The whole world seemed to fall silent around me.
Even the wind ceased to blow....as my mind attempted to struggle with the idea that my human life and this world of endless night were about to collide in a profound way. And Richie was going to be caught in the middle. A sacrificial lamb for MY mistakes.
What I was feeling began as fear. Helplessness. Guilt. Worry. But as Taryn and the others looked on...those feelings began to change. Transforming into something...else.
I think Jenna was the first to feel the shift in my mood...but she had been so infected by 'Rage's' vibrational outburst, she found herself feeding off of it. Almost instigating it further.
I just remember the fear causing my fists to ball up...and from there, the tension crawled up my arm as I thought of my best friend...sick...defenseless...being preyed upon by someone who had already caused me so much pain. So much distress. And now? Now he's going after what little humanity I have left in his world. And I won't let it happen. I WON'T!!!
"Justin?" Taryn asked, and I tried...I tried soooo HARD to control it. But this level of agony was an emotion that I just couldn't contain. "Justin we can...we can find a way to help him. We can...call the police or something. Send them over there to watch over him."
"Police won't be able to stop Alec. No one can. Except for me." I told him.
But Dion stood up and put his foot down. "NO, Justin! Do you hear me? No!"
"He'll chase us forever, Dion." I said, gritting my teeth. "He'll just keep coming, and coming, and coming, and COMING..." I repeated as the anger welled up inside of me, and my eyes began to glow deep red. "...Some people only understand PAIN!!! Some people have to be HURT in order for them to learn! You have to rip them to PIECES before they'll leave you alone!!!" I could feel the icy cold touch of the shadows as they began to swirl around my feet. Adding their emotional torture to my already enraged state of mind.
I heard Jenna angrily whispering to herself, over and over again. "Rip them to pieces! To pieces! To pieces! Rip them to PIECES!"
Rain tried to attend to Jenna's emotional spill, but as Taryn and Dion tried to calm me down, I only felt the anger getting worse. It was almost as though the fear of losing Richie had somehow intensified my disgust for what Alec was planning to do. Just to find me. Just to find Taryn. And it took every last bit of energy that I had to try to tone it down. It was almost as if I could hear the Beast's demonic growl emanating from the pit of my stomach. Growing ever stronger. My 'other half'...welcoming it with open arms.
"Rip them to pieces! Rip them to pieces! They only understand PAIN!" Jenna continued, her tears running freely once again.
Rain got worried. "She's not getting better. I think she's stuck. She can't shake him."
Taryn reached out a hand to touch my shoulder, but I pulled away from him involuntarily. And that's when Jenna's eyes locked in on him. So much hatred. So much pain. She stared at him as if he was Hitler in the flesh. And her shoulders began to heave as she took deep breaths in an attempt to ride the emotional strain out to its conclusion before it forced her to do something she'd regret. Taryn seemed so hurt by my reaction that I began to struggle with myself to get control again. But there was only fear available to take the place of the anger. I had to feel one or the other. And I was soooooo tired of being afraid. Soooo tired of being the victim. I don't have to be. Not anymore. Alec doesn't want me to hold back. Alec wants a WAR. And he's finally crossed the line that guarantees he'll get one!
Taryn's eyes watered....and I....I was in such conflict. I felt tears run down my cheeks...but there was no pain behind them. Only....rage. "Richie...is my friend...." I grumbled.
"I know, Justy..." Taryn answered.
"We know! We don't want him hurt any more than you do."
"He was THERE for me..." I said, getting even madder as the emotion began to sting and choke up in the back of my throat. "...When NOBODY else was fucking there for me...Richie was there! EVEN WHEN HE WAS SICK!!!" I felt something triggering itself inside of me...and the very air around us began to swirl and vibrate...blowing wisps of my blond hair up as it traveled through me. Jeremy began to back away slowly, and Taryn and Dion both gave me a nervous look as the ground began to tremble beneath their feet.
"Justin?" Dion asked. "Justin...what are you doing?"
"Concentrate, Justy, PLEASE! Think about me, baby!" Taryn pleaded. "Think about US! Take control. Don't DO this!"
"I...I..." But the trembling got worse, and the trees around us began to lean with a heavy wind. I clenched my teeth as hard as I could, trying to force the pain and anger to go away...but it had gotten so big. So very heavy on my shoulders. "He's gone too far this time!" I said, my eyes now turning pure BLACK! "He should have left Richie out of this! He should have learned his *FUCKING* lesson after the last time!!!! He doesn't know what pain is yet!"
In the background, Tim's house began to crumble even more rapidly than before, and the construction vehicles began to spark up and malfunction. Rocks, metal, paper...all the debris left behind began to rise off of the Earth's surface as though there was no gravity at all. The darkness inside grew to consume everything within me. And my fangs pierced my gums as the dropped down to an unnatural length, extending outside of my lips as I watched the shadows crawl further up to my waist. The screams....I was actually beginning to LIKE the screams.
"Thaaaaaaat's it, pretty boy!" Came a voice from inside. "Let me out. We can save him. We can put an end to this once and for all. Just release me....and let me give you a 'taste' of what it's like to be the god you were meant to be!"
I held both sides of my head, as though that would be able to stop the inner voices from spinning around in my thoughts. I heard the construction workers cursing as their machinery began to go haywire...and the dulled and distant voice of my boyfriend as he cried out my name. And then...as it became too much for me to handle...I felt the emotional 'halo' swirl and build itself up above my eyes. Circling with a fury and waiting for my command. Searching for an enemy. ANY enemy.
"Justin...please? I love you." It was the only collection of words from Taryn that were allowed to penetrate. And when my obsidian eyes moved over to look upon his beauty...it was the only soothing moment of sanity that could have had any impact at all. "I love you..." He said again, and I only had a few seconds before the darkness closed in on me again. I had to act now...or be lost for God knows HOW long in a sea of madness.
It was hard to keep my thoughts straight. Hard to think of anything other than hurting Alec for what he was about to do. But slowly...I struggled with my own emotions, and looked up into the darkened sky above me. And with tears rolling hot out of both eyes...I shouted out at the top of my lungs...releasing the pain, the hatred, the frightening amount of violence...and sent a high powered brain geyser shot into the heavens above! The blast spread the clouds out in different directions, causing the streetlights to burst for nearly a city block in all four directions! Everyone jumped in shock, and the blast had taken so much out of me that I was temporarily too weak to stand.
I fell to my knees, and tried to catch my breath, gasping and wheezing while holding on to my chest. My heart pounding hard enough to feel in my throat. It hurt...and it fatigue me...but GOD...that outburst was the only thing that made me feel better. That release had been long overdue, and as I tried to regain the ability to get back on my feet, I noticed the winds slowing down, the debris falling back to the ground, the shadows retreating back into the darkness where they belonged. I stared at the concrete beneath my fingers, my hands still shaking. And that's when Taryn rushed over to help me up. Quickly, he kissed my lips, and all at once, I felt myself being re-energized. I wondered if maybe that was the key. If somewhere between Taryn's kiss, and my release of the rage inside...was the answer I needed to keep from going mad.
But then it occurred to me...wasn't I doing the same thing that Comicality once did? Creating a monster by pushing my demons back. Allowing them to build. Dealing with the world's problems before dealing with my own? How long could I truly keep those demons at bay? How long could I keep locking them away in a little box before they united against me, and became a creature that I could no longer avoid? I wouldn't be able to hide behind Taryn's love. Nor would it be fair to use it as a distraction against them. Eventually...the demons always win. Always.
"Take Justin back to the lot." Dion ordered. "I'll see if I can go after Richie and figure something out..."
"I'm going." I said.
"This isn't a discussion, Justin. You're going back to the lot."
"I'm GOING!!!" I said louder. "You can't protect him! I can!"
"It's not SAFE for you to be taxing yourself like this!" Dion argued, but I stepped away from Taryn, allowing my strength to come back to me as I stood on my own two feet. "Justin...this is no time to be stubborn."
"I agree. That's why I don't need you fighting me on this, Dion." I told him. "I'm going."
At that moment...I 'felt' it again. That strange extra 'signature' that didn't seem to match anybody else's. I looked around...Jenna, Taryn, Dion, Rain...where was this extra essence coming from? It made me wonder if we were being watched. Tracked. Or if maybe Michael had touched one of us before leaving the lot to have his presence coming along for the ride. But before my mind could work out what it was, Dion said something that crashed my focus completely.
"Justin...there's a chance that...Richie's not even alive." The words nearly broke my heart in half. I couldn't believe he was able to actually SAY something like that aloud. Even with a look of concern and pity on his face.
"Don't say that, Dion. Don't you SAY that to me!"
"You said he was sick, Justin. Really sick. That was a while ago. You knew that he wasn't going to make it in the long run. Maybe Alec is moving to show up at an empty room..."
"SHUT UP!!!" I screamed! "He's NOT gone! Richie is ALIVE! And he's gonna STAY that way!!! You hear me???" The others turned their eyes to the ground. As if they didn't want to tell me the truth. "Do ALL of you hear me???"
"Justin, maybe...it's time you let that life go. Maybe it's time you le Richie go too." Dion said softly. I know he felt awful for saying it, but this wasn't a time for honest logic. I couldn't accept that. I WON'T!
"Richie would never just 'let me go'." I sniffled. "You guys don't know anything about him. If...if you just...KNEW him...you'd know that he'd never just let any one of you go either. Not ever." I wiped a stray tear from my eye, and told Dion to his face, "He was the only one who ever really gave a shit about me, Dion. Richie...he's the only one that made the pain bearable. He's the only reason I found the strength to keep breathing. I don't expect you to understand." I turned to the others, "I don't expect ANY of you to understand. But at a time when death was preferable to just about everything else...Richie was there." And with another sniffle, I told them, "You guys have no idea what darkness is. Not from my eyes. And when my father had beaten every last ray of light out of me...Richie was kind enough to give me some of his. Even when he needed it all for himself. I left him behind once...I'm not gonna do it again."
The others remained silent. Especially Taryn, who could already tell from the look in my eyes...that nothing would change my mind. And nothing would change my heart.
Dion put his hands on both of my shoulders, and pressed his forehead against mine in such a loving way. "God dammit, Justin..." He whispered. Then he looked me in the eye, and said, "...You know...if he gets there before you do...you'll be walking right into a trap. You know that, right?" Dion seemed so sad. The 'protector' side of him couldn't bear to let me go.
I nodded slowly. "I might be able to beat him there. He's following a vibration pattern, but I know exactly where he is." I said. "I might be able to go in and come back out before he even gets to the hospital."
"And if you're wrong?" Dion asked.
"Then I guess I'll have to answer to whatever fate has planned for me." I whispered...but I think Taryn heard me anyway. And he began to sob quietly as I walked away from Dion to embrace his soft warm body in my arms. "I'll be ok. And I'm coming home. I promise." I hugged Taryn tightly as he cried into my shoulder, and I felt the others crowd around me to hug from behind. A hug that we held until I couldn't wait any longer. "I'm sorry. I...I have to go. I have to go now."
"Justin...?" Taryn started, but had no idea what to say next. Luckily for me...the pain and glory of his emerald green eyes said it all.
"I love you too." I held his cheeks in both hands, and kissed his lips deeply. Praying...that it wouldn't be for the last time.
"Is he done blowing shit up yet?" Came a voice from behind some bushes across the street. And we turned to see Jeremy still hiding out from the craziness of my emotional tantrum. How the hell did he even get OVER there so damn fast???
I gave a halfhearted giggle, and wiped my eyes. "I'm sorry, Jeremy."
"Riiiight. I take it that's one of those things you'll explain later?" He asked.
I looked back into Taryn's eyes. "Hopefully so." I looked back at Dion and Jenna...and I knew what they were thinking. They weren't about to let me go alone. And I'd have to do something to keep them from following me. "Don't. You can't help me with this. Just get Taryn home safe."
"Don't worry. We will." Dion lied. "Go. Take the train from the station a few blocks south of here. It's the quickest way to get there."
"Not really. I know a quicker one...." And before they could stop me, I blurred right out of their vision, running top speed through the park and gaining momentum with every step. If I'm lucky...I'll be there and back before the others can even get there. I don't want Jenna and Dion risking their lives in all this. And I certainly don't want Taryn to be put in any danger. The faster I run, the better. What I plan to do once I get to Richie...I don't know. I haven't planned that far ahead just yet. All I know is that he's in danger...and he needs my help. That's all that matters. That's all that counts.
I could feel the concrete of the city streets scrolling beneath my feet at an increasing rate. My body seemed to smooth itself out, gliding through the wind resistance as though it was nothing at all. I don't know if my sped had gained a bit of momentum since I last used it, or if my emotional stress had somehow caused me to push harder than ever before. I kept to mostly empty residential streets, hoping not to be seen by too many people. I remembered the train and bus route to get to the hospital, but my mind was fluttering with the possibility of a shortcut. Papers flew up behind me, and entire cyclone of wind being left in my wake. And still...I pushed harder.
Turning down alleys, I was practically running into walls trying to navigate. My heartbeat threatened to burst right out of my chest if I didn't slow it down, my feet almost tripping themselves up on the pavement from moving so fast. But I couldn't stop now! Who knows how soon Alec would be there! I've GOT to get there first! I've GOT to!
I splashed my way through a few puddles in the alley, slipping a little bit, but keeping my focus on where I was going and how fast I was traveling. Swiftly passing by the scenery until it hardly made any difference to me anymore. I had only MINUTES to run the length of the city of Chicago...and I planed to do it in record time. Chad would be more than proud.....he'd be JEALOUS!
In my haste, I thought back to warmer days. Sunlit memories of Richie and I...back when things were...easier.
Then again...things were never easy for me...were they?
I can still remember it like it was yesterday. Me sitting at that lunch table all alone...wondering what went wrong. Wondering why the other kids didn't like me anymore. Wondering where all of my so-called 'friends' went, and why they had abandoned me for the cooler people.
"Justin, Justin! Hahaha! He's eating lunch all by himself! What a loser!" They said.
"Don't sit over THERE! That's the loser table!"
"I'll bet we can make him cry if we just stare at him long enough! Hahaha! Fag!"
I just remember having it hurt soooo much. Being so helpless to fix it. Wanting to connect with somebody, anybody, and not knowing how. Not knowing WHY. Why I was suddenly soooo alone. And then...
"I'll sit with you, Justin." Richie was so....amazing. So beautiful. It didn't make sense for him to be my friend. But I guess it didn't have to. I should have been thanking him every day for his friendship, but he never asked me to. He was just...'there'. And he never left my side. "Don't pay those a-holes any attention. They're the losers, because it takes a whole gang of them to pick on one person. To hell with them. You want some of my sandwich?"
There were times when I felt like crying. Times when I felt so ashamed for bringing Richie down with me. Thinking that he could have so much more if he would just walk away from me like everybody else. And other times...like that day as he tried to literally tear a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in half for me...hehehe, which made the biggest mess EVER and got us both giggling at his lame attempt to be 'neat' about it...that truly made me cherish everything about him.
"Richie...you don't have to sit here if you don't want to." I told him. "Really, I'll be ok. No need for you to be seen at the 'freakshow'."
Richie just smiled at me, and he said, "Well...how do you know I'm not a freak too?"
"Because you're not."
"I am now. So shut up and eat your messy as sandwich with my thumbprints all smooshed into it. Hehehehe!"
I remember just staring at him for a moment...and then...finding the courage to smile. "Freak..." I mumbled.
"That's my name. Don't wear it out." He said. And it became a somewhat affectionate nickname for him. A term of endearment that we shared between us ever since. 'Freak'...my best friend, 'Freak'.
The sound of his laughter echoed in my mind, as I tried to shake myself free and get my mind back on what I was doing.
Still charging forward through those dark streets, I noticed that more and more people were walking the streets I was traveling on. There were bars and late night diners in this part of town, meaning that more people could see me. Even in the alleys. Everything was so brightly lit, and traffic was a bit more congested. I couldn't be seen like this. Not by too many witnesses, anyway. But I didn't want to slow down. I COULDN'T slow down! Not now!
Instead, I turned down and alley, and used my momentum to jump up on top of one of the dumpsters lining the sides of the path. Then hopped up to the side of someone's back porch, and quickly climbed my way up until I hit the rooftop. From there, I continued speeding forward! From roof to roof, my speed allowing me to jump great distances as long as I kept moving.
Keep your head, Justin. Breathe. Focus. The ledges of each building seemed to be coming at me faster and faster, but I managed to jump safely from one roof to another with room to spare. As long as I kept an eye on what I was doing, I'd be ok! Just....KEEP MOVING!
The strain meant nothing to me at that moment, even with my calf muscles burning with fatigue, I kept going. Thinking back to the first few times I had seen Richie in that hospital. The beginning of the end. And the few tender moments we shared as he came to accept that our time together was going to be short.
Tears in both of our eyes...I'll never forget his 'talk' with me. "You really mean a lot to me, Justin, and you always will. That's why...That's why...I wish I could stay with you. For just a little bit longer." Crying in each others arms, trying to deny the inevitable.
He practically begged me to take the pain away. He begged me to make him all better. "I don't wanna die, Justin.....oh God.....I don't wanna die........" He cried. "....Don't leave me. PLEASE don't leave me here alone!"
God, it hurt! The tears...those agonizing tears...seeping into the fabric of my shirt as Richie tried desperately to hold on to what was left of his life. I could still feel the pinch of horror in my heart...learning that the best friend I ever had was now living on borrowed time. The thought of it nearly caused me to miss my next jump...and when I leapt forward, I went too far and found myself nearly twisting my ankle as I fell down on my shoulder and rolled over a few times as my inertia took me to the very EDGE of the roof.
I had scraped myself up pretty badly, and held my sore shoulder in frustration for a moment or two...but then I forced myself to get back up again. I was almost there. Getting close.
I stood up, and heard the sound of the Southbound train approaching on the tracks a few blocks over. I didn't want to miss it. In a flash I dashed towards the roof ledge, and took a mighty leap towards the next building. Almost too far for me to make it, but I caught the edge anyway and pulled myself up. Keep moving, Justin! Keep RUNNING!!!
I hopped from building to building, trying to catch that train in the distance. But by the time I had gotten there, it was already in motion again. So I had no other choice than to push harder, and flung myself on top of the train car closest to me. I landed with a thud, my lungs about ready to tear themselves open from the strain I had been putting them through. I'm surprised that nobody stopped the train when they heard the noise. But then again how many noises did *I* ignore in the big city when I was still human? I was thankful for the few minutes rest, and let the train carry me for the next few minutes, as I flattened myself out on top of it and stared up at the stars. Wow....how I remember those stars.
It was only ten o'clock, that night when I thought I could run away from home. I was only 11 years old, with a backpack full of a couple clothes, some music, and extra pair of shoes, a loaf of bread, and a package of sliced bologna. My father had beaten me up again, but this time it was worse than normal. My eye had been blackened, my ribs were sore, and my nose would start to bleed every few minutes all on its own. One side of my mouth was swollen, the bitter taste of blood filling my mouth. But even though I was trying to hide from the rest of the world, Richie knew just where to find me.
He sat down next to me under the old tree in the park, and didn't say much of anything at first. I could tell that it hurt him to look at me. My face battered and bruised, my tears bleeding out what was left of my tortured soul. He didn't want to see me in this much pain. He didn't want to admit that he knew where the bruises were coming from. Most of all...he didn't want to admit that there wasn't much he could do to help me. And yet...somehow, when he put an arm around me and just let me cry for a while on his shoulder...he made everything all better.
"I can't go back there, Richie. He hates me. He HATES me soooo much! He tells me I'm worthless...and he's RIGHT. I AM worthless! My life doesn't mean anything...not to anybody." I sobbed.
"C'mon Justin...you know that's not true. You're not worthless to me. He's just being mean. He's CRAZY to hit you like that." He said, holding me close.
"I just...I just want the pain to go away. It hurts too much. Sometimes I feel like I can't breathe, it hurts so much." I told him. "Some days...I just wish I could die and get it over with."
"Don't SAY that!" Richie said. "Don't you EVER leave me alone. Then I'll be the only freak left. There's gotta be at least two of us." That's when he told me, "None of that stuff matters, ok? Tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that...you always get a do-over. You can forget all about today and what happened...and then tomorrow, when you wake up...you'll be Superman. Nothing can kill Superman."
I remember looking at him like he was crazy. But whatever he meant by that, it was said with the best of intentions.
Richie reached in his pocket and took out his Boy Scout knife. "You know what? From here on out, we're not best friends anymore...we're gonna be brothers. Give me your thumb."
"What? I'm not gonna let you cut me..."
"It's not gonna hurt much. See?" And Richie winced as he cut his thumb with the knife. Then he looked at me with a frowned up face. "Ok...so yeah...it DOES hurt."
"I thought so."
"But I'm already bleeding, so it's your turn now. Come on. Don't make me look like a dummy." He grinned, and reluctantly...I let him take a hold of my thumb. With all the bruises and sore spots on me...what was one more temporary scar? He cut me, and I tried not to jerk away from it, and then, with both thumbs bleeding, we held them together...and we gazed up at those same stars. "Now we're blood brothers, Justin. Forever and ever. So when you become Superman...maybe you'll make me Superman too. K?"
I sniffled, trying to keep my tears at bay. And I said, "I promise, Richie. I promise." And we continued to lay there for an hour, our parents going nuts looking for us...just....staring at the stars.
I snapped out of the nostalgic moment, rubbing the top of my thumb as though the wound was still fresh. And I felt the train slowing down as it was cruising towards the next station, which meant that I was just a few blocks away. I jumped down on a nearby apartment, and quickly made my way down the fire escape to the alley. I could see the lights of the old hospital in the distance, and pushed myself as I hurried towards it. No signs of distress just yet. No damage done. No tension soaked air to fill my lungs as Rage's soulless presence entered the area. Hopefully...I beat him there by a long shot.
I slowed down once I got to the hospital lawn, and stopped to take a few breaths to collect myself. I was going to need to focus if I was gonna be able to sneak back in again. Something tells me that Alec isn't going to be much for stealth when HE comes knocking.
I cycled through my extras, locating Dylan's and did my best to 'blank out' as I walked through the parking lot and past the attendant. So far so good. Always measuring my footsteps and moving silently, Dylan's extra allowed me to slip past many of the night time staff. But the deeper I went into his invisibility methods...the more...familiar those phantom vibrations got. Where did I feel this before? Was...was he...?
The thought of it broke a bit of my concentration I guess, and one of the lades a the desk caught sight of me. "Excuse me?" She said, giving me a strange look. "Can I help you?"
"I uh..." Shit...I shouldn't have been seen! STUPID!!! "...No. I'm fine. I'm actually on my way out."
"Visiting hours were over hours ago. Are you here with an adult?"
"My dad...he's a doctor here." I said, trying to come up with a quick enough lie to get me through.
"What's his name?"
"Doctor...Smith?" Arrrgh! NOT one of my best blond moments!
"Riiiiight." The lady stood up from her chair, and began to walk around to the other side of the desk. "Very funny, kid. I'm sure it would have made for a nice prank, but we are very busy here, even at night. You can come back tomorrow, WITH a parent, between the hours of..."
I didn't have TIME for this!!! I don't know how I did it, or even KNEW to do it, but the second her hand touched my shoulder, my eyes turned gold and I uttered a single, softly spoken, word to get her to release me. "Sleep...." It came so naturally...I just...I don't know what I did. The lady stepped back, her eyes rolled upwards for a moment as she stumbled and fought to remain conscious. But in a matter of seconds, she mumbled something and fell backwards against the desk, pulling down a bunch of folders and paperwork down with her. Shit...she hit the floor kinda hard. I wasn't planning on hurting her. "Sorry." I whispered, and hurried behind the desk. Looking at the computer directory, I tried to see if Richie had been moved. Or if....he was still even here. "Richie Logan, Richie Logan, Richie Logan....." I whispered to myself, scrolling the the names as fast as the scrolling screen would allow. "YES!!!" I found him. Still on the 7th floor. He's still holding on. "Thatta boy, 'Freak'! Keep fighting, bud!"
I stepped over the nurse and headed towards the elevator, when two security guards walked by with coffee and cigarettes. They took one look at me, and one look at the nurse passed out on the floor with papers lying all around her...and instantly put two and two together. "Hold it, kid!!!"
Shit!!! "Sleep!" I said again, but they just kept hurrying towards me! "Sleep!!! SLEEP!!!!" What the hell did I do the last time? Did I...? Did she...? "Sleep?" Awww, fuck it!
Before they could jump on me, I charged forward to meet them halfway, jumping to spring off of the wall and tackling one of the guards to the ground. It caught them off guard, and I didn't have much time to spend being 'nice'. As one guard put his hand on my shoulder, I kicked forward to smash the first guards testes, and then spun around to deliver two quick elbows to the other guards face. I bent over to reach between my leg and grab a hold of his ankle, and pull him right off of his feet! And then flipped forward to wrap my legs around the other guards head to ram it into the wall before taking him down to the floor. And just as one of them reached for something on his belt, I rolled over and kicked him hard enough in the face to render them both unconscious.
I popped back up onto my feet, and saw two beaten up guards AND a nurse laying there, passed out, in the lobby. Great, Justin. Way to leave a mess. I hurried to the elevator and pressed the button. I didn't have time to clean this up. But it won't be long until somebody finds them. Shit. "Ugh! I'm sorry...sorry..." I said again as the doors closed in front of me.
I made it to the 7th floor, and took a quick peek before running out into the open. I memorized the room number. '723'...I moved as quickly as possible without making too much noise, and had to sneak past a few orderlies and nurses, but soon, I was standing exactly where I needed to be standing. Door '723'...
I opened it quietly...and peeked into the dark room. I could hear the sounds of machinery working in the background...and what I saw next, broke my heart.
Richie had shriveled away to almost nothing. He looked...'smaller' somehow. Almost like a little boy, the way he was curled up. His body was so....so skinny. So frail. So weak. The machines were helping him to breathe, his eyes were sunken in...his fingers weren't more than a thin layer of flesh stretched over jointed bone. The very sight of him...brought tears to my eyes. He was much worse off than the last time I had seen him. In fact, when I stood by his bedside, and took a hold of his hand, I couldn't even wake him up. I looked into his sleeping face, not wanting to disturb the only peace he must get these days, fading away like this...and his voice echoed in the back of my mind...
"Now we're blood brothers, Justin. Forever and ever. So when you become Superman...maybe you'll make me Superman too."
Followed by the echoes of Gyro's enthusiastic cheers. "I *KNEW* you could do it, Superman!!!"
It was a moment where you begin to wonder if perhaps all the events in your life were connected this way for a reason. A destined purpose. Just like the scriptures said. And that maybe...just MAYBE...those events shine light on what you need to do...to save what matters most.
Now that I'm Superman...maybe I can make it so Richie can be Superman too......
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