Disclaimer: Does It Seem Cold, Like Antifreeze In Mild Evening Rain? I don't own iCarly.

()()()

It was early in the afternoon. Sam and Carly wanted to get their rehearsal done, but Freddie was having technical issues. Unfortunately, this didn't afford him sympathy so much as impatience from them.

"Freddie, what's taking you so long?"

"It's this camera, I don't know what's wrong with it!"

"Come on, it's the same camera you've had forever! Are you even paying any attention?"

"Yeah… you sound distracted. Do you need to talk to-"

"No, no, it's fine. Just… homework, lately. Being a senior kind of sucks."

"Oh, please. Freddie, you know you're going to get straight As like you do every semester."

"Hey, it takes work to keep up those kinds of grades, Sam. Not like you'd know about that."

"Very funny, Benson."

"Come on, guys! This isn't the time to fight! This is a really special night!"

"We know, Carly. You've been ravin' about it all week!"

"Because if this night goes good, we can keep doing stuff like this and make the show exciting to do again! We need more viewer interaction, that's what's going to make iCarly big again!"

"We get it, we get it… yeesh."

"Alright, I think I fixed the camera. Now, how are we going to do this rehearsal? Since it's gonna be kind of unpredictable-"

"I think we should just go with it after the intro's over."

"You mean… like improvise?"

"Yeah, exactly! Like on that Whose Line show! It'll be fun, I promise."

"Alright, Carly, do you still need a script or have you memorized the intro?"

"We don't need a script, Fredd-o. Just point the camera and shoot."

"Okay, in 5, 4, 3, 2…"

Had he been actually counting down to one, he still would have only made it as far as two. A freak accident occurred. Unbeknownst to him, it was an accident that would inadvertently save his two friends. The camera in his hands exploded in a shower of fire, lighting the room ablaze and taking Freddie's head with it.

()()()

8AM, the next day (that is, next after the last chapter, not after the previous skit. Y'know, just for accuracy.)

Back in the E.R. again, with Carly nearly comatose and his head nearly comatose, sat Spencer Shay. Next to him sat his supporting actor, Sam Puckett. Or maybe he was the supporting actor. Probably. But who cares?

"I would have thought Freddie'd come with us for sure," Spencer said in a near whisper, probably only half aware that he'd said anything. "Are you sure he's okay?"

"I knocked on his door like twice. He didn't answer. I bet he's just asleep or something."

Of course, this was a bald-faced lie from the master to the former student. Sam not only didn't want to ever see Freddie again, she didn't want Carly around him either. However much they may have come to love who he was, that ship sailed and left behind someone too dangerous. She had to laugh to keep from tearing her hair out. Who could've known that spineless fuck had it in him?

It was the expressions on his face at his apartment yesterday that convinced her. She'd seen enough drunk, raging, slobbering arguments between her mother and the flavor-of-the-week from some booze-hole to recognize those anywhere. Recognize it as what, she had no idea, but… she wasn't letting it near Carly.

Sam couldn't bear to look over at Spencer. If anyone outside of the group was an example of the horror this entire episode had brought, he was it. He'd been watching the most important person in his life deteriorate far longer than most other people could stand. To see a person who was normally carefree become distant served to prove that everything had fallen completely to shit.

A doctor, appearing to be not much older than Spencer, walked up to them with an expression of uncertainty. His news was no news.

()()()

Freddie had spent the three hours he'd been awake in a daze, frozen where he lay. The body of his mother had grown cold, but not enough for Freddie to take note. It would begin to smell soon. His time was near.

He wasn't all that afraid. Then again, he didn't feel a lot lately. His blood had all but turned to Novocain. His brain was on dial-up. And it had come to the point where he didn't even notice the state he was in. He was drifting, unaware of anything that wasn't facing him, but painfully aware at all the worst moments. When he looked at someone from the time before his re-programming, it triggered something inside that even scared him sometimes.

There was a little touch of pain in his head. The sort of annoying headache one gets that hurts just enough to ruin a good mood. As he had been lying there, it grew like a pesky weed. Feeding from the agonizing lifelessness plaguing him.

His eyes drifted to a tissue nearby that, like the countless others, was just thrown over his shoulder after use. He'd run out of them about a week ago, so he'd taken to letting his dick spit where it pointed. It was like even his cock hated the shit he forced it to stare at, every hour, on the hour.

The tissue was changing in front of his eyes. It would become blurry, and then sharp. It changed shapes and hues. It split like an amoeba. It would lie there motionless just like the person that used it. His life was like that of a hopeless comatose. It dawned on Freddie that, like that tissue, he had no hope of changing any of it. He was an 18-year-old who just killed his mom. He'd surely get 25 to life.

With that revelation, he got up, feeling like he was stepping out of a car after 12 hours of driving. His legs were so tired, his limbs were scragglier than usual, and faint hints of facial hair were poking out. He hadn't showered since his last outing with Carly two days ago. "I guess I'm finally getting older," was the thought that entered him. Isn't that what he had always wanted? To escape his mom?

But feeling like the world's oldest 18-year-old was not how Freddie Benson intended to spend his last shreds of freedom. His baseball bat lay to the side with several dents and scratches, not from years of use, but yesterday's thrashing. To him, it seemed almost brand new. The dimmest of lights delivered from the most tired of suns punched through the overcast sky. Visibility was granted to the hoard that had accumulated in the young man's room. The hoard had fallen, and so had he.

()()()

Oh, God, Carly, I'm sorry. I don't know how I could have prevented all this. When you first moved in, I told myself I'd make sure I was the best replacement for Dad you needed.

I guess I shouldn't have ignored Grandpa when he told me I wasn't good enough to take care of you. That I didn't even have my own life together didn't even occur to me. You didn't need the best I could do, you just needed the best possible. There was no way I could give you that.

Even right now, I feel useless. Sitting here with Sam, waiting for the doctor to come out and tell us something. She'd been unconscious since early last night, after having some kind of weird head attack. Every time I close my eyes, I can see the blood. It was coming through the nose, ears, eyes and mouth.

Does it matter how she got that way anymore, if I can't help it? I just want to know what I can do to bring things back to normal.

I hear footsteps, and I can feel them like they're kicks to the stomach. Every time I hear them, I think the doctor's coming. To tell me that there's nothing we can do.

()()()

The oppressive rain of Seattle sounds like a scream in the dead of night. It stretches untold distances while careful drivers harmonize their bleating horns. Pitch dark even with the streetlights, and wordlessly violent, 3 AM chimes in the west.

As the overcast maroon-shaded blackness stares down the concrete face of earth, crying for it, the world goes on churning. The roads are the intestines digesting the gas fumes and tire tracks, fueling a blackened, crispy heart.

One person stands alone in a forest of marble with fake flowers strangled in their shaky hands. Waiting like a bad actor in a silent film, deliberate like a dueler at high noon, the shadow holds a staring contest with a corpse that it can't see.

The flowers are placed on the freshly dug dirt. In the rain, they hardly stand a chance, but the shadow wanted to be rid of them as soon as possible. It gazed longingly at nothing. It gazed at its unexposed navel. The pouring rain slowly halted.

()()()

Spencer was taken to the hallway to talk to the doctor one-on-one. If his heart were throbbing any harder, it would be breaking through his ribs. A dread feeling encompassed his stressed, tired being.

"We aren't going to know a whole lot until we do a brain scan, since all of the trauma you've been reporting stems from the head," the doctor explained to Spencer.

"Do you think she's going to be okay?"

"To be honest, young man, I don't know. It's a little early to tell at this point. On the surface, what you describe sounds like typical pneumonia. But… it's this bleeding from the head you talk about that has us thrown off. It may be very serious."

"I didn't come here because I thought it wasn't, doc," said Spencer. "When will you have an idea?"

"We should have her in for a scan this afternoon. If it's any consolation to you, for now her condition is stable. It has been since you brought her here. No further bleeding, all vital signs okay, nothing physically wrong."

"Nothing physically wrong? That's crazy! She's been having nosebleeds for months, never mind the-"

"I know, I know, Mr. Shay! I thought it went without saying. Listen, you seem tired, why don't you go back home and rest? We've got everything taken care of here, and you've been up all night in the waiting room."

"I want to see Carly first, with Sam."

"Certainly."

Spencer nodded as the doctor walked off. He ran his fingers through his hair, which he'd been letting grow out for some time now. While he walked quickly to grab Sam to visit Carly's hospital room, he realized how tired he was of hospitals.

()()()

Sam and Spencer opened the door to her room tentatively, creeping in so as to not disturb the sleeping beauty. The girl slept soundly, and when Spencer saw, he realized why the doctor seemed to suggest not much was wrong. She looked strikingly peaceful. All one would have to do any different is put her back in her bed.

Sam, too, had noticed, and was relieved, although she didn't even know why. Other than, she somewhat expected to walk in and come face to face with Carly as a cancer patient. The thought was horrendous. Carly was supposed to be full of life. Anything else is just wrong.

"Hey, Carly," Spencer said, complete with a little hand wave at his sister, who, needless to say, wasn't looking. Sam held back a laugh and immediately felt bad when Spencer turned to look at her.

"I'm sorry," Sam chuckled, "that just sounded so awkward."

Spencer twisted his mouth a little. "I'm glad someone around here's having a good time."

Her smile faded. "Sorry."

Spencer immediately put his hand on Sam's shoulder and smiled. "Don't be. It made everything seem normal there for a second."

()()()

She wasn't sure how long she'd been drifting before waking, but the first thing she noticed was the abominable stench. As soon as she put her hand to her nose, she fell under… well, she wasn't sure what it was. It was white, like milk, with a consistency similar to syrup. Obviously, the reeking odor was emanating from this ocean of liquid she woke up in.

It must have been baking in the sun for years. She dry-heaved at the thought of it. Even worse- what on earth could be swimming around- or floating dead- beneath her feet? Now she was just torturing herself.

Luckily, it didn't take long for the girl to spot a land mass, though it was far away. Dreading the entire swim, she traversed the milky ocean and made it to the island shore with startling quickness.

The first thing she wanted to do was dry all traces of the horrible ocean ooze off of herself. Against her better judgment, she stayed in the heat instead of heading for the shady tree area ahead.

So she walked along the shoreline to get a good idea of the island's geography. It was reasonably sized, but something was off; nothing stayed the same between each lap around the island. There weren't any familiar landmarks and things just seemed to re-arrange when she turned away. She even swore at one point that a tree disappeared when she blinked. Was there something in the air? She noted that even the things that were obviously real felt like trembles of a pained imagination.

After another lap, the girl went deeper into the island to find… something, she didn't really know. Food and shelter were obvious things. But something else was pulling her in. That's when the worst of it started.

It became even more painfully clear that the scenery was constantly changing around her. The only parts that didn't change were those she was looking at. Trees would change height, lose leaves, and even vanish completely, while shadows bent away from their avatars in illogical ways.

"AAAHHH!"

Two hands gripped each of her ankles. She struggled hard against them, to no avail. All the while, she couldn't decide what was worse; the hands, or that she couldn't see them, only feel them. Should she have been happy about that or not?

They pulled her, tripping her to the ground and dragging her away from the island, back to the horrid ocean. No one could hear her scream, not even herself.

()()()

I got on the bus holding my head. It was early, I think. Same clothes I wore yesterday. Head hurt, but so did everything else.

Shitty day. Morning ritual here in this mediocre chunk of Seattle. But, I guess the floors of buses aren't nicer anywhere else in the world.

Can't hear myself think. Pick out some words occasionally. Torture and vengeance. Joyless obsession. For the first time, I feel like I don't understand the world around me.

()()()

Sam and Spencer left the hospital into the bitter, icy wind, and searched for a cab to hail. The brief series of steps to the sidewalk felt more like a hike with the freezing air punching their faces.

"S-Say, Sam," Spencer stuttered through chattering teeth, "you should hang out at the apartment until we come back here. I want to catch Freddie so he can come with us to visit Carly and-"

"NO!" Sam shouted. "That creep doesn't deserve to-"

"Sam!" Spencer interrupted. Sam was rendered silent. She had never heard that much force in his voice. It brought back memories of the deal with Freddie yesterday. "I think after three years of being Carly's friend, he deserves a chance to visit while she's sick!"

Despite her instincts telling her to get angry and deliver a verbal smackdown, Sam cooled down. "Freddie… look, Spencer, Freddie's not right anymore. You know that. Remember the last time he was in the hospital?"

Spencer looked as if he was about to say something, but the words got caught in his throat. He had to concede to her point.

"Okay. We won't bring him here with us. But I'm not going to let you run him off if he comes on his own."

"Spencer, goddamn it…" muttered Sam. She didn't bother to press the subject further, but in her mind she swore to keep Freddie away from Carly. By any means necessary. Even if it killed her.

()()()

Freddie stopped understanding it was strange that he couldn't see a female without imagining her covered in sperm or gore. Nor did he understand why that woman just slapped him when he complimented her on having a good blowjob face.

And the wrongness didn't occur to him when her boyfriend tapped him on the shoulder upon leaving the bus. The boyfriend landed a sucker-punch, sending him on a one-way trip to the laughing concrete. He swore he could hear it.

The disconnect between normalcy and craziness was unimportant when he hungrily lapped at the sidewalk blood before stunned onlookers. His blood tasted so fresh. So organic. Warm, with a very light hint of sweetness.

Boyfriend and girl didn't stick around to watch the young stranger just lay there. Just lay there. Just lay there. He was doing a lot of that lately. Not the good kind of laying, either. Where the woman would be chained up and you'd drag a switchblade across her belly. The bad kind of laying, where you start to get scared that you'll not be able to get up.

()()()

"I see you drivin' 'round town with the girl I love, and I'm like-"

Click

"In other news, local authorities-"

Click

"Now back to Pride and-"

Click

"Moon Prism Poweeeer-"

Click

Spencer observed behind the couch as Sam laid there, aimlessly surfing through channels. "What's up?"

She shrugged her one shoulder that wasn't pressed against the couch. "Just looking for something to watch. Did you want to sit?"

Sam sat up and made room for Spencer. He sat and continued to watch Sam surf channels at breakneck speed. It was clear she was just passing excess moments rather than actually looking for something to watch. There was a long period of silence, and then they heard a door open and shut across the hall.

"That must've been Freddie," said Spencer in a quiet voice.

Sam turned her head and gave him a very serious look. There was still a loose end that needed tying. "Look, I know Carly's your sister and you're her guardian, but please don't let Freddie near Carly. Just trust me on this."

Spencer stared at his hands, trying to stake out his position. On one hand, he'd heard that Freddie attacked Sam, and that made him really wary. But at the same time, Freddie had been a fixture in his and Carly's lives for years now. He'd never seen Freddie do anything remotely violent, which made him almost believe Sam was exaggerating. After all, she was a renowned liar.

Still, the way she asked and the look in her eyes were both deadly serious. And that fact, combined with Freddie's erratic behavior as of recent, led his final decision. He had to keep his sister safe. She was the most precious thing in his life right now.

"Okay, Sam, you win," Spencer said. "I'm not letting Freddie near Carly. At least until she's out of the hospital, then she can make that decision for herself."

Sam pursed her lips at the last remark, but agreed.

()()()

She woke up in a room that she quickly recognized as Freddie's kitchen. Blinking to adjust to the naked darkness was all she could do for about a minute. The whole apartment was pitch-black save for a lamp on the counter illuminating only the immediate area. It was so dark in that room, on top of being so strange, that it made everything seem small. Especially herself.

Freddie was standing at the counter, chopping up something that she couldn't quite see. He brought down his big, rusty butcher knife with aggressive focus, staining it a little bit more with every cut.

The room had a smell to it, a certain smell that she couldn't place. Roach spray, maybe? It worried her even to breathe the air in the kitchen, because of her asthma. But it was hard to breathe normally in a panic. For, again, she had been strapped by invisible binds of some sort, and she couldn't move most of her body.

Not remembering how she'd got there to begin with, she had no real choice but to watch Freddie do… something. A repetitive task at hand, like a living animated gif. It seemed as if he'd stop eventually, but when the room looked right for him to wind down, he persevered.

She realized that the only noise in the room since waking had been the rhythmic slicing of the butcher knife. At no point before then had it dawned that she should try speaking.

"Hey, Freddie," mouthed the girl, but all that came out was air. She couldn't hear her own voice.

So all she did was sit, practically comatose, waiting for ANYTHING other than that merciless rhythm the butcher knife made. Sweat ran down her face, the room's humidity constant, choked by repetitious chopping.

As if Freddie could hear her thoughts, he began chopping harder and faster. She desperately wanted to put her hands to her ears, or walk away, or make him stop. But there was nothing she could do. She was stuck by an unknown force, and even when the tears began to sting her eyes, nothing changed. Freddie still chopped, her head still ached, and right then and there all she wanted to do was WAKE UP

()()()

Spencer had his ear to Freddie's apartment door while Sam leaned against the opposite wall, verging on rolling her eyes. This guy was swearing up and down he could hear something coming from Freddie's apartment, but Sam wasn't hearing anything.

"Spence, come on, what the hell are you doing? We should have been gone three minutes ago-"

Sam paused. She heard it. From the way Spencer leaned in closer, one could assume he heard it too.

"What… the hell is he doing?" Sam whispered. Spencer shrugged a shoulder. It wouldn't have mattered much, if not for the fact that the noise repeated so much. Along with the loud hitting noise, the two heard faint sounds they couldn't trace.

The eavesdroppers waited for another two minutes. Then Sam got bored with it and told Spencer she'd go ahead to the hospital. Spencer agreed to meet her there later, and Sam took the elevator in the Shays' apartment.

About a minute later, the door opened, causing Spencer to almost fall on top of Freddie and his trash bag. "Whoa!"

"What are you doing?" Freddie asked. Spencer regained his balance and stalled in answering, unprepared to give an excuse. And then he remembered who he was talking to.

"I, uhh… I haven't seen you in a while, and I just wanted to see what you were up to."

"Um, okay. Why didn't you just knock?"

"I was just about to, but I saw, uh, a penny on the floor. I was picking it up. People always say pennies give you good luck, or finding one does or something. I need some good luck, is what I'm saying."

Freddie knew Spencer was lying, but he didn't care. "Okay. But I'm busy right now. I have a lot of trash I need to take out; it's really been piling up lately. You can come by in a few hours if you want to."

Spencer smiled slightly and nodded. "Okay, sure."

The older man started to walk away, but Freddie wasn't done. "Hey, by the way, how's Carly doing?"

Spencer was put slightly at ease by Freddie's average behavior and mannerisms, but he still remembered what Sam made him promise. It was hard for him to lie to an old friend, but even harder to put his sister into any potential risk. Besides, Freddie wasn't… well. "She's doing okay, but she doesn't want to be bothered. I heard that… you and her got into it a couple of days ago."

"Yeah. I just wanted to let her know I was sorry. Could you tell her that for me?"

"Yeah. Don't worry about it. I'll let her know when she wakes up."

Spencer realized he had let it slip that Carly was… asleep. Much to his relief, Freddie didn't seem suspicious of the fact that Carly was sleeping during the afternoon.

()()()

One hour later, Spencer met Sam in the waiting room of the hospital and they walked to Carly's room. Every step was like a mile and every corner was like an uphill battle. The worst part of making the long trip was the hope that they'd find Carly awake and lively as ever. It was the pain of having that hope dashed with the opening of the door. That was the hardest.

()()()

Carly's eyes burst open like a star going nova, then fluttered. She instantly recognized that she was back in the hospital, and she sure felt shitty enough to be there. Stretching out instantly made her tired again. She was ready to go back to sleep, but her door opened. Spencer and Sam's shocked expressions greeted her. All of a sudden, everything in the room looked somewhat brighter.

"Carly!" They blurted at the same time. Carly didn't have time to respond to them the way she wanted. Hell, she didn't even have time to expect what would happen. Her mouth started moving by itself.

"Don't go back!"

Spencer knelt at Carly's bedside. Sam stood by. "What do you mean? Don't go back where?"

"The apartment! Don't go back! Whatever you do, don't go back!"

()()()

Fredward Benson wasn't going to be kicked around anymore.

All those years of being Carly's friend, being Sam's friend, being Spencer's friend, had vanished from his memory.

You see, watching those videos and throwing his mom out got him to learn a very valuable lesson. People are nothing but exploitable meat. They are objects with flashy functioning brains and organs that only serve to disguise the inanimacy of their selves.

The affection he felt for the people in his life must have been a fluke. It was so fake, he had to repeat it to himself constantly to remind his fancy new brain.

Meanwhile, the rotting juices of his old brain began to pour out of his ear. Yellowed oozing memories soaked through his shirt and made a milky puddle at his feet. They bubbled and made little holes. Divots for his feet. Anxiety hit for a moment. What if the floor were to melt away beneath him? What if he fell? What if he just kept falling?

He left his apartment and walked across to the Shays'; that fucking moron Spencer didn't lock the door, naturally, so he went right in. And waited.

TO BE CONTINUED