Which wasn’t remarkable, or new in any way, because it had been cold forever. But it was the only thing he noticed at the time. It was the only thing he ever noticed, it seemed. He couldn’t remember a time when it hadn’t been cold. And he had stopped caring a long time ago.
What he did care about, however, were three things. The first was the feeling of scorching fire in his right leg. It seemed strange, contrasting with the everlasting numb feeling of ice in his veins. It was odd.
The second thing was that he seemed to be completely and utterly alone. He vaguely remembered someone rocking him and their desperate cries in his ears.
Something about the burden of being a father. He had contemplated that for a while, although he couldn’t possibly figure out what it meant. But soon enough, the dizzying rocking had stopped and he was actually glad for that.
Until he figured out that it now meant that he was alone.
He looked around the field. The burden on his legs was gone. That may have been considered as strange, but Brian did not have enough energy left to figure out the meaning behind that. He didn’t try to get up.
The last thing was that it was slowly getting darker. His world was getting blurry, fading around the edges, drowning in a surreal kind of dream world. He’d tried to move, but found that it was nearly impossible. He’d tried to scream, but no sound could penetrate the deafening silence. There was nothing here, he realized, besides grass and dirt and snow, and even those things seemed unreal.
Yet, he had no idea how to leave.
They lay together, curled up in the warm hotel bed. He felt her soft, comforting kisses on his head.
Normally, that would make it seem better, if only just a little. Now, it just made him feel number. He didn’t want that, although it was probably better than letting his feelings go.
How and when they had decided to go back to the hotel, he didn’t know. It must have been when the other women showed up, which had marked the absolute and complete meltdown for that morning. He could still see Leighanne freaking out, her shocked expression, the wild look in her eyes. He’d never seen anything quite like that.
“I can’t do this, Lauren,” he whispered, taking a shaky breath, “Not again.”
Lauren nodded. She could understand to some degree.
Although she’d known he hadn’t been directly involved in the accident, it had still come as a shock when she found out the whole story about what happened. She hadn’t known Brian that well, but in the six years she’d been with Nick, she knew he’d meant a lot to her husband. Watching a friend die slowly took everything out of him.
“It’ll be okay,” she mumbled softly, her lips only an inch from his ear.
Nick suddenly shook his head wildly, pulling away slightly, “Don’t say that! You don’t know!” he choked, then his features softened and he laid his head on her shoulder wearily, “You know, last time with… with Les… that nearly killed me. I can’t go through that again. I just can’t.”
Lauren sat up a little, touching his face, “Hey,” she said, “Let’s not get ahead of things, alright? He’s still alive. You don’t know what’s going to happen.”
“I do!” Nick exclaimed, feeling the breath hitch in his throat, “I can feel it. He’s fading, I can feel him dying. It’s awful.”
His wife frowned slightly, guiding his head back to her shoulder, “Oh honey…” she whispered, “Don’t think like that. You’re only working yourself up like this.”
Nick decided not to say anything after that. They lay together. In silence.
There was a strange feeling of anticipation, a hovering fear deep inside him, although he had no idea what for.
The world was dark, too dark, he realized. It wasn’t a very good place to be in right now. He didn’t know what was happening, or if there was anything happening at all. He didn’t know why he was alone, or why his leg felt like it was on fire, while the rest of him was cold as stone. He only knew the field was getting blurry as it was fading into darkness, and that wasn’t supposed to happen.
The meaning was a word that floated around in his mind, though he couldn’t quite grasp onto it. Why was he still here? Why couldn’t he just get up and leave? Why did it have to hurt so much?
Where was everybody?
He shivered violently, looking around the misty field for the thousandth time. There was nothing notable around him, except for maybe the smoldering ashes of the dying fire beside him.
He tasted the word, repeating it a few times in his head. His eyes widened and a strange, uncomfortable feeling deep within him grew large. Was that what was happening? Was that why he was alone? Desperately trying to remember the last clear thing that could come to mind, he struggled and screamed, his painful leg scraping across the frozen ground. He’d been with AJ, he remembered now. And Nick…
Nick had called for his help. And Brian had been stuck.
He had fought to get free, but had instead landed in this blurry waste-land. There was nothing here, no AJ, no Nick, no life.
He was shaking uncontrollably now, still trying to fold his legs under him in order to get up. Scrambling, his fingers failed to get a good grip, and he fell a few times before finally steadying himself. Crouching, he tried to keep his balance as he slowly stood up. His vision wavered, blackening every few seconds. He was breathing hard, fear crushing his mind and paralyzing his muscles.
The idea seemed absurd, but was the only real explanation for his faltering surroundings and the surreal loneliness he felt. The cold flashed inside him, choking his thoughts, weakening his strength. He desperately scoured the vague land around him, taking a careful step and cringing when his weight was moved to his right leg.
He screamed and cried and soon, he was running, not knowing where to go. The field seemed to be never ending, repeating itself every few moments as he ran.
His bare feet sank into the soppy ground, which made it all that much harder to get forward.
He abruptly halted when he saw something moving. It was far away and almost unnoticeable. He took a deep breath, coughing as he slowly inched closer, willing his aching feet to move. Soon, he could see that it wasn’t something.
It was someone. It was Nick.
He gasped as he recognized the features. Maybe he wasn’t dying. Maybe he was already dead. Nick was dead, wasn’t he?
At least he wasn’t alone anymore.
It didn’t take long for Nick to figure out he was dreaming. The field was windy, a cold breeze penetrating his very soul. The cold was unknown, beyond anything he’d ever felt. There was a slight burn in his leg, but he chose to ignore it as he looked around, amazed at the dreamscape.
This didn’t feel like a normal dream.
He stiffened as he heard a cry in the distance. It seemed wild, animalistic. He searched the farmland frantically, but couldn’t for the life of him distinguish what had made the sound. It was like he was nothing more than a witness, a spectator, unable to do anything. There was another cry, closer this time, more desperate too. It was coming for him.
This wasn’t a normal dream.
Nick breathed in sharply, making a decision. He turned around in a split second before he began to run, his feet effortlessly guiding him through the soft grass.
It seemed like he could run forever. He wasn’t getting tired and there didn’t seem to be an end to the wide-open field. Time didn’t exist. The land was barren and he was completely alone, except for whatever seemed to be chasing him from behind. He felt his heart pounding in his chest as another cry echoed over the dark grass.
And that’s when he realized something important.
This wasn’t his dream.
He gasped at the realization and turned around, halting completely. He could see him now, struggling to get forward, legs sinking into the cold ground where Nick had so easily treaded not a minute before. He seemed to be drowning, weakening before his very eyes. Nick wasted no time as he leapt forward, only to be thrown back again by a strong, invisible force.
“Brian!” he screamed.
The older man watched him with large, fear-filled eyes. His face was twisted in pain and he was breathing hard, in shallow, unmeasured gasps. He looked like he had gone ten rounds with an freight train. Nick quickly scrambled to his feet, reaching out his hand. To his surprise, Brian didn’t accept it, but only stared suspiciously. “Brian, come on!”
The injured singer frowned, shrinking back a little.
Nick watched the deformed, mangled legs sink a little deeper into the mud, and wondered how Brian had made it this far. “Come on! Let me help you!”
The other man shook his head, fear radiating from his eyes. He seemed to want to say something, but no sound came from his mouth. He struggled backwards a little more, like a scared, wounded animal, crying out in pain once more.
Nick felt warm tears gliding over his cold cheeks, carefully inching closer. It was like there was an invisible wall between him and Brian. A wall that he couldn’t break, no matter what he tried. There was only one person that could.
“Brian, please… I wanna help.”
“Leave me alone!” Brian choked out finally. Nick felt his own knees weaken as Brian’s fear and confusion was overpowering his own. His feet were sinking into the malicious dirt now as well, drowning both of them.
“Let me save you!” He yelled.
“You can’t save me! You couldn’t even save yourself!” Brian spat and Nick could almost feel the anger as if it were his own. The cryptic words buzzed around in his mind like a swarm of insects.
This wasn’t just a dream, this was so much more important than that.
He inched forward, jerking his feet out of the soppy mud, pressing against the wall that Brian had carefully build up between the two of them. “Please,” he whispered, “Let me through.”
“I don’t wanna die,” Brian choked and closed his eyes, “God, please don’t let me die.”
“You’re not gonna die,” Nick spoke quickly, pounding the strong, invisible wall in between them in frustration, “I’m right here, I won’t let you die.”
“You can’t help me,” Brian said, his voice just above a whisper, “You’re already dead.”
Nick’s eyes widened and he pounded his fist against the wall once more, “I’m not dead! I’m right here, I can help you. Nobody’s gonna die.”
He saw the uncertainty in his friend’s expression, saw the light slowly fading from his eyes and felt the emptiness deep within him growing. “It hurts so much,” Brian gasped.
“I know, I know, alright? But you… you have to hold on. You gotta let me through.”
“I can’t,” Brian rasped, taking a faltering breath as to prove his point, “I’m so cold.”
“No!” Nick yelled, “No! You can get through this, we both can. It’ll be alright, you’ll see. Just let me help you.”
Brian shook his head and shut his eyes tightly, “I’m sorry Nick. I’m just so tired.”
“No!” Nick hissed, slamming his entire weight against the wall, “No, don’t do this! I will never forgive you if you do this! You hear me? You understand? I can help you, Brian! I can get you out! Now break it down!”
Brian screamed. The field was gone for a second.
Nick gasped as the fierce pain fired through his entire body, invading his soul and tearing it to shreds. He panted, willing the agony to lessen. It didn’t. Through his tears, he could still see Brian. A cold resignation undisguised on his face. The wall was gone. It had been protection. Not for Brian though, for Nick. Closing his eyes, Nick felt the pain maddening his senses, felt it penetrating his deepest core. Was this how Brian had felt? How was he supposed to help when this was what it felt like? He blindly reached out his hand. He heard Brian scream something. He tried to concentrate, but it was hard, so hard. Brian screamed again, his cry ringing through the thick air.
“Nick, help!” he yelled, reaching out his hand, finally grasping Nick’s fingers with his own.
Then it was quiet, the pain gone in an instant. Nick gasped and opened his eyes. Scrambling back, until his back hit the bed’s headboard. He panted and looked around, seeing Lauren’s anxious eyes meeting his own.
He shuddered as the remnants of his nightmare quickly faded into the obscurity of his memory. He nodded wordlessly at his wife, trying to let her know that he was okay. He didn’t trust his voice though. And somewhere, in the back of his mind, he could still hear Brian’s cry for help.