Supposedly, the wind is just right outside. A night where you can leave the windows open but still bundle up under a blanket. Sweatshirts-and-sweatpants kind of night. Tyler’s opted for a grouplove sweatshirt and some old pair of basketball shorts, his counterparts in an assortment of sweatshirts and leggings and pants, maybe a sock or two pairs, one lost in the sheets. His eyes are open to moonlight. The door to the bedroom is wide open, usually closed when they have all gone to bed, a nightly ritual. Wooden floorboard press under shoes that move into the moon casting light. Tyler gasps, instinctively, his hand juts out from under the covers to his lamp, but the broad chested person stops him, pins it to the mattress, and he squeaks.
Their eyes slice through the darkness.
His heart jumps, cradling his hurt wrist to his chest. “I don't--" he says, sitting up. His feet poke out from the comforter.
Sharp eyes dig into his skull. They point to the dresser and then out the window. And then, they leave. Tyler breath shakes, his mind waving away the sleep clouding his brain. His feet step onto the hardwood floors and his toes curl under, like a terrified dog’s tail.
There was no weapons. No words, no force, and even the grasp around Tyler’s wrist wasn’t meant to hurt, just as a warning.
The being moves down the hallway as their boots heavily stomp on the floor and Tyler looks over his shoulder to his sleeping partners. Josh is buried in the blankets, because he's always cold, always colder than the other two people that sleep in this king size bed. Jenna is pressed against the back of Josh, pieces of hair stuck to her lips. Both of them, their eyes are shut, peacefully. A tinge of guilt rushes through him, but he runs fingers through Josh’s red locks and kisses Jenna’s cheek before slinking out of bed and reaching for multiple pieces of clothing.
Tyler pulls on some boots, lighter than the being’s, and then throws a heavy jacket over his sweatshirt and a beanie atop his head. He takes a deep breath as he leaves the room and tip toes down the hallway and finds the cross path of his kitchen and living room, passing his bathroom, his office, and his spare bedroom as he comes to this spot. This is his home, shared with his partners, their cat, and the trauma that terrorizes Tyler's mind. Every room has a night light of some shape, some that emit a lovely sent into the air, ones that cast a warm or cold glow up onto the ceiling, and some that create shapes (some shapes were bad, like the ghost ones they had at halloween last year). The cat sleeps perched up on the back of the love seat, so he can watch out the window at the squirrels or birds or cars that pass by late at night. The cat doesn't turn towards Tyler, because he especially loves Josh more than the other two inhabitants of the household (Josh actually gives him the most treats).
A door shuts behind Tyler, and although he knows which door based on the location, he doesn’t know what just came in or out. Maybe that door-- it leads out to stone patio and path to Jenna’s herb garden and chicken pen-- is a door he forgot to lock, because the cat went outside for a quick stroll and wanted back in. It was so late when that happened, but Tyler’s beginning to believe this person wouldn’t have been stopped by a lock. Tyler squirms momentarily and tries to grasp at the being’s wrists, but he finds his own wrists to be zip tied together with a thick piece of plastic, as if they had just magically appeared on his wrists. He remembers that him and Josh had to buy some the other morning because one of the drawer handles broke off and instead of buying a new one, Josh got zip ties until they went to the store next. And now one is digging into Tyler's skin, turning his fingers a slight purple.
His eyebrows crinkle and draw together, strung tightly because he can’t understand if he’s conscious or not. The zip tie feels. The sweat feels. The boots sound. His heart begins sputtering, like an old engine trying to start an equally rusted and broken car. “What’s your name?” he asks.
The being turns from their position at the window placed between the door and the wall. They sigh, but shake their head.
“What?” Tyler breathes out. “You-you won’t talk?”
Their hand nods, not their head, and Tyler’s body erupts in bumps and bumps, his blood a boiling mix of ice and sharpness, like glass shards. The dam cracks, the one tucked inside his mind, and he sobs out loud. Just a loud cry, dry, tearless, but shakes him. The being tries to pull him forward, but Tyler jerks back harshly, almost losing his center of gravity.
“ Don’t ,” Tyler growls. His icy veins become lava, a heat that blisters the insides of Tyler’s stomach. “Don’t touch me!”
But, the being keeps pressing forward, their hand jutted out. Tyler heaves air into his lungs and clenches his teeth down, skin and muscle torn from the pressure, his eyes stinging salty.
And it happens so quickly, too quickly, that Tyler feels his back against a counter top in the kitchen, and his fingers quickly opening up whatever drawer is nearest, delving inside for anything, anything , sharp. He doesn’t get that anything and the being has their hand wrapped around Tyler’s upper arm.
“Stop!” he shouts, but it’s hoarse and thick, startled by a large sob. His vision is gone, blurred by tears and fright, as he shouts and shouts, “Please, don’t! ” over and over again. He kicks out at the being, aimed for his hip, but they catch his ankle and yank him down to the floor in one motion, his back now pinning his arms to the ground. His ears ring in an alert, but the slits in his face won’t open. He screams to no one, possibly to God or someone up there that can hear his cries. That person could just be the neighbors thinking the worst of what’s happening. The being grabs the collar of his jacket, dragging him, legs left to skid across the hardwood floors. Uncontrollable sobs wreak his chest, his diaphragm, but he can’t do anything. And he knows it. It’s a thought that weakens the outer shell of his soul, cracking the glass that others can view it through.
“ Wait ,” he gasps out, “please, wait.”
The doorknob stops turning. Just stops, mid click, and the hand on Tyler’s arm tightens.
I need to say goodbye, he thinks quickly, the only coherent thought in the hurricane of words and pictures and flashes of light, and he latches onto it. “I-I needa say goodbye!” he slurs out. Tyler huffs, breathes deeply, and blinks some tears out of his eyes. “I need to say goodbye,” he says again.
And it’s like a balloon pops. His heart haults in its rapid thrumming, the constant rush of blood through his ears dissipates, and Tyler can register all the minute details over his body, like the sweat dripping down the edge of his jaw and even the tip of his nose. He sniffs, hopes to something that something will happen, clasping his hands behind his back. But, there are other possibilities in the equation, and even if that thought brings a large lump to his throat, it needs to be given attention. Because even after all his crying and begging, he could be dragged out this door without a second thought, without his goodbye. And he has to be okay with it, if that happens.
The being shuts the door, locks it, and pulls Tyler to his feet. Being this close to them, Tyler scans the face quickly, but can’t pinpoint what their face is , who or what they are. But, he can see the eyes-- their ruby red, blooded eyes that slice skin with an easy blink. There’s a nose, soft cheeks, but past that, there is a thick, yellow cloth that covers down to the being’s sternum, tucked into an oversized sweatshirt.
His heart, he comes to find, is calm. Like waves on a moonless night; peaceful, but still churning. “Wh--?” he starts.
The being shoves him towards the bedroom hall, Tyler catching himself on the stairwell banister, his cuffs gone. Poof, disappeared. They hold up two fingers, then points past Tyler with a blank look.
It’s a scary thought having to pack up your life within two minutes, so Tyler compartmentalizes and decides that this isn’t his life being gone; it’s a trip, a surprise trip, and there’s a goal. A mission, and he has to go to come back to the life he has right now. A fork in the road, maybe a twisting path that somehow, somewhere down the line, it comes back to this very path.
Tyler swiftly walks back towards the bedroom, but instead, he dips down into the basement stairwell, pushing open the door to his studio. He flicks on a few lights, the bright white blinding him momentarily, and finds his nearby backpack. They had just gotten back from tour and with the heavy workload that comes with a new album, Tyler had jumped right into it and hadn’t unpacked much from his bags. Dirty clothes and main toiletries came out, but fresh clothes stayed crumpled down at the bottom of the bag, squashed by notebooks and other little travel sized items. He knows a few things that are in there, apart from that is a mystery, so he shucks opens all the zippers and dumps all contents out onto the floor. From there, he shoves what he needs, what he wants to keep, and combs through his working area. After picking through what he needed, he runs up the stairs and to his bedroom, making sure to grab one of Josh’s sweatshirts and a pair of Jenna’s sweatpants-- it takes up more room than he wants, but he needs reminders to keep going, and needs outweigh wants .
One more zipper closes on the backpack as it sits on the corner of the bed. His partners haven’t stirred one bit, deep in whatever dream they’re having. His heart transforms into an anchor and it sinks down into the hurricane of his stomach; watching them sleep, studying the way they are at peace. Tyler pulls straps over his shoulders, sighing through his nose, and allows himself to kiss each of their heads before leaving the bedroom.
Tyler has watched the sun come up for the past three hours. The car is silent; no radio, no talking, no breathing (seemingly). He rests his head against the icy window and tries to focus on the sounds of the passing traffic.
There’s only so much honking one person can take, and Tyler feels at his limit.
He sits up and wipes at his eyes, yawning softly into his fist. The being driving has a tight grip on the steering wheel, their hands colored a smoky, graying black color, something smeared over their skin. It’s matte, unmoving, as if that color is their skin, but Tyler knows that isn’t true. So, he opens his mouth. His big, fat, fucking mouth.
“What’s your name?” he says, bitingly.
They shake their head, and that’s it.
“So, what? You don’t know how to talk or you just won’t speak to me?”
They hold up two fingers, as if they’re implying the second choice.
“Why?” he asks, shaking his head between his fists, eyes shut tightly. He reminds himself of a toddler, but he’s an angry toddler, and it’s fine because he’s in the passenger seat with a person that won’t talk and he’s riding down what is a never ending highway while he is uninformed and practically being kidnapped , so yeah, he can be a damn angry toddler.
“Pull over,” Tyler blurts. “Please, I just need some air.”
The being sighs and flicks one finger over to an upcoming highway sign. An exit sign.
“Okay,” he breathes. “Alright. Th-that’s fine.”
Getting off the highway, the being makes a right and drives just a touch further down, towards a patch of dense trees and bushes. They pull over, park it, and fold their hands in their lap. The car idles. Groans, loudly, deathly. The seat cushions in the back are ripped in spots, taped together with either black or silver tape, covered poorly with untidy handiwork. The steering wheel has a leather cover on it, but there are chunks of it gone, picked at slowly and methodically, near where the being’s hand rests fixedly. However, the entire floor, seats, mirrors, and windows are spotless, shiny, almost new. Brand new. It creates an uneasiness in Tyler, a slight wash of panic. He swallows it back.
The car rolls to a stop and Tyler pops open the door, stepping out onto a gravel ditch. In the early morning hours, the sunshine is fresh and it spreads over dew covered blades of grass, through the few acres of woods. Tyler shoves his hands in his sweatshirt pocket, breathing deeply through his nose, the March weather taking a dip back to cooler temperatures. It’s survivalable, though; Tyler might get cold fingers and toes and maybe his nose, but he wouldn’t be at risk of dying.
His head turns slightly at a thin, man made path headed through the corner of the woods, maybe about 50 yards away. It’s beaten down by boots and tennis shoots, or maybe by hooves. Either way, it must lead somewhere . Something has been through that way, and Tyler could be fast enough to get down there and into a thicker part of the woods. His phone is in his pocket-- it seems like an easy plan.
Tyler takes off, shoots off his right foot, kicking up rocks and dust. He focuses in on that path and blocks out any other sounds and shapes, wind knocking against his cheeks. A small part of him is bubbling with this sickening bile taste and texture, but he can’t , he just can’t give into that fear, that terror. He has to keep moving.
He reaches the woods and jumps over a fallen branch, landing in a thin ice puddle, his foot splashing right into it and soaking his whole sock. Tyler curses under his breath, but he keeps moving. The path cuts through thick bushes and trees, and the land in front of him seems to flatten out, sloping upwards around him. It’s a valley, and the ice puddle flows into a stream, stream into a river. Tyler stops dead, shoulder knocking into a nearby tree. The land has stilled, hills creating castle walls, trapping Tyler on the lower ground. A gray sky cracks above like glass against a brick. He turns his head over his shoulder, finding the valley turn to the right, disappearing behind a cliff’s hard edge. Whatever trees and leaves and dirt he passed is now gone. It was if he blinked and was transported somewhere new, some place he’s never seen. Under his feet is sand and pebbles, dead seaweed and some fish bones. He feels as if this was the sea at one point, pushed out by land moving inwards, having to leave its home forever and abandoning the ecosystem it once fed.
Is his grasp on reality failing? Everything from a few hours earlier felt like it was something that is burned into his memory, not like a dream; his dreams disappear within a few minutes of waking up, never to be thought of again. And, it’s not like this is a dream-- it can’t be-- there would’ve been no possible way Tyler would’ve been able to walk four hours without someone noticing an aimless man. He felt everything, down to the miniscule details that no one would ever care about, but he knows all of them, and can recite them back.
“You’re an idiot,” a voice says. Tyler whips around to the being, meeting face to face with them. “Do you know that?”
“I don’t--” he stutters. Tyler blinks rapidly, their eyes piercing him.
“Did you run because I won’t talk to you?” they say, but as a parental figure would, like his mom would when Tyler did something really stupid.
“I-I just… I don’t know what is going on.” He feels dumb for running, cheeks burning a bright berry color, but, in his defense, anyone thinks of running when they’re in trouble. They just don’t think about what happens when they get caught.
“I will explain when we get to our first destination,” they respond softly.
“No!” Tyler scoffs. “No, you’re telling me now. You’re kidnapping me and I don’t even know who you are.”
They smile, and Tyler knows it because the way their cheeks move upwards, eyes crinkling, under that damn yellow cloth. His knee jerk reaction is pull it down, but the aftermath is what could kill him. “You already know who I am.”
That’s when his hand snatches the mask away, away, away, chucked aside like a piece of trash and that’s also when this abhorrent charcoal black-gray paint slathered upon their neck, sinking deep. Tyler’s gut wrenches forward, a poisonous adrenaline rushing through his system like a drug, and his knees crumble like playing cards against a gust of wind. A hand steadys him by his shoulder, thumb pressed into his collar bone, as it is one thread of string is tied around a falling oak tree. They kneel in front of Tyler, eye level, maybe a foot or so apart. He breathes softly through his mouth, trying to meet their eyes, but it’s almost impossible knowing who they are. And, knowing who they are it shatters a piece of Tyler’s heart. This isn’t a person to argue with; this is their way or no way.
But, it’s mediated now. Met in the middle, at a crossroads. And Tyler wants and wants and wants to know why they are here together, a pair, ankle deep in some sinking sand. His hand curls around their darkened neck slowly and cautiously; he only needs to feel this one that detail, and it hurts, like a hot knife deep through the flesh of limbs. It is being able to grasp at something that was just supposed to be in his imagination, in his music, in his shows . Manifested from some place hellish in Tyler’s soul kneeling right out in front of him, heart upon their sleeve.
“Blurryface,” Tyler whispers, lip quivering.
Their hand covers Tyler’s hand around their neck and tightens for a second, and Tyler twitches, palm hot. A sign of defeat. Once what was the other way around has become a plea for forgiveness.
“Why?” he cries. “Why are you back? What is this?” His free hand is barely strong enough to gesture to the giant valley.
Their hand drops away from Tyler’s hand around their neck, and Tyler soon follows. “This is important, Tyler,” Blurryface says.
They let go of Tyler’s shoulder and stands, eyes moving from Tyler to the discarded cloth laying in the small stream. They blink at Tyler once, and then bend down and pick the yellow cloth. Swiftly, they fold it into a triangle and rest it upon Tyler’s shoulder.
Tyler attempts to swallow around the lump in his throat, croaking out, “Is this Trench?”
“What it looks like, yes,” they answer, sighing. Their chin tilts towards the sky and their lips split apart. “At least, what it looked like to me.”
“You were there?”
Ruby eyes lock with his. Their hands are folded together in front of them. “You sent me there.”
“W-what?” Tyler coughs, ignoring how wet his knees are when he’s standing. “I mean, yeah, I sent you there, but it was a-a metaphor .”
“No, not to me! Nothing about me. This isn’t real and you’re not real and--” His voice breaks off suddenly and he pinches the bridge of his nose between his thumb and middle finger. “You were just shadows and noises in my life and I needed a face to see so yes, that means I made you, but no one else can see you--”
“But, you can,” they jut in, “and that’s all that matters. Trench isn’t real for anyone, except you.”
He squints at Blurryface. “And?” he presses.
“ And ,” the spit at Tyler, “there are people after you. They want you in Trench.”
“No, I don’t-- That’s not how the story goes.”
“ Your story, Tyler, doesn’t go that way. Trench’s story involves you.”
And he blinks, slower, and the grand valley that was imprisoning him and Blurryface has transformed back into the hibernating woods, dead leaves mixed with snows and mud. Blurryface walks towards-- then past-- him, and waves Tyler to follow.
“We have to go,” they say.
The blandness to their voice is impossible to decode, so Tyler goes with them on the shred of knowledge he has about Trench, and that’s once he’s in, there’s no coming
He sleeps. Deeply. Backpack as a pillow, he’s curled himself up on the backseat and allowed his fussy brain shut down. He could be back in his bed for all he knows (it’s a pretty rude awakening when opening his eyes to the back of Blurryface’s seat.)
“We’re almost there,” Blurryface says.
“Where?” he tries, but gets no response.
Tyler sits up and stretches his long arms above his head, as much as the ceiling allows, pushing his hat away from his eyes. Darkness has blanketed the road in front of them, casted down from the sky, and their path is only guided by the car’s headlights. They travel down a dirt road for a few more feet before Blurryface pulls into a driveway and tucks the car perfectly into a garage. The air is a bit more stuffy here, and Tyler finds himself pulling off his coat.
“What state are we in?” asks Tyler.
“Middle of Kentucky.”
“Oh, so now you’ll tell me?”
Blurryface scoffs and gets out of the car. “C’mon,” they say, “there’s a shower inside and some beds.”
Tyler follows and asks, “Food?”
“Yeah, there is some inside already.”
“Did you plan this or something?” His backpack is bear hugged against his chest for the short walk into the house.
“Maybe,” they answer.
Tyler clears his throat.
The house is small, and they step into the kitchen. Little counter space seeing as the sink and stove top are crammed near each other, the fridge not a short distance away. A card table is shoved into the room with only three chairs. Blurryface leaves right away and turns to the right, down a hallway, and slips into a bathroom. Next, the living room isn’t much. No TV, coffee table, decorations. A couch sits against one of the long walls, a recliner opposite. He sets his backpack on the couch.
“Hey, uh, how long are we staying?” Tyler calls out.
Blurryface emerges from the bathroom, changed into a green sweater and some black sweatpants, sock stepping on the wooden floorboards. They’re wool socks, colored a bright pink color. And just to think, those were inside their big clunky boots; Tyler’s lips curl upwards. Without their hat, silvery blonde hair falls just above their shoulders, angled sharply, cut oddly, as if it was without experience. “A few days. Why?”
He shakes his head slightly. “Just wondering how long this is gonna be. How do you know when it’s gonna be over?”
They shrug slightly. “I don’t. And I don’t know if Trench will ever go without you, but I wanted to try, because if you’re out, I’m likely to stay out, too.” Their hands tuck into their pants’ pockets. “I’m going to sit out on the porch, so if you want, I can answer your questions.”
“I… I’m-- yeah, I’ll come out there. Just give me a few minutes.”
Alone, Tyler sighs, and sighs, and sighs, because there isn’t enough air in the world that is able to fill his lungs, and he needs to fill the trees with life, so that maybe, he can get enough air to his brain. There, he might be able to piece together where the hell in his life he went wrong that got him to this place.
Changed into fresh clothes, Tyler brings two waters he found in the fridge along with a lonely sleeve of crackers that haven’t been open to the front porch. Blurryface is sitting on porch swing, a long white bench seat with cushions to sit on, half way through smoking a cigarette. They clear their throat when Tyler comes out and sits down on the other side of the bench.
“Here,” Tyler says, offering the water.
Tyler cracks open the cap to his water, fingers fiddling with the cover. He licks his lips at the sight of the cold water, but lifting it to his mouth isn’t happening. “How did you get out of Trench?”
“I didn’t,” they say and tap ashes onto the floor. “I got let out. To find you.” They smile, chuckles, even. “My Trench is the same as yours, looks a little different, but same people, and when those people wanted you, they wanted me. Didn’t know why, so I put up a fucking fight” --they take a large pull from the cigarette, the last one before they stub it out in the bench armrest-- “but, they got me.”
“How? Who got you?” Tyler says, almost skeptical, brows drawn close to his eyes.
A shift in their shoulders is the first move, and then they pluck out another cigarette from the pack, along with a neon green lighter. “There’s few things in Trench, that are good, at least. When you find them, you get attached real easily.” A quick flick and their new cigarette is lit. “The Bishops want you, and when they found out there was someone else in there with me, they’d be taken away if I didn’t listen to the Bishops. I couldn’t let that happen, but I also couldn’t… I couldn’t allow someone to go in there based on my actions.”
“Even if it was me?” Tyler asks.
“Sadly,” they say. “Makes my life a whole of a lot harder.”
Blurryface leans their body into the corner of the bench, foot tucking under their thigh. “You fight against all the things you create; why?”
“It’s… easier, sometimes. Because if things go bad, it’s still in my control and I can do something about it.”
“Do you want to prove something to yourself?”
“Like what?” he asks.
They shrug. “Maybe that you’re strong. Or brave. Because if you can overcome these… darknesses in your life, then maybe everything else would be simple.”
“I’m not trying to simplify my life; I’m trying to understand what these things are.”
“This!” Tyler says, arms open. “You and Trench, I just… want to know why it’s here.”
“You know why.”
He sighs, loudly, eyes squeezed shut. “But I’m still confused. I shouldn’t have to go there and experience something that I already can feel inside my head.”
“Trench has grown further from what was in your head. It’s different, and how else would you finish it?”
“I don’t…” His eyes open, open to the nice fenced in lawn, the grass blowing around with the breeze. “Why put in all the effort to save me if I’m bound to go there?”
“Worth a shot, don’t you think?”
Tyler scoffs, glares at the being laid back in their little corner. “You’re just bored, aren’t you?”
“Well, when you shipped me off to Trench, I really missed your presence.” They cough into their hand, face turning towards the front lawn. “It probably isn’t a good thing to hear that I was hired by the Bishops to come get you and take you back, but… I’ll really be damned if I let anyone tell me what to do, and I hope you know that, Tyler.”
He nods, because he does. He knows firsthand that this being isn’t something to mess around with. “I trust you.”
And Blurryface nods their head, stubs out their final cigarette, pocketing the two butts. “You should go get some sleep.”
Even though he slept the entire day and car ride away, he really should get some real sleep. Pure, in a bed, with a real pillow. It’s not his home, but Tyler knows he will have to learn how to deal with it. “Goodnight,” he says.
Tyler smells smoke. Like thick, heavy smoke that rises to his head, to the ceiling
His eyes fly open, immediately getting burned by the massive smoke cloud floating against the ceiling, escaping out the cracked windows. Heart in his throat, he jumps out of bed and runs to the closed bedroom door, where he plants his palm against the door. It’s hot.
He yanks open the door and flames crawl up the walls and door frames, eating at anything and everything. The heat digs into Tyler’s skin. He jumps back a little, frozen in time, lungs aching with the heavy smoke he breathes in. Stepping out is a no-go, running is unobtainable, and his hands tremble.
“Blurryface!” Tyler yells.
The house crackles and pops like gunfire.
“Tyler!” he hears back.
They run into Tyler, shoving him back into the bedroom and slamming the door shut. Soot covers their jaw, a cut bleeding down their temple, and sweat pours down their face. “Get your stuff,” they pant out. “The Bishops found us.”
"Get your shit!" they order, prying open one of the windows.
Tyler springs out of his statue and swings his backpack on, before he works his way through the window, eyes stinging. He coughs, lands on his feet, and Blurryface pulls him around the side of the house. The whole roof is engulfed in the bright orange-yellow color, black as dark as Blurryface's neck rising up into the sky. The hairs on the back of Tyler's neck stiffen upwards. Blurryface drags Tyler to the car out in front of the house, practically stuffing him inside the front seat before Tyler can even tell his brain to move correctly, and the door slams shut on him.
"How did they find us?" Tyler demands.
"I don't know," they say. They're crying, tears streaking, staining, burning. His gut gets a tightness to it, as if someone reached down his throat and is squeezing, trying to get Tyler to pop, pop, pop.
The engine roars to life.
Down the dirt road, less than fifty feet, bodies stand in a line, ordered so perfectly. Tyler's mouth drops open. Red overcoats touch the floor, covering their bodies in a cocoon. Nine of them. Nine.
"Blurryface," Tyler whispers. "Go the other way."
Their hands are latched around the steering wheel.
"Shut up," they growl.
And their foot, oh god, their foot slams on the accelerator towards the Bishops.