MIKE; BLACKWOOD STATION; 21:24
FOURTEEN HOURS SINCE INCIDENT
It's only been half a day since I lost both Jess and Josh. It's only been half a day since I was too slow. It's only been half a day since I abandoned them. It's only been half a day since I left them both to die.
What excuse do I have? Oh, right, that I had to think of the others first... right? I mean, I couldn't have—Well, there's nothing I could have done...
I thought... I thought Jess was dead, and that the maniac who killed her was still going around killing us off one by one. I had to warn the others, right?
And with Josh... Fuck, I mean, I wanted to save him. I really did, but there's nothing I could have done. I was scared as fuck, and it would have been stupid if both of us died back there. I... I had to think and act quickly, right? Right? I had to do something that would benefit everyone, right?
Oh, who am I kidding? I wasn't thinking straight. Losing Jess and losing Josh were both my fault. They were with me; they were taken; and I wasn't fast enough to save them. And Josh... Fucking shit mama Jesus.
"M-Mike? Don't h-hit me p-please."
Fuck. The way he said it... The look on his face... Josh pleading me for mercy when we were under the threat of those fucking wendigos. That will haunt me for years to come—almost as much as whatever the fuck happened to us back up the mountain.
I'm a whole other kind of monster, but a monster nonetheless.
I mean, who tortures their innocent friends? Sure, Josh did exactly that with Chris and Sam, but Chris also said that the bastard was sick. I don't have any kind of illness to explain my actions.
And even after all that happened last night, I'm surprised I still have some of my sanity. Although, I guess I won't be stepping a foot in a hospital for a long long time.
"Do you enjoy feeling terrorized? Humiliated? I mean, panicked? All those emotions that my sisters got to feel once one year ago! Only guess what? They didn't get to laugh it off! No! Nope! No no! They're gone!"
Christ, Josh's words are really starting to sink in. With what happened last night, I definitely do not like feeling those things. So much changed because of that original prank we did—the prank to humiliate Hannah's crush on me—on ME. God, I am such a douche.
No, I'm a monster.
God, what else have I done to Josh and his family? Knocked him out for something he didn't even do? Called him a murderer and never listened to him? Thought him capable of killing someone—killing Jess? Tortured him before tying him up in that shed? All the while, him losing his mind from stress?
I mean, Josh and I were cool buds before I fucked it all up by going along with that prank on Hannah. He wasn't really the manliest of the group, and I remember that one serious talk we had.
We were on cans of beer at the time. God, how old were we then? Fourteen? Fifteen? I didn't really understand what he was talking about, but he was telling me about fighting for something. I promised him I would protect him from when "times get tough." Jesus, how long was his depression going on for?
Now, I added trauma to Josh before he... All the things I did are cruel... and it's not just him I did something horrible to.
I nearly killed Em, too.
I knew I was ready to do it. I was in the middle of that stupid moral dilemma—killing one life to save plenty of others, in this case, Ashley, Chris, and Sam. I'm not surprised why Emily's been giving me hateful looks. I pointed a gun to her eye, for fuck's sake.
Fuck, I really am a monster.
I'm never gonna be free from this guilt, am I? I'm not even going to complain at this point. I deserve every single second of its torture.
I'm surprised the others are still looking at me even after finding out about Jess and Josh. Although Em told them, it would be expected of me, considering I'd do anything to help the greater good first rather than an individual.
Her words are really fucking with me right now.
The six of us remaining—we nearly died last night. Now, we are all in our own bubble here at the station while we wait for our parents to pick us up.
Right now, I'm sitting on my own—far away from everyone else—forearms resting on my thighs, hands clasped, and staring down at the floor so I don't have to see the others either.
I can't handle their tiredness—the dead and haunted looks on their features. Their eyes are blank and empty now. We were a group of wild partying teenagers, and now we will never be the same again. We saw too much in this one night, and now we've all grown too much too quickly.
There's a reason I was chosen Class President. I care too much about the members of my leadership—my followers—those I've sworn to protect.
And I swore to protect my friends.
I guess I failed that, too. Not only did I basically kill Jess and Josh, and nearly shot Em in the face, it was my fault the wendigos broke free, right? I opened their locks and jail cells and shit. Fuck.
I couldn't save any of us from this night. Hell, everything is my fault, to be honest. Sure, we're alive but how are we gonna continue on with what we know? With what we've seen?
This is going to bite us all in the ass. I can already feel it.
Still, only six of us made it out alive, and I can't help but feel bitterness and a huge amount of longing, considering how the relationships within our group changed when we left Blackwood Pines.
Look at the couples at the other side of the room—cuddling with their respective partners—seeking comfort from each other, touching hands, rubbing their arms unconsciously as a ground zero for reality.
Matt finally found some fucking self-respect, and to my surprise, managed to get Emily to admit what a total bitch she can be. She even apologized to everyone ("Except you, Michael. You can go suck my ass, you prick!") for it.
Chris and Ashley finally got together. I mean, Josh is one crazy fucked-up son of a bitch but hey, his plan worked. Thinking back, his plan is genius. I never doubted his thoughtfulness but I never expected his... complexity.
"Guess you never really know someone unless you scare the pants off 'em," Jess said.
Fuck, I miss Jess. I fucking miss her so much already. I never really...
It's different after all that happened. Before, well, teenagers are teenagers. Teenagers date for the sake of dating. Teenagers date each other because they are attracted, infatuated, or something. Things weren't really completely serious. It wasn't life or death. It wasn't... It wasn't love.
That's what Jess was to me. That's what I thought she was to me. I mean, I knew I really liked her. She's amazing. She's strong, sharp, and she's incredibly confident with herself. She knows how to hold herself. I was crazy for her.
But I never knew how much she really meant to me until now.
God, I should have... We could have... I want nothing more than to touch her again—not even for sex. I just want to hold her again—see that she's alive. Fuck, I miss her. I want her by my side. I can't believe I left her to die. I left Jess to die. What the fuck have I done?
I stand up, lashing out in surprise at the sudden touch on my arm—ready to fight whatever it is I need to defend my friends from.
I don't want any more deaths. Not on my watch.
"Mike, it's okay! It's okay!" I hear, looking at equally tired and haunted eyes on the person standing in front of me with hands raised towards me—body language for CALM DOWN.
"Jesus, fucking shit," I gasp, trying to lower my beating heart. "That mountain's already fucking with my head," I groan, throwing myself down on the seat I occupied.
"I see them every time I blink, so I get what you're saying," she replies, sitting down on the space beside me.
I look at her and then at the other four who are now turning their heads away from me.
Ashley buries her face on Chris's side and he protectively hugs her. Emily is rubbing her own arms, and Matt pulls her in, his lips on her head. All of them with distant eyes.
No doubt, my little scene is now making each of them wonder how they'll be reacting to a similar situation.
I'm seriously fucking them up more.
"What did you want?" I ask Sam, recalling the reason for my scene.
"I was just gonna ask if you were okay, which I now think is a stupid question," she replies casually. That's what I like about Sam, too. She doesn't judge.
"What are you talking about? I'm fine," I joke as I try to still my still shaking hands.
"Ahhh, we're about the same, then," Sam replies, nodding.
I forgot that Sam is just about the worst in expressing her emotions between the group—almost as bad as Josh, now that I know how much he'd hidden from us.
Josh. Hiding his emotions.
No, there can't be any more Joshes within the group. I need to give what's best for our group, and this won't help Sam.
I take a deep breath. "Sam, about Josh—" I pause, not really knowing how to continue.
"What about Josh?" she asks quietly.
I can feel my lips tremble in anticipation. "Look, I'm really sorry about—"
She shakes her head frantically. "Don't, Mike. Just don't."
I'm not gonna let her take this all in on her own. Chris and Ashley had been talking to each other about what happened in the lodge. Sam's been quiet the whole day.
"No, seriously, he shouldn't have—"
"It doesn't matter what he shouldn't have done," she interrupts me again.
Fuck. The guilt is back. She's right. It doesn't matter now what Josh shouldn't have done. He's dead now because of me—because I left him to die in the mines.
"...I shouldn't have—"
"Mike," she tensely cuts me off for the one hundredth time, "there's a lot of things we wish should and should not have happened back up there. Can you just... stop apologizing?" She sighs tiredly. "You've been doing that since we left the lodge."
I didn't even notice I've been doing that.
"Maybe it's because I should be apologizing," I tell her honestly.
"If that's your way to cope, then fine. We forgive you. Are you okay, now?" she asks me pointedly.
"No," I admit, "but it's a start."
She shrugs. "Yeah, maybe," she says tensely.
A beat. Or two.
"Fuck, I miss her," I blurt out in real life.
I hate that my voice cracked. I just opened my vulnerability, but I can't hold it in anymore. I miss her so much.
"Jess?" she asks in a whisper.
I sigh then clear my throat. I don't want to cry. I have the gravest feeling that if I even let a tear slip up, I'll start sobbing and I won't be able to stop.
"Yeah," I whisper, "I want her here, you know? By my side." I look at the other couples, perfectly cocooned at their own respective worlds—Sam and I completely forgotten.
"I get that," Sam replies with an odd tone in her voice.
I turn to look at her. She, too, is looking at the others. I don't really see what the expression is on her face, but from what I heard, I think I can tell.
"Josh?" I ask her quietly. Her head moves quickly, and she stares at me for a long moment but she doesn't reply. "I never knew you..." I let it go, not wanting to label something I don't know yet.
She snorts. "Yeah, me neither," she admits.
So I left the guy she was having feelings for to die. Fuck this guilt, seriously. It's eating me alive.
"I'm really sorry."
She gives me a look. "I told you to stop apologizing. I already told you I accepted your apology. We were all scared witless, Mike. Stop apologizing for things you can't control."
"Then why am I feeling guilt then?" I nearly spit out.
She shrugs casually. "I guess that's something you'll have to find out on your own."
My mouth closes up on its own before I retort. I suppose that year with Josh made her immune to outbursts of anger or whatever.
I sigh. "So you and Josh, huh?"
Sam shakes her head, looking away—down, up, anywhere but at me. She really doesn't like opening up about her feelings.
"God, I don't know. I explained myself to the police already. I told them that I thought we had a... a connection or something," she laughs humorlessly. "I guess I'll never know that, huh?"
"You did," I finally tell her. She turns to look at me—attention full. "I was one of Josh's friends, you know. The guy himself doesn't know he likes you. Chris and I've been trying to hook you two up."
Her lip twitches slightly. "Really?" she mocks.
"Yeah," I say seriously, nudging her elbow slightly with my elbow, "Matt and I were planning to beat Chris up for getting Josh passed out on the night of—" my mouth dries up "—the night of the prank."
Sam looks away at that.
"Nothing bonds you more than a traumatic event," she whispers, lost in her thought.
I don't think she even knew she said it out loud.
"Hey, Sam," I interrupt her thoughts. I don't want her ending up like me—filled with guilt. "Thanks for having my back up there. I could've died if it wasn't for you. You saved me like... a billion times."
Sam sighs, shaking her head again. "Stop exaggerating."
"No, I mean it, seriously," I tell her, nudging her elbow with mine again. "Thanks."
She shakes her head. "You would've done the same thing for me. God, you almost even shot Emily for us. It's stupid and nearly cost us an innocent life, but we appreciate the sentiment behind it."
Fuck. The guilt's eating away my stomach again. I'm a fucking murderer.
I can't believe I kept telling Josh to his face that he's a fucking murderer but who really keeps pointing guns at people's faces but me?
"That's still fucked up of me to do it," I admit to her, looking at Emily who's quietly talking to Matt as they sit beside each other.
"Yeah, it was," Sam replies quietly.
I forgot how honest Sam can be, and how much she hates violence. I guess it shouldn't have been a surprise that she was the only one who tried to stop me from shooting Emily in the head. I'm glad I listened to her.
"I can't believe everything just happened this morning," she suddenly says, bringing me back to reality. "It feels it's both still happening and that it happened a lifetime ago."
"I know," I wholeheartedly agree. "It's just about half a day since we burned down the lodge... I wonder what the Washingtons will say about that."
"I wonder what they will say when their last child is gone," she says out loud.
"Eight fucking hours," I grumble under my breath.
"From what I was told, the whole fucking thing happened in about eight hours," I recall the talk the rest of us had while Sam was being questioned.
"Eight hours? Geez," she says, shaking her head.
"I know. Eight hours fucked up the rest of our lives... Fuck, you saw me a moment ago. What'll happen if someone taps me on the shoulder again? What'll I do? Hit them over the head, too?" I tell her.
"Yeah, we're gonna have to deal with it. I'll probably stop having long baths. Quick showers will be better for me, I guess."
"Fuck, I'd give anything to rewind time."
"Get Jess and Josh back," she whispers, looking at nothing.
"Yeah," I say, my throat drying, "get Jess and... and Josh... Get them both back." I take a deep breath. "They'll find them. They can't be dead. They'll find them."
"Mike," she whispers, "it's nine in the evening. You know what those monsters are capable of."
"Sam, let me have this."
"All right. All right. Mike, just... Just don't let out too much hope, okay?"
"Fuck, Sam... I... I miss Jess."
"I know you do... and... I'm gonna miss Josh."
"I know you do."