Chapter 1: Downhill
It had been three months since the incident up at Blackwood Mountain, Chris had left his parents home, quit college and moved all the way to New York just under a month ago. He lived in a dingy little apartment, however, he got the place pretty cheap so it's not like he can complain too much.
For all the time he'd been there he'd been using a sleeping bag on top of a piss-stained mattress as a bed, he had a small dining table, although calling it a dining table would be a bit of an exaggeration, the chest of drawers he had was looking rough, one drawer wouldn't open, and one of the others had no handle, meaning he had to leave it open or risk never getting his clothes again. A small TV that only got five channels (but did have a built in DVD player) sat atop a small coffee table, and in front of that was a ratty couch that Chris had got for $43 at a thrift shop. The only thing that was even remotely expensive in his entire apartment was his laptop. He works at a shitty little tech shop not far from where he lives. They mostly just sell USBs and used goods.
Despite living there for just under a month, he had never met his neighbour. They hadn't bothered coming over to introduce themselves, so Chris didn't think it was that big of a deal. If they weren't gonna make the effort, neither was Chris, and besides, apart from the occasional yap from what Chris assumed was a dog, the guy was quiet enough. So far the only person he made any effort in talking to in New York was his therapist. He had been diagnosed with PTSD after the events in Blackwood, that combined with his anxiety made him feel horrible for most of the day, to top this off he also hadn't slept through the night ever since he was prescribed his medication. He wasn't too upset about the lack of contact he had nowadays, it was a welcome loneliness that let him try to forget about the lodge, and most people in New York didn't care about him, he wasn't this kid who survived a horror night at a lodge, just some kid trying to get by on his own.
His therapist had been trying to get him to talk to the others, saying it would be best to get closure with the others who had survived, Mike, Sam, and Ashley, but the only person Chris wanted to talk to was Josh. Despite him doing such horrible things to the group, Chris knew that Josh had been off his meds, that he was struggling with the death of his two sisters, that he had believed the prank to be some kind of justice brought to his baby sisters.
Chris got up from his ratty floral couch, grabbed his work uniform and slowly got dressed. He had promised his co-worker that he would take her shift today, something about her sister having a baby. Chris didn't really care, if it got him a bit more cash he couldn't really complain too much. He pulled on his hoodie, foregoing his coat as New York wasn't that cold this time of year, picked up his keys and wallet and left the apartment. As he was locking his door he heard footsteps from the stairway. Curious, he lifted his head to look at the approaching figure. The man was wearing a black hoodie, the hood up to cover the top half of his face. He was holding the lead of a small black dog. The man looked up as he approached the apartment across from Chris', and as he did he looked up slightly and Chris gasped. The man looked almost exactly like Josh, if just a bit less exhausted looking.
The man must've noticed Chris staring because he looked straight into Chris' eyes, another difference, Chris noticed, was that the man's eyes were a bluey-green, rather than Josh's dark brown. "Uh, s-sorry. I didn't mean to stare..." Chris trailed off, looking down at his door key, remembering he was in the middle of leaving for work, "anyway. Bye." Chris quickly finished locking his door before bolting for the stairs, taking them two at a time. He reached the bottom and practically sprinted out of the building's door. Stopping at the railing to throw up over them. Wiping his mouth he stood back up, a made his way to the shop, arriving just minutes before his shift started.
Through the whole of Chris' shift he was thinking about his mysterious neighbour. There was no way that it was Josh, Josh was officially declared dead when the first group of rangers searched the mines. He was pretty sure Josh didn't have a twin that Chris had never been told about, but there was no doubt that the man looked almost exactly like his deceased best friend. There was no way that Chris was going to talk to the man ever again, he didn't think he could handle seeing that face again, even if it was a brief glance. He would have to find a new apartment, maybe a whole new city, just to make sure there was no way of them bumping into each other.
Finally, his shift ended. On his way back home he stopped off at his drug dealer's location, a dusty bar in a shady neighbourhood, picked up his usual, a quater OZ of weed, before racing home quickly. Despite doing these kinda dealings for a few weeks, Chris was still always nervous when he bought drugs, being the guy who only took part in taking drugs at parties Josh took him to hadn't really set him up for buying his own. When he got back to his apartment Chris got his papers and lighter from the top drawer in his kitchen, sitting back on his couch he rolled a small roll-up.
Turning on his TV he watched the only DVD he had brought from home, Ghostbusters. Josh had always appreciated the film in a more pretentious film buff way, that Chris had never quite understood, but Chris just enjoyed the comedy for just that, the comedy. It was the only slightly-horror film Chris could stand watching any more, anything else put him too on edge. He pressed play on the remote, lit his joint and settled back on the couch to enjoy a couple hours of bliss.
He woke up the next day to tentative knocks at his door. Chris stretched before getting up, on his way to the door he looked at his alarm clock, seeing it was nearly 11 am. He looked through the peep hole, not entirely sure who he'd see. Maybe one of the others had found his address? But he was 100% sure he hadn't given it to anyone before leaving, not even his parents. On the other side of the door was... Josh? Panic set into Chris' mind, no Josh was dead. Was he hallucinating? Had the grief finally caught up to him. He slowly stepped back from the door, and then he took another, breathing was starting to become a struggle, his mind was swimming. Had he finally gone crazy? Was he going to end up like Josh? Seeing his friend everywhere, talking to him despite his death? Was he going to hurt his friends? He didn't know how long it had been before there was another knock, this time louder.
"Oh God..." Chris muttered, putting his hands over his ears. Chris took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. "It's okay Chris, nothings happening. You're in New York. Josh is dead. There's someone at the door, but he looks like Josh, but he's not Josh. It's okay." The reassurances did nothing to calm the panic that had settled into his mind, but he took the steps needed to get back to the door any how, and with a shaking hand he opened it.
Not-Josh looked at him with wide-eyes. Chris shivered as the stare lingered on him, as he looked down to get away from the other's gaze, he noticed that the other man was holding the lead to his dog, who was attached at the end of it.
"Hi," Chris' attention was pulled back to the other man, "I know we don't know each other, but I was hoping you could look after Flipper for me?" The man gestured down to his dog. Chris' mind went blank for a second. Why was this stranger asking him to look after his dog? Was he some sort of criminal? Shit, could he get Chris in trouble? What if the police searched his apartment and found his weed? It wasn't a lot but he would still be brought in to the station, right? What if the dog is a distraction and the guy is planning to use Chris' identity to- shit. Chris realised he was taking to long to answer when the man coughed slightly into his hand.
"Sorry man," Chris apologised, rubbing the back of his neck, moving his attention to a spot on the ceiling which appeared to have mould, "yeah I could take care of Flipper, do they need anything specific? I'm Chris by the way."
"When she starts whining she wants to go out, and make sure you do because otherwise she'll shit everywhere, but that's it really. I won't be too long so she shouldn't need feeding, but maybe a bowl of water or something." Chris took the lead from the man's offered hand and bent down to scratch the Flipper's ear, "I'm Elliot, see you later."
Chris watched not-Josh, Elliot, he reminded himself, leave down the stairs and pulled up his hood. Chris looked down at Flipper, "C'mon then, let's go back inside." He pulled gently on the lead as he stepped back inside his apartment. Once he was inside he felt a wave of relief roll over him. He wasn't hallucinating. There was a dog on his bed to prove it. He sat down next to Flipper, stroking her head gently. "I think that I might be going a bit insane Flipper. First all that shit in the mountains happens, the deaths I had to witness, then I have to watch them bury empty caskets that are supposed to be my friends, and then I meet a guy who looks exactly like my dead best friend... is this much bad stuff supposed to happen to one person?" Chris looked down at the dog's face, however there was no answer to be found, Flipper just looked back at him.
Chris sighed and stood up from the mattress, then walked over to his tiny little kitchen. He pulled out a bowl and filled it with water, before placing it carefully on the floor next to one of the empty cabinets. He then sat down on his mattress and pulled his laptop out from under his pillow, deciding to watch some videos on Youtube to pass the time before Elliot came back to pick up Flipper. By the time Flipper began to whine it was already three o'clock in the afternoon. Chris picked up his wallet and keys, deciding to get food from the store for lunch, then clipped Flipper's leash on and took the dog for a walk. The walk wasn't especially eventful, and both Chris and Flipper made it back in one piece.
It had barely been ten minutes since the pair got back before there was knocking at Chris' door for a second time that day. Chris opened the door without checking to see who it was, and sure enough it was Elliot. "Hey, Flipper been okay since I was gone?" he asked, whistling for Flipper to go to him, which she did.
"Yeah she was fine, didn't shit anywhere. Actually, we just got back." Chris said, keeping his eyes off of Elliot's face.
"That's... good. Thanks for looking after her whilst I was out," Elliot muttered, turning to unlock his door. Chris took that as a sign that the conversation had ended and shut his door.
A week later, Chris had just finished a long shift at work, having to deal with rude customers was not something that he would ever become accustomed to. As he sat down Chris pulled out his papers and rolled a joint, needing to try and relax. He closed his eyes once he felt a buzz, letting the feeling overtake him. There was no forewarning before he felt something tug at his conciousness, suddenly causing him to become alert and jittery. There was something very, very, very wrong, but Chris couldn't quite put his finger on the source of the feeling. His eyes searched his apartment, darting from one place to the next, but he couldn't see anything wrong, nothing was out of the ordinary. He closed his eyes, squeezing them shut, before opening them again,hoping to see what was wrong.
However he was no longer in his apartment on his horribly patterned couch, instead he was on the cold floor of the mines. There was a large pool of water just inches from where his feet were on the ground. "This isn't happening," Chris hissed through his teeth, covering his eyes with his hands he pulled his knees up to his chest, feeling tears at the corners of his eyes.
"Chris," a voice whispered from above him, Chris shook his head, not daring to look up, "cochise, c'mon, look at me bro," the voice took a more aggressive tone this time, and Chris didn't wanna anger them, that wouldn't lead to good places. Slowly, Chris brought his forehead up from where it rested on his knees, his eyes opened, landing on the one person he didn't wanna see. Josh's face was pale, the most pale he had ever seen it, his lips were blue, and cracking slightly. Josh grinned, the kind that Chris had only seen once. It was bitter, the humour that Chris loved so much about Josh completely gone, no trace of it anywhere on his horrid expression.
"Josh, I-" Chris stopped when Josh's features began to change, his mouth widened, thin, sharp teeth sprouted from his gums, his pupils began turning white until his whole iris had been swallowed by the emptiness, his fingers grew longer and longer, his body lengthened until his body was no longer even a resemblance of Chris' friend, now the body of a Wendigo. Chris pulled his body tight, covering his ears with hi hands again, the tears were falling freely now, staining his jeans and fogging his glasses up.
"You did this to me Chris, you could've saved me. Why didn't you save me Chris? I thought we were bros?" Josh's voice was sharp, "why did you leave me with Mike? How could you trust him? How could you trust anyone?!" Josh's voice grew with each word, the last becoming a shrill noise that Chris didn't ever want to hear again.
"I'm sorry Josh, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so-" Chris' strangled whisper was cut off by Josh.
"You're sorry?! Is that all you can say!?" Chris could almost feel Josh's breath on his skin, could feel the teeth that had sprouted from Josh's mouth on his neck, the threat of being bitten there in the back of his mind. "I'm fucking dead Christopher! And It's your fault! Why didn't you come down to the mines to find me?! Hell, why didn't you just stay with me, like a good friend would?!" Chris' tears wouldn't stop now, his breathing was much to laboured to be getting any real air to his desperate lungs, but he couldn't stop the guilt from overcoming him.
Why hadn't he gone down to the mines? Surely he could've helped the search party find Josh? Maybe if he had helped they would've found him alive, instead of finding a half eaten corpse that had no longer resembled Josh in any way. Chris could feel bile rising to his throat, he let go of his ears and let the contents of his stomach puddle on the floor. Just before he passed out Chris heard a loud banging, like the sound of a door.
Chapter 2: Closer
Chris and Josh become closer, through bad movies and a bad experience.
okay so i'm sorry it took nearly 2 years to update this? i decided to re-write the whole chapter after i'd finished it an never got around to completing it til just now haha. i don't know how i feel about this but it's definitely better than the first draft. i hope you all enjoy it! and sorry again for taking so long :')
Chris woke up to someone gently wiping his face with a wet cloth. He also felt the beginning of a migraine behind his eyelids, which was an unwelcome thing to wake up to on any occasion, let alone when there was an intruder in his home.
Then again, what did Chris care really? He had no friends, he refused to speak to his family, and the only social interaction he got was from the very few customers at the tech shop and when his neighbor asked him to look after his tiny dog. Even if the dog was cute, it didn't leave him with a very fulfilling life. The only thing he looked forward to was getting high and re-watching dumb old films that reminded him of his dead best friend. He was curious, however, about who was in his apartment, and more curious as to how they actually got in.
Slowly Chris opened his eyes, thankful that the only light was coming from a dim lamp on the table by the couch. Which meant he was on his mattress- he guessed- and the other person inhabiting his space was on the mattress next to him, creating a slight dip where his knees were digging into the ancient mattress, causing Chris to slightly lean towards them. Looking next to him he saw said knees, they were covered in deeply faded black jeans, Chris noticed there was a small rip just above the knee. He kept moving his eyes upwards, landing on a black hoodie, and then even further to the person's face.
A scream was caught in Chris' throat when he saw Josh's face staring back at him. He could still remember the image of dead Josh rotting in front of him. Upon closer inspection, Chris noticed the blue-green eyes which were staring at him, which made him realize it was actually Elliot, the guy who lived across from him.
"Wh-what are you doing here?" Chris asked, it coming out raspy and painful due to his dry throat.
Elliot looked confused for a moment before he answered, "I came home from work last night and heard your screaming from outside," the soft tapping of a wet cloth stopped, "so I got the spare key from the landlord when you didn't answer the door. I found you lying in your own vomit, face down on the floor," he paused, pointing to a still damp area on Chris' floor, "seems like you had a bad hallucination, luckily you passed out and didn't do anything dangerous."
Chris chuckled drily, wincing in pain, "lucky you found me really. I probably would have choked on my own vomit," not like it would matter Chris thought to himself.
Elliot stood up from the mattress, walking over to Chris' dingy kitchen. Chris silently watched the other man try to find a glass, looking through each of the cupboards until he found one, then proceed to fill it with some tap water, and he stayed silent as Elliot came back to him and handed to water to him.
Chris felt awkward. Elliot had become his only friend, which wasn't saying much- they just nodded at each other when they passed in the hall, and lately, Chris had been looking after Flipper on his days off. There was no reason for Elliot to help him like this, he could've just called an ambulance and be done with Chris. Yet here he was, making sure Chris was okay. He just couldn't wrap his head around it.
"Do you," Elliot started awkwardly, causing Chris to look at him as he gulped down the glass of water, "do you wanna talk about it? I know it sometimes helps people."
Chris could tell that Elliot felt weird asking him, but the brunet also seemed genuine, not like he was asking because it was good manners, this fact took Chris by surprise- he knew Elliot wasn't very good at interacting with people, had found that out practically when they met. The man was socially inept at best, and he seemed like he didn't care much for people anyway, which suited Chris just fine- it meant there was one less person prying into his personal life and his past- but he seemed genuinely concerned for Chris' well-being, which struck him as odd.
Chris set his glass down on the floor before responding, "I mean, I don't know if I should tell you- not that I don't appreciate the offer, but- it's just. Kind of personal. I don't really know how I'd explain it anyway, you wouldn't believe what I've seen and why I think about it and-" he cut himself off. Chris could almost feel his face growing warm, embarrassed at his rambling.
Elliot didn't seem upset, or even really that fazed. He just nodded.
"Do you want me to stay here with you? Or would you I rather leave?" He asked, watching Chris' face to gauge a reaction. Chris thought it for a second, wondering if he really trusted this near stranger. Even if he did practically save Chris' life.
"I don't- I wouldn't mind if you stayed?" Chris finally said, his voice lilting up at the end, making it seem more like a question. "We could watch some movies or something. Maybe get some pizza, if you want." Chris said cautiously, unaware of how Elliot would feel about it.
In reality, Chris didn't really want to be alone. He was scared that if he was on his own he would think about the hallucination. Would think about the mountain and witnessing his friends die in front of him, as if they never really mattered, as if life was just nothing.
Chris tiredly got up from the mattress and walked over to his small television set to look through his minuscule collection of DVDs. Picking at random he chose a case, after turning on the TV he put the disc into the DVD player, before sitting down on his couch. Elliot was still standing by the mattress, so Chris gestured his head, indicating that the other man should sit in the space next to him- which Elliot did, leaving a fair distance between the two.
The movie Chris had picked was apparently Hackers, which Elliot seems vaguely amused by. Throughout the film, Elliot keeps picking apart the scenes where hacking is actually taking place, causing Chris to smile and actually enjoy having someone to actually keep him company- even if it is someone he barely knows like his neighbor.
"Wanna get pizza? Or do you want Chinese?" Chris asks once the credits begin playing on the screen. Elliot shrugged in a non-committed way.
"I don't mind, whatever you feel like eating man," Elliot replies, getting up to pick the next movie to watch. "You don't have the biggest film library huh?"
Chris shrugs as he searches for take-out places on his phone, "I used to have this giant collection- or well, my friend did and I just stole a load of them from him. I'm a bit more selective about what I watch now," Chris doesn't elaborate and Elliot doesn't ask him to, he eventually picks a pizza place a few blocks away from the apartment building. "What kind of pizza do you like?"
Elliot eventually settles on a film, replacing the Hackers disc in the player, "I like most things I guess, just nothing with anchovies on it," he says, moving to sit back on the couch, this time with a smaller gap between the two of them. Chris ordered the pizza online, getting a standard pepperoni with garlic bread on the side.
The DVD showed the familiar opening of Ghostbusters, Chris welcomed the mindlessness of re-watching one of his favorite films. He and Josh would watch the film constantly as kids- a little less as they grew up and Josh moved onto horror movies.
Halfway through the film, the pizza showed up, the two of them ate in relative silence, the film contributing to the only sound in the apartment. At some point after they'd eaten Chris ends up falling asleep, his full stomach and the film lulling him to sleep.
Elliot notices when Chris' head falls onto his shoulder, a small snore escaping his mouth. He's not sure how to react. The boy was obviously still exhausted from the stress of having a bad reaction to the drugs he had taken.
Elliot ended up sitting with the sleeping boy for a few minutes, before deciding he should leave, making a quick decision to leave his number for the other man, in case there was anything the blond would want from him.
It had been a few months since Chris' episode, not a lot changed between the two neighbors, they would sometimes get together to watch films and eat pizza, normally sitting in comfortable silence and sometimes chatting- never anything substantial, however, just general small talk. Elliot noticed that sometimes his neighbor- and friend?- would get a far away look in his eyes when he looked at Elliot, as if he was remembering someone or something, it would only last a moment but Chris would become more somber after these looks.
Elliot assumed it was because of what happened to him, he never brought it up in fear of Chris pulling away from their timid friendship. Elliot didn't particularly think he needed friends, but sometimes it was nice to have someone to just sit with, someone to just be around with no expectations.
It was a chilly November evening when Elliot came home from work to find Chris sat outside his door, his legs stretched out in front of him, and key on the floor in front of him. He looked exhausted, dark circles under his eyes, his skin paler than usual and his back slumped forward. When he heard Elliot's footsteps he looked up slightly, and Elliot noticed his eyes were glassed over- indicating he was high as a kite.
Elliot didn't bother saying anything as he picked up Chris' key, opening the door to the other boy's apartment, before dragging the limp boy to his feet and into the sparse apartment. He settled him on the worn out couch and brought him a glass of water, making sure he didn't choke on the liquid.
Before he could walk away Chris grabbed his hand and with a surprising amount of strength pulled the unsuspecting brunet to sit next to him.
"Did I ever tell you why I moved to New York?" Chris asked, his body moving to lean against Elliot, who made a noise to show he was listening, "I and some friends went up to stay in a mountain lodge, Josh, my best friend, had planned a... a sort of revenge prank on our other friends. They were vaguely responsible for his sister's death- he took it hard-" Chris paused, his head resting heavier against Elliot's shoulder in an almost nuzzling motion. "Half of us died up there- not because of Josh! There was something you wouldn't believe existed living on that mountain- creatures that are the stuff of nightmares."
Elliot didn't think there was anything to say, he had read about what happened in Blackwood Mountain, but hearing it from Chris was different- made it more real and more horrifying.
"I couldn't stay where I lived, everything reminded me of Josh and the friends I lost. They weren't always the best people- but we were a group, a family," Chris' voice cracked slightly, his emotions getting the better of him. Elliot felt wetness land on his shoulder and made no move to acknowledge it- knowing Chris wouldn't want it known. "I quit college, it didn't seem important anymore- I'm not sure it was the best decision but you know- it felt right at the time."
Chris pulled his head away from Elliot's shoulder, looking at the brunet with such sadness that Elliot didn't know what to say or do, he didn't notice Chris' face moving closer until he felt the blond's breath on his lips. His eyes were asking for permission and Elliot didn't know if he wanted to say no, so he nodded in a short motion, which was all Chris needed. He closed the remaining distance between them, his chipped and bitten lips meeting Elliot's plumper ones.
The two remained like that for a few seconds, just pushing their lips together in a strange imitation of kissing, until Chris moved even closer, tilting his head to the side slightly to gain better access to his friend's lips. Elliot hesitantly put his hands on Chris' cheeks, holding him in a gentle embrace, not knowing how far he could take this. One of Chris' hands landed on Elliot's shoulder, the other going to his hair- slightly stroking the shaved parts of his scalp before lightly tugging on his short hair.
Both of them could feel themselves getting more frantic, their hands moving to other places, trying to grab everywhere at once. Eventually, Chris pulled back, and he put his head on Elliot's shoulder and neck, breathing heavily onto the exposed skin there. The two continued to sit in silence, their breathing the only thing they could hear.
"This doesn't have to mean anything," Chris started, sounding soberer than he had through the whole experience, yet still slightly breathy.
"I wouldn't mind it," Elliot said, "it might be nice." He didn't look at Chris, but he could feel the other's eyes on him, trying to tell if he was telling the truth.
"Yeah. It might." The blond said, leaning in for another kiss.