My head ached and my eyes throbbed with a pain like I had never felt. I didn’t attempt to open my eyes, knowing that the desert’s light would only hurt them more. I tried to think back and found I couldn’t. What had happened? I remembered the explosion, remembering watching Lindsey and Bandit dying, remembered Ray and Mikey dead, remembering being sprayed with Frank’s blood. Frank. I opened my eyes, slowly and blinked rapidly at what I saw. Ray and Mikey stood over me, Mikey behind, his eyes red like he had been crying while Ray stood in front, his gun in his hand as he stared at me through his sunglasses. His face was hard and I could tell he was poised to shoot. Mikey just watched me, his eyes not leaving my face as I attempted to sit up. My head gave a scream of protest and I thumped back to the ground again, tears of pain coming to my eyes. Mikey bit his lip and looked like he wanted to come and help me but Ray just stood staring at me as I wriggled around on the ground.
I decided to stay still to cause myself less pain and looked up at them, wondering who would speak first. The silence was awful and I wanted to know what was going on. I wanted to know where Frank was.
“How do you feel?” Mikey spoke up, looking nervously at my head which now seemed to be bleeding again.
I just grunted at his question, making it clear how I felt. Mikey told one step towards me but Ray’s hand shot out to stop him from reaching me. I glared at Ray as he held back my brother; what was up with him?
“We have to help him! He’s hurt…” His eyes travelled to me and I saw how conflicted he was about helping me.
Ray looked nervously at me from where I lay on the ground and seemed to decide I wasn’t too much of a threat with a bleeding head so dropped his hand. Mikey moved over to me and sank down next to my head. He refused to look into my eyes. He moved to the supplies to get something leaving me and Ray to look at one another uncertainly. He just held the gun aimed at my head, waiting for me to move or maybe even, attack. But I lay still and bit my lip as I looked at the gun. Mikey came back with an armful of bandages we had saved. He attended to my head, waiting me flinch but not stopping to ask if I was okay. Once he had done all he thought he could, he moved to examine the rest of my body. I was stiff and could feel several points on my body which didn’t seem to have any feeling.
“What hurts?” His eyes stayed on my body and I wanted to ask him to look at me but I didn’t think I wanted to see the emotions he was keeping back from me.
“My left arm and my left leg,” I attempted to move them so as to back up my words but found I couldn’t move my leg and the shoot of pain that ran up my arm was enough to tell me to stop trying to move.
He nodded and reached for my leg. He pulled up the trouser leg to see and gasped as he saw the bone poking out through the skin. He looked at Ray, open mouthed but Ray stayed where he was. Mikey looked way out of his depth but he just tried to keep from being sick as he carefully straightened my leg. He walked away and came back with a wooden stick which he tied to the back of my leg with bandages. It was the best he could do but I’m sure if Frank had been here, he would have thought of something better. Where was he? I wanted to ask but had a feeling no one would answer me. He reached for my arm, straightened it and ignoring the hisses of pain that I gave as he did so. I was still unclothed from the waist up so he could see right away what the problem was. My arm was bruised, black and purple marks showing all the way up. Though nothing was broken, I reckoned I had a lot of internal bruising.
“Maybe I should bandage it just to be safe?” he muttered to himself, picking up the roll of bandages and examining my arm closely.
“No, don’t waste them,” he flinched as I spoke and nodded before standing up to walk away.
I didn’t know how I had made Mikey feel like this and I felt tears spring to my eyes again as I watched his retreating back. Ray stayed with me, never moving the gun.
Ray looked downcast for a moment but then fixed his face until it was composed once more.
I tried not to let the hurt enter my voice but found their reactions to me hurt a lot more than I thought it would.
“Ray, you’re tired. Go to bed!”
Mikey had been trying to persuade Ray for over two hours to go to sleep but Ray just sat firmly beside me, where I still lay on the ground. No one had spoken to me since Mikey had helped me and the day had passed slow seeing as I was in no fit state to travel. That was assuming they would still want me after whatever I had done. Trust me, I wanted to know, I wanted to ask. I had cried so much that day that I didn’t think I had any more water left in my body. I certainly didn’t have any more food but felt asking for food would be like asking Ray to go to bed again; pointless.
“I’ve got stay up, haven’t I?” He murmured, giving me a glance before turning back to Mikey.
Mikey looked at me anxiously before nodding.
“Yeah but I could stay up with him?” He offered causing Ray to frown and shake his head.
“You’re too emotional attached.”
“What do you mean?” Mikey asked, confused.
“He’s mean you wouldn’t be able to shoot me if it came to it! Right, Ray?”
Ray didn’t even look over at me as I spoke which irritated me immensely. Why couldn’t someone just look me in the eye.
The comment made me turn to look at him, his eyes were now on Ray, completely emotionless and empty.
“If he does anything like last night, I would.”
I tried not to let the shock show on my face as Mikey now turned to me. His eyes bored into me and I thought of how I had wished for someone to meet my eyes. And like a prayer Mikey had answered, his eyes hard and cold as he thought of killing me. My own brother.
Ray still didn’t look convinced but gave in, pulling Mikey to one side to say something before heading over to the fire to lie down. Mikey carefully watched me as he pulled out his gun from its holster and sat down several feet away watching me. His eyes made me uncomfortable and I tried to squirm away from them, making my arm and head cry out in pain.
“Don’t do that!” he spoke sharply, “You’ll hurt yourself!”
I glared at him but continued to wriggle around, his eyes leaving marks on me as he glared hard at me. I wished they would all just leave me be.
“Poison-“ he stopped himself before he could continue and it occurred to me that no one had used either one of my names since I had woken up.
He bit his lip and looked at me, the hard expression gone to be replaced with one of worry.
“Mikey,” I spoke gently, watching him flinch at his name, “What did I do?”
He sighed and suddenly looked very old, his tired expression making the dark shadows on his face sag and I wondered how my baby brother could have gotten so old.
“You had some kind of fit. At least that’s what Ray reckons.” It was all he was going to offer me and I took it gladly; was it the nightmare that had done it?
I was surprised when he spoke again, his eyes on mine showing love for me mixed with horror as he remembered back.
“You just lost it. You wouldn’t listen to us and you had this crazed look in your eye! It was horrible!”
He visibly sagged remembering and I wanted to give him a hug but knew I would probably get a gun pointed at my face if I moved. Despite Mikey not being as tough towards me as Ray was, I didn’t doubt for a second that he was tensed to shoot. Could he really do it? In that moment before I believed he could but now, as I lay on the ground hurt and in pain, could my brother raise a gun to my head and end my life. He looked up at me, tears in his eyes as he remembered my pain and I didn’t believe he would.
“You weren’t making any sense. Stuff about none of this being real and you were calling us by our names, Poison! Our real names!” He sounded shocked and had forgotten not to use the name Poison.
Because they were obviously trying to tip toe around me so that I wouldn’t get angry and despite how they were treating me, like a hostage supposed to a friend, I didn’t feel angry at all. I just couldn’t remember everything that happened. But as Mikey spoke I started to remember, I saw them pinning me down, I saw Mikey and Ray’s scared expressions and I saw Frank as he looked down at me. His eyes full of tears as he looked at my injures. He spoke the words ‘I love you’ and my heart wanted to melt at the memory. Wanted to. But I had to remind myself that while I loved them all, that we had just got carried away. In the heat of the moment, I had wanted Frank and he had wanted me but to love me? That was a joke that wasn’t fair on either of us. I loved Lindsey and I loved Bandit. I loved Mikey; he was my brother. And Ray and Frank had always been there for me, I loved them for that. But love is a delicate thing and I didn’t think me and Frank could ever get that friendship back. Not that Frank was even here, not that I knew where he was. I hadn’t asked for fear of the answer. He was gone. What, had he left? Or…The worst had happened and that would explain Ray’s anger. Mikey not looking me in the eye. I tried to remember back and saw Frank kissing me. He still couldn’t accept that I didn’t feel the same. He didn’t really love me. We had invented a game as a way of sealing ourselves off from the harsh reality. And it had worked until I had had that nightmare. Until I had remembered our old lives, my family. Before …
“Who hit me?”
“What?” Mikey asked, bewildered for a second.
“Last night. Someone hit me and then I blacked out.”
His cheeks flushed pink and he looked away from me.
“Oh, right. Yeah that was me!”
I looked shocked at him for a moment before he hurriedly added, “But you were going mad. The stuff you said. What you did to Fra-“
He stilled himself, watching me as I tried to digest this new information. Tried to remember. Frank had kissed me and when I didn’t response he had tried again. It was harder not to kiss him back the second time, his lips were more desperate and urgent against my own. For a second, he seemed like he really lov- I stopped myself from thinking, instead moving forwards in the memory. He had released me, his expression broken and I badly wanted to go back, to change what would happen next. I spat right in his face, breaking him more. Hurting him more. He looked so upset, I wanted to hold him, wanted to comfort him, wanted to ki-
I slammed my head back hard against the ground, trying to make the thoughts go away. This wasn’t me, wasn’t my thoughts. I had to make them go away, make them stop. Then I caught sight of Mikey, his expression worried and tense as he watched me. I had to get a hold of myself, at least for Mikey’s sake, I had to stop thinking like this. It was a game. It was a joke. It was in the past. But still my brain went back to that time with Frank as he ran his hands on my body, as he kissed me and the lust and love filled his eyes; I really thought he loved me. I sighed and felt my head ache, I moaned and tried to move my arm to touch it, only to feel the familiar stab of pain as I moved my arm. Mikey was quickly at my side and he stilled me with one touch of his hand, causing me to sigh. He repositioned the bandages at my head and ran his hand slowly down my cheek. He kept up the motion, calming me.
“I’m so sorry, Mikey!” He just hushed me and wiped away my tears.
“It’s not your fault. You’re okay now!” He said though sounded a little uncertain.
I cried in his arms for a while, needing his touch and wishing I could hold him back. He stroked me and let me cry, not speaking just soothing me with his fingers on my face. As my tears eventually slowed and my cries turned into whimpers, he pulled away from me, making me moan but not stopping and moving to sit closer to me. He kept one hand on my face and I tried to move further into it, but only caused my head to throb. He looked at me and smiled, a sad smile but a smile nonetheless.
“Where is he? Where’s Frank?”
His hand stilled for a moment and I was scared he would move away, would reposition the gun at my head. But he started stroking my cheek again, rubbing the skin in a way that made me tired. But I had to have my question answered. I had to know if Frank was okay; he was still my friend if nothing else…
“He left,” his eyes were sad, “We’ve been looking for him but...”
I felt my heart sink in my chest and had to blink to stop the tears.
“But he’ll get himself killed on his own…” I whispered, my voice breaking and Mikey just watched me as my face crumpled.
Of course, I was upset. He had been a great friend in the life before and in this life too. I had known him for years. But the pain I felt was more sharp and intense than just that. I felt sick to my core at the nightmare image of Frank, his blood splattered on me, lying dead, his body broken but the only thing I could see was his hand as it grew cold and pale in mine. The idea that he could really be dead, that the image could be true was enough to make me beat my head on the floor again. But Mikey was still watching me carefully, his eyes concerned as he watched my thoughts show on my face. This wasn’t a game anymore. Frank could get hurt!
Mikey’s hand had fallen from my face and he moved forwards to hold me close to him, careful not move my head or arm. I realised I was crying, not just crying but sobbing and trying to stop only made the tears come faster. Frank was gone. He could be dead. It was sad but why was I reacting like this?
“Why does it hurt so much?” The broken whisper made Mikey pull away from me to look into my eyes and realisation hit me hard before he even had to say a word. He just gave me his sad smile before speaking the words I had tried to deny. This had stopped being a game when Lindsey died. When Bandit died. This had become my life and my actions had almost killed us all. I remembered shouting, wishing for death for me and for the others. For Frank. As he kissed me, as he cried on me. But now he was gone and he had left me with this horrible feeling; the realisation that my face now showed. Mikey opened his mouth to speak and what he said made me start to weep fresh tears, because I knew it was the truth.
“Because you love him, Gee.”