Each member of Chagrin had strange dreams in the hospital waiting room that night. Finding themselves waiting for Eric's parents, they dozed easily despite the uneasiness the hospital brought, laying in its off white purgatory. Jay fell asleep first, with his green eyes drooping since the ambulance came. His head rebounded off of Anson's arm, much to his annoyance. But he let him sleep regardless.
He was in his father's church, sitting in the pews. A strange feeling was following him like a stalker. But he still felt so at ease, as the stately golden cross was casting its raven black shadow over him like a sentinel. He was guarded, and as he began to lower his head to pray, he heard the odd sound of what he thought were bird wings. Opening his eyes, he found himself face to face with an angel. It stared at him for a moment, then pulled up its robe sleeve to reveal an hourglass watch, slowly running out of sand.
Becker was next, having had taken one of his migraine pills to calm his nerves. After all, they were filled with a powerful painkiller. In his dream, he found himself in a gigantic, dim lit library, surrounded by bookcases that seemed to stretch upward to infinity. Becker looked stubbornly at the spines of the books, which were all a dark colour, but had no writing on them at all. He turned back to staring down the line of shelves, and saw what appeared to be a figure standing at the end of the hall'. He slowly approached, and discovered it was a rather attractive girl with red hair. But as he drew closer, her skin and muscles dissolved and melted into the floor, leaving only a skeleton staring him down with bright red eyes.
Then came Charlie, whose dull gaze dipped slowly into unconsciousness around 3 AM. He found himself in a dark parking garage all alone, with a single light illuminating the car of his dreams: a 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray. As he began to walk toward it, a gleaming excitement arrived, but it seemed to fade with each step he got closer. Then it came full circle. The car was painted in bright green spraypaint
Then finally, Anson found himself in a personal nightmare. Guilt and poor sleeping habits must have been the cause. He was standing at Eric's bedside. Eric was attached to a large machine that was apparently keeping him alive. But it only worked if money was inserted through a small slide. For several moments, Anson fed the machine, keeping Eric alive and breathing, but unconscious. Then, as the machine beeps to ask for more money, Anson removed his wallet and opens it to find it is empty as the beeping grew louder then faded into a flatline sound.
All four were awoken simultaneously by the opening and slamming of the door as Mr & Mrs. Derringer rushed into the waiting room. Mr. Derringer looked positively infuriated while Mrs. Derringer just appeared very concerned. Anson got up to greet them first, but was intercepted by the opening of a second door as Eric's attending walked in with his chart. Mrs. Derringer leaped to him, her lanky limbs flailing unobtrusively through the air. Well? How is he? she asked in a high pitched screech.
He's stable, but he's lost a lot of blood. The wound took 23 stitches to close. Must've been a serrated blade, so the attacker had to literally carve the blade out of his abdomen. The doctor replied, staring at his slipboard rather than Mrs. Derringer.
Well, f***ing hell. Anson muttered under his breath. He was heard by Mr. Derringer, who deftly grabbed Anson's shirt in one hand and balled a fist in the other. He dragged Anson to the far side of the waiting room. Becker responded quickly and followed, trying to remain a far enough distance so as to avoid Mr. Derringer's wrath.
Listen, you. I want to know what happened tonight! Mr. Derringer screamed at Anson, who was barely supporting himself against the off white wall with his left hand. I'm sure the police report will take care of info. Anson said calmly, pulling his shirt out of Derringer's grasp. Becker moved between the two nimbly and pushed them away.
Anson, his son's in there. Don't mess with him. Becker said, but he was soon corrected.
Actually, said the doctor. According to Eric's blood cultures and the files I have on the family, Eric's not your biological son.
Yes, we know. Mrs. Derringer said. His real parents died in the fire. We have the adoption papers and all.
Well Jay said, leaning back in his chair. The plot unfolds.
The plots been going on. Charlie noted. This is just another little pickle in our bulls*** sandwich.
Can we see him? Mr Derringer asked as he went back over to the doctor, leaving Anson to breathe again.
No, no. He's in no condition for that. The doc said sternly. We've placed him in a drug induced coma to avoid the pain factor. But the big thing is, he needs blood.
What type? Jay asked inquisitively as he studied the doctor's bushy black hair and eyebrows. He looked a bit like Groucho Marx, but without the cigar.
Which means he can only receive from O negatives. Jay announced. The doctor nodded, and the room went quiet. A pin could have been heard hitting the ground. No one spoke, and Becker assumed it was because no one had the proper type. Then, Anson spoke up.
I'm O negative. He said calmly, stepping forward. Karma, I guessthe antagonist saves the hero. Hehe
You're not the antagonist. Becker said, placing a touching hand on Anson's shoulder. You're more of an anti-hero.
Thanks. Anson grumbled. The doctor nodded and gestured for Anson to follow. He paused a moment to take it all in, then stepped forward to follow.
There goes the last decent person in Harmony Hill. Jay said as he and Becker walked to the door leading out of the hospital. Charlie suddenly stood.
Where are you going? Charlie asked.
I have some questions to ask.
Jay stood silently before the huge double doors of the First Presbyterian Church of Harmony Hill, pausing to reflect on what had happened that evening. It was around 5 now by his guess, and the sun was beginning to peek its overly cheery head over the hilly horizon. Jay was confused and enraged. Where did Harmony Hill's harmony go? It had disappeared with the cable last week at Karen's house. Bowing before the threshold, Jay centered his broad green eyes on the small stately cross at the far end of a row of twelve pews. He walked to it, gently wondering if God could even lay eyes on Harmony Hill anymore. The quaint innocence of the town had been Shredded and tossed aside to reside in the darkness of unease. His golden idol was shrouded, and he was again a sheep without a shepherd.
Rounding the back of the cross, Jay made out every small mark and inconsistency on the surface. Beauty is only skin deep. His fingers gently traced the edges, feeling for the failures of a fallen God. But then he felt an odd stickiness on his fingertips. He removed them, and in the dim light he held his fingers up to his eyes. Green paint. Jay quickly ran to the light switch and turned it on. A small chandelier quickly illuminated the church. Jay ran back to the cross, and saw that the Shredder had no shame. It read, with a smudged B where Jay had touched it: Blame God.
That was it. IT was precisely the issue. Jay did blame God. He could feel it in his bones. A proper, loving God wouldn't let things like this happen. A boy was dying slowly in a hospital bed, surrounded by his false parents, while another boy who had recently learned of his girlfriend's infidelity was donating blood to the perpetrator. And where was he? Praying to a God that didn't exist. He turned away from the cross, and its shadow was cast over him. He saw upon the black and white tiled ground that at his stance, the shadow was the perfect reflection of Jesus' crucifixion. Then Jay finished his movement and walked away. He moved with a certain unfailing sadness and despair that could not be repeated if he tried. As he reached the door, he looked back at the cross, gleaming gently in the light. Then, with a deep sigh, he shut off the light, plunging his faith into darkness.
The next morning, Becker drove to the parking lot just outside town where La Migra had parked their bus for the upcoming tour. As Becker approached, he saw it looked like a tin can with spraypaint and stickers applied liberally. In essentiality, that's exactly what it was. It looked as if they had dragged it up from the bottom of the sea and brought it to a poorly funded Pimp My Ride.
Mike met him halfway up the parking lot and immediately wrapped him in a gigantic bearhug. Becker had once gotten drunk with him in New York after a class trip. As far as he could remember, Mike had too much vodka and ended up passing out in Central Park after pissing on the statue of Balto.
Ah, been too long, man. Mike said warmly, releasing Becker.
You mean, since last night? Becker shot back.
Mike laughed. He was a shorter, but still rather carefully built boy of 17. He had short cropped black hair and a strong face defined by a gently curved jaw. His piercingly dark eyes seemed to always be looking for trouble.
Anyway, I came to tell you Chagrin might not make the tour. Becker said blankly.
You know Eric? He got stabbed after the show last night.
Oh, s**t. That sucks, man. Mike said curtly, bowing his head in respect. Well, come in the bus. Have a drink.
Becker followed Mike a short distance into the Tin Can. Inside, the smell of alcohol and a certain plant flooded his nostrils. The bus was rather large, actually, and as Becker could see, La Migra must have been living in it since they bought it. Andrew was lying nearby, his face covered by a guitar magazine, and a short walk down the hall revealed Kris in his room, with a guitar in hand.
Kris was a tall, lanky fellow with straight black hair that hung to just below his chin. He was La Migra's chief songwriter, and it clearly showed. He had a soul patch on his chin, and looked tired as all hell. A creeping feeling of trust seeped into Becker. He felt like Kris was an old friend, dressed in a gray long sleeve shirt covered by a black dress shirt and tattered jeans. Kris was the epitome of cool.
Hey. Kris said to Becker as Mike went to the fridge to get a beer.
Hey. Becker replied lamely, moving into the bedroom and sitting on the edge of the bed Kris was working on.
I heard about your little predicament. Kris said as he pounded out a riff. This whole guy trashing your stuff.
How could you have heard when Mike and Andrew have no clue? Becker asked.
I have my ways. Besides, they're on pot and vodka 24/7. Kris replied. Anyway, I wanted you to know that I'd like to help you track down this little freak.
Yeah. That s**t don't fly.
Becker nodded approvingly. He held out a hand, which Kris pushed away and grinned. They didn't need to shake hands. They could trust each other, and Kris wasn't the type to leave someone hanging on the edge of a cliff. After a moment, Becker stood.
I should, uhgo get that beer from Mike.
Don't bother. There's nothing in this bus that's under 15% alcohol by content.
Later that evening, Jay and Becker returned to the hospital to find Charlie had never left, along with the Derringers. They looked miserable, but Becker and Jay had hope in their hearts. After all, there was Anson's blood.
They rounded the hall together toward Eric's room, expectant of his health to be on the rise. But when Jay and Becker reached room C319, they discovered it off limits to visitors.
What in the world? Becker asked no one in general. Jay scratched his head.
Shouldn't the blood donation have been given to him by now?
Sure it should have. Becker announced. Butthe sign.
He was pointing to the chart hanging on the wall next to the door. Jay took a peek and mumbled something to himself.
According to this, Eric didn't get the donation yet. He said, pointing to the notes section of the paper.
That's not right. Becker said. He then turned to the hallway and flagged down a nurse in turquoise scrubs with long brunette hair. Excuse me, ma'am, but do you know why Eric Derringer hasn't been given his blood donation yet?
Hang on, let me fetch his file.
And she disappeared to the nurses station down the hall like the natural flow of water. Jay fumbled uneasily with a lock of his curly hair before sighing harshly.
This is effing ridiculous. He said sadly.
I know, I know. Becker said. Just hang on.
The nurse returned a few minutes later (which felt like an hour) with Eric's chart. She flipped it open and pointed to a nearly blank sheet of white paper. Squinting, Becker could barely make out the scribbled words: donation missing.
Jay backed away, slightly ill. Donation missing? What did that mean?
What does donation missing mean? Becker asked, much to Jay's relief.
It's missing. The nurse said boringly. It was there, and now its not.
Jay felt something in him snap. How could she just say that like that? Was there no decency anymore. She spoke as if she knew Death like an old buddy. Hey, come take this one. His blood's gone and he can't recover. Jay shut his eyes tight and walked quickly away, knocking the folder out of Becker's hands. He disappeared down the hall, and Becker didn't see him again that night.
The nurse leaned down to pick up the folders and Becker walked over to Eric's window and looked in on the boy lying in bed. He was motionless, with his eyes closed and his face pale and blank. He looked so anemic; so frail. But he was the giant. He was unstoppable. Except for the blade. The goddamn blade. The police had taken it for evidence, but everyone knew the Harmony Hill men in blue were useless as a chihuahua. That blade must have been magical to have taken down Eric Derringer. He could not be killed. Goliath. He was the Goliath to the Shredder's David. But this David wasn't the young king. He was a demon, haunting them from the shadows. How could it happen?
Then, Becker smelled something foul. It was lingering, like old cooking. Somewhere on the edge of his consciousness. He sniffed around, trying to find it, but he noticed no one else could smell it. He looked back up through the window at the unmoving pile of rags and finally realized it. It was the smell of Eric's fast approaching mortality.
From the Harmony Hill Herald:
Michael Forman, aged 17, was found tied to a pole yesterday evening at Harmony Hill Regional High School. Bound with heavy duty duct tape and gagged with an old sock, Forman was found at the school around sunset by a fellow classmate, who has asked to remain unnamed. Forman, best known as the drummer for local band La Migra, was unconscious upon discovery, but when questioned, he said he could remember nothing. Forman was later revealed to have a blood alcohol content of .09, and was cited for underage drinking. On a nearby wall where Forman was found was a message written in a red substance. It read: Blame Kris. The substance was later identified as blood, which was tested and determined to belong to one Anson Revolio, who had donated blood earlier that day. Doctors at St. Mary's Hospital reported the blood missing mere hours earlier. As police investigate, they ask that anyone with information please report it at---