Growing up means you add more years. You don't minus the ones you've already got, you just add another, and another and another - an onion in reverse, if you will. You never lose your previous years...ever. So when you're upset and crying, you're just going back to your 8-year-old self. When you laugh at stupid things, you're peeling back the layers until you reach 5 or 6.
I know that's a bit odd and a weird way to look at it, but I think it makes sense. Sorry to bore you with that...Anyway, here's the second part of Comatose - I hope you like it!
Comatose - Part 2
When Jack woke up, the trees were shaking.
Jack sat upright and stared at the quivering leaves and shaking branches. Fear cloaked his heart, and before he knew what he was doing, he grabbed Pitley’s hand and hauled him to his feet. “Wh-what’s happening?” the boy murmured, his eyes glued shut with sleep. He raised a small hand and wiped the gunk from his eyelids, and slowly, he looked up at Jack and frowned. “What’s wrong?”
Jack didn’t answer. He was watching the trees. They were still shaking, rocking in the non-existent breeze but now something odd was happening. The leaves were falling off. Shots of black crept up the emerald veins and then, they simply gave up, spiralling to the ground in a huge dark mass. Jack had never seen anything like it. Nothing died in the jungle. Nothing.
Jack bent down and grasped Pitley by the shoulders, searching his eyes for a sign. This new boy, this new world that was so radically different from the one he was used to - there must be a connection. Nothing. The boy’s brown eyes were worried and filling with pearly tears. “Jack? What’s happening?”
“I-I don’t know. We need to go. I’ll carry you.”
Pitley nodded and Jack scooped him into his arms. Arms curled round his neck and Jack started walking, side-stepping the growing piles of black. He shot a glance over his shoulder and jumped. The pile of rot and decay by the tree was moving. Just a tiny bit. Not much. But it was moving, reaching out towards them. It was familiar, the way it moved. It had odd grace, slithering over the roots and branches towards them. It was a snake, a spider with spindly legs. It was a hunter.
That was when it hit him, the recognition. It was the Dark, creeping towards him, getting ready to eat them both, to swallow them whole and digest them. The leaves were becoming the darkness. Jack turned round and saw the other piles of leaves stretching out, extending tentacles and hands. It was crawling up trees and pooling over rocks. They needed to go. Now.
Jack leapt into action. His legs pumped like pistons as he sprinted, dodging trees. His feet brushed the forest floor, slipping over the Dark with every step. He could feel it reaching for him, licking his bare feet and ticking his ankles. The trees were becoming bare, skeletal, and the patches of earth were becoming rarer. Jack kept running, hoisting Pitley further up onto his shoulder. Tears were dampening his back, but he barely noticed. They had to get away from the light dark, the glowing dark, the ravenous darkness.
The trees thinned into an opening and Jack skidded to a stop. The trees circling them were black and the ground was thick with the Dark, bar the patch he standing on. Turning around, Jack let slip a swear word and a quiet scream. The Dark had blocked the exit, locking them into this cage. Jack turned around. There was no way out. He hugged Pitley to his chest and swallowed. “It’s ok, it’s ok,” he said, trying hard to quell the fear that was welling inside him. Pitley hiccupped and sobbed, his nails digging into Jack’s shoulders.
“Wh-wha-what is it?”
Jack felt something brush his foot and, jerking backwards, he kicked it away. The tentacle retreated a few inches and then started its slow march back towards him. The patch of earth was becoming smaller and smaller. “I don’t know, buddy, ok? It’s going to be ok, though. I- I promise.”
Pitley sobbed again and buried his head into Jack’s chest, closing his eyes. Jack watched his chest rise and fall, jerk and dance, a tear fell onto the Dark. He was so scared, not for himself, but for Pitley. He couldn’t remember having siblings, but Pitley, with his small scarred stump and almond eyes made him wish and want for one. He was so small, so vulnerable. He didn’t know what would happen, and that tore Jack’s heart apart.
Jack sat down on the grass and felt the rotting Dark slither over him, coating his feet and legs in slime. It crawled towards him, up his shorts and onto Pitley’s gown. It moved further and further upwards and Jack closed his eyes. The end. He had ran for years, running from the Dark that wanted eat him alive and now, the time had come to surrender. His white flag was raised. His arsenal was broken and his will was shattered. Surrendering was easy, but giving up hope was hard.
As the Dark swallowed him, he heard Pitley’s heart beat, the final funeral march of a lost and tired soldier.
“Is he waking up?”
“Is it working?”
“His pulse is speeding up...his vitals are good.”
“Oh, Harold, his finger just twitched! He’s coming to!”
Jack felt someone touch his arm, caressing the skin with smooth fingers. He moved his hand away and heard a yelp of delight. “His arm just moved! It moved!”
Jack could see something. A pinprick of light, a slash in the darkness. He looked at it and blinked. The slash vanished and then reappeared. Oh. He opened his eyes a little bit more. More light and a voice slurred with tears. “He’s waking, Harold. Six years and he’s going to see our faces again...oh god, oh god...”
There was woman and two men. He could see their outlines. The woman was bent over, a veil of red hair hiding her tearful eyes. “Mum?”
Jack didn’t know where the word had come from, or whether he had even said it out loud. “Mum?” he said again, louder. His throat hurt.
“Oh god...Jack...you...you’re ok...” A hand grasped his and Jack opened his eyed fully, the world spilling forward like a tide. He was in a room...not a room, a corridor, with funny curtains round his bed. He was wearing a gown. Pitley’s gown.
He was in hospital. He was in hospital?
“Wh-” Jack touched his throat. It hurt a lot. One of the men reached forward and handed him a small cup of something, his stethoscope dangling into Jack’s face.
“Hello, Jack. How are you feeling?”
The man was a doctor. He understood now. Jack sipped at the liquid and was surprised to find that it was water, cool crisp water. He hadn’t drunk anything in years. IT soothed his throat and Jack handed the empty cup back to the man. “I’m...tired.”
The woman sobbed louder and the other man draped a hand around her shoulder. He was crying too, but they were smaller tears, gentle tears. He was wearing a shiny gold ring. “Dad?”
The man nodded. “Glad to see you recognise me,” he said, another quiet tear slipping down his face.
Jack pulled his facial muscles into a smile, but it hurt, so he relaxed his face again. The doctor patted him on the shoulder. “It may take a while for you to move, son. Your muscles haven’t been used, and they’re weak. You will need physiotherapy for a few months, but you should be able to walk and smile soon.”
Jack nodded. Walk. Walk walk walk walk...Pitley! Jack raised his head and looked at the doctor. “Pitley?”
The doctor’s brow furrowed. “Pitley? What are you trying to say?”
“Pitley. Boy. One leg. Small.”
Comprehension dawned on the doctor’s face. “Ah, you mean Zane? The boy in the next bed?”
Jack paused and then nodded. “Can I see him? Is he there?”
“Yes. I need to ask the parent’s first. He woke up an hour or so before you. Give me a moment.” The doctor smiled and vanished from the ‘room’, leaving Jack and his parents alone. They held him, fawned over him, talked to him, but Jack wasn’t listening. He was waiting for the doctor to come back through, to tell him the Pitley - no, Zane - was ok. He needed to see him again. The Dark has swallowed them... he had woken up...he was ok...
A few minutes passed and the doctor walked back into the ‘room’, pulling the curtain away with large, calloused hands. “He’s just through there.” The doctor motioned past the curtain and Jack craned his head.
A mop of blonde hair and pale, smiling face. Pitley smiled weakly and ran his hands over his duvet. “Hi.”
A smile burst onto Jack’s face and he shimmed himself upwards, ignoring the pain shooting through his muscles. “Pitley. You’re ok.”
Jack’s face fell for a second. He didn’t remember the jungle, or the Dark. But then he brightened again. It didn’t matter. He remembered, and he knew what had happened, even if it was a dream. “It doesn’t matter,” he said, a bigger smile blossoming on his face. “I’m glad you’re ok.”
“I’m glad you’re ok.” The boy wrung his hands and looked nervously at a haggard woman sitting beside him.
Her face was streaked with damp lines and her hand was curled around the side of the bed. “I had a dream about you.”
Pitley nodded. “We should talk some more later. I’m tired now.”
“Ok, buddy. You can sleep.” Jack motioned for the doctor to close the curtain and he relaxed backwards. He was tired as well, so very very tired. “I think I’m going to sleep now,” he announced.
His mum beamed at him and clenched his hand harder. “Ok, baby, we’ll be here when you wake up. Rest.”
Jack closed his eyes.
This time, the darkness smiled at him and shut its hungry mouth.
This time, he was bathed in light.