When Casey was five, his father died and his whole world imploded. Everything he was sure he knew had been flipped and never really righted itself. The sensation of falling was one he was accustomed to. The first time he had smoked weed, the feeling was one of familiarity. It didn’t remove him from reality the way it did for many because his reality was already so topsy-turvy.

However, this was different. One minute he’d been running after Cassandra through the woods, her flashlight bobbing and weaving among the trees. The next, he was stumbling, then tumbling, feeling as though he was hitting every single root, rock and pokey bit the forest had to offer. By the time he slid to a stop, he had no idea where he was, or how to find his way back. He took a few breaths and recognized that it didn’t hurt, so his ribs were probably okay. He flexed a hand and could feel cuts but nothing major. He flexed his other hand and nearly cried out, suddenly recalling the dogbite. He breathed through the pain until it settled and then he took a few minutes to assess the rest of his body. Nothing lay at an awkward angle, no evidence of punctured anything or compound fractures, thankfully. There was a spot on his back which felt like it was already bruised and twisting, he realized it was a result of the cigar box in his backpack jabbing into him. When he moved he became aware of a pungent scent and the sound of tinkling glass alerted him to what it was.

“Why did I pack pickles?” He wondered, not for the first time. He sat up and opened the backpack, wincing a bit at the tenderness in the aftermath of his tumble making itself known. He fished out the cigar box and the rest of the snacks, being careful to avoid the broken jar at the bottom. Once everything else was out, he tipped the back upside down and let the glass crusted gherkins fall out. He gave a brief thought to any forest creatures who might be harmed by the food, but more pressing matters held his attention.

Where was the van?

Where was Cassanda?

Was Herb dead?

Was Blane?

One could only hope.

He gathered himself the best he could, gingerly pushing off the ground with a scraped palm, cradling his injured hand close and started to walk in the direction he hoped to find Cassie and the van.

Every sound he heard sent his heart into his throat. Was it Blane? Was it Cassie? Was it that bloody dog coming back for the rest of his fingers? He stepped around a tree and gasped, then smiled. The van was less than fifteen feet away. He could hear the synth strains of what sounded like 80s music coming from the open driver’s window. Cassie must be already there, waiting. She loved music from back then. It was actually kind of funny how she didn’t know any new bands, really. He was so relieved that he didn’t stop to look around on his way to the door. He didn’t see the figure step out of the trees to his right. He heard the wind whistling noise and then something hit him in the back, his mind nearly caving in from the pain. He looked down to see an arrow protruding from his chest, the sight of it so at odds with anything he expected to see that it took him a minute to realize what had happened.

He called Cassandra’s name as he fell forward, but realized the odds of her hearing him over the music were slim. He could just make out the lyrics of Cry, Little Sister interspersed with the angelic voices of the backup singers and the irony of the situation brought a laugh to his lips, along with blood. His laugh turned to a cough and the tears started. He didn’t want it to end like this, alone in the dark. As the last strains of the song faded away, he tried once more to call out but the next song started a with a driving beat followed up by a blast of saxophone.

…Only a spark
To light my way
I wanna give out
I wanna give in…

Casey knew just how he felt. He planted his palms, wincing from the pain in the mangled one and tried to push himself up to standing.

…This is our crime
This is our sin
But I still believe
I still believe
Through the pain…

He just had to make it another few feet, but his legs weren’t co-operating. Nothing was.

…I’m turned and tossed
Upon the waves
When the darkness comes
I feel the grave
But I still believe…

He slipped and the motion jarred the arrow in his chest. He cried out as he fell, but mercifully the darkness took him before he hit the ground.

Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash