The next day has arrived, and the end is here.

If this is your first time reading this book, you can find previous chapters here:

One in a Million – Chapter 31

The Next Day

Turk walked out of Rhonda’s room, stretching and yawning. He’d fallen asleep in the chair, even though they drug a small folding cot in for him to crash out on. He walked down the hall to the vending machines, where there was a surprising wealth of food. He bought a ham and cheese sandwich, some chili cheese Fritos, and a Coke. He intended to take everything back to Rhonda’s room and eat there, but after one bite of terrible vending machine sandwich, he realized how hungry he was and scarfed everything down, standing over the small coffee counter. Thus fortified, he headed back to her room and ran smack into Burt, D.J. and Larry.

“Oh, hey,” said Turk. “Hi.”

“Hey man,” said Burt. “Good to see you.”

“You too,” said Turk, flanking them so he could keep on walking down the hall. “Listen, I’ve gotta get back to Rhonda…”

“We know, dumb-ass,” said D.J. “but we came here to see you.”

“Well, thanks, guys,” said Turk, almost running in his eagerness to get away from them. “Really, I appreciate it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to…” he slipped inside her door and closed it.

The door flung open. Burt strode through and said, “Yes, we mind. We fucking well mind a lot, Turk.”

“Hey!” Turk waved in the direction of Rhonda, looking very asleep. “She’s in a coma, here. You want to watch it?”

“No, I don’t,” said Burt. “And besides, she needs to hear it, too. Might bring her out of it.”

“Look, I screwed up, all right? I’m sorry!” Turk’s voice caught on the apology and tears broke and streamed down his face. “I’m so sorry. I never meant to hurt you guys or put anyone in danger. If I could take it back, I would. But I can’t. I’m just so…sorry.” He sat down heavily in the chair and buried his face in his hands. Giant sobs wracked his body.

Few things will make man more uncomfortable than seeing another man cry. There are no accepted rules of conduct for how to handle it, which is why most men in hysterics get a pat on the shoulder when they really need a hug and a beer. When ones friends are Larry, D.J. and Burt…well, Turk shouldn’t have been so surprised with what he got.

They stared at Turk, broken and defeated, and watched him cry until he had no more tears to shed. He looked up, his face streaked. Burt asked, “You done now? You feel better?”

“I don’t know,” sniffed Turk.

“What do you want? A hug? You want a lollypop? A kiss from your mother?”

“Hey, Burt, ease off,” said Larry.

“No, fuck that,” said Burt, “I’m so pissed at him right now, he’s lucky I don’t punch him. You nearly killed D.J. and Larry, Turk. Killed them.”

“Well, to be fair, Stercutus would have…”

“Not the point, Lar,” said Burt. “Jesus, you take the cake, man. Do you know how lucky the two of your are that no one was hurt in that little stunt of yours? Huh?”

“Yeah,” said Turk.

“And you need to realize something, buddy: this was all your doing. You had to show Rhonda that you were more obsessed, more pathetic, more devoted than any of her other cyberstalkers. Well, congratu-fuckin-lations buddy. You pulled it off! All with no help from your friends.”

“I think he’s heard enough,” said D.J.

“No, he hasn’t,” said Burt. “I need Turk to understand something, here. If he’d come to any of us and fucking said something about what he was doing, or that Rhonda had suddenly developed the ability to float around her apartment like Buzby Berkeley Mermaid—“

“Nice reference,” said Turk.

“—SHUT UP! I’m not through. Thank you, though. If Turk had thought to maybe tell one or more of his friends, then I’m pretty sure that, oh, I don’t know, they would have talked him out of doing this crazy ass thing!”

“But I did tell you!” Turk protested.

“I know you did!” Burt replied. “And I’m just as pissed at myself and the rest of us that we didn’t think to extract you from your own bullshit cocoon before something bad happened.”

“Ooh,” said D.J. “I get it. You’re yelling because you’re really mad at yourself.”

Larry patted him on the shoulder. “Who says you can’t train a gorilla?”

D.J. stepped out of the group and put a sweaty hand on Turk’s shoulder. “If it makes you feel any better, none of us figured it out.”

“No, frankly, it doesn’t,” said Burt. “This whole thing is just so fucked up.” He sat down beside Turk. “Look, there’s an old Jewish saying: if three people tell you you’re drunk, lie down.”

Turk thought about it for a second and nodded, smiling. “What if those three people have their heads up their asses, too?”

“There’s not a Jewish saying for that,” said Burt.

“Sorry, guys,” said Turk.

“I’m sorry too,” said Burt.

“Aw, this is sweet,” said Larry. “Deej, give him the stuff before they start smooching or something.”

D.J. opened up his knapsack and withdrew a bag bulging with comics. “Here’s what you’ve missed in the last few weeks. I added a couple of extras in there, too.”

“Wow, thanks, man,” said Turk. “Thank you.”

“We figured they’d come in handy…” D.J. trailed off and looked at Rhonda.

“Okay, listen,” Larry said, “we’ll stop by and check on you later.”

“Yeah, call me if you need food or something,” said D.J.

“All right,” said Turk. “Thanks again.”

Everyone headed for the doors. Burt stopped and turned around. “Turk? Are you sure you want to be here? When she wakes up, I mean?”

Turk sighed and looked at her. “Yeah, man. We’ve been through it all together. I know what you’re asking though, and I’m prepared to walk away if she opens her eyes and is all ‘Ew, gross, get out of here.’ But if she’s not…” Turk smiled. “I love a desperate long shot.”

“That you do,” said Burt. “See you later, man.”

“See you.”

***

Leslie, Linda, and Holly closed Rhonda’s door behind them. Turk was asleep in the chair. Leslie ignored Turk and went straight to her friend’s bedside with a choked sob.

Rhonda was pale, and her closed eyes looked bruised, but it was hard to tell under the dim lights in the room. She looked like Rhonda-Normal, not Rhonda-Augmented.

“Hey Girlfriend,” said Leslie. “How you doing?”

Holly and Linda drifted over. “Hard to believe it’s the same person,” Holly said.

“I still don’t understand what went on,” said Linda.

Turk piped in from behind them, sleepily, “It’s a long story. I don’t quite get it all myself.”

Holly turned around and found a smile for Turk. “You doing all right?”

“Yeah,” he said, stretching. “Just…waiting on her.”

“What did the doctors say?” asked Linda.

Turk shrugged. “They said she’s fine, physically, no injuries or brain trauma or anything like that…but that she’s just going to wake up when she decides to wake up.”

Holly looked at Turk’s face. “You don’t seem too convinced,” she commented.

“It’s not that,” he said. “It’s her parents. I don’t know who to call, or if I even should.”

“Yes, you fucking well should!” yelled Leslie. “What are you, some kind of a moron?”

“Hey, I didn’t know, Leslie! It’s my first coma, all right?” Turk yelled back.

Leslie grabbed Rhonda’s phone off of the side table. “Here. Use her phone. Call her parents.” She pointed at the door. “Go. Now. Give us a minute alone with her.”

“But I want to be here when she—”

“Now, Fred,” said Holly.

“All right, Jeez,” said Turk. He snatched the phone from Leslie and marched out in a huff.
“Little creep,” said Linda.

“Well, not exactly ‘little,’” said Holly.

Leslie took Rhonda’s hand in hers. “Rhon? Hey girl. It’s Leslie. I just wanted to tell you that I’m sorry, okay? I should have been here for you, without judgments or looking down on you. That’s not what the Wyrd Sisters are about. We are supposed to have each other’s backs.”

Linda and Holly approached from the other side of the bed. “It’s Holly, Rhonda. The sooner you can wake up, the sooner we can all go out for margaritas. So hurry up, okay?” She glanced at Leslie. “You think she can hear us?”

“Of course she can.”

“How do you know?”

“I saw it on House.”

“Indisputable,” said Holly. “Okay, Les, let’s grab some food.”

“All right,” she said, putting Rhonda’s hand down. “See you soon, Rhon.”

Holly gave Rhonda one last look. “Huh. It looks like she’s smiling.”

“Well, yeah,” said Linda, “once again, she’s the center of attention.” She opened the door and said, “Okay, Dr. Tripod, the room is yours again.”

The Author

Mark Finn

Mark Finn

Mark Finn is an award-winning author, playwright and essayist who is active in Robert E Howard studies. His biography, Blood & Thunder: the Life and Art of Robert E Howard was nominated for a World Fantasy award, and will be re-released in an updated second printing later this month. His comic books SCOUTS! Premeires in March from Ape Entertainment.

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