To Question Sleep
Smell was the first sense that returned to him. Chemicals and clean, blood and gore stung somewhere deep in his nose and could not be dislodged. Thought followed soon after. Where was he? What happened?
Memory. Squee was dead, and he was the one that killed him.
There was a tingling numbness in his hands and feet and a dull throb in his side. He was alive.
A vaguely familiar male voice, somewhere distant, asked him if he was in pain.
Guilt was the last thing he felt before slipping into deep darkness.
"Who's gonna stay here with him?"
Devi scoffed and turned to walk off, Tenna's grip on her shoulder thwarted this effort.
"Someone has to stay here," she said with such intensity and anger that no one put up an argument.
"I say Devi should," that earned Tess an angry glare, "he does like you most."
"Well," a bitter retort, "Maybe you should. YOU do like him the most."
Tess sputtered, but said nothing.
Tenna glanced between them then at Spooky. "I'll do it." The other women stared, "We'll go in shifts. I'll stay here for now, and you two can decide amongst yourselves." She waved them away, "Go. Get Todd out of that house, or notify the authorities, or something, whatever it is you want to do." Tenna pivoted on her heel and stalked into Nny's hospital room.
Tess and Devi stared at each other and the door at regular intervals before deciding on something to do.
When Johnny groaned Tenna nearly fell out of her chair.
He groaned again, "Wh-who the hell are you?"
It started coming back to him. Those few moments before they all fled to his house. That short argument before realization. Her name was, indeed, Tenna.
"Yeah." Johnny's throat was dry so the response came out as more of a croak than a statement. He swallowed a few times to make the burning go away; all he accomplished was feeling like he had sucked on a latex glove.
Then, the pair of eyes boring into him was noticed, "Are you in any pain?"
He shook his head. Johnny flexed his fingers they tingled, so did his toes when he flexed them. There was a dull ache all throughout his abdomen, a throbbing in his head and neck.
"Squee did quite a number on you," She was still talking, "you were out for a while." She smiled widely, an odd expression for a situation like this, "They managed to wake you up once after surgery for a few seconds, but then you were right back out. Not surprising, looked like you needed the sleep."
That last word made him flinch. "How long?" it was a little better, but not entirely his voice.
"Eleven? Twelve hours? Give or take." Tenna shrugged, "The morphine will probably knock you out again soon. So I'll have to tack on a few more."
"Where are—" He coughed dryly, unable to complete his sentence. It sent a sharp shock of pain through his chest.
"Tess and Devi?" he nodded, "They went… somewhere. Not sure. We'll be changing shifts soon. I'm not sure who's gonna…"
Johnny's vision blurred, her voice trailed off. He felt his eyelids getting heavy, tried to fight it. He lost.
Darkness consumed his reality.
"There is a door down there!" Tess pointed down the stairs with enthusiasm. "I felt it."
Devi crossed her arms. "I don't care. I'm not going down there again. I've already been down twice."
Tess stamped her foot, "I'll go down there alone, but then whatever I find in there is mine."
"You make it sound like he's hiding Nazi gold or something."
Devi conceded, they took to the stairs slowly. After some time they were back in the room where Squee died, it was strangely large without people in it. Tess went to the wall and felt for the grooves. Devi stood in the doorway.
Now, how to get it open…
It was Devi's idea to use one of the spare knives to pry the door off. Years of blood and gore had prevented the door from sliding the way it was supposed to. Inside was a small closet, too small to warrant so much as a light bulb.
It was empty, except for the footlocker that was probably bolted to the floor. It was typical of its kind, though dusty. Looked like it hadn't been touched in ages. Devi knocked on the back wall; it was solid, no secret doors.
Tess focused on the locker. "Bet you a hundred bucks it's valuable."
Devi smirked, "Bet you TWO hundred it's not worth jack."
Tess used the same knife Devi had on the door to pry the lock off of the chest. It squeaked when it opened.
Tess was out two hundred dollars.
It had to end this way.
He had to die, Nny. He was coming apart at the seams. You didn't have any other options.
Leave me alone.
No. You have to accept this.
He's DEAD! It's more than a little hard to deny! I tried to protect him, I tried to get healthy, I wanted to help him, I wanted to help SOMEBODY! And he died! He went crazy, he died and I'm the one that killed him! I fucking KILLED him! I never wanted this!
I don't care what you wanted. You did what was needed to be done. You did your job, Nny.
As a flusher, you are required to take out weak and the corrupted, Todd was corrupted, he was taken out, mission accomplished.
For thinking I could do more than just harm. For thinking I could protect someone. Something I cared about. For thinking I was more than just some grim reaper lurking in the shadows raining corruption, anger, and death on all I touch. For thinking I was human.
Self pity does not become you.
I'm a monster.
You are human.
No. I'm not.
You are human. You err. You regret. You think, you feel, you see.
That does not make me human.
More human than me.
I never wanted this. I never wanted—
You need to adapt to this. To help yourself. You've come so far, recovered so much. Don't go back to that dark place. Don't go back to that cell Anne locked you in.
Don't EVER say that name.
What are you going to do to stop me?
They were going to need a strategy.
Tess and Devi had opened Pandora's box and then looted it.
Photo albums, medical records, pink slips, speeding tickets, home movies, sketchbooks. It was scary how much information was in this box.
Johnny C.'s past was in this box. His legal last name, his real surname (which to their surprise were different), his middle name. His age, nationality, family, friends. They were all in this box. And both women knew they couldn't tell him.
They couldn't tell him anything. It would shatter his reality; make him doubt everything he thought about himself. Reveal to him that long lost time of when he was happy. A time he could never get back. They couldn't do that to him.
They sat for hours flipping through the photo albums, trying to identify the people that looked back at them. A picture of Nny in high school taken with a shitty Polaroid camera. A picture of two other highschoolers, taken with the same camera neither paying attention. Another of a young woman, this one with better quality, she appeared to be rehearsing for a ballet performance.
"Hey, I've seen her before." Tess took the book from Devi's lap.
Devi raised an eyebrow, "Where?"
"At this night club I used to hang out at." She pulled it out to get a better look, "I never knew she took ballet."
Devi continued to flip through the pages. She picked up other albums trying to find more pictures of the mysterious girl.
"I can't remember her name."
Tess looked up. Devi held a small binder, filled to bursting with torn photographs. "Looks like that's the only one that didn't go through the shredder."
From what they could piece together, most of the pictures in the binder were of Nny and Anne. They had been in some sort of relationship. He looked so happy.
"Why are they all torn up?"
Devi shrugged, "She did something to him." The bottom few photos were burned. "Something bad."
"Jeez, no kidding." Tess put the intact picture back in the album. "I thought he normally killed people who wronged him."
Devi didn't look up from the photos. Her one date with Johnny replayed in her mind over and over again, "Maybe she's the one that started it."
Tess didn't respond.
"Maybe, she did something so bad, he wanted to kill her. Maybe, she got away and he couldn't find her. Maybe, all of the anger and hate he felt toward her was directed at others, and he saw the worst in everyone."
Tess laughed. "Maybe, he's just crazy."
"That's much more probable."
And they agreed that Anne was just another, earlier version of Devi. Another one that got away.
Johnny woke up again, and called the nurse.
An intern came into his room "Good morning, sir."
"It's six p.m."
She held up her hands, "Just trying to be friendly. Need something?"
"Yeah," he pointed to his I.V. "Which on of these is morphine?"
She tilted her head, confused, "I can up your dosage, if you're in pain."
"I'm not in pain, I don't want the morphine."
"Sir, the mor-"
"I don't want narcotics." He held the tubes threatening to rip them out of his arm. "Give me something else for pain. Something that won't make me sleep."
"I can't do that." She held up her hands again to divert his next outburst, "I'm not a doctor, I just keep an eye on the patients."
Nny snorted, "I don't care about the pain, I can cope, just get me off these drugs."
"Sir, please be rational about this."
His stare told this poor little intern that a psychotic break was coming on and he knew she was powerless to stop him.
"Okay, but I don't know when you'll be able to get anything for pain." She hesitated.
Johnny closed his eyes, "I won't sue you for malpractice."
The intern separated the morphine drip from the other medications. "I'll be back as soon as I can…"
When she left, Johnny noticed that Tenna hadn't tried to stop him either.
He opened his eyes to discover she wasn't there.
A doctor came into his room shouting at the intern that had taken him off the drugs. He spent several minutes trying to get him back on it, just on a lower dosage. Johnny would not bend. The doctor threatened him, telling him about the agonizing crippling pain he'd be in once the drugs wore off. Johnny shrugged, saying that as long as he had the choice of when he slept, he didn't care. The doctor said that he was being irrational.
Johnny didn't respond to him after that.
"Sir, I don't want you screaming so loud the psych ward could hear you." The doctor tapped his foot impatiently, "You've just been through an intense medical procedure, the pain would be unbearable. And you're willing to go through that? The sleeping portion is good for you. Numbs you from the outside world."
"You win." The doctor took the morphine I.V. off the rack. "I'll bring you something else."
The doc and the intern both went outside. They discussed something Johnny couldn't hear. The intern ran off and returned nearly ten minutes later with a new bag. The intern hooked it up.
"The pain should go away in a few minutes." There was a sad look in her eye. "I'm sorry, we couldn't let you suffer."
Johnny wanted to ask what that meant, but his body betrayed him, weakened, and lost consciousness again.
"Where the hell have you been? I've been stuck here for almost two days!" Tenna was shouting at them as they came out of the elevator. Both were sporting backpacks.
Tess pulled something out of hers and showed it to her. "You are not going to believe this."
"I don't care." Tenna was surprisingly grumpy, "I'm tried, my back is cramping and I want to shower." She stormed past them to the elevator, "Tell me tomorrow."
Tenna didn't show up until late the next evening. They all voted to discuss this outside of the hospital room.
"Are you serious?" The trio was in the hospital cafeteria, the sounds of other people made everything a little easier.
"Yeah," Tess had just finished recounting the story of the box, "Full of 'em."
"And you found out that Todd and Johnny were…"
"…Yeah," Devi interrupted. "We can't tell him"
"Of course we can't." Tenna nodded, "What about the girl?"
"Anne?" Tess shook her head. "No. Not about her either."
"Then why are we even talking about this?" Tenna flailed her arms uselessly, nearly knocking her muffin off of the table. "I don't need to know this."
Devi's tone sobered everyone, "Tenna."
There was a mutual understanding between the three of them.
"What do we do about him?" She asked, watching Devi's reaction, "How do we handle this?"
Her initial reaction was predictable, "We should walk away." She took a deep breath, "But I don't think we can. We're too involved."
Tess nodded in agreement, "Yeah, we can't leave him like this in good conscience."
The sun had gone down hours ago; they had to decide which one of them didn't get to sleep in her own bed.
An intern stopped their debate.
"Are you the women who came in with the man on the seventh floor?"
Tenna smirked, "Which man?"
The intern panted, "777. The one with no last name."
Devi and Tess laughed at the room number, but sobered quickly.
Everyone shot up from the table and plowed past her.
He had specifically asked to be taken off the morphine, and they kept him on it. When he woke up he ripped the I.V. out.
In between black outs and visits from Tenna, he had managed to smuggle a set of scrubs back to his room through some of his neighbors. Johnny had never realized just how great it was to be able to wear pants. Now he could move about the building with ease.
That's exactly what he intended.
His room was empty. The I.V.'s dripped their precious fluids onto the tile floor.
"How the hell does he do that?"
Tess seemed unfazed by the whole thing. Tenna whirled around on her, "What do you know?"
"I know he can take pain." She said, "this isn't surprising."
Devi and Tenna stared, prompting her to explain.
"The man talked to me with a bullet hole in his FACE, open, mind you." She sat down on the empty bed, "this isn't half as bad as that, he could be blocks away by now."
Devi doubted that, she picked up her coat, Tenna's bag and her own and left.
"Should we follow her?" Tess asked.
"She has a plan. Hopefully it'll work."
"What's the plan?"
Tenna sat down on the bed next to her, both staring at the open door. "How should I know? I'm not psychic."
He was exactly where she thought he would be. She collected her things, and gathered a few of Tenna's, and stuffed all of it into her backpack. She took off her coat and draped it over her shoulder.
With a deep, steadying breath she opened the roof exit door.
"This may be the last time we ever see each other."
Johnny jumped slightly at the sudden sound, but otherwise didn't move much.
Devi took a place leaning on the ledge next to him. She set her coat down next to her, and shivered a bit. The altitude and winter wind made for a surprisingly chilly night.
They watched people come and go from the parking lot. Groups chatted and some cried.
Devi reached into her bag and pulled out the sno-globe Tenna had bought for Squee. She leaned and held it out to show Johnny. He wasn't interested.
They stood in silence for a few moments.
Johnny looked at her, he seemed drowsy. Probably from the meds and the pain. "Yeah?"
"It's a sno-globe."
"Tenna got it for Todd in Canada. I think we should do something spectacular with it. You know, for his memory."
Johnny just got a sad look on his face, and said nothing.
There was a pain that hung in the air for some time.
"You see those two." Devi pointed into the parking lot.
"The guy and the girl?"
"Yeah. She just got breast implants and he's gonna propose to her."
Lo and behold the male figure knelt down. Johnny made a noise. "And?"
"And… I have a way to make those two hate each other forever."
This got his attention.
Devi smiled widely, then shouted at the couple as loud as she could muster, "Get your hands off my woman," and threw the sno-globe at them. It exploded. It didn't hit either of them but the fight that ensued after the fear dissipated was hilarious.
The two on the roof laughed for a while after the fight had been taken elsewhere. Johnny stopped abruptly with a soft grunt of pain, and Devi followed soon after.
"Thanks," he said whipping a tear from his eye, "I really needed that."
"Me too. I haven't laughed like that in years." She sighed. "I brought you something."
She laughed. "No." Devi pulled out an envelope, set it on the ground, then reached deeper into the bag.
"What's in there," Johnny asked, gesturing to the envelope.
"It's not important."
She handed him something soft but, worn and faded in patches.
Squee's teddy bear.
Johnny wanted to cry, but fought it.
"I know, you don't want it now, but believe me you will eventually." She paused intently studying his sad expression, "and it doesn't have the same impact when you throw it from a tall building."
Nny smiled sadly and looked up. He didn't say anything. She smiled back at him and waited for him to speak.
He whispered something, she couldn't hear it.
When he didn't repeat himself Devi took that as her cue to leave. She picked up her coat and wrapped it around him. "The cold air could kill you."
"Why do you care?"
He didn't sound angry, just sad.
"Why? Why did you come up here? Why did you give me the bear? Why are you doing all of this?"
"Because I want to believe that things can change."
"I want to, but I can't. Despite all that has happened these last few months nothing has changed between us." Devi sighed. Johnny never turned to face her, but she was sure he understood. "I still hate you, and everything you stand for. I wish that I don't, but it can't be helped."
Johnny lowered his head and Devi could see him bleeding through the scrubs. He had torn his stitches out.
"If things had gone a little differently, maybe we wouldn't be here now, but I know as well as you do, that there are no happy endings." She placed a hand on his shoulder, he jumped but didn't try to get away. "People live, people die. That's it, game over, the end. 'Things may change, people may change…'"
He finished the thought, "'But nothing is ever decided.'" A quote from some book they had both read at some point. "What now?"
Devi shrugged, "I don't know. What do you want?"
"I don't know."
They stood there, savoring what was left of this moment of peace. Before security came barging out on them, before Johnny blacked out from blood loss, before Devi turned around and walked away from him forever. While he leaned against the railing, on the roof of a hospital waited down by the guilt that came with his crime, teddy bear cradled in his arms. While she stood behind him, gazing past him, her hand on his shoulder, his past in her memory, hoping something good may come of this.
"I don't understand."
"Neither do I."
She leaned forward and pulled him way from the railing. With a deep breath and a hurling of caution to the wind, she kissed his cheek.
There was a warm feeling the Johnny was sure he hadn't felt since he was little. It was gone all too soon.
And then she was gone. Lost to him forever.
"Nothing is decided."
Johnny waited on the roof for sometime, maybe security would come and get him, doctors and nurses and whatnot. When he realized that no one was hunting for him, he cautiously made his way back to his room.
A/N: The END it's four in the morning GOOD NIGHT.
Ya know, the epilogue was the whole reason I wanted to finish this puppy. Well, I think it all came out fairly well. Maybe in a few months I'll rewrite it and make it look better,
Ugh this story ate my brain.
UPDATE (7/15/11 4:30 AM) There's a twisted part of me that wants to go through and revamp this fucker. Add things, adjust others. Make things sound a smidge less pretentious.
And then I realize I have other stuff I should be working on, and decide to do it later.