This story is by Brandkamp Lennard and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
The boy opened the door and peeled his head out. Down the hallway, there he came, the pale figure of his best friend, a couple of inches taller than expected. „John?“ The door slammed open and he ran into the hallway. „John!“ his arms flung around the pale one’s back, squeezing him, as if one was trying to make sure there was no ghost. „I have missed you so much! How long has it been?“ Five weeks and one day, to be precise. „I’m so glad I’m back, Tom,“ Jonathan replied. „Those were too many weeks.“ For a moment they just stood in the hallway, sobbing a little. They had been best friends, perhaps even more, before Jonathan was forced to leave. Thomas let his arms sink down. „Let’s go in, shall we?“
„You’re right as always, John.” A pause. „How come you are that tall?“
„A couple of weeks in an asylum, drugs that make you feel good.“ John paused but smirked behind Tom’s back, „maybe you should come there too?“ he amended. They both laughed, a tear or two slowly rolling down their cheeks. So much time had passed. One Lunatic won the presidential election in the USA, another one lost. Public outrage and then the realisation that nothing would change until January next year. A mutual friend had committed suicide by jumping from a bridge, three died in the subsequent car accident. But now everything was back to normal, everything was at it used to be. All was the way it should be. Everything was good.
Jonathan’s blonde hair shone like the sun, as the lamp’s light fell upon it. Tom tried to pat it like he used to, but it wouldn’t quite work. „Tragic,“ John remarked about that. „Seems like I am too big for you, my boy.“ They laughed again, remembering the last time they were together. „Perhaps,“ Thomas gaze drifted off into the distance after he answered, his mind trying to fetch some information, stored at the back of a labyrinth made out of neurons. „What should we do?“ the apartment’s owner inquired. It was only a small room in a large building. The sofa was the bed as well, all else there was would be a little kitchen in the entrance area, a table and two chairs. „There is not much, is there? But we surely could just talk?“ the guest responded. The two of them went over to the sofa. „Yes, yes. My home is rather empty.” Thomas managed a smile, but worry showed on his face, „you know the nature of money. It is so reluctant to come and yet so eager to leave.” Now that they were laying Tom could actually pat John’s head. It had been too long. „You look worried.” Except for the boost in height Jonathan still was the same person. His charming smile, the sincerity in his bright eyes with just a hint of green in their light blue hue. „First I wondered where you are. Then I worried why you were gone. I started to miss you. I longed for your presence. Lastly I forgot these notions and got used to the feeling of you being gone.” The care and sorrow of the last five weeks pushed Thomas’ shoulders down when he stood, and wrinkled his face when he did not. All of his feelings came in waves, crushing against the shoreline, the crevasse inevitable. Tears, the first drops of water, made their way out of his eyes. „I, I’m sorry,” he tried to apologise. Another wave hit, his head jerked forward and he began sobbing. „I, I ha-”
„Shh.” Jonathan’s finger pressed against his lips. „I have missed you too.” They just laid there for some time. The pure presence of Jonathan was comforting to the taller, stronger, tougher Tom. Though perhaps this list may need to be revised.
“Two,“ the voice starts to tremble.
Minutes passed and the point of eventually was reached. „Tom?” Jonathan’s voice was much softer than normally. Thomas looked up against the light, to his friend. He acted like a newborn that did not want to leave its mother’s presence. His mind had calmed down, and his eyes were widened. „I am,” Jonathan pulled back under his best friend. Guilt filled his voice, but Thomas was not in a state to notice. „I am just going to the bathroom.” When Jonathan pulled back he let Thomas’ head roll to the side. Unwilling to move Thomas just looked at him whom he had known all his life. „Okay, John,” he whispered, „just come back soon.”
Thomas’ mind spiralled into the realm of memory. He found himself at work, delivering the newspaper to his assigned route. It was a good job. While there were variations it was always the same. Go this street, go to that street, refill, go here, go there, refill the cart, a lovely routine. Alas the routine was interrupted since some time. Every day since he had started working he visited the Turkish store at the corner. Every time there was the same employee, a nice lady. She always laughed when Thomas handed her the paper, calling his accent funny. Usually she gave him a little something. A Starburst, a lollipop, just a token of gratitude. But no, since two weeks she was gone. Thomas didn’t know where she was, perhaps she was just on vacation. Nonetheless the loss stung him because she was outside his world. Like Jonathan, he since three weeks now, she was effectively dead for him.
“One,” a last look at the world. A last breath of fresh air and letting go of all straws.
When Jonathan left the bathroom there was blo+od running down his wrists. The beautiful knife smeared with fluids. It shone like the rainbow in oil where the metal was, it was dark as the night where not. “I am so sorry. But I had to.” Jonathan’s voice trembled but it was much more than physical pain that he felt. Tom jumped up. His feet were swallowed by the soft surface of the sofa. No matter how much he struggled, he would never reach his friend. Jonathan collapsed on the clean floor. His knees hit the ground and the world shook. “They should have never let me out.” The rest of the body toppled over. The white shirt started to absorb the dark puddle around it. A smile spread across the face. “No!” Tom yelled. How could John have survived the mental hospital, only to die two days later? How could he come to his friend, partner, only to end his life? Tom knew that Jonathan cannot be helped. Still, he ripped his clothes apart and pressed the makeshift rags against the source of the bleeding.
The death was confirmed at 13:41.
“Zero.” Farewell. The birds sing loudly, it is a magnificent day. “The temperature is around twenty degrees Celsius and the sun shines brightly, how are you doing JCBH listeners? Isn’t Spring lovely today?”
A siren could be heard in the distance, an ambulance rushing to get someone to the hospital. The bridge seems high from up here and sends a shiver down Thomas’ spine. He closes his eyes and slowly shifts forwards. His feet struggle to keep him upright but not for long. Thomas feels the air brush past him. Memories fly away with it. Jonathan comes back to live, the lady at the store returns to her desk, a little something for ready him. His life is normal again. Or at least it will no longer be wrong. It will not be at all. The birds sing a pirouette, and he has his last three words for the world. “I am sorry,” is what nobody hears whispered, “not wrong longer,” is what nobody feels thought.