A Requiem for Who You Were
By Harlander Tavern
It would have been a lie if for him to admit he knew this day would come, but Matt can't help but experience a sense of familiarity once he steps out of Casey's car. Even at a distance he finds himself nearly choking on the acrid stench of burning plastics, metals and whatever was contained within the hospital only a block away from the two of them. Also mixed with the over powering smoke was the fresh smell of blood from his nose, which he paid little attention to at first.
"Matt, please take this and hold it to your face." Casey hands him yet another tissue from the box she'd been carrying the whole car ride. Her face is a collision of discomfort and annoyance, most likely from Matt's insistence on bringing them here.
"Andrew needs me. He's up there. I just know he is." Matt's eyes don't even dare stray from the sight of smoke billowing from the eleventh floor of the hospital.
"You've been saying that ever since we left me house, but how do you know, Matt? What's really going on here?"
Matt doesn't even grace her with a glance. The thought of his cousin being in danger up there was horrifying, paling at the least. From the moment he left for the hospital, the screams in his head had faded, but not stopped. They don't even sound like Andrew; more like an aggressive animal he had never heard of. It's ferocious, no matter how quiet it gets.
"It's hard to explain." Matt still fails to fully tear himself from the awful sight.
"Don't give me that! Either there's something about this-" Casey points towards the burning eleventh floor "-that has to do with you, or you're just insane. Somehow, I doubt it's the latter. Now I think I deserve to know why you dragged me out here to this place!"
"You got in the car! I didn't make you come!" Matt snaps back, making his own headache intensify.
"You took my mom's car, yammering about Andrew with blood seeping from your nose. Of course I came!"
"Well you shouldn't have." Matt fires the meaningless retort indignantly. He grasps a wad of tissues and wipes his face, turning them bright red almost instantaneously. Part of him wonders how much blood he has left with this nosebleed.
Casey is still holding her video camera, much to Matt's displeasure. Was this all a joke to her? More than anything, seeing her holding the device just made him worry about his cousin, who also had a weird obsession with documenting his life.
"Put the camera Away, Casey" He mutters.
"What?" She doesn't relent with the cameras judgmental stare.
"I said put it away."
"Put the goddamn camera away, Casey!" Matt reaches and yanks the camera from her hands, placing it, less gently that he could imagine Casey would prefer, on the hood of the car.
Casey just stands there in shock at first, then paces a couple steps away from what she would have considered a couple minutes ago her boyfriend, swallowing back nervous tears. Nothing is said between them for ten excruciating, silent seconds. Matt wants to kick himself so hard.
"Casey, I'm sorry. I…"
"I've honestly never seen you this way before." She avoids eye contact, instead gazing distantly at the crowd of police cars gathering at the ground floor of the hospital.
"I didn't mean to flip out at you, Casey. You just can't know what I'm feeling right now." He tenderly tries to make amends. He tries to take a hold of her hand, but she pushes him away.
"It wouldn't have been a problem if just told me just what you're feeling. But I don't know this new Matt; the asshole one that keeps secrets." She trudges a couple steps across the pavement, which is speckled with red dots from Matt. She inhales and opens the driver seat of the car.
"Where are you going?" Matt asks, only to be answered with a door slamming shut.
She starts the engine and pulls out from the curb. A part of Mathew is glad to know she will be safe away from here, away from this mess. The larger, more frantic, portion of him dreads the sense that he's losing her.
He runs up to the driver's window and knocks. Casey rolls down the window but refuses to look directly at him, punching a hole in Matt's heart. He feels ready to do anything, no matter how degrading or difficult, to make her look at him with those adoring eyes like at the party.
"Casey, please listen. I'm sorry. I really am. What do I need to do to convince you to stay?"
A moment of silence passes between the two of them, but Matt can hardly drown out the predatory roaring inside his head. He focuses himself as best as he can as Casey finally looks him in the eye.
"You really want to know how to make me stay? And you'll do anything to make it happen"
"Yes, I will" Matt doesn't take a second to answer
"Okay. Then spill it, everything. What is going on with you, with Andrew? And while I am it, what about Steve? It's normal for people to be changed by the death of a friend, but you've been more stressed out than ever since. So again I ask, what is going on?"
Matt almost spills everything like a cracked water crate. He wants to tell her about the cave, the games, the pranks, the flying, and then about Steve. But instead he just stands there like a statue, unable to move, unable to say anything. Every second he waits, he feels like the end draws closer and closer between him and his girlfriend.
And then he sees it; two reflective drips in the corners of both Casey's eyes. His heart almost stops. She breaks eye contact and puts the car in drive again.
"Casey… I'm sorry," is all he gets out.
"I am too." She brushes hair away from her right eye. "Bye Matt."
The car pulls away, passing a convoy of patrol cars headed for the hospital. Matt wants to run, he tries to run, but he knows, deep in his heart, there was no point. He feels like his entire entity has been violently torn in two; the old, carefree Matt who chased after girls, got into shenanigans versus the new Matt, who is burdened with the cost of keeping secrets. His head is almost ready to explode.
A streetlight near the hospital shatters. Its glass rains down on an unlucky officer nearby. He curses and falls, wounded. His colleagues race to his aid.
Matt pales and wonders if he did that. If so, he may be losing his grip like Andrew. Maybe this was what it felt to be him; to be able to destroy with little more effort than thinking it.
No. He pulls himself back together and turns his attention to the burning hospital again. If he's lucky, he'll have a chance to repair things with Casey, one day. Right now he needed to focus on his cousin, Andrew.
No more hesitating or fearing.
Mathew makes his way through swelling crowds of people, all awed by the sight of the burning hospital as much as he was. A couple people protest as he pushes through with growing impatience, even knocking a girl over by accident and causing her phone to shatter on the pavement.
"What the hell, man!" She hisses, pulling herself back to her feet.
"Sorry!" Andrew calls back. He forces his way through the crowd away from her before she could call officer, or even worse, one of her possible large friends.
The smoke was asphyxiating in combination with being compressed between people. Did every single person on earth have to gather with their iphones and razors every single time something interesting happened? Now was really not the time.
Like the end of a tree line, the bodies of spectators eventually part, allowing Matt to gulp in fresh but acrid air. The only good thing about being in that crowd, he later noticed, was that it gave him a distraction from the howling in his head, which returned at full force spontaneously. Matt clasps his ears.
The police are already at the sight and preventing spectators from approaching the entrance to the hospital, though seemingly as mesmerized by the scene as anybody else. One of them notices a young man, on his knees, clamping his head and moaning painfully. He approaches Matt.
"Son, are you alright?" He gestures to help the boy up, but Matt shakes his head and stands up on his own.
"Yeah, I'm fine." He coughs into his shoulder. "But I need your help."
"Oh god, my boy, you've got quite the nose bleed here. Did you get into a fight?
"No. Please listen to me. My cousin's up there and I need to get to him. His name is Andrew Detmer." Matt cringes and tries to hide the feeling of white heat in the front of his brain, trying to play it cool.
The officer pulls out a notepad. "Okay, your Cousin is Detmer. D.E.T.M.E.R. Is that correct?"
"Yeah, that's correct" Mathew keeps his eyes on the burning hole in the eleventh floor for any movement as he speaks.
"And do you know what floor he is on?" The officer inquired.
"Eleventh, I think."
"You think? Thinking is a dangerous thing when it means sending firefighters multiple floors up to rescue somebody."
"I'm sure he's up there. Please. You don't even need to send up fire fighters. I can get to him myself. Just let my through. I need to help him!"
The officer frowns and gestures for a couple of his colleagues. One of them is a paramedic, complete with a first aid kit. The group gathers around Matt.
"Boy, I understand your situation, but what it looks like what you need right now is some medical treatment. You look as pale as a ghost and I saw you clenching your head not more than two minutes ago. I think its best you sit back while we sort this out."
"No, you don't understand. It has to be me. I'm the only one who can handle Andrew!" Matt can feel is breathing quicken with anxiety.
A second paramedic pulls forth a stretcher, which Matt can only assume is for him. The other tries to calm Matt down and lead him forward, but he draws back angrily. He can feel the time slip through his fingers with each second he wastes with these two.
"Son, calm down. We're here to help you. Just come with us. We'll get you water and the assistance you need to-"
"Look!" a woman shrieks.
He is broken off by a chorus of cries from the spectators behind them, causing both Matt and the officers to look upwards to the smoke. Matt's eyes widened as he saw the last thing he hoped to see. Andrew is not in danger at all.
He is the danger.
The clearing smoke revealed Matt's cousin standing eleven stories from the bottom floor, his hands grasped around the throat of a squirming man. He was screaming words Matt could not make out.
"Andrew!" Matt tries futilely to reach out to his cousin way above, but he is out of earshot. After noticing the lack of attention any of the cops had on him, Mathew makes a bolt for the front doors.
"Hey, hey, hey! Where do you think you're going?" one of the cops realizes his escape and sprints after Mathew.
Matt only takes one look back at the pursuing officers before he forces the doors shut, not with his hands, but with his mind. The officers begin hammering on the bullet proof glass with guns.
Which way was the fastest way up? The stairs would take too long, even with his ability of flight. He could try to take the elevator, but it was likely they had been shut down because of fire. That excluded it as an option, unless.
Matt races to the nearest elevator, focusing, despite the sounds of glass shattering behind him. With one swift action, Matt mentally tears both elevator doors from the mechanism and tosses them aside, not even taking a moment afterwards to recognize is growth in strength.
Just as he thought, the elevator was locked at least twenty floors above, leaving him a clear shaft to fly though. The glass doors behind him shatter. Matt leaps into the barren shaft and rockets towards the eleventh floor, the shouts of officers growing small and hollow within seconds.
He passes five floors, seven floors, ten floors before stopping at the eleventh and punching out the elevator doors like he did below. It doesn't take him long to find where Matt is.
He follows the smoke and the symphony of screams of hate and terror.
The sight Matt laid his eyes on when he stepped into Andrew's room was like something out of hell.
Machines and tools once used for treatment were now twisted and deformed, fused with the charred wall. The bed in the corner was a knotted and twisted pile of metal and cloth. Spot lights were beaming into the room, revealing every inch of destruction that had been inflicted. And at the gaping hole in the wall, at the far side of the room, was Andrew, his eyes light ablaze with hatred.
Strangely, the insistent howling in Mathew's head had vanished, replaced by the eerie calm of night and the cold chill of Andrew's cutting glare. Matt took two steps forward. As much as he wanted to deny it, he was afraid. He was afraid of his own cousin.
"Andrew," Matt practically whispers. He took another two steps forward. "Andrew, I'm here. It's me. What happened here?"
No answer. Andrew only scowls at Matt, the man Matt now recognized as Richard Detmer still grasped by his neck. Matt dares to take another three steps forward, pushing rubble aside. He asks again.
"Andrew, what happened here?"
"Will you shut up!" Andrew snarls. The outburst causes Matt to feel the entire structure of the room rumble. "Why are you of all people here right now?"
"Cause you're my cousin, Andrew! I sensed you and came as fast as I could!"
"Don't call me your cousin, Matt! I've never been anything to you. You made that clear when we first entered high school."
"That's not true, Andrew! I'm sorry I left you alone! I'm here for you now! Let's just talk this out!"
His words fall on deaf ears.
"And you know what? You've never been anything to me. You and me, we're nothing alike. I'm stronger than all of you!" Andrew's grip tightens on his father, causing a fit of coughing and choking.
"Andrew, stop! You'll kill him!" Matt is both terrified and enraged with his cousin. Half of him wants to beat the life right out of him for causing this much havoc, while the other wishes to embrace him. He's stuck here, trembling.
"And what of it? I've been put through enough of you and everybody else's shit. I'm done! From now on, I crush those who hurt me, starting today with this asshole!" At this comment, Andrew's father sobs out loud.
"Shut up!" Andrew shouts and his father does just that, barely whimpering. He proceeds to hold his father directly out of the building, one slip away from falling stories to his death. He flails in the wind, panicked.
Matt's throat tightens up and tears form in his eyes as the reality of the situation dawns on him. "It's not too late. I promise you, things can change and they will. But only if you stop this right here, right now."
"Andrew…" Whatever words Richard Detmer was forming are crushed as Andrew tightens his grip again. Then his intense scowl lightens to a delirious grin. His chest bobs up and down in compressed giggles, like Matt had said something absurd or hilarious.
"No, Matt. I promise you, things have changed."
"Andrew, please!" Matt takes another two steps towards his cousin, sensing what was about to come. He doesn't hear, but sees Andrew form words with his mouth.
Andrew's grin ceases. His expression is hard to make out, partially clouded by shadows from the spotlights and partially from his messy hair. All Matt can make out are two loathsome eyes, the eyes of a beast, staring into his soul.
"I'm an apex predator."
And he let go.
Everything happens in slow motion to Matt; the final look of maddened fear on his uncle's face as he falls to his death is burned into his mind permanently. Unable to contain himself, Matt throws himself at Andrew, his rage and sadness forming a beast to match the sheer hatred of Andrew.
But Andrew does not even flinch. With the ease of a single gesture, he throws Matt through the wall of the room, crashing through the next and the next afterwards. Matt's world is nothing but pain and dizziness before he gives in, allowing the approaching darkness to take him.
There's sky. And in the sky, there are three boys flying, calling, playing, laughing, and then nothing.
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June 22, 2012