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  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
    Aceinthehole
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Tales of the Underground: Crestfallen - 37. A Walk with Death

Disclaimer: This chapter lightly touches upon the topics of suicide and depression. Reader discretion is advised. If you or someone you know is going through something don't be afraid to get help.

Suicide line for the United States: 1-800-273-8255

This is it, the night I’ll never forget…the night I’ll tell my grandchildren about, the night I realized I couldn’t live without Jayden. I looked up and saw his smiling face staring towards me, just as bright and excited as ever. I’ve been dreaming of falling in love since I was little. Always believing it would be in some big crystal ballroom, or at some huge fancy event…yet here I am in the local dinner, the same place late night truckers stop on their way to New York City, and I couldn’t be happier.

“Do you need me to explain the menu?” Jayden taunted, as I looked everything over.

I put it down and made a face “No, but I could use a better date.”

“Well that sucks, because I’m the best you’re gonna get.” He teased with a smile.

A half smile filled my face at his words “You realize you chose disco fries and a cheap burger over lobster and fillet minion right?”

“What can I say, I’m a man of expensive tastes.” I had never seen him so happy, he just seems so in his element…so relaxed.

“I can tell.” I giggled “What are you going to do when we have to go to one of my dad’s functions?”

He slowly thought it over in his head “Wing it.” He decided.

“You’re going to give me so many headaches.” I exhaled

“Am I worth it?” he tested

“Every second” I replied without even skipping a beat “I love you.”

“Love you too Aidan.” He giggled, face lightly blushing.

That night was like something out of a story book, it was simple, yet everything I’ve ever wanted. Every now and then his cousin would come over and check on us, even daring to share stories from Jayden’s childhood. It sounds like he’s been the same kid his whole life, quiet and contained, yet an amazing soul if you dare to invest in him.

As the night wound down I saw a bit of seriousness grow on Jayden’s face “Hey, do you think we could make a side stop on the way home…there’s something I want to show you.”

“Whatever you want babe.” I smiled, leaning against him in the back of the family car.

He took a deep breath “Short Hills cemetery” he exhaled to Perry.

“J are you sure?” I began

“Yes.” He nodded before I could continue “I…tonight just feels like the right time, I know its late, but there’s a lot of good lighting…I just really need you to..to…I”

“I understand.” I supported, saving him the frustration.

The closer we got the more serious I felt the car ride growing…yet I totally understand where Jayden was coming from, it seems like this moment has been holding him back, like in some way if I spend time with him at the grave, that he’ll be freed.”

Jayden directed Perry on how to navigate the huge plot, seemingly knowing it like the back of his hand. As we pulled up to the site I caught the sight of a far too familiar red mustang.

I exhaled as heavy breath as I opened the door “Go ahead.” Jayden nodded, seeing Eli in the distance “Go pay your respects, I’ll be here when you get back.”

I lightly kissed him on the forehead and made my way to Eli who was kneeling on the ground. I felt my heart race as I approached. His dark silhouette stood out in the light, and I could make out some light whimpers. “Eli.” I gently called out, he jumped out of fear, but quickly calmed himself down “It’s just me…I…me and Jayden are paying our respects to his brother.”

“I had no idea he was buried that close.” A quiet voice escaped him. As our eyes connected it was instantly clear that I wasn’t talking to the Eli knew “All this time and I had no idea.” He laughed “All this time.”

“Are you okay?” I lightly poked, looking down in front of me

“Just as fine as ever.” He shook, I watched a trembling hand escape from his figure and lightly brush off some of the dirt on the stone in front of him.

Jamie Aaron Free

February 21st, 2000- January 30th 2016

“Loving son, brother and boyfriend. Known by few missed by many”

“I’m sorry.” I let out not knowing what else to say.

 

“Sorry…sorry…we’re all sorry” he muttered “Every single one of us…”

“I didn’t mean to…”

“I know what you meant.” He interrupted “You care…the only one left who cares about me.”

“That’s not true.” I comforted “Your friends, they don’t leave me alone, they’re obsessed with making sure you’re okay.”

He shook his head in disgust “If they really cared they would be with me.”

“Eli…you don’t exactly make that easy.” I let out in blunt honesty.

He nodded “I know, but you stuck around…because you care. A few weeks ago you asked if I missed him.” He tried to stand up but his shaking prevented him

“Eli are…”

“Do you remember that?” he interrupted once more, I slowly nodded trying to read him “I said it was a stupid question…it’s not a stupid question…it’s not…I miss him, I miss him every second of every day, it’s been so long but the pain hasn’t faded…not one bit.”

“Maybe you need help.” I offered “Maybe we can find you a ther…”

“No, I don’t need it….I don’t need it.” He finally mustered enough strength and got to his feet. He stumbled forward but caught himself before he could fall back to the ground.

“Eli did you take something?” I asked, starting to grow concerned “Perry can give you a ride home if you’d…”

“Nope.” He exhaled in a loud breathe “I’m absolutely fine…I drove myself here…I can drive myself home.” He stumbled and stuttered.

“Eli please, it’s just down the road, it’s no big deal…”

“No!” he yelped, walking towards his car “I can fuckin do it...It’s just down the road!” he mimicked. I backed off, not knowing what to do, and watched as he made his way to the red beast “I’ll see you…I’ll see you tomorrow.”

As he began to pull away I waved for Perry to follow him, and just like that they both disappeared into the night. I quickly knelt down by the stone in front of me and laid a hand on the cold gray slab “I’ll get him the help he needs.” I whispered “I promise…rest easy…one day we’ll meet…one day.”

I took another second to recompose myself and headed towards Jayden “Sorry about that.”

“It’s okay.” He shrugged “I get it, grief makes people crazy.”

I nodded, not sure if Jayden realized how under the influence Eli was. Jayden led me up a small path and grasped onto my hand as we reached a lone gray stone. “This is it.” He gulped.

I looked down at the dimly lit stone in the ground.

Matthew Daniel Sanders

December 15th 2000- February 13th 2017

May his bright smile and laughter light the way forever.”

I felt Jayden grab onto me as he scanned the small stone. I heard some heavy breaths begin to leave his lips, as he shook in my arms. “Matty.” He began in a trembling voice “This is my boyfriend Aidan…you know…the one I told you about.” He did his best to stop his tears from interrupting his words “I-I…I wanted him to…I wanted him to see this.” he took a breathe and laid his head against me “Mom and Dad are good…a little crazy but still good…we miss you…I miss you.” He let his weight fall further on me and began to shake even heavier “Not a lot has been going on at school…I see Stephanie and Jacob in the halls sometimes, they…they say they visit…Jacob even said he leaves you and Jamie soda sometimes…he really misses you I guess.” Jayden did his best to carry on the conversation, but I could tell he was doubting himself “Mr. Jones even said he’d come visit someday…I…me…me and Aidan both have him this year…its fun…he’s good.”

“Jayden even failed an AP test to stay in his class.” I added in, doing my best to encourage the one sided conversation.

“I didn’t…”

“J” I reprimanded

“Okay I did do that.” He eased up “But Matty you were lucky if you even passed a CP test…I miss your stories” he changed gears wiping away some tears “You and Jamie always kept me inspired…in awe…I…I don’t know…maybe I should’ve told mom and dad it was real…maybe I should’ve stopped you…but you looked like you were having so much fun…how would I..I…I didn’t…how would I” I quickly grasped him once more as he began to break down “Aidan…I’m the reason this happened.”

“Hey, don’t say that!” I quickly comforted wiping away the tears “There’s no one to blame…no one could’ve predicted it would’ve ended like this, no one!”

“But I knew everything that was happening…if I’m so smart…If I’m such a genius why didn’t I see this coming? Why was I so stupid?!” He sniffled, beating the shit out of himself.

“Because we never expect our heroes to be so flawed.” I confessed, looking back to where Eli had been standing “We don’t expect them to get beaten by life…we don’t expect to have to help them.” I kissed him on the top of the head as I held him “but we have to learn from this…we have to grow…you have to live for you and your brother…you have to be the change in the world he didn’t get the chance to be.” He nodded, and silently cried in my arms for a bit before calming himself down. “Tell me about him.” I nudged, trying not to overstep.

Jayden nodded and shared what felt like hundreds of stories about his older brother. A kid who always smiled and laughed, a kid who was full of energy and life, one that never fully understood the repercussions of his actions, or had any respect for authority. It was as though they weren’t even related, and yet through all the little things, it seemed like they couldn’t be more similar. Pride beamed from Jayden’s face as he spoke of him, and everything about Jayden seemed to become so crystal clear. His lack of confidence…the way he isolates himself…the wall he’s built, it all stems from this, he’s scared of being hurt, of being left alone once again.

“You know I’ll never leave you right?” I poked, as we headed towards the car

He shot me a confused look “What?”

“I’m here for you, from now and forever.” I supported. He nodded finally understanding where I was coming form and wrapped himself around me. “I love you J.”

“I love you too Aidan.” He exhaled, climbing into the car.

The rest of the car ride was silent as Jayden seemed to fall in and out of sleep. I let him rest again me, and appreciated every second of it. The way he twitched, the way he breathed, the way he kept adjusting his head…all of it was perfection to me. When we finally got to his house I walked him to the front door and could tell something was still on his mind.

“I’m sorry if I killed the mood tonight.” He confessed “I just…it was something I needed to do with you, and I felt like…it just seemed like the perfect time.”

I nodded, and pulled him in close “You didn’t kill anything, I’m glad you shared it with me…I’m glad you trust me.” He laid a delicate kiss on my lips that seemed to say so much more than he could with words.

He pulled away and looking into my eyes “You’re worried about Eli.” He decided

I took a deep breath and gave him a light shove “That’s what you think about when you kiss me?” I teased

“No.” he giggled “I think about a lot more than that.” He winked “But I can see it on your face, you’re not that great at hiding emotions.”

“I guess.” I confessed “I just wish…tonight when you were telling me about Matty…I don’t know It just helped understand so much about you…I wish there was a way I could do that with him.”

“Learn about Jamie then.” He encouraged with a small smile.

I rolled my eyes and took a step back “Everyone keeps saying that, but no one tells me the full truth…can you?”

He lightly shook his head “I can’t give you the details you need, but I think I know someone who can.” His smile grew, as he thought over ways he could help “Okay, go to the McDonalds on West South Orange Ave, and ask for Jess, she should be working…she’s always working.”

“What?” I giggled not understanding

“Trust me, if anyone knows about Jamie it’s her.” He nodded, pulling me in for one last kiss “Good night my love.”

“Good night.” I exhaled taking in one last view of him in fancy clothes.

“Don’t stare!” he exclaimed hurrying inside

“I’m sorry to see you go, but happy to watch you leave.” I teased, walking back towards the car.

As I finally got back into the passenger’s seat I informed Perry about the new destination. He tried to dissuade me but in the end he knew it was a waste of time…after all once I get my mind set on something, well I don’t quit.

I made my way into the dirty rundown McDonalds on the bad side of town, and nervously headed to the register “Is Jess here?” I squeaked out before the cashier had a chance to say anything.

“Who’s askin?” the cashier groaned.

“A friend of Eli’s.” I informed, trying to seem friendly.

“Jess!” the cashier called out “There’s some kid here lookin for you, says he’s friends with some Eli person.”

A girl with long dark black hair, and eyes so brown they seemed black stepped out from the back and stared me down “Eli? Is everything alright?” she nervously questioned “Did something happ…”

“Nothing happened.” I quickly comforted “but I…I don’t know if everything’s alright…I…I don’t think it is.”

“I’m taking my break!” she yelped jumping the counter, and leading me to a small table “Alright kid you got 5 minutes…spill.”

“Okay” I breathed taking a seat at the disgusting greasy table “Long story short, Jayden Sanders told me to find you…he’s actually my boyfriend, and well we were at the cemetery paying respects for his brother who passed away last year, and Eli was there…he was visiting his late boyfriend’s grave who passed…”

“I know the story kid.” She grumbled, with sadness breaking into her voice

“Well he wasn’t the Eli I know…at least I’ve never seen him in a state like that.” I shook, not quite knowing how to describe it “I think I smelt alcohol in his breathe…but it seemed different than drunk…like he was in less control.”

She took a deep breathe, and I saw the heavy weight she carried on her shoulders “So you want me to talk to him?”

“No.” I shook once again “I…he’s a…he’s isolated himself from everyone, built a wall, and well I don’t know…he trusts me…he lets me in…tonight he told me I’m the only one who cares.”

“So what the fuck do you want from me?” she let out irritated at the run around I was giving her.

“Tonight when learning about my boyfriend’s brother…I learned a lot about him to, I realized how I could help him…how I could help start to put the pieces back together.” I clarified “and well I was thinking maybe if I learned about Jamie Free…”

“Maybe you could learn why Eli’s fallen so far.” She finished, putting the answer together.

I lightly nodded “So did you know Jamie? Like can you tell me who he was?”

She bit her lip and thought everything over “He’s my brother.”

“Oh I’m so so sorry…I didn’t mean to…” I began, standing up.

She reached out and grabbed onto my arm “No, it’s okay.” She sighed “Like my dad’s said we’ve buried too many kids…if it can help save Eli…if it can stop one more of these kid’s from dying…then well…what do you want to know?”

“Was he really a monster?” I bravely exhaled, no longer trying to avoid the point.

She let out a sad laugh, and looked me dead in the eyes “No, he was a victim.” She sighed “Jamie was a trouble maker, an ass, an instigator, a fighter, a moron…but above it all he loved like no one else I know. Me, my parents, my sisters, Eli…we we’re his whole world, growing up he did everything and anything to make sure we we’re happy. He was our hero…he was the one who made sure everyone was okay, that is until our mom died. Jamie and her…they had a connection I can’t explain, wherever she went he went, until she went somewhere he couldn’t “ Jess’ voice began to break as she pushed through the story “He was hell bent on following her anyway…he wished for death every night, and did everything he could to break down it’s door.”

“So he was suicidal?” I poked, not quite understanding.

She lightly nodded “When you hear suicidal, you think of self-harm, and taking your own life…people don’t realize that suicidal also means putting yourself in situations where you can lose your life and not caring if it happens or not. That was my brother…every time he got in that god damn car he secretly wished he crashed…it’s why you hear all those crazy stories about him…that’s why you hear tales of him running people off the roads, or shooting people.” She took a heavy breathe doing her best to push through “After his death the doctors diagnosed him with major depressive disorder…he was in pain, and looking for anyway to end it.”

I looked into her worn-down eyes and wanted to stop, but knew I couldn’t…not yet “Then why drag Eli into it?””

“Because he didn’t want to be that way…who would?” She snapped, defending her brother “He wanted a reason to live…a reason to fight…and Eli…he was that reason.” For a second I thought she was going to lose it, but she took a second and pulled it together “At the end…before he died…he found that reason, he no longer wanted to die. H-he wanted life…he wanted to help people, to do something big in his life. He tried to quit the underground but that’s when everything went wrong.” I nodded signaling it was okay for her to stop “If you want to help Eli…really fix him, get him the fuck out of here.” She growled “There’s nothing but pain and agony left for him, he holds himself responsible for everything…Jamie’s death…Matty’s suicide.” A small tear escaped her eye “He claims to hate Matty, but it’s only because he thinks it’s his fault…and the loss of Jamie…that weight…I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”

“That’s all? Get him out of here?” I uttered “He’s so broken…so damaged…so fallen…that won’t fix everything!” I blurted out in frustration.

“No it won’t, but you seem like a smart kid…you’ll figure it out.” She nodded, standing up.

“How do I know I will?” I yelped, not ready for her to leave yet

“You found me didn’t you?” she pointed out with a sad smile “Eli was right…you do care about him….enough to go to a dodgy McDonalds at midnight. You won’t rest until you’ve solved it…and you will solve it.” I nodded, stood up, and went to shake her hand, but she grabbed it and pulled me in “He’s watching over you…I can feel it.”

“Who?” I asked not understanding.

She held me closely as though she had been waiting for that for years “Jamie.”

It was then I realized that the night we stood outside the underground…that voice I was hearing…the mysterious push…it wasn’t the car, it was Jamie…and it wasn’t encouragement…but a warning.

Disclaimer: This chapter lightly touches upon the topics of suicide and depression. Reader discretion is advised. If you or someone you know is going through something don't be afraid to get help.

Suicide line for the United States: 1-800-273-8255

"Suicide doesn't end the possibility of life getting worse. Suicide eliminates the possibility of things getting better."

2016 Ace
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Chapter Comments

It is amazing how almost everyone can see where Aidan is going, but Aidan, he only see Jayden, and what he is after.  

The change in Eli was both necessary and revealing, good going.  It's been three years, maybe one by Jamie's death, thought Jess was the youngest, could be wrong.

Aidan's just deer in the headlights approach to finding things out is wonderful, no idea of what he asking for, just being him, very nice.

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That chapter kind of tore at the heart strings, great work.

I can see a light at the end of this tunnel and a chance for all to finally escape the underground. Fingers and toes crossed as we near the end.

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I don't know whether I should be glad for not reading the 1st book. I first knew about it through your 3rd book, and that was Eli was getting better but it's still too painful when he briefly retold the story... I postponed the idea of reading the first 2 books, especially the first one because it's too dark, too tragic and I guess I am right after reading this chapter. It's not that I don't like your story. Your writing is great, really great that can touch my emotions deeply and I am afraid I might break down... I am glad I decided to read the 2nd book so I can know and understand the situation better and still have a bright future ahead. Great work! 

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On 7/28/2020 at 9:08 PM, PaulPobeP said:

I don't know whether I should be glad for not reading the 1st book. I first knew about it through your 3rd book, and that was Eli was getting better but it's still too painful when he briefly retold the story... I postponed the idea of reading the first 2 books, especially the first one because it's too dark, too tragic and I guess I am right after reading this chapter. It's not that I don't like your story. Your writing is great, really great that can touch my emotions deeply and I am afraid I might break down... I am glad I decided to read the 2nd book so I can know and understand the situation better and still have a bright future ahead. Great work! 

Thank you for the kind words. I completely understand not wanting to read book one, especially right now. There is enough heartbreak and sadness going on in the world without reading a tragedy. If you are interested, my newest story Golden City is a far cry from where I started, and a hell of a lot lighter!

I appreciate your support and I'm always really happy to see someone enjoying these stories. They were my first attempts at writing, so seeing someone enjoy them means a lot!

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1 hour ago, Aceinthehole said:

Thank you for the kind words. I completely understand not wanting to read book one, especially right now. There is enough heartbreak and sadness going on in the world without reading a tragedy. If you are interested, my newest story Golden City is a far cry from where I started, and a hell of a lot lighter!

I appreciate your support and I'm always really happy to see someone enjoying these stories. They were my first attempts at writing, so seeing someone enjoy them means a lot!

I first knew you through the 3rd book and i was hooked by your writing so tbh I've read all of your stories but the 1st book of this series. I really enjoy Golden City, but The Hidden Ones is still my favorite. Please keep going! 

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9 hours ago, PaulPobeP said:

I first knew you through the 3rd book and i was hooked by your writing so tbh I've read all of your stories but the 1st book of this series. I really enjoy Golden City, but The Hidden Ones is still my favorite. Please keep going! 

The hidden ones is my favorite as well! I enjoyed writing those 2 books so much, I’m very excited to start the 3rd one in the very near future. 

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