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Before It Could Bloom

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“What the fuck are you doing?”

The small path that they have to walk over to get to the next tunnel is short but rickety as hell. It’s only wide enough for them to walk one at a time with how much of the floor on each side has fallen away. Aleks had lost count of how many stairs they had walked down since leaving the surface but it was enough to make even his runner's legs ache. When they had left the staircase to explore the level that they were currently on they still couldn't see where it ended and even now, shining his flashlight through the gaps in the floor where the pieces had fallen off over the years, you couldn't really see the bottom. He was honestly surprised that James was doing so well with his fear of heights but Aleks never missed an opportunity to fuck with his curly haired friend.

“Who?” James questions, continuing to keep the same pace while walking over the thin piece of metal that’s keeping them from plummeting 12+ feet to their deaths. Not that Aleks is thinking about that right now. Nope.

“I don’t want to be stuck down here!”

“Just calm down. Just calm down,” James says while finally making it to the other side and into the next tunnel.

“What do you mean? I’m the last one here! I’m the first one to go,” Aleks exclaims making it into the new tunnel as well.

It’s just as dark and gross as the rest of the silo has been so far, not that he's surprised. All of the old pipes and shit protruding from the walls are rusted and look like you could get tetanus just from staring too long. He’s honestly surprised none of them have died so far for this video.

“Just calm down. I’ve been in the back the whole god damn time. Fuck you. You didn’t give a shit when I was in the back.”

“No, I didn’t because I wasn’t in the back.”

“Well, that’s fucked up. I was in the back three-fourths of the way,” James replies back stepping over random debris scattered over the tunnel's floor. Aleks grabs one of the poles on the wall for support when he steps over the litter as well. He instantly regrets it though when he looks down and sees white shit all over his gloves. It looks like the annoying stuff that comes from his trees every May and makes his dog itch excessively. He dusts his hands together and it all shakes off, scattering across the tunnel floor.

Jordan and Spencer were both up in front not joining in on the twos argument. Jordan was actually significantly ahead of them, but still in sight, exploring and looking around. Spencer was the unfortunate soul tasked with capturing everything on film, which included James and Aleks stupid banter. It also, from what Aleks had observed, included zooming in on every graffiti picture of a dick that they had seen so far, although he wasn’t sure who Spencer had gotten that assignment from.

“Well now I’m in the back for the rest of the way and I’ll see you guys in fucking hell.”

 

-

 

“Oh, shit.”

The group looks ahead of them at what used to be the tunnel floor but is now partially caved in and is full of dirty water, trash lining the bottom. There’s random metal pieces from the silo down there and also outside trash, like cups and plastic gloves. It’s all covered in vines and purple flowers that significantly contrast with their surroundings.

“This is awesome,” Spencer says trying to get a better look with the camera.

The flowers are dark purple and small; probably close to the size of a quarter. That doesn't mean much though. What the plant doesn’t have in size it makes up for in the pure number of buds sprouting from the vine. There have to be hundreds upon hundreds of them. And the feeling of this end of the tunnel was off, to say the least. It didn’t feel creepy or haunted or any of that type of bullshit that they’d probably try to play up for the camera. It just felt... heavy might be a word to describe it or electric. It’s one of the weirdest things Aleks has ever seen and that’s not an easy task. Having James as a best friend alone was a testament to that. He’d seen some fucked up shit.

“How the fuck do flowers even grow down here?” Aleks asked looking around at all of them. They grew all over the concave part of the floor and coiled together into a side room that was out of sight from where they were standing.

“Well I don’t think we’re getting across this,” Jordan says turning to go back down the path they came from.

“What are you kidding me?” Spencer replies jumping up on one of the metal side rails that are still standing. He only wobbles a little considering he has a camera in one hand and a flashlight in the other. Aleks would probably be impressed if it wasn’t such a stupid fucking idea that could injure the other man at any moment. To think that people usually considered him to be the reckless one.

“Spencer!” Jordan yells multiple times in a row as Spencer continues to walk farther down the railing while filming.

Only Spencer would do something this stupid without being prompted. At least when Aleks did stupid shit it was because James bet him and he could blame the other man if anything went wrong.

Spencer shoved his flashlight in his pocket and bent down on the railing reaching as if he was going to pluck one of the flowers off the vine.

“Spencer you fucking idiot don’t touch that. It’s probably a new strain of poison ivy that will kill you or make your dick fall off or some shit!”

“Spencer get down from there!”

Spencer doesn’t listen to them right away, no surprise there, but he doesn’t touch any of the flowers either so that was an improvement. He seems to be filming some of the flowers close up and the side room that they couldn’t see from where they were but Spencer is directly across from now.

“I got the flowers!” Spencer exclaims walking back towards the group and jumping from the railing back to the tunnel floor next to him. Not like he was holding hundreds of dollars worth of equipment in his hands or anything. Damn.

“He got the flowers,” James laughed.

 

-

 

“I can see the shit in the air.”

Aleks looks at what James is talking about and can see them too. Hundreds and hundreds of particles of something just floating through the air. The same shit that he had seen earlier on his hands when he had touched the pole coming from the wall. He’s beyond happy that Jordan made them pick their masks up at Home Depot before coming here. Who knew what kind of toxic chemical shit had been brewing in the air down here for fifty years. Apparently, Koots could have a good idea every once in awhile.

“I know.”

“Fuuuck.”

 

-

 

The rest of the exploration of the abandoned silo goes pretty much the same. Lots of dead ends where the floor has fallen away so they have to turn around and go a different route, lots of rusty ominous tunnels where you can’t see the end from the beginning, and lots of graffiti. Some of the arts pretty cool though, he has to admit. Lots of dicks, too. Whether it was the graffiti like the “dick-topus” or the dildos lying miscellaneously on the floor, he never thought an abandoned missile silo would be so phallic.

There was some more bickering as well.

Aleks is back in the front of the group when they have to cross an area that was significantly more damp than the rest of that tunnel. There’s a piece of the floor that still protrudes from the water but it sinks some when weight is applied. Everyone in the group cross’s no problem except for James who takes a good minute to get across with Jordan’s coaxing.

“James, you’d be fucking dead in a horror film,” Aleks scuffs and continues down the tunnel.

“I don’t like you, okay? I’m in the back again. Again.”

 

-

 

When they start to get close to the exit of the silo he falls to the back again, behind James. They had planned to do a bit at the end of the video where he hides and they pretend not to know what happened to him. He’d run out once they exited and pretend to have seen something that spooked him. Easy enough and something he probably would have done anyhow if it wasn’t pre-planned.

Aleks turns down the next hallway on the right as everyone else continues towards the sunlight that you can see streaming through the bars on the exit door. They’re all chatting except Aleks and Spencer has the camera pointed forward at Jordan so it won’t catch him sneaking away. He only has to walk a couple steps down the tunnel hall to come to a door on the right wall. It was closed all the way which was a little odd. All the other doors they had been through today had been at least cracked from previous explorers. He doesn't really think about it though when he tries the handle and the door opens easily. He needs to hurry before they “notice” that he’s gone in case they look around a little bit for him as part of the video. He really doesn’t want to have to refilm this bit.

The Russian slides into the room and is relieved to see that it seems to be an old storage room or something. That was actually probably at the top of his best case scenarios list for what this room could have been, which is suspicious, to say the least. He had been expecting to find something on the bottom of his list like the zodiac killer's lair that he's been hauled up in all these years just waiting for a stupid fuck like Aleks to stumble in and get got. Or at least a homeless person with a homemade shank or something.

The space is completely empty except for old metal storage shelves that line the walls of the room, once probably housing missile fuel or something and now mostly bare. There were some more of the purple flowers in here though which was interesting. They were growing wrapped around the sides of the shelves and made Aleks feel a bit uneasy. He doesn’t know why though, it’s just a fucking plant. He’s sure he’s seen hundreds of them by this point in his life. There’s just something that strikes him as off about a flower that can grow in complete darkness with an unreliable water supply.

Aleks starts to walk towards the nearest shelf to take a closer look but the band of his mask gets caught on a metal bar he hadn’t seen protruding from the wall. He rushes to grab for it but the mask is already leaving his face and tumbling to the ground. Not thinking he breathes in sharply, pissed at what he just did and immediately regrets it.

The air's so fucking thick. Aleks instantly starts coughing and picks up his mask from the floor to reposition it onto his face but the damage has been done. The only thing he could think to compare it to was smoking but it was definitely not the same. The particles felt alive almost. It wasn’t like anything he had experienced before.

Aleks didn’t even need to pretend to be freaked out now. He ran from the room and down the hall towards the exit. He wasn’t sure how long he had been in there or if he waited long enough for the bit but at this point, he didn’t care. Fuck the bit.

“Fuck you guys. Fuck you guys for leaving me,” Aleks says as he slides through the broken bars on the door. He doesn’t stop running when he gets past the guys and just continues up the hill to Jordan's car that they drove out there. He wants to be as far from the silo as possible and it will make a good ending for the video, so he figures it’s a win-win for everyone.
He tries the handle to the car when he gets up there and it’s locked, of course. Who Jordan thought was going to break into his car in this fucking field, he wasn’t sure, but it was such a Jordan move it causes him to crack a bit of a smile.

Aleks leans against the car and takes his ventilation mask off tossing it onto the ground with all the other trash. He feels weird. His limbs feel heavy as if he had sat on the floor too long and they had fallen asleep. His mind is cloudy. It reminds him of the first time he got high. Not like the first couple of times that he smoked at parties his freshman year of high school, when he didn’t know how to inhale correctly and it just made him cough so he pretended to be having a good time and be “super high” because he was a high schooler now and this is what they did, right? No, this is like when months later he and Jessica, his first girlfriend who also happened to be a grade above him, were hanging out in her basement and she showed him how to shotgun so that the smoke didn’t hurt his lungs and he felt like he was floating when he shut his eyes later while they were making out.

He can hear the others voices in the distance, still down over the hill wrapping the video up. If he closes his eyes he can pick out James voice from the other two, always the loudest in the group, yelling about food. He thinks? It’s hard to hear from the distance.

The weather is nice today. Warm but not too hot. Goosebumps break out across his arms with the next gust of wind and a shiver runs through his whole body. He feels overly sensitive like all his nerves are lit up. The bare skin of his body that is touching Jordan's car suddenly feels too hot against the metal when it was fine a minute ago. He doesn’t know what to concentrate on. Everything feels overwhelming.

“Yo, Aleksandr. You ready to go, dude?”

He opens his eyes and James is right in front of him. Fuck he hadn’t even heard them coming back up the hill let alone approach the car. Spencer and Jordan already have the trunk open loading up their equipment.

“Earth to asshole. Are you okay?” James asks waving his hand in front of Aleks face a couple times. There’s some concern starting to show in his eyes.

“Yeah! Yeah sorry, I just feel kind of weird. I don’t know. Kind of fucked up,” Aleks says stepping away from the car and out of whatever trance, or fog, or whatever that just was. He unclenches his hands which he hadn’t noticed had become fists.

“You felt fine earlier, didn’t you?” Jordan says walking over to join the two, Spencer not far behind.

“Yeah, but when I went to hide before running out my mask fell off and-”

“WHAT? Aleksandr you don’t know what kind of shit was in that air.” James yells looking scandalized. Like it was Aleks’ plan to breathe in the fucking chunky missile air and give himself terminal cancer or some shit.

“It’s not like I meant to breathe in the air James.”

“Well, you should have been more careful!”

“I was being careful. How could I have known there was a pipe protruding from the wall just waiting to rip some poor, unexpecting explorers mask off?”

“Well, clearly not careful enough-”

“Okay, okay guys that’s enough,” Jordan says cutting James off. “I’m sure Aleks will be fine. It’s probably just like when you breathe in too many paint fumes: dizziness, trouble breathing. It’s not good for you but you’ll live. So can you idiots get in the car so we can leave?”

 

-

 

Aleks is on fire. It hurts. It hurts so bad and he can’t see anything. Fuck he can’t focus on anything else. Fuck it hurts. Fuck. He thinks he might be yelling but he can’t tell over the pain, it’s the only thing he can think about. Fuck. He starts to hear noises he thinks. Lots of panicked yelling that all sound so far away. Like when you're underwater but you can still hear the kids up on the pool deck yelling. He wishes he was in a pool right now because then he wouldn’t be on fire. Fuck.

He hears someone ask what's wrong and he tries to tell them about the fire but it won’t come out and the flames are coming back no no no please no. They’re engulfing his feet and he can’t hear the voice anymore just screaming, screaming, screaming. It’s so close to him the screaming must be happening right on top of him and then- salvation.

The fire is being extinguished. He can feel it on his face and it’s starting to ground him. He grips the cool feeling and doesn’t let go. He want’s it to cover his whole body and stay there forever.

He starts to hear the voices again but this time they’re close by. Aleks focuses and can finally pick out one voice from the group. James.

“Jordan I don’t know what the fucks wrong! He was just sleeping one moment and then the next he was freaking out and screaming. His face is burning up. Aleks? Aleks, can you hear me? What’s wrong Aleksandr? What’s wrong?”

Aleks opens his eyes because, oh hey, he remembers he can do that now and sees everyone in the car staring at him with a mix of shock, terror, and horror. James is kneeling on the back seat right next to him and is gripping his face like his life depends on it. Which, to be fair, a minute ago it did.

He’s still in pain but it’s dulled enough to whimper out, ”Hurts.”

“What hurts Aleks?”

“Everything. My whole body feels like it’s on fire. Fuck James, it hurts so bad. Please, James please. Make it stop, please.”

“Jordan we have to get him to a hospital!” James yells frantically looking around like one would just materialize out of thin air.

“I know James. Try to get him as comfortable as possible, we’re still at least twenty minutes away from Denver and that doesn’t compensate for traffic. Spencer, start Googling his symptoms and see if there’s anything we can do now to help ” Jordan says turning back around in his seat and buckling in so they can pull off the side of the road and start driving again.

James goes to pull away from Aleks and get back situated in his own seat but is instantly stopped by the Russian.

“NO! No no James no. Don’t move it’s the only thing helping cool the flames. Please,” Aleks frantically says clutching James hands to his face.

James gets a look of realization on his face and says,” Don’t panic okay?”

Before Aleks can reply back James lifts his left hand from his face and moves it to lay his arm against the younger boy's arm, both bare in their short sleeve t-shirts. James has a second of panic hoping he didn’t fuck it up and then Aleks is sighing in relief because the skin on skin feels so good. It's like his arm is testing out the temperature of the pool and now his whole body needs to jump in because it feels so good. Fuck.

Aleks isn’t even thinking about it when he starts ripping his clothes off, shirt first and then his tight jeans, which he soon realizes he has to kick his shoes off to complete the task, after a couple seconds of struggling. He leaves his boxers on though because, even in this state of fucked up, he has at least a little dignity left.

James is staring at him like he’s lost his mind, which he probably has, but doesn’t do anything until Aleks starts trying to pull the other man's shirt up.

“Whoa, Aleks, what the fuck are you doing?”

He can feel the pain start to come back with the prolonged no contact and starts to whimper.

“Please, James please” is all Aleks has to say before he’s cracking. James even helps him take his shirt and pants off.

Before he knows it, he’s pushing James back to his original seat and Aleks is crawling into his lap to straddle him, wrapping his arms around his waist and shoving his face in the crook of his neck.

“Uh, you guys alright back there?” Jordan says making eye contact with James through the rearview mirror, a slight smirk present on his face.

Neither of the two reply but James does flip Jordan off behind Aleks’ back.