A/n: this chapter is unedited, I gave my helpful beta reader a day off for memorial day. Actually she’s having pc troubles.
The first thing that gripped Howie was how cold the place was and he wasn’t referring to the weather. There was a sense of pure evil in the air. The kind of emotion he knew all too well when he wasn’t in his best moods. The anger and hatred that lingered were suffocating him. He wasn’t known for his temper but he was as human as everybody else, there were things in the past that had him hating the world. He felt that negativity now gnawing at his heart.
“Careful Howie, you don’t want to give in to them this early.” Dwayne whispered, taking him by surprise. They had been walking aimlessly for what felt like months and no one had spoken up. Scott said that they had to path out their own way and that, Scott and his friends were only there to shield them and guide them, not to present the answers in their hands.
“Give in to them?” Howie asked, unsure of what he meant by that.
“This place is full of bad emotions, it feeds on unsuspecting travellers like you. If you give in to those emotions, you’ll be blinded from the truth.”
“Travellers?” Brian, who had been listening to the conversation, asked.
“The humans that were brought by our people to this world are called travellers. Like you.” Scott explained.
“And Dwayne’s right, you have to control what you’re feeling and thinking cause if you don’t, you tend to get them mixed up with the atmosphere here. Emotions and feelings that aren’t yours.”
Kevin rubbed his chest subconsciously. “You mean, this is just how things are in this realm?”
“Not entirely. What you’re feeling right now are emotions from fellow travellers like yourselves. Except that they aren’t as lucky as you. They have no shielders to guide them, mostly been brought here by the people of this realm. Some went into complete oblivion and lost their souls here for eternity. Nick and AJ are among them.” Thomas said.
Brian nodded. It seemed like the more they asked, the more surprises came their way. He wished the Shielders would tell them everything, the whole ‘finding your own truth’ felt like an old game to him. Sure he had wished to be brought back to the land of the in between, it meant that they could have Nick for a while longer. Now, he wasn’t sure if it had been a good idea after all. Maybe Nick was better off dead than lost. Brian shrugged the thoughts away. He didn’t even want to begin to wonder about AJ.
“So we’ve been walking for awhile now guys, what are we suppose to look for, really? I mean, I know we have to find the answers ourselves, but it feels like I’m not getting anything at all.” Kevin said, sounding a little desperate. It scared Brian; he was hoping that Kevin would lead the way, like he always does.
James stopped on his track, turning back to look at them. “What do you think Nick and AJ are feeling right now?”
Brian gave it a thought. “Well, we’ve been away for awhile now, they must be worried.”
“Probably scared too.” Howie said. “I think AJ doesn’t really like having to accompany Nick to the hospital today.”
“Why do you think he feels that way?” Scott asked.
“He’s not…used to comforting others and it kills him to see Nick so sick.” Kevin replied.
“But wasn’t Nick okay this morning?” Gene, who had been silent throughout the entire conversation, suddenly asked.
“He is…but we weren’t too sure until he sees a doctor.” Brian replied.
“What do you think Nick’s feeling right now?” Gene asked.
Brian’s gaze dropped to the ground. It hurt the worst to have to look at Gene and knowing that their Nick was somewhere out there, probably scared to death. He had to, if he was really the only one seeing the bad people.
“He’s probably confused.”
Kevin nodded. “Scared I bet.”
Scott nodded, which amused Howie, seeing two Kevin nodding at each other. “Well then, you feel all these emotions around you and they’re there among them. All you have to do is separate them and find Nick and AJ.”
Howie frowned. “That’s not as easy as it sounds. Everyone we’re feeling is confused, scared and alone. Not to mention some are angry and full of hate. How are we to know which ones are Nick and AJ?”
“I’ll help you with that.” James said and touched Howie’s shoulder.
Howie didn’t have to think for long; at the sight of the messed up bed and the consoles left carelessly on the floor, he knew AJ and Nick had paid a visit to his room while he was gone. Not to mention, that hideous smelling aftershave AJ had been using lately. He could smell him from ten blocks away.
He stood in the middle of the room, counting back from ten and letting himself calmed down. The things he’d do to them if he ever finds them again…
But instead, he cleared his mind, trying to figure out where they would be at that moment. A surprise counter attack to them had long overdue. Perhaps he could call Kevin to help him out. He’d ask Brian for the man could practically sniff Nick out but he had the suspicions that Brian might be covering for the rascals.
He took out his cell phone and started dialling. That was it, he had had enough, the kids are going down. “Kevin? It’s me.”
“Whoa, what was that!” Brian cried after the last vision blurred away.
Howie’s eyes went wide. “You saw it too?” Brian nodded.
“Me three.” Kevin said.
“Were they meant to see that?” Howie asked.
“Yes. Don’t worry Howie, we wouldn’t share them your past if it wasn’t necessary.” Gene explained.
“So, you’re trying to tell us that we could sniff them apart from the rest?” Brian asked, feeling stupid for asking.
“You know you can sense them even without their presence there. How many times have you just look at one another and knew what they were thinking before they even say it? And how many times have you sensed someone in the group feeling down and wanted so badly to ask them? You’re not imagining those things; you did really feel them. Most people do when they spent a long time with another person. You can distinguish them from the rest, you just have to focus and feel.” Scott said.
Gene nodded, his face contorted in a frown. “And I suggest you try it now because Nick’s not doing so good and I have a feeling neither is AJ.”
AJ was restless, he didn’t know what to do with himself. It felt like there were more that he could offer but found nothing other than sit by the bed and watched Nick groaning in his sleep.
What do you give someone who seemed to be in pain and yet was sleeping at the same time? He wasn’t sure if it was better to wake him up seeing that he would only be subjected to more pain, being awake.
He had given up calling the others, it seemed that the lines were either busy or they had switched them off. He had the suspicions that the meeting ended hours ago and yet nobody cared to call.
He sat there feeling mad at them, betting with himself that they were probably out, having fun, before coming back and facing what Nick had to say. Sure the whole deal was weird, but shouldn’t they just be glad that Nick’s okay now?
Another soft groan escaped and AJ corrected himself. He’s not okay, now. And it scared him to death.
The anger turned to worry. Maybe they had met with an accident out there? Maybe they saw what Nick saw back on the road.
He stole another glance at the alarm clock by the side table. They had been gone for far too long. He felt like screaming, or do something crazy like trashing the room apart because he was stuck with a babysitting job he didn’t even want in the first place. He didn’t want to be held responsible should Nick died under his watch just because he wasn’t sure enough of what to do.
No, they couldn’t be in an accident. There would be numerous phone calls by now if they did. And Kevin wouldn’t let them have a night out when all they were looking forward to was coming back home and find out what the doctor had to say.
“AJ stop thinking about a million and one things at a time, you’re not Kevin!” AJ sighed out loud.
Nick was stirring again in his sleep. “Shit…sorry dude, didn’t mean to think out loud.”
AJ sighed. “He’s not here man. Nobody’s fucking here except me. And how come you’re calling for Rok, what, I’m not good enough for ya lil man?” AJ smirked, wondering how he could even joke around when he was actually panicking inside.
Nick didn’t seem to hear him, in fact, he was still asleep, mumbling their names one after another. AJ wondered if he should say something but figured it wouldn’t make a difference, he doubt Nick could hear him. But when he finally called for ‘Bone’, AJ felt compelled to say something.
“I’m here man, tell me what you want me to do cause I have no fucking clue.”
Nick remained asleep although AJ doubt it was a deep one. It was like watching someone caught in the middle of a nightmare that they couldn’t wake up from and he watched, unsure of what to do.
“Okay AJ, what would Kevin do? Think, think!” He started pacing the room, almost certain that no one could ever begin to imagine what always goes on inside Kevin’s head. “Well, maybe Kristin might but I’m not gonna call her and sound like some wanted psycho.”
And it hit him out of nowhere.
“Damn it, I’m good!”
Nick woke up feeling relieved that there was no Death look a like hanging around in the games room. He wasn’t even sure how he ended up in the games room but hoped it meant that the others were back. He needed to talk to all of them before he went crazy.
AJ was nowhere in sight so Nick pulled himself out of bed and headed out of the room. It was amazing how he felt totally fine once again. Maybe, the Death had all been one huge nightmare.
He found AJ in the guest room next door, talking on his cell phone and decided to leave him alone and went looking for the others.
The house was strangely silent. It was as if nobody else was home. The alarm clock on the desk showed it was almost nine. They had to be home by now.
“Nick, what the hell are you doing up?”
He turned and found AJ coming out of the guest room. He was frowning. “You shouldn’t be up, I’m not gonna carry you back to the room again dude.”
“AJ chill man, I’m okay.”
“Heck no you’re not okay! You were in pain just seconds ago dude, I’m not taking anymore chances!”
“Where’re the guys?”
“How fuck would I know! Nothing’s making sense anymore! Am I the only one who’s seeing the big picture here? Cause let me tell you, there’re a lot of holes in them!”
Nick swayed. Come to think of it, now he’s getting just a little bit giddy. Someone needs to tell AJ that while they’re standing not a meter away from each other, there were no real reasons to start yelling.
“Dude, you okay there buddy?” AJ asked, his voice now sounding concerned.
“They should be back by now. Did you call Jive?” Nick asked, ignoring his question. AJ walked over to him and shook his head. “I called but nobody’s picking up the damn phone. I really don’t know where they are Nick.”
“That can’t be right…what if…what if something-”
“Nothing happened.” AJ cut in. “If something did, this place is gonna be swarmed by now.”
Nick felt that faint throbbing returning. It always started from his belly button and then it would spread until he couldn’t stand it anymore. Just like back when they were on the red carpet, it all started with a throb.
“Look, I’m trying to handle things around here while they’re MIA okay? I don’t even know what the heck to do but I think we should take care of you first. Frankly, you’re beginning to scare me a little.” AJ said, looking at Nick. “Well, a lot.”
“What did you do J?”
“I called the hospital.”
Nick shook his head, already displeased with the idea. “Bone, I don’t wanna go back there okay? I’m fine right here, if I go all sick on you again, just give me my meds.”
“Dude, hold up! I’m not sending you back to the hospital, although I think that’s what Kevin might do if in my position.” AJ said. “They’re sending a nurse over to look after you. I’ll feel much better knowing there’s someone around I can look for when you’re sick.”
Nick looked at him in disbelief.
“I made sure she’s foxy.”
There was no time to argue, the doorbell just rang, and Nick had a feeling that it was his nurse waiting outside.
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