Chapter: Swallowed Whole

Entry: May 14, 2007

As if openly mocking their efforts, all resistance suddenly vanished, and both eyelids sprang open, possibly triggered by some internal mechanism. Kyle, pressing his full weight on the lower lid, hit the ground first, teeth clacking shut as his buttocks unexpectedly kissed the dry dirt below. Jason wasn't so lucky. Pushing forward, he was yanked up too quickly to compensate, and his struggling legs propelled his head directly into unyielding stone. There were no stars or dancing images, only instant blackness. His eyes spun backwards, showing unbroken white before he crumpled into an uncomfortable heap, his head again bouncing on a rather unfortunately solid surface.

Kyle had fallen backward, but managed to throw his arms behind his body, breaking his fall but bruising his elbows. He rolled partially onto his left side and groaned, "piece of... Jason?" He swung his head upwards, expecting Manny looming above, gloating as Kyle prostrated himself, stripped of any dignity.

No Jason. He let his gaze settle on the floor so he could experimentally roll left again, and loft himself to his feet. In doing so, he spotted Jason splayed and discarded like an old toy soldier, legs akimbo and twisted under his body. "Shit," he muttered. Jason's face glistened with fresh blood, an ugly welt rising from his abused skull, prompting another curse from Kyle before he crawled the short distance to Jason and tilted the boy's head backwards, listening for breath.

Jason wasn't dead, and his breathing soon degenerated into a light snore. Kyle almost laughed. "Snoring. Ya crack your worthless mug, and yer enjoyin' it." He looked around the dimly lit basement, noticing that nothing moved or shifted aside from the newly exposed eye; they'd accomplished nothing. "Well, someone aughta..."

He stood up, grimacing as he straightened his arms, and prodded various corners of their new shelter with his flashlight, only succeeding to illuminate dust lazily bobbing in currents and eddies of air. He frowned and went back to Jason's slumbering form, nudging his ribs with a filthy shoe.

"Get up, man. You found that stupid thing and got me down here, so what now?"

Jason mumbled and his eyes flicked open slightly once before slamming shut; responsive yet committed to rest. How to wake His Majesty? Kyle crouched and gently shook Jason's shoulders, watching as each flicker of his eyelids lengthened, became blinks—some even revealed dilated pupils!

Jason heard only fragments of Kyle's whispered entreaties. Each syllable drawn to infinity, fading into a quiet echo. His eyes deciphered Kyle's looming form as a shadowy kaleidoscope, spinning and twirling like a slowly spreading molasses spill; the sight was sickening. He closed his eyes and turned his head, mumbling a truncated indecipherable plea, willing away the stomach-churning imagery. A bead of cold blood cut a swath down his forehead, welling in his closed eye before careening down his right temple and splashing into the dim. That sensation sparked further comprehension in his addled mind; the pieces assembled carefully, the puzzle still far from complete.

Kyle sighed and sat backwards on his bruised rear. Watching Jason regain consciousness like a drunk monkey. Each pronounced blink brought another shudder, or twitch, or head-roll as his bodily systems seemingly reinitialized themselves one-by-one, as he remembered how to be human. It wasn't much, but Jason had to wake up before they could proceed. If the King of Sting was actually hurt, Kyle could run back to town and fetch help, but he wanted to see if Jason could rouse himself first.

Jason roused. Kyle waited.

"C'mon Sleeping Beauty. I'm not gonna kiss ya. Wake up on your own!" he taunted.

"Shove... it," Jason said, truncating himself with a desperate breath, "Scruff." A few more moments passed before he again spoke, "Yer the worst... nurse ever." He laughed then, shedding a tear of hot stabbing agony before curling into a fetal position and cradling his head, low quiet sobs wracking his body. "Remind... me not... to laugh," he choked, "hurts."

"You OK man? You're bleedin'."

"Yeah? Figured... figured you wuz whizzin' on my... my body. Prove I wuz dead. Here I wuz, hopin' you wuz St. Peter. Talk... about a letdown."

Kyle smiled. "So, you jus' gonna lay around?"

"Yeah," Jason began, "you'd... like that. Steal... steal all my treasure. Help me up, ya... ingrate." He pushed his right arm forward, lurching heavily to that side without that arm to provide balance. Kyle leapt, grabbing the proffered appendage, halting another possible conversation between Jason's head and the ground. He held the boy steady, waiting for some sign of resistance.

Finally he pulled, and Jason stood. He tilted and staggered, vision splitting and reforming like a bad visit to the optometrist, almost greying out entirely as his heart struggled to rebound from its previous shock, and provide his battered brain with the sweet taste of oxygen. That dizziness became a surge, and finally Jason stood up straight, grinding his teeth, visibly shaken by pain, and pressed his muddy hand to his messy, dented forehead. He held his left hand at Kyle. Gimme a sec, kid.

Kyle waited.

Jason rubbed the grit and blood from his eyes, pulling up his shirt and swabbing the crusty blackened testament to artistic expression boiling from the small cut—his gift from the wall-bound eye. Mom's gonna kill me. "Now, ya wanna help me with the other one?"

"Huh!?"

Jason tsk'd. "... and I'm the one got hit onna head." Without looking, he lifted his right arm and waved it behind his body, toward the third wall of the unorthodox basement. Kyle felt embarrassed, having completely missed the fact that somehow only three walls comprised the entirety of the room.

Kyle raised his flashlight toward that final wall, doubtful Jason's addled wits accurately recalled anything preceding his rather ungraceful swan-dive into the wall. Surprisingly, yet a third eye stared back at them. It too, was closed. Great.

"Uh..." he managed.

Jason was already stumbling, tracing a weaving but tenacious path toward the last eye. "Hurry up, Scruff. Last one." No idiot, he grabbed the bottom eyelid, winking back at Kyle. Your turn, buck-o. Enjoy your concussion.

Trapped, Kyle shrugged and strode to join Manny. "You sure about this?"

"No."

"Ok, jus' checkin'." Kyle crouched and adjusted himself for the best leverage available, and they both began to push. This time, they knew they might trigger some instant release, each preparing to dart sideways or fall backwards—anything to avoid incurring further injuries.

When the eye's lids scraped noisily open, slowly and only under their intense ministrations, each boy prepared for the worst.

That was exactly what they got.

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