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 Little Dark Secrets


Date: May 31st (Eleven Days after the emergency landing)

Place: On the way to New York City


+ AJ +


I have always hated long car rides. I used to drive my mother crazy whenever we had to make a trip longer than two hours. She admitted that it got so bad she would actually give me some Nyquil before we left. I always wondered what that disgusting stuff was. She said it was magic syrup. If I took it, the trip would go a lot faster. Apparently I was a very dumb child. I’m sure she was right; the car ride did go faster, for her!

Once she told me the truth and lots of jokes about calling child protective services were made, I would take it upon myself to guzzle down Nyquil to make it through some of the longer rides we endured touring from city to city.

It was one of my little dark secrets.

I glanced over at Howie as he snored next to me. He could sleep through anything. How I envied him for that. Sometimes I wonder if he took anything to knock himself out. The brief thought of going through his pockets was tempered by Brian’s voice. He was doing something none of us have done in almost two weeks.

He was singing.

It started off really quietly, as if he was whispering to himself. I couldn’t even make out what he was saying until I heard the chorus to Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely. Once he reached that, he started belting it out. Even Howie opened his eyes and sat up looking confused.

As much as I would like to say we all joined in and smiled and laughed, thinking okay we are the Backstreet Boys. We can do this! It simply didn’t happen. Brian only made it partway through the second verse before deciding to stop. I think the three dead bodies along the side of the road are what muted him.

This wasn’t a place for singing. This wasn’t a place for anything.

“How long do you think it’ll take before we get there?” I sat up already nervously shaking my leg and knowing we had just left less than a half hour ago.

“Under normal circumstances it usually takes a little under ninety minutes.” Don was driving and he addressed the question as if I was his child who had said ‘are we there yet?’ for the ten thousandth time.

I was surprised by that answer. For some reason, New York felt so far away. Ninety minutes wasn’t even Nyquil worthy which gave me some hope.

“What about these circumstances?”

“I have no idea, it all comes down to how accessible the road is and how many detours we might have to take along the way.”

“Is this the first time you’ve gone there since this happened?”

Charlie was sitting next to his brother in the front passenger seat and when Kevin asked that question he turned his body around to face us. “We tried once before but at that time there were too many soldiers along the roads. When the attacks happened, they would make sure no one crossed border lines between the states. They wanted to keep people confined to where they lived. We were afraid of what might happen so we turned around and headed back to Philly.”

“So, does that mean you don’t think they’ll be guarding the borders of each state this time around?”

Charlie cast his eyes down before he answered, “I don’t think there’s any reason for them to. Most of us are dead or prisoners by now.”

He turned back to the front and the conversation died.

Looking out the window, it had started to snow once again, only lightly this time. One thing I hated more than long drives was making them in bad weather. “When the fuck is it going to stop snowing?”

“We’re still waiting on that one.” Don again in his, shut the hell up already, tone.

I shifted my weight from one leg to the other and started rubbing at them because for some reason it calmed me to do so. I know I was annoying Brian and Howie, who were sitting next to me, but I didn’t care. I hope Sydney will be alright. I found myself suddenly missing my new and very odd friend. Saying goodbye to her was harder than I thought it would be.

Knowing that the other Nick was already in New York made staying in Philly pointless for us. We needed to find that other fucking guy who supposedly would be able to help us get back home. Since they were both in the same state, Charlie decided we should leave first thing in the morning. Naturally, I just kind of assumed that meant all of us, but I was wrong.

When morning came, and most tents were being broken down, Sydney came over to me and smiled.

“So, I guess you’re excited to be leaving, huh?” She didn’t really know the real truth but just by overhearing some of the conversations going on between the Epps family and Kevin made her understand that there was more to my story than I was letting on.

“Excited seems to be a useless word here. Let’s just say eager.”

She nodded and pulled her hair back into the baseball hat she was wearing, “Works for me.”

I turned to face her, “I know you’re probably wondering what the fuck…”

Placing her hand on my mouth she smiled, “I’m not sure I want to know. Maybe one day you can fill me in.”

Once she removed her hand I smiled back, “You got it….Maybe on the way.”

“I’m not going with you.”

“What? You can’t stay here.”

“Why not, this is my home.”


“No, Clara, Randy and Scott are staying too.”

“But, their place was burned down to the ground.”

“We’ll find another one. It won’t be the first time and sadly, it probably won’t be the last.”

“It’s dangerous here.”

“It’s dangerous everywhere. This is my home, AJ.”

I wanted to understand how someone could choose to live like this, but I couldn’t do it. Why would anyone make the choice to stay in a place like this when there was some place so much better waiting for them? Of course she didn’t know that. It’s not like I was about to explain the tear in the universe thing to her at that moment. Even though she knew there was more to my story then I was letting on, this little dark secret wasn’t ready to come out yet.

“It might be better there.” I urged, not wanting to let her go, even though I barely even knew her.

“I’m not willing to take the chance and neither are they.” She pointed to her friends, and that’s when I got it. I’m sure this wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. Chances are they spent all night discussing it and making up their minds as a group. The same way we did everything. They were more than just a bunch of friends, through this ordeal they had become family.

“All or nothing, is that how it happened?”

She nodded at me, “Yeah, kind of.”

“What did you want?”

“To stay, we all did.”

I gave her an understanding nod, “And there’s nothing I can say to change your mind?”

She shrugged at me, “I’m stubborn.” And with that being said she pat my shoulder and walked back to her tent.

As Charlie, Don and I were putting some things into the van, I glanced over just in time to see Howie hug Clara and then shake Randy’s hand. The older woman then pulled Nick into a hug and kissed his cheek. I was kind of sad that I didn’t get the chance to really get to know them. They seemed like the kind of people I’d really love. 

Kevin and Brian were talking to Scott, probably saying their goodbyes as well and then within an hour we were on the road, most likely never to see any of them again.

“Will you stop fidgeting? You’re worse than a little kid.” Brian finished his thought with a ‘friendly’ kick to my leg.

“Sorry, I’m restless.”

He tried to move himself away from me but there just wasn’t that much room so he let out a sigh instead. We were kind of packed in the van like a can of sardines. Besides Don and Charlie in the front, there was Kevin, Larry and Alan in the first row of seats, Brian, Howie and I in the middle row and Nick in the back with all our supplies and equipment.

I decided to check on Nick because he had been completely quiet ever since we left. His eyes were closed but he was far from having a restful sleep. He was shivering pretty badly even having a few sleeping bags on top of him to keep him warm.

He’s not going to make it.

That was my other little dark secret. The fact that I was so certain we were going to lose Nick. It was just an unsettling thought that lingered in my stomach, long before I even knew about this doppelganger nonsense. It’s horrible that even though I love him to death, my first thought was about the band. How on earth would we still be able to go on without the cute, baby blonde one?

I’m sure it was the ‘other’ AJ who would dare to think that way; at least I’m hoping it was. Just to make amends for my thoughts I reached over and placed my hand on Nick’s forehead. He was very hot to the touch.

“He’s burning up.”

Within a beat of my statement, Kevin reached over and handed me an aspirin, “Give him two of these and some water.”

“Hey buddy.” I gently tapped his shoulder as I handed Brian the water bottle to hold, “Nicky, wake up.”

He opened his eyes and looked disoriented before a light of understanding hit him. “Are we there?” He managed to squeak out in a very hoarse voice.

“Not yet. I have some aspirin for you. You’re running a fever again.”

He sat himself up and grabbed the aspirin and water. “Thanks.”

He let out a horrible sounding cough. “Jesus Christ kid…” Once again I felt that ‘friendly’ kick.

“It’s freezing in here.” He pulled one of the sleeping bags up almost over his head. “Can we put the heat on?”

“It’s already going at full blast buddy.”

Yeah waking up Nick probably wasn’t a good motivator for the rest of us. He kind of reminded us of how grim this situation was.


I looked ahead just in time to see what had Don so upset. A line of cars pretty much blocked the rest of the highway. They were all scattered with some laying on their sides, others completely burned up and in pieces.

“Now what?”

“We’re going to have to back track, get off the highway at the last exit we passed.”

He turned the car around and started heading back the way we came. Because of the median, we had to drive on the wrong side of the road and even though we were the only car, it still made me wince.

“This is going to take forever.” I didn’t mean to say it out loud but there it was.

“Be grateful we’re getting there at all.”

Once again I shifted in my seat just as the snow began to fall a little harder. Fuck you Mother Nature!

We had been driving for well over an hour and the last exit we passed was at least thirty minutes away which meant another thirty minutes just to get off the exit but now with the snow it would most likely take even longer.

“If it keeps snowing this heavy we might have to stop for a little while.” Alan said just like the over protective dad he seemed to be, “After all we can’t let ourselves get into an accident.”

I know I hate cars but it was a sense of urgency I was feeling. The more time we let pass the less time we had to get out of here for good. We were running out of time, especially Nick.

I wish I had some Nyquil.





Chapter End Notes:

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