Sunlight pools in through the dusty window above you. It's warm, almost unseasonably warm for reasons you don't really care to investigate. You'll write it off as John's dad turning up the heater before going to bed. Yeah. That's pretty reasonable. He came back right? At the moment you don't particularly care but it's always nice to know. You breath out your nose steadily. The pillow attempting to support your head is flat. You shift slightly to maybe fluff it up a bit, eyes still shut. As you do that though, your arm brushes up against something soft.
He's facing away from you, snoozing away silently. You sidle up behind him gently and press a kiss to his shoulder (or what should be a shoulder). He doesn't make a move, not from what you can tell in your half-asleep state of awareness, but that's okay, you don't want to wake him up just yet anyways. Sleepy morning cuddle sessions aren't something you're familiar with or anything, but if it came down to it, needless to say you wouldn't be opposed.
(It will indeed come down to it and you're already excited about it.)
You wrap one arm around his waist. Or at least you think it's his waist? Yeah, that's his waist. It feels weightless, and you revel in being able to call yourself the big spoon. Well. Of course you're the big spoon, you're you. You're Dave Strider, and is all how it's supposed to happen, this is how it's supposed to be.
So when your eyes finally blink open, and all you find in front of you is a pillow, you're astoundedly confused. Especially when you look around, and you're not even in John's room, let alone his bed.
And then it all comes crashing down, just like how it does every morning.
Ever since that gust of wind on that dark, wet, cold night on the roof of the hospital, you've been making shit up. You've been making up all up as you went along because there was no way, no absolute way, that John was dead.
But he was. He is.
That one fateful breath of air, teetered him off the building. He was so light, and the wind was so strong, and it caught his shirt, and essentially just. Pulled him off. It was that one last muttered breath of "do it. i'll do it for you."
And you ran forward so fast, only after you really came to terms with what was going on, that you nearly fell off yourself. It was almost in slow motion, you remember the individual icy droplets hitting your face like small knives, you remember the way the sky glowed murky orange from the streetlights-
You remember feeling that you were going to have a heart attack and you remember the piercing yell that quickly faded and abruptly stopped, and you remember falling to your knees at the edge of the building, hitting the barrier so hard it knocked the air right out of your lungs with your upper half teetering over the edge.
You remember your eyes struggling to focus, and then you remember in disgusting detail, what was his small body on the concrete below.
Bloodied, broken, and utterly dead.
John is dead and it was an accident.
He had so little left to give and was ready to end everything, and you didn't help him. You tried, but fate-
Was it meant to be like that? Accidental, but ultimately written off as a poorly planned suicide? Was fate the active antagonist here? Against him? Against you? His dad, and Rose and Jade and that other redheaded kid who called the ambulance that got you and John here in the first place?
You still don't actually know what happened that started this in the first place. All you knew is that you were on the top of a fifteen storey building, and that your best friend, the pranking master, was dead.
Oh, how you wished this was all some sort of sick prank.
You had hunches, and you made some mental connections, and the moment you saw him down there, something snapped, and you didn't believe it. It didn't happen. You faked, you talked to yourself, you sat in the staircase inside the building mumbling to yourself, like you were narrating it all like a story with foreign wording. Bad metaphors and even worse allusions like a shitty young adult novel.
Sometimes, you're pretty sure you still are.
You lied to Rose and Jade, they heard the truth weeks later in a lapse of calm, you laying in bed because you couldn't last a day of school. The first thing your teachers asked when you got back were various iterations of "how was your trip?"
You never meant to blatantly lie like that to the girls, it was just that the reality of the situation just hadn't registered in your brain properly like it should have. Of course that's no excuse, and neither of them talked to you for a week or two. You didn't even bother explaining yourself, and you're still waiting for Rose to come around and remind you that she's going to pee on your stuff for letting this happen.
After you finally had the courage to leave the staircase, you went back into his hospital room, pulled the curtains, sat back in the chair you claimed as yours and blanked out. Your brain just shut off, like it overheated and crashed, like your desktop computer does every summer. Soon enough there were nurses, then police, then his dad. You'd been questioned, they assumed you pushed him off, like it was a homicide. You'd have taken great fucking offense if you could feel anything. The left you alone and you don't know how long had passed. Your phone vibrated in your pocket urgently. You ignored it, pretended you didn't feel it go off.
When Dad could finally speak to you, he asked you what happened, why is his only son, only family, in a body bag being transported to the nearest morgue and all you said was that he was depressed, he was scared and he was lonely and he was hopeless and he felt betrayed. That his heart and his mind and his body were in pain, and you couldn't do anything to help because fate pushed him over the literal and metaphorical edge.
He asked you why you or John never told him, he could've listened and gotten help. You told him it was because he was gone so much, John didn't think he cared anymore.
Dad keeps his head down and tugs on his tie. He tells you he was working overtime to save up because his job was getting unstable. Newer, smarter, younger people applying for his place in the business. He had to show his employer how capable he was at what he did because he really couldn't afford to get laid off. He tells you that he must've overestimated John's patience, and you tell him no, it wasn't just him. He asks what you mean, and you spill that he was getting bullied.
The look on his face could kill a man. You're glad it's not you it's directed at you.
He then slips you a twenty dollar bill and says he'll call a cab for you, and that even though he can't offer up much, he tells you he's proud of you for trying, because he knows that John was, is, your best friend, and that he is so so sorry for not stepping in.
This hurts you because he has just lost his son to apparent suicide, yet is trying to make you feel better.
When you stood up to leave, he did too, and he hugged you. That was the moment you went back to fabricating your own reality.
In hindsight it was a bad way of coping, because here you are now, laying in bed in sheets that probably need a good run in the washing machine on a dank spring afternoon, clutching the second pillow to your chest like a lifeline.
And maybe it is.
Reminders are everywhere too, from your sunglasses sitting on the table to the photos hanging by clothespin spanning from one end of your room to the other. He always demanded to see them in the infrequent video calls, and when finally caved and pulled a few down he said you were dumb for hanging silly selfies everywhere, ("theyre ironic john how many times do we actually have to go over this").
You're obviously still not okay. How do people even get over these kinds of things. Well, that being said it's not like you want to 'get over' it because of obvious reasons, but anything to make the suffocation stop. You know there are parents out there who have lost their children because of freak accidents, there are people dying because they don't have enough to eat, there are people out there, kids even, that have it a million times worse than you do.
You feeling like this, whatever this is? it barely feels justified.
But at the same time, you watched your best friend of almost four years die.
When you put it like that, it's gets increasingly justified. You can't even imagine how Jade and Rose feel, with you lying like you did. Normally when this kind of thing happens, doesn't the community band together for support? To make change? Isn't that something that happens in real life?
Or it could be like one of those things that happens just in the media. It's not real. It's not like it matters all that much though, nothing feels very real anymore though anyways.
Out of nowhere, your phone buzzes on the table, cutting through the silence sharply. You have to reach over the pillow you've been clutching to your body to get it, and when you do, you knock something small off the surface onto the carpet and you mutter under your breath ("What the fuck Strider, you clumsy bastard.") It's too early for reaching and stretching and grabbing shit off your mess of what you call a floor. You can barely see it anymore anyways, it's covered in clothes and cords and papers and empty instant noodle containers.
You have to do some pretty fancy acrobatics to bend your arm appropriately to actually get your hand down there, like. Really fancy. The absolute fanciest. And no, that gross noise totally wasn't you grunting in pain when your shoulder popped back into place.
You finally graze your fingers over what dropped, and you pull it back up in front of your face for inspection.
A small silver ring.
You remember this.
You did a stupid thing the following day; you left the house without your coat, and wandered for hours, exhausted because you were unable to sleep, empty because you couldn't bring yourself to eat. You ended up at some sort of shopping village, a strip mall kind of thing. Seeking warmth and a discounted sweater, you went into the second hand shop and found one you liked with stars that fit you kind of big... an acrylic pullover, just a little bit scratchy with a small buildup of pills where the bottom of the sleeve met your palm. But before you went to pay for it, you found yourself in the jewellery section.
Looking back on it, you're not sure why, but in that moment, you rationalized buying that ring because you were going to buy it for John. You were going to pay three dollars and ninety-nine cents plus tax for that ring, and you were going to present it to him in the least embarrassing way possible.
You're very thankful that the elderly woman working the cash register didn't ask you any questions when she rung up your purchases. You probably would've gone into hysterics.
A quick trip to a coffee shop later (Was it Dunkin' Donuts? You don't remember. It could've been any old cafe.) you found yourself being honked at in the parking lot. John's dad who went to find you, because you left the door unlocked and your coat on the floor. He said you can take the front seat, but you sat in the back. It felt safer back there, and you had more room to shove your hands in your pockets to save them from going numb from the cold.
That night, almost twenty four hours of pretending had you physically sick. His dad was gone, dealing with some stuff, and all you could do for the better part of an hour after a movie was vomit into the toilet, and you couldn't tell if you were crying or laughing. When you look back on it, it was probably both.
You told Rose and Jade that everything was cool.
Speaking of which, you bet they're trying to get a hold of you. That's why you got your phone in the first place, that's how you got got in this stupid train of thought.
- gardenGnostic [GG] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 13:26 -
GG: are you awake yet?
GG: i know something inconceivably terrible has happened
GG: but you can't keep shutting yourself off like this dave
TG: okay but wait
TG: im probably interrupting you by saying this but im not i literally just woke up and im not awake yet
GG: oh. okay, thats fine ! i was just going to say that i feel just as bad as you do and we should all be here for each other
GG: you left the group memo last night though, we were just about to talk about what to do from here, wherever this is
TG: its only been like three months why do we have to do anything
GG: its been a painfully slow three months then huh :(
Feels like it was just yesterday. Probably because you just woke up from it again. How many times has it been now? You keep dodging them both, they just want to 'sort things out' and 'get things running at least a little more smoothly'. You're personally not ready for it.
TG: its fine
GG: obviously its not though! i can stop pestering you? if you want to go back to sleep maybe :((
TG: good idea
GG: ill talk to you later then?
GG: lets talk later
- gardenGnostic [GG] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 13:34 -
You shove your phone under your pillow, sighing and dropping your face back on top of it. You want to go back to sleep but seeing as how you're letting your thoughts run rampant at the moment, it's probably not going to happen.
You don't know what you're going to do.
Just. Live on, you guess. Live and let die.
You scrunch your face up, nose beginning to burn.
"It's not fair."
You bring your hand up to clutch at your chest, the grief and guilt building up painfully.
You curl in on yourself, whimpering your next word.
And you need to have a sense of finality, you need to know that this is real still. Too often have you tried to call his house to just go unanswered, too often do you log off of pesterchum because his name is whited out due to being disabled.
(One time it blinked on, ectoBiologist was feeling Chummy. You nearly had a heart attack before sending a message only to be answered with 'This is John's dad. I'm trying to figure out how to deactivate this account for safety reasons.")
(You couldn't read past the first sentence.)
What you think you can do just to calm yourself down is go up to the roof and hang out, risking sunburn but being able to overlook the city. You could bring your camera with you? No, no that's too overkill. You don't want to distracts yourself, you mostly just want to feel some sort of breeze and get out of your gross stuffy room.
You sit up, rubbing your face for a moment before pulling some pants on. Nothing fancy, just some sweats and putting the ring in the pocket, like good luck or something. Bro is nowhere to be seen when you leave, but that's alright. The TV in front of his futon is on the pause screen of MAD SNACKS YO. so he couldn't have gone too far.
The trek upstairs is a short one, and the exit door is unlocked as usual.
You haven't been up here in a while. Too many bad vibes associated with the tops of buildings. You find a seat near the ledge though, not dangerously close, but you can still see over the edge, and one leg is dangled over the side. Nothing too dangerous. The sun beats down on you, and there's barely a breeze, but it's infinitely better than your suffocating room. The brightness takes a little time to get used to, but it's nothing you can't handle.
From there you pull the ring out of your pocket and just. Hold it in your hand.
Part of you wants to throw it off the edge, to get rid of it, so you never have to remind yourself of John Egbert again, but where would that get you? Absolutely nowhere.
You could still give it to him one day. Maybe like how people used to be buried with their belongings and a hefty amount of money, this small material item can be carried along with you when it's your turn.
A small gust of wind hits you from behind, like a warning or something. What, you gonna push me off too? Good. End it.
How great of a novel would that make. The active antagonist was the wind all along.
Random thought, you ate dirt as a baby because you thought it tasted good.
Eventually you'll let the dirt return the favour.
next chapter is the epilogue then its over
the pain will end i promise
again, my tumblr url is ughmartie if you have any questions or concerns?
(theres a watsky reference there btw. i had to. ive been listening too him way too much lately aha)