The school...well, were he a religious man of the more radical sense, he would have to say that his school was cursed. In 2003, a 5-year-old boy was killed trying to climb the outer fence when it fell. In 2005, two of his Marist Brothers were involved in a fatal car accident. In 2007, one of the building staff was rendered brain-dead after another car accident, and taken off life support only a few days post. Not even a few months after that, he found out one of the past students, and a particularly gifted student at that, committed suicide through a combination of razor blades and a bullet wound from an unregistered gun. And then, only a few months ago, a technology teacher in the building department yet again died from a heart attack.
And now...there was this.
He'd only received the news yesterday, but of course he was the very last to get word of it. He wasn't up to date with any of the latest technology, so his line of communication was merely snail mail and word of mouth from the teachers. It wasn't that the parish forbade Facebook, or Myspace, or whatever the kids were using these days, but it was just that he chose not to.
Of course, he was angered to find out about this certain issue behind everyone else.
One of their past students, Brendan Wallace, had been part of a terrorist attack. Of course, that was the way he was being forced to word it. Delicacy was in order here, because...well, while it was fair to say that Brendan was not one of the more popular students, or a particularly involved student, a fair number of his former grade knew him. He never spoke much, but...
He'd heard the news, and...well, it was really just time to do his job now.
Brother Peter strode out, only seconds after the Dean of Students for the College had finished speaking, and cleared his throat as the forced applause settled.
What was given to him was a notification, a status report (at the very least), and a prayer.
He was a religious man, but deep down, he knew it wouldn't help. But at least it was something.
((Brendan Wallace continues from Peripeteia))
Sunlight flicked spots of black into his eyes as a bleeding leg protruded from the cave wall. Brendan had been running around in those caves forever, or at least the metaphorical equivalent of forever, and...
So much to say.
So little to do.
He wiped his hand on his forehead, throwing away gushes of sweat and blood with his sleeve as it fell to the wayside, and gazed at where he'd ended up.
The tunnel threw him far across the island, somewhere with a flourish of brown and green. Again, the woods. Again, he found that damn Infirmary, and despite the steady ooze of blood, he couldn't go back. Not because of guilt, or a change in his circumstances of entry that would render him...somewhat reluctant to go there, but...he didn't know where it was. That was...embarrassing.
But at least it was keeping his mind off the cave.
Every time it came up, he twitched a little, and pushed it a little further away into a pocket at the back of his mind.
Every step through the endless canvas of green, off-green, fading brown and a splash of red.
Every minute he spent trying to ignore it felt like a cork topping a ginger beer being shaken up and shaken up and never let go.
But eventually, the dry crunching beneath his feet, topped by heavy lifting and worn shoes, turned into silent squeaking as the soles of his feet met sediment.
...not this place again.
To this day, to this hour, one week ago, were the markings of his first failure.
The abandonment of Sarah, Dutchy, and Roland when he first discovered his own mortality.
When he was 16, almost a week before he left Australia forever, his friends decided to take him to the nearest beach, just as something to do. It was raining out in the strongest parts of the undertow, not one surfboard dotted the distance, a treasured rarity. They didn't do much, they brought out a soccer ball and just cruised along for a few...kilometers, come to think of it, and kicked it along. He'd always muck it up when it came to him, usually kick it too far across the sand, or into the wind where a bewildered friend would mutter something undistinguishable and run after it, bouncing along like he was the ball itself. But those were some of the good times, the best times. Their toes never once touched water, and that was okay with him.
But the beach here was eerily similar. He fought his way through whipping, tamed long grass, a memoir of the mansion's once-owner, and felt the diamond-like sand collapse under his shoes with each step to leave large imprints like an obese dog still trying to run with its master. He could see so much from this little patch of sandy memoriam.
Brendan traced his finger along the furthest point of sight, keeping in mind the points where the little rocks scattered under his feet became large boulders and reached with scared and tattered arms towards cliff and screaming trees. It went in both directions, up towards the distant lighthouse whose borders he'd only skimmed six days ago now, and back up towards a set of cliffs to his south.
But that stuff wasn't as important as the here and now. The now, where it was still his seventh day of the final days of his life, and the here, were scattered along the shore and around the trees were bodies upon bodies.
Moving silhouettes twisted and thrived in the distance, standing over another body. A body which meant even less to him because a face could not match the name ever more than a keyboard could type from memory.
And memory even failed to recall to him the names of his four closest.
Sierra Manning lay in the grass behind him as he gazed, the final flowers covering her body swept away by the wind. He couldn't look. She was such a sweet girl, just...one of those people you...you can look at, from a certain point of view, and you can cheer them on, and you can just plead, plead that someone up there is feeling kind. They can live. They're not strong, they're overwhelmingly weak, but they can live. They can overcome the odds. But of course, he fails you. Inevitable becomes the present, and you're faced with the horrific sight of eyes glossed over and gaping, smears of blood covering her orifices, and a dead, sweet little girl who would never receive a bit of empathy again.
Because you can't empathize with a dead girl.
A charred and blackened corpse was surrounded by ashes and tattered clothing remnants. The body really was unmistakably unrecognizable. This hurt him so much, so freaking much. Matched again to his experience, three days ago now, he came across a former friend without a face, or said face had met the inside of his skull. This was a new extreme for Brendan, and his eyes failed to linger this time before lulling away from the black mould of tugging heartstrings.
It didn't help, he should have just stayed on the stinking roasted ball of flesh. This one was ten times worse. No head. It...was really hard to describe with just plain painful words how horrific the horizontal cross section of a human neck looks like. A rotting human neck. Even from the distance that made it sketchy at best, it was...nothing good.
But...of the whole experience, of everything he'd gone through as far, it got matched.
Because he finally laid his eyes on the fourth body in the sand.
It was Jamie.
Brendan's lips curled into his mouth, ready to catch himself from doing something he might regret. What could he do? What did he do? He wasn't sure, but something propelled him forward, heading towards the body in the sand.
And yet, despite all his efforts, his promises, and his oaths to himself he'd made over the last few days about staying a human being and not turning his mindset into that of a player, or even someone like Peter Siu who had adapted all too well to the game, he could not bring himself to shed a single tear for the short, spunky girl who he would never adjust the sound for again during a jam session.
It wasn't that he already knew. She'd died...days ago, according to Danya. It wasn't that he didn't care, she was a great girl, and she took him into Premature Emasculation, her own band who was somehow lacking a tech crew, as their sound guy. It wasn't that he was now a cold, calculated son of a bitch who'd now turned to face the game's reality.
It was just that he was so wrought up he didn't know what to feel.
He reached her after a few long strides, and could see the scratches in the sand where her body, damp with salt water, was moved up the beach as the high tide ebbed and flowed. He knelt down, and the stench of her decay hit him, softly. It wasn't like Tony, it wasn't like the John and Jane Does back at the hut, or the golf course. She was new. She'd been away for a long time, but not as long as the ones he'd never remember. This...was just heavy.
He'd lost people. A lot of people over the last few days. He'd hear their names, he'd become...rather distraught over the whole thing, and he'd try to get over it. Tears. Crying. A hand clasped to a mouth as he muffled chokes. But...this wasn't Vera. This wasn't Dawne. This wasn't Jarocki. It wasn't Nik. It was Jamie Li, the guitarist, the photographer, the wrestler he never really got to know as well as he deserved. Ample time was taken away from him.
His fingers reached forward, almost devoid of control. They dug under her body at the sand, and re-emerged as pedestals which lifted her up and kept her there as he crossed his legs and moved Jamie's head and upper body across his lap.
Brendan really wasn't sure what made him do that. It might have been the crushing loneliness that was going to accompany the inevitable announcement. He needed someone. Something. No, she was still a someone. Jamie Li was still a someone, and nothing would ever change that fact.
Still, no tears.
He just waited. Waiting until his name was slung like mud across the island, and everyone he ever knew would have their minds wiped of the boy they used to know. His fingers absentmindedly made their way through the faded red that encompassed her hair, and stroked.
Why am I doing this...
He didn't know anything. He felt controlled, like he was being forced around, stopped from doing everything he wanted to do, needed to do. This was a rather strong indication to him. It really was. A giant, homing beacon that sent off one important message.
You're not immortal Brendan.
You need to face your own mortality.
But...there was just so much he put up, little barriers, like parapets. They each held back their own little message, but if he took them all down...
He closed his eyes, and tried to make it out.
That wasn't any good. He tried again.
He wasn't sure why his eyes were getting wet now, of all times. He hadn't even done anything.
And that was as far as he got. His throat felt tight, he wanted to choke himself, choke out the sobs, choke out the words that he so wanted to say. He couldn't. He wouldn't. He didn't want to. The salt in his unknowing tears was blurring up his mind, and he shook them out. Out, damn tears, out.
He could see the sun, rising to start the morning. So much light, it really lit up the entire beach. Glistening. He rose his head to face the distant ocean, a boat, a sea animal, bobbing in the distance. He didn't say anything more, he just...kept his eyes on that distant object, and stared.
He stared for almost forever.
The speakers roared to life, and Brendan was still staring. He couldn't stop. No, he wasn't here, no, he was out there, no, there was no names to go through the speakers, no, no, no, no, NO.
But he never listened. Danya read it out. He read out all 29 names. Madelyn was dead. Carla was dead. Liz was dead. Stacy, of all people, was dead. And yet, beyond all that, beyond all those words, he still couldn't make out those words. Not until his own name resounded across the island.
"Brendan Wallace joined the good list, putting a fatal bullet into Steven Hunt."
He let out a rattled gasp, and...his throat cleared.
"I'm...going to die."
That was it.
"I'm never going home."
And it was at that point the tears started to bleep on his radar. He really was crying now. All it took were those two groups of four words, and it crashed him into a wall. This was his reality. He'd skimmed around the edge, but now that it was really spelt out for him without honey, sugar, tea, without anything, it hurt more than he could bare.
Brendan Wallace was never going home, and he knew it was a certainty, like death, or growing up in any form. He would never see his parents, he would never go back to Australia, he would never see a movie, he would never smoke, he would never watch TV, he would never have a drink, he would never go swimming, he would never go on a date, he would never do anything he'd ever enjoyed ever again. The last times he did it were unknowingly flaunted in front of his eyes for a few dashing seconds, and then puffed away like smoke.
And it was all because he was a coward.
Peter was right. He wasn't man enough to make it. He'd lived past all the death, all the loss of everyone he knew, but when it came down to the fact that he had to kill to get home, he had to sacrifice everything to get that slim chance of being able to relive his life, take it all back...he was once again scared away.
So yes. Peter was right. He killed someone, and he couldn't handle it, he shut down and was only saved by slim chance and a girl who wasn't right in the head. A girl who probably didn't even realize what she was doing, and probably had her own agenda anyway.
So what was the point of him? Just wait around? Die? If he really wanted to, he could probably just take the only gun he had left, put it in his mouth, and...and....
No. Never that. Never. He swore on his life before this island that he would never do that, not after saving a friend from committing to it herself back when he was 15. He drove her illegally across town to the hospital, breaking tens and twenties of road rules in the process, tried his best to carry her inside and get her immediate attention so they could pump the two bottles of sleeping pills out of her stomach. The smell of stomach acid fermenting with each powdery tablet and Jacqui screaming and her mother yelling at her in the hospital bed while he waited for his own mother to pick him up, it was a horrific time, and a driving force in most of his life's choices.
So why did it have to come down to that at all? Because he could honestly see it as a better option than dying by the hands of someone he thought he knew and loved. Brendan's fingers clenched, slivering through Jamie's hair as the tears soaked two faces instead of one.
Because this was it, honestly. He'd come this far, and he had no idea he was supposed to do. Eyes clenched the salt water in, time to think, try to come up with something, anything, he could do while he...while he just simply waited for death to claim him.
His thoughts wandered as his fingers untangled through strands of red and brown to the people he never even got to see again. Those people...every single one of them he'd abandoned, he'd just simply accepted that reality of abandonment and moved on. But...he'd never found out what happened to them. He didn't know how Sarah was dealing, he didn't know what Dutchy felt, he didn't even bother to think about Raymond, and Neil, and Robert, he'd just plain been a dense optimistic idiot when he abandoned Sarah and Stacy and Erik and Rashid and Harun, and he'd done the worst thing he could ever possibly do when he abandoned Liz to her death.
He blamed himself. That was the one thing he knew there was no apology for.
He could never see Garrett or Jeremy or Mirabelle again, not as long as any of them were alive.
...he could get some resolve for the ones that remained.
He wiped his nose on his sleeve, runny with green lumps and translucent fluids that flowed like a burst drain. He looked out to the rising sun, and shed his last few tears for it. If it all went to plan, the plan he'd only just begun, it would be the last sunrise he'd ever see.
Brendan uncrossed his legs, lightly setting Jamie down on the sand one more time. The light needles and pins in his legs were starting to settle in, and he felt the blood rush back so...wonderfully. It was like each little tickle of pain just did that little extra to remind him that he was indeed still alive.
He squat down, back to the body, the muscles in his leg stretching that little bit extra and tugging back some feeling. Brendan was almost face to face with the girl that was once Jamie, and felt something needed to be said.
Nothing could be said.
A girl lay dead, and for once, he would not care.
Brendan closed his eyes one more time, and pushed all his grievances towards this girl away.
Jamie Li.He spun on his heels, and walked through the sand towards his previously discarded bag.
This was his finale.
The last day or so of his life, but he needed to make sure that he would not be remembered as a cowardice murderer. He'd be remembered at a lost soul, someone who just needed to make sure they remained human to their last breath. This was the best way. The final way.
If he failed, at least he could die knowing he at least tried.
((Brendan Wallace continues in The Strength to Stand Again))
((Thread, as well as my 600th post, is closed))