Drowning Lessons

[This is a re-written, edited version of Drowning Lessons. Yup. Literally just that.] There's a trick to building yourself back together. Sam mastered it long ago, and now he's got to try and teach his best friend the same thing. Brandon is sinking fast, and all Sam can do is try to teach him to swim.

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12. Chapter Eleven

bemoan

verb

to express discontent or sorrow over an action or event

 

 

Sam was well aware that this was a dream.

He was a twenty-four year old man trapped in his eleven year-old body, with dirty clothes and messy hair.. That wasn’t physically possible, and therefore it had to be a dream.  However, that sliver of knowledge didn’t make it  any less terrifying.

In his dream he was running, air streaming past his face and dragging tears from his eyes. He wasn't exactly sure where he was going. He knew he shouldn’t be out. It was practically a deathwish to be out at this time in this area.  The air was brisk, cool and thick with dust, and with each desperate inhale ash and dirt squirmed into his throat, and as he hacked out another cough he imagined it squirming in his lungs, blackening them like cigarette smoke.

There were people being him- a mob of men lurching after him like a pack of wild dogs. Their eyes glinted a soulless black, empty pits leading straight to Tartarus and leaking oil and thick tar-like blood.

His feet slapped against the pavement, his breath raw in his throat. He shouldn't be back. Everything was better. What was he doing back? Why was he back?

​"Come back!" ​they were yelling. They were laughing too, They were enjoying this, the chase. There weren't anyone he knew, but then again, he shouldn't know any of these kind of people. He was a kid, not an addict, not someone unscrupulous and spinning with drugs. He shouldn't have to deal with them.

​But his mother did, made him older than his body, and he was forced into this life.

It took Sam minutes to lose the men- ducking and diving through alleys and secrets tunnels that only he knew about before staggering back into the building that had once been his home. The door didn’t exactly fit the frame so it let out a groan as he pushed it open. Then he froze.

His mother was there, just as he remembered her: dark face faded and cracked with age and her hair streaked with grey. Bags large enough to pack all of her worries in hung beneath her sunken eyes. He started forward and then stopped when he noticed the man standing next to her and the knife he held at her throat.

“Mama,” he whispered, voice cracking. “Mama, what’s going on?”

The man standing next to her snorted through his mask. His clothes were old, the mask dirty, and there was only a slit for his pale eyes and a hole for his mouth. He was smaller than Sam should have been, but to his eleven year old self he was massive, and the kitchen blade he held between stone fingers was nothing to underestimate either. “Go on,” the man snarled at his mother. “You tell him.” That voice… it sounded familiar…

His mother was crying- tears spilling down her cracked cheeks and dribbling off her chin in a pitiful waterfall. “You left me, Samuel,” she whispered hopelessly. “You left me here to die.”

Sam shook his head, as if such a simple gesture could shake free those treacherous memories. “You told me to go,” he whimpered. “You told me to go. I had a university place. I had a life to make.”

The man spat out a laugh- it was venomous and mocking and full of loathing and Sam wanted to punch him. “Yeah, and haven’t you done well for yourself, Sammy boy? You’ve got yourself trapped with some psychologically damaged loser who can barely stand to be touched without trying to kill you. You’ve done fantastically for yourself there, haven’t you?”

Sam ground his teeth as the figure continued, lazily. “You could have had everything, couldn’t you? You’d worked so hard for it, and then you threw it all away. And what for? A freak? Someone you can barely look at? Someone you don’t know anymore? You’ve lost everything, Sammy boy, and for what?”

“Brandon’s getting better,” he snarled. “He will get better.”

“Will he?” his mother interjected, almost oblivious to the knife at her neck, the way it left a thin scarlet line as it dug into her skin, almost as if the blade was alive and eager to kill. “Do you really believe that he will ever be the boy you used to know?”

He blinked and then he wasn’t eleven anymore- he was twenty four but still wearing the same ratted clothes, and looking down at the pair but still feeling smaller and weaker than both of them. “I can help him,” he whispered.

“No you can’t,” the man sneered. “You’ll fail him, just like you fail everyone else.”

“And why would you know that?”

Instead of replying, the man threw him a grin before dragging the blade over his mother’s neck. She let out a strangled, gasp as she slumped to the floor, folding in on herself like the story he’d once read about the paper ballerina who felt into the fireplace and turned to ash. The slit was a second mouth- open wide, scarlet tumbling out of it in a torrent as she flapped like a fish on a line, choking down air that she couldn’t inhale.

Sam roared and threw himself at the masked man, pushing him backwards into a wall, tearing the mask off and falling backwards as Brandon leered up at him, teeth glinting like fangs in the low light.

Sam knew this was a dream, but it didn’t make it any less horrifying.

“Sammyyyy…” Brandon crooned. “I told you that you’d faaaail…”

Sam clapped his hands over his ears. This wasn’t true. This wasn’t true.

But Brandon pushed up against him, his words squirming into his ears. This wasn’t true. It couldn’t be true.

“You want to help me, don’t you Sammy?” Brandon cooed, and even with his eyes shut he could tell that he was smiling. “But what if I don’t want to be helped, hm? What about that?”

It wasn’t true. It wasn’t true.

He could feel Brandon’s breath skirting over his skin, the gentle brush of his fingers tracing the tears that tracked down his face. Sam wanted to tear Brandon’s arms off.

“I like being like this, Sammy. Don’t you realise that? It makes me happy.”

It wasn’t true. It wasn’t true.

This was all a dream. It had to be a dream.

He cracked open an eyelid to see the knife pressed against his throat and Brandon’s feral grin before the world exploded into white.

 

His phone was ringing. He choked as he sat up, his head spinning. He felt like he was on a roller-coaster, the world spinning and diving and turning at breakneck speed leaving his thoughts and stomach trailing behind like an obedient dog.

He was damp with sweat, his t-shirt clinging to his chest, the blanket pooling around his waist. His heart was thrumming like a bird’s.

He dragged the heels of his palms over his face before peering over at his phone. It was three in the morning, the room pitch black and crammed to the brim with a crushing silence albeit the buzzing originating from his phone.

He answered without even bothering to see who it was. “Hello?”

“Sam?”

He sighed. “Yeah?”

“Are you okay? You had another nightmare?”

The memories of the blood, the world, Brandon’s kaleidoscope eyes as his mother gurgled and dropped to the floor threw themselves to the forefront of his thoughts almost eagerly and he tried to swallow them down again. “H-how did you know?”

“You were screaming in your sleep- thrashing around and yelling your head off. There’s not much that makes you act like that.”

“And you’re calling me because…?”

“Well-”  Brandon’s voice shook as he choked in another breath. “I know it’s stupid, but you used to call me, you know? Whenever you had a nightmare, you’d call me and we’d talk about it. I mean… I figured that I should try and wake you up, but I thought you might not appreciate me doing the whole Edward Cullen thing by watching you as you slept. So… that’s what I’m doing, I guess.”

Sam didn’t really know what to say to that.

“Listen…” Brandon continued. “I know I’m not… all there… but I want to be, I do. You used to tell me everything. It’s not like it used to be, but you can still talk to me anyway. I’m still here for you.”

Not everything. Sam wanted to say, but he didn’t. Of course he didn’t. Instead, he slumped back against the armrest, before pulling the blanket back around his neck. He could hear Brandon moving in the bedroom next door- pacing, feet wearing away at the carpet. “I was back in Somalia again,” he whispered.

The line was silent- waiting patiently for Sam to continue in his own time. “And?”

Breathe in. Breathe Out. Repeat.

“You… you killed me.”

Brandon hissed in a breath. “Shit.”

It had really been no wonder that his mother had sent him away to dreary London, with its grey-smudged streets and ink-stained buildings, where the only flash of colours weren't the pool of scarlet as needle tracks.Instead the only colour was the occasional red bus as it streaked past his uncle's window. 

He’d bought his first laptop in London after moving there into his uncle’s attic, and after spending hours and days of scrolling through information packs, he’d finally managed to work out how to use it. A friend at his school had taught him how to upload Skype, and that was where he’d talked to Brandon, years later.

Despite that, he’d still been so disappointed back then- filled to the brim with tales of gold pavements and pets with silver collars, of blue skies and an artist's pallet of sunsets. He'd almost cried when the grey city failed to live up to such stories of majesty, but then he grew up after that. He'd travelled so far that the lonely distance had aged him. He'd become a man, and men didn't cry. 

At least not in front of other people, but at night, in the cold confinement of his uncle's attic, he sobbed to think that it wasn't just his old Somalian government had lied to him.

“I’m okay,” he muttered, when Brandon didn’t say anything else. “It was just a dream.”

“I wouldn’t do that,” Brandon finally said, his voice a hoarse whisper. “I would never do that. I promise you, Sam. I would never hurt you.”

“I know, Brandon. I know.” Do you really? Are you so sure that he wouldn’t? “I was just freaked out. There was loads of stuff happening- you were just in the final part of it. There was people chasing me… and my- my mother was in it too. You were just…”

“Killing you.” Brandon’s voice was flat.

“Yeah.”

“I’m getting better, Sam. I am. And I won’t ever hurt you. I’d never hurt you… never you. I promise.”

Sam’s breath caught in his throat. Nope. He needed to swallow that hope that had suddenly welled up like tears. “You should try and sleep. And I’m four years older than you, so I know exactly what I’m talking about, okay?”

Brandon snorted. “Are you sure you don’t need to… like, talk some more?”

He smiled even though Brandon wouldn’t see him. “I’m fine. Don’t worry about it.”

There was a huff of breath over the line before it cut off. Sam smiled again before stretching out over the sofa. How was it that even now, just talking to his best friend made him feel so much better?

His phone buzzed again and he snatched it up again. “Brandon, you alright?”

It was a different voice- as cold and cruel as winter. He’d never forgotten a voice like that. “Samuel Farah?”

“Hello?” Why was he whispering?

“Samuel Farah, you are going abandon Brandon Hope at the earliest possible notice. Do you understand?”

“Who is this?” Sam knew exactly who he was talking to. “And what do you want?”

“Brandon Hope will die, Samuel Farah. And if you do not get rid of him like the attack dog like he is, then you will die with him.”

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