Chapter: 28 of 43
Other Info: Sequel to Walls
Warnings: Drug-usage, cursing, violence etc
Excerpt: His disgruntlement turned to horror, when he saw Jason gazing with glee, down the upcoming railroad track. The faint rumbling down the track had sent the boy into paroxysms of delight. “No!” He jogged to catch up with his friend. “No way, don’t even think about it!”
Jason spun, grinning. “Hear it, Zacko??? Trains coming.”
Zac shook his head. “Don’t get any ideas.”
“Yeah, I hear it. You just watch it go on by.”
Jason’s grin turned to slightly manic laughter. “You ever jumped it, Zacko?”
“You know I haven’t, and I’m not going to. Now…” He laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation. Jason’s penchant for train jumping went back to grade school, and never failed to scare him to death. “Back away from the tracks. I repeat, step away from the tracks.”
“Hey!” Zac stopped, leaning his hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath. “Jay! Slow up!” Jay stopped, turned, and laughed at his red faced, gasping friend. “Out of shape, Zacko? See what a life in all those ritzy hotels will do to you?” He sauntered back, reaching around Zac, and into the backpack the other boy wore, pulling out a bottle of water. “Here you go, killer, drink up. You’re all gone soft.” Zac stuck his tongue out, all he had breath for, and threw himself onto the ground. Jason laughed again, and prodded him with a foot. “C’mon, you wimp. Get up. We still got a ways to go.”
Zac’s eyebrows hit the treetops. “Excuse me, what??? Obviously you have misunderstood something. I am not moving. Get it? This is camp.”
Jason shook his head. “Oh, no. We’re way too far from everything cool. We’ve got at least two more miles to the clearing, come on. Up you get.”
Zac scowled, climbing, with exaggerated difficulty, and much groaning, to his feet. “Okay, but when I fall over and die, it’s up to you to drag my body home.”
“Yeah, right, and you took acting lessons, out there in Hollywood, too, didn’t you?” He gave Zac a friendly push. “Get going. Sooner we get there, sooner you can lay down and do nothing. Man, you got lazy.”
Zac laughed “Gimmi a break, I was out there working you know. So there’s not much exercise involved. So sue me.”
“What about all that running from girls? Oh, oh watch it now…” He stopped, grabbing at Zac’s arm, as the other boy lost his balance crossing a creekbed. “You okay?” Zac hung on to him for a minute, and Jason thought he felt his friends hand shaking.
“Yeah, I’m okay. I’m just really tired. Okay, so I went soft. Lets go.”
“Zac, if you wanna stop, we can. I don’t mind, I was just messing with you.”
Zac grinned. “No way. You were right. There’s nothing worth looking at here. Lets go.” He shook off Jason’s helping hand, and firmly set off along the trail.
Zac picked his way, wishing the entire time that he had never had this idea, over the loose gravel of the creekbed. He was beginning to be dizzy, and his head hurt a little. Tired, and ready to stop, he scowled at Jason, who was scampering ahead of him, energy unrelenting. He fought down the urge to peg him with a rock. It wasn’t like there was anything mind blowing out here, that Jay was going for. Knowing that if he complained, he’d be in for another ribbing, he bit his lip, and trudged on, thinking now that being locked in the house with his crazy family, was infinitely preferable to this.
His disgruntlement turned to horror, when he saw Jason gazing with glee, down the upcoming railroad track. The faint rumbling down the track had sent the boy into paroxysms of delight. “No!” He jogged to catch up with his friend. “No way, don’t even think about it!”
Jason spun, grinning. “Hear it, Zacko??? Trains coming.”
Zac shook his head. “Don’t get any ideas.”
“Yeah, I hear it. You just watch it go on by.”
Jason’s grin turned to slightly manic laughter. “You ever jumped it, Zacko?” “You know I haven’t, and I’m not going to. Now…” He laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation. Jason’s penchant for train jumping went back to grade school, and never failed to scare him to death. “Back away from the tracks. I repeat, step away from the tracks.”
Jason ran over to Zac, reaching around him, yanking the backpack off, swinging it onto his own shoulders. “You’ll never make it with this on. Now look, all you do, is grab the bar as it goes by. It’s fun. You know you want to.”
Zac shook his head, “No, no I don’t.” Jason’s eyes shone with excitement. “Yeah, you do!! It’s fun!!”
“Oh, right, first Tay goes basket case on us, and then I get run over by a train. That should just finish my folks off. Perfect.”
Jason frowned, exasperated. “You are not gonna get run over by a train! Don’t be such a wuss, Zac.”
Zac looked away. “I’m not, Jay…” His voice was soft, “But I’m tired, and I don’t feel too good, and I don’t think I can do it. ” He looked at him, eyes serious. “Okay?
Jason smiled. “You feel fine. You’re just bored. This will just jazz you right back up again. Unless you’re just afraid.”
“Well, yeah, it is a train, Jay, I don’t really want to get squished.”
“Yeah, yeah, big bad old Wacko Zacko Hanson, big superstar, big wimp. C’mon Zac, you can do it.”
Zac’s thoughts whirled. Jay had never pressured him like this before, and there was a mean shine in the other boy’s eyes, that he didn’t much like. It was weird, not like him. Unsure what could be going on, Zac finally nodded. He didn’t know what else to do. “Okay, Jay, but if I get killed, you get to explain to my mom.”
Jason’s eyebrows went up. “Cool. Just do what I tell you, when I tell you.”
Zac’s dubious look shifted from the tracks, to his friend, back to the tracks. Steeling himself, he watched as the train, barely visible, loomed larger in his sights.
Jason sighed, exasperated. “Zac, come ON!! What is it with you?”
Zac kept his head down, eyes stinging, mouth grim, as he trudged along, struggling to keep up. Jason hadn’t let up on him all afternoon. No matter what he did, it seemed to be wrong. He hadn’t brought anything good to drink, nothing good for munchies, he wasn’t walking fast enough, he was walking too fast… even jumping the train, which had nearly wrenched his arm from the socket, hadn’t redeemed him in Jason’s eyes. He didn’t know what he’d done, but whatever it was, he was sick of it. Top it off, he’d landed badly, jumping down from the train, and twisted his ankle a good one. He was gamely trying not to limp on it, and show Jay that he’d hurt himself, but his stamina was fast caving in. His head was thumping away, and he was faintly sick to his stomach. They’d been walking up the side of this road, in the middle of nowhere, for hours. He wanted to stop.
“Jay.” His voice was ragged and hoarse, as he limped to catch up to the other boy. “Jay, wait up. I’ve had enough, lets find someplace and camp.”
Jason snorted. “Right. On the side of the road?”
“Anywhere. I don’t care. I’ve had enough.” Zac’s tone told Jason that all the bullying in the world would do no good. Zac was done, and that was it.
Forcing patience into his voice, he answered with a nod. “Okay, Zacko, but we better move off the road, huh?”
Zac nodded, and the two boys worked there way down a short path, ending up on the edge of a small pond. “Jay, this is good. Where are we, anyway?”
Jason shook his head. “No idea. We must have gone through three or four towns though.”
Zac nodded ruefully, rubbing at his shoulder. “I guess, feels like my right arm must be twice as long as my left.”
Jason’s voice turned ugly. “There you go again. What happened to you, while you were gone, Zac?”
“Happened to me? Whattaya mean?” Zac was baffled. What on earth was he doing?
“All you do is complain, Zacko. You’re tired, you don’t feel good, you can’t do it, you want to stop.” He shook his head. “You never used to be like this. You used to be fun. You used to be cool. Now you’re just a big baby.”
“I am not!! You haven’t even seen me!! What are you talking about?!” Zac’s temper was flaring now. “I don’t even know what you’re talking about!! This is the first time you’ve even seen me!!”
“I know!!” Jason was standing, nose to nose, screaming in Zac’s face. “No matter what I do, I have to get some kind of special permission, just to see you. Like you’re just so all that!! You think you’re some big superstar, like I really need permission from your “people” to get to see you. Ha!! I knew you when we were two!! Now you think you’re just this big deal…”
“Shut up!!!” Zac’s hand connected with Jason’s chest, shoving him rudely backward. “I never did anything to you!! It’s not my fault I can’t leave the house, do you think I like it?!?!” He was screaming now, relentlessly shoving his friend back toward the pond.
“Well, why’d you do it then?!?!?!” Jason’s voice revealed much more than anger. All of the hurt, and deprivation, the grieving for his friend of so many years, who now was so far removed he might as well be dead. “Why did you pick that stuff, over us?! You’re always gone. Always. And when you are here, I can’t see you!!”
“I never picked anything over anyone!!”
“Yeah right. You did too! None of you care anything about any of us anymore!” Jason wasn’t sure where all of this was coming from, but he was helpless to stop. “You never called, you never even called! We’re your friends! And you just totally forgot us!”
Zac shook his head, backing up. “No, Jay, you don’t understand, it wasn’t like that!” He was feeling dizzier by the second, and Jason’s words had started to sound senseless. What was he so mad about? “Jay, we’re just camping, right? There’s no reason I’m fighting with you. I don’t even know what’s going on!!”
Jason’s reply was a sudden low growl, and he lunged at Zac, shoving him back, his weight quite a bit greater, knocking Zac off balance. Landing hard, Zac’s teeth clicked together on his tongue, exquisite pain watering his eyes. He spat blood, fighting sudden nausea. Swallowing hard, he glanced up at Jay, skittering backward suddenly to avoid Jason’s fist, looping down at him. Shaking his head, words deserting him, he peered through weary eyes, up at his friend. “Jason, just stop” His voice was dull, tired. He couldn’t fight. Not anymore. He pulled his knees up, resting his head on them, too tired, and feeling too sick, to carry the argument, not caring anymore if Jay just beat his head in. Let him go ahead. He just didn’t care. Sucking blood from his bitten tongue, he spat again, then again, alarmed to see that the bright red didn’t diminish. “Oh great…” His voice was a thick mumble. “I probably bit half it off.” Jason stood, vacillating between regret, concern, and annoyance. His own actions were puzzling him, he hadn’t been upset with Zac when they left, and he wasn’t really sure why all of this was spilling out now. Confused with himself, and upset about Zac, he flung himself onto a fallen log, brooding.
Jason stared at the stars, mind refusing to let him sleep. Zac hadn’t said a word to him, all evening. He’d sat, for hours, head on knees, at one point his even breathing suggesting sleep. Jay had tried, over and over, to apologize, but Zac had refused to even look at him. He’d maintained silence all through the meager meal they pieced together, with junk food from Zac’s bag, and, when finished eating, had turned his back to his friend, again resting his head on his crossed arms, refusing to move. Finally Jay had wandered over to the edge of the water, dejectedly skipping rocks, watching as the ripples spread to the far edges of the pond, and the shadows lengthened. When it became too dark to see, he’d turned back to Zac, surprised and baffled to see that the other boy had pulled out the sleeping bag, climbed in, and apparently gone to sleep, without saying a word.
Now, lying next to Zac, warmth creeping in, drowsiness his touchstone, his mind poured over the days events. He hadn’t meant to be so awful to Zac. He really didn’t even know why he’d done it. He just lost his temper. He was so frustrated, he’d missed Zac so much, and Zac had never even written, or called. It felt to Jason, as if Zac had replaced his ten year friendship in a minute. Jason sighed. He knew he probably had it all wrong, but it hurt just the same. He rolled over onto his side, to look at his friend. Zac was sick, he could see that. He’d denied it, of course, claiming, with the very few words he’d condescended to speak, that he was “Just tired, just leave me alone.”, but Jay could see, even in the moonlight, the sheen of sweat on his upper lip, could hear how fast his breathing was, could feel the heat coming off him. He was worried. What if it was something bad? He didn’t even know where they were. They were probably miles from anywhere. He wished they’d just stayed in the back woods. He hadn’t really even wanted to jump that train, it had mostly been to challenge Zac, that he’d done it. If he’d listened to Zac, they could’ve just walked back, Zac could’ve gone home, taken an Aspirin, and that would’ve been that. Now though, here they were. Sighing, he shut his eyes, hoping for sleep.
Cold. God it was cold. Taylor turned over, pulling the comforter tighter around his neck. He could hear the heat humming, but the room felt icy. Sighing, he curled up tighter, arms tucked under his chest. No good. Still freezing. Shaking his head, he snaked an arm out, beating on the bottom of the top bunk. “Ike.” No response from his sleeping brother. “Ike!!!” He banged a few times, in rapid succession, on the bottom of the bed. “Ike, wake up!” He was rewarded with the sound of motion above him, and a thick, sleepy voice.
“Ike, go shut the window you left open. It’s freezing in here!”
Isaac grumbled, and turned over. “S’not open, shuddup.”
Isaac gave up and looked over the side of the bed. “What Tay?! What’re you wakin’ me up for? If you’re cold, go get a blanket.”
“I have one.”
“Well…” Isaac’s exasperation came out clearly. “Go get another one! And shut up!”
Taylor scowled. In actuality, he wasn’t sure why he’d wakened his brother. But God, it was cold! He got up, shivering a little as the air hit him, and padded across the floor, careful not to step on Zac. Zac wasn’t there. Where was he? Confused, he stood and stared, blankly, at the spot where Zac should have been stretched out in bed.
“Ike?” Isaac groaned.
Ike sighed. “You’re the one he told, for heavens sake. He went camping. God, get your blanket and go to sleep already. You’re all messed up. Besides, it’s hot in here, what do you need a blanket for anyway?” Grumbling and muttering, he pulled the covers up over his head, determined to ignore his brother.
Taylor stared a moment longer, memory returning, but unease was strong in him. He suddenly wished Zac was here tonight. Brushing hair out of his eyes, and shivering lightly, he headed down the hall for an extra blanket. The feeling of unease was growing, and he wished he could shake it. Something was wrong, if only he knew what it was…