Through All the Dust
Chapter Thirty: From This Afterlife
Thunder was booming just outside my window. My curtains rustled in the wind, but I was too frozen with fear to get up and close the window. I hugged my stuffed dog tightly in my arms and squeezed my eyes shut tight. I prayed for the storm to stop.
A loud crack of lightening lit of my bedroom; a shrill scream escaped from the depths of my throat. I couldn’t help it—it was all I could think to do.
A burly man came crashing through my door, sending the knob flying into the wall with a distinct thud.
“What’s wrong?” he asked in a panic.
I was shaking in my skin, my poor stuffed dog nearly suffocated by my grip.
He lightened, even smiled a little, before flicking on the light to show me that there was nothing to be afraid of. Not in the dark, anyway.
“Better?” he asked coolly as he perched himself on the edge of the bed.
I nodded but was still quite suspicious. My eyes darted around in search for monsters.
“Quit working yourself up,” he chuckled quietly. “There’s nothing in this world that’s going to get you. Not while I’m around.”
I listened with big, bug eyes. Another crack of thunder had me ducked beneath my blankets for safety. He laughed gently, pulling the blankets back to reveal my trembling young self.
“One day you’ll learn that thunder is an incredible thing,” he assured me. “I love listening to storms. Rain against the windows…lightning in the sky…it’s almost like magic.”
“It’s scary,” I argued with him.
He brushed the hair from my face, “That’s because you’re still small. One day you’ll grow up and you won’t be afraid of anything.”
“Promise?” I asked nervously.
He smiled, “I promise.”
With one last sympathetic look, he pushed himself from my bed and back to the doorway from whence he’d come. He lingered.
“Dad?” I called. “Can you leave the light on?”
“Sure,” he nodded. “Night, Blair Bear.”
A crack of lightning.
And I was awake.
Sweat was dripping from every pore. The pain in my leg was radiating up through my hip and into my spine. I groaned with discomfort.
“Blair?” Brian asked worriedly, springing out from his chair and over to my bedside.
“Pain,” I said simply, trying to breathe through it.
Brian started frantically hitting the button to elicit nurses’ attention. He soothed and consoled me as we waited. He brushed the hair from my face and immediately my dream came flooding back. It had felt so…real.
“I had a dream about my dad,” I told him, trying to distract myself.
He looked genuinely surprised, “Really?”
I nodded, “It was really vivid…Super strange.”
“What was it about?”
“Um…I was little,” I smiled fondly at how tiny my hands had looked in the dream. “It was storming outside, kind of like it is now…and he came to comfort me.”
Brian’s face turned sympathetic.
“It isn’t a metaphor,” I groaned.
He laughed a little, nodding at me, “Sure it isn’t.”
“Maybe it’s a memory,” I suggested. “I don’t have any of him…so…it could be…right?”
“Could be,” he agreed.
“It’s all the drugs,” I told him seriously. “They’re making me loopy as shit.”
A nurse flew in and checked me out. She disappeared for a while and when she came back, she had the doctor in tow. He asked me a couple of questions, I answered them, and he decided that my pain tolerance was pretty high—but that my drug therapy was too low.
“I’m having weird dreams,” I told him. “Is that normal?”
He just nodded.
I looked at Brian smugly, “Told you.”
“You should start to feel more relaxed soon,” the doctor assured me. “Let us know if you need us.”
Everyone had been through to see me throughout the day. Lauren had sat on my bed and sobbed her pretty little eyes out. I assured her I was fine, but she was not convinced. Lauren was the perfect excuse to get Brian to leave my side. He hadn’t been home since the whole thing had started and he was in desperate need of a shower. And a change of clothes. He looked sleep-deprived and absolutely exhausted. Lauren had agreed to look after me while Brian was away—but Brian was hesitant to leave. When he did leave, he was back within a few hours. So much for a break for him.
Tom and I’d had a private conversation, smoothing out our less than idyllic conversation before everything got chaotic. He’d assured me I didn’t need to apologize, and I’d maintained that I did. Marge had fallen all over me, despite my little wails and weeps of pain. She was adamant that my living was a miracle—and that she was so relieved to hear my sarcastic voice.
My aunt was ordering everyone around like the boss that she was. It worked to my benefit, though. I had a decent meal and extra soft pillows. I was touched that she’d come in just for me. I’d also given Brian distinct instructions to cover all of her and the Brody’s expenses while they were in town. He’d agreed like it was obvious.
I was sleeping when the Avenged guys had come up. Matt had been texting me nearly nonstop and Zacky had sent flowers. Johnny brought take out, which was ice cold by time I got around to it; I ate it anyway.
“Bri, why don’t you go home?” I suggested sleepily as my body began to warm.
He eyed me strangely, “You are my home.”
I smiled, “You know what I mean…I’m sure you’re tired.”
“I’ll sleep right here,” he grinned, climbing into my bed and cozying himself up next to me.
I wiggled into his chest and closed my eyes.
“Have I mentioned lately how glad I am that you’re okay?” he asked quietly.
“Me too,” I answered softly, dozing in and out. “I told you I wouldn’t leave this place.”
He sighed a little.
“Bri,” I whispered. “You’re my best friend, you know that?”
I drifted out to sea, floating on the serene waves of morphine. My body was heavy and warm, and I felt like I was starting out a long-term hibernation. But, of course, nothing good lasts forever.
“Blair,” a voice was whispering harshly in my face. “Blair.”
My eyes slowly parted. A grinning, toothy demon with ice blue eyes was staring back at me.
“Hello, sunshine,” he laughed.
I rubbed at my eyes to try and erase the haunt. It didn’t work. Over my shoulder, I could see Brian was still breathing softly, fast asleep.
This is a dream.
“Hi,” I said weakly, struggling to sit up.
Jimmy reached his long arms out and hooked his hands beneath my arms, steadying me as we pulled my body up. I thanked him quietly, a little embarrassed.
“Well look at you,” he sighed. “Still have your legs?”
I nodded sleepily, “They’re out on loan.”
He laughed a little, “Does it hurt?”
“Like a bitch.”
He looked sullen to hear this. He stuffed his hands into his pockets and examined the floor around his feet uncomfortably.
“You’re going to be okay, right?” he asked finally, daring to look up at me.
“So, they say,” I shrugged. “I have a lot of broken—”
He interrupted me quickly, “I didn’t really mean now…”
I furrowed my brows in confusion.
“Never mind,” he smiled.
I found myself studying the lines in his face; the flecks in his eyes. It had been so long since I’d seen him, in life or in death…and I wanted to keep his memory burned into my mind. I needed to remember him in ways that I’d forgotten others. He looked disinterested in my attempts.
Maybe even uncomfortable.
“Stop staring at me,” he snickered.
“You know,” he said, pacing around slowly. “I find it a little ridiculous that I leave you alone for two minutes and you go and nearly get yourself killed. You’re supposed to be responsible.”
“Responsible,” I scoffed. “You and I used to get into so much trouble. I think I used to be responsible—you know, until I met you.”
“I livened up your life!” he laughed.
I laughed too, but it wasn’t necessarily joyful, “You did.”
“Look,” he shifted his weight, “I’m sorry that…you know, I had to…It doesn’t matter. But I’m sorry.”
“What?” I choked a little, struggling to understand.
“My kid’s lucky to have you,” he told me sweetly. “You grew up an orphan…so…you can help them through it…Missing someone.”
I’d never had a dream where Jimmy had known he was…gone. This was surreal. My heart began to palpitate—I told myself it must be the drugs.
I made a mental note to ask the doctor to pull back on the drugs a touch. Enough that I wouldn’t hallucinate anymore.
“Your son,” I told him, just in case I wasn’t hallucinating.
It seemed like something he should know.
“It’s a boy,” I smiled.
He pumped his fist into the air, “Fuck yeah it is!”
Brian stirred a little beside me. Jimmy’s eyes flittered from me to his sleeping best friend. His face changed gravely.
“How’s our guy?” Jimmy asked me, his blues still beating into Brian.
I sighed, “He’s okay…for the most part.”
“Good,” Jimmy frowned.
“We really miss you,” my voice trembled.
Jimmy smiled a little as he bent down and planted a gentle kiss on my cheek. He lingered for a quick second, whispering in my ear, “Not as good as our first kiss, I know.”
I giggled, “Shut the fuck up.”
Jimmy straightened out just as Brian’s voice nearly scared me to death. I whipped around to look at him.
“Who are you talking to?” he asked sleepily.
I turned back the other way to find Jimmy gone. My heart was sad and my head confused.
“Babe?” Brian pried, rubbing at his tired eyes.
“Jimmy,” I said awkwardly. “He was just…”
“Are you hallucinating again?” Brian laughed lightly, rubbing at my arm.
I smirked, “Must be.”
“Give me some of that,” Brian joked. “I’d give anything to see him again…even if it’s from some drug-induced fantasy.”
“Yeah,” I grumbled oddly, staring down where Jimmy had just been standing. “They seriously need to decrease my dosage. That was freaky as fuck.”
Brian chuckled, “Jimmy’s freaky?”
“Are you kidding?”
“Fair enough,” Brian smirked. “Get in here, I’ll protect you from the Rev.”
Part of me was terrified to repeat a hallucination. Something about knowing you’re hallucinating only makes it that much more terrifying. It seems real. Your brain is projecting actual mannerisms and thought processes. It’s…something I didn’t want to live again.
But the other part of me was disheartened to find Jimmy had reverted back into the recesses of my mind. I nuzzled back into Brian’s chest and fell into a peaceful slumber.
I didn’t dream at all.