Tim's not sure how he keeps getting dragged into this mess.
He just wanted to check up on Jessica, make sure she was alright. What he hadn't counted on was Jessica not taking her meds and having a masked alter ego similar to the one he tried so desperately to forget. Tim also didn't expect the faceless thing that haunted his nightmares to be in Jessica's house. A part of him almost expected it though, that annoying pessimistic part of his brain that always looked on the negative side of life.
What he really hadn't counted on was the anguished screaming of two former friends that sounded too real to be in his head.
As he grabbed Jessica and both of their pill bottles and sprinted out of the house, the screaming increased. Tim could hear Jay and Brian's voices very clearly, both begging him for help, to find them, to save them. Jay's voice sounded so weak, growing weaker by the second. Brian's just sounded scared.
"I don't know where I am!" It screamed at him. "Tim, PLEASE! HELP US!"
Tim got Jessica to lay down in the backseat of the car and nearly dove into the driver's seat. He took off down the street as fast as he could. Five minutes from the house, he pops 3 pills and swallows them dry. Ten minutes out, he stops flinching at every shadow under a streetlight. Fifteen minutes, and Jessica starts to stir in the backseat. She sits up, coughing and clutching her head. Tim takes her full pill bottle from his pocket and hands it back to her. He checks the rearview mirror to make sure she actually takes the pills. Once she's gotten them swallowed down, she starts to climb into the passenger seat. Tim sighs. He knows what she'll want to talk about, and he really doesn't want to get into it now.
"You heard them right?" Jessica asks, once she's settled and buckled into the passenger seat.
Tim glances over at her. He says nothing.
She takes this as confirmation and looks out the window. They sit in silence for a while before he finally speaks. "We don't... We don't know if it was really them-"
"It could just be that thing fucking with us. We don't know anything about it!"
Jessica turns back to him and glares. "I know what I heard. What we both heard."
Tim grips the steering wheel tighter. "They're dead, Jessica. You saw the tapes! I-" He takes a shaky breath. "I saw it happen. They're gone."
"Can't we check or something?"
He turns to her. "And how do you suggest we do that?"
Jessica throws her hands up in the air in exasperation. "I don't know! Go to Rosswood, go to Benedict Hall, do something to help them!"
"We can't go back out there-"
"No, listen to me! That thing is out there! It's after us again! We can't go stumbling around in the woods when we know it's there!"
"We have our pills-"
"Band-aids on a bullet hole, Jess."
"Please," she begs. "I just need to know that it's not real, that they're really not there. Please."
Tim debates with himself in his head. On one hand, it's incredibly dangerous and he really doesn't feel like reopening old wounds by going back to places where some of his deepest traumas occurred. On the other, it could give Jessica (and himself) peace of mind. Plus they do have their pills with them.
Tim sighs. Jessica turns to him expectantly.
"There's flashlights in the trunk. We'll go check out the park but if we don't find anything in an hour, we're gone, got it?"
She lets out a shaky breath and smiles at him, although it doesn't quite reach her eyes.
Feeling like he just made a mistake, Tim puts his turn signal on, and pulls a U-Turn. He feels like it's going to be a long night.
The sun has long since set once they reach the park. The parking lot is empty except for one car. A teenage boy stands outside of it, smoking. They pull into a parking lot, and the boy looks at them for a split second before getting into his car and driving off, shooting them a glare. Once he's gone, Jessica and Tim exit the car and open the trunk. Tim pulls the flashlights out, as well as a spare flannel jacket that he hands to Jessica. She turns away to pull it on and he suppresses a shiver. It's cold, even for November.
Although, Tim is pretty sure that the cold isn't from anything natural.
They test the flashlights and take a few more pills each, then begin heading into the forested part of the park. It's oddly quiet, the only sounds coming from their feet crunching dry leaves and twigs on the path. The trees are still, and even the usual sounds of owls are absent. The familiar uneasy feeling Tim associated with most of his twenties suddenly returns full force, and he feels like he's going to puke.
They continue on.
They search the forest, pointing their flashlight beams anywhere they can see from the path. Jessica occasionally reaches towards Tim and gently grabs the sleeve of his shirt or his wrist, as if grounding herself. Reminding herself that he's really there. Tim doesn't mention it, but is secretly glad she's doing it. He needs some grounding too, and the slight pressure of her fingers around his wrist makes him feel a lot braver.
The forest begins to look eerily familiar, and with a jolt, Tim realizes they're walking towards the tunnel. The panicked look Jessica gives him tells him that she's come to the same conclusion.
'But why?' he wonders as they keep walking, albeit warily. 'Why this way? Why the tunnel?'
Suddenly, the unnatural silence is broken by a weak scream. Tim and Jessica barely have time to register what happened before they're both sprinting, taking off as fast as they can towards the tunnel, where the sound is coming from. As they get closer, the scream gets stronger and their flashlights begin to flicker. Tim's head feels like it's full of static, and he hears something like a faint tornado siren. They keep running until they're at the front of the tunnel.
In the tunnel, lying on the ground are two figures. Tim stops dead in his tracks.
The figure lying furthest from them screams again, weaker this time. The static in Tim's head grows louder. Jessica runs forward, approaching the two figures. She kneels beside the one lying closest to them. She turns to look at Tim over her shoulder, looking incredibly panicked.
At her words, Tim suddenly snaps out of his weird stupor and runs towards them. Jessica's kneeling over Jay's body, his chest rising slightly with pained, shallow breaths. His hands are clutching his bleeding stomach, and his eyes are fluttering. Jessica quickly takes off her jackets and ties it around the bullet wound, attempting to stop the bleeding. Tim steps around them, and practically collapses at the other figure's side. He removes his mask, and looks into the face of his best friend, someone he thought was gone forever.
Brian's eyes flutter and he looks up at Tim, cracking a crooked, pained smile. "You guys came," he wheezes out.
Before Tim can say anything, or react in anyway, the tornado siren suddenly explodes in their ears. The Operator stands at the other end of the tunnel. Tim's vision swims, and he looks back at Jessica. She's glancing between Jay, the Operator, and Tim with an expression of pure fear. Tim turns back to Brian.
"Can you walk?" They can have their reunion later. Right now they need to get out of here.
Brian begins to sit up, slowly and with a pained expression. Okay, so he's not paralyzed. Good. Tim helps him sit up before turning back to Jessica.
"You help Brian. I've got Jay. C'mon!" Jessica nods and as soon as Time is kneeling above Jay, she's at Brian's side, helping him stand and easing his arm onto her shoulder. She wraps an arm around his waist and takes most of his weight so he can walk. Tim picks up Jay bridal style, trying to do it quickly but not enough that it would jostle him. Jay lets out a groan, and clutches his stomach harder. The Operator just watches them as the run out of the tunnel.
They run through the woods, Jessica and Brian keeping up with Tim, who is trying desperately not to injure Jay even further. They make it to the parking lot before they even realize it. Jessica helps Brian lean against the car and takes the keys from Tim. She spreads a blanket across the backseat, and Tim helps her situate Jay. He's bleeding sluggishly now, his eyes barely open. Tim helps Brian into the front seat and then for the second time that night, nearly dives into the driver's seat. They pull out of the parking lot as fast as they can, and Tim swears he can see the Operator underneath every streetlight they pass.
The drive to the hospital is a short one, albeit stressful. At one point, Jay opens his eyes and sees Jessica, and she tries to keep him talking, keep him awake. He's confused, and so is Brian for that matter. Brian is leaning back in the passenger seat, wincing at every slight bump the car hits. Tim will apologize later, but as for right now, they need to go as fast as they can to save Jay's life.
They pull into the hospital parking lot in record time, and barely put the car in park before Tim is carefully pulling a barely conscious Jay out of the backseat and rushing in the doors.
"Please!" He yells, as he runs into the brightly lit emergency room. "My friend's been shot! Please help him!"
Fast as thought, the nurses take Jay from him and get him on a gurney. They shout a bunch of things, and tell Tim that they'll be taking him to the operating room immediately. A nurse helps Tim sit down as the shock starts to sit in. She squeezes his shoulder and murmurs a few encouraging words that fall on deaf ears. Tim can't stop thinking about how small Jay looked as they put him on the gurney. Those last few months had really taken a toll on him, and who knows what else happened to him for all these years. He begins to feel panic take over, his heart beginning to race as he registered what exactly happened that night.
Tim feels another hand on his shoulder, and looks up to see Jessica standing above him. She smiles at him, but he can see the same shock he's feeling reflected in her eyes. He looks behind her and notices they've put Brian in a wheelchair and are taking him behind the same doors they just took Jay. Jessica sits down next to him, and takes his hand. They both exhale.
It's going to be a long night.