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Some nights after the sewer incident, in a place remote and irrelevant…
This had been the first time Jeremiah would see his partner since he was nearly killed and it frightened him. He had thought about leaving four different times on the way to the receptionist desk. He had hidden inside the restroom on the way to the room. He had stared at his feet for half an hour at the door, the big ‘601’ in black letters, and he had memorized the number of black tiles in the checkerboard pattern underneath his feet with how long he waited.
With a gulp. With a deep breath. He opened the door.
The first thing he heard was the strum of a guitar out of tune and how it made a hollow, low pitch note, like a bellow or a boat creak. He looked immediately from left to right. Everything was white and blue, clean and cold. He heard the noise of a machine and what it pumped into Officer Heinz’s tired lungs. His partner; he looked stuffed like a turkey roast, tubes and tape and bandages all over him to keep him from falling apart. Jeremiah dropped a bouquet of flowers he had bought for the occasion. The laid on the bedside.
His injuries felt small now that he looked at his partner. Jeremiah had some cuts and scars, but that was it. He could not think of any of his aches as any kind of meaningful pain in the presence of his comatose partner. He felt small in front of the man lifeless on the bed. And then he heard the guitar again. He looked to his side. There was a little person, quivering, strumming.
Beady eyes looked back, they felt like bullets. It was the small face of a boy, and this boy was so tight in a ball and nervous that he looked just about to explode. His hair the color of dead, muddy brown leaves. They formed long, wavy strands.
“You must be his son, your mom told me you’d be here. How are you holding up?” Jeremiah said.
The boy did not talk, only stared. It made Jeremiah feel cold.
“You’re here alone? I know your moms working but don’t you have any relatives?” He asked again. Nothing. Jeremiah smiled, it was fragile.
“I was his partner. He was very kind and brave, your dad, that is. Funny too!” His face felt weak. “I’m just here to pay my respects.”
The boy nodded. He stared, and when it felt like Jeremiah could not bear the judgment of his glare any longer, he started counting floor tiles again. They were two mutes and next to them, the ceaseless sound of a respirator.
It was oppressive.
Jeremiah couldn’t look without being disgusted. None of what he suffered was enough, not enough to pay for this coma. He clenched his fist and felt his cut-stapled hands bleed. His knees shook. Then he just held his breath and the snot and tears that began to ride down his face. The beeping was so low, but it felt like a hammer on his heart.
I wish I was on that bed instead.
He moved. He ran out. He would have reduced himself to a puddle if he hadn’t. The thought was too heavy. He put a stray rose into the sink and let it drip water that carried the aroma out the room, out the receptionist office, out the giant glass sliding doors at the front. The boy, the doctors, the crowd stared, and he wanted to rip his eyes out.
I know I’m terrible. Stop looking, I know.
“F***. F***.” He told himself. A pair of doctors, smoking, moved aside as he came through the street. The hot air made his eyes burn, and the crowd was loud and – and, he just let go. All the way to his car, he wept. All the way to the liquor store, he wept. Through the day, through the night, he wept.
Drunk by his sadness, drunk because of his sadness. Bottle after bottle.
Now, this is medicine.
He parked by a sidewalk. A giant metal man holding a donut hung leered overhead, above him and the store he just shopped in. Below, on his knees, an empty box of donuts rattled.
His stomach was swollen. His eyes swerved.
He moved his hand across his face to see how bad it was, he counted twelve fingers on one hand.
“I should have manned up. I shouldn’t have let him take the lead.” He remembered the night, the bird that made his shoulders shiver. The darkness, the spear, the fear inside of his gut. He could not find a single scene of heroism from himself, not even on the ride back. Or in the medal of honor lying on the passenger’s seat. He remembered his urine stain, he remembered that especially.
Nothing felt good inside of him.
An hour into the stupor he had the idea to look outside, it was getting too hot, and he opened his mouth thinking it would cool the burning in his throat.
“I need to let go.” He told himself. His face was strained like he had eaten something sour. “Why the f*** should I feel guilty. I only did what was normal, what anyone else would have done.”
He tugged on his steering wheel and nearly pulled it out with his mad grip.
“What the f*** do you expect of me. Huh?” He screamed at the sky.
He looked up, proud of his outburst almost. His eyes kept to the slow-moving cloud and stars that looked like streaking lights in his blurred vision.
A line. A bright light. He saw it across the horizon. He followed it and where it lead. He rubbed his face to see if it was drunkenness. No. He saw it. A comet tail, azure like a bright blade of water cutting through the dark horizon. He followed it all the way to where it landed: the donut man and his giant, plastic, smiling face.
An explosion. Fire.
Then he saw the donut man, the statue, decapitated. The head, blown into molten, dripping plastic. Jeremiah laughed. Until the head fell on the rear of his car. Then he wobbled out. Then he cried.
The metal was bending above, it anchored over him, and he leaped out of the glass. The weight collapsed on his empty car, and he crawled away, dragging his weak legs through the broken pavement. The light posts came down, the whole street looked like it would burst open, and he found a nice corner, near a fence, to fall into fetal position. He kept his eyes shut as he heard the explosions, as the metal fell and collapsed and when it was all done, when all he heard was a raging fire he opened his eyes. The street in front of him, his car, were all swallowed into the sea of fire. There were people with him, looking, then firefighters, then paramedics.
“He’s not hurt, just drunk.” A paramedic said.
Hah. Only drunk.
The police officers looked at him, some of them familiar with his face. When it start, when did it happen, they asked. He did not know. He couldn’t explain much. He only knew what they knew. The street was filled with brimstone. And the lake of fire had tried swallowing him whole.
Synopsis: The online game <