Mikey goes wandering and Death sets about speeding his plans to take Gerard
But I didn't need the hospital signs to tell me I was approaching the Intensive Care Unit, there were plenty of other signs. I passed a small waiting room packed with two couches, an armchair and two or three, what I can best describe as almost comfortable chairs. Most were occupied by pale, tired looking people. I could tell there was a family. A woman, a much older man, a teenage boy and a young girl. I could see the strain on her face as she comforted the young girl. The boy appeared restless, angry. The older man simply sad. If I had to guess, and trust me, I really didn't want to, I'd have to say they were waiting for news on her husband. The other occupant in the room was a man in his thirties, sitting hunched in a chair. In his hands he carried a battered, much loved teddy bear. Worse still, he was alone. And in a room full of people, he was desperately alone. I tell you, if I could have cried, simply for the look on his face, I would have. But then I realised something and I hated myself for feeling bitter about it, but, what can I say, the thought was in my head before I could stop it - there was no one there for me.
I almost didn't want to go into the ICU and yes, both Mari and Richard had told me not to but I had to see, I had to know. Walking in was strange, it was as though I was fighting a hand pulling me back, straining to stop me. In reality, it was just part of me trying to prevent me from seeing myself lying there dying and when I finally saw myself I sincerely wished that part of me had won. I was pale, desperately pale. Linked to a drip, several monitors and a ventilator - I did not look healthy. Again, all I could think about was how I was alone there - not one of my friends were at my side. The only person that was there was a doctor. Tall, dark, stern, almost harsh looking; I really hoped he wasn't my regular doctor. There was something really strange about him and it wasn't until he turned around that I realised what. He looked right at me. Not past me, or through me. No, he looked right at me and then he laughed. He could see me, he knew I was there and he knew why. Before I realised what I was doing I was running back along the long corridor; I had to find Mari.
Mikey pushed the covers back and took a deep breath. The nurse had given him painkillers, but his knee still throbbed with a dull ache and realistically he knew there was no chance he could put his weight on it. He needed crutches or a wheelchair or something. No doubt he'd be provided with something when he was ready to leave, but as yet there was nothing in his room. Picking up the nurse call button and pressing it, he hoped for the best.
Within moments the door burst open and a young nurse rushed in. Mikey's widened at the speed of her entry.
"I'm sorry," he began, slightly flustered. "It wasn't an emergency."
"No... No," the nurse laughed awkwardly. "I was passing and I saw your light had come on and... Oh who am I kidding, I'm a huge fan and I wanted to be the one who took the call, but I'm not the only one. There was something of a scramble," she explained sheepishly.
Mikey offered what he hoped was his most charming smile; his lips broadening into a wide grin at the desired response. With the nurse blushing lightly and shyly avoiding eye contact, he knew that he stood a good chance of getting the help he needed.
"Well, I'm glad you won... Angela," he replied, reading her name tag and finishing with another smile. "I need a favour. Do you think you could help me?"
"Of course!" she replied quickly, before qualifying her response. "Well... I guess it depends what you want."
"Nothing that's going to get you into trouble... I don't think anyway. I really need to see how Frank's doing; Bob told me he was hurt."
"I can find out for you," she replied enthusiastically, before turning to leave.
"No!" Mikey stretched out his arm as a gesture for her to stay. "I really want to see him myself, but I can't walk, my knee..." he trailed off, not really knowing what to say. " Do you think you could get me to his room?"
The nurse paused momentarily, staring thoughtfully at the young bassist, before breaking into a broad smile.
"I don't see that being a problem. I'll get a chair for you."
Mikey beamed his response. Now all he needed to do was to find some way to keep the chair after his visit.
"Don't get distracted by work, D," Famine warned as his companion eyed the patients in the Intensive Care Unit all linked up to a variety of monitors, some sleeping, others in comas, and even a few awake and quite aware.
"There are a couple here that are desperately trying to evade me," he chuckled.
"Well, they will, won't they?" Famine replied snidely.
"What do you mean, they will? I am Death! I am..."
"AWOL," Famine grinned, his broad smile making his meagre face seem even thinner. "It's gonna be him, isn't it?" he added, nodding toward the comatose and still form of Gerard.
"Yes," Death growled, walking slowly towards the motionless singer, lying breathing via the assistance of a ventilator. "How close he is already."
"You don't want him dead though, do you?" Famine prompted as he drew alongside.
"Just his body," he chuckled lightly as he eyed the ventilator. "Then he's got nothing to go back to and then he's mine."
"Nurse!" one of the patients called weakly. "I'm hungry!"
"You just ate Mister Davies," the nurse walked over, staggered by the apparent resumption of the patient's appetite.
"I know, but suddenly, I'm starving."
"Stop it," Death sounded both aggravated and bored by the need to admonish his companion.
"What?" Famine complained. "I'm bored. Making people hungry is what I do!"
"Not now!" Death snapped. "Where's War?"
"Posing as a doctor, treating two of his friends. He'll have them fighting in no time!" Famine replied with a smirk.
"Who cares?" Famine responded almost as an automatic response.
"Hello, Apathy," Death smiled, turning slowly to see the man standing only a few feet behind them. "How are your plans?"
The tall, slender man nodded, at both Death and Famine, a slight mocking smile aimed toward the latter. Famine felt foolish at having been affected by his fellow Rider's presence and merely scowled in return, with his hands stuffed deep into his pockets and his shoulders hunched, his whole posture suggested resentment and irritation.
There was something about Apathy that, even to the other Riders, he appeared almost transparent. A shadow with visible features. His clothes hung about him as mere shapes draped about him, the fabric appearing to move almost independent of and sometimes in apparent opposition to his body movements. Apathy would have been a strange sight for people to behold, if, of course, anyone could ever actually see him.
"One of his friends is already quite disinterested in his fate," Apathy began, "and of course, you saw none of his friends as you arrived here, did you?" he continued, clearly pleased with his progress.
"Very good, but there is still much tO do. I won't be satisfied until his friends switch off his life-support."
"Why don't you just take him?" Famine grumbled, bored and humiliated.
"Because," Death began in a clipped tone, "if I take him, he can appeal and I will..."
"How can he appeal? He can't get to the Office, can he?" Famine scoffed.
"No, but Mari can," Death replied grimly.
"Mari?" Famine whistled. "She's latched onto him has she? Tell me, D," Famine found his humour once more, "what are you most irritated by? That he's doing your job or that Mari's helping him?"
Death was a mere blur as he spun on his heels and landed a solid punch squarely on Famine's jaw, still bruised from their earlier fight. It was a confusing moment for Famine, but finding himself sprawled on his back with Apathy laughing loudly and heartily at him as he lay prone on the floor, was both humiliating and extremely irritating. The look on his face told the whole story; Famine was livid and was scrambling to his feet in moments. Launching himself at Apathy, head bowed to attack, he ploughed forward only to be caught by the scruff of the neck by Death as he passed. Struggling in Death's surprisingly strong grip, Famine pulled and twisted, incensed by Apathy's continued laughter.
"Don't you know, Famine?" he chuckled. "Once you're in Death's grip, you can't get away. It's not just mortals it applies to."
"Watch your back, Apathy," Famine warned angrily. "No one laughs at me and gets away with it."
Apathy's laugh faded to a low murmuring of amusement.
"Oh, somehow I don't think you'll bother."
It sounded more like a statement than a general wondering and within a moment of the final word dying on the air, Apathy was gone. Not only was he no longer there, but neither Famine nor Death took the time to remember that he had been present.
"Don't push your luck with me again, Famine," Death snarled. "My past with Mari is exactly that - past. Got it?"
"Yeah!" he grumbled irritably. "Let go!"
"Are you two still fighting?" Pestilence asked, striding through the doors towards the remaining Riders.
"I'm encouraging Famine to keep his mouth firmly shut," Death replied, pulling his hand away with an unpleasant yank on Famine's collar.
"Oh, we'll good luck with that!" Pestilence smiled cynically. "This one only closes his mouth when he's run out of excuses."
Famine gave a sullen frown; he had the strangest feeling that someone else had just been abusing him, but he couldn't quite place it. Shoving Pestilence out of his way, Famine stormed petulantly out of the ICU.
"Touchy," Pestilence raised an eyebrow.
"Apathy's been mocking him," Death explained raising an instant laugh from his companion.
"And he can't remember?"
"He could," Death shrugged.
"If he could be bothered to," Pestilence nodded. "This him then is it?" he asked nodding toward Gerard.
"That's him," Death replied with a bored sigh.
"Sounds like Apathy's left his mark on you too."
Death shook his head vigorously, as if clearing it from woolly thoughts or trying to wake up.
"No," he replied sternly. "This one is going to be mine for eternity, to torture, to maim, to kill... repeatedly," a smile spread across his face. "Where's War? I want this progressed faster. I don't want the slightest chance of Mari getting this kid getting back into his body."
"Don't!" Death warned, raising an accusing finger. "Famine tried and you saw how that worked out."
"Death," Pestilence began innocently, raising his hands. "I'm only here to help. War's upstairs. He's working on the two unhurt ones. It won't be long now."