Clay bolted out of bed with tears in his eyes.
We need to get out of here.
And they did just that. He got Apollo in the car and they took off. Clay made the calls needed to make while Apollo was passed out.
“What the hell are you doing? I need to get to work!” Apollo yelled when he woke up.
“I told Mr. Wright you were sick.”
“Because we’re staying at a motel.”
“Because Fulbright’s gonna kill us if we don’t.”
“What does Fulbright have to do with any of this?”
“He’s a psychopath!”
“The only psychopath here is you, Clay.”
“Alright look, I’ve died like… I’ve lost count but take my word that it’s a lot.”
“What do you mean you died?”
“Exactly what I said. I’ve died a bunch and Fulbright’s killed me almost every time.”
“Proof. I need proof.”
“I don’t have any. You’ll just have to believe me.”
“You couldn’t have died. You just had a stupid dream.”
“Apollo, would I be acting like this if I just had a bad dream?”
No response. “Apollo?”
“Then how? How are you here right now?”
“C’mon, you have to have a better answer than that.”
“You could’ve left me back home.”
“I tried that. You get killed.”
Apollo pushed his bangs back nervously. “Why does he care so much?”
“I got the launch canceled.”
“I thought that was your dream.”
Clay pressed his lips into a straight line. “It is, but I die if the launch is carried out, and I’m not too keen on that outcome.”
“Why does Fulbright care whether or not the launch is canceled?”
“I haven’t gotten that far yet, I just know he wants to kill me.”
Apollo leaned back in his seat. He was silent for a few minutes. Most likely mulling over what he’d been told. “So Fulbright wants to kill us huh? Who woulda thunk it.”
Clay couldn’t help but smile. “You’ve said that before.”
“Last time I took you with me you said that exact phrase.”
“You’ve tried this before and failed?”
“Okay no, I punched you in the head in the afternoon. Not in the morning. There’s still a chance the outcome will be different.”
“So this is what you’ve been doing? Dying and trying to slightly alter the way you do things?”
“Pretty much. Sometimes I try to do something completely different if the route I’m going down is definitely not going to work.”
“This is really freaking me out.”
“It… probably should.”
The car was silent for a few minutes until Apollo asked, “so what are we gonna do once we’re there?”
“Lie low. If Fulbright can’t find us, he can’t kill us.”
“What about our jobs?”
“Well I’m not doing anything at the space center and I imagine Mr. Wright will let you take a vacation.”
“It’s not a vacation if I’m running for my life.”
“Then tell him you’re running for life! He’d have to give you time off then.”
Apollo sighed. “Now you and I both know I can’t say that.”
“Wow, you need to get better at making excuses to justify your behavior.”
“You would be an expert in that.”
Clay slammed his hand into the steering wheel. “I will pull this car over!”
“I call it like I see it.”
Clay’s car beeped at him and he pulled into a gas station.
“So, why is Fulbright after you?” Apollo asked once Clay was back in the car.
“He said that I found out who he is, but I haven’t figured out what he meant by that.”
Apollo pressed his index finger into his forehead. “I can’t think of anything either. Have you tried talking to him?”
Clay burst out laughing. “Apollo, we’re dealing with a murderous psychopath. I imagine he’d kill me the second I approached him.”
“Not if you go to the police station.”
“Hm, I’ll have to try that if I die again.”
“And now you’re weirding me out.”
“Am I?” Clay asked.
“Uh, yeah. It worries me that you can talk about dying so casually.”
“We’ve been over this. I’ve grown numb to it.”
“I still don’t understand how you could have grown numb to dying.”
Clay shrugged. “It’s a gradual process. You die over and over again, and it just loses it’s impact. It’s like seeing a scary movie a bunch of times. Eventually you become desensitized to it.”
“But you can’t feel absolutely nothing right?”
“Fulbright killed my Dad one point. That hurt a lot. And then there was the time someone mugged me and stabbed me and I ended up dying right in front of you.”
“You’re shitting me.”
“Nope. But when it’s just me dying, all I really feel is annoyance.”
“Now arriving at Moe Tell’s Inn.” Clay’s phone said.
“That’s such a stupid name.” Apollo muttered.
“Well it’s probably the owner’s name. Wha’cha gonna do?”
Apollo shrugged, and the two walked into the inn.
“Hello! Welcome to Moe Tell’s Inn. Room for two?”
“Sign here please.” Clay wrote down a fake name. “And how long do you plan to stay here?”
“Probably a few weeks.” The receptionist knit her eyebrows together.
“Alright then, here’s your room key. Please enjoy your stay.”
“Thanks.” Clay had a different room this time. He and Apollo made their way to the room and unpacked their bags.
“Aw, you packed my hair gel. How thoughtful of you.”
“I try my best.”
Apollo walked around the room. “Y’know this place isn’t too bad.”
“What did you expect?” Clay asked.
“Some seedy motel where you buy drugs or bang a prostitute.”
“Now do I look like the type to buy cocaine and hookers?”
“Love you too.”
Both clay and Apollo were getting hungry, but Clay was too nervous to leave the room.
“Well then I’m leaving with out you.” Apollo called out. “I’ll just have to learn how to drive…” He grabbed Clay’s keys from the table.
“Don’t you dare touch my baby.”
“Then maybe you should feed me.” Apollo was twirling the key ring around his finger. “I’m getting closer to the door… Look at me! I’m almost-”
Clay sighed and stood up. “I’m only doing this because you forced me too.”
“Well now you know how it feels to be punched in the head.”
“You’re still hung up on that?”
“It happened three hours ago!”
“And now you’re still following me around because you want some pesky food.”
Apollo rolled his eyes. “Whatever.”
Clay and Apollo ate lunch before they went grocery shopping. Once they were back in their motel room, Clay collapsed on his bed.
“I’m tired.” He said.
“Then sleep.” Apollo muttered as he put the groceries away.
“Promise you won’t run away?”
“I can’t drive. How could I run away?”
“You could steal my car.”
“God I was joking. You know I can barely stand riding in a car, let alone driving one.”
“Alright then, carry on.”
. . .
It was dark when he woke up.
Why’d Apollo let me sleep for so long?
He looked around and only saw an empty bed. “Apollo?”
He turned on the lamp. The sheets were in disarray. Apollo must have slept in it at some point.
And then he noticed the note.
I have someone very important to you. If you wish to see him alive, I suggest you come to the warehouse across the street. If you call the police, I won’t hesitate to kill him.
The note was unsigned, but Clay didn’t need a signature to figure out who wrote the note.
Guess I have no choice…
Clay placed his hand on the door knob and took a deep breath.
The door opened silently, revealing a brightly lit corridor.
How did Fulbright grab Apollo? Wouldn’t the receptionist-
She was dead behind the counter. A contorted look of sheer terror plastered on her face. Her neck was bruised a dark purple.
“Holy shit…” Clay’s heart was pounding in his ears and his thoughts were racing through his head.
I need to get to the warehouse. Apollo can’t die too.
Out of habit, Clay checked his phone. It was two in the morning. How long had Fulbright been holding Apollo hostage? Was it too late?
Clay broke into a run.
C’mon, hurry up!
His fingers finally wrapped around the door knob of the warehouse entrance. Clay put all of his weight into opening the door.
It was too dark to see anything. Gathering all of his courage, Clay called out, “Hello? Anyone there?” His voice bounced off the walls and faded to silence.
There was no response.
“Are you seriously doing this?” Clay’s hands were shaking as he pulled out his phone and turned on the flashlight.
The warehouse was empty except for a door on the far wall.
With echoing steps, Clay made his way to the door. A feeling of dread crept up his spine as his hand grasped for the doorknob.
Apollo has to be on the other side… Just open the door and get him back.
Fulbright and Apollo were indeed on the other side. The former was staring at Clay, and the latter was tied up, his face bloody and bruised. Clay wasn’t even sure Apollo was conscious.
“Ah, Mr. Terran, you finally join us.”
“What did you to Apollo?”
“Oh I just roughed him up a little. Isn’t that right Mr. Justice?”
There was no response.
“I said, isn’t that right Mr. Justice.” Fulbright delivered a swift kick to his ribs, causing the younger man to cry out in pain.
“Stop it. You’re hurting him!”Clay cried out.
Fulbright’s face morphed into one of mock concern. “Oh, I didn’t realize! In that case I’ll have to stop now, won’t I?”
“I would prefer it if you did.”
Fulbright picked Apollo up by his bangs. “Hear that Mr. Justice? Looks like you get to take a break.” Apollo was dropped to the ground with a thud. He folded himself into a ball and tucked his chin into his chest. His breathing was ragged and uneven. Clay hoped Apollo’s lungs weren’t damaged.
“Why won’t you leave us alone?”
“Aw, telling you would ruin the mystery. Wouldn’t it Terran?”
“I’d much prefer an explanation. I’ve never been the one for mysteries, personally.”
Fulbright grabbed Clay by the shoulder and pulled him closer. “I know you figured out who I am. That’s why you got the launch cancelled.”
Fulbright kneed Clay in the stomach. Apollo started screaming through his gag, his eyes wide.
“Don’t lie to me!”
“Please… just leave us alone.” Clay was on the ground. Fulbright placed a sneakered foot square on his chest.
“Until you’re dead, neither you, nor Mr. Justice will ever be safe.” Fulbright started applying pressure.
“Then why drag Apollo into this?! He hasn’t done anything to you.”
“And you’d be right. Maybe I’m doing it because I’m a terrible person or maybe I know that you care about Mr. Justice. But you’ll never know the real reason.”
Clay was finding it difficult to breath.
Apollo was trying to inch closer. Fulbright seemed to notice this and took his foot of of Clay’s chest, and delivered a swift kick to Apollo’s face. There was the sound of a crack. Blood was pouring from the now unconscious man’s nose.
“If you’re going to kill us, why do you have to torture us as well? Haven’t you done enough already?”
Fulbright laughed. “Mr. Terran, you don’t seem to get it. I’m showing you what happens when you try to run away. I’ll track you down to the ends of the world.” Fulbright planted his foot firmly on Clay’s chest.
I need to figure out how he tracked us down…
So he asked.
“Now why would I tell you that?”
“Do I really seem like the kind of person who would grant a final wish?”
Clay coughed. It hurt a lot. “I can dream can’t I?”
“Why would I do a favor for someone who’s caused me so much trouble? I had to take time off, and then I had to track you down, and I had to pay for gas, and you’re asking for a favor?”
Fulbright lifted his foot and brought it down on Clay’s chest. There was the sound of cracking ribs, as he screamed.
Fulbright waited until Clay was done to call for backup. He was untying his shoes while he spoke. “There was an altercation between Mr. Justice and Mr. Terran.”
Clay tried to call out- say something that would alert the caller to his presence, but he couldn’t. All of the air in his lungs was slowly being replaced with blood.
All he could do was watch as Fulbright put Apollo’s shoes back on his feet.
“Yes Mr. Justice has been stabbed, and Mr. Terran is unconscious. I don’t know if he’s alive.” Fulbright listened to the person on the other line. “Yes. Good. I’ll be right here.” Fulbright hung up and pulled out a knife.
The only sound was Clay’s faint gurgling as Fulbright made his way over to Apollo.
He swiftly stabbed the younger man in the throat.
Apollo started twitching as the life slowly drained out of him. He was untied and Fulbright hid the rope in his coat.
He strolled towards Clay and placed the knife in his hand. “I’m just going to borrow your fingerprints if that’s alright.” Clay couldn’t breath. He just stared as Fulbright turned to walk out.
He gave a little wave. “Goodbye, Mr. Terran.”
And then the door closed.