"We could've saved him."
That was all Juhan could say as Ami, the girl he'd seen praying over Gavin, Karen, Cyrus, and Megan's bodies so long ago, walked away.
He could've stopped this.
He'd already taken a few steps towards Maynard, but had stopped because did he have the right to do so? For so long after that gunshot rang out, Juhan could only think one thing.
He did this.
And as he stood there, guilt crept in, slowly, slowly, as the realization set in. He couldn't blame it on Ami or Hansel or Ian or anyone because he was the one talking to Maynard, he was the one that'd twisted the knife, who kept on asking him why why why because all he wanted was an answer and Maynard couldn't give it because he never meant it, he never meant it and Juhan never meant it. Ami was the one Maynard was facing when he died, but Juhan heard their conversation and they were just sharing pleasantries and smiles. She never said anything that could cause this, so it was Juhan, Juhan, Juhan.
But he didn't mean it. Juhan never meant it.
Maynard never meant it too.
He should have been satisfied with that phrase. He should have said his apologies, and stayed with his best friend for the last days of their lives. But he didn't. He pushed too much, but even after Maynard- after the gun fired, he still could've had that. He could've kept Maynard. With every spasm, with every time Maynard's lips parted slightly, there was a sliver of hope. It was very, very tiny, but it was still there. He could've fixed this. Maynard was still alive. People had survived a gunshot to the face or being cut in half. So maybe Juhan could keep him up for a few more days, say his sorry's, and fix this mess.
But then Ami fired the gun once more.
At first, Juhan wanted to scream. At that moment, nothing would have satisfied him more than to see her bleeding like Maynard. To see her eyes go vacant, maybe to hear her scream. Make her feel what he was feeling. She didn't have any right to take him away. There was still a chance. He could have fixed him.
And he could have acted upon this urge. She'd left a machine gun behind. He could have sprayed her with bullets, made her into Swiss cheese. That would have been nice. And he almost did this. He was halfway to the gun when he looked down and saw Maynard's body. The sight kept him rooted to the ground, kept him looking at Ami until she was nothing but a dot in the horizon.
Juhan had seen something. Something important. So, he examined every detail of Maynard's body. His torso, his face, even his feet. Everything. He was looking for a sign. He came closer and
Holes in his head. Temple, forehead. Red, pink everywhere. On his face, gushing on the grass, specks of it on his shirt. Crimson grass. But
Pink cheeks. Open eyes. Smile on his face- not for him he didn't deserve to see it- Spasms a few seconds ago. Words. Wet face, wet with tears, still falling. Touch. Still warm, still some blood flowing, but look closer. Look closer. Closer.
There. He saw it, no one tell him otherwise, he saw it. The tiniest, tiniest of movements. His chest. It rose. And it'd fall. There, it fell.
Hope. He could fix this. Alive.
Juhan dropped his bag and rummaged through the glass shards, the alcohol-soaked rations and bottles of water, and found it settled at the bottom. First-aid. Lifesaver. Save him, please.
He shuffled through the aspirin and asthma inhalers and found tape. Tape and bandages. Also, gloves and wipes. Can't forget that.
He placed the objects next to him on the ground and shuffled through the bag again. The Molotovs had been broken when Ian tackled him and his bag to the ground, but the lower fourth of one of the bottles was still intact. Perfect, perfect. It could collect enough fluid.
With the impromptu glass in his hand, he started trying to fix Maynard.
Juhan shifted Maynard's torso to the right, careful to not bend anything because he might cause injuries. He might hurt Maynard even more, and he'd done enough of that. No, be careful. The blood was still leaking out, but the flow was starting to slow already. Juhan closed Maynard's eyes first because surely some dust and light would blind him, and he couldn't afford that. He attempted to use the glass to scoop some of the blood back into one of the holes, but only smeared it across his face. It occurred to Juhan that the glass was sharp. He might have cut Maynard.
"Oh God, sorry, sorry, sorry, didn't mean it, sorry, are you hurt, sorry, sorry."
He didn't respond.
Juhan fumbled with a pack of bandages before sticking a band-aid on the wound, next to one of the bullet holes.
Most of the blood had soaked into the grass already because Juhan had just stood there like an idiot, and now, now, time meant everything. It couldn't be wasted. So now he'd have to worry about blood loss and he had no idea how to fix that, but it wasn't that much. No use trying to get it anyways. It would've had bits of soil and there was no way he could treat a brain infection. Besides, Maynard would live, he would, because honestly, he still looked fine. There was blood all over and two gaping holes in his head, yes, but other than that, he was fine.
After that, he got up and walked far away from Maynard. The bullet had propelled blood clots and brain matter everywhere. With his glass and tweezers, he collected all of the little bits. All the squishy, dripping bits that he desperately, desperately wanted to avoid squishing because Maynard would need these to be intact. After a few more minutes, he found some yellow-white hard pieces with pink streaking across it. Must've been his skull. Couldn't forget that. He ended up finding ten or fifteen more pieces. By the time he finished searching, the pile of flesh, bone, and brain had filled half the glass. It could've been more. Juhan lifted up the sole of his shoe one time and found two pink blotches. But this would be enough. He'd be able to get Maynard functioning, feeling, smiling again in no time. He was sure of it.
He headed over to Maynard again. The flow of blood had completely stopped now. The rivulets, streaking across his cheek like spiderwebs, were becoming sticky, rusty. But it didn't mar Maynard's appearance that much. And even if it did, Juhan would change that once he finished repairing his wounds. That's what the wipes were for.
The brain matter went in first. He wasn't quite sure which went where, but the body could fix that, reintegrate it or something. Sometimes, it would leave residue on the edge of the hole, but Juhan would just push that in also. Also, at times he found bone fragments that had embedded themselves internally, so Juhan would just pluck them out and save it for later. It was all simple.
The only difficult thing, really, was the smell. There weren't many words for it. Blood with something more vile. Rot, maybe. The phlegm had been flowing down Juhan's throat for a while and his mouth was starting to sweat. The back of his eyes was pushing, and eventually it all proved to be too much. He sprinted away from Maynard and threw up a few brown globs of what he assumed was the energy bar he'd eaten before he'd arrived at the park. After dry-heaving for a bit more, he went back to his work.
His back was getting sore already, but he brushed it away because what was an ache to Maynard's agony, his wounds, the pain Juhan had every obligation to relieve? No distractions, just focus.
All that was left in the glass were the two dozen or so bits of skull. His hands trembled. He tried arranging them at first with his tweezers, but tiny movements always messed them up, so he did so with his latex-wrapped fingers. After a while, he had somewhat finished the puzzle. They were split into four; two for the entries, two for the exits. There were holes and missing bits that worried him a lot, but he couldn't waste more time because time wasted would be seconds of Maynard's life wasted and he needed more time Juhan needed more time they needed more time and his brain was exposed to the elements no stop panicking he needed to hurry.
Oh god, he didn't have any proper adhesive. No superglue or anything because who needs that on a trip to Disney? There was a stapler, left over from a previous school project, but there was no way he could stick that in Maynard's head without opening up his wound even more and there was no way that would happen. So, he settled for tape. He stuck the macabre puzzle pieces together with several pieces of tape, and then stuck the assortment into the bullet hole and taped it again. He repeated this process thrice.
Juhan wasn't one for faith. His family, and according to his dad, his parents' country of origin weren't ones for faith. He'd always found it troublesome and superstitious to be honest. And, after everything that he'd been through, he'd never be one for faith. Maybe luck. Maybe he could hope for luck to be on his side because he'd really, really need half a roll of scotch tape to hold up the pieces of Maynard's skull for several days. So he hoped for luck to be on his side, and went on fixing, because Juhan was sure that he could fix Maynard. Assurance was all he could afford.
After wiping his forehead and temple with antiseptic wipes, he rolled Maynard's head in bandage and gauze to cushion the wounds, and to stop any further bleeding. Almost immediately, dots of red poked through the several layers.
And now the final task. Maynard always had a thing for appearance. He never explicitly said so during their time in high school, and he never really mingled with the 'fashionistas', but it was always obvious from the way he dressed and styled himself. His clothes wouldn't be out of place at a dinner party. Anyways, Juhan wouldn't be able to get him up to that standard, yes, but he could clean him up a bit. Maynard wouldn't like waking up covered in blood. No one would.
So, he got all the wipes and cleaned off the dirt and blood from his clothes. In the end, there were still a few pinkish areas, and a few smudges of brown, but his work was done. Maynard looked as fine as he could for this island. His face still had a pained expression, but that should change later on, right?
He waited for several minutes. He couldn't leave Maynard. What if someone robbed him? He needed company, someone to help him recuperate. And if he woke up and realized that Juhan had brought him back to health, everything would be OK. He could say his sorry's, and they'd help each other out. It would be perfect.
So he waited. And waited. But his eyelids grew heavy as the sun beat down on him. The last couple of hours had taken their toll. After a few more minutes, he dropped next to Maynard.
Juhan woke up with the sun in his eyes. He was a mess, Maynard was a mess, and the entire situation was a mess.
His white T-shirt had turned rust-brown, his hands caked with blood. His head was stained with the stuff.
Despite the sweat dripping down Juhan's forehead, Maynard felt cold. Clammy. He'd fallen asleep on his chest, but there was no rise. No fall. No thumping or throbbing. No puff of air from Maynard's reddened lips. Silence.
As the sleep-induced haze and shock cleared from his head, Juhan realized.
That he was a killer. One of them.
That Maynard was dead and that, no matter how much saving he or anyone else did, he'd never ever ever come back.
He could have walked away, stayed blissfully numb. He could have let the thoughts linger without meaning until they became a part of him, rotted away with him. Or maybe made him rot first. But no, he needed to do something first.
With much effort, he leaned over Maynard's forehead and kissed it.
The taste of copper registered, but he paid this no attention. A few tears fell from his eyes. He kissed him once again.
"Sorry, sorry, sorry."
A sorry for making Maynard's last moments so painful. A sorry for ruining what could've been their last happy moments at the last possible second. A sorry for apologizing even though he had no right to. Again.
"Sorry. Sorry. So, so, sorry."
More tears. A sorry for not making more of an effort to find him. A sorry for asking a question which had been answered already. A sorry for failing him, and everyone else. Again.
"Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, so-sorry, s-s.."
Juhan's words degenerated into sobs, but sorry's, twisted, mumbled, and barely comprehensible, continued falling out of his mouth for minutes, quietly, like a prayer, by the hundreds. These for every hurtful word he spat out at him a few hours earlier, every single one of them.
He continued in this state for a few more minutes. Long after the sorry's trailed off into nothing, Juhan stopped staring at his best friend's bloodied face, and gathered the machine gun, his scattered first-aid kit, and his bags. He staggered with the burden for a while before walking away from the field. He looked back at the mess he'd made one last time and mumbled.
((Juhan Levandi continues in Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien