Eric woke up with a start when he heard a loud bang outside. Quite startled, he didn’t notice anything was wrong for a few minutes. But there was this sense of emptiness and cold in the environment he couldn’t help but feel. Everything was gray. Like if all happiness and colour had been sucked out of the entire world.
It was a curious feeling, it reminded him of the Harry Potter world, where senses like that could only mean the presence of dementors.
“But that’s just ridiculous” he thought. “Dementors aren’t real”.
Still on his bed, he stared outside the window, and the frown on his face grew deeper, for it was snowing outside. “What the hell is going on?”
He sighed, and turned around. No one was next to him. Talk about weird. It was very early in the morning, Tom had gotten a little bit lazy so there was no way he could have gone out for a run or anything. In fact, it seemed like he hadn’t been there at all, for the half of the bed supposed to be occupied by him was tidy.
Now that was strange, especially because Tom had been there the previous night. They had even kissed goodnight, and Eric had watched him fall asleep next to him! Had Tom covertly snuck out of his house and even bothered to tidy up his side of the bed at some point during the night? Had he just left like that? Maybe he had something very important to do, or maybe something big had happened. But he could have woken him up, Eric didn’t mind. They had a little over a year together, Tom just wouldn’t abandon him like that.
So, Tom would answer if he called, right?
“Tom? Tom!” Eric called. Nothing. Ok, then. His phone would be.
He took out his phone and unlocked it. Once again he frowned. Why did he have a picture of a bat as his wallpaper when he had changed it for what he considered to be the very best picture of him and his boyfriend several months ago?
“This is starting to worry me” he thought, looking for Tom’s number. Well, at least he had it.
And so, he dialed, and waited for Tom to answer.
He tried again.
“Tom!” Eric exclaimed, relieved. “I’m so glad I got you!”
“Huh?” Tom asked, on the other side of the phone. “What the hell are you talking about?”
Eric was taken aback by that response. Was that really his Tom? “I, where are you?”
“Home, duh. Where else would I be?”
“No, you’re not”.
“Uh, yes I am! I was sleeping carelessly and you decided to bother me at this hour”.
“It’s just” Eric couldn’t form the words for a moment. “I woke up and you weren’t here”.
“And why would I be there of all places?”
Eric frowned. This was really starting to annoy him. “Hey, this isn’t funny. You and I live together! We have for at least three months!”
“What? It was bad enough to be working with you and now we’re roommates? What the hell?”
“Tom” he begged. “Why are you like this? If there’s something wrong...”
“What’s wrong is that you woke me” Tom said over the phone. “Why on Earth would you call me, dammit? Let me sleep!”
“Tom” Eric cried. “We’re together”.
There was a bit of silence on the other side of the line, which was broken by laughter after a few seconds. “Together? Are you out of your mind?”
Eric closed his eyes, feeling the pain, as Tom kept laughing over the phone.
“Why would I be with someone as pathetic as you? You’re not even that good-looking, ew. You’re a joke of a person”.
“Look, I don’t mean to be rude, but screw you, man. Get lost” Tom said, and hung up.
Eric slowly put his phone on the bed, doing his best to ignore the tears that fell down his face. What had happened? How did he end up here? Tom had just said last night that he loved him. It wasn’t the first time he said it, but he had meant it, Eric just knew he had meant it.
And now this. Oh, but he wasn’t just leaving it that way. He would get to the bottom of this.
He got out of bed and undressed. He went to the bathroom, and entered the shower. No water. Dammit. Might as well confront Tom in PJ’s, what could go wrong? Yeah, right.
And so, Eric grabbed a jacket and the clothes he had worn the previous day, went to his car, and headed to Tom’s building. There had been an eviction notice on his door that he decided to ignore for he was already having a very bad day even though it had just started.
But Eric was still sure this was all a cruel joke. Tom had moved out of that apartment when he and Eric celebrated a year together. They managed to find a place for themselves, something not too expensive but comfortable, a good place to start a life.
And all of a sudden he was alone there, he was being kicked out, Tom was somewhere else and apparently hated him and nothing made sense anymore. As he drove down the street, he started to wonder if maybe the life he was enjoying until the previous night was actually the cruel joke.
Which made him not notice... The next thing he knew was that he wasn’t in his car anymore, but lying on the pavement and everything hurt. He could hear sirens and people talking around him. Impressively, he didn’t even had a scratch on his body. Then how come he could feel as if he had been hit by a truck, which he had?
He looked at his side and saw his car, or what was left of it. The truck had hit it so hard on its right side it had made Eric literally fly through the window and land on the road. The police and paramedics were already on it, but no one seemed to acknowledge him.
“Hey, hey!” Eric shouted, trying to get their attention. But everyone just looked at him, shook their heads and looked the other way.
“What is happening?”
Eric stood up and stared at the scene. No one seemed to care he had been involved in that accident, although he had to admit he had no physical injuries.
He turned around and, to his surprise, saw the FBE building entrance. “I was not driving around here”.
But then again, perhaps they would help. They were his friends after all, weren’t they?
However, the moment he stepped foot on the lobby, a big man blocked his way. He was literally big, he had a big gun on his belt and wore a vest with the word “Security” on it.
“Yes?” the man barked.
“Um, hi, I work here” Eric said, a little puzzled.
The man took out a list. ”Name?”
The man checked the list and frowned. “You don’t work here”.
“What? Of course I do!”
“No you don’t, sir. Now, please, get out”.
”Hey, I do work here!”
“Don’t make me use this!” the man threatened, putting his hand on the gun.
Eric relented, until he saw two of his friends, Brooklin and Brandon, getting out of the elevator.
“Hey, guys!” he called. “Guys!”
They frowned in confusion, but approached.
“What’s going on?” Brooklin asked.
“Please end this nonsense. Tell this guy I work here, please”.
“What?” Brandon asked. ”I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen you before in my life, how would I let some stranger in the building?”
“Stranger?” Eric repeated, horrified. “We’re friends, Brandon! Brooklin, tell him, we’re friends! I’m your friend!”
“I don’t even know you” Brooklin said, looking at him contemptuously.
“Then how come Tom knows me?”
“Who the hell is Tom?” Brandon asked, already fed up.
Brooklin sighed in annoyance. “Doesn’t matter. Get him out of here”.
“What? Brooklin, Brandon!” Eric called as they returned inside. “Hey!”
“You know what, kid? You’re getting on my nerves” said the man. “Go get lost before I shoot you and call the police”.
“You can’t just shoot an unarmed person” Eric shot back.
The man smirked. “Come on, like anyone’s gonna miss you”.
Eric glared at the man, who still had his hand on the gun, threatening to take it out, and turned around, walking away.
“They don’t know me?” Eric thought, more confused than ever. “They don’t know Tom? Where am I? What is this?”
He took out his phone, debating whether to call Tom again or not. He sighed. He didn’t want to hear those hurtful words again.
But just as he was about to put it back in his pocket, a man in black pushed him, snatched the phone from his hand, managed to get his wallet too and sped off.
“Hey!“ Eric yelled, and sighed in defeat, for the street was crowded, and he hadn’t been able to see who had just mugged him. He turned to the left, where an old lady stood, but she just shrugged and kept walking.
“Why is everyone so indifferent towards me?”
He had no direction, no one to go to, and he figured he just had to keep walking.
But the more he walked, the longer the street seemed to get, and everyone who walked past him just pushed him aside or glared, judging him for whatever reason.
And soon it got dark, and everyone started fading out, and his surroundings turned into black. Suddenly, he felt something sharp being pressed against his side.
“Do not make a sound”.
Eric turned and looked at the figure. It was large and black, and it didn’t seem to have a face at all. He couldn’t even see what it was pressing against him.
“Come with me”.
“Please, don’t hurt me” Eric said. “Someone already took my things”.
”Is that so?” said the figure, revealing something sharp from under what seem to be its robe. “Then you will have to give me something else. I shall take you instead”.
“No, please” Eric begged. “Please, I’ll do anything”.
The figure laughed. It laughed horribly. “What do you think you are useful for in this world? Everyone hates you! No one will miss you! You are a pathetic loser that just wasn’t up for the world’s challenges!”
Eric looked down. But it wasn’t all true. Just the previous day someone had told him he loved him. Just the previous day he had had a great time with his friends. Just the previous day he had had a very nice talk with his mother. Everything looked horrible now, but he had vowed to fix it. He was willing to fight to get back what made him happy. He had hope.
“I’m not coming with you” he finally said.
The figure moved its hood, revealing a white skull instead of a human head.
”I knew it was you” said Eric.
“We see each other again” said Death. “I have taken everything that made you happy. It’s all gone forever”.
“That’s what you said the last time. And I got it back anyway. You always lie to me”.
“But this time you won’t get anything! I know what you suffer. I know you can’t stand it! Come with me!”
“I’m not coming with you!”
“You have no choice!” Death exclaimed. “If you don’t follow me on your own accord, then I shall force you to!”
Eric woke up with a start, panting. As he tried to catch his breath, he looked around. Everything was just like he had left it the previous night. He looked to his left, and saw a worried Tom who had shaken him. Seeing his face, it was all that took to make Eric break down and cry.
“Hey, hey, it’s ok” said Tom, sighing in relief and holding him close. “It was just a nightmare, it’s ok. I’m here, I’m here”.
Tom kissed his head many times as Eric cried in his arms. He didn’t know what had disturbed his boyfriend so much, but he thought he had a vague idea of what it could be.
“Yes, I’m here” he replied. “I’m not going anywhere, ok?”
Eric sniffed, and wiped his eyes. “God, I was hoping you wouldn’t see me like this yet”.
Tom chuckled. “It’s not the first time, remember?”
Eric let out a wet chuckle too. “I’m sorry”.
“Hey” said Tom, holding him again. “There’s nothing to apologize for. Try to breath, ok? Do you want some water or anything?”
Eric shook his head. “I just want you with me”.
Tom smiled and rested his head on Eric’s. “I’m yours, babe”.
As they stayed in silence, just like that, Tom reflected on several similar occasions in the past. It hadn’t happened only when they were together, it actually had happened many times for years, years that they had known each other. It was actually one of the things that had brought them closer as friends.
Tom told Eric things he hadn’t told anyone, and Eric did the same. Eric knew about the struggles Tom had had during some years, including family losses, and Tom had been the first to know about Eric’s diagnosis, and became his go-to whenever he had this kind of ordeals. He encouraged Eric not to give up, especially after Eric had told him about Death. Eric never did, knowing he and everyone who loved him had faith in him.
“Wanna talk about it?” Tom asked after a while.
“Death took everything from me again” Eric replied. “Everyone hated me, FBE never knew about me. You hated my guts. Death said no one would ever miss me if I was gone, and no one would love such a pathetic loser like me”.
Tom had to blink several times to not cry. He couldn’t, not when Eric needed him. He had to be strong. “I love you”.
“I know” he said. “I know you do”.
“No” Tom said, not noticing his voice had cracked a little. He moved, and cupped Eric’s face, looking at him in the eyes. “I love you. If the sun refused to shine, I’d still be loving you. With you there’s no wrong. You’re an inspiration and the only one for me”.
He used his thumbs to wipe away Eric’s tears.
“I love you too” the younger man said, kissing him.
After a while, they separated, but kept their foreheads together.
“You know” said Tom after a while. “I think you need a new prescription”.
“I don’t want you to keep suffering like this. I want you to be happy. I want to help you”.
Eric thought it over. But Tom was right, and he also wanted to get better. They would face problems like everyone, but in the end, they could be happy. It was worth the long road that awaited him if he accepted it. And he did.