One boy lays between life and death while another prays for the mercy he'd never before had use for. As he watches the person who changed him hover between life and death, he fights to come to terms with his guilt, an emotion he'd never concerned himself with.
I could only watch from behind the observation window while doctors and nurses rushed to save my best – and only – friend’s life. As they swarmed around the table his battered and broken body lay, I prayed to a god I hadn’t bothered with since the first grade to please, please, please let him live! while, before my eyes, the life drained from him though bloody gashes in his chest and stomach.
The thought of Max dying scared me – he was the epitome of a “good person” – who, since the day I’d met him at freshman orientation, had always had my back. For three years, he’d been by my side, trying to bring out the good he swore was there. And look at what that got him. How we ever became such good friends, I’ll never understand; we were complete opposites. He was the hero; always doing for others no matter what he had to give up. Always the savior – his downfall. Me? I revel in my cruelty, my villainy, the way I can break down anyone and bend them to my wishes. For his good, my bad easily outweighed it.
I was flat out mean.
Except when it came to him. For some reason, he made me want to be good – or at least try it on for size. He was the only person who brought that out of me. Also the only person I didn’t want to hurt. In a weird way, it’s almost like he was my soul mate, in a non-romantic way, of course. But still, it feels like we were connected in ways that defy logic and reason. I never dreamed I’d ever meet someone like him but somehow, I did.
And he was dying. And it was my fault.
In the end, even he suffered because of me.
For the first time, I was afraid; I didn’t want Max to die, not when he had so much left he had yet to experience and dreams he hadn’t yet fulfilled. People like him… good people, they shouldn’t be cut down so young.
He still had so many damaged souls to save.
Wake up, please. Don’t give up.
Yet there he was, barely hanging on, as a half dozen strangers attempted to create a miracle – not that I believe in those – and bring him back to life. I knew it was useless; if his indomitable strength and the best medical professionals in the state couldn’t save him, some pathetic act of God didn’t stand a chance.
But I was still praying, and maybe even thinking it might help. Not out of desperation, though, but out of love. Love – it really does make you do the wacky. A good reason why I didn’t bother with it before Max.
God, please, don’t take him so soon. He’s still needed here.
The hardest part of the begging – something I don’t do – was having to admit my part in all this. I did this. He was here, almost dead, because of me and my past.
What do you know? I finally hurt him. And I didn’t even try. I might’ve killed the only person I’d ever cared about and knowing I hurt him was actually painful. Should’ve known better; even when I want to be good, I’m still me.
Max never believed I was a lost cause. He always claimed everyone had good inside – even a heartless bastard like me. Seeing him on that table, though, I wondered if he’d reconsider - if he woke up.
Please don’t die.
All my fault. How could I let this happen? How could I lead him to Death’s door and leave him there for the Grim Reaper? Outside, where life and death aren’t hanging in the balance, I call the shots. I have all the power. But in here, I’m just a spectator, hoping against hope that he’ll open his eyes.
Well, sometimes, as tonight proved, someone else is able to grab some of that power and turn it against me. I should’ve seen it coming, should’ve known CJ would be out for blood. I did ruin his chances of ever playing pro basketball. But I was too sure of myself, too convinced that what I had on him was enough to keep him away.
He had other thoughts.
Max and I were on the way back from a midnight showing of Ouija – he hated those kind of movies but always lied when one came out ‘cause I love them – when CJ, still clomping around with his limp ala me, pinned me to a wall and pressed a knife to my throat.
He wanted more than just to hurt me – he wanted to kill me. A normal enough occurrence for me but Max didn’t know that. I wish he had. Maybe then he’d be breathing on his own.
But what good was wasting energy wondering? Now it was in the hands of trained professionals and a higher power who probably didn’t have any power.
So I waited.
CJ was about to slit my throat when Max grabbed him and forced him to the ground. As I watched, feeling like I was trapped in slow motion, they beat the crap out of each other. And before I could move again, CJ buried that knife in Max’ belly and chest, over and over, until Max didn’t move.
Seeing my best friend so savagely attacked woke up the more basic urges inside and I went after that lunatic. And didn’t stop till I was lying on top of his bloody corpse.
Yea, I killed him. And I’d do it again. Hell, I’d have done it long ago if I’d known Max would pay for my deeds. But I didn’t and now I’d have an eternity of regretting it – even if he survived, I’d still never forgive myself.
When morning came, I just wanted the wait to end. Live or die, I wanted Max’ suffering over. When I saw him stir, I knew it was. Soon, voices filled the hallway as people in scrubs ran in and out of the room, passing along messages and, more importantly, hope.
He would live.
I breathed a sigh of relief. Even when that cold, thin hand fell upon my shoulder.
“What do you want?” I asked, though I already knew.
“Come.” His voice was a harsh whisper. “It is time.”
“I know. Thank you.”
“For letting me stay. I needed to know before…” I looked over at the black robed figure beside me and felt a strange relief flood over me. “Before I went where I’ve always known I belonged.”
He only nodded as he took my hand and led me away from the window.