Our Glass Coffin Chapter Three
Everything was circular. A rotating labyrinth. They walked an infinite loop, edging closer and closer to insanity. Neither felt speaking was appropriate, and each step drove them farther from each other, they were side-by-side, a thousand miles apart. The ringing continued growing louder, but never louder than their thoughts. Arin sped up. He had to. The noise invaded his mind and he picked up the pace, running from a sound the way others ran from monsters. Dan, held up by Arin, was forced to speed up as well. He was able to keep up for a while, but it was difficult, and it couldn’t last forever.
“Arin. Arin, we need to stop.”
“No! Dan we can’t stop! We can’t ever stop!”
“Arin, I can’t keep up!”
“But, Dan! I… I…” Arin’s voice grew unsteady as he slowed to a stop. Dan however, slumped against the nearest wall, sliding to the floor and releasing a heavy sigh. He just closed his eyes and focused on his breathing. Just in and out. Calming repetition. Calming… Arin was pacing. Pacing back and forth. His footsteps were quick and heavy, and the pattern held a frantic severity.
“Arin? Can you just sit with me for a minute?” Dan asked, “You need to rest too.”
“B-but, Dan, the… the noise! It’s-it’s everywhere!” Arin sped up again, running his hands through his hair. Dan sighed, grunting as he pushed himself up off the floor.
“Arin.” Dan extended an arm towards him as he limped over, “Arin, come on…” he placed a hand on Arin’s shoulder, “I’m worried about ya, big cat.” Arin froze, before slowly turning around.
Dan was shocked by Arin’s face. He looked exhausted. The dark circles under his red-rimmed eyes gave his whole face a haggard, strained appearance, and he had an unusually-pale complexion like that of a ghost. Dan tried to guide him to the wall, but found himself trapped in a powerful embrace. “Arin..?” Dan’s voice was low and concerned, but Arin just shook his head and hugged him tighter. Dan honestly had no idea what was happening, where they were, or how they had gotten there. They were in a confusing, ridiculous, terrible situation, but they had each other and he held on to that fact. Arin was clearly not doing well, and if Dan had to stay strong for both of them, he would. He would do just about anything for Arin.
“I-if we sit… w-will you still hold me?”
“I mean, you’re mostly holding me right now, but yeah.” Dan laughed, trying to lighten the mood. Arin didn’t respond, he only let go of him and shuffled over to a wall. “How’re you doing?” Dan asked, limping over to sit next to Arin, “I know you’re not okay, but what are you feeling right now?” Dan lowered himself beside Arin and wrapped him in the best hug he could manage. Arin took a shaky breath before answering.
“I… I-I’m terrified. I’m the most terrified I’ve ever been in my life, Dan.” his voice steadied as he spoke, but the heaviness of his words still hung in the air, “I-I… I was… I was alone here for… I don’t know, but… it was a while… I thought I was scared then, but… this…” Arin closed his eyes tightly, forcing back tears, “This… this is… just the noise… that noise… damnit!” Arin swore, furiously rubbing his eyes, “And… a-a-and your… your leg… I… I can’t!” Arin suddenly turned, and threw his arms around Dan, who tightened his hold on Arin, “I-I-I… I c-can’t… I can’t lose you too!” there was a sharp intake of breath and Arin realized what he’d said, “I… no, Dan-”
“What happened, Arin?” Dan fixed him with a stern look and forced his expression to stay neutral, “Tell me what happened, Arin.”
“I… Dan… please don’t… don’t make me say it! Please!” Arin’s arms left Dan and his hands weaved their way into his own hair. Dan’s arms were wrapped around Arin’s waist, so he was pulled when Arin hunched away from him. He could feel Arin shaking, every tremor echoed through his body, and he could hear Arin choking on hopeless, muffled sobs.
“Arin… I just… I don’t know what’s going on…”
“Th-that’s… that’s so much better, Dan! I-I-I’m not telling you because i-it’s better! I… I wish… I wish I didn’t know…” his words were punctuated by hushed whimpers, and Dan swore he could actually feel his own heart shatter.
“Arin… I trust you, I really do, more than anything, but… I think it’s important for me to know what’s happening at least as much as you do… you understand that, right?” Arin nodded, and turned back, so he was facing Dan again. His eyes were large and watery, and he nodded again slowly, wincing as if the movement caused physical pain.
“Y-you’re… you’re right… I’m sorry… I just… I just…” Arin paused, attempting to regain his composure, “I… I don’t… there’s no way to say this gently, Dan.”
“Say what? Just tell me!”
“I think Ross is dead.”