The room was dark. Not blindingly so, not even enough so faces weren't distinguishable, but enough for me to slip away unnoticed, I supposed. Their voices ... they rose up around me, trapping me, and I felt I had no other place to go but away. I couldn't stay here. Especially not with Finny. Not anymore.
"The one who moved first shook the other one's balance!" exclaimed a voice from the platform. I felt sick. Shaking my head as if on impulse, I rose and started to back away. I couldn't stay here.
"Was the one who fell..." It was Brinker this time. "Was Phineas, in other words, the one who moved first or second?"
I didn't - I couldn't stay to hear the answer. Whipping around, I broke into a run, and all hopes of silently escaping this room, this punishment of mine vanished. "Gene!" came Brinker's voice, and I wondered briefly if anyone was worried about me. "Wait! We haven't got the facts yet!" Of course. Of course that was all Brinker cared about.
As I sprinted out the door and down the corridor, I caught Phineas's voice, though quieter, rushed. "You get all your facts, Brinker!" he yelled, and I thought I heard tears in his voice. "You collect every f-ing fact in the world!" Before I even had time to process my former friend's words, I felt the ground give a jolt and then disappear from beneath me. I had reached the staircase.
Tumbling down, a single thought reached me; just like his fall. Getting what I deserved. But it wasn't like Phineas's fall at all. I fell and I hit and I fell and I hit until finally I reached the bottom, my world nothing but agony. The world swirled around me and I felt as if I was in fog, a fog which was only punctuated by the excruciating pain from my body and my head. Vaguely, I heard the crowd's hurried footsteps as they all took off to find the source of whatever commotion my fall must have caused. Why were they even bothering? I had done this to Finny, and now I had done it to myself. It was my fault…
"Gene!" the voice was Phineas's; I heard his hobbled steps as he reached the top of the staircase. He must have been heading off the chase. "Gene!" Why did he care? "Gene!" Brinker shouted. "Gene!" echoed various others. So many voices… they only furthered my headache; why wouldn't they be quiet?
I felt strong hands slipping under me, as if to lift me upwards, but they stopped in their tracks at the next thing Brinker said; "No! Don't move him!" I was left alone again, or at least as alone as I could've been left. Frantic voices still pressed in on me, and I did my best to ignore them. It wasn't quite quiet enough, but I thought perhaps I could go to sleep; I was so tired… My eyes drifted shut, and I realized for the first time that they had been open, though the fog hadn't cleared enough for me to see.
"Don't go to sleep," cried Finny, and the panic in his voice made my eyes flutter open again. But I was so tired. Why couldn't …
"I've sent Brownie to go fetch Dr. Stanpole," Brinker said. "Phil is looking for the light switch." Not long after the words the room was suddenly illuminated and I was briefly blinded – more so than I had been before, at least – before I was able to make out a few blurry faces around me.
"Can somebody go see if there are blankets on the platform?" came Brinker's sharp voice again. Shortly afterwards I was being wrapped; parts of the blanket felt moist, and I realized foggily that I must be bleeding somewhere. Really, it didn't seem to be my problem anymore… I was tired, and the hush that had befallen the room was so inviting… My eyelids started to droop again, only startled back to awareness by a soft but frantic prod to my face. I couldn't see; I couldn't think. I still heard voices, but they were quiet, and the words were too muddled to make out – but I was sure that soon enough Dr. Stanpole's voice was in among the rest. Before long I was being raised by cautious hands and the last thing I saw before I let the darkness claim me were two bright, clear-green eyes.