Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
“Dreams” by Langston Hughes
~ 16 ~
Nick was dreaming, a very pleasant dream. He was sitting on a beach with Lauren. The two of them were sharing a blanket as they sat together. Nick almost laying completely flat on his back except for the small incline a rolled up tee-shirt gave him as he rested it behind his neck. Lauren was laying on her stomach right beside him, wearing a visor on her head as she texted on her phone, occasionally looking over at her fiancé and smiling. The sound of the ocean was so relaxing, the breeze making it just comfortable enough to not feel the hot sun blaring down on them. This was paradise to Nick, the water, the wind and his woman. Nothing could really compete with this. Nacho came over and licked his nose, causing him to giggle and find his head to pat without having to open his eyes. He could stay like this all day long.
“We’re almost there, buddy” He had felt a slight tug at his arm but he ignored it. He wanted to stay in this moment forever. Opening his eyes would bring him back to reality and he was all too aware that Lauren, the ocean and his dog were no longer a part of his waking life, not for the moment and possibly not forever.
“Nick?” Tim was trying to wake him, but he refused to open his eyes. He was done talking to the crazy guy. He had nothing left to say.
Taking that trip to the van had drained him of any energy he had left both physically and mentally. When Tim actually made him sit in the truck and wait for his friends to show up just so he could potentially kill them, Nick realized his life would never be the same. No matter how much therapy he had after this ordeal was over or how much time passed, this man, who was trying to wake him, had broken him in ways he never thought possible and would never get over.
Thankfully, Tim no longer bothered Nick for the rest of the ride, instead choosing to whistle softly. So, he tried to go back to that beach in his mind, back into the loving arms of his fiancé but it was too late. His subconscious had already dismissed the idea of a happy ending, so instead his mind went to freedom. How was he going to get Howie and himself out of this situation?
He wasn’t dumb, he knew he was weak and would be easily overpowered if he tried to fight. At this point pretty much Ava could take him down if she tried. Whatever he chose to do would have to come out of nowhere; a surprise attack, something to catch Tim off guard.
He felt the truck turn onto the path that led to the cabin as his mind raced for an idea. He briefly thought about trying to grab the steering wheel but he also wasn’t too keen on the idea of getting into another car accident and honestly, he wasn’t too sure he would survive a second impact. He was pretty sure that the first one was already slowly killing him.
And there was another problem, one that he was trying to avoid.
When he was a kid, he often complained of being sick. It would drive the guys absolutely crazy. He took more sick days then all of the others combined, having to pay pretty hefty fines for missed rehearsals, etc.… they called him a hypochondriac and it used to really make him mad. They were probably right, but still…he was just a kid; a kid who worked way too hard for his age.
When he was a little older, he went the other direction completely. He would purposely not tell anyone when he was feeling bad no matter how many times they asked or who it even was. He got used to hiding everything from them all until things would get so out of hand he’d have no choice but to come clean. Most of the time it was to Brian, whether it was an emotional breakdown about too much homework or throwing up at the guys feet after hiding a stomach virus.
As an adult he found himself somewhere in the middle. There were times he still whined about things like a crick in the neck or the beginnings of a head cold, but when he knew things were a bit more serious, like the way he felt shortly before his cardio myopathy diagnosis, he would tend to brush those things off as nothing at all, mainly because it scared him. He didn’t like to think about his own mortality and would put it off for as long as possible.
He had never quite felt as weak as he did now. The closest was one time in Europe, while they were in the middle of a tour, he must have been about 17. He felt so bad that he could barely get himself out of bed. He called Brian in such distress, that in a panic he had called Kevin who had the police break down Nick’s door, when repeated knocking and screaming of his name yielded no results. Turned out he had a really bad virus accompanied by a high fever and slight dehydration. That was a walk in the park, compared to what he felt like now.
His whole entire body ached, from head to toe. He felt so weak that even moving his arms up to his face felt draining. The thing that really scared him the most was the pain he felt in his stomach. It was a pain unlike anything he had ever experienced before. It didn’t feel like a sour stomach or a strained muscle. It felt like something had burst. That was the best way to describe it. It was as if he had swallowed something and it ripped him apart from the inside but unlike the cool affects in Alien where the thing bursts through the guy’s stomach, this thing just stayed inside and was now slowly oozing. He felt oozey. There was the word he was looking for.
The pain wasn’t intense though, maybe that’s what actually scared him the most. When he had first crawled out of the car, he felt it then. At that second he knew he had majorly hurt himself. He had passed out at that point only to be woken by Howie’s alarmed voice as his head was being gently caressed by his friend. By then, the pain had subsided, it was never completely gone, but for the most part, there were only sudden bursts of pain, almost like a reminder that things weren’t good.
The thought that he could actually die from his injuries didn’t occur to him until he found himself having a hard time breathing. At first, he figured it was just the stress of his situation, but even just sitting still, he was breathing as hard as he usually was after doing the “Larger than Life” dance. He realized that if he didn’t get out of this soon, he wouldn’t be getting out at all.
When the truck came to a full stop, he felt Tim staring at him. He decided to keep his eyes closed hoping it might buy him more time and thankfully, that’s what seemed to happen as he heard Tim gather his bags and then shut the truck door. It was at that moment Nick realized two things, 1) his hands were still untied and 2) Tim has left the rifle in the truck.
He turned his head towards the driver’s side but made sure he didn’t make it too obvious that he was shifting in the car. He watched Tim place his bags down on the ground and then run into the house. Nick knew that was his window of opportunity, so he bent down to where the rifle was and grabbed it. The energy that it took to even do that almost was too much for him as he felt his eyes actually begin to close, so he bolted up straight, causing slight pain in his stomach but at least it woke him up. He was holding the rifle now, which was a good thing except that he had no idea how to even shoot it. Point and click was probably all there was to it, after all his father knew how to shoot a rifle so how hard could it be?
He made sure to keep it out of Tim’s site when he saw him running out of the cabin. He expected him to come to the truck and was surprised to see him instead make his way around the side of the house and out of his view.
“Thank you!” Nick looked up at the sky knowing there was a greater power up there looking out for him. Now he could make his way into the cabin, get Howie and stand there with rifle in hand just waiting for Tim to come back inside. Of course it was the healthy Nick that thought he could accomplish all those things.
He knew he was going to need a backup plan when he could barely manage to open his door and make his legs function enough to swing them out in front of him. They were numb; in fact he could barely feel anything from his stomach below. He managed to get himself out of the car and stand for just a few minutes before falling to the ground, rifle still in his hand. He was lucky it didn’t go off and he accidentally didn’t shoot himself. That’s also when he figured out it was going to be a little more complicated than just point and click.
He managed to get himself on his hands and knees’ knowing it was only a matter of time before Tim surfaced again. With all the strength he would muster, he managed to get himself back to a standing position, rifle in hand just as Tim rounded the corner and headed towards the truck.
This was not how he planned it, but it would have to do.
“Where’s Howie?” He had asked trying his best to aim the rifle at his enemy, the man that had caused him and his friend so much grief.
At least he managed to catch Tim off guard, he couldn’t really see his face but he heard the mix of hurt and anger in his voice as he asked why it was Nick was aiming a gun at him, surprised as if he had done absolutely nothing to warrant such a reaction. Nick felt himself almost keeling over and his vision was beginning to blur but he tried his best to hide it from his captor as they continued to speak to each other. He was having a hard time even focusing on what was being said but when Tim mentioned Howie was not there, he felt a tiny bit of relief. Howie was no longer in danger, now it was just himself he had to worry about. What if Tim was lying to him though? So he insisted that he see proof of this. Sadly, that also meant he would have to move from his spot and all it took was about three steps before everything went horribly wrong.
Tim suddenly ran straight for him. His instincts told him to run but his legs had a different agenda as they just decided to collapse on him just as Tim tackled him to the ground. He dropped the rifle as he landed on his back, hitting his head but not quite knocking himself out. There was a loud pop and then, Tim was off of him. Nick tried to roll over and crawl away but he felt himself being pulled by his ankle.
“You ungrateful little prick!” He was shouting now as he continued to pull Nick towards the cabin.
“I can’t believe after all the things I have done for you; you aim my own rife at me!” Nick was on his belly as he was being pulled. He had his arms above his head and was trying to claw at the dirt and grass as he was being dragged along. Anything to try to stop Tim, but it was no use. He didn’t have the energy to fight any longer so he just stopped trying.
He must have blacked out again because the next thing he knew he was laying on the bed as Tim continued to rant. “I don’t have time for this, Nick! I should be out there looking for Howie! Because of you and your inconsideration, he’s probably dead by now.” He felt Tim sit beside him and then felt a washcloth being placed on his head. “You my friend, look like a complete mess.” He said as he continued to clean Nick’s face by dipping the cloth into a washbasin and then not really all that gently rubbing away the dirt and dried blood from his face. “I have to leave you alone for a little while. I was going to take you with me, but let’s be honest, you my little brother, are in no condition to go anywhere.” His voice was suddenly softer and gentler. “I know you didn’t mean to do what you did, heck I may have even done the same thing if I were in your position, but it can’t happen again. Not that you would be able to do much anyway.” He took the washcloth, wrung it out and placed it back in the basin.
“I’ll be back soon, you try to get some rest and when Howie and I get back, I’ll make us all some dinner. I hope the pizzas I bought haven’t gone bad.” He smiled down at Nick and placed his hand on his forehead. Much the same way Brian used to do after asking his best friend to feel his head because he was sure he had a fever.
Nick wanted to say something but he couldn’t speak so instead he nodded with his eyes barely open.
That’s when it dawned on him, Tim not only left him untied, but also left his bedroom door wide open because he knew what Nick knew, in the state he was in, he was going nowhere. His only hope for escape would be at the hands of someone else. So, he closed his eyes and searched for his beach, where he hoped Lauren and Nacho were still waiting for him.