Here it is, finally. Sorry about the delay. Working on the next part of Elizabeth Smith, so that will hopefully be up sooner or later.
I listened to this album earlier this week while studying Abnormal Psychology. It’s a pretty interesting album, check it out.
My feet shuffled, my brain and nervous system still a frayed and numbed clumsy mess. Nathan looked behind us and my head rolled around as well, though I’m unsure if that was fully under my control. The skeletons were gaining on us.
Hannah and the two other band members were quite a bit further ahead than we were. I could tell Nathan was conflicted, he didn’t want to leave me to myself but certainly wanted to get away a lot faster.
“Can you,” he paused, breath coming heavy, “can you, uh, could you run on your own somewhat?”
“I dunno man, I’ll try, but…”
“I did almost just die for a second time, as inconvenient of a time as it was.”
“So I might need some support.”
My eyelids fluttered down, I could feel myself floating down again, but tried to force myself up again. I opened my other eye wide, wider than I’d opened it before. The black lines shimmered and flickered stark against the white backdrop, contrasted with the colors of my true vision. I strained, trying to pull myself up and run with less support, and almost succeeded, but not enough to get us further from our pursuers.
We were, slowly but surely, losing ground to them. I saw beads of sweat forming and falling from Nathan’s forehead from exertion, his head locked forward and running and pulling me forward with all of his available strength. But we were still losing ground to them.
They were getting close now, too close. A moment more and I’d be able to reach out and grab them – which meant they could do just the same to us. I tried to feed more effort into my running, but my muscles were still too shaky and weak to be of much use.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!” Nathan started quietly then gained in volume until it was a yell when he looked back. “I’m sorry man, but I’m gonna need to…”
I was glad he wasn’t able to finish his thought. A man appeared, the oddly sad figure of the tea-drinker. He just appeared there, inbetween the pursuers and us, the pursued. The three men that had been chasing us froze when he came into existence. He put out his hands towards them, tensed, and they vanished instantly.
“Sorry I’m so late,” he said, his voice choked-up, “I made that far too close for you all.”
“That’s… fine,” said Nathan, utterly confused. A look of realization came over him and he said “Hey, are you the guy who stopped our van?”
“Uh,” he paused, thinking, “Yes, yes, I suppose so.”
“Thanks,” I said. “So, who are you?”
“My name is… my name is Rennet…” He said, struggling to get out the words, “My name is Rennet Bennet.”
Nathan winced. “Sorry.”
“I need to be going,” Rennet said, “I have things to… do.”
“Wait,” I said louder than I was expecting to. “What are you?”
“A very unlucky man,” he said, and disappeared.
Nathan and I froze for a moment then looked at each other. “Yeah but, what is he?” Nathan asked. I shrugged.
There was a door at the end of the hall, and the others had presumably already left through it. Nathan and I gathered ourselves then made our way down the rest of the hallway and through the door. It led to a stairwell where the others were sitting, out of breath.
“Where are they?” Alexis asked.
“Uh, not really sure,” Nathan said.
“You’re not sure?” Hannah asked.
“Yeah, they kinda… Vanished,” I responded.
“…Vanished?” Hannah said.
She looked from one to one at the others with her mouth open. “And?” she finally said.
“You know the guy who stopped the van? His name is Rennet Bennet.”
“He just… appeared. And he made the guys chasing us disappear. And then he disappeared.”
“What is it with this guy?” Hannah asked. “Why does he just keep appearing and helping us then disappearing again? And how? And why is he always crying?”
“Yeah,” Nathan said. “But even more than that, Lawrence,” he said, turning to me, “how the fuck are you alive?”
I told them the story much as I had told it to Hannah, with her interrupting to fill in some gaps I had forgotten about from time to time. Nathan was the only one I really had much experience with – experience I remembered, at least – most of which was just from the past few minutes, and I didn’t imagine the others knew much about me. Probably about as much as I knew about myself, come to think about it. But once I had finished my story, they were all open-mouthed, staring at me without word.
“Do you think Ouroboros would bring me back to life as well?” Jason asked.
“I…” My eyes darted over to Hannah. “I don’t really think so. Not worth the risk of her not, anyway.”
Jason shrugged and looked away.
“Oh, yeah,” Nathan said with a look of realization. “I think this is yours, right?”
He dug through his pockets and tossed a small bag of white powder from with one of them over to me. I grinned. “Thanks,” I said, and began opening it.
Hannah snatched it out of my hands. “Fuck no. Not right now. You just fucking OD’d.”
“Yeah, I know,” I said plaintively, “I need something to take the edge off from my brush with mortality.”
“No. I’m keeping this for now. Until we can, I dunno, just figure out what the fuck is going on here.”
“We should just get out of here!” Alexis screamed. She had been silent on the steps the entire time, but now she stood up, shouting. “This city is fucked! We’ll play a show in another town, we just need to leave!”
Jason nodded. “I mean, yeah, what reason do we have to stay?”
Hannah threw her hands in front of her, shaking. “The story! Don’t you want to know what’s going on? We can’t just leave now before we’ve found out! There are immortal people! And a guy with super powers! And a fucking god of immortality or something! We’ve got to…”
She sat down, exhausted, and pulled a pen and notebook out of her pockets and began writing something down
“Just because you’re obsessed with writing your article doesn’t mean the rest of us need to stay,” Jason said. “That’s your issue.”
“I’m not talking about my article! That’s besides the point. I mean, don’t you want to know? Won’t it haunt you the rest of your life if you don’t find out?”
I stood up, and my head spun a bit so I grasped for the wall and leaned against it. “I need to stay, too. At least to get my briefcase back.”
“Oh, fuck your drugs,” Alexis said, “Just cut your losses and let’s go.”
“I… I can’t.”
All four of them turned to look at me. “Why, exactly, is that?” Hannah asked.
I took a deep breath. “There’s about a hundred thousand dollars of ketamine in there. Even if I could afford to ‘cut my losses’, my employer wouldn’t be happy about it. You don’t know him. He’ll have no trouble making sure I stay dead for real.”
“Just run, then,” Jason said.
I wasn’t listening to him. I just kept talking. “This guy has been in control of me for years. He’s who got me hooked in the first place, and made me deal just to get enough to sustain my habit. I’m… I’m terrified of this guy. I can’t leave, I need the supply and the money I get from it. I’m just… stuck.”
I hadn’t realized what I was saying but it all hit me suddenly. Who was this guy? This whole time I knew I was working for “my employer”, but I had no idea who he was. But what I had just said, without even realizing it, meant I knew him much more than that. When was the cutoff point? At what point in my memory did it all just turn blank, at least for my conscious mind? I didn’t know. I didn’t know who he was or what he really could do to me, but I knew it enough that I had to get back that briefcase. Even if I couldn’t sell it here, I had to at least retrieve it. It was life or death for me, as trivial that ultimatum seemed to me now.
“Let’s just… How about we go to the van to talk things out, all right? We have snacks and soda. I don’t think we’ll be safe in this hospital for much longer,” Nathan said. “I think we’re all a bit high-strung, not that that isn’t completely understandable,” he added suddenly after seeing Hannah’s look at him, “so let’s just… relax. Get a beer or two.”
“Uh,” I said.
“Maybe not a beer, actually,” Nathan corrected himself. “Although the possibility of reincarnation might come in handy… But we’ll make a plan, all right? We’ll work this out.”
Everyone, some hesitantly, agreed with him, and we went up through the staircase and found a side door out of the hospital, discreetly making our way towards their van. I kept my eyes locked on the small lump my bag made in Hannah’s jacket.