The story follows three characters-- Dani, Nicky, and Greg-- as they run away from the hardships they faced early in their lives. Years later, they join forces to face their pasts and overcome their fears. The title of each section is the name of the character narrating.
His limp body lay on the ground, blood spatter all around covering the dirt and grass beneath him. He’s not moving, frozen in a state somewhere between life and death. His eyes are open, glazed and distant, strained even, the whites of his eyes bloodshot. He’s in a state of stress. I can feel it. His pain is in me too. The medic rushes forward, shocking his body with two hand-held machines, and his body convulses, shaking uncontrollably as though he’s possessed.
I lunge forward, both of my hands firmly gripping his blood-stained and torn white t-shirt and massive waves of tears building in the corners of my eyes. He can’t leave me. Not like this.
As I hold him, trying to somehow keep him here with me, someone grabs me by my middle from behind and pulls, pries me from him, his shirt forcefully ripped from my hands. My brother ripped from my life.
The beeping and the sirens and the mass of screams and cries all whirling around me. I feel sick as my stomach plummets down my gut and my heart sinks back into my spine. I feel dizzy. I can’t breathe. I think someone, my mother, grabs my shoulder asking if I’m okay. I don’t answer. I’m not even sure I heard her correctly. I hit the ground hard as everything around me turns black.
I wake up in a bright place, everything white and near-blinding. It’s almost completely absent of sound except for that of my heavy breathing. I sit up, frightened and confused, wondering where I am. I look around and scan my surroundings, but all is just endlessly white as though I’m in a vacuum. Suddenly, he appears before me, my brother.
I jump up, confused but ecstatic. “Calvin!” I scream, wrapping my arms around him tightly, taking in everything that is him and his being. He hugs me back, one of his hands caressing the back of my head as I burrow my face into his shoulder sobbing uncontrollably. Mid-sob I try to speak. “Vinny, what happened? Where are we? You were hurt! I started to think you weren’t going to be okay!”
He continues to hold me in close, trying to calm me with low shushes. “Dani, Dani, shush. It’s all fine,” he speaks softly while running his fingers through my hair. “Everything will be fine.”
I pick my head up from his shoulder, my cheeks soggy from salty tears. “What’s happening?”
“We were in a bad accident, Dani, and I got real bad hurt. You saw me. You were there.” He pauses. “You’re still there.”
“What do you mean?” I ask between sniffles.
He thinks for a moment, searching for the right explanation for me. “I know this is hard for you to understand right now, but I’m not with you anymore. This is all a dream, all of this brightness around us. This isn’t real. The real world is the accident. The real world is me lying on the ground hurt. In the real world, I’m no longer alive, Dani.” My eyes widen in shock from trying to take in everything at once.
“How is that?”
“We’re both asleep right now and dreaming the same dream, sweetheart. The only difference is that, after this little dream is over, you’re going to wake up and I’m not. I have to stay here.”
His hands hold my head, his thumbs slowly wiping the falling tear drops from my eyes. He brushes the stray strands of gold from my green eyes and kisses my forehead lightly. “Dani, honey, listen to me.” His voice is smooth like silk. “I know I promised I would be there with you forever. I never expected this to happen, but it did and I’m sorry. You know I love you more than anything, and I still do and always will. Don’t you ever forget that, okay?”
“B- but Vinny, you’re comin’ back, right? You’re just playin’ with me! You can’t just leave me!” I grab onto his shirt again, trying my best to hold him with me longer than I know is possible, trying to escape the reality that I know is inevitable.
He hugs me tightly. “I can’t go back with you. I must stay here,” he says as he gestures to the white space around us.
“But you’re okay! You’re right here! You’re not hurt anymore! You can come back with me!”
“Sweetie, I’m only okay here. Back home, I’m hurt and in pain. You don’t want me hurting, do you? That would make me real sad.” I shake my head no as his eyes give me the same sad look he gave me years before when our father passed.
Our white surrounding begins to gray, and it frightens me. I grab urgently at Vinny’s shirt, hugging him as tight as possible once more. “Vinny!” He turns transparent, like a ghost, a figment of my young imagination.
“Dani, you’re waking up,” he says calmly as he continues to fade away. I can see his pearly smile through the grayness. “Don’t let anyone hold you back, okay? Follow your own path. Stand up for yourself. You’re going to be fine. I know you are.” He begins to disappear from sight completely, and I hear one last “I love you” before he’s completely gone.
My surroundings suddenly transition from the lighter gray to black in a whirl of color and swirls. And then breath comes into my body like shards of glass down my throat. I cough and roll over, feeling the wet and prickly grass beneath my body. The sirens are back. I open my eyes, squinting as the flashing lights return as well. It’s dark outside. I can see some stars through the clouds and brightness from the vehicles around me. Looking up into the dark abyss above makes me dizzy. Suddenly, a face blocks my view. I recognize this face, my mother’s. She’s saying something- I can see her mouth moving- but I can’t hear her. I don’t want to hear her right now.
I’m lying here looking up at her, her long wavy hair a mirror of mine as it falls over her shoulders towards me.