((Erik Laurin continued from The Lost Boys))
That's a lot of bodies.
Erik Laurin kept one hand pressed to his face, blocking his nose with the familiar leather cuff (now stained with seawater and blood but he wouldn't couldn't think about that) as he stared at the scene below him. The high tide lapped against three bodies, two male and one female. He couldn't quite make out faces at this distance but found himself not caring, having to swallow hard against the dry heaves threatening to make a reappearance. He hadn't bothered eating again after leaving Trent (and his lunch) behind at the mine, a fact for which he found himself surprisingly grateful. He fucking hated throwing up.
But the mangled corpses below him weren't the only ones. On his way to the edge a familiar smell had wormed its way forcibly into his sinuses, leading him to the broken body of Cody Jenkins. Birds, insects, and other small animals had already begun their feasting but had through some coincidence left one of his hands relatively untouched so that the extended middle finger still flipped off the sky. Nearby was a second body, this one devoid of eyes in a way that Erik wasn't sure was entirely due to the decomposition process and hungry birds. Both dead boys sported gunshot wounds.
Erik let himself sink slowly to the ground, his knees coming up to his chest as he wrapped his arms around his stained and tattered jeans, resting his chin on his knees as he stared out at the sky and seawater. His feet hurt from running, his muscles knotted and liable to cramp, his stomach gnawingly empty. There were scrapes on his knees and palms where he'd fallen, a bruise coming up on his cheekbone where he hadn't seen a branch and another on his shoulder from the same tree. But that was it. No gunshot wounds ripping holes in his flesh and sending blood to spilling out over anxious hands. No cuts or deep punctures from knives, not even a black eye from someone taking a swing at him. He was alive, he'd survived over a week now on this godforsaken island of death, and he'd somehow managed to avoid ever fighting.
What a fucking time to develop good luck.
If you could call it that. He closed his eyes, hugging himself a little more tightly against the sharp sea-breeze. You could also look at it like he'd been on the island over a week and hadn't done a single thing for people. Oh, he'd talked, and he'd done what he could for Brendan, but he hadn't been able to save the lanky Australian from getting hurt. He hadn't, in fact, managed to save anyone. And Brendan had left anyway, had left him behind, somewhere Erik couldn't protect him or save him or in fact do anything but follow hopelessly the trail he'd lost days ago.
The Robin Hood of Bayview, what Chloe used to call him when she caught him bitching out freshmen for being homophobic or stepping into fights - yeah, that was a joke. He wasn't anything but a scared little kid, running for his life.
Running because he was too scared to die. He'd passed fights. He'd heard gunshots, screams. And each time he'd zigzagged a little farther under cover and run a little faster his mind full of twelve years old and bright-eyed Kimberly usually too smart for her own good watching him sleepily and
Please don't leave
kissing her forehead I won't--
during one of those all too long nights when fear stalked the household and Erik watched his siblings grow up all too fast, shedding their innocence for the knowledge that death could take at any time and didn't care if she was your mother and mothers (brothers) don't die--
There were cameras behind him. Erik knew they would pick up nothing but his back, the tangled knot of blond ponytail he'd once been so proud of. Whether or not they were watching, would ever watch, he made sure they wouldn't have to see his face as he struggled to keep himself from crying and the few rogue teardrops that escaped, brushed angrily away, fell long meters downwards to baptize the foreheads of the dead.
He wasn't sure how long he sat there, in the end. Long enough for his knees to ache, old familiar pains turned new again by the island. Long enough for the sun to dip, sitting low over the horizon and sending rippling paths of golden light over the waves. Long enough for adventurous seabirds to decide that he wasn't a threat and return to feast on the nearby bodies, filling the air with their harsh screams.
Erik had stopped crying long ago. The gnawing fear and guilt which had torn into his stomach and filled his mind with the leaden realization of I am a coward had slowly faded. In its apex he had watched the cliff edge desperately, simultaneously longing to and afraid of throwing himself from it -- but that had gone. In its place was something like peace, a strange and floating feeling which left him detached from the world behind him. He lost himself in the beauty of the tides and sundrenched water, the cries of the gulls as they soared and wheeled overhead. The stark lines of the cliffs plunging to the beaches were striking in a way he thought he had never before seen, and even the straggling grass and gray lichen that grew on the rocks had its own attraction. His mind wandered between this moment and the moment of first awakening on the beach, listening to the cormorants and seeing the meandering edge of the tideline. His world contracted.
When it finally began to expand again, he was calm. He shifted his weight, stretching his legs out one by one. They hurt, but no worse than after a particularly grueling training session. He lifted himself carefully from the ground, cataloging each new feeling. All were muted under the encompassing blanket of peace which had wrapped itself around him and held him safe.
There had been no divine revelation. There had been no sudden epiphany or eureka moment. As easily as a snake sheds its skin he had shed his fear, recovering his center. It felt rather like his slow realization of his sexuality - something always there, but muted, that moved gradually to the forefront until it was all he had ever known. The desperation of earlier was something far away, in the past where Erik could no longer live.
For more days than he could remember, he had been running away, letting his legs carry him as far from the carnage and destruction of the island as they could, dwelling in the tortured memories of bodies, shots being fired, Brendan's blood on his hands and his arms and everywhere else. Now he had nowhere to run and nowhere to hide and somehow that had freed him.
Erik turned. Cameras watched each move from the forest's edge, their black eyes silently judging. Inside those trees his friends fought and died and this sick game went on. Outside, where he stood, it was peaceful. The eye of the storm. The tall boy breathed in, taking the serenity of the air inside himself.
He had woken outside. He had spent the entire time trying to return to that still place where nothing moved but seabirds. He had found it.
And now he had to leave.
The only sound was the soft impact of shoes on soil as Erik Laurin began to run once more. A gull, perched on the outflung finger of a deceased student watched him go, disappearing into the darkness of the island's center where a tall and limping Australian waited.
Erik ran. But this time, his steps were steady, his breathing as rhythmical as though it was asphalt underfoot. This time, he wasn't running away.
Erik ran, and this time, for the first time since he'd come to this place, he knew what he was running towards.
((Erik Laurin continued in Burn On))