Nightmares Unto Day
The roof was covered in gravel which slipped under the soles of his shoes, uneven and rough. A ghostly fog drifted over and around the ugly machinery housings that rose up unexpectedly as he made his way across the dark expanse. Shots rang out, ricocheting off a nearby air conditioning unit. He hunkered down behind the aluminum cover, trying to pinpoint the place from which the shots had been fired. The fog dulled sound and misdirected its source, making it almost impossible to locate the shooter. He waited another minute, then moved in what he hoped was the right direction.
The fog thickened as he moved, obscuring the roof and the gunman waiting somewhere close by. Suddenly he tripped over an obstacle, falling almost on top of his quarry—dead. How was that possible? He'd returned no gunfire. He looked more closely at the body—Starsky? How...NO! Starsk! Starsk!
He tried to get away from the hands that pulled him from Starsky, fighting to hold onto his partner. Cold fear gripped him. The fog flowed into his lungs, filling up every bronchi, replacing all the air with its thick miasma. STARSK!!
He awoke with a start, sitting up, drenched in a cold sweat that crawled along his back and neck. Oh, god! the images of his dream vivid and much more real than the dark silence of his apartment. He shook his head to clear the horrible scene from his mind. Bellamy had died on that roof, not Starsky, never Starsky.
A glance at the clock told him it was 1:08 in the morning—great time for a shower...again. He dragged himself out of his damp bed and stripped off the sheets, stepping out of his boxers and tossing them with the sheets into the hamper, or sort of in its vicinity, anyway.
The needle-sharp spray stung his body as it cascaded over him, a welcome feeling to distract his mind from the cold, drifting, smothering fog that clung to the edges of his consciousness still. Starsky was alive and would recover from the poison Jennings had concocted—that was all that mattered. Starsky was alive and safe. Alive and safe. He leaned on the tile and let the water drum the words into him until he could believe....
He sat at the brightly covered table and waited. It was an odd night, empty of people, silent of all but the pounding rain against windows and the voices of Simon and Garfunkel from the Juke Box. Where was Starsky? He drummed his fingers restlessly on the table top and then stood up—he'd see if Starsky was in the bathroom. He went to the door leading back to where he thought the bathroom probably was and pushed it open. Before him stretched a long, dimly lit corridor leading off into what seemed to be a huge building. The doors he tried were locked and devoid of any lettering indicating a function or person, not even a number. Where was this? He couldn't remember ever seeing the place before. Thunder rumbled through the clouds and bright flashes of lightning were visible through the enormous skylights overhead.
Suddenly, he knew there was danger here, and he felt the urgent need to run. Doors were passed, lightning ripped the clouds above, and thunder crashed in a deafening roar. He had to find Starsky. They had to leave this place, this place of overwhelming danger. A door to outside slammed open, pelting him with water and blowing gale force winds that froze. Unable to see, he moved blindly to push the door closed when he heard a faint sound from out of the storm. Was that Starsky calling him? He leaned into the cacophony and tried to hear where the sound came from and if it really was Starsky. Nothing. He stepped outside into the downpour and heard the voice again—Hutch, help me! Starsky! He had to get to Starsky.
He stumbled down the alley, soaked to the skin, unable to see through the pouring rain and hurricane wind, but determined to find his partner. “Starsky!” he screamed. “Starsky!” The rain drumming down around him prevented his hearing anything, even if there was something there to hear. “Starsky!!!”
He tripped over something in the alley—something soft and moveable. No, not again, not again....
Another abrupt awakening—2:30 A.M. Why was he having another nightmare, one that had nothing to do with the poisoning? He turned over and tried to marshal his thoughts into some kind of logical order. The shooting in the restaurant had taken place months ago, and while it had been a close call at the time, Starsky had recovered well and fairly quickly. And nothing like his dream had happened, the only similar thing had been the torrential rain storm—the least scary detail of the entire night. This idea to sleep and rest after an exhausting twenty-four hours when he didn't know if Starsky would live or die, only finding the answer at the last minute, wasn't working out too well.
He pulled himself up against the headboard and tried to calm his jangled nerves and release the tension that pounded through his head. The doctor had said his partner would be all right—they could treat the worst of the poison immediately and develop a complete antidote within a few hours. Now, all that was needed was time for Starsky's body to recover from the damage the poison had inflicted on him. A few days and he could come home to finish recuperating. Hutch had wanted to stay at the hospital with him, but he'd practically been kicked out the door, made to promise he'd get at least eight hours of much needed sleep.
So he slid back down in bed between the fresh sheets and closed his eyes. Starsky was safe and alive, safe and alive, safe and alive....
Dust, thick and choking, like smoke from a stack of burning tires, seeped into his lungs, making him gag and cough. The deep,wracking coughs hurt like the plague had—dark, breath-robbing coughs that meant the end of everything. There was no relief, no respite, not even brief moments of time in which to draw clear, untainted air. The dust billowed around him, swallowing the road, blinding him to what lay ahead. Where was Starsky? He stopped the car and got out, running from the cloud of dust. Yelling for his partner, he ran until he couldn't draw enough air to move another step. Starsky!
Simon Marcus's minions had taken his partner at Simon's direction, trying to exchange Starsky's life for a lenient sentence, or maybe to play his will against the cops, or to show how much power he still wielded, or maybe just to do one more horrendous thing. He was a psychopath who had molded a bunch of other sickos to do as he said, and his followers had Starsky.
He stumbled on, coming to the old deserted zoo, the animal cages empty and grotesque. The obscene chant of Marcus's name echoed softly from somewhere. He ran in and out of the rusted cages, never getting any closer. Starsky! he shouted, trying to quiet his heartbeat to hear an answer, but that didn't happen. Only the warped chant of Simon, Simon, Simon went on and on.
Then suddenly from above him came the bright flash of sunlight reflecting off metal—he shouted for his backup officers to converge on the hill and started running again, desperate to reach Starsky, arrest these freaks, silence the menace of their chant. Oh, God! Oh, God! Not too late, no, no, no.... He watched horrified as a young girl lunged forward with a knife, plunging it to the hilt into Starsky's chest, over and over. NO!!! NO!!! He threw himself over the bleeding body—sobbing out his anguish and loss.
Still sobbing, he sat up in bed. No, he'd arrived in time—Starsky wasn't dead, hadn't been stabbed, was physically okay. This night in the hospital was just to make sure that whatever they had put in the water he drank was completely out of his system. Hutch dried his eyes and looked at the clock—3:12 in the morning—and swung out of bed. He'd thought he was tired enough to sleep until it was night again, but he knew he wouldn't close his eyes for hours, now. Starsky was safe. Why was he having dreams about him dying?
He padded into the kitchen, grabbed a beer from the refrigerator, and stood looking out the back window above his sink. Why did he have these dreams every time Starsky was hurt? Why did he always see him dying? Racking his memory for tidbits from his psychology classes, he knew there was probably something meaningful here besides the fear that had built up over the time Starsky was missing. But what it was, he had no clue.
His partner, his best friend for the all the years of their knowing—an integral part of his life, a part that, no matter how it happened, he would simply never survive losing. He didn't need to put it into words. This truth had always been and would continue to be for as long as the two of them existed. There was no thought here, no discussion of philosophy, of right or wrong—it simply was a fact of his life. He didn't know if Starsky shared this truth, but it didn't really matter—if Starsky departed this life, so would he. In a very real way, such unshakable knowledge took a lot of the worry about the future away, but still he dreamed....
There was nothing he could do, nothing. Starsky lay quietly in the old barn stall, not making a sound or moving a muscle—he was still as death. No, he wasn't dead; he had merely been shot in the leg—the make-do tourniquet still in place; no more blood leaking from his thigh—only he remained so quiet. Hutch battled with the ancient tractor, but to no avail. Crank, wait, crank, wait, prime, crank, wait. On and on it went. Was this to be the sum of his days?
The flames began suddenly, engulfing the ancient, dried wood and straw. They leaped high and hungry, consuming all. Where was Starsky? He could see nothing through the fire and smoke, nothing entering his awareness except the awful heat and the lack of air. The smoke burned his eyes and brought tears to them as he dropped to his knees and crawled desperately toward the stall where Starsky lay. He had to find a way to save him, a way to get him out of this inferno. Starsky! Where are you? Starsky.... A torturous cough racked his chest, bringing more tears and a piercing pain that was as bad as any he'd experienced when he'd had the plague. He stopped moving for a moment, curling in on himself, trying to grab a few molecules of untainted air. This couldn't be the end, couldn't be this horrible death. He and Starsky would end together, but not like this—a blaze of glory, but not like this. He moved forward again, falling across the inert body of Starsky, sprawling full length across his life, the reason he lived. NO! Oh, god, please...no no no no.... He would get them both out of this, he had to. But when he tried to move, he found his body too heavy and his senses fading into black and red flames that caught in Starsky's hair, consuming them both. He caught him up in his arms one last time—at least they were together.
He awoke coughing and struggling for breath, desperately slapping the bed covers with frantic hands. “Starsky!!” he yelled, jerking his head about, searching for his partner. Gradually, he realized there were no flames, and he was not choking on smoke. It was his bedroom, dark and silent, calm and peaceful. Starsky was safe, asleep in the hospital room to which he'd been moved after the surgery on his leg. He'd be released in a day or two to recuperate at home, back where he belonged, back where Hutch could take care of him. It had been a terrible nightmare, much worse than the actual events would warrant—the barn had been falling apart and they always could have broken out. Of course, Starsky's injury did put a limit on what they could do after they broke out, but not to the point of being completely trapped.
He drew a deep breath and crawled out of the tangled sheets, stretching his back and rolling his head to loosen tight muscles and try to ease the pounding at his temples. Stumbling to the kitchen, he opened the refrigerator to find something that would make him feel better, but everything he looked at made him slightly nauseous. He finally drank a glass of water and made his way over to the sofa, where he collapsed in a heap of sore muscles. Why did he always forget that the nightmares came when Starsky was hurt? Every single time, major or minor, always.... His own close calls went by unnoticed, except the one orchestrated by Forest—nightmares of falling back into addiction followed, even until this day.
He shuddered and stood up gingerly to pace about the room, waiting for the sun to rise. It wouldn't be morning for another few hours, and the hospital staff, while lenient to a fault with the unhurt partner, would not appreciate a three A.M. visit when there had merely been a clean gunshot wound to the leg. He shook his head in grim wonder at their lives—thinking of any gunshot wound as a merely anything. This night there were only nightmares which he knew the day would banish—and he tried not to think about the time when that wouldn't be true, a time that was surely coming when the rising sun would bring nothing but the reality of his nightmares continuing even unto day....