Donovan stood on the white sands of Undover State Beach. It was his eighth birthday and to celebrate, his mother had brought him, Asa and Tara on a rare trip to the ocean. It was a special treat, just for Donovan, who had always loved the water. Asa was never a fan but always went along with it, even swimming in the ocean, as much as he hated it.
Donovan had never realized how devoted his big brother had been until he was gone. And now, it was too late to tell him how much he loved him and admired him and had spent his life trying to be as good a person as he was.
Had been. Even after two years, he still sometimes talked as if Asa was still alive, that any moment he would walk into the door and everything would be as it was.
But it’s not true. You’re dead. And the dead don’t come back.
The sun brightened until white light surrounded him. When it faded, he was on the couch beside Asa on Christmas, playing their new video games together. They were always so competitive, which each other and whoever they were playing against. And they never started a new game until they had explored every hidden aspect the programmers had squeezed in.
Donovan spent most of the time they played setting them back; he was not the world’s best gamer but Asa never complained. He just went with it, sometimes offering advice on how not to lose another life, but never cruelly or meanly.
Asa always helped him be better. Just by being who he was, he made Donovan a better person.
The bright light flashed again and Donovan found himself on Christmas Eve, one year later. He and Asa had tried to stay up all night to see Santa Clause come. They had of course passed out well before midnight, but until then, they sat on Donovan’s bed, talking. Their mother had found them awake and, though she tried to make them separate, Asa refused to move and eventually fell asleep there.
The pain from losing his brother came rushing back, fresh as the day he had first been told. He crumpled to the floor and screamed until his voice went hoarse and it hurt to swallow. He tried to push himself back up but ended up against the wall, too consumed by a feeling of utter hopelessness to move anymore.
Your pain is delicious, boy-child. We revel in your misery and loss.
He looked around through tear-filled eyes for the source of the voice in his head.
You ill only see us when we allow it.
“What… what do you want?”
“What are you?”
“Why am I here?”
Your appearance pleases the vessel we inhabit. We cannot fight the vessel’s urges to see you.
His brother appeared before him, eyes dead and free of any emotion. Donovan thought his heart had been ripped out.
“Asa? Is… is it really you?” He pushed himself up and stumbled forward. “I… can’t…” He reached out to touch him but before he could, he disappeared. He curled his hands into tight balls and growled. :why’d you do that? That taste fucking delicious, too?”
All went black.
Screams echoed through the room.
The light came back and he saw two nude bodies on the ground. He stepped forward slowly and gasped when he saw their faces. Peter and Donna, both dead at his feet.
Chains rattled and he realized dozens of them hung from the ceiling and he was brought back to the news coverage after Asa’s murder. Hung from chains and tortured, raped and mutilated.
“Please, no, not this…” He stepped back, hands over mouth. It can’t be real. No it can’t be…
It’s as real as we desire.
“Go away! Leave me alone!”
“Percy?” He looked around frantically, filled with dread over what he would find. “Percy? Where are you?”
Donny! C’mon, man, wake up!
* * *
Donovan opened his eyes to see Percy staring back at him, worry filling his eyes. He pulled him to his feet and grabbed him in a tight embrace.
“You scared the shit outta me. You totally blacked out and wouldn’t wake up. Shit, Donny, don’t do that again!”
“What?” Percy pulled away enough to see Donovan’s scared expression. “What about Percy?”
TO BE CONTINUED