Taking another swig of Jack Daniels and coke, I close my eyes as the bitter liquid falls down my throat with a soothing burn. There was something about alcohol, the numbing of my senses and suppression of emotions, that I had quickly come to depend on. I knew it was wrong. I knew I shouldn't be doing it. But I couldn't help it any longer; it was part of me now. The tv is playing quietly to itself, the annoying hum of the doorbell ringing throughout my usually quiet flat. Frowning, I remain still in my place on the sofa; only twitching my hands around my glass in frustration as the ringing continues. It soon becomes short and sharp buzzes, the one after the other becoming more and more annoying. Sighing in frustration, I mumble words of annoyance as I stand up and find my way to the kitchen; the putrid stench of week old rubbish not affecting me in any way due to how used I was to it now. I search around the dirty work surfaces, cluttered with bottles and empty food wrappers that were emitting the putrid stenches. Grumbling to myself as the doorbell continues, I finally find what I'm looking for. Turning on my heels, I grip my glass tightly as I mumble aggressive words and tip more Jack Daniels into my glass. Taking a sip, I wince at the strong flavour but I'm quickly satisfied by the suppression it brings me. I slouch to the breakfast bar, pulling out a bar-stool and sitting down; leaning forward and clutching my glass inbetween my hands. I drum my fingers to the beat of the doorbell that was still not showing any sign of stopping. Before long, the noise gets to me; no matter how much more Jack Daniels I pour vigorously into my bloodstream.
It was hopeless.
Seeing red, I stand up and scream at the doorbell- willing it to stop with everything I had. I throw my glass across the room, watching it smash against the white wall opposite me; the glass pieces littering the floor and the brown liquid trickling lifelessly down the stained wall. Screaming again, I wrench my hands over my ears, shaking my head as I will it to stop. Will it to go away.
I nod at Zayn, who checks behind him one last time, before gripping the crow bar and wedging it inbetween the door and the doorframe. Him and Harry wrench at the door powerfully as I grab Maura and pull her close to me. Maura had asked to come after I'd mentioned that we were going round here earlier this morning. I hadn't thought it a good idea, neither had the boys, but she was determined and wouldn't take no for an answer. I knew it must have taken it's toll on her; she hadn't seen her son in nearly 8 months now. She had kept in contact with us all, always asking if anyone had managed to come into any form of contact with him or Crystal. She was desperate to see her too; knowing her son had been the one to drive her and her granddaughter away. There hadn't been much to tell her whenever she asked, apart from one of his lights were on inside the apartment a couple weeks ago; signalling he was atleast alive and conscious. That had been the biggest worry for us all... whether he had done anything stupid. Part of me was holding onto the hope that he wouldn't have done that because he had too much to live for. We didn't want him to just become another great musician that was found dead in his home at such a young age; either pumped with too many pills with needles around him, or a bottle of empty vodka in his limp right hand and vomit spilling from his open mouth. I shiver slightly at these grotesque images, the cracking sound of the door coming off it's hinges the only thing bringing me back to the present moment.
"Can you get in?" I ask, watching as Zayn and Harry pry the door open slightly; just enough for us all to get through.
"You go first," Zayn nods to Harry who sighs and places the crow bar onto the floor before slipping through the open gap. Everything is silent for a couple of minutes before Harry re-appears, opening the door fully from the inside. We all look up expectantly, only to see him shaking his head with a sorrowful look. Swallowing the lump in my throat, I grip Maura's hand tightly as I go to step inside. Maura pulls back suddenly when I have one foot inside the door. She shakes her head at me, tears welling in her eyes.
"It's okay, it's okay." I murmur but she turns away, heading down the steps that lead to the bottom of the apartments. Zayn looks at me and I nod slowly with a sigh, watching as he follows after her. I turn back to see Harry standing waiting for me in the hallway. We couldn't see anything from here; only darkness even though it was the middle of the day.
The first thing I notice is the stench.
"Jesus christ," I mumble, covering my nose with my cardigan. It smelt like there were several dead bodies decomposing rapidly somewhere in here.
"Is he-" I start but my throat closes, images flashing through my mind. My breathing is faltering as I follow Harry to the end of the hallway, where he turns right into the kitchen.
"Fuck-" Harry mumbles, the smell worsening. My eyes adjust to the murky light; taking in the state of the room.
"Niall," Harry gasps, dropping to the floor. It's only then that my eyes fall down and land on the hunched figure on the dirt covered floor.
It was him.
With week old beard concealing his face, darkening flat hair, bloodshot eyes and withered looking muscles; he didn't look like the same boy who proposed to Crystal.
"Oh god, oh god." I tremble, my heart aching for him. I fall to the floor, letting my t-shirt fall from my face as I place my hand on his forehead.
"It's burning," I mumble and Harry mumbles more swearing under his breath.
"Go away, go away." Niall is mumbling, voice husky and cracking. His eyes were squeezed shut, skin on his face cluttered with painful looking scabs and sprouts of cirrhosis.
"Come on, mate." Harry says, bending and lifting him up.
"Fucking hell," He murmurs with a struggle as he finally manages to slump Niall over his shoulder. I follow him as he heads out of the kitchen and into the hallway where he finds Niall's bedroom door. Once inside, I look around. It looked in the same state as the kitchen. Except in here, the smell of rubbish was replaced with the rancid smell of vomit instead. I hold back the gag in the back of my throat and re-arrange the pillows as Harry lies Niall down; his heavy limbs stiff and contorted. Harry stands back and stares at him for a while, pained expression on his face.
"What the hell happened to him," He wonders out loud, sighing with a hand over his face.
"Go get Zayn and take Maura back home; she doesn't need to see him in this state." I say to him, casting a look at Niall's unconscious body.
"Then get Susie or the others and tell them to come up here; tell them to bring all the bleach and cleaning stuff we have." I finish, watching as he quietly leaves the room and I hear him heading down the hallway. I slip out of the bedroom too, leaving the door open slightly. I head into the kitchen and look around the rest of the apartment; only finding every room in the same condition as the others.
What the hell were we going to do.