Saturday, January 17, 2009

The sirens could be heard warbling in the distance in protest to everything in the world around it. Joe felt cold in his stomach and extremities, his fingers, two of which ran thick ribbons of blood from to-the-bone gashes, were tingly and chilled. He shook, sometimes from the shoulders in heavy jerks, sometimes simply at the knees where street burned skin beneath his pants ached as they rubbed the fabric.

Through the haze of thoughts that came to his head, he tried to think of what it was. Symptoms, what were they? Why do I shake? Too warm to be cold, I thought. Does anyone have a blanket? Am I getting a cold? Wouldn't that just be the best right now, a cold when I'm sitting here in shock. 

The world moved slowly for him, his eyes working to be sure, but turning this way and that on worn hinges in much need of oil. His eyelids drooped and his mouth sagged open and it seemed to him that time would come to an end before he was able to force them shut again. 

"Wh-who would d-do this?" he said to his lap, is neck craned in the exhaustion of spilled blood and adrenaline. 

The sirens were closer, Casey could here them only a few blocks away. She held Joe tightly, trying her best to warm him with her own heat, fighting as the shakes he was jostled by threatened to take them both off the bench. She knew she wasn't supposed to have moved him. Everyone knows that moving someone recently involved in such a serious trauma has the chance to paralyze the injured person, but she couldn't stand to leave him in the street. She loved him, child or not. 

"Quiet now, the ambulance is close,"

"I'm just tired," Joe said, closing his eyes. 

"Stay awake for me, Joe. You can't sleep right now."

One of the police officers came over with his clipboard and pen in one hand, the other pressed to the radio on his shoulder.

"Are you tired?" he said, his voice piercing the haze of Joe's desire just to sleep.

Joe nodded.

"You've gotta stay awake for me bud, ok? The paramedics are on their way to take care of you," He looked sternly at Casey who clutched Joe like a stuffed animal, "You need to try and keep him awake, miss. Keep him talking or he could slip into a coma, ok?" 

Casey nodded, the word 'coma' sending little shudders through her chest as she thought of him sleeping and never waking up. She ran a warm hand through his hair and kissed his cheek.

"Can you tell me a story?" she asked him.

Joe's mind was sluggish and crowded like too many people trying to get through a small door. He licked his lips, still staring down into his lap and shook his head.

"I just want to sleep, just let me do this,"

Hospital beds. Innumerable nurses wearing innumerable gowns. Doctors with clipboards and spectacles and concerned faces who poked and prodded with blood and test tubes and strange syringes. Casey saw them all as his eyes closed again, ghosts that walked through the front of her mind with haunting precision. 

"If you won't tell it on your own," she stammered, "then you at least have to help me tell it,"

His eyes came open in slits as she began.

There was a woman once named Jane, and she loved a man named James with all of her heart. Jane woke up before James every day in order to watch him wake, and only pretended to sleep at night until James was sleeping. 

Jane, however, was married to a man from across the city, 

"Stay awake, sweetheart,"

She was married, I said, to a rich and powerful nobleman in the northern part of the city. What do you think his name was?

Joe's eyes stayed in slits but he spoke as clearly as he could. Casey let go a breath she'd been holding.

His name was Marcus. He said slowly. Marcus Wellbridge.

"A perfect name," 

Marcus slept in a different chamber than Jane did, only bringing her into his room for sex or to complain about her absences in the afternoons. He would become angry, yelling about how she hardly cooks for him anymore and that there is no passion in her eyes when they make love. Jane refutes these truthful accusations as best she can, but in her eyes the nobleman always sees the truth. 

"Where does she go in the afternoons?" Casey asked and Joe's eyes came open slowly.

"To him,"

"Very well,"

The sirens stopped warbling and the EMT came to a fast stop in the street, two men poured from the back carrying an orange and white stretcher and a third and fourth man exited from the cab. They huddled around Joe, helping him off of the bench as best they could and sitting him on the now chair shaped stretcher.

"You moved him to the bench, miss?" One of the EMT's said to Casey and she nodded, "Ok well let me tell you, if he's got any spinal issues you'll probably end up liable, ok? You never move a victim of trauma like this and--"

"I know I'm sorry," She said and stood up to be next to Joe, "I just didn't want to leave him in the street, I didn't want to see that."

"Let's hope he suffered no serious injuries then," he said coldly.

They loaded Joe into the ambulance, a low drip of morphine running through his veins. Casey tried climbing in but they stopped her at the back.

"Bus is full ma'am, we need this space. The officer here will take you to the hospital where you can wait for him."

Casey started to protest but the ambulance doors were pushed shut by the two men who sat in the cab and the officer who'd scolded her earlier had taken her by the arm. 

"We'll be there when they are, miss," he said and fresh tears ran from her eyes. The story would have to wait, she though. 


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

All's End

Casey hoisted Joe to his feet, his trembling limbs fighting to gain footing or balance against the constant pull of car-struck vertigo. She pressed a hand against the small of his back and led him off the road in short, whimpering limps. Twenty yards away, a bench - its green paint cracked and peeled from the rigors of the desert winds - loomed against the backdrop of sand and horizon.

"Where's... Where's Kat?" Joe whimpered, favoring his left leg and holding his stomach. It felt like he'd consumed a carpenter's entire inventory of nails, each piercing his organs with inanimate indifference for his plight.

"Gone, I guess." Casey shook her head. "When I looked up, she was gone."

"And... Mali?"

"She and Parker were a'ways behind us," Casey said, glancing over her shoulder. No one was following them. "They must have gone for help."

They reached the bench and Casey lowered him to a sitting position, Joe involuntarily gasping as pins and needles stabbed him from within. She sat next to him, cradling his head with her hands, nestling as much of him as she could fit into the comfortable nook between her shoulder and chest. 


"Yeah." Not a question; a monosyllabic acknowledgement that he had spoken, a simple utterance to just keep him talking - even though she wished he'd just be quiet, for she knew what was to come.

"It's gone, isn't it?"

"Yeah." Same inflection, same tone. "Yeah, Joe, it's gone. It's gone, Joe."

She held him as he began to weep, tears and snot and a shiny streak of blood collecting on his upper lip. She stroked his hair and held his hand, her eyes fixed on the winding road that stretched into the desert beyond.

"Can we," Joe began. "Can we just wait here a while? For the others?"

"Sure," Casey nodded. "We can wait here a while. The road won't get any longer."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

And then there were none

As the hunt for Gordon continued, Joe was unaware of the fact that two more members departed, albeit temporarily. His focus was entirely on Casey, who had yet to emit words directly towards him, a fact he took issue with but had no knowledge of how to address directly, that is without sounding like an asshole. He pondered how to broach the subject when a shout occurred from Kat, who forged ahead rather than flounder in the inadequacy that pervaded her thoughts. Her cry snapped Joe back to attention in time to see a vehicle that was making a line toward himself and Casey.

Rather than grab Casey and evade the vehicle, Joe embraced the change that was about to occur. The vehicle struck him, and as his body rolled across the hood, Joe realized that this was just another escape; another attempt by him to evade the issue, to evade life rather than face it and progress. The pain he had always pined for, the misery he wanted in order to spawn creativity was nothing more than an outlet, a focal point for the frustrations of his stagnation. He needed to move on, to grow up and seek new heights through new avenues. Dying wouldn't accomplish that.

The driver halted, a reaction that firmly placed Joe's body on the asphalt, a sound Kat would later make analogous to unloading meat. Casey returned to his side, held him up in an unintentionally dramatic pose and spoke, though the words were not what Joe expected:

"What the fuck is wrong with you? Stop being a damn fool."

"It's cool, if I die, I have an heir apparent right?"

" Joe, you don't."

Neither were aware that the driver fled the scene or had taken notice to the vehicles that followed, vehicles that carried authority and most certainly, sirens.

Kat attempted to warn the officers who had taken to foot as well, that is until she recognized one.

"Young lady, your mother has been worried sick about you."

"Yes Dale, I'm well aware, phones have silence for a reason."

"I'm tired of your disrespect, now get in the car so I can bring you back home, you're not an adult yet."

"I'm well aware of that fact, but adulthood isn't far away. Then I can embrace the change I've pined for."

"Sure, sure, you turn 18 and I guess we have no choice but to allow you to go all over hell's half acre, but that day isn't today, now get in the car while my boys take a statement and get that thievin' sonofabitch."

Kat complied, and stepped into the passenger seat despondently, hoping her departure would go unnoticed. She didn't want to inconvenience them anymore.