We’re taken in the backseat of the cop car. There are multiple escorts. Two cop cars are in front of us and two cop cars are behind us. Sampson is to my left and T-Boy is to my right in the cop car.
I can’t believe it was that easy to get arrested. Ms. Nicole calling the cops didn’t really surprise me. She was a bitch. You can’t expect someone to just wake up one day and say, “You know what, I’m not going to be a bitch anymore”. She was born a bitch and she’d probably die a bitch. That’s just how shit was. So I’m not shocked at Ms. Nicole. I’m just shocked at myself really. I shouldn’t have put myself in that situation in the first place. Going to Sampson’s place was a mistake. Attempting to save these kids was a fucking mistake.
And I’m not the only one who think so.
“You happy now?” T-Boy asks Sampson.
He’s been itching to say something since we got arrested. The ride through the town of Briarswood is revealing to say the least. People have outlined the streets in mass protest. The cops avoid the big crowds but in the distance we can see them. We can see all the Syn followers taking over the towns. They burn down houses. They loot stores. They tear down signs. They are literally tearing this city down and it’s kind of amusing to watch.
“You got something to say then say it,” Sampson says to him.
I want to stop them from arguing but I don’t. I learned long ago not to get between Sampson and T-Boy arguing. So instead I just lean back in the chair and get comfortable. This was going to get fucking interesting really fast.
“Nothing I can tell you that you don’t know already,” T-Boy tells him, “You shouldn’t have gone to that house. Those are not your fucking kids.”
“I raised them,” Sampson argues.
“Yeah…” T-Boy says and gives a slight laugh, “I’m sure she’s grateful. Not your kids. Again. Stop being a fucking bleeding heart every once in a while.”
I look over at Sampson, “He has a point.”
“Wait,” Sampson laughs, “You’re mad because I’m a good person?”
I turn to T-Boy.
T-Boy’s face frowns up a little bit, “I’m mad because you don’t have a backbone. I’m mad because you don’t do what you have to do to protect him. You’re bad for Syn, Sampson period.”
I smile, I kind of like that T-Boy is doing this right now. He’s calling Sampson out on his shit and this is needed. Sampson left me. He started a whole family and did it the wrong way. He married a woman who was never in love with him and raised kids who weren’t even his. He looked stupid and I think he knows that right now.
“Damn…” I reply before turning to Sampson, “You going to let him talk to you like that?”
Sampson is getting mad. It’s cute. He’s so cute when he gets mad. He leans over to T-Boy and makes direct eye contact with him. Sampson is the cutest. He hates being disrespected, especially being disrespected in front of me. Maybe I’m instigating but can you blame me? Two guys fighting over you is some classic love story bullshit. I wasn’t going to stop them. What the fuck?
“Didn’t you come to me for help?” Sampson asks T-Boy, “If I am so bad for Syn then why the fuck do you keep pushing him off on me, time after time. You can’t handle Syn, T-Boy and you know it. You’ve always wanted something that you can’t control.”
I can’t help but laugh. T-Boy looks annoyed when I start laughing.
I look over at T-Boy, “He has a point.”
“You’re not helping,” T-Boy responds to me.
I shrug. When did I ever fucking help? It’s not my fault they were having the same argument they’ve been having for years. I chased Sampson, T-Boy chased me. That’s how it worked, but honestly I’m smiling in the back of this car. If this is how shit ends with me going to jail, then there are no other people that I’d rather be locked up with. I know it sounds stupid. I know it sounds ridiculous but I’m happy. I’m happy because these are the people that I love. I love the chaos. I love instigating this fucked up ass love triangle. It makes me feel good about myself. I know that isn’t the PC thing to say. I should stop leading T-Boy on. I should probably quit Sampson for good. I’m not going to do that though.
The bullshit is why I live. The bullshit is what keeps me going.
“I’m not an idiot. You two always go back to each other. I’m always the guy on the outside looking in. It’s been like this for years. I’m aware. All I’m saying is I love him…”
“No shit really?” Sampson asks, “Ground breaking news…”
“Let me finish,” T-Boy responds.
I turn to Sampson, “Let him finish.”
Sampson sighs. It’s hard for him to shut up in this situation.
T-Boy then says something a little startling, “I love Syn but if you’re going to be the one to take care of him then you need to take care of him. If the two of you are going to be together then be together. This time actually do it. Actually love one another. Actually be there for one another. And don’t leave Sampson. Don’t leave him again. I was there and I had to pick up the pieces when you fucked it up with Syn. I always have to pick up the pieces. Make damn sure that there are no more pieces to pick up.”
Sampson seems to be shocked too.
“Are you…supporting us being together?” Sampson asks him.
What the fuck kind of shit is this? I look over at T-Boy. For the first time T-Boy looks like he’s not willing to chase me any further. He’s tired of running. He’s giving up.
“I’m sure that’s not what he means,” I try to interrupt.
“No it is what I mean,” T-Boy responds, “You two belong together. Sampson is bad for you but I’m not better. Even being bad for someone he’s the best one for you Syn. So I want the two of you to be together. Only if you promise you can take care of him.”
“What the fuck do I look like? A cripple?” I ask, “I don’t need anyone to take care of me…”
Sampson ignores me and looks over at T-Boy, “I promise. As long as I live. I’ll take care of him.”
What the fuck?
“I love you bro,” T-Boy tells Sampson, “We might have had our differences through the years, especially when it comes to Syn but you’re still family. You’re still who I go to when I’m in trouble.”
“I love you too man…” Sampson states.
The two of them stare at each other. They smile. For the first time in years they’ve come to this understanding. They’ve come to this beautiful moment of mutual respect and love. They’ve come to really put aside the only thing that really has stood between them all these years. That thing that stood between them just so happened to be me.
“Man you guys are corny as fuck,” I respond, “This is some corny shit. Shoot me now. Hey officer. OFFICER! SHOOT ME! Just go Sandra Bland on my ass. I can’t take this corny happy ending bullshit.”
The cop turns around.
“Shut the fuck up and stop kicking my chair,” he states.
Just at that moment I see someone familiar just outside my window. Wade. He’s standing on the sidewalk. The tattoo is on his forehead that says Syn in cursive letters. Wade just makes eye contact with me. There is a chaos in his eyes. Yes. There’d be no happy ending.
“Do you hear that Mr. Police man?” I ask him.
He looks over at me.
“Didn’t I tell you to shut the fuck up?” the officer asks.
Sampson looks over at me, “Syn, I don’t hear anything.”
All of a sudden I’m just thinking. It’s silence in the air. It’s such a beautiful, strange silence.
“Exactly. Silence. Peace. Happy endings,” I tell Sampson, “Isn’t it beautiful. It is the silence that makes you all feel comfortable. It’s the happy ending. It’s coming to terms with life. Everyone is so comfortable. Briarwood is silent. Everyone should be happy and go look up at their stars. Those beautiful stars don’t move. What did Disney say? When you wish upon a star dreams come true. T-Boy supports Sampson. Sampson loves Syn. Happily, ever after. You know what I say to that?”
T-Boy and Sampson look over at me. They are looking at me like I’m crazy. They think I’m rambling again. Maybe I am. I hate the idea that everything should be peaceful now. T-Boy would stop fighting for me. Sampson would carry me off into the sunset. That’s not how the world worked.
“What Disney didn’t tell you guys is those stars you’re wishing on are started by chaos…”
Just at that moment a rocket launcher is fired.
All I see is flames and fractured metal. One of the metal pieces from the car in front of us smashes into our windshield! The cops let out a scream. I’m laughing. I’m laughing like a madman. You would think I’m not about to die or something by how hard I’m laughing. The police car in front of us explodes into a million pieces like a bad action movie. T-Boy holds onto the front of the chair. Sampson grabs onto me. Our police car swerves at that moment.
The wheels turn so hard we begin to flip. We flip hard until the entire car is upside down. I feel a hard snap in my neck. I almost lose consciousness.
There is chaos all around us. The beautiful sound of chaos. Explosions. Screams. Crying.
Yes. I love that sound so much that tears come down my eyes. It has nothing to do with the pain. Fuck the pain. Pain always passes. I’m laughing because these cops thought it would be so easy. They thought it would be so simple. You put away the bad guy and then you’re done right? Everything goes back to normal. The chaos ends. They are wrong. It’s only begun. And through that chaos there is a star and that star is shining brighter than ever.
I’m here. Me. Crazy ass Syn. I’m laughing. I’m laughing through it all.
“What the fuck happened?”
I don’t remember losing consciousness but I remember waking up. I’m in church. Not just any church. I’m in Sampson’s church. Hilarious that I end up here of all places. The place where all of this shit begins. It’s Sampson who rolls over and asks me what’s going on. I give him a bored look. Sampson loves an explanation. He just can’t help himself. Everything has to be explained. He just couldn’t enjoy the chaos of it all.
“I’m pretty sure we got broken out,” I tell him.
Sampson is confused. He looks over at me as though confused on why I’m so calm. I’m sitting in a pew. Right next to us T-Boy is laying down. He’s still knocked out.
“Oh my god,” he notices his brother lying there, “T-Boy.”
Sampson panics. He’s damn good at that too. I haven’t checked T-Boy’s pulse or anything but I’m pretty sure he’s alive. I’m more focused on the statue of Jesus at the front of the church. I see the stained glass of the man as well. Those eyes stare at me as though saying “look what you’ve done”. And I’m not surprised by it all. Sometimes shit breaks and fractures. There’s no saving it. I’m not surprised by the rocket launcher. I’m not surprised my police escort was interrupted. Nothing really surprises me anymore.
Nothing except for Sampson and T-Boy all of a sudden starting this annoying ass brotherly bond.
“Calm down, he’s alive,” I state, “I don’t know about some of those cops.”
Sampson is checking T-Boy’s pulse.
“You sound so calm.”
“What you want me to do? Cry?” I ask.
Sampson shakes his head, “Call an ambulance or something. I don’t know.”
“No one’s calling anyone…”
The voice of the person that walks out is eerily familiar. Wade. He doesn’t come out alone. He has an entire following of people just like him. I recognize some of them. Sister Agnes stands out. The old lady can barely walk but she’s dressed all in black. Then there is Bridgette the whore and Natalie the former good girl. They have literally tattooed my names on their foreheads.
These people are fucking nuts. I mean. It’s funny and amusing at the same time that a group of people all collectively lose their fucking minds at the same time.
“You motherfucker!” Sampson says.
Sampson runs over to Wade. He punches Wade dead in his face. For a pastor Sampson is a strong motherfucker. Wade falls back and is caught by some of his followers. I swear to god I think his jaw is shattered when I see him spitting up blood.
It literally takes five guys to restrain Sampson. He’s a beast. I can’t help but to be turned on by just how attractive Sampson is. I mean this guy is strong as all fuck and it’s amazing.
“You should be careful,” Wade says, “You aren’t well, Pastor. I don’t have a beef with you.”
“You’re a murderer!” Sampson says.
Sampson is being held back by the cult. They pin him to the ground. I don’t like how hard they are being with him to be honest. Sampson may be a little too overzealous with his attitude but he manages to actually have a heart. He knows what he’s fighting for. It’s kind of amazing.
“He has a point,” I tell Wade, “You just killed a lot of fucking people…”
“I did it to save you,” Wade explains to me.
He says it in the calmest way. It’s like the United States trying to explain the attack on Nagasaki or some shit.
“I’m wanted because of you,” I tell him.
Wade seems confused, “Syn. I made you a legend.”
“I don’t remember telling you I wanted legendary status. Hell. I mean I did want a lot of shit. I wanted some good dick from Sampson. I may even want his mother to bite the dust one of these days. I want a goddam Shih Tzu that bites on demand. I want a lot of shit. I don’t remember wanting legendary status though. You people are fucking crazy…”
“Syn so are you,” Wade says.
He looks over at me. Craziness. It’s such an interesting concept.
“Syn is not like you people,” Sampson replies.
“You sure about that?” Wade asks him.
“I know him more than I know anyone else. He’s not like you people. He’s not a murderer. He’s not crazy like you,” Sampson states.
Sampson is standing there being held down by these cult members. I wonder if they’d hurt him if I wasn’t here. I wonder if they’d kill him. It makes me feel something.
That’s when Wade look over at me and smile.
“Bring him out.”
Just at that moment more cult members come out from the back of the church. They aren’t alone. They have Edwin Reading with them. Edwin Reading is tied up and bloody. He’s bleeding from every hole in his body. He smells like shit when they bring him closer to me. He smells so bad that I have to take a step back. He’s shitted on himself. That’s why he smells like that. There’s some kind of sick justice that I see in this. Here is a guy who ran the city who ended up shitting on himself.
Wade watches my face when I see Edwin Reading. It’s almost like he’s trying to see what I’m going to say or do.
“You caught him,” I state.
“We found him trying to leave town,” Wade says, “He confessed to all the things that he did. Do you want to hear them?”
Sampson interrupts me, “Syn. Go call the cops. Look how bad they beat him. SYN!”
I look over at Sampson and I’m really confused. I’m so confused at that moment that my forehead wrinkles trying to understand the words coming out of his mouth.
“Why would I do that?”
Wade and the others laugh at my response. They think it’s funny but I wasn’t trying to be funny. I was just confused. Why would I help Edwin? Sampson probably assumed these people who have my named tatted on their foreheads wouldn’t do anything to stop me from calling the cops. Still…why would I do that? Why would Sampson even think that I would want to go call the cops?
“Because you’re a good person,” Sampson states.
“You haven’t been paying attention,” I tell Sampson, “No. No I’m not.”
Before he can finish Wade walks over to me. He puts his hand on the back of my neck, “Jack Kerouac once said ‘Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble makers. The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them…”
I know these words. I lived by these words.
I finish what Wade was saying, “…the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward and while some may see them as the crazy ones. We see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world…. are the ones who do.”
As I finish speaking smiles spread across these people’s faces. They are listening to my words almost like I’m reading from some strange gospel. Is this how Jesus felt? The hope in the eyes of all these people is so heavy. A lot of them I don’t know. A lot of them I’ve never met.
“Here…” Wade says.
He holds out his hand. Something is covered in it.
“What is this?” I ask.
He takes the cloth off. Wade is handing me a gun.
Immediately the mayor starts to squirm. He’s crying immediately. It’s so empowering to see such a strong man on his knees. He thought he was better than the rest of us. He lived his life as though he was perfect and we lived in sin. I was nothing more than the annoying faggot to Edwin Wesley. I was just someone in his path that he wanted to plow down but here he was squirming because someone was handing me a gun.
“Don’t take it, SYN!” Sampson is screaming at me, “Don’t take it!”
“You don’t have to listen to him anymore,” Wade explains, “What you are creating is bigger than love.”
Sampson looks over at me and struggles to get at Wade, “Nothing is bigger than love.”
My heart throbs a little bit seeing Sampson fighting the way he is. There is this look of passion in his eyes. He’s struggling to fight against the group of men holding him down. He’s trying to make a stance. There is such a goodness in Sampson. It’s a goodness that I can’t really even fucking relate too. I related more to what Wade was saying.
“You are bigger than love,” Wade stares at me.
Sampson isn’t letting up, “I know you Syn. I know you’re not that person. You’re not THAT person. I’ve seen it.”
Sampson is wrong. I was a mad man. How can he not see that? The fact that I’m even standing here right now contemplating this shit made me crazy.
“I don’t know what I am,” I admit to Sampson.
“I know what you aren’t,” Sampson replies, “You aren’t a murderer.”
What’s the difference between the shit I do and murder? One more step. It was just one more step off that ledge. I was crazy as fuck. My rationale for shit didn’t make sense. I enjoyed watching people in pain. I argued just to argue. I laughed at the wrong things. If someone fucked me over I made them wish they were dead. So what was the next step.
Actually killing someone was the next step.
Actually pulling the trigger.
“I’m not a murderer,” I state.
I don’t know who I’m talking to. Am I talking to Wade? Am I talking to Sampson? Am I talking to the voices in my head? I hear the questions over and over. Am I crazy? How crazy am I?
“Remember what you told me once?” Wade asks me, “You said to imagine what you could accomplish if you kept everything for yourself. Imagine what you’d accomplish if you didn’t waste your life chasing this thing called love. So stop it. Stop chasing love.”
I told him that.
“I was just bullshitting,” I state, “I was just bullshitting all of you…”
I wish I had said it with more passion. I wish I had said that with more conviction. I didn’t. My voice was failing me. I sounded weak. I was confused. Wade can feel my confusion. He steps closer, shoving the gun in my hand.
“Edwin reached out to the Institution you were in,” Wade tells me.
No. Not that.
“I’m never going back there. I’m never going back to the Institution,” I state.
Wade nods, “I know. You are going to do something about him sending you there. You are going to change the world Syn. This is where you start. The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world…. are the ones who do. Embrace your madness.”
Embrace my madness?
I pick up the gun.
“Syn don’t,” Sampson says.
Sampson is crying. The tears are flowing down his face. Why? Why the fuck was he so upset about Edwin Reading dying. Why did it matter to him? Edwin Reading was a bad person.
No. Don’t shoot.
No. Yes. Right. Wrong. What did it all matter? Is that the definition of madness? Not knowing why, it all mattered? What happened if his brains splattered across the floor? What would they look like? Would it be as beautiful as the fires I started back in the day? What about when I put laxatives in the students’ lunch? Would I laugh? Would I be amused like the Ebola scare I created? Would I laugh? Would I be amused? Would I be scared or upset?
What if I felt nothing? What if there was emptiness?
Why the fuck was I thinking?
The gun is in my hand. My hands are shaking. I feel something wet on my face. Tears. What the fuck was wrong with me?
“Sampson I’m losing my mind,” I warn Sampson.
“No you aren’t Syn,” he warns me.
“Yes you are Syn,” Wade tells me.
Why was I crying so much? Why were my palms shaking?
“You aren’t losing yourself,” Sampson says, “You’re finding yourself…”
I don’t know what he means at first. I don’t know what he means when I lift the gun up. I don’t know what he means when I shoot.
There is a scream and a stream of blood.
I shot Wade in his leg.
“WHAT THE FUCK!” Wade says.
It’s at the same moment I fired the gun at Wade’s leg that I realize what Sampson means. For the first time in my life I’m actually thinking about the consequences of my actions. I’m thinking about how I would feel if I committed murder. I’m thinking about how I would feel if I killed someone.
When I shoot Wade the followers turn to look at me. They are confused. They want an explanation.
“Now…you guys are all going to have to call the ambulance because Wade is bleeding out right here,” I tell them, “I suggest you do…”
“Why?” Wade says shaking his head.
It’s such a hard question but I stand there and I look at Sampson before I answer.
“When I was young my favorite cartoon was Pinky and the Brain. See Pinky was crazy. The Brain was smart. Every day crazy Pinky would ask the Brain: Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight? And every night the Brain would answer: The same thing we do every night Pinky – try to take over the World. And they’d fail over and over and over and over Pinky would ask the Brain: Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight? You know why that is? Because crazy people don’t know what they’re doing all the time. Sometimes they do things that they shouldn’t. But at the end of the day there is no malice there. I may try to take over the world without wanting to. I may cause trouble but I don’t mean to. That’s not who I am. I’m just a crazy lab rat trying to figure out what I want to do tonight…”
Wade doesn’t seem to get it. I’m not sure if the others get it either. They don’t stop me though when I walk over and grab Edwin Reading away from them. The cult release Sampson and Sampson wakes T-Boy up.
Their eyes are watching me the entire time that I leave…they are just trying to figure out what I meant by what I said. Maybe I didn’t make sense. I was talking about an animated series from the fucking 90s to explain why the fuck I shot Wade. It’d take them a while to figure out.
But that was OK. I was tired of trying to make sense.
“We should drop him off and head out of town,” T-Boy explains.
“I’m still wanted.”
T-Boy is driving. Luckily Sampson had a car that belonged to the church right behind of the building. We had a quarter tank of gas but we planned on driving as far as we can with it out of Briarswood. I almost forget the Mayor is in there until I hear him breathing hard. Sampson is staring out of the window. He is sitting in the backseat behind me. He has his hand on my shoulder. There is a warmth there.
“If you let me go I promise…I promise I’ll clear your name,” Edwin Reading says.
He’s still scared. You would think saving his life would make him at least trust us.
“Relax we aren’t going to kill you…” T-Boy says pulling the car over, “Get the fuck out.”
“Hurry up before we change our mind,” T-Boy says.
The last threat happens just when T-Boy pulls over the car. The door open and Edwin runs out of the car like a madman. He’s crying. God knows what the cult put him through but he looks grateful that he has been released.
“I can’t believe I shot a guy,” I state, “Maybe I’m not so bad after all.”
“What happens now?”
“We keep going,” I state, “We leave the state. We never look back.”
I feel Sampson clutching on my arm, “I’ll never let you go…”
His words are so deep. My heart races when I hear them.
I was crazy as fuck. I feel that as we drive off. I lost it so many fucking times that I couldn’t keep track but I guess at the end of the day it didn’t matter. I was in love. Sampson loved me and he wasn’t going to let me go too far down in that deep hole. I wasn’t going to lose myself. I had my foundation and Sampson was going to help me through.
This time when he promised never to let me go I believed him. I squeeze on his hand as we keep driving and he holds onto my arm forever.
“Sampson…” I state.
“He’s asleep,” T-Boy looks back and notices.
I smile, “He saved me back there T-Boy. I almost lost it…”
T-Boy smiles, “He loves you. That love is something that I always wished I could have. He loves your crazy. He loves your flaws. He loves your mistakes. He loves your madness. He loves the darkness in the eyes. He loves the excitement. I never told you but the times that you were apart Sampson reached out to me every single day.”
“You’re a hard one to keep up with. He wanted to fix your problems. He said he wish he could just fix all your problems. You know what I told him?”
“I told him that you didn’t need him to fix your problems you just needed him to be there so that you couldn’t face your problems alone,” T-Boy tells me.
He smiles. I smile back. Shit maybe I can get used to this T-Boy supporting my relationship with Sampson. Maybe I can get used to the love that Sampson and I shared.
Maybe we’d finally found our happiness.
Maybe I’d finally found my sanity.
“Stop with the corny shit,” I tell T-Boy rolling my eyes and blushing a little bit.
T-Boy laughs, “Whatever. You like it…I’m going to pull over and get some gas.”
“You got gas money?”
We both laugh. We are both damn near broke. We look over at Sampson.
“Sampson, we need gas money,” I state.
“Sampson wake the fuck up,” T-Boy states.
I shake Sampson’s hand. It is still on my shoulder from the backseat holding me tightly. Except when I shake his hand and release he falls back into the seat.
“Sampson? Fuck T-Boy pull over.”
I don’t know what’s happening until it happens. We pull the car over. We are in the middle of the road. We don’t even care. T-Boy runs over to his side of the car and opens the door. He checks the pulse. Once. He checks it another time.
T-Boy looks over at me.
This isn’t happening.
“Sampson?” I ask.
T-Boy looks over at me. He shakes his head. Slowly.
He comes out of the car and hugs me. I stare at him confused.
“What the fuck are you doing? Get off of me. I don’t want your hug. Sampson needs to wake up. Sampson needs to---“
“What? Spit it out.”
To read the last chapter in advance go to www.crushedcrown.com