Roads: Chapter 39

Title: Roads
Chapter: 39 of 43
Author: Sheryl
Rating: R
Other Info: Sequel to Walls
Warnings: Drug-usage, cursing, violence etc
Excerpt: CC’s mind was a whirl “Oh no, not now. He’s losing it…
Dull eyes, slurred speech. The boy was retreating, and after the retreat would come the explosion. Whatever he had dreamed, it had brought everything to the front. It was right there, seconds away from the crash. “I have to get him inside. I have to get him where it’s safe. God, past all these people. All these cameras, Jesus Christ…
“Tay, we have to get past them, is there a back way?”
“What? Just lemme ‘lone.”
“No, Taylor, now come on! You have to stay with me! How can we get in? Do you want to walk through all those people?”

Chapter 39

Too much. It was all just too much. Why did anyone have to make any kind of statement to the press anyway? God, he hated the media. Watching them beginning to gather, this time not in the street, at the end of the drive, but right up in his yard, he felt a sweeping kind of sickness. Were these even people? Did they even realize what they were doing? “We must look like bugs to them.” He thought. “Something interesting under a microscope. We aren’t even real to them.” Disgusted, he walked through the house, taking in scenes as shutterblinks. He couldn’t seem to connect. His mind wouldn’t let him stay on anything for more than a few seconds. “I have to get out, I’m gonna go nuts.” He stepped out onto the back porch, and sat down in the swing.
Nobody out here, thank God, but he couldn’t sit. His nerves were screaming, and he had to keep moving. Where to go? “I don’t know what to do…” He got up again, rubbing at his eyes. They burned, stung, he was so tired. “God, I’d sell my soul for an hour’s sleep.” Sighing, he turned back into the house. He had to go, had to do something. He went through to the front again, and eyed the gathering crowd. Lot of onlookers too. Sure why not? Come stare at the freaks. What the hell?
Anger beginning to build in him, he knew his control was going. Edging out into the din of the front yard, he found his father.
“I’m goin’ dad, I’ll be back, but if I don’t get outta here, I’m gonna go nuts.” Walker’s reply was almost haphazard. “You can’t go anywhere, you need to be here.” He turned back to the man he’d been talking to, and Isaac stepped between them “Dad!”
“Ike, for heavens sake, what?!”
“I’m leaving! I’m taking a walk or a drive or something, but I have to get out of here!”

The hysteria in his voice cut through his father’s fog of anxiety and preoccupation, and Walker actually looked at his son. His distress was clearly etched on his face. Sighing, Walker nodded. He did look terrible, and getting out would certainly do him no harm.
The thought of him behind the wheel though…
“Don’t drive. Not like that. Just take a walk if you have to, but be back for this.”
“Why? Do you mind?!” He shot a look at the man standing just behind him. “I’d like to talk to my dad, if you could just step back before I kick you down the steps…”
“IKE!” Walker’s voice was shocked, but held a certain rueful amusement. He’d felt much the same, and was absurdly pleased with his son for having said something.
“Well he’s breathing right down my neck!” The man backed down a few steps, looking very much as if he’d just come face to face with a rabid dog, and hastily scribbled on the pad in his hand.
Seeing this, Isaac’s temper slipped another notch. “Yeah, you wouldn’t want to forget that one for the papers, now would you?! How do you sleep at night?!” “Isaac…” Walker’s voice was quiet, but his tone was clear. He was overstepping. “Enough. Just go. Make sure you have your beeper.”
Nodding, “I have it…” he pushed past the man on the stairs, and made his way past the crowd. Something, perhaps only the look on his face, perhaps divine intervention from a God who didn’t want to see anyone killed, kept the glut of press from approaching him, and he made his way unmolested to the end of the drive. No destination in mind, he headed west, walking.

********************

“I don’t like that.”
The pouty look on Zac’s face was beginning to grate on Karen’s nerves.
“Zac, you said you were hungry. You said you liked Jell-O. That is Jell-O. So…” She smiled a little. “Eat it.” He shook his head, face still screwed up and disagreeable.
“I don’t like red Jell-O. I don’t like red anything. I don’t like orange, either.” He shoved the little dish away from him, and crossed his arms. “It’s gross, it’ll make me puke.” Karen’s eyebrows went up at that. His mood certainly wasn’t improving as the evening came on. Thinking he was fast losing his charm, she adopted his posture, eyes closed, face scowling.
“Well then, crabby, what do you like?”
‘”I’m not crabby. I just don’t like red Jell-O.”
“Okay Zac, I get the picture. Now tell me what you do like.”
“Green”
Karen laughed in spite of herself.  “You’re the only kid in the world who likes green Jell-O. Let me ask you something.”
“What.”
“If I’d brought you green, would you have turned your nose up at it, and asked for red?” He sighed, and looked away from her.
“NO, I just don’t like red, so sue me.”
“Zac…” Her voice was weary, and exasperated.
“What?” She shook her head, giving up.
“Let me go see if they have any in the kitchen. I don’t think the red would kill you, though.” Her gentle teasing met with a scowl, and she sighed. Maybe the green Jell-O would perk him up. If not, it was going to be a very long night. “If not…” She mumbled under her breath as she left the room, “He may find himself shampooing with that red Jell-O.”

********************

Jason staggered into the kitchen, and pulled himself down a glass, loose Tylenol clicking in his hand. He filled the glass from the fridge door dispenser, and eyed the tablets in his hand. “Four’s a lot of pills.” He thought about it for a moment. “But, it’s a lot of headache.” Shrugging, he swallowed the tablets, thirst suddenly overpowering him. He drained the glass, filled it again, drank it down, and set the glass in the sink, gazing out the window. A moment later the cold water hit his stomach, and a railroad spike of pain settled between his eyes. Gasping, eyes closed, stomach cramping, he waited over the sink, wondering if he were about to throw up. A few moments later his stomach told him it would accept the cold water, and he relaxed, wondering what in the world was wrong with him. His head was thumping unpleasantly, even though the brain freeze had faded, and the slightest motion made the room spin. Had Zac been contagious? Was he about to just keel over too? Probably not. He didn’t feel anything like that sick. Pretty lousy though.
Sighing, he wandered back into the living room. Still no mom. Where in heck was she? He looked around the house, not daring to call out. His stomach was too uneasy for him to want to risk yelling, and his head would only complain anyway. Puzzled, annoyed, and a little hurt, he stepped out onto the front porch, and collapsed onto a deck chair, trying to think around the headache. Maybe she was at Zac’s? “Did she go over there to wait for us to get back? Well, I have to call them about Zac, anyway.
Thinking that sounded reasonable, he hauled himself up and went back inside, bypassing the living room for the kitchen phone. He liked it in here, early evening sun slanting across the linoleum. Homey, safe, cozy even. Smiling a little, he dialed Zac’s number, frowning at the busy. Shoot. Figured. All those people, there was always someone on the phone. “Maybe I should go over there…” He thought about it for a moment.
Lightheaded, stuffed up, and vaguely nauseous, he wasn’t much up for a walk. Shaking his head, he took the cordless, and went back out to his deck chair. He’d just keep trying.

********************

“Oh, man, look at that.” CC eyed the tangle of people in the Hanson’s yard. “Great. Tay?” He glanced at Taylor, curled up in a ball in the passenger seat for the entire ride. “Taylor. C’mon…” He shook him gently. “Sit up, we have a situation.” Taylor uncurled slowly. He couldn’t manage much else, memory was heavy upon him, clouding thought, slowing movement. He felt heavy, and hot, too tired to breathe. Fear had retreated, numbness creeping in. So dark, so cool inside here, this place he’d run to. Why was CC calling him now?
“Taylor! Come on, snap out of it, you need to get it together now.” Taylor looked at his friend, struggling to make words with a tongue that felt to big for his mouth. God, why was he so hot?
“What is it, C…” His voice was thick, words slurred. Hard to stay here, hard to think. Back inside, inside where it was dark, and cool, and there was nobody there, that was where he wanted to be.
CC’s mind was a whirl “Oh no, not now. He’s losing it…
Dull eyes, slurred speech. The boy was retreating, and after the retreat would come the explosion. Whatever he had dreamed, it had brought everything to the front. It was right there, seconds away from the crash. “I have to get him inside. I have to get him where it’s safe. God, past all these people. All these cameras, Jesus Christ…
“Tay, we have to get past them, is there a back way?”
“What? Just lemme ‘lone.”
“No, Taylor, now come on! You have to stay with me! How can we get in? Do you want to walk through all those people?” Taylor shook his head, and struggled to make sense of the man’s words. His friend, he wanted to help him. What was it? The people. Get past the people.
The old fear flooded back in, at the sight of the press, vans, cars, cameras, microphones, driving the hot, dreamy ball of memory back a little. Whimpering a little, he turned to CC, eyes clearer. “We can…” He stopped, swallowed, and tried to get his mouth around the words.
“We can drive next door, and cut through the woods. They won’t mind, they never have.” CC released the breath he’d been holding.
Good. Good, he was rational, at least for the moment. “Let’s go then. Think you can make it in?” Taylor curled up again, ducking down out of sight.
“What’s wrong with me, CC?” Naked terror in his voice.
CC’s heart went out to him. Poor kid. He knew what was happening to him, and he was scared to death. Well, there would be no easy way through it, but they’d do the best they could. He was a strong kid, he’d make it out the other side. “Tay, nothing’s wrong with you. You’re just finally finding the right road, that’s all.”
“To where?”
“To you. Just tell me where to go.”
“What road, CC? What road?” The phrase had started to echo in his head, “what road, what road…” and he was helpless to stop it. What was wrong with him? “CC!”
“Calm down, Tay, it’s okay.”
Oh, that had rhymed. How funny, had CC always spoken in rhymes? Something touched his cheek, near his eye, and he brushed it away. “Bye bye fly, get outta my eye…” Another rhyme. He giggled, and CC looked at him.
“Oh God, this is really gonna be close. Tay, c’mon, try to stay with me.” “Everything’s coming in rhymes Ceec, is it real or is it me? Ha, there it is again, CC help me!” Panic now, what was going on? Senseless words, psychotic rambling, what was his mind doing to him? CC’s voice, words lost, no meaning, but the tone, the tone was okay, the tone was warm, flowing over him like oil. CC’s hand on his hand, he gripped it tightly, never seeing CC flinch as nails dug in. “Tay, come on, where do we park the car?” CC could see full well where to park the car. He didn’t care, he needed to get the kid alert, and he needed to do it now. He had to get him inside.
No good, no good, Taylor’s eyes had rolled away again, and mumbled nonsense tumbled from his lips. “Tay, come on, come on…” CC began to feel desperate. He needed to do something, shock him back into reality long enough to get inside. If he’d had ice water he’d have thrown it in his face. He eyed the coke cans in the back, dismissing them immediately as too warm. “God, I can’t hit him. He’d never trust me again. I have to do something…
He watched as Taylor began to curl up again, “No Tay, come on, we have to get out of the….” Stopping suddenly, he leaned on the horn, the sound filling the car. The noise snapped Taylor to attention, eyes darting, breath coming in gasps. “No, no, stop it! Stop it, I’m out of the way!”
“Get out of the car!” CC’s shout brought him up short.
“What? What…”
“GET OUT OF THE CAR!!! JUST GET OUT!!”
Frightened, Taylor fumbled the door open and climbed out, braced for flight. Feeling like a heel, CC followed, knowing he was scaring the kid, hating himself. He circled the car, and grabbed the boy’s hand.
“Show me where your house is.” Nodding shortly, Taylor started through the short stretch of woods, CC following. It was a shallow patch, and they could clearly see the knot of press at the front of the house.
“CC…” Taylor’s voice was shaking. “Ceec, I can’t, I can’t go out there!”
“You’re not going out there, kiddo, you’re going right behind them. They’re not even gonna see you.” Groaning, Taylor kept moving, feet heavy, reality slipping and tilting on its axis. He didn’t understand what was going on, yet on some deep, animal level he knew. Critical mass had finally been reached, and there was no turning back now. It was here, for good or ill, and he couldn’t stop it, not any longer. “God, CC, it’s stronger than I am, help me!”
CC spun on his heal, and took the boy’s face in his hands. “I’m going to help you! And YOU are going to help you! You’re okay! But we have to get inside, so just let’s go!” His voice was loud, tone firm, but once again, there was no fear. No panic. Finding some residue of calm, an echo of the man’s voice, he took a breath, and stepped out of the woods, into his yard. CC had no idea that Taylor was taking strength from his tone. In the words of his indubitable college professor, he was “shitting a brick”. Ceec could not remember ever having been so scared in his life. This kid was on the edge, over the edge, hanging off a cliff, and if CC dropped him now, it was all over. Cautiously eyeing the crowd in the front, CC took Taylor’s wrist, and pulled gently. “Come on, keep quiet. Unless you really want to deal with them.” Taylor shook his head, trying to keep quiet. Neither of them saw the man watching them, from the side of the house.

********************

Karen watched Zac from her vantage point at the nurses desk. True to his word, he’d accepted the green Jell-O with every appearance of enjoyment. Not that it had helped his disposition much. He was achy, bored, miserable, and the Jell-O, however much he had liked it, had nauseated him, and made his stomach hurt. Unfortunately for Karen, he’d found her a safe target for his unhappiness, and after half an hour of being snapped at, she’d retreated to the safety of the desk, watching him from a distance. Sighing heavily, she turned to her paperwork, logging down Zac’s bad mood. Eyeing the spot on the form for comments, she briefly toyed with the idea of suggesting punting him out into traffic, scolded herself for her unkind thoughts, and sighed again. He was just a little boy, he was sick, he was lonely, he had every right to be griping.
“What’s the matter hon, you ok?” Tracey took the chair next to hers.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Zac’s just kind of… well here. Read.” She pushed the chart at Tracey, who read it with a smirk.
“Well, I have a suggestion for the both of you.”
“Really, what’s that?”
“Time to get Zac, off the unit, and down onto the floor. Get some of the stuff off him, the cath, the probes, give him a bath. All the kids love the new whirlpool.”
Karen grinned. She knew they did, and if that didn’t sweeten him up, she wasn’t sure what would.
“Once he’s off the unit stretcher and into a bed, with a phone and a TV, he’ll chill out.”
“Probably. That’s a good idea. I’ll go tell him.” She shoved her chair out, and started around the desk. “Oh, Karen…”
“Yeah?”
“You might as well go with him. He likes you. You like him. And do you really want to subject the poor, unsuspecting floor girls to him?” She snickered at the look on Karen’s face. “You know you like him. Now go on and tell him, I’ll call down and make sure they have a bed ready.”
Karen laughed, and nodded. She did like Zac, and he most likely would perk up when he got off the unit. She headed for his bed, smiling to herself when she saw him quickly shut his eyes. “Oh no, tiger, I’m not falling for that one. I know you’re awake. Up and at ’em Ace, we’re movin’ out.”
Zac’s eyes flew open, then slitted suspiciously. “Movin’ out where?”
“You’re moving down to the regular floor. You’re not sick enough to be up here anymore.”
“I don’t wanna move.”
“Sure you do. You’re lucky you know, not everyone gets their own private nurse. It’s slow here tonight, so it looks like I’m going with you.” His eyes were still narrowed, he wasn’t liking this moving idea at all. “Zac… shove over.” He slid over a little, making room for her, and she sat next to him, smiling as he snuggled up close to her. “It’s no big deal, moving down to the floor. We’ll get all the tape, and glue, and tubes out, you can take a bath, there’s a killer new whirlpool down there, you’ll have a TV, and a phone. You’ll be a whole lot more comfortable.”
“And you’re comin’ with me?”
“Yep.”
Sighing, he nodded. “I guess. Hey wait…” He pulled away from her, something she’d said suddenly registering. “What tubes are being taken out?” He was very much afraid he knew.
“Well Zac, the catheter. You don’t need it anymore.” He went a little red, and averted his eyes. “And who is gonna take that out?”
“I am, Zac.”
The slight blush deepened to crimson, and he shook his head vehemently.
“No. No way. No females allowed, no way. Not gonna happen.”
Karen bit her lip, struggling not to laugh.
“Zac, gimme a break. I’m a nurse. It’s my job.”
“Well, yeah, but you’re a girl! No, no, no, no, it’s just not gonna happen.” Sighing, knowing it very well was going to happen, Karen let it go, and changed the subject. “I’ll be right back. Why don’t you put this on…” She handed him a robe, “and these…” the robe was followed by socks, “and I’ll be back in just a minute.” Zac did as she asked, the upcoming procedure still heavy on his mind.

********************

Isaac watched his shadow as he walked. “I’m stepping on myself. How ridiculous.” Thinking he’d just finally cracked, he sighed. “Ike, you’re losing it. Losing it hard…
“Ike?” Isaac looked up, surprised to see himself outside the Elliott’s house.
“Oh, hey Jay…” He waved absently, and kept walking, one step, two… Jay. Jason. His tired mind tried to grasp something and missed. Jason. Jason! Spinning around, he sprinted up the stairs, startling Jason into dropping the phone. “Jay, you’re here!!”
Jason nodded wanly. “Yeah.”
“Where were you?! When did you get back?! Where’s Zac?!” Jason held a hand up, desperate to slow down the rush of words. His head ached.
“Slow down, slow down. I don’t know when I got back, I just woke up. I slept all day. I don’t know where Zac is.”
“Whaddaya mean you don’t know?!”
“Ike, c’mon, my head.” Isaac stepped back, and took in the younger boy, finally realizing that Jay was sick.
“Man, you look awful.”
“I feel awful.” Isaac sat down next to him.
“Jay, where’d you guys go, and how can you not know where Zac is?” Jason sighed. “I don’t know. We just went camping. Zac was sick, I guess I knew he was, but I wouldn’t let him stop. We jumped the train and ended up lost. Some guy took him to the hospital, I don’t know which hospital, I don’t know who the guy was, I don’t know anything. I can’t even find my mom…” He broke off, blinking back tears, and Isaac slid an arm around him.
“Jay, your mom’s at our house. They’re planning on going on the news, asking for help finding you guys. Why didn’t you call us?!”
“I have been. It’s either busy, or nobody answers.”
“Aw, yeah it’s nuts over there. Come on, come back with me, you have to tell them what happened. Is Zac okay?”
Jason shook his head. “I don’t think so, I don’t know. He was awful sick, and this guy that picked us up, his dad took him to some hospital somewhere. The kid drove me home.”
Isaac stared thoughtfully for a few minutes, finally nodding to himself.
“Come on with me.” Jason nodded, and they started down the sidewalk.

********************

“Here Zac, pretend it’s a limo.” Zac snickered, eyeing the wheelchair. He knew he was supposed to insist he could walk, but in all honesty, he didn’t much feel like it. He watched as Karen detached the IV bag, and hooked it to a pole on the back of the chair.  “Okay sweetie, c’mon. I’m gonna help you, you might get a little woozy when you stand up.”
He nodded, climbing down carefully. Between the IV and the catheter, there was a lot of unpleasant tugging going on, and he’d be glad when this trip was over. “Y’doin’ okay hon?”
He nodded, sitting down carefully. Standing and sitting just weren’t all they were cracked up to be. “Here, hold this”. She handed him a bag containing his balled up clothes, and started out of the room, waylaid by Tracey.
Smiling, she knelt down to Zac’s level. “Bye bye Zachary Hanson, you be good.” He nodded, and smiled a little, leaning back as far as he could.
“How long a ride is this, Karen?”
“Just down the hall, hon. Won’t be long.” He nodded. Good, he wanted to lie back down. He watched the doors moving past, slightly dizzy, grateful when she finally stopped. “Here we are Ace, home sweet home.”
“Yeah, good.” He had to admit, it was a lot more pleasant. Almost homey. He let her help him into the new bed, sighing a little. It was a lot more comfortable than what he’d been lying on upstairs. He settled back, eyes fixing on the TV. “Oh hey! Hey what’s on?”
She chuckled, and shook her head. “Later Zac, we have stuff to do”
His eyes narrowed again, she was beginning to recognize that look. “What kinda stuff?”
“Zac, you know what kinda stuff. Here, get your arm up, and I’ll get that thermometer off you.”
“Is that what that is?” He winced a little as she removed the tape.
“Yep.” She handed the probe to him. “Just like a turkey, we had to see if you were done. Be grateful they put it under your arm.” His eyes widened in absolute horror. “You people are just gross, do you know that?”
She shrugged. “You do what you have to, Zac.” She stood, watching him for a few minutes. Some of his color had started to come back, after the trip down here. Good. Sighing, she eyed him steadily. “Zac…”
“No. No, I know what you’re thinking. NO.”
“Zac, I have to.”
“No. In this whole hospital, you can’t come up with one guy to do this? There are guy nurses, I know there are.”
“Zac, if there were someone here, I’d be the first one running to get him, but you’re surrounded by female nurses. You know, a female nurse put it in, Zac.” “Yeah, well I didn’t know that, did I?”
“Zac, it has to come out.” She felt bad for him, there was real dread in his face. Sighing, he looked away from her. “Zac…”
He grabbed his pillow, flipped it over his head, and from behind it his muffled voice came. “Go ahead. Just do it fast. I’ll try to soothe myself.”
“Zac…” She sighed. It took her less than a minute to accomplish the task at hand, and she tapped him on the shoulder. “Deeds done, you can come out now. I’m gonna go start the tub.” She left quickly, not wanting him to see any amusement on her face.

“You’re not gonna wash me too, are you?” Zac had about had it. It was all beginning to be a little much. The thought of the hot, bubbling water sounded good to him, but his modesty had suffered enough. Always a private person, it was hard for him to tolerate all of these violations.
“Nope sweetie, you are. Just don’t get that hand wet. I have to stay in the room though. You’re nowhere near ready to be on your own.” Sighing, he nodded. The bath had just become a chore. “Zac, hang on. I have an idea. I’m not supposed to do this, and housekeeping is going to kill me, but just hold on.” She left him sitting on the chair in the tub-room, and he heard her steps trotting down the hall. A very few moments later he heard her coming back.
“Zac, lookie what I found” She held up a bottle, and Zac laughed, delighted as he read it. “Mr. Bubble. Karen, you are too cool.”
She grinned, pouring a generous amount under the running water. “I won’t be able to see a thing. I am gonna have to help you in and out though. Can you stand that?” He nodded, watching as the tub filled with bubbles. He’d never seen so many, and made a mental note to try for one of these whirlpool things at home. He let her help him in, sighing at the warmth that surrounded him. “Oh, God…” His groan of pleasure made her smile.
“Told you your situation was about to improve. She squirted liquid soap onto a washcloth and handed it to him. “Go on hon, I’m gonna start on your hair.”
He nodded, and she watched, amused as he stuck a foot up, grinning at the bubbles on it. “I feel like Mackie”
“Who?”
“My little brother. He has a thing for bubbles.” Smiling, she instructed him gently. “Tip your head back sweetie, so I don’t drown you.”
He did as she asked, then went back to what he was doing, mixing bubbles with soap to make thick creamy lather. As he played, forgetting for the moment that he was naked in the tub, with a girl in attendance, he began to sing, absently to himself. She wasn’t sure, he had to keep stopping to cough, and to clear his throat, but it sounded as if he had a pretty good voice.
“What’s that song, Zac?” He smiled, and leaned his head back to look up at her
“That is “Weird”. You like it?”
She nodded. “It’s pretty. Who sings it?” He sat up suddenly, splashing water all over her. “Who sings it? Who sings it? I sing it!”
Her eyebrows went up at that. “Oh really, and who sings it normally?”
“ME!” “Zac…” He heard the skepticism in her voice, and indignation turned to wonder. “Karen, I’m Zac Hanson. Y’know, Hanson?”
She smiled blankly. “And that’s supposed to tell me what?”
“You’ve never heard of Hanson?”
Karen shook her head, still smiling, though the word was ringing a very faint bell. “Can’t say that I have Zac. Hush up now and close your eyes, so I can rinse your hair.”
Flabbergasted, he shut his mouth, and let her do it, wondering how in the world she’d managed to not know who he was. As soon as she finished, he began again, listing off his various accomplishments.
Karen listened, fascinated. “Son of a gun…” The thought floated through here mind “My little Zac’s a celebrity” She eyed the bubbles in his hair and chuckled. He didn’t look much like one.
“So, you just traveled all over the world?”
“Yeah, It was awesome. We had to stop though, when Tay got sick…” His voice trailed off, and she saw his eyes begin to glimmer.
“Who’s Tay?”
His sigh was shaky, bitter. “My brother. I don’t wanna talk about that.”
“How many brothers and sisters do you have, Zac?” She steered him away easily, and marveled at the number he quoted her. “My God, do you live in a hotel?!”
He giggled. “Nope, and we only have one bathroom, too.” He paused then, the thought suddenly occurring to him. “Karen…”
“Hmm?”
“How come my mom’s not here? She hasn’t even called…” He looked up at her, eyes brimming over again, and Karen nodded shortly.
“Zac, I think I know the answer to that. Let’s get you out of that tub, and you can call her.”
“But…”
“Zac, we don’t know who dropped you off here.” Her voice was tight as she helped him out of the tub, modesty forgotten by both of them. She dried him off quickly. “Someone left you downstairs and took off. You’re mom may not even know where you are. So, I think calling her is just an excellent idea.” He grabbed the towel from her, drying himself off as fast as he could.
“Nobody called my house? Karen, nobody called my house??!!”
She could hear anger, as well as anxiety in his voice. “No, Zac, nobody did. Doreen asked you for your phone number, and you didn’t give it to her. I was planning to ask you again when we got done here.”
“But you know my name!”
“Is the phone listed in your name, sweetie?” Her logic was inexorable.
“Uh… no.”
“Alright then. Now sit down, the last thing you need is a concussion, because you keeled over trying to jog to the phone. We’re gonna go call her right now.”

********************

Peter Robinson looked up from his lenses, as motion caught the edge of his vision. What was that? Puzzled, he looked from the man and the boy just exiting the woods, to the crowd beside him. Was that the kid everyone was looking for? Blond, thin, with a companion. But no, the runaway kid was a lot younger. Frowning, thinking it looked awfully suspicious, he started toward them, quickly, quietly. As he got closer, he realized the man was literally holding the boy up, seemingly coaxing him through each step. Was the boy sick? He looked sick. Did they need help? Setting his extra lenses down, slinging his camera around his neck, he sped up, reaching them just as the approached the back porch.
“Excuse me?” His voice startled them, he saw them jump, and the boy’s eyes widened. The man’s hand tightened on the boys elbow, and Pete saw that the boy was about to run.
“Oh, oh easy now, I’m…” His hand, meant to be comforting, gripped the boy’s shoulder, as the sun flashed off the camera lens. Flash! Pete’s world exploded with pain and sound, as an unearthly screech filled his head, and his lips mashed back against his teeth. “Holy shit, he just belted me!” Blipped through his mind, and then the pain hit again, this time harder, and his feet slid from beneath him. Shaking his head, squinting in the sunlight, he thought he saw the boy running, the man on his heels.

*******************

Zac hung up the phone, frustrated. “Karen, it’s still busy. Something’s not right.” Karen suspected he was right, but she wasn’t about to say so.
“Is there another number you can call? One that might not be busy? They’re probably calling around looking for you…”
He nodded, and pressed the outside line. “Ike’s beeper. Or Tay’s… Someone’s.” He sighed, anxiety stamped across his face, as he dialed the number.

********************

A touch on his neck, and a flash of light on glass, and Taylor’s world crashed in on him. Coherent thought left him, and his mind played images, jagged as broken glass, leaving him gashed and bleeding.
Flash. That hand, that voice, “LET ME GO!!” He struck out, once, twice, had to get away! Hand in his hair, tangled, pulling, it HURT!! Can’t get away. “I can’t get away!
Panic, “He’s got me, what’s he gonna do to me?!?! He’ll take me away, get away from me!!” He ran then, every face he saw that face, every touch that touch, every glimmer of light, the flash of a bulb from a camera.
Blind, deaf, closed to reality, he had to get away.

CC never had time to think. It all happened too fast. One minute they were home free, feet bare inches from the steps, the next, Taylor was gone, a man was bleeding at his feet, and in his ears, he could hear screaming. Bare seconds took in the situation, and years of crisis training kicked in. Before anyone else had digested the situation, CC was after Taylor. He was taller, his legs were longer, and he was in better condition, but Taylor was running in blind panic. Terror, cold and dreamy, suddenly flooded him, making him feel faint. The road. He was headed for the road. Knowing he’d never catch him in time, he tried to speed up.

********************

Isaac entered the yard, Jason dragging along beside him. Man, the kid was slow. “Jay, you sure you’re alright?” Jason nodded dully.
His eyes felt full of sand, and his back ached fiercely. “I’m okay. Just tired.” Isaac nodded, and Jason felt absently guilty. This was probably what Zac had felt like, the entire time he, Jason, his friend, had been goading and bullying him. “God, I’m a creep.” He sighed, and leaned a little on Isaac, who slid an arm around him.
“Hold on, buddy, you’re almost there. You’re really wiped, huh?” Isaac looked down suddenly, as his pager beeped. Absently, not really worried about returning anyone’s calls, he switched it off. “You gonna be okay, Jay?”
Again the dull nod. “Ike…” He broke off then, as Isaac’s gaze suddenly shifted. What was he looking at?

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This fictional story is hosted at The Gifted Ones,
with permission from the author, Sheryl.

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