“Samantha!” The voice rang through Bram’s head, causing the ringer he caught from the edge of the tub to burn harder.
“Samantha!” The voice was his father’s but heightened with horror.
“Justyce? Oh my god!” Bram tried to open his eyes, but the swell of blood forced them shut. He could only hear what was playing out. The semi-conscious state of his mind held his pain away, but he could taste blood. A salty mix of blood and tears on his lips, his body bent unnaturally with his face down in the tub. He couldn’t move or see. All he could do was taste and hear. Neither were good senses.
“The ambulance is on their way” Sam spoke but not to him. He could sense the commotion behind him. Pictured his skull cracked open and brains leaking out with a steady stream of blood pouring from his broken face, but no one spoke to him. The calming words were behind him, to Justyce, which meant she was alive still, but Bram didn’t feel alive. Or at least, he didn’t want to with the amount his blood was filing the tub under him.
Good. Bram thought of the ambulance coming. They would give him pain killers and save him. The strange part was he felt no hands on him, no towels, no firm pressure to stop the bleeding. To prevent his life from spiralling out of control, down towards a pit of pain. Swelling in his skull to cause brain damage, he could be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. His anxiety swam and buried him deeper under waves of pain and fear.
Obscura failed him, and he couldn’t find the dark matter to lift himself onto. There was no exit from this red muffled swelling, and this was a new void. There was no exit, no meaning—just pain.
Help. He tried to voice, but the words bubbled and choked him. They stuck as a hard knot in his throat. He tried to cough and gasp but felt paralyzed.
He tried to recount what brought him to this broken neck position, but the memory seemed to fade him, as did every memory. He couldn’t recall his grandmother’s name, and he knew he didn’t call his father Dad but couldn’t remember what his real name was. Bram tried to furrow his brows and think harder, but the pulsating heartbeat in his temple caused the blood to push further in his mouth. Only his tongue protected him from being forced to breathe it.
His father’s words sounded alien. Another language, no longer making sense. A woman’s voice too was two tones too high, the panic apparent. He remembered only Obscura. For so many years, the comfort offered to him, and if he could enter, it would allow him to see. The words behind were a confusing collage of emotion.
“Where the hell did the gun come from?” a woman.
“It’s mine, for bears.” father.
“We don’t have bears, Thomas!” woman.
“We might. It was precautionary.” father.
“Well, it didn’t work too well here!” upset the woman.
“I never thought….” Father sounds sad.
“You should have thought harder. Look what your son has done!” woman.
“It was locked up.” Father sounds confused.
“Her face is mangled. It will never be the same.” Crying woman.
More crying, more shrieking. Still, neither of their hands were on Bram, and no one was trying to stop his bleeding.
He tried his eyes again, but the blood pooled heavily in his lids. His nose felt wrong, and when he moved his tongue around in his mouth, there were cracking snaps of bone and then a shock of the brilliant white light of pain. Agony drowned out the arguments of his father and the woman. He had a sense there was another in the room, but he couldn’t remember who it would be either.
There was only a void of shades, a pooling of blood under and in his cheek but no relief. Nothing pure enough to call it Obscura. Layers of pain, agony, and torment from his childhood. Loneliness left by his absent friends. His deceased grandmother, his mentally ailing mother. He was trapped in a dark world, not even the one he had wanted to persevere in. Then, unconsciousness came—pain-free darkness.
I’m on a ship. It’s rolling back and forth, and people are unloading boxes and crates of goods: cheddar cheese wheels, bags of rice, bottles of wine. I’m in a line of several others, and the ship jolts again as a box falls and the contents shatter to the floor. A precarious bottle rolls under a table, and I am drawn it too. On the label, a crow. The cork is nearly out, my hand hardly touches it, and it opens. The top is in one hand and the apparent empty bottle in the other. I’m confused and peer into the bottle’s empty just as a silvery cloud emits from the glass. It wraps its warmth around my face, and the silver soon turns to black. It’s Obscura coming to greet me once more, it had been bottled up, but now, as I offer it my everything to return, it has come. The darkness is like an old friend, its comfort is welcome, and I graciously accept its offer to enter. I leave the ship and follow the path back.
“Abram Blashke?” The voice was unfamiliar.
“Abram?” A cold hand touched his arm. He jolted from the waters of his hazy dream but couldn’t pull himself entirely out. The smell of intravenous fluids stung his swollen nose. His head throbbed and threatened to throw him back under. Bram could feel the painkillers seep into his bloodstream numbing everything nicely, but he still could not open his eyes. Trying for a different part, he told his hand to reach out. To touch anything close enough to be touched. His hand buckled back to the bed only after an inch or so moving upward.
“Son, can you hear me?” This wasn’t his father. Why was he calling him a son? Bram’s mind spun, trying to piece together what happened in the bathroom. The gun, the taste of blood.
He had saved his stepsister’s life, but what was her name? Obscura had held her, Bram had given he had and thrown it through Obscura. It physically took him for the first time in his life from one side of the stable door to the other. He hadn’t just seen inside the bathroom, and he had appeared inside the restroom. The revelation was unique to him, and he instantly tried to pull Obscura back to him now. His swollen face may not show who was standing over him, but Obscura could.
A resounding ‘no’ echoed through his head from no one, and Obscura failed him once more. As if it was the last freebie that took him from the drowning waters of his sleep. He sensed he had slept for a long time.
A silhouette of his stepsister’s face appeared through the darkness, not from Obscura but his memory. The cloud residing and the scene coming back to him. Justyce had lost herself to the perfection of beauty, and she had to rip apart her soul to piece it back together into something she was not. The picture she had created for others had secretly ripped her to shreds, and Bram had stopped the last tare.
He saw his father’s Smith and Weston, Thomas’ gun. In her hand, the barrel in her mouth. Obscura presented him just in time to cause the gun to shift, sending the bullet to rip out Justyce’s perfectly smooth cheek and lodge itself in the wall rather than her head. The shock of her eyes had been astounding. He had seen her eyes, he remembers now. The instant gratitude and regret had shown, and Bram had recognized it. He had accepted the silent thanks from her the instant before his father slammed him into that bathtub. The one that broke his face.
It seemed a world away.
t The recollection of their reaction was firm. However, how – his father and step-mother blamed him. The panic in the room was for Justyce, not Bram.
He could force a nod to the stranger, but there was no way to ask to see or touch to tell whom it was. There were no colours, no shapes, no symbols of any type to relate to. He did not incline whom the voice was coming from, and the cold hand refused to leave his forearm. The icy fingertips lingered, spreading the cold feeling up his arm to his heart, which was still beating irregularly in his chest, slamming against the sore rib. Each beat told him how many ribs were broken, four, maybe five. If he could see, he would pump up the pain killer intake.
“Okay, that’s a yes.” A different voice.
“Good, then we can begin.” The cold hand seemed to speak the words straight in his ear, which did not hurt the only body part.
“My name is Officer Joshua Pekita. You are being charged with attempted murder against your stepsister, Justyce Follard. You have the right to and are advised to obtain a lawyer in this matter before answering any questions to myself or any other deputy to the Colby Sheriff’s office. Your father has refused to press charges, but, in this instance, the state of Rawlins County, Kansas, is continuing forward. You are currently apprehended in KCU Hospital.” The cold hand finally moved, and Bram realized why he was unable to reach his hand up. They were restrained to the hospital bed. He was under arrest! The words sunk in only slightly before the different voice stepped back in. With a much more medical persona to it, it did nothing to make Bram feel any better.
“Mr. Blashke, you have sustained fractures to the orbital wall and zygomatic bone in your face. Causing potentially irreversible damage to the oculus, both left and right. You have undergone three reconstructive surgeries to rebuild your nasal cavity. The damaged tissue has caused swelling and pressures down to your voice reeds. Only time will tell if your voice will return. You had been in a medically induced coma over the last several weeks…”
Bram broke the voice off from speaking as he lashed out. Throwing his arms and legs as best he could, at least his feet came up a few inches off the bed. He felt his left shin collide with something substantial, doubtful it would cause much damage. He willed the restraints away, so he could jump onto his feet and start swinging. He is a big guy, and indeed, he could hurt one of these twerps in the room. His anger fizzled quickly, though, as Obscura reminded him he had nothing left to fight for. In the darkness of his swollen, broken eyes, all he had left were imaginary curtains of what Obscura used to offer him. He could no longer crawl into the confines to escape his reality. He was lashed down to where he was, and he would go no further than this.
He wanted to tell them he had saved his sister’s life, and they can’t press charges. They should hail him as a hero. A second longer, an emotionless to give to Obscura, and that bullet would be planted deep in her brain. She was ending her life for good.
“What?” Office Pekita’s presence suddenly came closer, his hand refusing to warm on Bram’s arm. Impossible, he had thought, this cop must be cold-blooded. To have his palm linger this long and still not warm, as ice crystals were strong enough to take over hell itself. Bram realized his words came out jumbled and unclear, but he was trying his best. He wanted the command to be precise and to the point. He wanted this cop to let go of his arm, not speak to him any longer and vacate the premises. He felt sick to his stomach this talk of pressing charges, a million questions whirled around in his mind, but his throat was sore and overly dry. His eyes let only a ray of light, but even that ray did nothing to subdue his conscious.
I want my mother. Bram stated in his mind. Planting the words to spread over Obscura and hopefully reach these men. He stopped jerking on the bed, giving in to the bite of the cuffs.
I want my mother. He repeated, moving his lips gingerly and testing the pain level of his larynx. Even mumbling, a slight hum burned his throat, and he tasted the metallic of blood once more.
“Mvvvrrr” The letters roared a new level of pain, and this time he knew it was tearing, wetting his cheeks.
“Don’t try to speak, Bram. It will only make the healing process worse.” The medical voice came once more.
“MMVVVRRR” He forced the letters harder, and he could feel the swelling increase. Threatening to swell shut even for him to breathe.
“Give him more sedative. He shouldn’t be trying to speak.” There were noises of rustling in the room. Bram knew certainly there were only a few short moments left. As he once had pulled everything he could through Obscura, he now removed it from within him. After losing everything he had ever known in life, he needed just one thing now beside him—his mother.
“Caw Mvvvrrr” A cold salamander touch returned to his arm, and he felt a new coolness. The cool tip of a needle touching the sensitive skin of his wrist. He tried to pull away from it, but the leather straps kept them tight to the bedsheet. He pictured the white of the sheets turned red from his blood tears rolling down his cheeks. Before the drugs took full effect, he threw his words into the room, not caring what damage they would cause later.
“Call my MOTHER” Echoed dramatically through the room, his eyes didn’t droop from the drugs since they were too purple swollen and shut before the drugs hit. His nose and upper cheekbones had several pins and metal plates, one of which could catch the UV lights in the hospital room. The stitches burst open from his force of words, and the blood spilt faster onto his bedsheets. The doctor hurried to increase the sedation.
The nursing staff scurried in the hallway. Not a soul entered his room. Long gone were the earlier company. When the buzz of the benzos faded, he wasn’t sure how long he had been napping. When he woke again, it was only the Miranda rights that swirled in his mind. Ensuring there was no dispute further down the road of, ‘I didn’t know.’
No doctor came again. He could hear footsteps pause at this door but never enter. The pressure of his IV line increased at times, possibly to keep him subdued and hydrated. Enough, so no one else had to care for him. No television to keep him company. Not even enough pain killer to get him high, he was stuck in limbo, between the hell of being prosecuted for saving his sister and the heaven of a drug-induced state where he would think of nothing whatsoever.
“I’m here, sweet pea” His Mother’s hand was warm on his own. The fog of the drug faded, and only the darkness returned. The black blood fuzz of swelling refused to allow him to see through even the tiniest slit in his eyes. Bram wanted to cry, but the sting of emotion ended as a lump stuck behind his restricted nose and jaw bone. All he could muster was a whine.
“Your father’s here too. And Sam.” Two more warm hands touched his skin, and they were all warm. All loving, all still above the thick Velcro straps, held his arms to the bed.
“Hi, son” His father’s voice sounded sad.
“Bram…” Sam began, but something hushed her.
“Your Dad and I, we’ve had a long talk with Sam too. We have all come to a mutual understanding, and I’ve apologized for any terrorizing I’ve done to them. My pills, they’ve healed me, Bram.” Victoria’s voice was bursting with emotion; joy, shame, adoration and even love. There was no sadness. No sorrows underlying her words, and they finally sounded genuine. Something Bram could not remember ever having the luxury of hearing. The cobwebs of depression were seemingly dissipated entirely from her demeanour.
Without sight in the room full of his family, Bram pictured his father and Sam sat to his right. Both their hands on him, his fathers now rested on his shoulder as if he were standing and possibly had one arm around Sam. Indeed, Sam would want to look proper coming to the hospital so that she would have showered and curled her hair beautifully down her shoulders. He couldn’t picture how his mother looked. The only face that came to his mind was the long-agonized expression she wore for the last decade of his life. He said silent prayers to Obscura to return. Then he could see her, through the dark plane, as she was now. She has healed from her deep depression and truly happy. Something he had wanted so badly, and now, he couldn’t even enjoy the sight of it.
It did not sadden him, though
t. It did not make him happy either. He felt indifferent. Bram could feel the love was coming through his family’s hold. All their palms face down on his hospital blanket, but that gave him no joy either. As the stationary grip began to warm and sweat, he even felt his mother bring her head down to his chest. It still did nothing to his heart. It felt frozen, cold and undone.
“Son,” Thomas’ voice now was in turn. “Bram. The police will not back down on the charges.” He choked then, and a sob emitted into the room.
“We know you were trying to help Justyce. And she’s okay, but they are keeping her on suicide watch. We had no idea there was anything wrong!” Sam tripped over her words, stuttering with sympathy and regret at once. He could hear his father quietly crying between her words. His hand was shuddering as he kept a hold on Bram.
The confusion was dissipating, and he was beginning to see the picture clearer. Justyce had some severe demons of her own. Creeping at the corners of her mind, threatening to drown her if she didn’t keep paddling. He felt nothing for her, he knew it should be empathy or pity, but there was nothing. He knew she had been a good older sister to him, but he couldn’t conjure up love for her. Bram held his face stone as his family spoke on around him.
“She underwent reconstructive surgery, skin grafting, and the doctors aren’t even certain yet, but at least she’s alive. It’s thanks to you, Bram, and she’s alive because of you!” Sam disclosed. She spoke so steadily, as though she were reading a doctor report rather than stating the outcome when her daughter attempted to blow out her brains.
“I’m so sorry, son. I’m so sorry, and I don’t even. They said you might lose you….” Thomas agonized, but a quick jolt to his shoulder stopped him. Bram felt it through to his chest where his father’s hands lay. Sam had jabbed him to cut off the sentence. Bram didn’t have to ask him to continue, and he already knew the end. It was his eyes. He might lose his vision forever. He felt his fingertips around, looking for the smooth narcotic button to give himself another jolt of painkillers.
“Bram, what you did, what I did!” His father couldn’t get a sentence out, and he was whining like an invalid. Bram clicked the button twice; the sound of an IV drip came to life. He tried to smile from the rush of morphine, but the pain denied him that possibility.
Victoria spoke, through the rushing blanket of pain killer, “you did something amazing here, Bram. We will fight and make sure they know the truth. Even if Justyce cannot…” her voice faded further from the room. Morphine did its trick and loosened the painful tongue in Bram’s mouth. He licked the roof of his mouth and moved it around for some practice, and just as Obscura always had pulled him through to an alternate dimension, so too would this morphine if he waited too long.
His jaw stung, his tear ducts burned, and everything felt it was suddenly bleeding at once as Bram opened his cracked lips, “Dad.”
Bram woke again or at least woke to how he could. He knew there were bandages over his face, and he felt the classic stick and rip of gauze as he explored the movements of his features. There wasn’t much movement, and the swelling was still thick. He could smell his mother, and she had begun wearing perfume and smelt of dried flowers and citrus. The best sense he had now, his smell.
“The police won’t drop the charges, and Justyce may be incapable of speaking for some time. They need to have medications figured out for her, have a psych evaluation and so on. We will go to court for you, and we will fight, so you don’t go to jail. We have contacted a lawyer, and he says we might get it down to level two assault.” Victoria laid out the facts before inhaling to delve into the tricky part.
“Your father is proud of you, Bram, and so I am. You saved your step
–sisters life and risked your own.” His mother’s speech began. A first in his life, hearing his mother overtake the conversation, taking charge the way she did, made him want to smile, but the emotion and facial movement both lacked conviction. “Your father is devastated for what he did to you. It pains him to see the damage to your eyes, and the doctors say your throat and vocal cords will have a full recovery, eventually. The eyes, however, are more difficult to predict. With therapy and possibly future surgeries, you may get back some vision. Your father is having a hard time accepting this, but as a son, I am proud of what you gave to save Justyce. That is real love, a real commitment. Real family, and I am here for you, for whatever you may need.” Her words began to rock him to sleep. They continued. Bursting with gratification and still, the pride just slid off his heart and fell to the bed straps locked him down.