Gerard and Frank reminice about the past.
Gerard and Frank wasted no time in getting as far away from the cave and the bloodbath of spider corpses as possible. Soon they were clambering over rocky ledges, trying desperately not to look down through the mist curling in smoky tendrils below them. Neither of them spoke as they went, partly because they were focusing on not taking a loose step and plummeting towards certain death, mostly because they were both deep in their own thoughts. Frank was filled with an elated feeling, having just faced his worst fear and was wondering how anyone’s nightmare could possibly compare to his whilst Gerard was thinking about his current dilemma.
He could just admit to what he had done. But then his life would end and he would lose everything he had worked so hard for. LynZ would take Bandit and leave, Mikey would probably disown him, Ray and even Frank, his best friend and long time ally in the never ending war against life would want nothing more to do with him. He’d have no option but to return back to his old self, the Gerard who had wasted so many hours boozing and getting high with absolutely no one. And he had already promised himself to leave those days behind him.
After hours of scrambling over slippery stone and scraping against sharp crags they finally reached the bottom. Looking up they could see that they had just climbed down the side of a particularly savage mountain. The sky was darkening and slowly beginning to fill with the gentle sounds of evening. Gerard and Frank, weary with the long climb fell back against the rock at the foot of the mountain, warming their hands by the makeshift fire they had built from twigs and dead bracken.
“Well,” said Frank. “Long day, huh?”
Gerard laughed bitterly. “That doesn’t even cover it.”
They just sat there for a while, listening to the sound of crickets chirping in the background. Frank yawned and stretched out against the rock. The lowering sun cast his face in a golden glow, making him look radiant, almost godly. Gerard watched him from under his eyelashes, marvelling at how the light hit him in such a way that it illuminated his handsome features. When Frank opened his eyes he looked away sharply and examined a curiously shaped rock.
“What’s up?” spoke Frank softly.
Gerard shrugged. He was not ready to tell his best friend that he kinda liked the way his face looked all glow-y and angelic and that actually he seemed rather beautiful leaning up against the rock like that in the casually elegant way he had about him. Stop it, Gerard told himself sharply. Stop. We’ve been through this. You’re not gay. You fancy LynZ. You don’t fancy Frank. Now come up with a manly, heterosexual answer. ”Nothing,” he replied instead. “I’m fine.”
Frank sighed. “Dude, I know what ‘fine’ means. Fine means there’s something up and you don’t wanna tell me about it.”
“’Fine’ means ‘I’m fine’,” Gerard said, poking the sharp edges of the rock with his finger. Frank watched him, chewing on his lip in thought.
“Is it LynZ?” he asked finally. “Are you worried about her?”
Untruthfully, Gerard nodded, pleased that Frank had provided another explanation for his detachment. “I’m worried about all of them,” he elaborated. “And I’m worried that it’s...maybe my fault.”
“Why would it be your fault?” Frank frowned.
Gerard looked up and Frank was shocked to see that his eyes were sparkling wetly. “I’ve done...things, Frank.”
“What kinda things?”
“Bad things,” said Gerard. “Really bad things. You know, when I was going through that...that phase...with the drugs...and the drink...”
“Stop,” Frank interrupted, raising a hand to silence him. “Stop there. That’s over now. It’s in the past. We said we’d never talk about it ever again.”
“-No buts,” Frank was adamant. “We know you did some...stuff...you regret doing. But that’s finished. Done. You can’t go back. So quit trying to.”
He lent back against the rock again, looking pleased with himself. Gerard didn’t say anything. He knew that he wasn’t actually going to tell Frank about what he’d done to Bob and Sara but he was surprised with how close he had gotten. So he also leant against the rock and closed his eyes. Evening fell into dusk. Dusk fell into night. A voice spoke out of the dark.
“I need to ask you something.”
“You’re not gonna like it.”
“No, I mean you’re really not gonna like it.”
“For Christ’s sake Frank, ask the goddamn question!”
Frank leaned over to look at Gerard. His face was pained and he looked slightly fearful. “Do you ever...think back to when...to when we were together?”
Gerard opened one eye and surveyed Frank curiously. “Were we ever together?”
Even in the dark Gerard could see a pinkish tinge creep across Frank’s pale face. “Well...yeah...back when...yeah.”
“I thought we weren’t gonna talk about back then?”
“You started it.”
“And you finished it!”
“I just thought I’d ask,” Frank snapped, disappearing behind the rock once more. “No need to be such a goddamn, crazy bastard about it.”
Silence. But this time it was a reminiscent silence. Both of them were thinking about “back then”, when Gerard had been this crazy, washed-up rock-star shadow of himself. He’d had writers block, the worst case of it he’d ever known. And he was angry. At himself, at the world, at everyone else. So he drank. And he took. He was out of control and he didn’t care. He was raging vengeance by destroying himself and no one could help him...no one but Frank.
Frank had been there to hold Gerard’s hair back whilst he vomited, to clean his apartment when it no longer mean the standards needed for human habitation, to tell him to hold on and that he loved him when he was lying out on the sidewalk suffering from a drug overdose. Frank was the only thing that had kept Gerard from ending it all, the only thing that kept him sane and happy and for a while the drugs stopped, as did the drinking. As long as he had Frank he didn’t need anything else. Then Jamia came along and...things changed.
“Sure,” Gerard spoke into the silence. “I think about it. You know...occasionally. Every now and then.”
He heard Frank’s breath catch in his throat. “So do I. Every now and then.”
“And there are some things I miss,” Gerard continued, feeling the flush colour his cheeks. “Sometimes. Occasionally.”
He held his breath, waiting for Frank’s reply. His voice came confused from over the top. “You mean like...the sex?”
Gerard rolled his eyes. “You,” he snapped. “That’s all you ever think about, isn’t it?”
“Pretty much,” Frank replied. Gerard could hear the grin in his voice. “Night, fag.”
They rose early in the morning, not wanting to waste anytime that could otherwise be spent finding the others. They didn’t know where they were going but instinct told them to follow the footpath leading around the mountain so they walked it cautiously, prepared every second for something to jump out at them.
“Wait a second,” said Frank suddenly, stopping in his tracks. “There’s something here.”
“What?” Gerard frowned confusedly. Frank was staring at the mountain face but Gerard couldn’t see anything but a heap of boulders stacked one on top of the other.
However, Frank insisted on moving each boulder out of the way and Gerard helped him considering the fact that they were heavy and when they had cleared them all away they stepped back to reveal a door made from polished dark wood set into the wall of stone.
Gerard nodded at Frank, impressed. “Good work.”
Frank grinned and stepped forward to turn the handle. It swung open at his touch, exposing a flight of stone steps, throttled with vines and ivy and looking very unstable. They glanced at each other.
“We’ve got to go down,” Gerard sighed and Frank gestured for him to go first.
They treaded carefully, stopping to pray every time a loose stone was kicked and bits of the stair fell away. It was dank and smelled strongly of the undergrowth clinging to the stone walls and metal railing along with something that Gerard couldn’t quite place. Finally they reached the bottom and were cast at once into a green glow that seemed both natural and unnatural at the same time.
“Shit,” groaned Frank softly. “I’m scared again.”
“And rightly so,” said a voice.
The two spun around at the same time, knocking each other into the wall. A cold laugh gave Gerard the feeling that he had been drenched in icy water and Sara stepped out of the shadows.
“Fuck,” he breathed. “You scared the shit out of us!”
“So you still don’t understand what this game is about?” replied Sara sarcastically.
“Hey, Gerard,” Frank nudged him in the ribs. “Aren’t ya gonna introduce me to your friend?”
“Ah yes,” Sara said, a smile splitting her face. “I don’t think we’ve met properly. My name’s Sara. I was a close acquaintance of Gerard’s.”
“’Was’?” Frank glanced at Gerard. Sara’s smile became more pronounced.
“What do you want?” spat Gerard. “And make it quick. This place is really starting to rate shit-pants worthy with me.”
“Tut, tut,” Sara wagged her finger at him reproachfully. “And here’s me trying to help you.”
She snapped her fingers and another blood-stained card appeared in her hand. “Congratulations on facing your fear,” she said to Frank. “In token of our admiration you get another Chance card.” She flung it at Frank who caught it. “Answer the riddle correctly and you get something pretty. Answer it wrong then the walls cave in around you and it’s ‘Oh my God we’re trapped’.”
Frank squinted at the card in his hand and read, “I make you weak at the worst of all times. I keep you safe, I keep you fine. I make your hands sweat, and your heart grow cold, I visit the weak, but seldom the bold.” He looked up at Gerard. “What the hell does that mean?”
Neither of them spoke whilst they pondered the riddle’s meaning. Moments later Gerard grinned. “Got it,” he announced. “Easy.”
“What is it then?” asked Frank but before Gerard could answer Sara had slapped a hand over his mouth.
“Nuh-uh,” she said, flashing a wicked smile. “You had your turn at the Chance card, Gee. Let the other players have a go.”
Reluctantly, Gerard fell silent. Frank peered harder at the card but still couldn’t make any sense of it. “Weak at the worst of all times’” he recited. “Visits the weak but seldom the bold…”
“Time’s running out,” chanted Sara happily. She was becoming more and more excited as the seconds went by.
Suddenly Frank also smiled and handed the card back to Sara. “The answer’s ‘fear’,” he told her. “Fear. Easy.”
Looking extremely disappointed, Sara took the card back and snapped her fingers again. The card vanished and in its place was a roughly hewn wooden lute which she flung at Frank with ill grace.
“Here,” she scowled. “Take it. And much good it’ll do you.”
“Gee thanks,” Frank replied cheerfully but when he looked up she had gone. He turned the lute over in his hands, running his fingers over the smooth wood. “What the hell would I want with this?” he asked Gerard. “I play guitar. Your girlfriend should really have brushed up on her fun facts before kidnapping us.”
“She’s not my girlfriend,” said Gerard, maybe too quickly. “Not anymore.”
Frank looked at Gerard quizzically but didn’t push it. The two set off through the stone tunnel, careful to avoid strings of ivy and creeping vines that seemed to regard tripping the two up as much as possible as their life’s ambition. It wasn’t long before they reached a fork in the tunnel and they looked at each other questioningly.
“I go left and you go right?” Frank suggested.
“There’s no way we’re splitting up,” Gerard shook his head. “We’ll take the left.”
So they did only to step into a small chamber, completely overgrown with vines. The walls were thick with it and their leafy heads completely dominated the ceiling, blocking out any natural light that had managed to force its way through the cracks in the stone. The floor was soft and spongy and looking down Gerard saw that this was because it was completely overtaken with plant roots.
“Well, nothing here,” shrugged Frank. “Let’s go the other way.”
“Wait,” Gerard’s arm flew out to stop Frank. “There’s something moving over there.”
He pointed to the far corner of the chamber. Sure enough a collection of leaves and plant stems had been gathered and was now rising and falling gently, as though an invisible force was conducting it.
“Great,” said Frank sarcastically. “Breathing flowers. Whatever next?”
All of a sudden the breathing flowers gave an abrupt snore, causing both Gerard and Frank to jump a foot each off the ground.
“There’s something underneath there,” said Gerard, eyes wide.
“Human?” asked Frank.
“I don’t know.”
At this the thing rolled over, sending leaves drifting into the air and revealing Mikey’s wife Alicia who was fast asleep amongst the ivy.
“Alicia!” breathed Frank with relief. “We’ve got to wake her up.”
Gerard nodded and approached her cautiously. As he tapped her gently on the shoulder her eyes fluttered open immediately.
“Gerard! Frank!” she smiled up at them both. “Jesus Christ, there you are!”
“Are you okay?” asked Gerard, helping Alicia to her feet. She nodded.
“Yeah,” she brushed specks of dirt off her dress. “Just tired. I’ve been walking for so long I just had to sleep for a little while.”
“A couple of days?” Alicia shrugged. “I don’t know. I just woke up in this place and spent hours trying to find a way out.”
“So, you haven’t…come across anything?” Gerard inquired. “Nothing big or…or scary-looking?”
Alicia frowned and shook her head. Gerard and Frank exchanged glances. Noting this, Alicia immediately folded her hands across her chest. “Okay, will someone please tell me what the hell is going on?”
Sighing, Gerard and Frank launched into a brief summary of their experiences playing The Game and watched Alicia’s face grow paler and paler.
“No,” she bit her lip fearfully. “That…that’s not possible.”
“No, it’s not,” answered Frank irritably. “Except it’s happening. So can we please start trying to find a way out before another giant spider starts breaking through the wall?”
Gerard nodded and made to head back towards the door only to discover that it was closed…and locked. He turned back to the others, a decidedly pissed-off expression written across his face. “Fuck.”
Just as the word left his mouth a faint hissing noise seemed to follow it. The three cast their eyes around the room but there was nothing but the canopy of green. The hissing noise grew louder. Then Alicia screamed.
“Oh my God!” she grabbed hold of Frank and squeezed him tight. “I just felt something on my leg!”
Gerard looked down and hastily repressed a yelp. The floor which had before been solid ground, soft but reassuringly, stably, solid was now slithering with a thousand long, black snakes.
“Fuck!” screamed Alicia, holding Frank even tighter. “Get them away! Get them off!”
“I’d really like to,” Frank gasped. “But I think you just shattered my oesophagus.”
The snakes were beginning to wind up the legs as if they were the trunks of very comfortable trees. Gerard and Frank simply shook them off in disgust but Alicia, petrified with fear, couldn’t move. Or wouldn’t move. A long black adder wound its way up her knees like some kind of grotesque garter whilst another poisonous-looking serpent stretched open its bright pink mouth to strike.
With a mighty lunge Frank caught the snake around the tail, yanking it off Alicia’s shoulder and sending it flying through the air. It rebounded off the wall and fell to the floor with a dull thud.
“Nice,” Gerard laughed appreciatively and Frank turned to acknowledge his praise before his mouth grew slack with fear and his eyes widened.
“Gerard,” he cried. “Behind you!”
Too late. The mighty python, skin shimmering like a web of emeralds with a neck as thick as a tree branch had already wound its way slyly around Gerard’s waist. Upon the realisation of this predicament, Gerard groaned. “Hell,” he exclaimed, writhing against his bonds. “Not again.”
“Hold on, Gerard,” shouted Frank, but as he moved towards him he fell through a lose crack in the roots. As soon as his foot had disappeared through the make-shift floor the plant closed around his ankle and try as he might he could not lift it out. “What the fuck?” he yelled, thrashing wildly against the roots. “How does that even happen?”
Gerard tried to shrug but the python was wrapped so tightly around his arms all that happened was a sharp jab of pain was sent coursing to the very tips of his fingers. “Alicia!” he cried. “Help!”
“I...I can’t...” her lips barely formed the words. Her skin was marble-white and she was clutching the flesh of her face so tightly marks had appeared where her nails had dug.
As she spoke more floods of the reptiles came spewing through the walls, a slithering wave of scaly worms, tumbling out into Alicia’s hair and down her dress. But she still didn’t move. She just screamed and screamed and screamed while Gerard’s lips were slowly turning blue and Frank’s eyes were watering from the pain as he tried desperately to bat the snakes away from him.
“There are too many to fight,” he panted. “We’re going to die. Sonofabitch, we’re going to die.”
Gerard shook his head. No, he told himself. Sara wouldn’t have given us the task if it was undoable. And that’s when it hit him. Sara...“Frank!” he shouted. “Frank, the lute! Do you have it?”
Frank laughed bitterly. “What, you wanna sing our goodbyes? A last ballad of farewell to the world?”
“Give it to Alicia,” replied Gerard. “Quickly!”
Bemused, Frank fumbled for the lute inside his pocket and held it out to Alicia. Who wouldn’t move.
“Alicia, come on!” said Gerard irritably. “Or we’re all going to die.”
Alicia shook her head.
“Think of Mikey,” called Frank desperately. “Think of Mikey and...and...his glasses...and...seeing them again...I mean, him again...”
But Mikey’s name seemed to awaken her like no amount of carnivorous snakes could do. Still dreamlike, as if in a daze, she stretched out her hand and tentatively took a few steps forward. Frank handed her the lute and she looked down at it, utterly perplexed.
“Play it!” said Gerard.
“I don’t...play lute...” Alicia murmured.
“Doesn’t matter,” Gerard replied. “Just play it!”
So Alicia brought it to her lips and blew.
And at once the snakes stopped, dead in their tracks. The python slowly crushing Gerard released it’s hold and followed the other snakes who seemed to be swaying in time to the music, even though it was as shrill and out of tune as could be expected of someone who had never before played an instrument. Massaging his wrists, Gerard watched in awe as slowly, gradually, the snakes began to sneak back through gaps in the walls and the roots before they had all disappeared entirely and the hissing had faded to an eerie echo.
Beaming, Gerard turned to face Alicia. Her face was sparkling with tears. “That was amazing,” he told her graciously. “You were so brave.”
“I was terrified,” she whispered, clutching the lute in a sweaty palm. “But then I thought about Mikey and how bad I wanted to see him...so I just...”
She didn’t need to finish the sentence. Gerard understood. Gently, he laid a hand on her shoulder and she smiled gratefully. However, the peaceful moment was ruined slightly by a whimper of pain from Frank.
“Guys,” he called from where his ankle was still stuck in the roots. “A little help over here?”
Yes. There was Frerard. I don’t know if you could spot it, there wasn’t much. But if you don’t like it then why are you reading, huh? It clearly states “Frerard” on the summary! And actually I’m writing this for a Frerard challenge against my friend but she gave up. So no likey, go away if you want. But I’d prefer it if you stayed. :P
Next chapter up Monday.