Our dad’s homemade grave was still alive. My brothers and I were sure some piss ant townie kids would come in and rip apart the cross we made of driftwood and Super Glue and shape it into a penis or stick beer cans on it or something super mature like that, but that was not the case. The memorial to our dad remained stuck in the sand of the dunes in the loose grass between the four wheeler track and the beach.
Roger, Calvin and I sat on the bluff above our memorial watching the sunset over the cold grey Pacific sipping silver bullets. The drive from Idaho to the dunes of the Oregon coast after a full day of work left us in need of some refueling with Grizzly fine cut and watery American beer, but we still had to pay our respects to the old man.
I watched Calvin pour the last few drops of his Coors Light out into the sand in front of our dad’s cross. Just 15 when cancer drained our dad’s soul five years ago, Calvin took it even harder than Roger and me, who were well into our 20s and had already been beaten down by the heavy stick of the world by the time dad passed.
Calvin’s sorrow was a big part of why we took a quick trip to the dunes on a random weekend in October when the weather was colder than shit and when all three of us together barely had the money we needed for the mandatory gas, beer, and chew. The dunes by the coast was our dad’s favorite place to take us when we were kids to get away from the torture of low-class rural life, and a yearly pilgrimage there to the memorial we made where we spread his ashes always seemed to buy Calvin, and Roger and I to an extent, a little bit of salvation.
“God damn’t Cal,” Roger’s raspy scolding snapped me out of my temporary daze. “Knock that shit off.”
I focused back on the world in front of me and saw Calvin stick his empty silver beer can on the point of dad’s cross.
Calvin let out a gut laugh and pulled the can back off of the cross. He trudged through the thick sand and took a seat next to Roger and I as the sun finished its bow, and the windy world around us turned the lights out.
I cracked a smoke and internally decided we would hit the track as soon as it was done. It was too cold to just sit there sipping beer anyway. I could already feel some frost forming on the outer crust of my red beard.
I looked over at Calvin and saw him shivering in dad’s old Carhartt jacket. The bad news was I wasn’t sure if he was shivering because of the frigid wind coming off the ocean, or because he had been kicking heroin ever since we picked him up at his friend’s house in the afternoon.
I killed my smoke early, couldn’t take it anymore.
“Alright,” I said as soon as I took the smoke out of my mouth and flicked it into the sand in front of dad’s cross which was still moist from Calvin’s beer. “Let’s do this.”
I walked past Calvin and Roger and headed over to our trio of four wheelers which rested at the start of the dunes’ best track.
“Why you wearing that miner’s helmet again?” I heard Roger ask Calvin about his GoPro again condescendingly.
I hopped up onto my four wheeler and shot a look over to Roger and Calvin.
“I told you man, it’s not a miner’s helmet. I don’t even know what the fuck that means. It’s a GoPro. Takes video of what I see then I can share it on Facebook and stuff,” Calvin explained before he climbed onto his four wheeler.
Roger emitted some kind of half-laugh, half-grunt.
“You ever fucked a chick with that thing on?”
Calvin watched Roger climb onto his four wheeler with a slack-jawed smile painted on his face.
“Yeah, your mom.”
“But that’s your mom too…
The firing of my engine drowned out Roger before he could complain anymore.
I laughed and led the way out onto the dark track, flicked the light on the front of my vehicle on and bathed the rising and falling sand of the dunes in a wide beam of white light.
Nothing got my blood running more than blazing down the four wheeler track with my brothers at the dunes in Oregon at night. Nothing felt better than that cool ocean breeze running through my beard, the roar of the waves soothing my ears from just yards away, and the heat of brotherly competition and bonding burning in my heart. I ripped back the throttle as hard as I could on the first straight away and stood up the way you might as a kid on a bicycle when you rolled down a hill.
A wet dream of a course, the dunes rose and fall like a Six Flags roller coaster and banked and curved enough to make it hard to pull away from the competition. Within just a few seconds of twisting the throttle, I was laughing with Roger as we whipped around a corner and our four wheelers bumped wheels like a scene from Mad Max.
I always liked to think of our races like real life games of Mario Kart. I once even brought a turtle shell I found in one of those shitty Ripley’s Believe It Or Not gift shops on the Oregon Coast and chucked it Roger in the middle of the race.
I didn’t have a turtle shell on this night, but I did have another trick up my sleeve. I pulled three bottle rockets out of my jacket pocket once I got the cushy lead on my brothers I knew I would eventually secure. It was some McGyver shit, but I was able to get my lighter out of another pocket, stick the bottle rockets in my mouth and light them all at once while still maintaining my lead.
Ready for my attack, I took one hand off my steering, pointed it backwards, and felt the rockets on sticks fly out of my hand one-by-one.
I heard my brothers laugh behind me and then heard the rockets snap, crackle, and pop. Not just an excellent prank, my attack also gained me some more ground, I heard their laughter get quieter as I roared away, knowing being first into the finish line just about 100 yards ahead was now a guarantee.
I made the finish line in less than a minute and slammed on the brakes. The thickness of the sand allowed my braking to spin my four wheeler around and gain a perfect view of the finish line. I saw the familiar greenish headlight of Calvin’s four wheeler approach in the night until he was skidding to a stop right in front of me.
I watched Calvin try to catch his breath. I couldn’t help but laugh, looking at my youngest brother struggle to breathe with rosy cheeks, but I tampered down my amusement when I watched him keel over, and vomit liquidy puke into the sand between us.
“Shit,” I muttered.
Calvin flushed out a few more ounces of puke before looking back up at me with the rose from his cheeks long gone.
I looked away from him and scanned the course where I was surprised Roger had still not shown up yet.
“You see what happened to Rog?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe your little bottle rocket stunt made him crash?”
“Really Cal? They’re fucking bottle rockets. What, are you scared of sparklers too?”
“I was mostly joking, man.”
I fired my engine back up.
“But let’s go check on him.”
I raced back up the track from which I came with Calvin tailing me. I stopped when I got to about ¾’s of the way through the course, around where I shot the bottle rockets at Calvin and Roger.
I stopped my four wheeler, killed the engine, and jumped off into the sand.
Three sets of tracks were pushed into the sand below my feet. I followed them up the course until I saw one pair of tracks veer off to the left, towards the ocean.
“So maybe your bottle rocket stunt did fuck him up?” Calvin said flatly.
The thought burned in the back of my mind. Guilt crept into my blood like a slow drip from an IV.
“Maybe he caught on fire and drove to the water to put it out?” Calvin went on.
“Come on,” I said and spit some chew in Calvin’s direction.
I followed the tracks which led off of the course and towards the ocean until they hit the moist sand and started to fade away.
I stopped and immediately heard Calvin yell from behind me.
“His tracks go into the ocean.”
“I see that,” I said smugly.
I looked down the beach in both directions, but didn’t see Roger’s four wheeler, or any signs of life. That guilt which was only slowly trickling into me just a few moments ago was now shooting into me like a fast shot of speed.
“Let’s split up, drive up and down the shore,” I suggested.
Calvin nodded an affirmative and we took off in opposite directions.
The sight of the headlight of my four wheeler scanning the incoming waves of the rising tide sent shivers down my spine. I felt like I was looking for a dead body, but tried to push the thoughts back. Roger was probably either fucking with us, or already went back to the campsite. He was probably already halfway into a pint of Rich & Rare with a smoke in his mouth.
I went about 500 yards up the beach with the closest thing to a sign of life I saw being a few dead jellyfish drying out in the moonlight. I raced back to where Calvin and I split up as fast as I could, hoping I wouldn’t lose my other brother as well.
I couldn’t have been more relieved when I saw Calvin waiting for me on the beach back where we split up.
“Didn’t see anything,” Calvin announced as soon as I shut off my engine. “What about you?”
I shook my head, no.
“He’s probably just back at camp already, getting drunk,” Calvin insisted.
I was pretty sure Calvin was right, but something inside me still felt wrong.
Either way, I agree with a nod and fired my engine back up. I took off back up the bluff to where our camp site was set up.
Unfortunately, Roger was not sitting in his camo camping chair, chomping on fine cut and sipping cheap whiskey back at the camp site. The only thing waiting for us was what little food we brought strewn around the site by some kind of animal which gorged itself on Funyuns and beef jerky before taking off into the brush.
I watched Calvin start to kick the stray food around the campsite with his romeos and felt detached from my body, as if I was watching everything unfold from the safety of behind a TV screen.
“What the fuck is this shit?” Calvin turned and screamed at me, the fire in his eyes reminding me I was not watching a movie.
“Hey,” I tilted my head back and screamed up into the night air. “If you’re out there, Roger, this isn’t fucking funny.”
The only answer I got back was the cold howl of the wind which tickled the short whiskers of my three-week-old beard. I looked over at Calvin again and saw him sitting on a cooler with his head in his hands, a fresh beer in his hand.
My unease about the cleanliness of the blood rushing through Calvin’s blood began to rise, but my focus was quickly drawn away by another thought sparked by taking another look at the GoPro strapped to the front of his forehead.
Calvin and I hunched over the GoPro in the light of a freshly-lit fire and tried to fight off the cold while we squinted at the little screen on the box camera.
“Here,” Calvin said and stopped rewinding the footage. “This is right before your dumb ass shot those fireworks at us.”
The image on the screen showed what I recognized as the back of my four-wheeler just ahead and Roger’s just a little bit ahead and off to the side.
The video began to play and the sparks of my bottle rockets immediately lit up the darkness of the screen and raced towards the camera. One appeared to go right past the camera, one exploded right in front of it and one looked to hit Roger right in the chest.
“There,” Calvin paused the video. “One of them did hit Roger.”
“It’s a fucking bottle rocket Cal, not a missile. That wouldn’t have sent him into the ocean,” I shot back, reached down and hit play on the GoPro.
The video kept playing. The bottle rocket exploded over by Roger, but he didn’t even slow down. He just stayed off to the left of the screen, seemingly unfazed.
“Told you, Rog is not going to be fucked up by a god damn bottle rocket.”
My gloating was interrupted by a scream from Calvin.
I looked over to see Calvin staring down at the screen of his GoPro with heavy fears in his eyes.
“What the fuck was that?” Calvin stammered.
I craned my head over to the screen and Calvin hit rewind. He hit play and I quickly saw what had Calvin so terrified.
The video showed an orb of soft blue light quickly shoot out from the darkness to the left of Calvin’s camera and engulf Roger and his four-wheeler.
“I didn’t see any of that shit when I was riding,” Calvin explained. “It must have happened too fast.”
The blue orb lasted for only a few frames and then Roger, his four-wheeler and the glow, disappeared from sight.
“You guys aren’t fucking with me, are you?” I asked. “You didn’t put some special effect on that video or something?”
“Fuck no,” Calvin shot back, but interrupted himself when some vomit spewed out from his lips.
I watched Calvin lean forward, put his hands on his knees, and start to retch.
“You’re fucking kickin’ aren’t you?” I yelled down at Calvin with disgust.
Calvin stopped his puking for a moment to reply.
“I think I just drank some of Rog’s chew spit in the truck on the way down.”
“Bullshit. Our fucking brother is missing and I’m gonna have to drag your ass around all night while you withdraw.”
Calvin squeezed out the last drops of what was in his stomach.
“Do whatever you want. I just want to find him,” Calvin looked up at me from behind glassy eyes and mumbled.
“Well let’s go then,” I declared and stomped away in the sand, back in the direction of the four-wheeler track.
I tried to seem indignant, but still shot a look over my shoulder to make sure Calvin was following me. He was, about five yards behind me, I could see him stumbling out of the corner of my eye.
I had no real plan, but figured if Roger wasn’t back at the campsite that he was either somewhere around the track or the ocean. Hopefully the track. The Pacific was an unforgiving bitch on cold October nights and if Roger found his way in there for some reason, it was very unlikely he was going to make his way back out.
I hopped back up onto my four wheeler and shot a look back at Calvin, who looked like he hadn’t even moved from the last time I saw him. In fact, the only movement he appeared to make was to lean over, put his hands on his knees and dry heave until he fell over onto the ground.
Well fuck me. Here I was, on the cold Oregon dunes in the middle of the night with one brother who had been abducted by some sort of Close Encounters of the Third Kind blue orb another brother who was trying to kick heroin in the middle of our rescue mission.
“Aw fuck, Cal, are you really going to do this right now?”
Calvin couldn’t even lift his head back up when he yelled back at me.
“You think I want this to be happening? I should be going to the hospital right now.”
Calvin was right. There was nothing he could really do about his situation, and even though it was his fault, yelling at him wouldn’t do anything to help with the main problem at hand.
But I had an idea.
I was sure Calvin had brought some heroin with him in one of his bags. I never saw anything, but the way he had guarded the bag ever since we had picked him up, convinced me there was something in there he didn’t want us to find.
“I’m just going to go up and down the track and then up and down the beach again and look for him. You should stay here in case he comes back.”
I watched Calvin fall down onto his stomach and retch a little bit more then spit out the last foamy contents of his stomach.
“That’s cool,” Calvin mumbled.
I knew Calvin would work his way to his feet as soon as I left, stumble over to the truck, find his bag and get loaded. I knew it was wrong, but it was right at the moment. He was going to be out of commission either way, so I might as well make sure he was out of commission and probably not going to die from withdrawal.
The usual feeling of power which surged over me once I jumped up onto my four wheeler and fired the ignition failed to ignite in my bones. I usually felt like a Viking approaching a helpless village once I got onto the stout vehicle, but all of that confidence was gone. It’s kind of hard to think of yourself as a badass when all you can picture in your head is your brother drowning in the dark waves of the ocean.
With a knot of fear building in the back of my skull like a headache from a bad hangover, I flicked my headlight on and headed back onto the dark path of the racing course all alone. A frigid wind greeted me as soon as I hit the throttle and whipped up underneath the lining of my jacket and shivered my soft skin.
The race track looked the same way it always had once I got there. I stopped my vehicle on the top of the course’s highest point and felt the wind blow some of the loose sand into my face, the little particles of the dunes sticking into my beard and tickling my nose.
I couldn’t see a single sign of life at first glance. Just the dead cold of the dunes and beach. I was about to turn right back around and head back to camp until something finally caught my eye. A floating orb out in the waves, just about 20 yards from shore.
A blue flashing light, bobbing in the lazy waves, the orb looked to be attached to a buoy. It reminded me of the kind you would set if you were laying crab pots in the night so you could go back and find them, but something was just a little off. The light was too big and too bright. Maybe it was a safety beacon of sorts set by the county?
But who set that beacon? And when? The orb wasn’t there 30 minutes ago when I down by the beach. These thoughts kept me perched atop the dunes instead of down in the flats investigation for a few minutes before I finally had to push the oscillator and continue my search for Roger.
I drove down as fast as I could, hoping a breakneck speed could help me forget about the numbing unease of the entire situation, but it didn’t work. Especially because I noticed the blue orb was gone when I got down to the beach and stopped the four wheeler right at the edge of the rising water line.
“What the fuck?” I whispered out loud into the dark waves.
Maybe I felt the wind from its motion, or my body just sensed a presence from behind me, but I knew something was about to hit me before I even felt it knock me off of the four wheeler and into the shallow waves.
On my back in the wet sand, I looked up and saw that blue orb I had seen from the vista race over my head and go back out into the deeper water. A freezing wave of ocean water roared over my face as soon as it was gone.
Soaked from head-to-toe, I jumped up onto my feet, stood up in the knee-deep water, and looked out to the deeper water where the blue orb, looking much bigger than it had from up on the course, rested on top of the waves about 10 yards away from me.
What the fuck?
I stood in the water for a few moments, trying to make sense of what just happened and what I saw, my eyes transfixed on the orb which now seemed to be growing with every second. Now it looked like it was about as big as my four wheeler.
It took me a few moments to clear the cold water out of my mind, but it quickly became clear, my staring had been a grave mistake. My heart sank into my stomach when I saw the orb slowly begin to drift in my direction.
I took off out of the water as fast as I could. It wasn’t easy running in ankle-deep water, but I eventually made it to the beach.
The problem was I could hear the orb on my tail the entire time. I didn’t risk turning around to look at the thing, but I could still hear it and it chilled my body colder than the dark ocean water. The orb seemed to emit the sound of a person slowly breathing.
The breathing got closer and closer from behind, even when I made it up to the stiff sand of the beach and was able to run with more speed. I had to fight every urge in my body to turn around and look, but I wouldn’t need to.
A blue light flashed in front of my eyes, just as I started to trudge up the loose sand of the start of the bluff. Blindingly bright, I closed my eyes tight and fell to the ground within a few seconds of seeing the light.
I just laid there in the cold sand, huffing and puffing as I tried to catch my breath, waiting for whatever horrible thing which was going to happen to me to happen. But nothing. I laid there on my back, like a vulnerable turtle for a good three to four minutes, but nothing came. I saw no blue light. I heard no breathing sounds, and I felt no presence near me.
I gave it a couple more minutes before I got up and started to walk back to camp. I figured Calvin had either spiked our beers with heavy drugs at this point, I was losing my mind, or some sort of ghost or monster over on the beach had taken Roger and he was already fucked.
I also have to admit I felt pretty horrible about shooting those bottle rockets at Calvin and Roger now. The guilt put even me on the verge of tears when I walked back to the camp.
The sight of Calvin barfing into the last ashy remnants of the fire greeted me when I arrived back to camp. I almost lost my shit when he looked up at me with dead eyes which seriously made me wonder for a second if I was dealing with another brother passed on.
“Shit’s fucked,” Calvin dribbled the two profanities out of his mouth with a long string of drool.
“What?” I shot back before I kicked the fire to try and get it going again.
Calvin could barely keep his head up.
“Roger got into my shit. It’s all gone. That’s why I’m still fuckin kickin, man. He got into my bag.”
“Shit,” I spat through my clenched teeth. “Maybe he just dumped it?”
“I don’t think so man. He was acting like he was on some shit all night. Makes sense now.”
I thankfully found a loose cigarette over by the truck and lit up a smoke.
“What did you have in the bag?”
Calvin looked back down at his raggedy barf which was getting smoked by the dying ashes of the fire.
“Heroin, a lot of it,” Calvin mumbled quietly.
“Shit Cal, he probably fucking lost it and ran into the ocean.”
Calvin shot his head right back up in anger.
“Bullshit. It was your dumb ass fuckin fireworks which took him off the…”
Calvin cut off his rebuttal suddenly.
Calvin didn’t avert his gaze or acknowledge my question, his eyes stayed glued over my shoulder.
“What the fuck man?”
I spun around and saw the blue light right in front of my face.
I dove to the ground next to Calvin. Immediately saw his eyes still looking over to where I was standing.
“What the fuck is that?” Calvin whispered into my ear.
The orb was just about 10 feet in front of us and looked even bigger than when I last saw it above the water. It had nearly doubled in size and was now about as big as a small car, a circular one like a VW Beetle or Fiat. It still couldn’t make out exactly what the orb looked like, the radiance of the light seemed to obscure the details of the thing. It really at that point just looked like a shining blue ball.
I turned my vision away for a moment, the piercing light finally too much and looked down to Calvin.
My concern about the orb was instantly overshadowed by the state of Calvin. Eyes closed, mouth drooped open with foamy froth on the lips, and a running nose, he was completely still. Might not be breathing.
I ran over to Calvin and dropped down into the sand to get a closer look. I at first thought I could hear him breathing, but quickly realized that breathing sound was actually coming from across the campsite, from the guts of the orb, as it slowly floated in our direction.
I put my ear to Calvin’s chest and I still couldn’t hear any breathing actually coming out of him. It was too late to say panic set in, but there is no denying that my level of haste was cranked up to yet another level. Based on some volunteer firefighting I had done in my past, I knew I had precious time to get Calvin to a hospital if his unaided detox had truly stopped his heart.
I started to lift Calvin up off the ground when the orb touched me for the first time. It felt like the gentle poke of a human finger, but just that little nudge seemed to send a radiating shock through my entire body.
What looked to be a pale white arm flashed in the corner of my eye when I whipped around, but once I was all the way around, there wasn’t a single thing in my horizon. No blue orb, no Roger, no nothing.
I breathed a brief sigh of relief. Maybe my buzzed and chew-high brain had just been fucking with me?
I figured I had no time to ponder the situation with Calvin dying in front of me. I turned back to my younger brother to see him looking about the same color as the haunting orb, pale blue without a sign of life.
Thoughts of Roger still missing haunted me as well, but with Calvin dying right in front of me, I had to push them back for the moment. It certainly seemed something very bad had happened to Roger, but it seemed to me at this point that there was nothing I could do for him, while there was still a chance I could do something for Calvin.
Knowing we had zero cell service out on the dunes, my only choice was to lug Calvin into the truck and drive him 10 minutes into town, and the hospital where I had been taken before for a broken collarbone. I hoped the small town facility would be prepared to deal with someone who was dying from drug withdrawal, but had my doubts.
Carrying Calvin to the truck was much harder than I thought it would be. Drugs had stripped his once rather built body down to probably less than 140 pounds, but when you pick up all of that dead weight at once and try to carry it, it’s a completely different ball game.
I think I pulled my back out twice, but I eventually got Calvin to the truck and stuffed him up into the passenger seat out cold. I hoped he would wake during my fireman carry, but that was not the case, he was still motionless when I jumped behind the wheel and fired the engine.
I flicked the headlights on when I started to roll out of our parking spot by the track and saw something which made me immediately slam on the brakes.
Standing in the middle of the road out of the campsite, bathed in the pale headlights of the truck were two men. Two men I knew very well. Roger, and my father. They both held their forearms in front of their faces to shield themselves from the bright shine.
My heart stuttered. I hadn’t seen my dad since he was withered and dying in a hospital bed a few years before. I hadn’t seen him at the dunes in what had to be 10 years. The sight of him, let alone, him and Roger, froze my entire body. The truck eased to a complete stop in the middle of the road and the two men who were closest to me in life slowly walked in my direction.
I didn’t give a fuck if they were dead, if they were zombies which would tear out my neck like hungry polar bears, or if they were some kind of aliens. Just the image of my dad and Roger walking together, at the dunes, was enough to draw tears from my eyes and make me want to stay. I suddenly wanted to go right back to camp, relight the fire, cook some pork and beans, and drink beer.
My mind toyed with the thought of getting out of the car. My hand rested on the gear shifter, wanted to push it up into park, but I just couldn’t do it. Something was off about the two of them on top of me knowing my dad was dead and thinking there was a good chance Roger was as well. The two of them seemed to shine in the night, like glowing bulbs, like beacons.
I fought through the tears and the heartache just enough to scan my dad and Roger’s faces and it was the final straw. I needed to hammer down and get Calvin to the fucking hospital. Forget about this spooky shit. Calvin was the only one I could save now.
Just as I made my decision, the headlights cut out. I reached over to the controls and tried to get them back on, but couldn’t. Despite how many times I switched the lights on and off, nothing would happen.
I gave up on the lights and turned my attention back to the scene in front of me. The tint of color which came off of my dad and brother had worsened in my time away from the windshield, the two now approached the front of the truck, glowing blue like a fluorescent light. They stood next to each other, touching at the hips, about five yards in front of the truck staring at me with glowing eyes.
I watched in horror as those two men who I held so dearly started to mold into each other at the hips until they were just one round mash of blue matter with their faces crudely sticking out of the front. Essentially, they had become the blue orb, but with the outlines of their two faces on the front.
That was enough.
I took my foot off the brake and mashed it down onto the gas. The heavy truck took off like a cannonball right in the direction of the pulsating orb of fallen loved one’s faces. I smashed the rubber tread of the gas as hard as I could into the floor once as I stared at the featureless mugs of my dad and oldest brother.
I watched the orb try to get out of the way, but it didn’t have time. The truck had quickly roared up to 50 miles per-hour and the orb was shit out of luck. I felt a heavy impact smack upon the front of the hulking mass of Roger’s F-350 and no longer saw the mysterious ball.
I felt good about my chances of getting out of there when my headlights flickered back on. I kept the gas mashed and roared down the dusty road which led away from the dunes, the track, and hopefully the orb which had been torturing me for the last hour or so. I couldn’t have been happier than to assume I had the blue guts of that piece of shit splattered all over the grill of the truck like an unlucky possum.
The miraculous return of the headlights didn’t seem to help Calvin’s situation in the passenger seat. I looked over and saw blue, creamy bubbles seeping from his mouth and onto the hood of his sweatshirt. I jammed my foot further into the rubber of the gas pedal even though I knew the speed of the truck was maxed out.
My eyes on Calvin, I didn’t notice the truck had finally rumbled up onto the paved country road which led out to the dunes. The truck caught serious air and then pounded back to earth and threw everything around the cabin, including un-seatbelted Calvin and I.
The near crash was a fright at first, but it quickly instead served a hopeful purpose. It shocked me back into the real world and signified there might be a chance that I could at least get Calvin out of this thing alive and well.
I let off the gas a little to let the truck settle and got between the painted lines which led south to the hospital, but mashed that gas right back down once the truck steady.
Calvin and I were going to beat this thing.
I could hardly stand to sit in the lobby of the hospital. I would almost rather share a cold, dark beach with that ghostly orb than sit there in the stale, bright environment, with that awful smell of death tickling my nose. I took an extra-large dip to try and drown it out and spit into a clear Pepsi bottle and dodged the judging looks of nurses while I waited for hours to get a fucking single update about Calvin.
I checked the old school clock which hung over the fuzzy TV which broadcast a rerun of King of Queens and saw it was just a few minutes before 4 a.m. I had been in the godforsaken place for over three hours now. I officially had enough.
My check ins with the exceptionally-unpleasant carousel of foundation-caked faced ladies at the front desk had led me nowhere, so I was taking actions into my own hands. I got up from my seat and headed over to where the bathrooms were.
The front desk wench seemed to be more focused on the Facebook profile on her phone than me when I walked by, so I figured I was in the clear to slip by the men’s room door and head down the hall where I believed they were holding my brother. I snapped my left middle finger into position as I tip toed past the woman’s gaze and walked down the slick floor towards a hallway lined with about 10 doors on each side.
I was shocked by how dark the hallway was when I made my way into it. A soft light beaming out of one of the doors at the dead end of the hall provided the only kind of lighting along the shiny, slick flooring and doors which rested uncomfortably open on both sides.
I began my search by sticking my head in each one of those open doors, looking for Calvin. The first five or so produced no images of my blonde-haired brother. Instead, I was treated to a full frontal from a grandma, a guy who looked to be sleeping with open eyes of blood red, and a little girl clutching a stuffed rabbit in a hospital bed, hooked up to at least five machines, looking scared and unhappy to be wide awake in the middle of the night.
I nodded an apology at the young girl and headed right back out the room, but was stopped in the doorway when she spoke.
“Don’t go down there,” the little girl whispered from her bed.
I turned to see her sit up in her bed, still clutching her gray rabbit, her eyes still looking haunted.
“What?” I whispered back.
The little girl somehow opened her eyes even wider.
“Don’t go down that hall. It went down there.”
My throat went dry. I couldn’t speak. It took a few moments before I croaked my next question out.
“What went down there?”
The girl recoiled into her thin, scratchy, blanket, and turned her gaze from my eyes and to the doorway behind me.
“It’s right behind you…
I turned around slowly to see the tail end of the blue orb drift away from the doorway and disappear in the direction which led further down the hallway.
I nodded to the little girl like everything was normal. I stepped out of her room and closed the door behind me. No need to drag this innocent girl who was already tortured enough into this ghastly mess.
Everything was business as usual back in the hallway, just the sound of heating ducts, soft light, and the sting of cleaning materials on your nose. I figured I would check the rest of the rooms until I came into another showdown with my glowing blue friend.
Every room up until the very last door was either empty or just had some unfamiliar, poor soul sleeping in it. I knew this meant my horrifying friend, and probably Calvin, were tucked into the last room at the end of the hall.
I fought my fears and walked right into the doorway until I was standing just inside the last room. I was greeted by what sounded like the sucking whirl of an old vacuum across the room. I followed the noise to the bed where I saw the familiar blue orb, a little smaller this time, perched up on Calvin’s torso.
The sound was coming from the front of the beacon where it looked to be stuck to Calvin’s face.
“What the fuck?” I yelled.
The sound went silent. The orb stopped moving. It spun around for a moment and seemed to look at me with a faceless gaze.
I stood my ground. I didn’t care what happened anymore at this point. I just wanted to sleep, or die, with my brothers. I waited for the orb to come after me. I wasn’t going to run anywhere this time. I stood strong and waited.
But the orb did not make a mad dash for me this time. After looking me up and down for a few moments, our awkward stare down was interrupted by the instigation of blinking red lights from a machine which was attached to Calvin, and an ear-splittingly loud toning beep which erupted from a speaker in the room.
The orb turned away and wasted no time in speeding to the window. I watched the thing slip slyly through the window of the room and head away in the dark of the night.
I watched the orb get smaller and smaller in the foggy distance out the window until it was just a little tiny speck in an endless field of tall grass. It was almost as if my body wouldn’t let me take my gaze off of the thing until a voice crackled over the speaker system in the room and even I had to laugh at the moment because of the phrase which was repeated over and over again.
Code blue. Code blue. Code blue. Code blue. Code blue.
That two-word phrase coming over the speakers still rung in my head months later.
I wish I could tell you that everything worked out okay, and I got every answer I wanted, but then I wouldn’t be telling you the truth. The only thing I can say which could be taken as good news, is that Calvin recovered and made it through the night to survive. I tried to keep an eye on him afterwards to keep him on the straight and narrow, but I have my doubts if he is maintaining sobriety.
I don’t blame Calvin for struggling either. I have been myself due to the lack of closure we got with Roger. I simply told the local authorities that Roger disappeared off the four wheeler trail that night and we never saw him again. Didn’t tell them anything about that blue orb, but did give them the GoPro footage to show them what happened.
After weeks of nothing, they eventually found Roger’s four wheeler crashed up against some rocks down the coast, but no sign of Roger. Honestly, I think it was about the best we could hope for.
I never talked to anyone about that blue orb, not even Calvin. I never thought anyone would believe me or have any insight, but maybe I am wrong? I recently attended a narcotics anonymous meeting with Calvin for support and saw a pale, gaunt man, much older than everyone else in the group. Probably in his 60s, maybe his 70s, the man seemed as if he could barely stand.
The older man told us all the story of how his roommate had vanished in the night a few nights back and had never been seen again. The older man said he the authorities told him, his roommate had run off, but he didn’t believe them. Something strange had happened that night.
The older man said he awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of heavy breathing and to the glare of something bright outside his bedroom door. He said he got up to walk to the bathroom and follow the sound and saw it coming from behind his roommate’s bedroom door. He didn’t not investigate, but went back to sleep and figured it was just the night playing tricks on him, or some old acid flashbacks from the 60s.
The old storyteller said he didn’t think anything of it until he couldn’t find his roommate the next day when he tried to wake him for his AA meeting, and when he walked around the house he found the front door wide open. Even more concerning, was a slimy trail of bright blue liquid he found leading away from his house.
I tracked down the older man as he walked to his truck and tried to pry as much information out of him as I could. I wasn’t that successful, he told me he was still shaken up by the night and his missing friend, but he had said all of the information he had about the night, the breathing sound, and the disappearance, and the story.
He did share with me one very interesting piece of information though. When I asked where he lived, he gave me a very familiar address. He lived in the house just next door to the one Calvin and I shared on the edge of town.
The older man clearly wanted to get away from me after he shared the full extent of the story, but I had to get the answer to one last question before he went. I asked him what direction that blue liquid was going from his front door.
”I guess it was in the direction of your house.”
That was the last bit of information the man gave me before he slammed the door of his truck and took off into the night.