Chapter Thirteen: Inside

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Molly had just set Bernie off in a cab to the hospital when a familiar car pulled up. She had told Kal where she would be and needed his van and bike. She didn't have the heart to tell Ash she'd been dating Kal ever since they'd met over his hospital bed, especially given their past of finding comfort in each other when relationships ended, but it was never meant to be: they just weren't compatible in that way long term.

Kal poked his head out the window as it wound itself down. “Molly? You are aware what time it is?”

She thrust herself into the passenger side. “Ash is in trouble, Kal. We need to find him.”

Kal looked dubious in the faint glow of the dashboard lights. He looked a great deal younger than he actually was; in fact he was only a couple of years younger than Ash and Molly. His clean shaven face and tousled locks were a great decoy as to his actual age.

Kal, despite his previous protest, hit the gas and pulled out of the apartment block. Molly pulled up directions on her phone.

“Why do you need the van anyway? Or my bike for that matter?” Kal sucked on the inside of his cheek as he waited for a response, but Molly didn't answer. “So, what, Ash got in with a bad crowd? Caught sneaking into venues to practice? Throw me a bone, Molly, it's like, three AM.” He groaned, rubbing a bleary eye.

“I dunno, he went off to go find his manager, Derek.”

“Derek Flack?”

This time it was Molly's turn to turn to Kal. “You know him?”

“Sure. He's been calling me for months trying to get me to sign him as my agent. Ever since Ash's crash when he assumed he'd would just be a vegetable.”

That bastard. Molly grit her teeth but swallowed down her anger. “I need his number.”

“Uh sure, just check my phone.”

Molly began scrolling through Kal's contacts. The well in her stomach was worsening, bubbling and knotting itself. The more seconds that ticked by, the longer she worried about Ash. She called Derek's number.

“Kal? What the hell? Why are you calling me?” He sounded frantic, exasperated even. “I think I'm dreaming or something.”

“Is Ash with you?” Molly asked. The hand not holding the cell was beginning to raise to her mouth, eagerly wanting to chew on her nail.

“Huh? Oh God. There was this light. Almost blinded me! Ash was here, I swear. He must have gone for a walk or something.”

He sounded on the point of delirium. Disoriented, certainly. “Derek, are you at the New Light stadium?””

Light? Oh yeah, tonnes of it! Like I said, it blinded me almost!”

It didn't seem all that straight in hindsight that Derek hadn't questioned the fact it wasn't Kal speaking to him from Kal's number. Molly tried again.

“Derek! Are you at the New Light Stadium or not?”

“Sure am! I thought it'd be a great venue to back to for the new season in the fall! What do you think?”

Molly ended the call. She had the information she needed. “You know the way, Kal?”

“Of course I do. Are you going to tell me what's going on?”

“I'm not sure I even know what's going on.”

*****

Stadia were terrifying at night. They were the kind of places that should always be occupied, buzzing and thrumming with energy. At night, in the empty silence and darkness, they stood like a gaping mouth, void of teeth or tongue. Just a vast empty space that should all rights be filled.

Molly and Kal left the van at the same time. Kal leaned against the hood, crossing his arms and looking up at the dark masonry and metal turnstiles. “It's freezing,” he mumbled. Molly ignored him and ran over to the other van outside the venue. A man in a suit was sitting crumpled by one of the tyres. Molly had only met Derek Flack the once, but he was definitely not the kind of man who'd let an expensive suit sit in the dust like the way it currently was. One of the sleeves was stained with motor oil and down one of his pant legs there was a suspicious wet patch. Kal joined Molly and grimaced at the sorry sight.

“Where's Ash?” Molly demanded. Derek didn’t raise his head at her question.

“Who?”

“Ash, you dolt! Ashley Everson, you're his manager!”

“I'm not Ashley Everson. Wrong person, lady.”

This was getting her nowhere. She huffed before a glimmer caught her eye. Something bright from within the stadium. Her breath caught. She'd seen that light from under Ash's bedroom door. He was inside the stadium. “How do we get in?” she rattled the chain link fence.

*****

He was trapped.
   Trapped no matter which way he turned, or twisted. There was nothing restraining him, but he could barely move without a concerted effort. Was this death? Forever mired like this?
   He thought of Maddie, of her sweet fingers enclosed around his neck, her soft smile as she had squeezed the life out of him. He must be dead. She had killed him.
Maddie's gentle voice rang all around him.
   “Maddie?” He squirmed and writhed, looking for a source of light, anything in the darkness. There was a pinprick of light way above him, and he began to struggle, finally a goal to strive for.
   Maddie continued to speak - well, make noises - and he pulled himself up, wherever he was “Maddie, where are we?”
   She didn't answer him, leading him to wonder if she could understand him. Is this was it was like for her at the beginning? Is this all she could do when she was trapped inside him? Is that where he was?
   He. His name. What was his name? Did he even have one? When was the beginning? He called out to her, and she responded in nonsense.

*****

“Ash came through here. He must have.” Molly was attempting to clamber over the barbed wire fence, and had stretched her coat over the path she intended to take. Kal was right behind her.

“Molly, are you insane? This is ludicrous.”

“Leave then. Let me do this on my own.” Her tone was clipped. Kal huffed and hauled himself up.

“What do you think I am, some kind of animal? I'm not about to leave you, illegal activity or not.” She turned around to catch him grinning and in that moment, her worry was assuaged. Kal truly was a sweet thing.

“Alright then, let's go.”

The two jumped down into the quietness of the stadium, Molly nearly losing her balance and being caught by Kal, but there was little time for comfort. Hand in hand, they made for the arena.
   

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