Streaks of purple stained my vision, leftovers from the blinding camera flashes. Another photo was taken, and pain stabbed my forehead; I could sense a migraine headache coming on, unsurprisingly. The high levels of stress, pressure, and jolting bursts of light were perfect conditions for a headache. For hours, I had answered intrusive questions, laughed at things that weren’t remotely amusing, and swallowed the familiar agony bubbling inside of me, the same gut-wrenching feeling that arose whenever someone mentioned Stella. For the sake of my sanity, I allowed myself six lies per half-hour; somehow feeding the ravenous reporters false information gave me pleasure, to see their overbearing faces enlight as they scribbled away, engraving my rubbish into history.
Vaguely, I registered Mark Gibson saying something witty, most likely a dig at my unresponsiveness (he was nice that way, excusing me when I slipped away), then guiding me from the pestering crowd, although everybody was still eager to ask “One more!”
“You okay?” he asked halfheartedly. I knew he had to be annoyed that I’d cut the interview short, but the concern on his face was genuine. Hadn’t we lived together for months, after all? He was like an uncle to me now, and I could tell he felt the same way about me… a favorite nephew, maybe. Since we’d been touring the country together, cruising along the freeway for hours at a time, he was now tied to me somehow, although I didn’t have a clue about the legal bit. My parents were my guardians, of course, but I didn’t stay with them anymore; usually I was too busy to even phone home and say hello. The last time I’d spoken to both of them was at the hospital, where I’d gotten stitches for the rips on my arms and back, and they took turns hugging me, but not much else. We’d barely spoken, and it had almost been awkward.
“I’m fine,” I assured Mark, though my voice sounded far away. He had bigger things to worry about, such as keeping the crowd lurking outside happy, without directly answering why I wouldn’t be making any more public appearances, at least, not for a while.
. . .
The interview had caused memories to resurface, unstoppable despite my tremendous effort to silence them. They refused to suffocate; playing ghoulishly behind my eyelids, tempting me to look at them once more.
I saw flashes, not camera flashes, but the evil white rips that symbolize pain. The bear’s startled roar, its massive paws swiping the air. Stella’s blood, which I couldn’t stop, and the numbing terror which clouded everything else, which prevented me from saving my friend.
I clenched my teeth and extinguished the last of the memories, though a new thought had risen: If Stella’s spirit would ever be put to rest, I needed to do something. I needed to avenge her death.
I needed to kill Stella’s bear.
To be continued…