Adam never had a clue. That's what the guys in school always said. Even his fellow football players said it. His friends never said it, but Adam knew they thought it. Adam never let on that he knew. Life was too sweet, life was too short. Too sweet and too short to be worrying about what others thought of him anyways. So he smiled his big smile and lived his good life. Never having a clue.
When John died Adam still never had a clue. Sure he was devastated, sure he was upset, but he was not sure what to do. At the funeral John's mom cried, his sister cried, even Gregory let a tear slip while they sat and listened to the priest. But Adam wasn't sure about any of it. John was alive just the other day, he thought. Just the other day he was laughing, drinking, and throwing passes in Adam's backyard. Now he was nothing more than dust in a bowl. Instead of looking forward to feeding a family he could now feed the trees.
Adam felt something finally as he sat in the pews. He felt anger. Anger at his God, anger at John for being drunk, anger at the guy for hitting John with his car. He wanted to stand up, to hit the people nearest to him, friend or foe. He did stand up, when everyone else did to sing some church song, but instead of punching he shoved his way past them and out of the church.
John wasn't religious. Adam remembered John confiding with him when they both sat around in Adam's basement. He remembered John saying that sins were too fun to be labeled as a bad thing, that the virtues his church went on about only helped in distancing his family.
"Those are the real problems." John had said, slapping a hand on Adam's shoulder. "My father carries Justice like a switch while he's out bombing countries, Temperance keeps my mother from telling dear ol' dad how she really feels about him, Fortitude keeps us all stuck together in our big stupid house, Faith keeps my mom and sis from seeing how fucked up we all are, Charity keeps my father in thinking that giving a bum a dollar makes up for stealing my skin with a belt, and Prudence…is just a prude!"
John started chuckling then, spilling the wine bottle in his weak grip. Adam had smiled, always entertained when John decided to go on one of his drunken rants.
"What about Hope? You got one on that?" Adam had asked.
Still chuckling, John took another swig from the bottle, most of the contents spilling down from around his lips.
"Hope…keeps me thinking that all this shit will get better one day."
Adam watched the days slip into weeks, the weeks slip into months. He saw the changes in all of his friends. Gregory tried his best to keep his smile, but Adam could still see the pain in his eyes. David still fought, still yelled, but the passion was gone behind it all, replaced by purpose. William sank more into himself, more than he already was. And Adam didn't have a clue; he didn't know what to do. John was dead, would could he say to them to make things better, to make things go back to the way they were.
There was nothing.
Time knew what do to. It continued its crawl, its infinite advance. He heard that John's family moved away, or more like disappeared, there one day and gone the next. Adam's concerned parents tried to ask around but no one knew anything. He last saw William in tears. He never saw him cry before, but he was crying then as he ran out of Adam's house and into the storm that raged outside.
Adam didn't see his other friends around school anymore. Whether they avoided him or just didn't show he wasn't sure. By the end of the month his football couch took him into his office after practice with the news that he was going to have to let his best defensive lineman go. He said that Adam was just dealing with too much right now, that he needed to spend time away from things like football. He didn't tell Adam that he was avoiding practices and games because he couldn't look Ronnie in the eye, couldn't look at the quarterback that he let steal William's girl away. He didn't tell Adam he was letting him go because he had failed John as a friend. Only Adam knew that.
"You guys are like family to me… I'm serious!" John declared after Gregory let out a snicker. He was drunk again. They all kind of were, but he was always the one holding the bottle. "You guys know I would do anything for ya'll, right?"
"Yeah yeah, we know, you say that shit like every other day." David remarked harshly, though he smiled when John shot him a look, he only ever really smiled when they were with John.
"Well I'm serious this time guys. So serious!" He then looked at each of them in turn, before his glazed eyes fell on Adam, his smile grew wider, "And hey, if I'm not around, you can always count on this big guy to watch yall's sorry asses in my place!"
It was a thoughtless remark. Another drunken rant that he probably forgot about by morning. But Adam still felt the ache in his chest.
Adam went straight home after coach had let him go. He lived a good ten or twelve miles away from the school but he just wanted to walk, just wanted to clear his head.
He didn't have a clue.
David appeared up the road as Adam headed home. Adam wasn't sure how he knew it was David, the figure was so far away it could have been anyone. But he knew.
"Adam!" David yelled, but it didn't sound like David, yet at the same time it did. Adam stopped moving, David didn't. The indistinguishable figure quickly became distinguishable. It was definitely David but not a David that Adam recognized. This David ran on all fours, glowing red eyes, and teeth as sharp as razors. Before Adam could react David was upon him. Adam fell backwards as David leapt on his chest, his fists pelting his face even before Adam's back hit the ground.
"You bastard!" David roared, spit flinging off of his jagged teeth, sending fist after fist into Adam's face. "You did this! You did this! You did this!"
Adam wasn't sure how long David beat him. He blacked out listening to his friend's screaming become more and more animalistic. When he came back to his eyes could barely open, but he saw enough to know it was dark out. Slowly he stood up, though the motion nearly caused him to black out again.
Very carefully he made his way back home. His parents were probably worried. Probably calling all of his friend's parents, not like his friends kept track of him anymore. As he walked he noticed how deserted the roads and sidewalks were, no one even seemed to be home, only the light coming from the street lights guided his way. Was he really out for that long?
As Adam neared his neighborhood the first thing he saw was smoke. Thick and black, illuminated in a red and orange glow that pierced the night air like a heated knife. Panic settled into Adam's chest. He tried to run but his body moaned in response, he had to settle for an awkward gallop as he made his way to his house.
Couldn't be. It couldn't. It couldn't be that house. Not that one. No, couldn't be. Had to be a neighbor's house. Had to be.
Adam never had a clue.
He saw it. The house. His house. Engulfed in fire. Crashing in on itself. Burning away the white wood his father had worked so hard on last summer, eating away the garden his mother had tended since Adam was a child. He saw no neighbors leave their homes, no police, no fire department. Just fire and two figures. His mom and dad?
Adam moved closer. Tried to peer through the dark and the swollen eyes. One lay on the ground and one stood. The figure that stood was shiny, the red and orange dancing off its body.
"Dad?" Adam spoke, his voice coming out funny, his lips bruised and puffy, "Mom?"
The shiny figure turned and Adam blinked. And blinked again. And he screamed.
And John smiled at him. His dark face the same, his smile the same. But his body, his body, coated in armor, coated in metal, the glow of the fire dancing around him, dancing on him. John extended a hand towards him, but it was not an offer, it was a gun. A gun in his hand, a gun that was his hand.
"Do you associate with me? Do you associate with this thing?" David spoke, his voice, only colder, deader. Dead. Like he should be, like he is, like he was. David's other shiny hand, the one without the gun but with fingers, indicated himself then to the body that lay at his feet. Adam looked down, saw William, stiff and lifeless. Same pale skin, same dark hair, only something, some thing on his face. Like a tattoo, only darker, only moving. He could hear it whisper, whisper to him, to anything around it.
"I…" Adam spoke, but what could he speak? What could he say? Adam took a step towards the thing that looked like John, the thing responded by raising his gun hand thing.
"Answer me or I will shoot." The thing with John's face ordered. And Adam stared into its eyes, into John's eyes. He could see the coldness leaving, the deadness, replaced by a light, a bright blue light.
"Adam." It spoke. Only it wasn't it, it was John! John's voice! It smiled but it was John's smile…it was John's…it was John.
"John!" Adam declared, taking another step forward.
Adam never had a clue.
The shot went off louder than he had expected. Adam took a surprised step back before letting out a nervous laugh, his eyes searching the emptiness that was once John.
"He man, be careful with that! You almost shot me…" Adam said as his hand touched his chest. It felt cold, cold and wet. He moved his hand away and looked at it, only seeing red through his puffy eyes. "John…"
Adam looked up, looked into John's face, into his eyes. They were all blue, but not the blue he thought he knew. They glowed; they shined, like his body, like the fire, like the blood.
"Hey John…" Adam said with a smile, holding up his bloody hand so John could see, "hey man…you almost got me."
He heard John laugh then, even though the thing with his face didn't move, even when Adam crumbled to the ground he heard John laugh, the way he laughed when he was drunk, it was the same laugh even when he wasn't. It was his laugh, it was him, and Adam would hold on to that forever.
"Oh Adam." A soft voice, a sweet voice crooned from below him, "Oh my sweet, Adam, what am I to do with you?"
Adam shrugged. He didn't have a clue.