It was night, and not for the first time Mike had fallen asleep on the sofa. The television was still on, and buzzing in a sort of comforting way that made the lull of his exhaustion more pronounced. It wasn’t easy, spending long hours unable to rest because all he could think about was the one thing he couldn’t have; the one thing (one person; human being) that had been unjustly taken right before his eyes.
She had faded to dust. And that hurt more than anything ever had. She had died, sacrificed herself to save them, to save Will, and… and she’d torn away a part of Mike, too. Taken a piece of him to whatever dark place she dwelled, and there was no way he would ever ask for it back. There was no way he would ever be so selfish.
He could live with it; with being partial. If it meant she could be whole.
Crickets chirped outside, barely audible through the closed windows. It was October, nearing on the end of the month, just around the time people start giving up hope.
He had been trying, as hard as he could, to convince himself he could be strong for her — that he could be strong like her. But it was hard. It was so hard, and it hurt so much. Days felt like weeks, and his head felt like it was filled with smoke; veiled and hazy, and overgrown with tangled vines that obscured his thoughts.
He tried for his friends, to be normal. And truly, all he wanted was to be able to revert back to the way it had been before. Yet, with every passing day, that seemed more and more impossible.
It should have been the opposite. It should have been getting easier.
But it wasn’t, exemplified by tonight.
She was standing just out of reach, silhouette shadowed and thin. Back bowed. Dress muddy and torn. Still the same though. And still pretty, but he wouldn’t dare speak those words aloud again.
Mike took a step forward. He was hesitant this time, unlike the others. Beneath his Chucks a thin layer of water splashed, alerting her of his presence. She turned, but couldn’t see him. He knew she couldn’t.
She never did.
This time, something was wrong (well, everything was wrong, every time, but this was something else). She was breathing quickly. Mike’s hair stood up on end as she whirled back around, in the direction of something she couldn’t see, and screamed.
Mike jolted awake, covered in a cold sheen of sweat with tears streaming out of his eyes. Mike angrily wiped them away and looked around him for some sort of sign that it had been real, because at least that would mean she was alive.
But there was nothing. Mike deflated, curling into the couch and covering his eyes, watching the last flashing remnants of the dream dance in his vision. He felt his chest tighten and his throat burn, and with a quick breath he began to cry. Alone, in the dark, feeling like the smallest thing on the planet, Mike sobbed into his arms.
She was dead and he hadn’t saved her. She’d saved them, and he hadn’t saved her. Useless. He was useless, and pathetic, and weak.
“Leggo my eggo!”
Mike looked up, frantic, but the source of the sound had only been the television.
“No, you leggo my eggo!”
Mike sniffed, drying his eyes. He slipped off of the couch and crawled over to the television set, with just enough scrounged energy and hope to sit before it and watch the signal flicker in and out.
The sound came in again. “Leggo my eggo!”
“No, you leggo my eggo!”
And again. “Leggo my eggo!”
Mike leaned forward, drawn into the white flashing. He shuddered as he pressed his hand against the glass. “El?” His voice was an echo of a whisper.
“Leggo my eggo!”
He knew this commercial. He and Nancy had despised it because it came on all of the time.
Four years ago.
Why would anyone re-run a four year old commercial?
“No, you leggo—eggo—”
His breath caught. Electricity hummed against his forehead, and his vision narrowed. “El?! El!”
“Mission from God—”
He gasped, just as the television crackled. He was zapped away, shaking, wide eyed, and slammed into the sofa.
The set smoked. Mike stared at it, chest heaving. “El…”
He jumped, and for one second, dared to hope. But it was only Nancy, standing in the living room entryway, staring open mouthed at the broken TV set. “Oh my god, Mike, are you okay?!”
She was at his side in an instant, hand on his hand, searching his face. There was only fear to be found.
“Nancy,” he said, quietly. “She’s here. She’s right here.”