Tears fell on the open page and blurred the words. The book did not matter to him, nothing mattered anymore.
Images flickered in his mind.
An open coffin.
Her peaceful face.
A hole in the ground.
The sun shining in a cloudless blue sky.
The vast cemetery.
People's faces, streaked with tears.
His own face, void of all emotion.
Nothing mattered.
The wetness of the tears on his face didn't even register in his mind. He was an empty vessel, incapable of feeling any emotions.
More images flickered.
Twisted metal. A white convertible, smashed and burned beyond recognition.
NCMS4EVA on the charred license plate.
An engagement ring, still in its box. It would never be slid onto the finger it was meant for.
A phone ringing. The call that shattered his world.
Their house. Now…only his.
The bus made a sharp stop but he didn't realize it.
Nothing mattered.
The screams of fans were heard from outside.
He saw his band mates getting ready to get off the bus.
He felt himself rise - the book fell from his lap to the floor. He pasted on a fake smile, and exited the bus. He was a robot, operating on automatic, doing what he had been for the past several years.
He heard the murmurs of his band mates. Comforting words, or so he figured. He didn't hear them; they were just noise in the background to him.
He heard his name being called out, but didn't respond. He heard it again and then it dawned upon him that it was not a fan calling out, but rather his friend.
He turned in the direction of the voice and saw Brian's worried face looking at him. He looked at his best friend with a blank expression.
"Nick?" Brian sounded like he was miles away, instead of right in front of him.
He didn't respond, instead, he turned and kept on walking.
"Nick!" he heard his name again, but it didn't matter. Nothing mattered.
He kept walking, not sure of where he was going. He only knew that he had to somehow get away. Get away from all the pain inside of him, the pain he was refusing to deal with because it was slowly ripping him to shreds, no longer making him whole. He hadn't felt whole since that call.
He was going to propose to her that night. He had it all planned out. A romantic picnic on their beach, followed by a moonlit walk by the water under the stars, and then he would get down on one knee and ask the girl of his dreams to be forever his.
Those plans were destroyed with a single phone call. With a single sentence even. He could still hear the nurse's voice…
"Mr. Carter? This is Nurse Jameson calling from Florida General, I'm afraid I have some bad news concerning a Mary Shant…"
Bad news. He laughed bitterly. How could the nurse put all the sorrow and horror into two words? It wasn't possible. His life didn't seem possible anymore. He felt like he was walking in a constant daze, ever since that life-changing call two weeks before.
He was twenty-two years old, and it felt like his life had ended. Nothing had meaning anymore. Nothing mattered.