wanted… but necessary
nonetheless. I needed to see him, and if anything I learned a thing or two from
the encounter. The big picture was not what I needed. I needed to get a pair of
scissors, cut up the big picture, and then look at the pieces I made. It was
one gigantic puzzle, and you couldn’t complete one if the pieces didn’t fit
together yet.

As I exited
the room, I took one last look back a Paul and sighed. If I had been paying
attention in the hallway, I wouldn’t have suddenly stumbled backwards. It took
a moment to realize I had bumped into someone. I muttered an apology, and I was
ready to slip away when I saw who the other person was.

“What the
hell are you doing here?”

“Oh hi
Brant, nice to see you too”.

I had nearly
forgotten Jack was staying in this hospital too, coupled with the fact I wasn’t
ready to face Brant yet right after the incident. I didn’t have much of a
choice now that we had run into each other, literally.

“I guess I
wasn’t clear when I said stay away from us” he began, his voice slipping into a
monotone. “Jack’s awake now, so you’re most certainly not getting anywhere
close to his room. This is as far as you go”.

I shrugged,
playing this as nonchalantly as I could. “I was just visiting a good friend of
mine over in this room right here” I said, pointing behind me to make sure I
was clear enough for him. “My apologies if I didn’t realize you were right
there. Next time, keep your ego out of the hallway so it doesn’t hit anybody”.

“Yeah, yeah,
always the smartass weren’t you” he replied, shaking his head. “You think
you’re all that, a response for everything. I’ve been starting to think maybe
you’re just of Hunter’s kin. Running out into fights and such. Tell me, after
that night, what makes you so different from him?”

“Need me to
get you a list?” I counteracted. “Granted, it’s a long one, with some difficult
words on it that you may have trouble understanding”.

“Are we
going to play this game again? You know I have better grades then you” he said,
grinning as the words exited his mouth. It was no longer about Jack, but trying
to beat me in an argument. Unfortunately, he was tangling with the wrong man.

“You’re
looking at a straight-A student. You’re A’s and B’s, which, if you can do the
math, isn’t superior to me”. This fight was getting ugly, and I quickly
comprehended that I wasn’t helping that out one bit, so I changed my manner.
“Okay, listen. Let’s drop the petty arguments. Agreed?”

Brant raised
his eyebrows in surprise. “Well, that was a quick change. Need a tampon?”

“That
suggests that you carry them” I retorted. This comment was unavoidable. Insults
like that really burned into my skin because really they were insulting
themselves, but nobody ever understood that.

Brant
sighed, leaned his head back, then shot a glare at me. He knew that I had him
and he had no chance of one-upping me in my own game, my battlefield. I was
ready to have the final word, but Brant took it upon himself to take it.

“Listen to
yourself, and then you’ll figure out why Hunter and a hell of a lot more people
hate you. Nobody likes a show-off, a guy that thinks he’s all that. And I bet
you thought you were so cool you could take Hunter down on the streets, and
then you got upset because things didn’t turn out the way they were supposed
to. Sorry, but this time there is no victory in this argument for you. You are
a failure, and I wish I had never met you”.

I was wrong.
He had me. And even if I had a response, it meant nothing. As he walked away, I
felt myself almost crying. That was me, in a nutshell. My mind tried to deny
these charges put against me, but deep down I knew it to be true. What did
Amanda see in me, what did she do to me, that made me seem desirable to her? I
was a failure, a smartass, and a show-off. I was nothing.

Suddenly, I
remembered Paul was right behind me. I turned to see if he was looking, but the
ceiling must have been more captivating than a heated argument. I found myself
wishing the argument never happened. I found myself wishing a lot of things
never happened.

They were
all right. Amanda was a liar. George should have been able to knock some sense
into me, but I turned him down, and now the Feworth’s, and most recently, one
of my best friends. My time on Earth was wasted. My family is dead for sure,
and I’ll be going straight to Hell if there is a place worse than my current
life. Maybe even Hunter himself, the scum of the world, was right about me. I
should be dead. That car killed me and that’s the way it should stay.

The
afterlife never should have existed. If it didn’t, I’d just fall into
nothingness and that would be it. It would make for an interesting tombstone
too. ‘Here lies the guy who thought he was everything, then one car showed him
he was wrong. He now rests peacefully in some black pit’.

All of these
thoughts overloaded any part of me that had reason or sense, and any part of me
that had previously been trying to calm me down. I was on life support, and
life support decided to fuck me over and leave me out by myself. There was no
autopilot, not manual driver, no nothing. Just one way and one way only.

I always
made fun of stuff like that too, dark, depressing stuff. I now found it looming
over me, tempting me to do the dark deeds I used to have known better to not
do. Cliché is one word for it, stupid, meaningless being others among some
other words or phrases. But to me, it was the only way out. The escape plan.

Suicide.
Sounded so simple, and looked plain on paper. Doing it was different. Thinking
about. Have I gone mad after just one bout with Brant? I knew I was capable of
losing it, but this was just all too much. Sure, they were all right about me…
but is all of this really necessary? I needed to get a grip on myself. My
sanity didn’t exist anymore, and I required it, I craved it, especially now
that these rabid thoughts are overtaking me.

I was
sweating, my body shaking. I collapsed on the floor, my head throbbing
uncontrollably. I was losing my power, I was… what was I doing? What do I want
to do? I’m just fucking confused, fucking angry, and I want it to fucking stop!

“GET OUT OF
MY FUCKING HEAD!”

It took an
eternity to grasp the fact that I had not thought this in my head, or muttered
to myself. At the top of my lungs, so everyone could hear me, I screamed those
words. The words that signaled how much I was losing it.

People were
clogging the hallway now, one of them being Brant, who was simply leaning out
of a doorway, looking at me with an expression of annoyance. He was the only
one that seemed that way as I observed the onlookers that now crowded around
me.

I didn’t
want their concern, their pity… I didn’t want any part of it. All I wanted was
to run off somewhere far… suicide… maybe? I don’t know. I’m insane. It’s
official.

All eyes
were on me like a spotlight on stage. They started talking now with me as the
subject, but with the mindset that I couldn’t hear them. It didn’t take a while
for security guards to rush up and witness the scene for themselves.

“Now wait a
minute… that’s the kid that was pushing everyone around earlier” one of the
guards said, approaching me as he said it. There were two more officers that
followed in tow.

Brant was
smiling now, and it was enough to make me charge at him and launch the
deadliest punch I ever threw at someone, with the intent of knocking his head
off of his shoulders. It connected, knocking him back into the doorframe he had
been inside of. His nose was crooked, and I took a quick second to take pride
in that.

The mood
changed drastically after this. I was now the crazy kid that had just assaulted
somebody and shouted an obscenity as loud as he could in the hallway. Before I
knew it, the guards and some onlookers had pulled me away before I would begin
pounding Brant’s skull until it cracked.

The guards
lifted me up and took me downstairs back to the reception room. Right before I
was completely away from the scene, I yelled back at my former friend.

“I’ll see
you in hell, bitch!”

I initially
thought that after those events that I’d be sent off to juvenile prison for
sure. However, my performance must have convinced the officers that I just
wasn’t right in the head, so they kicked me out the door and made sure to give
me a pamphlet about the downtown insanity recovery hospital. What a load of
bullshit.

I began to
plan a way to sneak back in, but the guards weren’t that stupid; they waited
until I was out of the parking lot before they took their eyes off of me. Cars
still clogged the lot, but the highway was empty at this hour. End-of-the-day
traffic didn’t usually come through here. The sun had shifted downwards,
allowing me to guess it was at least mid-afternoon.

Among the
things I saw myself doing in life, beating up my friend and getting kicked out
of a hospital wasn’t one of my imaginings. I knew I lost it and I got insane…
and maybe I still was… but now I felt my anger cool down the farther I walked
away from the building.

But one
particular thought came back. Suicide. I would really have to be insane enough
to just give up on everything and take a one-way ticket to the bottom of the Earth.
At the same time, it all made perfect sense to me.

The blade
though… no… I can’t do it. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stand here and take
all of this. I’m giving up. All of that confidence I had earned from that old
woman at the church had been blown to bits. It was her fight now, and hers
alone. Best of luck to her and her sanity.

No. I heard
the reasonable side of my mind speak again, and I took comfort in knowing it
returned to assist me. So what if this all happened? You lost your cool, and
that wasn’t a smart thing to do. You let a few comments get to you so easily.
Giving up isn’t an option. You’d let everyone down. Even Brant… because friends
don’t want to stay enemies no matter how hostile they are to each other.

And whatever
he said wasn’t a correct response either. I know that you know you think you’re
losing your sanity, and if you take a deep breath you’ll realize that you are
choosing that path. Calm down, dust yourself off, and get back in the ring.

Thankfully,
this helped me see the light… or at least a fraction of it. I still doubted my
abilities to fix whatever hole I dug myself into. There was one person I knew I
could see when I was in need of some reason, in need of a friend. Sadly, she
lived quite a ways far from here, and unless I got lucky and found that Sam was
driving by again, it was time to wear my feet out again.

No…
actually, thinking about it now… there was one location closer to me where I
could be all by myself and to my thoughts. Some place where nobody ever went
to, and privacy was a guarantee.

It was only
a few blocks down from the hospital, and it didn’t have much to speak of
anyways. Just a few slides and platforms, monkey bars, the like. Even on the
best of days, nobody would dare go there for reasons unknown. It was just an
undesirable place that was perfect for some time on my own.

Choosing
that option, I started walking off in that direction, periodically glancing to
the road to check and see if I would have the opportunity to hitch a ride with
somebody I knew. No such luck was present, so I stopped that habit and
persisted on.

The heat
wasn’t as unbearable as it usually was on sunny days like these. In fact, it
didn’t feel like it was really there at all, along with humidity. A breeze
wrapped around me, nice and not too cold enough to bother me. Judging a book by
its cover, it was a wonderful day. Flip through the pages and you get a
different story. Oh shut up… no more dwelling on bad thoughts until peace and
quiet are achieved.

The park
spread out before me now, looking almost as down-trodden as I remembered,
possibly even worse. With it so unpopular, it was a wonder that the local park
committee didn’t just dispose of it. To me, it was a secret treasure that
nobody really knew of except me.

My favorite
spot was still there too. One platform was so out-of-the-ordinary because of
how its height loomed over the surrounding structures, and it was the single
place in the park that had a roof. It cast a large shadow that sometimes could
be used as a lackluster sundial.

I wished for
the night to come and make this place more majestic and even more silent. I
wanted to gaze at the stars, clear my mind by occupying it with something else.
Of course, I still had to evaluate those issues and figure out how to solve
them, but I won’t let that worry me until later.

An equally
giant ladder led up to the tower, which also looked strange due to how it had
not rusted nor lost some of its bars, as did the other steps. I scaled it as
fast as I could to be treated with a nice view of the forest that seemed to
span for miles upon miles, maybe never-ending. I liked to gaze into it and get
lost into the lush green colors of the trees and other vegetation.

I sat down,
leaning back onto the guardrails surrounding the platform. I wish life would be
like this every day. No more of these overly-cruel individuals or backstabbing
friends, no more homeless or hopeless people. Just a nice, peaceful world where
nobody is hostile to each other. Sadly, such thoughts were only fit for
dreaming, and so I began dreaming.

I started
drifting away, but before I could, the barking that could only come from a
small, yippy, and usually annoying dog broke my concentration, which would have
led to a very nice slumber. Alas, one could not be that lucky on a day such as
this.

Slightly
annoyed by this occurrence, I turned around to see who had caused this racket.
It took a while to pinpoint the sound, but then a girl’s voice joined in,
trying to calm the dog down. I looked to my right and was surprised to see who
was standing there.

Anna. I knew
that she lived in this part of the county, but I didn’t think she would want to
come her, even if she was walking a dog, a dog which I never knew she owned. As
much as I liked her presence, I preferred being along today. If she noticed me,
well, then I guess I’d have no choice but to share the lonesomeness.

As I
half-anticipated, I heard someone scaling the structure. I didn’t have to turn
around to know who it was or realize that they were here. Anna must not have
expected someone to be up here anyways, and I heard her exclaim her surprise
and nearly depart from the ladder. However, upon a closer look, she recognized
me.

“Jordan?
What… what are you doing here?” she asked me.

I debated
whether or not to tell her the truth. Oh, what the hell, she’s a friend. “I
come here when I need to be alone” came my monotone reply.

“Oh… sorry
for disturbing… I didn’t mean to-“

“I didn’t
say that to scare you off” I responded. Now that she had climbed up here, I
didn’t want to let her go back down. Maybe I was wrong, and her appearance was
a message to me that I did need a friend.

“Oh… sorry”
she offered an unneeded apology shyly. She acted like this usually when it was
just the two of us alone. “I’m guessing you’re not feeling good”.

I looked at
her, back to the forest, then to a spot next to me. I gently patted it with my
hand. Anna got on the platform and took the seat, maintain eye contact with me.
Not many people were strong enough to do that with someone who had a problem
and needed help.

“I hope I’m
not… wasting time” I said.

“Anytime…
with you… isn’t wasted” she said, smiling. I smiled back, my eyes now shifting
to the floor as I tried to figure out how to tell her what I did, and wondering
if even one of my best friends could understand me.

“My life has
been… I don’t know. It’s been a lot of things… people can say stuff about it,
and I can agree or disagree… and I can say my own things. This whole…
reanimation… it’s… it’s been… I love my friends, understand that… but what I’ve
done today is… failure… to do. To manage. And it helps me… it shows me… that I
really have been that way all my life. Say what you will about this… but I
think I’ve got the truth”. I didn’t want to make a conversation such as this,
but for a friend to help me, I had to open the floodgates and let them know how
I really felt. The forest had burned down to me, and the park disappeared. It
was just Anna and I.

At first I
thought she wouldn’t even respond to that. She took a long time to digest what
I had just said. Her eyes looked at everything but me as though searching for
the correct response. Finally, she took a deep breath, signifying that she had
something to say.

“Jordan… you
need… you need to… know. I know that you already know, but… I can’t help it… I…
I love you”. Even if I already knew it, the words had a profound effect on me.
Three simple words on paper that meant so much more when spoken from the heart.
Such words made me wonder why that car had hit me that day, and then I realized
it was an act of love that started this. I could have saved myself so easily
from that situation… but Amanda was a higher priority.

“It’s stupid
saying this… you with Amanda… but I mean it… and I love you being with Amanda
too”. She looked over at me, and our eyes met. “I always thought this… that you
were different than people thought”.

“I’m a
showoff, a guy that thinks he’s all that… what makes me so special to you, or
Amanda? My friends in general?” I had thought about this since leaving the
hospital despite my efforts.

“You seem
that way because you only act that way around people who deserve it. I know
you… you wouldn’t act that way for the sake of it. I always liked how you
seemed to know what to do… how to handle yourself. I know about the fight…
Amanda told me… she was worried and… and honestly… I probably would have done
the same thing. Beat that asshole to hell and back”.

I grinned.
“And you’d be too much for him, and that I know for certain. The little pussy
would be running for his life”.

Anna shook
her head. “This isn’t about me… let’s keep the topic in its spot”. She was
tough, smart… and understanding. This conversation was turning out to be much
different than I thought it would be.

“I wasn’t
done anyway… pretty much I guess. But, Jordan… you’re not a failure. Don’t let
the Feworth’s or anyone else tell you otherwise. Think about who called you
that… and… how much do they mean to you?”

“One of them
was one of my best friends…” I said, my voice trailing off as I sadly realized
I proved her speech wrong.

I was
incorrect however. “He obviously isn’t… the ‘was’ says otherwise. Truthfully,
what do those people mean to you?”

I nodded,
understanding what she meant. “Not much anymore. But this church problem…
everything is at stake… and not only that… I’m battling against Mr. Feworth himself!”

She seemed
pretty shocked than an adult was willing to gun after me too, but her surprise
didn’t last long. “I’m not going to tell you how to win that battle… or help
you with it”.

I was taken
aback by this. “Wait… what happened to assisting me? I can’t do this on my own…
the situation is pretty dire, even now that I have a little more help”.

Anna shook
her head. “Jordan… I think you know this too… we’re here for you. Maybe one of
your friends isn’t… but there are others that are right behind you… like me… and
definitely Amanda”.

“It’s not
just manpower, Anna… it’s a problem that doesn’t seem to have a solution”. The
best solution, which had been simply calling the police, didn’t work, and
anything more elaborate than that didn’t seem possible to even do in the first
place or impossible to work.

“Jordan… you
don’t even need friends if you put your mind to it. One thing I liked… and
still like about you… is this” she said, pointing to my forehead. “Your mind…
is incredible. Really. It’s amazing how you can come up with solutions,
comebacks… virtually everything. You could solve every world problem with it.
It’s just… sometimes… you lose it. I’m sorry if that offends…”

It took a
while to accept this comment as what it was. At first it sounded like an insult,
but it was just like I was a writer and Anna was just editing my work. I
nodded, the scene in the hospital surely showing off how much I was capable of
losing.

“It doesn’t”
I replied softly. “And in fact… it’s true…”

“Don’t…
don’t beat yourself up about it. It just… happens sometimes… and you forget
that you know how to answer something… because you make yourself believe… you
can’t. But you can… you always can. All you need to do is realize that as the
truth… and I bet you can clean this church thing up by the end of your…” Her
voice trailed off as she remembered that I wasn’t here for the rest of my life,
but only for a short period.

She was
ready to cry, and I would have cried in turn. I put my arm around her. “Anna…
do you… do you think you know how much you mean… to me?” I wasn’t a romantic by
a longshot, so the words came out awkwardly, but Anna didn’t seem to mind.

“No… I
really… don’t know. Just years of wondering if I was really your friend or not,
and-“

I cut her
off. “Let’s keep the topic” I said with a smile. She leaned her head on my
shoulder, also smiling as she remembered she had just said the same thing but a
few minutes ago.

“You were,
and always will be… my friend. One of my best ones. You’re tough, strong… and
you’re smarter than you think. Your personality is a rainbow even on a cloudy
day. You give me a meaning to live… all of my friends do… but you matter more…
and I never thought I’d ever be able to tell you that…”

She looked
over at me, somewhat surprised as though she never thought I would ever admit
such feelings for her. I never thought I would either due to opportunity
availability. Tonight felt the right time to be there and give her the truth.

I looked
over at her. She had laid her head back on my shoulder. She had been such a
great friend to me over the years… and tonight might have been the type of talk
I required in order to continue. I’m really going to miss her… that fucking
accident messed everything up.

“Thank you…
so much” I said, an understatement for how much thanks I really owed to her,
but giving any more would make the words sound really weird and jumbled.

Fortunately,
she knew me well enough to realize that. “It’s nothing… it’s like they say…
what are friends for, right?”

I nodded,
starting to gaze back out into the trees when I thought of another subject. “I
never thought you came to this park though”.

She had
another sad look in her eyes. “Only after the accident” was the only thing she
had on the matter. I noticed she had started looking at the trees too. “This
place is really special… in its own way… don’t you think?”

I nodded
once more, preferring the silence now that the conversation was over. Anna took
note of this and became quiet, moving closer to me and even holding my hand. I
didn’t mind this affectionate gesture too much… but I did notice it. She did
love me… and I did too in a different way. Life just likes to break friendships
as he pleases.

I had begun
to lose track of time, and before I knew it the sun wasn’t in the sky anymore,
replaced by a full moon shining brightly down on the forest, illuminating it in
the darkness. Stars had started to appear like little Christmas lights. The
road was completely empty, nobody was wandering outdoors, and even the bugs
were subdued as though they knew we were here.

“Look” Anna
said, pointing to a group of stars hanging directly in front of us. “That’s the
Little Dipper, right?”

I laughed.
“Nope, that’s just a jumble of stars”.

She sighed.
“You’re looking at it wrong”. She pointed out as though imagining herself connecting
the dots. “Now do you see it?”

I shook my
head. “Honestly, I think you’re full of crap”.

She laughed
and punched me on the shoulder, laughing even harder when I expressed how much
it hurt and began gently rubbing the spot where she had hit me.

We would
have kept talking, but I heard a car pulling into the park’s parking lot. I
knew this because of how close it sounded. Surprised that someone had come out
to this part of the country deliberately, Anna and I both turned to see who it
was. It was a woman, bearing a slight resemblance to my friend.

“Oh shoot”
Anna muttered, clenching her fists as she said it. “That’s my mom. I was
supposed to bring the dog home”.

The dog! I
had almost forgotten about it. “Where’d you put him?”

She looked
at me with horror in her eyes. “I just tied him on the post down there… oh, and
he didn’t even get dinner yet! I really was gone for that long?”

I gestured
to the woman standing in the parking lot. I was sad to let Anna go, since I
didn’t know when I would see her again, but I didn’t want to get her in
trouble. “You best be going then. Don’t tell her why you were here, though. As
far as anyone is concerned, I’m a dead man”.

Anna looked
down at the woman and then back up at me. “The problem is… I’m not ready to
head out yet. I want to stay here”.

“I’m sorry…
but I don’t want you getting into any trouble. Umm… when can I see you again?”
I asked her, hoping that there would be a moment like this we could have
together again.

“I have a
lot of plans… but I’m willing to cancel them” she responded, giving me a sad
look as she already knew the answer I would give.

“Don’t do
that. You should keep those plans, go with those friends… have some fun in your
life”. I even hurt myself with the last part knowing that it wasn’t possibly
for me anymore.

She turned
to go, then quickly turned back around and brought me into a hug, not her usual
bone-crushing ones, but a genuinely affectionate, loving hug. We stood there
for quite a while until Anna’s mom began calling her name.

Before she
could go down the ladder, I gently kissed her on her forehead. She looked up at
me surprised, to which I just simply responded, “You know I love you too”.

She might
have started to cry when she climbed down that ladder, which was probably the
last time I would ever see her. But at least I knew that not only had I helped
her, but she helped me… and so much. If I succeeded in solving anything past
this day, it would all be to her credit.

Before she
entered the car, when her mom wasn’t looking, she waved at me. I returned it,
and one tear slid down my face, but thankfully it was invisible to her from
where she was standing. I watched the car pull out, and drive away, the dog
thankfully being quiet during the departure.

With a
miserable sigh, I began to lower myself from the structure. It was time for me
to go too. But with a start I remembered that there was nowhere for me to go,
for likely the tenth time since arriving on Earth. Except… nobody ever does
come to the park. There doesn’t seem to be any other option.

The platform
was mildly comfortable, and would have to deal for the meantime. I was hoping
for an improvement after having to find refuge inside of a farmhouse, an
occupied one at that, but I shouldn’t have expected anything more or less
judging by my current luck.

It felt cold
as I tried to lay back and get a sufficient amount of rest in, the texture of
the platform turning out to be very uncomfortable after a few minutes of laying
on it. My mind still had a lot on its mind, so I guess I’d stay up for a bit and
try my luck with sleeping later.

First and
foremost was the church problem. The kind woman, Jessica, had volunteered to
help me, but I was unsure as to what the two of us were capable of. These
protestors needed to be pinned somewhere so they couldn’t get out. Come on…
think! Those men had cornered me so easily, and if they could do it, so could
I. There had to be some method that, at this point, they wouldn’t see coming.
It would have to bring as little attention and suspicion as possible.

 That was when I began to think of a wonderful
plan. Oh, and it was an amazing plan that could potentially wrap up everything
else along with it. It seemed simple on paper, but since the protestors already
demonstrated that they weren’t all complete idiots, it would have to be carried
out with great care and caution.

I’d need
manpower, that’s for sure. This could only happen if I had plenty of allies
that would assist me. Amanda and Anna wouldn’t be enough, and for all I knew
Brant got all of my other friends to turn against me. Maybe Sam would be
understanding enough… and Quintin was too reclusive to tell what he would think
of my actions.

It required
technology, another reason for having other members on-board. This had to be
put somewhere out of sight, but in a perfect position to capture what I needed.
And I wasn’t talking about the sort of electronics you carry around your house,
no… I was thinking of expensive, state-of-the-art equipment that would have the
best quality and reliability.

I felt power
flowing through me. Mr. Feworth didn’t know who he was up against anymore. I
felt a newfound strength inside of me, given to me by my friends and a new
desire to push forward. It wasn’t a whole new ball game, more like the second
inning of one. The games had only just begun.

First thing
in the morning, I reason with myself, I would approach Jessica with this idea
and see how we could approach it. Then, of course, I’d need to get some more
recruits. Maybe the priests would finally see that my plan could get them the
peace they wanted and they could help us out.

My mind now
at rest, I felt like maybe I would try and lapse into a slumber again. Before I
could, another sound erupted from the night, and it sounded like another car
pulling inside the parking lot! How many people were going to enter by this
park, and in just this night? Anna was fine, but anybody else would kind of be
pushing it. I should have some time, alone, to myself, not with whoever was
going to exit that car.

Carefully, I
peeked only my eyes over the edge of the platform. What I saw sent me
scrambling back out of sight. That was my car I just saw. The same car that Mr.
Feworth took from me and now drove around.

I didn’t
dare to move a muscle. For all I knew, he could have been ruthless enough to
kidnap Anna and get her to tell him where I was just so he could murder me with
no witnesses. Oh, that was so far-fetched! His presence sacred me nonetheless.

However, I
did allow my ears to listen to what was going on. There was some fierce
door-slamming sounds, what sounded like a fist pounding the hood, and… a
teenager’s protests.

An adult’s
voice rang out, most likely Mr. Feworth. “You little fuck! Do you even have any
idea what the hell you were doing? Do you realize what position this puts us
in? It’s insult on a fucking serious injury!”

Then there
was the kid’s voice. “I didn’t do nothing, he came to me! I didn’t know he’d
have some punk-ass friend that would come running out of nowhere to steamroller
us!”

I put a hand
on my mouth in my surprise. That was Hunter that had just spoken. It didn’t
take long to figure out that Mr. Feworth had found out about the brawl
yesterday and began blaming him for his failure, and even his own. This was the
first time I’ve seen Hunter’s family interacting with each other… and it wasn’t
sickening… no, it was… but is was also incredibly frightening.

“I don’t
give a shit who came to who! The problem still remains, doesn’t it? For all we
know, he’s already devising a way to get us. The kid isn’t a dumbass like you,
so I suggest you get your fucking act together!” I heard Mr. Feworth breathing
hard after that, trying to calm himself down.

“You know
what, fuck you! Some old hag humiliated you in public, and what do you have to
say to that? We both got our asses kicked, and so what? We’ll just regroup and
beat the bastard up in the end!”

Hunter’s
retort didn’t help his father’s temper. I heard a loud smack, and I flinched
myself. It wasn’t the sort of smack a slap gives off… Mr. Feworth just punched
his own kid, and it sounded as though it connected with his son’s jaw. I heard
someone fall down onto the parking lot gravel.

“You don’t
talk to me like that, bitch! I’m your fucking father, so I suggest that you
shut the hell up and listen to me!” there was a moment of silence in which I
could only hear cries of pain from Hunter and Mr. Feworth’s breathing, which
sounded as fearsome as a lion.

“Now the
bastard’s got himself hidden somewhere and getting ready to take a run at us
again. You’re not going to let him do that by all means necessary. Run him over
with a fucking car again if you have to, just keep him out of our way. Once
this church is history, we’ll move on to the next one, and soon enough we’ll
gain enough support to overtake the state. I dream big, my hopes are big, and I
don’t want a little kid to end them!”

“I’m not
gonna beat someone up because you order me to” Hunter croaked, his sobs still
audible, breaking up his speaking. “I don’t beat up nobody if I’m told. I do it
because of what they do, and I ain’t gonna do it just for your fucking stupid
plan”.

Another
smack, this time followed by a loud cry of agony. For the first time in my
life, I felt myself feeling sorry for Hunter, the kid that had tormented me all
of my life. It just now began to realize… maybe it wasn’t even his fault. Maybe
it was all because of his father that he turned out the way he did. It made me
wonder… what would Hunter be without that bastard of a father?

“You’re
gonna do as your told bitch, or we can do this all night and I can just wait
for you to agree. You know what… I’ll even throw in an incentive. Just for you,
and just because I happen to have so much”. I heard Mr. Feworth open up the
car’s trunk. His time I spared a glimpse. It was a large briefcase that he
opened up to reveal… oh my God.

I had never
seen so much money in my entire lifetime! It was all in neat, organized piles…
that had to be more than ten-thousand… more than fifty even! It wasn’t possible
that he could have obtained this with whatever business he led! Except… no…
would he?

“See all of this
green? I haven’t bothered to count it yet… but I can assure you, there’s at
least a hundred thousand in here. I’m willing to give this all to you if you do
me that one favor”.

Hunter
sounded as though the sight of this took him aback. “Dad… where’d did you get
all of this? You couldn’t have…” His voice trailed off in his disbelief.

“You better
fucking believe I did. I found all of this in that kid’s bank account. I never
knew he was so fucking loaded! His money is ours for the taking, and I plan to
take it”.

What!? That
bitch stole from me? I didn’t even know that I had so much money… but it was
mine, and he got away with a crime! It was unbelievable! All of my strength was
put into restraining myself from running out there and killing that sorry
excuse for a father. He stole, and from me! That heartless bastard was NOT
going to get away with that!

I was still
in disbelief of the fact that he was able to commit robbery and get away clean,
no evidence! It was complete bullshit, completely unfair! I wanted to get that
money back, and I wanted to see him rot in jail for taking it. I tried to calm
myself down… but my mood was turned sour. The Feworth’s were so fucking useless
to the world… fuck that son of a bitch!

I tried to
focus back on the conversation. Hunter was speaking now after taking in the
sight of the money for himself. “But… but I thought you were done with that
business!”

I didn’t
have to look to know Mr. Feworth shook his head. “That was nothing but a lie I
gave to that whore of a wife I decided to marry and I felt too bad to divorce
her. And you hate her too, so don’t give me that look!”

Hunter
didn’t make any noise afterwards. I could tell he was having a huge conflict in
his mind now… but I guess he was still a Feworth by nature and didn’t have a
large sense of good. “That money’s mine… just to stop Jordan?”

I had
already known this conversation was about me, but the mention of my name just
burned into my skin. That fucking thief, that fucking asshole… thankfully I
convinced myself to vent about my true anger over that particular situation
later.

“All yours,
son. If you fail, however, we’re gonna have a conversation that you will
enjoy”. The tone in his father’s voice could have scared anyone. “Now, we
better get him before your mother bitches about us being late”.

Some more
car door slamming, the sound of an engine turning on, and then the car pulled
out of the parking lot and into the night. I looked up to make sure that the
Feworth’s had left for certain… and to my relief I was correct.

Okay… deep
breaths. Don’t lose it… oh, fuck it.

I was stolen
from by that bastard!? It was impossible to fathom to thought of him stealing
from a kid his own son had just murdered! That wasn’t even as low as they could
go… oh fuck them, FUCK THEM. I was going to kick Mr. Feworth’s ass into the
ground and throw him in prison for what he’s done. I was not going to lose to
the likes of him. I was going to kill him if I had to… I was pissed off!

If only Anna
was still here, she would have given me some reason. I still remembered what
she told me though… don’t lose it. I had just lost it, and it wasn’t helping me
in any way, shape, or form. I pounded my fist furiously on the platform, my
breaths becoming quicker and sharper.

I was
standing now, looking out into the distance. Hunter is going to try and stop
me, and I can’t let him get that chance. My anger was flowing through me, and I
felt as though I could tear through the landscape just to get to that church. I
wasn’t calmed down… but I wasn’t prepared to lose my sanity. I was keeping that
in check. All that fueled me now was a genuine fury that would strike down Mr.
Feworth and his little protestors.

Fuck
sleeping, fuck resting… I was going to take the advice I earned from my friends
and use it. I had a plan, and I just saved myself from another episode.
Amanda’s advice would have to wait until I confronted Brant again… oh, that
should be fun. No, shut up! Focus!

My mind
shifted to the church problem, gathering ammunition, readying myself for what I
was ready to walk into. That place was a battleground, and anything goes in
that territory. Caution was still of utmost importance.

It was
yesterday when I did the same thing. I traveled all the way to the church on my
own two feet, and that was when I still had a tiny bit of sleep power left in
me. This time, I had none… but I had a desire that gave me a strength that made
up for it.

The only
concern I had as I began to lower myself down from the platform was if Jessica
would still be up there as well. I needed to give her the details on what I was
doing before I ran ahead to carry it out, and we were currently the only people
that were on the force fighting to protect the church. Hopefully the priests
might be up there too, and my idea would help spark them into action.

No wait… I
needed to recruit people first. I didn’t like having to keep Amanda up in the
nighttime like this, but if I was correct, this could be the crippling blow I
needed to save my family and this church from certain doom.

I had to be
quick, however, as Hunter was probably already setting up shop somewhere nearby
the church to try and block me off, acting as a bodyguard I assume. I doubt
he’d be watching every section, and he could be easily bypassed. Nevertheless…
fast. Move, faster!

I started
off sprinting in the direction of Amanda’s neighborhood, but I soon lapsed into
a jog, having already worn myself out in my haste. She lived so far away, but I
couldn’t stop to rest for one second, as every little moment gave the Feworth’s
more time that I didn’t want them to have.

All of the
houses bordering the streets were pitch-black, not a single light shining
inside of them. Not one soul was out this late, the only noises being the
pounding of my feet on the hard sidewalk, my breathing, and the quiet whistle
of the leaves as the wind blew into them.

It seemed as
though the world was completely silent, put at rest until the sun rose up over
the horizon, which was now nothing but a black canvas dotted with a little
white here and there. On the ground, the tree’s shadows could still be seen
stretching across my path, the foliage itself looming overhead.

My jog
slowed into a walk as I tried to catch my breath the best that I could. I
hurried so much I underestimated the distance and my stamina. It didn’t take
long for that strength I found at the park to disappear as though the whole
idea of obtaining it was just some joke that I took too seriously.

Even so, the
fact still remained that tomorrow was going to be rough. One angered Feworth
was enough, but two of them spelled troubled. If they were starting to
collaborate with each other, their little ‘armies’ could start a little manhunt
to find me and make sure I never come back.

I looked to
the heavens and silently asked for some of the luck I had seen so far in my
time on Earth. Paul coincidentally driving by, finding the story I had been
writing when I found Amanda, Sam driving by, Jessica’s appearance, and Anna
walking into the park. I knew that there was an afterlife and there were people
up there… was I getting help? I sure hope so, because I’d really like a ride
right about now…

A quick turn
of my head to see if my wish had been granted revealed a bike at the house
right next to me. I smiled. It couldn’t have been left out in the open just
when I needed transportation. I nodded thanks, as now I knew there was somebody
looking out for me, orchestrating events that got me the little things that
really mattered so much in the end.

Now I was
curious. Had George seen my learn about his past? If he was indeed watching me,
he would have known. However, he hadn’t contacted me since the bowling alley
incident… maybe it wasn’t him… Grandpa, maybe? It couldn’t be Amanda Gregory…
not after that argument we had.

As I
approached the bike, I grew weary of this being theft from whoever owned it. Though,
when I got closer to it, I surprised myself when I remembered seeing it before.
What was his name again…? This belonged to one of Hunter’s close followers. It
was as though whoever was helping me knew exactly what I would think about
taking a bike. From one of Hunter’s friends, the feelings weren’t that strong.

After
bringing the kickstand up, I rolled the bike out into the street, an easier
path than the sidewalk, which had now become bumpy and uneven, and sat on it.
Soon enough, I was pedaling away into the distance. My legs still ached from that
random sprint I decided to undertake, but I convinced myself to get over it for
now and relish in the fact that I was moving faster now.

As I
continued on, I began reviewing my plan. I needed manpower. Amanda and Anna
would already be up for it, along with Jessica, but us four weren’t going to be
enough. If the priests would cooperate, that would give us six, Hannah seven,
and the rest of my friends would give us eleven in all. That should do the
trick, but more wouldn’t hurt I guess.

I needed
technology. That was a harder objective to complete, as none of my friends were
either into computers and complicated electronics, or didn’t have the right
equipment for what I desired. Then I remembered an important fact; Mr. Feworth
was a criminal, he stole from me. Maybe asking the police for some help wouldn’t
hurt after all, I couldn’t bring them in, or the protestors would panic and
clear out before I got a chance to put them in the very same corner they
thought they had me in.

The last
thing I needed was the will to fight. My family was on the line, and I never
really found myself caring so much about that, taking it all for granted. I
still cared about their safety, and so far I had been distracted from that truth.
If I failed, a horrible evil would end them all, and not only that, it would be
because of the Feworth’s. It was a good ol’ fashioned family feud, and I wasn’t
going to be on the losing side. My mom and my dad, even my sister didn’t
deserve to die just because some bastard decided to tear down a church.

This bastard
was going to get beat up and shown who’s boss. Anna helped me realize that I’ve
got a better mind than him if I get around to using it. I’ll make him eat his
own words, choke and them, and run away, never to be seen again in public.

But, a new
thought had been bothering me ever since I overheard Hunter’s conversation with
his father. Did I really want to give out revenge? Was revenge really the right
path? Was it necessary? If I humiliated his father, trashing the family name,
would I have to do what I thought of ever since I passed away?

No… he
killed me. He ended my life, destroyed it. He’d pay the price… and I’ll see how
he likes it when I visit him in the afterlife, if he even makes it there.

The End

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