Marco seldom tuned into Mei’s podcast...thing, but as of late, he found himself doing a lot that he hadn’t normally. Not in a long time had Marco truly felt despair knock itself boldly at his door, screaming at him like the wails of anguish that he could remember screeching when Charlie Decker shot him. Those immediate thoughts came flooding back after a bad dream, those thoughts that plagued him in those first weeks in the hospital after he got his surgery. They plagued him like an illness that sapped just about every single light he had to spare.
And they were why he was up almost every night, kicking ass at whatever online game he could get his hands on. Some nights he dove head-first into Call of Duty. Some nights it was League of Legends. It always changed depending on his mood, but for some reason, unlike previous times where he’d just let himself get lost in mindless action, Marco was laying in bed on his side (the leg he got shot in facing up). He laid there on his side, his Bose headphones in and he listened to Mei Midnight speak.
Admittedly, Marco may have tuned her out at some parts. He was drifting into a partial slumber, his eyes heavy as he felt the chill of his fan hit him every three seconds as it blew the cold air around his room. He didn’t have his blanket on so he felt the chills start at his toes and go all the way up to his hair. It felt nice and as he drifted off into a dream, Marco heard a voice.Marco...Marco…
It was haunting and it kept calling out to him. The voice sounded strikingly masculine but also, as it kept calling to him, beckoning him with misty strings of light, he felt an air of familiarity within it. Not only was the light reaching to him familiar, but there was something about the way that that voice made him feel. It was confident and comforting. It didn’t just call his name but it was patient in how it waited for Marco to acknowledge it.
Around him was nothing. Around Marco was something. He couldn’t tell what it was. He glanced around in all directions. There wasn’t light nor was there darkness, yet he clearly saw the light yellow hues of light that the voice seemed to originate from. It was the only color that he could make out.
And he started to walk towards it.
Correction. Marco limped
As he walked, he felt a cold breeze touch his skin, which immediately had him shiver, reaching behind him and a black hoodie that he always wore seemed to appear and he slipped it on. No longer feeling the wind hit him in such an extreme way, Marco continued down the path the yellow mist was guiding him to. As he did, he heard sounds that felt like the revving of an engine. He couldn’t see anything, but suddenly he was able to do more than limp. Suddenly Marco felt himself able to run at speeds that he only dreamed of running.
And as he ran, the thoughts of despair came back. He couldn’t stop them just as he couldn’t stop himself from running; similarly, he couldn’t stop himself from getting shot.All my fault,
he kept telling himself. It was all his fault. Being out there after the bell rang. Being out there after knowing the bell had rang.You didn’t know.
He heard that voice say and a wave of grief long since past came over him.Of course I did!
Marco didn’t know what he was doing. He was carrying out a conversation as he ran, wind pressing against his face, his dark hair flowing back. And he was having a conversation with the voice of someone he didn’t know, yet something told him he did.
What sense did that make?It wasn’t your fault!
So what? Now Marco was Matt Damon and this voice was Robin Williams? Was that even the right analogy?
Marco turned around, running in the complete opposite direction. And as he ran, he took a few lefts, effortlessly turning as he maintained the right speed. Before, he felt like he was running on what he assumed was a sensation similar to asfalt, but now he heard echoes -- echoes of his feet.ClickclickTaptap
And another turn.
And then another and then Marco’s footsteps made no noise -- none that were as audible as before. Now they were muffled, like the brushing of blades of glass when hit by the wind.
Marco Brady finally came to a stop and what was a blissful feeling not experiencing any pain in his leg, suddenly it was so intense, Marco fell to the ground as he held his left leg from the ankle. There was a warm sensation. It was agonizing. Surging through his entire body was a pain that was more than physical. As he started to cry out, Marco yelled:“Help!”
But there wasn’t anyone. “Help!”
He cried out again, this time screeching at it.“Nobody is here, Marco.”
There was that voice again, but this time he couldn’t hear them in his head. The voice didn’t echo like before, but rather, as he looked up in the middle of trying not to pass out from the torture he was enduring through, he saw the shadow of someone.“Who are you?”
The person had clapped slowly, their form slowly revealing itself. “Who am I? Do you really need to ask that, Marco?”
Their question, though it was soon answered, they stepped forward and Marco soon found himself with more questions than he began with. “You’re —”“That’s right,”
they said, smiling, “I’m you. Or what you could have been.”
Shaking his head, Marco suddenly didn’t feel excruciating discomfort in his leg. It was just the normal discomfort that had him forever limping. “This can’t be happening. This is all a dream…”“Is it?”
With a gesture, the other Marco smiled and soon the devoid of color that Marco thought he was running in was to be revealed that he was back at the school. Specifically, Marco was in the soccer field and where he stood was exactly where he was shot.
And now he was even more confused than ever. Was it a dream? Was this real? MArco was on his bed listening to Mei’s stream. She talked about...she talked about -- oh, God what was it again? The elder tree or something like that? He wished he didn’t drift off when she was supposed to be explaining the origin of that tree or that he knew more about it.
Every inch of Marco’s mind right now was being spent trying to figure out he was looking at a fit version of himself, brandishing a soccer/Eruopean football uniform and he was on the ground, no longer in immense pain like the cripple he always felt like. Nevermind the fact that he thought he was running, but as he looked behind him, his brother’s truck was there, parked at an angle no less than three feet from where he was laying on the ground. How was any of this possible? Was he dreaming or was he awake and just couldn’t process any of it?“So if this is all real--”“Never said that--”“Okay,”
Marco said, getting annoyed a bit with his other, better-looking self. “If this is a dream--”“I didn’t say that either.”
Marco narrowed his eyes at himself. Just looking at him made him confused and everything that was happening was enough to make him seriously consider checking himself into a mental institution, because it was clear as day that he was going insane if he was having a conversation with himself as he laid on the surprisingly lukewarm grass. “So then what is going on? If this isn’t real and it isn’t a dream, then what?!”
Marco’s voice got a bit intense as he slammed his fists on the ground.“Marco, it’s alright, okay? I’m not here to cause you confusion or anything close to that. I’m here because there’s something you need to get off your chest.”“I think I’d know if I needed to get something off my chest,”
he retorted back, mumbling something inaudible under a fake cough.
The Other Marco raised his eyebrow at him and knelt down. Marco looked at him with an uncharacteristic jealousy at how easily he was able to do that without groaning. “You are here for a reason. Tonight didn’t happen because you were feeling blue. I know you because I am you. I know you have moments where you can’t keep it together for the people who love you. I know this because I am a projection of your psyche. As I said, I am what you wished you could be, but do you want to know something, Marco?”
Marco tried not to scowl, but he kept his eyes on the other him. “What? You’re going to rub it in my face that I could have been walking if I wasn’t out in this field practicing?”
The Other Marco stared at him, shaking his head with a heavy sigh. “No. I’m here so you can tell me why you still think that was ever your fault to begin with. I’m here so you can say things that you can’t to those you wish you could.”“Such as?”“Such as Danny Belmonte. Such as Charlie Decker. Such as everyone you feel looks down on you because you are -- what did you call it? Cripple Castillo?”
There was a laugh from the Other Marco and he earned a scathing glare in response. “Remember--”“Yes, I know. You’re me, so you’re laughing at my--”“--Our--”“Right. Our pain.”
It took Marco a few minutes to think. In that time, he saw his other self standing there patiently. That was something they didn’t have in common, so maybe he was a version of himself that he wished he could be. Deep down, he knew everything that perfect version of himself said was the truth. He had a list of things he wished he could say to Danny. He wished he could tell his ex how he truly felt and how he wished they could be together like they used to, but in public as well as private. He wished he could corner Charlie Decker, make him look him in the eye and ask him why he decided to shoot everyone. He wished he could walk without having to limp half the time. MArco wanted so desperately to be able to live that dream.
But he couldn’t. Damn. Damn. Damn!
Why was tonight so special? And why, of all things, did some projection of what he wished he could be show themself to him?“So what am I supposed to do? Just start listing things? Is that how this process works?”
Marco asked as he stood up. The pain surged through his body and his other self held him steady with their arms until Marco was able to support himself. “Well what am I supposed to do? What should I say? Tell you how I hate this. How much I…”
As he hesitated, his lip began to quiver and he bit it just hard enough to stop himself from succumbing to the breakdown he knew was well on its way. “...How much I fucking hate being a burden to everyone? Is that what you want me to say?”
The Other Marco stood there, looking at MArco. Watching him lean forward and his hand holding his left calf to keep himself from falling over. The pressure was on his right leg so it didn’t cause immense pain in his bum one. In his eyes, he could feel the feeble Marco’s anguish in every word he spoke, the way his voice cracked with emotion. It hurt him because it hurt Marco; and because Marco hurt, he didn’t have the words to provide him with an answer.
Of course, The Other Marco knew that he felt this because he was
Marco. Even if he didn’t show it, he was a projection of Marco Brady’s mind. He was the hopes and dreams that Marco Brady still clung to. In his darkest thoughts, he was the light that brought comfort to him and when he needed a reason to get out of bed, more often than not, he was the one that Marco could visualize and everything would be okay. But of course, this only worked if he didn’t let himself drown in the despair that stemmed from the reality of what could never be.
The Other Marco was this reality that was no longer possible. Marco Brady wouldn’t be like how he was and that was a fact. Charlie Decker took that away from him. And it was Charlie Decker who..“You need to let go, Marco. But in order to do this, you need to see one more person.”“Another? Who?”
Marco asked, his voice still ripe with emotion, his voice cracked and his eyes puffed up from him trying -- and failing -- to hold back a sob of tears. “Who else is there to see? I thought you were the only person I needed to see. Isn’t that what you said?”
The Other Marco shook his head. “I am the ghost of you, Marco. All the pain you feel, while it is phenomenal that you have made it so far, it is just the internal strife you confronted. What you must face before this night is done is face your external strife. The horror that you know you have to come face to face with, it’s closer than you think.”“What does that even mean?”
Even though Marco’s plea was genuine, his other self smiled and pointed to his heart. He pointed still until his form faded in the same bright yellow smoke that presented itself to Marco when he thought he was asleep. And even when he was left alone, Marco was still confused about many things. What was happening tonight? What did this have to do with the Elder Tree? And what did his other self mean by the external horror?
He was so confused, but it was something. Marco had something to go off of, but he couldn’t do this on an empty stomach. Somehow, through all of that pseudo-running he did, he had literally worked up an appetite. Maybe it was real or maybe it wasn’t, but all he knew was he could go for a Reuben sandwich right about now.