John wakes in night after a repetitive nightmare, fearing for the safety of his friend.
|“Audrey,” I woke with her name on my lips, shaking uncontrollably in a cold sweat. I swallowed to slow my ragged, labored breathing, pressing a quivering hand against my chest, over my galloping heart. “Audrey,” I choked her name out again in a short puff of relapsed air.
Propping myself weakly on my elbows, I swung my drooping gaze across to my green-glowing alarm clock. 2:10 a.m. I groaned and flopped back on my pillow. Calm down, I told myself, it was just a nightmare. But a nagging voice in my head told me repeatedly that it wasn’t. I had seen them take her.
I squeezed my eyes shut, and rolled onto my side, bunching my sheets closer around myself and praying that the nagging would dismiss itself as paranoia. No such luck.
Something possessed me to sit up again, throwing off my blankets, and clamber shakily to my feet, knees buckling. Shivering, I stumbled to my dresser, freeing a white tee from the mess of clothes, and sliding it on over my bare chest. I glanced down at my legs, where my jeans were wrinkled from sleep, but in all, in fine condition. I sighed, slipping my feet into my weathered cowboy boots, and backing slowly to my door, willing my steps to be silent, so as not to wake my roommates. Again, no suck luck.
“John,” Tyler called to me as I clicked the door shut.
“Yeah, Ty?” I turned to face him, running a hand innocently through my shoulder length, sandy hair.
Tyler dragged a hand over his face wearily, and peered at me. “Where you goin’?” he slurred his words groggily. “It’s two in the morning.” He leaned tiredly against the dark hall wall, and crossed his arms, yawning.
“I know,” I mirrored his movement, “I need some…air.” I looked anywhere but his face, hoping against hope that he would accept my answer.
He laughed, swaying. “Man, last time you went out for air…” He looked dramatically into the distance, then shook his head in exasperation. “That didn’t go at all well.”
I glared and shoved past him aggressively. “Go back to bed, Ty,” I snapped, “It’s none of your business where I’m going.” The last thing I needed was my two best friends throwing me in an insane asylum because I was having recurring nightmares.
“Fine, then. Be that way,” Tyler sniffled, mocking me, “But don’t expect that answer to get you past Ping. Ping will never let you leave.” My shoulders slumped. Ping wouldn’t ever let me leave.
At age twenty, Ping acted as the parental figure, desperate to control Tyler and mine’s every action. Even though we were only two years younger than him, and on many occasions more mature, Ping exercised a great need for charge. But with my insane spy skills, I was certain I could slip past him.
My luck sucked bad tonight.
“Where’re you going?” I nearly collided with Ping as he stumbled out of the bathroom, toothbrush in hand, foaming toothpaste spilling out of his open mouth. His blue-streaked hair was wet, hanging lank around his head, and water was slowly collecting on the shoulders of his pale green bathrobe. “It’s two in the morning, John.”
Mustering all my courage, I shrugged. Ping glowered at me, livid. “You’re going to the Loft, aren’t you?” Again, I shrugged. Ping attacked his teeth angrily with his toothbrush. “Fine, then.” He retreated to the bathroom in order to spit, then reappeared, wiping his face with a small hand towel. “I’ll go with you,” I barely made out his words as he mumbled them into the towel, wiping it down his face.
My façade fell in resignation. Normally, I would’ve protested, told Ping to shove off, because we were legally adults, and we could get drunk and sleep with strippers if we wanted to. But tonight I was too worried about Audrey to say anything. I nodded solemnly, and watched as Ping shuffled off to his room, as energetic as if it were day. Sadly, my body kept reminding me that it wasn’t.
“Ty,” I called back into the dark hallway, “We’re going to the Loft. You in?” Tyler appeared next to me, clad in a flannel, button up tee, and slowly dying Nike sneakers, gray sweatpants hanging, three sizes too big, from his waist.
“So in, man.” He raised his fist, and I crashed mine into it. “Let’s go.” He turned his torso so as to fit past me in the thin passage. I followed after him. “Walking?” He turned to me as we reached the small foyer, hand hovering a few inches above the cluttered key rack. I never could’ve imagined that us three guys could accumulate so many keys. My eyes skimmed over them.
There were my keys. There were Tyler’s keys. Then there were me and Ty’s girlfriend’s keys. And then there were poor, lonely Ping’s keys. “Yeah,” I said, trying to tame my voice, to make it seem as if every part of me wasn’t screaming to get there fast, fast, fast. To get to Audrey fast, fast, fast. “Let’s walk.”
Tyler shrugged. “Yo, Ping,” he cupped his hands around his mouth as he yelled, “We are out.” He turned and threw the door open, stepping into the dimly lit city street.
“Wait up,” Ping’s voice was stifled by the closed door. “Be right there.” I walked off.
“So not waiting.” The nagging voice was shoving me forward. Fast, fast, faster.