I think I posted it on my Twitter, but Danny's funeral was Friday, and James's was yesterday. I barely got through Danny's funeral. His parents weren't even crying, they were just frozen in their seats. I didn't even see them blink. Aidan, Katie, Danielle, Alex, and even Mike were all there. I tried to say something for Danny, but I couldn't. My throat just closed. I had to walk down the aisle in front of all the mourners. I feel like they knew it was my fault.
Then there was James's funeral. Tons of people came to pay their respects to the eight year old who isn't even dead. I couldn't stand it. I went out a back door as everyone was filing in. I walked home. It wasn't too far.
My head had been hurting all week, really badly. Even though it had been fairly nice outside (it is spring, after all), I just stayed in my room. Every time I got up to go downstairs or to the bathroom I got really dizzy. Like, borderline fainting dizzy.
But when I got home and sat down on the porch, I felt a sort of pop in my ears, like something had broken. And my headache was completely gone. I looked around, just testing to see if I was still dizzy. I wasn't. But I saw someone walking down the driveway. He was in a black suit.
I knew it was him. I knew I needed to meet him, head on, so I could get James back. And he knew I was there.
I ran after him, across the grass and down the driveway. But the second I lost sight of him behind a tree, he was gone. When I rounded the bend in the driveway, well--
Our driveway wasn't there any more. It stopped abruptly, and little wood chips began where the driveway ended. It was the goddamn playground, the sick twisted warped hellish playground I went through James's closet to find.
It was completely deserted, though. Locust wasn't anywhere I could see. I tried to go into the playground, but I hit something and fell back. I turned to get up, and I saw someone walking in the playground out of the corner of my eye. I sprang to my feet and turned around. I was ready to punch or kick whatever was keeping me back from getting to Locust, but then I saw it wasn't Locust.
Danny was standing on the other side of the window, the glass, whatever it was. He put his hand up against it and gave a sad sort of smile.
"It's not your fault, Reilly," he said. His voice was sort of muffled. "You can't help any of this."
I think I started crying. I don't even know. Somebody else walked into the frame behind him. It was Ken. He looked serious, but he nodded at me and said, "Danny is correct. These are forces you can't help."
I just nodded. I couldn't do anything else. My legs gave out and I sat on the ground, staring up at them. Danny turned, and faces away from me. He gestured to someone behind him, and then turned back. He looked so somber now.
The person he had been motioning walked up to the window now, and I saw who it was. Katie was standing behind the glass. She smiled and said, "Hey Rye. Don't worry about us. We might even get back. Just make sure everyone else is safe. Get your brother back. And trust our friends. We trust you."
Danny said, "Bye Rye. Maybe we'll see you soon."
The window disappeared, and I felt someone grab my arms. I didn't move, even as whoever it was tried to pull me up.
It was Mike. He slapped me in the face, hard. "Get up," he shouted, "and listen to me."
I got up and turned to face him. I couldn't say anything.
"You need to go back and get James. I saw what you were seeing just now. That means that Katie's dead now, too. Do you get that? Katie. Is. Dead. Do you want anyone else to die?"
I stammered, and shook my head no.
"I didn't really think so." He laughed. "I don't know how you're going to get James back, but I brought you a survival kit.
"I've seen Mr. Slim before. I know what he's capable of. And I don't think knives or anything like that will hurt him. So I brought you Ken's gun. I took it from the house before my parents took his stuff."
He took off his backpack and unzipped it. He stuck his hand in and felt around for a second before finding what he was looking for. He took out a white pistol. There were carvings up the sides of the handle, little carvings of trees, branches, vines.
"I loaded it already. And take the backpack. There's real military rations inside, from my dad. Go tonight or tomorrow, before any more of us die. That's two of us, plus Ken. Do it for all of us, not just James."
He left the backpack on the ground and ran to the bottom of the driveway. His bike was there. He rode off and left me standing in the middle of the driveway. I must have stood there a while, because I saw my parents' car turning into the driveway. I was still holding the pistol in my hand, so I shoved it into the backpack and ran toward the house.
I went around to the back of the house, near the pond. I waited out there until late yesterday before I went in. Then I had to deal with my parents, asking where I had gone. They didn't even yell at me, just asked me. I could hear how exhausted they were. I didn't want to hurt them any more. I answered all their questions, then hugged both of them and told them I loved them.
I'm going back through the closet as soon as this post publishes. I'm not coming back until I find James, or until I starve. Here's to hoping we both end up alive, and my friends too. But I don't think that's likely.