Cory Green is 48
Soundtrack: "Runaway Train" by Soul Asylum
Cory woke up slowly, reluctant to let go of the dream.
It was a dream that was somehow both unsettling...
... and reassuring...
...all at the same time.
A dream that he wanted to hold on to it for as long as he could.
Gradually, reality crept in. He became aware of the fact that his head hurt. And he smelled bad. He was hungry, too, but there was another, familiar craving that took precedeence over all the rest.
He stumbled out of bed and burrowed through the mess of his belongings on the floor, until he found a bottle that wasn't empty.
Only enough to get through today...
He laughed at the thought. He'd blown that one already. He wasn't even sure what day it was any more. Nor did he know how long he'd been here, only that he'd realised some hours before that he needed to ration out his supply of alcohol, or at least sober up enough to buy more. No one was going to sell it to him in the condition he was in - at least, not in this part of town. Over on the East Side, maybe...
The East Side. He shuddered at the memory. He'd have to be more than desperate to go back there, but then that really summed up the place, didn't it? Rock-bottom desperation. Nothing left to lose - at least, nothing you valued at all. He found it hard to believe now that he'd felt like he belonged there once. He was a different person now, although he'd had to go back there to see that. Sitting in some grungy bar, with the music roaring and a fight breaking out in the corner that no one was paying any attention to, he'd realised that there were worst things than living with the guilt, and the ghosts, and the pain of what he'd done. He didn't want to die there like his mother had.
He didn't want to die.
It had terrified him, the memories the place had reawakened, the glimpse of where he was heading. After drinking enough to quell the panic, he'd found his way back to the hotel he'd checked into hours before, where he'd stayed in a drunken haze, for the next... how long? He had no idea. He vaguely remembered ordering food from room service, more than once, and he remembered someone asking him if he was ill. He wasn't sure what he'd answered.
Room service seemed like a good idea. Pushing aside the mess of cigarette butts and bottle tops on the bedside table, he picked up the phone and ordered... breakfast, he figured, after looking at the time. Then he stumbled into the shower.
So, what now? What do you do, when you don't want to die, but you're too scared to live? His mind was racing as he tried to grasp the magnitude of it all. He couldn't go back home, he couldn't go back to the life he'd had, but he couldn't just abandon it, either. He'd already done that once, and he knew the hurt he'd caused.
When his first marriage had fallen apart, he'd left his father to sort out the details with Sharla. By the time he came back, all that was left for him to do was sign on the line. This time, he'd have to face it all. He owed them that much, at least. He needed to find somewhere to live. And a job. He could hardly keep working for Rose's father. And how would he explain it all to his kids? How would he even start?
He'd already tried, that night, when he'd run back here from the East Side. He remembered the panicked fumbling through the telephone directory... then backing out when it came to actually making the call. He'd marked the page, although he didn't know why. The idea he'd had was never going to work. Not now, with the overwhelming task ahead of him. He didn't know how he'd do it, but he knew he couldn't avoid it, either, and he needed all the help he could get to see it through.
Or, he thought he was, until the mess on the bedside table caught his eye.
Drunk, smoking in bed. How often do you hear about that? How often do you read about that, in a single paragraph buried in the middle of the paper? Some poor idiot that no one would remember. No suspicious circumstances, the police would say. He had a sudden memory of waking up, surrounded by flames and too drunk to even try to save himself. Not here, but at Aaron's house, before his brother had found him and dragged him out. No suspicious circumstances there, either.
No suspicious circumstances, in the burned-out kitchen where his mother had ended her life.
Looking at a fork in the road. Not in front of him, but behind him. He'd passed the decisive moment already, somewhere in the haze of the past few days. In front of him, the road was straight, the choice had already been made for him. All that was left for him to do was to take the step forward.
He found himself pressing his fingernails hard into the palms of his hands, just to remind himself that he was still there, alive. His father had once told him that he didn't have to re-live his mother's life. His father had been wrong. But re-living something doesn't mean you can't change it. He'd already escaped fate, twice. Next time, he might not be so lucky. He wasn't sure who or what he had to thank for it, or why he felt he owed them... only that he knew what he had to do, to keep his end of the bargain.
His hands shook as he flipped through the telephone directory, finding the page he'd marked earlier. He'd thought it would be hard, making this call, but it was surprisingly easy. Even so, he was still trembling as he put down the phone.
Cursing to himself because he'd finished his last drink, he lit a cigarette instead. A strange calm came over him. It was done now, no turning back. He felt almost relaxed as he carefully stubbed out the cigarette and turned his attention to breakfast and the newspaper, delivered while he was in the shower.
He couldn't remember the last time he'd felt this free. Maybe it was because the decision had been made. Maybe it was because he wasn't accountable to anyone anymore. Back home, everyone thought that he was with Chris. He could take it one step at a time, wait until he was ready to contact them again...
Then he found himself staring at his own picture.
Police Hold Fears for Missing Richmond Man...
Shit. Maybe not.
He felt like a thief as he checked his bag into the hotel storage room and paid his bill. He half-expected someone to recognise him at any moment.
Obviously no one read the newspaper around here.
The sunlight was blinding after so long shut away inside. It was only a short walk, just a couple of blocks, but it seemed to take forever to get there.
Realising that he was shaking again, Cory took a moment to compose himself, before he walked into the Central City Police Station.
This is probably the hardest story I've had to write on this blog, in terms of actually putting it into words... probably because it's the most storytelling-orientated one I've done, but that side of it kind of took over. There was just so much to explore, once the gameplay had thrown Cory, and the way I had imagined him, into this unexpected situation.
In order to actually get something posted, I decided to put up the completed half of part two, and buy myself some more time to work on the rest of it. When I say half, it's chronologically about a half of the single day my original plan for part two covered, although a lot of the thoughts and emotional stuff from the second half of the day have found their way into this, and its about the size of a full update now anyway. Which leaves a short, bare-bones part three, although I already have an idea of how to integrate it with another part of the story (which I'd planned to tell later), to make another full update.