Ghosts of the Wandering Mind


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"A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world."


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Chapter One: Awake

Dr. Turner says it's been two days since the incident. An hour ago, I woke up from a coma. I tried to get the ICU nurses to tell me what was going on, but they just moved me to a different room. That's when Dr. Turner came in and told me. Well, he hasn't given anything detailed, so I don't think he's any help also. Ironically, they were asking me. How should I know? I've been asleep the entire weekend.
When I was twelve, I never thought it was possible to fall asleep for an entire day until Molly did it for 30 hours. She was eighteen at that time. She woke up in the middle of the afternoon clutching her stomach and demanding us for food. When mom offered her bread, she went batshit and slammed the tray at the refrigerator. Up to now, there's still that huge dent in the middle of the fridge. When Dad went home from work and saw the mark, he asked Mom. She didn't tell. Of course she wouldn't.
That was the first time I heard them having a huge fight. I was in my room, across theirs. I'm pretty sure there was a lot of wreckage because I could hear glass shattering. The next morning, Mom had a mild bruise in her cheek while my Dad had scratches on his forearm. All because of a stupid dent. "What the hell did they even fight about?" Molly asked me.
As I continue to deny any recollection of the event, Molly barges inside the room. Surprisingly, I see worry in her eyes. I guess it only takes a bullet to your arm to get her to care. Dr. Turner excuses himself and has a conversation with my sister. They keep their voices down so it sort of bums me out that I can't figure whatever they're talking about.
Apparently, the gunshot wound in my arm isn't fatal because it didn't hit any major artery or whatnot, but I do have Posttraumatic stress disorder (or as they like to call it PTSD) and now I have to go to psychiatric therapy. Now I stopped listening right after I heard the word. Although Dr. Turner keeps talking, he doesn't seem to realize at first, but when he does, he puts a hand on my good shoulder and says, "We just want the best for you, Brighton." Exactly what he would say.
Dr. Turner nods and leaves the room. Molly doesn't, but she doesn't look me in the eye, also. "We do think it's best for you," she says, still avoiding my gaze.
"Since when did you start making compromises with a doctor?" I say sarcastically.
"Not with Dr. Turner," I notice her tense up and right then, I knew.
"You can't have them both, that was the deal!" I hear a strange beeping noise and realize it's the heart monitor. Molly tries to object but I don't let her. "You have dad, I have mom. That was the deal!" I shout, I know it's not really good for me to do so, but the idea of Molly getting everything she wants just stresses me out.
I was six when we first moved out of my Mom's farm house in Macon to live in an apartment Dad rented in Atlanta. It was a fairly small lot but it was enough for the four of us. It only had two rooms, so I had to share one with Molly. Dad bought a bunk bed and had both of us decide who gets the top and the bottom.
"The top bunk has a pretty window, I want it." Molly told me.
"But I want it too, and Dad said we should both decide." I said.
"I'm getting it. I'm older."
The two of us ended up dragging each other's hair because we both wanted that top bunk. Eventually, I got the last word. Molly created a huge scene out of it, too. She wailed as loud as she could-- not to mention she was twelve at that time. The neighbors even had to knock on our door to see if everything was okay.
Unfortunately for me, whenever nighttime came, this huge branch would wham on the window. And I don't mean tap, I mean WHAM. I got out of my bed one night and woke Molly up. She saw me crying and laughed, "That's what you get." I had to suffer the literal nightmares for four years before Dad found a good job in Connecticut. This time, there were five different bedrooms. And this time, Molly had the second biggest room after our parents'.
"You don't have a choice," she raises her voice. "She wanted this."
She says the word in disgust, in betrayal. Like she wasn't even thankful she got a chance to have both our parents again. This makes me angrier. "You manipulated her to want this."
"She can't even think straight!" She shouts, walking up to my bed. "Neither will you, so just be thankful that I am trying to help you." She clicks the call button on my bed and leaves the room. Just like that.
Remember what I said about having to take a bullet to your arm to get her to care? Yeah, that doesn't work either.
I struggle in my bed out of frustration. Two nurses came and I overhear words like 'trauma' and 'depression' and 'disorder' and I just snap. "I'm not sick," I say. Which was probably a bad move, because you know how the crazy person in movies goes 'I'm not crazy!' then the other person goes 'That's exactly what a crazy person would say.' Now that's exactly what I feel. Only worse, because this one's real.
* * *
The afternoon after I woke up, my vital signs were good to go, and so was I. Turns out Molly filled out a waiver to look out for me until I'm good on my own. And considering that I'll be staying with her, I will be good on my own.
I wait in the curb of the hospital, and when her Range Rover (Dad's actually) finally comes, she rolls her window down. She's wearing a pair of Sunnies and hands one to me. "Media people will be buzzing," she says.
I scoff, "Get your head out of your ass." I swat the sunglasses out of my way and get inside the car. I stared outside the window just so I have a reason not to look at her.
"Suit yourself," she mutters annoyingly, shoving the Sunnies in her glove compartment. By the time she drives, I realize she's heading her way back to my house, not back at hers with Dad. "Can you take care of yourself?" She doesn't even turn the engine off, she just parks the car, waiting for me to get out.
"Yes," I say spitefully.
"Good." And she leaves. Just. Like. That.
I'm not saying I want her to actually take care of me. Ha. As if that would ever happen. I just need a little reassurance that deep down her cruelty, she actually has a soul. I shrug off the stress Molly left and enter the house. It's oddly the same: the chairs, the tables, the untouched books, even the dust I accidentally pressed my palm into.
My mother, in her early stage of Alzheimer's, is usually taken care of by Trina-- a home nurse from Pius Foster Care, whenever I'm at school. For the past three days, she's also been the one to be there for my mother. For some reason, I've happened to have a closer bond with her than Molly.
"Brighton," Trina greets me when I bump into her on my way to my mother's room. She hugs me and I ask how my mother's doing. "Your mother's fine. The real question is, how are you?"
"I'm okay," I say. "I'm out of the hospital, so I'm okay."
"Oh, that reminds me. Someone left this at the door this morning," she hands an envelope with my name on it. When I open it, it reads 'Therapy Schedule' and has the weekday afternoons marked with an X. On the bottom right it says, "$200/session, and I'm paying. Don't skip it."
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Chapter Two: Unknown

It's my first time to watch the local news in two years. The news was about the incident, as it is for the rest of all the news channels. It must've spread fast for the past week because a lot of the media guys have been standing by our lawn and Mom got really upset. She was in her room all day and she won't let anyone in. Even Trina.
"You don't have to open up yet if you don't want to." Trina keeps telling me when she sees my worried eyes gaze out the window. I respect her for that.
I've been receiving calls from Celia, "You don't know how badly I want to go to your place right now, but my mother placed me on a temporary martial law." I understand. The entire village is still ballistic about the incident. Celia never questioned me, nor did she force me to answer anything. But she was constantly making up new things to talk about right after we end one. It was like she was avoiding it altogether.
Dax was just from next door. Our windows were adjacent to each other, so I wasn't surprised to find him outside my locked window, tapping on it patiently. "Brighton!" I hear his muffled voice as he stands up warily. "Never lock that window again," he climbs inside.
"That was intended for you," I say and he laughs. "No, actually I forgot you actually live there."
"You've only been gone for less than a week and you forget about me?" He makes a hurt face and clutches his chest.
When we first moved to Connecticut, I was immediately enrolled in Pius Hills Elementary School. I had no friends, I didn't know the place, and I had school starting in two weeks, so I thought I'd take a friendly neighborhood stroll. I saw a kid, about my age, busking with his guitar in the sidewalk of downtown. He had a couple dimes on his guitar case.
I walked up to him, hypnotized by the way his guitar strings obey his fingers, considering his guitar was way too big for a ten-year-old like him. It was a slow ballad, he barely even sung, just plucked his strings swiftly and carelessly. A lot of people passed by him, but he didn't mind. It took me a lot of self-debating if I should tell him I knew the song he was playing. I heard it on Molly's iPod, whenever I'd sneak a little entertainment.
"Snow Patrol," I blurted out.
He didn't flinch, he kept playing. It sort of bummed me out, though, because I was expecting he'd be surprised to know that someone actually knew what he was playing. I turned red and was about to leave before I caught his eye and he smiled. "Cool."
"You play well," I told him.
"Thank you," he smiled genuinely, clutching his guitar with pride. "You're new here?"
"How'd you know?"
"I Heart CT shirt." He pointed at my top. "It gives away the guessing part, really."
I looked down at what I'm wearing. I had a confused look on my face because I wasn't even wearing an I Heart CT shirt. But I still said "Oh," as if I knew exactly what he was talking about.
"I'm messing with you, I saw your moving truck. I live next door." He said quickly, laughing at the fact I actually fell for it.
"Oh!" I squealed. Then I laughed with him. 
"I'm Dax by the way," he said, not looking at me as he strummed on his guitar.
"I'm Brighton."
"Well, I'll see you around Brighton." He said, finally picking up his stuff and heading off.
Eventually, I did see him around (apart from living next to him): in the first day of school. He introduced me to his little clan: him, Celia, and Anwell. The four of us have been inseparable ever since. When we reached High School, Dax invited me to sing for a school performance with his band The Woodstones.
"I don't even sing," I laughed.
"Yes you do. I can hear you everytime in the bus. Whenever you're looking out the window like you're in a really sentimental movie." Anwell said. Celia snorted herself a laugh and I buried my red face under my palms.
"I think it's good," Dax said, also stopping himself from laughing as he tried to get my hands out of my face.
Over the long haul, I eventually did agree to join. Unexpectedly, people went ballistic over our little school band, too. We were asked to perform on any school event. That was the main factor why we got quite well-known around school. But we never took advantage of it. It sort of just happened. I was, and still am happy that I have the best people at the worst times. And today is no exception. I love how Dax can still make jokes out of everything that's going on.
"Stop," I say, trying to sound as serious as I can. A smile creeps out of my face and I fail.
Dax laughs. "How's the arm?" He walks up to me and inspects it closely until his eyes look crossed.
"Still keeping its shit together, if you ask me." I lightly push his head away.
I sit on my bed and he flops down on it with his back, laughing. "Everyone is."
* * *
"That kid is a time bomb." Trina doesn't go any farther than that. That's how she ends the conversation whenever we have no choice but to talk about the incident. I don't complain, though. In fact, Trina's been the one who's cleaning my wound.
Dax knocked on my window this morning, telling me about the memorial service in the Pius Stadium. "I'll be here in two hours if you want a ride, okay?"
I nod, but somehow the thought still bothered me. There's a very particular pair of numbers that I've been seeing all around the news and the papers: 12-2. Twelve dead, two injured. One of the injured is me, obviously, then the other one is this girl Tammy from Geography Club. She's a particularly low profile fellow and I don't know much about her except knowing that she hates The Woodstones. That bothers neither Dax and I. We do receive a lot of negativity, but we also get a lot more of heartwarming feedback.
When we arrive at the stadium, I see Anwell and Celia near the fire exit.
"Well, aren't you looking better," Celia, for a moment, stops herself from giving me a hug, knowing about my arm.
I look up front and see rows of crying people in their seats. I see Principal Oswen crying, too. There are large portraits of the deceased all around the platform. Honestly, I could only name two of those who passed away-- Eunice from Chem class, and Polly from French. The unfamiliar faces still haunt me, and Anwell notices.
"If it's making you uncomfortable, we don't need to be here," he says. Now I have Dax and Celia looking worried.
It was always like this with the four of us-- caring. During summer break, the four of us took a five-hour drive to Colchester and trekked terrains for an hour to ride the renowned 600-meter zipline. That was also the day we found out Celia was extremely acrophobic. She started convulsing, and her face turned as white as sheets. Anwell was just about to be pushed down the line. His entire gear was already put on and his body was already strapped to the wires. The operator said there was no way Celia could get through the other end if she didn't ride.
"Are you going or not? There's a lot of people in the line." The operator said impatiently.
"No, we're fucking not." Anwell snapped back, unbuckling the straps in his body and storming out with the rest of us, as he gave the operator the middle finger.
It was a bittersweet moment, but that was also the day I realized that I was stuck with these three. These three who would insist I had what it took when I doubted myself, who would pitch in money to surprise me on my birthdays, who would help me both socially and financially. These three showed me that there are far more better things that what life has to offer. Somehow, they've happened to give me the care and love I've longed from my biological family.
"Brighton?" Celia snaps her fingers in my face. "Are you okay?" She looks genuinely worried now as she grips my fingers tightly.
I nod quickly. "I'm okay."
"Come on," Dax tilts his head out the door and we all follow him. Each name of 'the asleep' (as Principal Oswen called them) were calligraphed on a the parking lot's wall. There were messages from people written onto them. Celia hands me a chalk and they all take their own space and write. I've never seen the three of them pay so much respect, so I take it. I don't write anything, though. It wasn't long until Celia tugs on my shirt did I think of something.
I'm sorry.
The three of them see me staring at the message I wrote, and they pat me on the back. It bums me out because they don't know. They don't know that I'm not sorry this happened to them-- I mean I am, it just isn't the reason why I wrote it.
I knew something not Celia, Anwell, nor Dax knew.
For the twelve of you who are "asleep", I'm sorry for being the reason why this happened to you.
I'm sorry you had to die instead when Vernon Lewis started the mass shooting in the first place to kill me.
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