Chapter 1: Run
"Neilllll?!" Max called out.
His voice echoed through the seemingly empty forest but nothing stirred in reply, not even the birds. The forest was just filled with darkness that was looming over all that inhabited it. The moon cast shadows all over the forest, making the trees seem like the monster kids imagined were under their beds. The windless night made everything as empty and lonely as a void.
"Nikkiiii!?!" He shouted hopelessly, knowing he was just as lost or even more lost than he was a mere hour ago.
The three were carrying through an escape attempt less than two hours ago where they would build a raft out of the sticks they collected and some rope. Then they would've rode down a river and out of the camp grounds. It would have been easier and more safe than borrowing a boat from The Woodscouts, especially after the last time they trusted Snake to help them out.
Nikki was supposed to keep a lookout for David, Neil was supposed to build the raft and Max just had to look for the sticks. There was a pattern where he would look in a certain area then return to Nikki and Neil, each area getting further away from where his friends were. He always found his way back to the two until he took a wrong turn. One wrong turn turned into two, two turned into three. Before Max even knew it, he was holding a bundle of sticks in the middle of the forest in an area he didn't know.
After a few more minutes of calling his friend's names, the doubt that he would find his friends overwhelmed the hope he would find them which left him sitting by a tree in yet another area of the forest he didn't recognise. He sighed to himself, knowing he would have to wait a while to be found. It was better than getting even more lost.
The eerie quietness of the forest was confronting in a way he would never admit to. It was too quiet, he was too alone. The only sounds keeping him sane were his soft breathing and the sound of his body shuffling on the ground. Besides those sounds he was just left with the judgemental noise inside his head, telling him he was worthless and letting everyone he knew down by getting lost.
What was David going to think? A part of him was hoping that him and his friends would've gotten caught by the counsellor when they were still "escaping". Max didn't like camp or anything but he tolerated it, barely. If he actually escaped, it would only disappoint David and would make him doubt his own adequate abilities as a camp counsellor. It didn't matter that much. David could burn in hell for all he cared. Max didn't care.
He wondered what Nikki and Neil were doing. They would have been looking for him, right? A part of him was hoping that they were worried sick and were looking for him. They knew that he would only be a few minutes. On the other hand, they might have thought he ditched them. Max was a big enough asshole for his friends to think he could do something like that. It wasn't that big of a stretch to say that they were angry at him.
He could explain everything to everyone later when he got out of the forest. Someone would definitely go looking for him and then he would come back to camp in a mood worse than ever before. He would be back and cause havoc amongst all the campers, making his counsellor's lives a living hell. The thought brought a smile to his face.
Although the forest was dangerous, he would rather be lost there than somewhere in the city where some batshit crazy druggie could do something to him or he could choke on the polluted air. It was also harder to find people in the sea of people with other weirdos wanting to kidnap him or some shit.
The forest was also quite beautiful at night but he would never admit it, especially to an annoying counsellor with red hair that would undoubtedly take him on more torturous hikes. The bright stars looked angelic in the clear, dark sky where David would often point out constellations. The pine trees had a comforting smell to them, almost like David but not unbearable. The wild flowers and ferns festooned the forest nicely, making it look like a fairy tale.
His limbs were heavy from all the exercise he was put through that day. The one day the lazy counsellor's actually pulled off making an obstacle course and they were able to play on it was the one day he got lost in the forest at night and needed to survive. His exhausted mind needed a rest from the worry of being lost or escaping camp. Max knew better than to fall asleep in the middle of the forest but he would much rather fall asleep and get killed than have even one second to himself to start reflecting. Camp was always noisy and there was always a distraction so he never really had to think about his life for too long. Thank God.
The haunting thoughts that plagued his mind at night were threatening to come back, the silence calling them. Every day he tried to wear himself down until he was too tired to think but most nights it wouldn't work, keeping him up for hours as he was rethinking all his choices. This would result him being tired the next day where he would have to take in caffeine to keep him going and use the least amount of energy he could. Then he would flop down in his bed, barely even being able to say goodnight to Neil and have nightmares float through his brain.
As much as it was tempting to keep himself distracted by exploring the forest, Max knew he had to stay in that spot. He had to make himself stay awake, even if the dark thoughts were coming.
The sound of twigs snapping close to the boy was enough to pull him out of his thoughts. A foreboding feeling, that he hadn't felt since he met Daniel, came over him. Max was sure that his gut was doing flips as his heart raced. A fat, animal with black fur was snarling at him, walking towards him on all fours. He unintentionally met the animal's black, soulless eyes.
Max heaved in a deep breaths against his will. His eyes blinked rapidly, expecting to wake up from a crazy dream that he wasn't happening. His reality couldn't a happening. A fucking brown bear wasn't standing twenty-something feet away from him! The boy leaned further into the tree, not being able to take his eyes off of the deadly creature. It was just unbelievable.
Five more steps from the bear was enough to make Max pull himself together. His heart was pumping faster than he ever thought it could. He helped himself up with his shaky hands, his noodle arms almost giving out in their paralysed fear. It was a bear. They learned about bears a couple of weeks ago. Max tried desperately to grip the memory that had almost slipped away the day he got it.
There were two main bears he had to watch out for in that area and many different approaches, right? Oh fuck he was screwed. Max trembled harder with every step the bear took. His mind screamed at him to run, fucking run as far away as he could into the night where that fucking bear wouldn't be able to smell the sweat dripping down his face. One thing he took from the lecture was that running was the last thing he should do.
He attempted to steady his breathing. He never makes the right decision when he's pressured or when there is literally no manipulation involved. There was no counsellor to blackmail, no cultist to trick, not even a fucking idiot to turn into the government. It was just him with a wild animal that he couldn't control.
David's voice rung through his head. He didn't think he would be so happy to be reminded of it.
"Back away slowly," it said. "Don't let it think you're a threat."
And that was what he did. He stepped away from the tree and then walked back slowly. Max didn't dare take his eyes off the bear, not knowing how it would react.
The bear stopped. Max let out a sigh of relief, his tense body relaxing slightly.
The bear then started walking again but faster, like a stride. It growled louder. Fuck.
Only one thing echoed against the memory of David's instructions.
Max's slow walk began to quicken with the pace of the bear.
'Don't run. Back away slowly.'
Yeah, well what did David fucking know?
Max's shaking legs could barely hold him up. He whimpered against his will.
Fuck! The bear was getting closer and growling louder. Max's sick stomach told him he was going to die. He was going to fucking die!
'RUN! RUN! FUCKING RUN!'
Max's body automatically spun around the other way. The forest blurred past him as his tiny legs carried him as far as he could. He instantly regretted his decision but it was too late. He could hear the heavy footsteps of the bear behind him getting closer and closer.
What could he even fucking do?
"HELP!" Max screamed.
The word bounced around every area of the forest. Once again, nothing else could be heard beside his and the bear's feet thudding on the forest floor along with his desperate panting.
"SOMEONE PLEASE!" He cried with a raspy voice.
Tears of hopelessness started welling in his eyes. He couldn't go out just yet! He was ten! He was supposed to be tall enough to drive the bus that would hit his camp counsellor, and not crash anything else. There was so much more he could do! So many people he could prove wrong!
The screams in his mind were overlapping each other like hellish discord, telling him he wanted to live, reminding him of his regrets, taunting him with darkness as eternal as the forest.
"DAVIIIIID!!" was the name he first thought of. The one person he could count on but knew would never come.
The small boy didn't see the rock through his eyesight that was blurry with tears. He fell face first to the ground with a thud. Pain blossomed throughout his nose, making him cry out against his will.
He waited in anticipation for the bear to strike, to tear him into tiny shreds, to eat his bloody corpse then wonder into the woods like it was any other day. He expected the claws that would eventually rip into him to be his last and most painful experience. He let out another pathetic whimper, curling into his quivering form.
The gory attack never came, much to his confusion. Instead, the snarl of another animal rang in the forest and other animal footsteps trampled behind him.
Max shook in his little ball, too scared to even move. Tears streamed down his cheeks as he gritted his teeth in fear. The forest floor rumbled with the thuds of animal paws. He heard two different types of growls and barks battling against each other behind him.
It was a minute later when he realised the bear wasn't about to chomp into him. The bear seemed to be preoccupied with the other animal behind him. Max cautiously uncurled himself from the ball, taking in deep breaths to steady himself. He forced himself up and looked behind him.
The new animal, a big, red wolf, charged at the bear with its fangs out. The bear bellowed when the wolf's teeth sunk into its neck, drawing blood. The wolf growled ruthlessly, shaking its head with the bear's neck still caught in its jaw. The blood that oozed from the bear's neck, down it's body and into the wolf's mouth almost made the helpless bystander gag.
As far as Max knew, the wolf was really rare. Not only was it a bright red, a colour Max didn't even know a wolf could have, but it was significantly bigger than what he as taught a wolf was supposed to be. He saw a wolf when he was younger but it was only just taller than the eight year old at the time. The violent wolf in front of him was at least twice the size of Max at ten years old. The moonlight that reflected in the wolf's ocean green eyes made it only look more violent and powerful.
The bear was littered with scratches and wounds as it weakly clawed at the wolf. Its fur was soaked in blood that was dripping onto the forest floor. The wolf, however, was almost unscathed and full of energy. The bear clearly should have had an advantage over the wolf since it was larger in height and weight but the wolf's agility made the bear vulnerable.
It was the most awesome thing that Max had ever seen in his life but he couldn't enjoy it, because he was scared or going to die if he did. He couldn't pull his eyes away from the gory show in front of him. He couldn't get his weak legs to move. His tears had dried up yet his face was still sweating. His heart was beating out of control as his vision swam. Max didn't know whether he was going to piss his pants or puke.
The wolf let go of the bear's neck, panting wildly, then swiftly pounced on the bear. The bear flung its paws around in defence, not aiming for anything. The wolf yelped in agony when large claws cut through its back. The wolf backed away, putting itself in front of Max defensively like he was a cub. Fuck, it was fighting the bear to eat him. The grizzly backed away, mirroring the wolf's actions.
Max ran while he could. His tiny legs carried his tiny body so quickly he thought he could run on air if he tried.
The boy dared to look back at the two animals. The bear and wolf were no longer standing across from each other. The bear had its back turned away from the wolf, hobbling into the forest. A trail of blood was dripping from the bear as it disappeared into the darkness. The wolf's bark that rumbled throughout the forest was enough to turn Max back around. It was coming for him next and he knew it.
The air blew through Max's curls as he ran, drying the sweat sticking in his hair. His nose throbbed in a painful ache that running only made worse. The fluid leaking out of his nose went in his mouth, leaving a metallic, bitter taste. He hastily wiped his upper lip with his hoodie leave, accidentally bumping his nose. He yelped in surprise when his nose started to hurt twice as much. A dark stain was left on his hoodie. Even though his nose was hurting, he knew it wasn't broken. He knew what a broken nose felt like.
Max didn't even think to look behind him since it would only slow him down. He just had to get away from the wolf then he was safe for the time being. Every step took him further into a part of the forest that he had never been in before. He was more hopelessly lost than before and probably deeper into a part with a lot more animals. The deeper he went, the darker the forest got.
Although his legs were getting tired, he couldn't stop running. If he even stopped for a second it would allow the wolf to smell him and his stupid, bloody nose. He knew that there was no way in hell he would be getting out of that forest alive but he would be damned it he didn't try. There was no chance of beating a wolf that could run a million times faster than him.
'Fuck,' he thought to himself.
After turning a few corners, fucking damning him more than he ever thought possible, he finally decided to listen to his legs and slow down. After mere minutes of trudging through the forest, he stopped to catch his breath with his hands on his knees. He looked down at the ground, allowing the blood and sweat on his face to drop to the floor.
Max was more lost than he ever thought he would be in a million years. He was in the middle of the fucking woods and he would never get out without getting killed. There was nothing he could do.
Go back, be mauled to death by a wolf.
Move forward, get killed by another animal.
Max felt his throat tighten as his eyes started to water. The realisation that he was doomed dawned upon him in one big wave he didn't see coming. Of course, he thought that he was lost before but there was that slight glimmer of hope, blinding him to the harsh truth he didn't know how to accept. He didn't have time to accept the truth before it hit him harder than a car at full speed. He tried desperately to hold back the tears forming in his eyes.
The forest was quiet and still, too quiet and still. The only things that could fill in the silence were his thoughts. For example, the thought that being found would not necessarily be a good thing.
He knew if he made it back to camp that David and Gwen would give him shit for his mistake. They would surely punish him, not that he cared. Having his pudding taken away would fucking ruin his week even more. But there was something else tapping at the back of his mind. David, would he hate him? He would be so disappointed, but that didn't matter. He didn't care. The thought of David giving him that sad look with those dull eyes didn't phase him at all, even when it made his heart sink.
There was an element of trust between the two. On multiple occasions Max and David had stuck up for each other. They had each other's back, even when Max was being an asshole. The boy couldn't count the times when his camp counsellor would notice when he was feeling uncomfortable and asked what was wrong. Max would never tell him what was wrong but that still didn't take away from the effort. Where was he? Where was Max?
Max had always coped with being lost. From a young age he was always told about how he was a mistake. He wasn't a kid, a boy with his own interests and talents like all the other kids. He wasn't meant to even exist and no one was thankful that he did.
What could a mistake do?
What could a mistake accomplish?
Could a mistake make anyone proud?
How could anyone deal with a mistake?
Somehow he survived six years at school. The kids and teachers all said he was smart and he managed to never get bullied, mainly because he didn't hang around anyone. But he was a mistake. That was all he was, at least that's what he was told. Those grades were just a mistake, like him. A mistake didn't deserve to burden his parents every moment he was alive.
Some people would tell him that he was a cool loner who never cared about what anyone thought. Other's would call him an asshole who only looked out for himself. He was also known as a schemer who made people laugh. But how could he be any of that when he was a mistake? Everyone always told him who he was before he had any idea to figure it out for himself.
It was like the world was giving him ideas for as long as he could remember, when he was so young he didn't even know to trust his own judgement. By the time he found out about how much the outside world lied to everyone it was too late. The mantras his parents kept repeating drumming into his brain were already accepted as his entire identity.
It was like he was wondering in the darkness, bruised and alone. He didn't know where the answers were, the way out. Streaks of truth would sometimes seep through the gaps of leaves that made his mind overcast. He was lost and it didn't seem like he had a way out. He felt so small in the eternity of his mind as if he were prey, waiting for a vicious animal to tear him apart.
He always felt eyes burning through the back of his head as if he were being watched. Max looked around for another animal, maybe the last one he would ever see. The silent forest would allow him to hear any animal that could sneak up on him.
God, he was so alone. For someone who was so used to being alone he wasn't handling it well. Tears were streaming down his face as he let out a sob. Max just wanted to get out of the forest he was stuck in. He wrapped his arms around himself as he hiccuped, wanting someone or something to just lead him to safety. He didn't like how he longed for company like a little boy who didn't know the world.
At least he had company at camp. Neil and Nikki tolerated him and at least made him feel okay about himself for a little while. David and Gwen were the ones who would bring him up when he felt down. They would help him out of the situations he got himself into at camp, which wasn't that often. Max would count on Mr Honeynuts when there was no one else to turn to but running into a grizzly bear didn't make him keen on cuddling his bear over a real person.
Max wiped his eyes with the sleeve of his hoodie he used to wipe his bloody nose. He had to keep walking. There was no time for a breakdown.
As soon as Max took his first step there was rustling coming from the bushed. He whipped his head around to see what was making the noise, knowing the whatever it was it wouldn't be good. Before he knew it, he was staring into the wolf's green eyes again. Its chin was coated in blood that Max assumed was from the bear, making it look more savage than before.
Max's body was on autopilot when he took in a sharp breath before turning around and breaking into another sprint. His legs didn't even know if he could survive running any longer, too sore from being overworked.
The streams of moonlight in the forest became fewer as he took himself deeper. There was a sickening reminder that even though he couldn't see well in the dark, wolves were meant for hunting in the night. He could here the wolf's feet swiftly patting on the ground behind him. For an agile wolf, it sure had a slow pace for running.
There was no barking, snarling or anything remotely antagonistic coning from the wolf. It just seemed to effortlessly jog behind Max like it was taunting him. If it were a regular wolf he would have been dead already. It was almost pitch black with no light anywhere.
Max turned a corner, hoping to throw the wolf off but ran into a bush. He mentally cursed at himself for making such a stupid mistake. Max was stuck in a fucking bush, hanging upside down with his feet up in the air. That was something Spacekid would have done, not Max.
The boy found his breathing get even quicker when he heard the wolf's feet pattering towards the bush.
Max twisted his body in a vain attempt to get out. He kicked his legs like a toddler throwing a tantrum. When he could feel the gentle breaths of the wolf he thrashed his body up and down until he as finally lose. His body sprung out of the bushes and fell to the other side.
He hit the ground with a flood then rolled forwards. For some reason he just kept rolling, faster and faster. Max's vision blurred from everything spinning around him as different parts of the forest hit his body. He couldn't hear the wolf chasing after him over the sound of his body smashing against the dirt.
Sticks and twigs scratched his small face, forcing his eyes closed. He was pretty sure something had torn his hoodie. It wasn't like it wasn't already ruined. Max no longer had any control of his body. He could only yelp out in pain when his arm hit a rock or when something hit him in the nose.
All that rang in his mind were the constant plead to make the tumble stop. It was only a gateway to where he was going to be next. It was a door, a long, agonising, drawn out door. Wherever he ended up would be better than waiting in limbo.
His rolling came to a halt when he could no longer feel the ground below him. Max felt like he was floating before the air started to rapidly brush past him. His heart plummeted when he realised he was falling. He screamed out in terror for the few seconds he was in the air.
Max knew what it was like to have his life flash before his eyes in that moment. He had spend so much time internalising what was said to him at a young age that when he came to camp he didn't know who he was. The people at camp had a much different impression of him but he never thought they were right. He was still the little shit that burdened everyone. People would be happy with him gone.
At least he somewhat turned over a new leaf with David. Originally he tried to ruin him, break him to the point where he would question his entire philosophy on life. As time passed and he evolved, they started to help each other out. Maybe the person he became wasn't the ungrateful virus that plagued the lives of everyone he was in. Maybe it was someone who actually cared about stuff and other people.
If he wanted to die as any version of himself. He would want to die as the version that helped his friends, saved camp and made his counsellor happy a few times. He was somewhat proud of that person, even when he parents never would be.
His thoughts were interrupted by an embrace of freezing water. Max's body made a big splash as he plummeted in head first.
In a split second all sound was distant and he couldn't tell which way was up. Bubbled swirled around him, tickling his skin. Before he could think to swim towards the bubbles, Max felt his head hit something hard and everything was gone.
Chapter 2: Companion
Max makes a new friend as his injuries start to take their toll.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
"I don't know! He said he would only take a minute searching for sticks for out raft but he didn't come back!" Neil exclaimed.
"Then you caught us but we didn't wanna snitch on Max," said Nikki. "We figured he would come back for us!"
"Or he would ditch us," Neil added, shrugging.
Nikki nodded, glancing at Neil. "Yeah, most likely ditch us."
Gwen pinched the bridge of her nose and let out a sigh. After one of the longest days of her life that mainly consisted of making sure all the kids didn't kill each other and stopping the raven-haired shit from causing general mayhem. She was waiting the entire day for that moment when she could sit on her bed in the counsellor's cabin and continue writing her stories. Everything in that day was leading up to adventures with mythical creatures with abs and she didn't want anyone to take that away from her.
But no! When David had finished his second round of checks he found out that Neil, Nikki and Max had replaced themselves with knitted dummies. When the trio was missing in action and David went to look for him. It had been twenty minutes and David still wasn't back. He was probably giving his favourite camper a lecture. She was stuck interrogating two confused kids who were sitting on the bed she was supposed to be on.
Every single day Max did something. Just when Gwen thought she could relax, he would do something else. She had to admit when he was keeping her on her toes, it could sometimes be exciting and bring colour to a shithole Gwen worked at. The little ball of life was lost in the woods or hiding in the woods from David. Even though he caused trouble, she couldn't help but wish he were with her and the other kids with that smug grin.
The door slammed open with a loud bang, making the three jump in surprise. David rushed into the room with sweat plastered all over his pale face. Max wasn't with him.
"Gwen I gotta talk to you," David said in a rush.
Before she knew what was going on, David gripped on her shirt and pulled her across the counsellors cabin. Gwen didn't dare escape his grasp, knowing that whatever it was it was about Max's safety.
"Nikki and Neil, you're excused," he breathed.
"What?" Nikki asked.
"Wait, what's wrong with Max?" Neil shouted, getting up off the bed.
David pulled his co-counsellor into the bathroom, shutting the door before the two campers could get in. His hands grabbed onto Gwen's shoulders as he looked her dead in the eyes. His eyes were filled with panicked tears as he exhaled shakily. Gwen knew that look. It wasn't a David-y overreaction where he would cry over a dead ant on the ground. It was filled with true sorrow, a glimpse of a real person behind that overenthusiastic performance he gave to everyone. Something was definitely wrong.
"Wh-what happened to him?" Gwen whispered.
"I couldn't find him anywhere," he squeaked, "but I could smell a bear nearby."
It was like the whole world had crashed down on her. Sure, he had been a nuisance all day but she never wanted him dead. What was the last thing she even said to him? Oh God, she called him a bitch! Of all things she could have said she called him a bitch! At the end of the day, Max didn't deserve all the teasing she gave him even if he gave her trouble. A part of her questioned whether her words had actually hurt him but she supposed she would never find out.
She had known what heartbreak felt like, especially after her long-term relationship in college, but it was nothing like the hole forming in her chest. Max was so small and helpless like a dog. The thought of his muscles being eaten by a bear as his blood tainted the forest floor made her feel sick.
For a long time he was the only person she could relate to at camp. Max and Gwen would always walk to the activities field with a scowl, mutual annoyance at everyone else evident. She knew Max didn't hate camp, just like how Gwen knew she didn't hate camp herself. When everything got hard at least there was one face suffering with her or laughing at her suffering which made it more bearable in a way.
"I have to change. Max is probably okay right now but I have to get him out of there."
Gwen let out a sigh. Relief washed over her like she had just taken a whole bottle of her anxiety medication. She slapped the man in the face, hard enough to surprise him but light enough no to hurt too much.
"You made it sound like he was dead!" Gwen snapped. "Use better phrasing! Holy shit David!"
David nodded his head, probably not even listening to her. It was really hard for him to soak in anyone's words in a crisis, which was something Gwen had to learn the hard way.
"Okay. I didn't smell him near the bear but I know I can find him better in my," he leaned closer into her ear, "other form."
"Well, what are you waiting for!"
The more time he stayed there, the more likely he would be eaten by a bear! Surely the idiot had to know that, otherwise Max was in less trouble than David was portraying.
"I came here to tell you to keep Neil and Nikki calm and keep them away from the forest. You know how they get. I just couldn't text you because I lost my phone again. It was also so you didn't freak-"
"Less talking more howling," said Gwen, not wanting to waste any more time.
A part of her also wanted to see David transform so she could have a picture in her mind for later but she would never admit it to herself in a crisis like that.
David's hitched breathing told her that he was thinking the same thing about getting Max quickly . His Adam's apple bobbled up and down as he swallowed thickly. It was sweet how much he cared.
"Okay," he said.
Gwen just hoped Max was okay.
Max's dazed mind only take in snippets and puzzle pieces of a picture he couldn't quiet put together. One moment he was in the water, the next he was on the ground.
He barely felt himself heave up water and have it run down his face. Someone's hands were pushing firmly on his chest, making his head and legs flop against the ground. Max didn't think to question whose hands they were.
All he knew was that he was cold. His whole body shivered against the hard forest floor, begging for warmth. Max's head was pounding so hard he wanted to go back to sleep just to sleep. Every time his head hit the floor the agonising pain would just get worse. His nose was stinging from an earlier injury he was pretty sure the water only made worse. He couldn't hear anything over the ringing in his ears, blocking everything with numb static.
A split second later he was on his side in what he recognised to be the recovery position, gagging and spewing out vomit onto the ground. Every gag was like knives cutting his throat. He just wanted to go back to the serene blankness that threatened to engulf him. Another part of his mind was fighting to stay conscious for reasons he didn't know. Everything hurt. The more he woke up, the more he noticed the bruises littered all over his body. His clothes were completely soaked, which was probably why he was cold.
The next thing he knew, he was laying face up on the hard ground again. Someone was softly patting his cheeks, waking him up. His clothes were completely soaked.
"-ax. Max. Max! Max!" called the voice. It sounded so distant, like it wasn't even with him. He could barely hear it over the buzzing in his ears.
Max was torn between replying and going back to sleep.
"Come on buddy," it begged.
It was a male voice with a lot of femininity, like it would make the highest pitched scream should something scare it in the slightest. Whoever it was, they sounded like they were really worried about him.
"Please wake up," it wheezed. Another hand stroked his forehead and ruffled his curls.
He could only reply in a groan as he laid there on the ground, stunned. Max was not able to do anything but cough weakly. The ringing in his ears were getting softer, letting him give the voice a proper listen.
"Max! Oh my gosh! Can you hear me?"
Yes he could. The person was too damn loud and obnoxious not to hear. Something about them was alluring and familiar, almost comforting.
'God, couldn't he sleep for two more minutes?' Max thought automatically.
He somehow already associating the voice with someone who was strict on getting him up, like a person who looked forward to every day. Slowly, the pieces were starting to come together as his mind started to uncover the previous memories before that moment. He could match up the person's voice to a face.
"David?" Max croaked weakly.
The weird thing was, he could have sworn the pleads of the person above him was getting more animal-like. Dog whine filled the air, pained and small like a puppy who was having its first night away from its family. They made him feel guilty for something he didn't even do. Those whines turned into loud barks that Max could've sworn made the ground shake. The constant noise made it apparent that Max wouldn't be going back to sleep anytime soon.
Max's face was being nudged by something wet he recognised to be a dog's nose. It huffed before nudging him again, tickling him slightly. Max gave a light chuckle, too out of it to remember the 'heart of stone' act he tried to put up at camp.
The boy hazily remembered his goal which was to get out of the forest. He got lost in the forest. He fell into a body of water and hit his head, which was probably why it was hurting so much. He was trying to escape with Nikki and Neil. There was that stupid wolf chasing him.
Max gathered the little strength he had to open his eyes. When they finally cracked open, with more effort than necessary, everything in his line of sight was smudged like a newly painted picture dipped in water. Everything was tipping, making him feel slightly nauseous. There were three pairs of ocean-green eyes looking down upon him attached to three long, furry faces that blended into each other. Three wolves? That didn't sense.
Max blinked to clear his foggy vision. The three wolves merged closer into one with every blink, clarifying Max's confusion about there being three wolves. He frowned when one wolf looming over him, the wolf that chased him around all night and almost got him killed.
The more he thought about it, the more it occurred to him that the wolf might have actually saved him. It all made sense in a way. The wolf fought a bear, even though they didn't eat bears and usually went for smaller animals. It was following Max but that didn't mean that it was chasing him. The wolf had the perfect chance to kill Max when he was lying unconscious on the floor but it whined until he woke up. The evident was enough to make Max realise that he had a potential ally in the forest that could possibly help him. Nikki was right, wolves were actually awesome.
A fit of coughs made the wolf stop whining as dog pants filled the air. It cared for him, at least enough to rescue him. The boy let himself smile at the creature; it was the least he could do.
The howling of wolves in the distance brought Max back to reality and reminded him that he had to get back to camp. The wolf squeaked as if it were thinking the same thing. Max could feel worry radiating off of the wolf.
The boy slowly tried to sit up. He rested against his aching arms as they shook against his weight. It was then he noticed that he wasn't wearing his hoodie. The wolf yipped happily as its tail thudded against the ground. It was almost familiarly annoying.
"Jeez you remind me of my camp counsellor," Max laughed. He had a nasal voice which made sense since he couldn't smell anything or even breathe in through his nose.
The wolf continued to pant dumbly and wag its tail. Max didn't know why but it was comforting how much the wolf cared. Its happiness, instead of annoying, was endearing and made him want to keep the wolf around.
The forest around him was still tilting slightly as his head throbbed. Even though Max knew he needed rest, getting out of the forest was his first priority. His listless right arm gave out from under him. Before he could hit the ground his right side was propped up against wet fur. The body underneath the fur was warm and inviting, perfect for a rest.
Slowly and steadily, Max sat back up. He was determined to get out. One of his last thoughts before almost drowning was that he liked the version of himself that was almost kind. He acknowledged his uphill climb to being a better person and having people who cared about him. Being stuck in the woods would only make him stuck with his reputation and thoughts about himself. If he wanted to be remembered as anything by anyone, he wanted to be the kid who survived a night in the woods and made it back to his friends.
Nikki and Neil must have been worried sick about him, even if he had been a dick to them. They only got closer since the beginning of camp and Max could argue that he cared about them. A part of Max knew that they cared about him too and he would be damned if he didn't make it back for them. All his life he avoided people, believing he was a mistake but when he got himself lost in the woods with many obstacles thrown at him fate had a way of keeping him alive. Max couldn't have been a mistake if his life had been saved so many times.
"G-good dog," he said, his teeth chattering like never before.
He pet his new friend gently, savouring the soft fur. Max never told anyone but he always wanted a dog. When he had a bad day after school, all he wanted to do was go back to a friend that would be loyal to him no matter what. He always craved a goofy face that always waited for his company when he wasn't there like he meant the world to it. He wouldn't be a mistake to that friend. Max would never have to worry about that friend turning on him, worrying about what he got in that test or beating him up in the playground.
The wolf he met, although it was stupid, it was a good dog. Going from what movies taught him, he knew that good dogs would do anything for their human friend.
The wolf pack Max heard howling before was howling once again. Their echoes seemed to be closer than last time. The wolf's ears perked up as its panting stopped. It let out a small whine. It was time to go.
The wolf stood on all fours, trembling. The blood on the wolf's back that glistened in the moonlight made it evident that it was shaking in pain. Max's mind flashed back to when the bear scratched the wolf's back. The wolf stumbled over to a blue hoodie Max knew to well. The wolf fell to the floor with a thud once its legs gave out.
Max forced himself up. His legs felt wobbly and cold like the rest of his body. They begged for rest but Max knew that he had to use them as soon as he could. He hobbled over to the wolf, his mind set on getting himself out of there and getting his wolf to safety.
Once he reached the hoodie he realised it was drenched in lake water. Max wrung it out, watching the muddy water splash on the dirt below him. When the hoodie was slightly damp Max looked over at the wolf's scratches.
Dark blood that trickled out of the wound made the wolf's red fur even darker. Max inspected the wound, being careful not to hurt his new companion. The scratches only seemed to only break a few layers of skin, he figured. The most important thing, he learned from First Aid Camp, was to stop the bleeding. He wrapped his hoodie around the wolf, being careful not to hurt it. He took note of the red that stained his hands that spread onto his blue hoodie.
The wolf wagged its tail once Max stepped away to admire his work.
"Hope t-that'll be okay," he said against his shaky voice. "I f-forgot what we learned at First Aid C-camp. G-good thing I was listening, uh kind of."
It's ears pricked up at the comment as the tail wagging intensified. Max chuckled slightly, ignoring the goosebumps covering his skin.
"Woah. You're pretty enthusiastic about that," said Max.
It was creepy how much the wolf was giving him David vibes. Those same vibes made him feel comfortable with the canine like he could tell it anything. Maybe his camp counsellor was so enthusiastic about everything that he would resemble any lively puppy, a bit similar to how every grumpy and lazy cat reminded him of Gwen. She even said once that Garfield was her spirit animal which was something Max could back up.
"I g-guess I'm c-calling you D-David now," he stated. "And w-when we make it b-back to camp I'll n-name you s-someth-thing else. I'm n-not complementing t-that f-fucking idiot."
The wolf whined again in a way that sounded like 'language'. Max shook it off, figuring he just hit his head too hard which was an extra reason he had to get back to camp.
'David' getting up was Max's cue to get a move on. The wolf staggered a few paces before heading in the direction of the moon. Max noted that it was the opposite direction the lake was flowing. He knew the camp grounds were on a hill, meaning that if the water was heading down that hill he would have to go in the opposite way to camp.
"That's right," the boy muttered to himself. "'Water always follows the path of least resistance.'"
It was just like what his camp counsellor had said when recounting his story about losing Jasper.
Other David's ears perked up as if it understood what he was saying. Its tail started wagging but slowly and tiredly.
Max faltered after this new companion, barely able to keep himself upright with his spinning surroundings and exhausted legs. He just had to get out. David waited patiently for Max. When he finally caught up the two started walking together.
Hours went by as the two wearily travelled with the guidance of the moonlight and the lake. They agreed with every direction the took, never arguing about where to go. Max knew the wolf wasn't him but he found it weird how it was using similar navigation techniques to him. Occasionally David would sniff the floor then continue going in the same direction.
Max's feet and legs were sore from walking and some bruises he knew was looking forward to being worse the next day. His head and nose were still pounding, not having improved since he woke up. His vision had gradually gotten from better to much worse. Everything had become blurry again, leaving him with a sick feeling in his stomach. He shivered helplessly in the light breeze that was starting to form.
This only motivated him. Sitting down and resting wasn't going to solve his problems and would only delay them. Max had to find his way back to camp otherwise he would just be waiting for a shitty rescue team that would take ages. If he just kept trying and didn't stop, Max and his friend would reap the rewards.
The night seemed to go on for eternity as Max's legs got less reliable by the second. Every step became an achievement. Every blink was a struggle when his eyes just wanted to stay closed. He had to push through. Max trusted the wolf with his life but the forest was cold and uncaring.
Things seemed to be going uphill for the wolf. Its staggering had turned into smooth walking but still stayed at Max's speed. Max felt like David could have been slowing down for him.
Seeping the pain was boredom. The forest was pretty in the moonlight but there was hardly anything to do when walking through it. It also got a bit old after hours of trudging through nature.
"H-how the f-fuck did I even get here?" Max asked himself.
The wolf stopped panting and continued walking along, something Max took to be a sign of interest.
"We just wanted to escape camp," he continued.
David's ears lowered as its body drooped slightly.
"Well, n-no," Max admitted. "We wanted to s-scare David."
The wolf huffed, the droopiness of his ears disappearing.
"'N he would've c-caught us 'n' would've been worried," Max slurred, smiling to himself. "'s'nice to have some'ne worry. Sometimes 's'like no'ne cares."
As the one-sided conversation progressed Max groggily spilled out his insecurities to a wolf who couldn't speak. He had hit rock-fucking bottom. The wolf would do small things to respond to what he was saying which was crazy because it was just a wolf. He spoke in confidence, thinking that none of what he said would come back on him.
David made the most response when Max started talking about his life outside of camp. It gave pained responses when Max recalled what it was like going to school thinking that he would never amount to anything. It didn't like what Max said about being a mistake and how he ruined the lives of everyone he was with. He especially didn't like what Max said about two people in particular who drove the idea that he was a burden to everyone.
"'Sokay though," said Max. "'Snot like I wouldn't do th'same thinggif I had me."
Max couldn't remember much of what he said after that. Not much was taken in, leaving his memory choppy and unfinished. He could briefly recall himself talking about David, his camp counsellor, and a bit about camp.
He didn't know when he started doing it but he leaned against the wolf for support for the majority of the time they walked back.
"I dunno wha'he seesin me. I'man asshole."
From what he could remember, that comment made the wolf really distressed. Max was certain it wasn't that comment in particular because wolves were just dumb wolves. David couldn't understand.
"Can we be friends doggy?" Max uttered childishly, his eyes half closed. "I 'nly have two."
The wolf whined after Max said that comment, snapping him out of it a little.
Max eventually started slurring gibberish he didn't realise was gibberish. That was when the wolf's pace quickened, slightly dragging Max. The gibberish only lasted a few minutes. He stopped talking altogether simply because he was too tired to keep going.
His legs stumbled across the reeling forest as he wondered how the wolf could keep its balance so well. The bright moon burned his eyes every time he looked at it which ultimately made his head hurt even more. Max quivered against the wolf, wishing the light breeze would just stop. It was becoming too much to stand. He couldn't go on anymore. His body just wouldn't let him.
"I can't," was the last thing he remembered saying before his legs buckled.
Gwen's heart raced as she tapped her fingers impatiently on her desk. Nikki and Neil's snores were the only things that filled the quiet room. She glanced out the window again in case the two had arrived at camp in the last thirty seconds.
It had been an agonising few hours waiting for the young camper. It was almost impossible to calm Neil and Nikki down as Neil couldn't stop listing all the ways he could die and Nikki planned an escape. She would have to thank Neil later for all the horrifying and gruesome outcomes he listed to her that Gwen couldn't get out of her head since the room went quiet.
"Okay," she whispered to herself. "If David doesn't come back by three I'll call the cops."
She glanced at her digital clock on her beside table. It read '2:47'.
Gwen let out a sigh, burying her face in her hands. It was just thirteen more minutes and they would be found. A part of her knew that she wasn't worried about whether they would be found or not. She was afraid that they would be found dead.
Frantic banging on her door brought her back to reality. Not wasting a second, Gwen rushed towards the door and swung it open.
The first thing she saw was Max's limp form in David's arms. Dried blood coated the bottom half of his face. Scratches and bruises were littered all over his small face. He wasn't wearing his hoodie, leaving his frail, battered arms exposed to her. His clothes were tainted with brown dirt. It was unnerving how still he was. Max's eyes, that had a mischievous glow, were closed. Gwen gasped as soon as she spotted the dried blood in his hair.
"He has a concussion Gwen!" David exclaimed. "We have to go right now!"
Nikki and Neil stirred in their sleep on Gwen's bed. Gwen hoped they would realise what was going on after they left. They would only get in the way.
Completely ignoring how David looked, Gwen hastily grabbed the keys for the camp mobile and rushed out the door. It was going to be one hell of a ride.
I love me some father-son bonding
The rumbling beneath him and the discorded clutter of noises blended together in a haze. A chorus of machines beeping softly echoed around him, slightly rousing Max from sleep. Dreams floated in and out of his mind, merging with what was happening around him. It was a constant state of confusion where one moment he would be on the hard ground and the other he would be moving on a soft surface. Before he could question what was going on he would be pulled into unsettling darkness or another dream.
When he came to, soft materials were gently pressing against his skin. The comforting warmth surrounding him gave Max a feeling that he was okay. The boy wanted to bury himself further into the sheets. His head, which was in pain before, felt numb and hazy as if it was filled with wool. Mild nausea still remained in his stomach with the slight sway of the ground under him.
Faint voices buzzed around him, blurred and disjointed as if they were echoing through a tunnel. At first it sounded like nonsense but the more he awoke, the more the words evolved into resembling the English language.
"- thmm bmmappy tomseyou. Themmer campers might get a bit jealous of them, though." There was a hum of laughter that followed.
Something tight was pressed against his nose, annoying him slightly. The pain he felt for majority of the night was dulled down to just being uncomfortable. Everything felt like a dream, unnatural and weird.
The only source of genuine comfort he got was the person talking. His hand was being held by who he suspected was walking as they tenderly stroked Max's hand with their thumb.
"They were really worried about you little guy," the voice said calmly.
Max felt the voice pull him out from the darkness, giving him energy. It sounded pure and familiar like a maternal figure, yet he didn't feel like it was a woman. His gut instinct told him that he could trust the person with his life and that he probably did already. If he had been more out of it, he could have sworn it was an angel.
"That reminds me," it continued, "I should write you guys a song. I'm thinking of calling it 'The forest is only friendly in the daytime so please don't wonder around at night.'"
In an instant, Max was disillusioned with thinking the voice was even remotely angelic. It was his fucking idiot camp counsellor. Strangely, it didn't stop him from feeling secure like he could actually let his guard down. The company was... welcome? Yeah, welcome sounded right.
"I didn't tell them about you almost drowning or the bear fight. I thought you would like tell them."
Drowning? Bear fight? Those two bits of information were enough for make the memories click together. The events of that night crashed on him like a large wave, leaving him even more disorientated. Questions whirled around his head, piling on top of each other with each thing he recalled. Losing Nikki and Neil, the bear, running away from the wolf, the tumble and bits of the walk back to camp. The most important thing he remembered was the wolf that accompanied him for the entire night.
Where was it? He needed to know if it was safe.
Max groaned, wanting to say something. His slow brain couldn't think of anything to say yet but knew he needed answers.
"Max? Buddy?" David asked.
The grip on his hand got slightly tighter.
Max sluggishly forced his eyes open to be met with a blinding light that brought attention to his dull headache. The bright lights above him was what he imagined he would see during an alien abduction. He immediately closed his eyes with a small moan.
Although his body was begging for rest, Max was set on getting his fucking questions answered. He did even know where he was and how he got there. He wasn't next to Wolf David anymore. When he opened his eyes again the light was still glaring but it gradually became more bearable.
The blurry room was filled with an unpleasant whiteness. It was clean, too clean, with bits pastel colours that had washed out as if the soul was sucked out of them that. He had to get out of there as soon as possible. The bleak contrast to the forest that was full of vibrant greens, blues and browns startled him slightly. He didn't think he would ever think it but he missed the forest already. The only thing that indicated some sort of light was the radiant sunlight streaming through the window.
Another thing Max noticed was that he was surrounded by machines. Wires and tubes were sticking to his skin like parasites. They were sucking the life out of him and taking away his humanity.
He would have tried to get up straight away if he didn't see his camp counsellor sitting at his bed. David's body was slouched over as one arm was laid on Max's bed, holding his hand. Max didn't bother moving his hand out of David's, blaming it on his fatigue. Although the man's face was tainted with eye-bags and pallor that were more prominent than before, the weak smile he offered told the boy he was as happy as ever. A large, white bandage covered his left cheek with bits of red poking through it.
The boy desperately tried to make grasp his surroundings only to fail. Although the space was quiet and bland, it was still a lot for Max to take in. All he knew was that it wasn't the forest.
"Mnnn, what?" he croaked, confused. "Wh-where am I?"
His throat was dry and sore as if it hadn't had any water in days. He tried to swallow some of his saliva to no avail. His tongue felt like rubber against the roof of his mouth.
The man gave a pitiful smile. "You're in the hospital. You've been out for a little more than nine hours."
That made sense of the low noises of machines and the fuzzy feeling everywhere. Max nodded along, letting everything slowly come into place.
"How'd I get here?"
David gently stroked Max's curls with his other hand. The boy didn't care enough to squat it away.
"Gwen and I found you passed out in the forest and drove you here," he explained gingerly.
Max gave a hum of acknowledgement.
"The doctor said you have a concussion, a broken nose, a few cuts and a mild case of hypothermia. It'll all be better in a couple of weeks though."
Hints of worry were evident on the man's face, his eyes wide and his brows furrowed. A part of Max could feel concern weighing him down as well. He didn't even want to think of what might have happened if they never found him.
"We were so worried about you," David shakily said. "Everyone was."
"Everyone?" Max asked before he could stop himself.
People worrying about him seemed so foreign that he couldn't even believe what David had said. No one cared about anyone and that was how the world worked. Max couldn't wrap his head around someone taking the time out of their day to even think about him at all. They obviously didn't get anything out of it so why would they do it, especially when Max was the camp asshole?
Max knew his camp counsellor was only saying that to make him feel better or because he expected the best in people. Sure, he was friends with most of the people at camp and had a little fun but that didn't mean they would miss him. He only caused trouble for everyone. Even Nikki and Neil would have been better off without him.
David's head turned to the side, kindly smirking at something. Max followed suit and turned his head to the side. A bedside table, that he hadn't noticed before, was brightly decorated with colourful flowers and cards, Messy handwriting was scribbled on the overly-decorated papers next to colourful drawings. One thing was stood out was a tattered, brown bear.
"Neil really wanted you to have your bear," David explained. "Uh, Mr Berrynuts?"
An unfamiliar feeling stirred in the boy's chest, but that didn't mean that it was unwelcome.
'They don't actually care,' a cynical voice tried to reason.
His body told him otherwise. A warm feeling coursed through his chest as he relaxed further into the bed. Max felt his lips turn up into a smile, a giddy feeling overcoming him. That same voice tried to reason that he was too old and that it was all fake. For once in his life, there was proof right in front of him that people actually cared and that he actually amounted to something. He belonged somewhere.
"We all care about you buddy."
That seemed a little forced. It was almost as if David was trying to shove a message down his throat. The flicker of doubt was growing with the man's affirmations. David obviously had something to gain.
"Why are you saying this?"
David hesitated for a second, avoiding Max's gaze.
"I just- I don't think you value yourself or even know how much you mean to everyone at camp. Everyone was actually worried about you."
Something felt off. There was a sneaky feeling in his gut, telling him that David wasn't telling him the entire truth. Max would be damned if he didn't find out what his camp counsellor was hiding from him.
Before he could ask anything, he noticed his blue hoodie neatly folded at the foot of his bead. It was washed and clean, unlike the last time he saw it. The hoodie he knew was wrapped around a wolf's back, dirtied and soiled with blood. It reminded him of something more important.
Max immediately shot up, adrenaline running through him. His eyes scanned the room from corner to corner as he searched for any sign of the wolf. His brain screamed at him for being stupid enough to think they would let a wolf into the hospital. All evidence that the wolf even existed was erased from the hoodie. The blood that coated his skin was cleaned and covered in bandages as if no one wanted to remember the night ever happened.
Max wanted to remember it though. He considered Wolf David a friend and that friend saved him. He wanted to repay it somehow and have its injuries healed. It could barely walk by the end of the night and was bleeding out. It was likely that the wolf would die without the proper medical attention.
David gently eased him back to his pillow, muttering reassuring phrases. That didn't keep Max from trying to force himself back up. He frantically kept glancing around, and ignored his camp counsellors pleads for him to calm down.
"Wait David! Did you see a wolf or anything nearby? It was hurt and it saved my life multiple time!"
Sweat was beading on the camp counsellor's forehead suspiciously.
"No, I definitely didn't see anything. Was there a wolf? You might've imagined it."
Max felt his heart sink as his stomach churned, assuming the worst. He felt completely idiotic for even thinking the wolf would be okay with the bleeding scratches on its back. It was even worse thinking that he wouldn't be with his companion when he woke up. Sure, the wolf was slightly annoying but Max unwillingly grew attached to it. It saved his life after all.
"O-oh," he said in a whisper.
Why else would David be lying if his friend was alive? David uncomfortably scratched the back of his head, only proving that he was lying. How could he have found Max's hoodie if it wasn't on the back of the wolf.
It was all his fault. If Max hadn't gotten lost then the bear wouldn't have tried to attack him. If the wolf hadn't saved him from the bear then it would never had been injured. Max was causing trouble and trying to make life harder for everyone else, like he always did, and ended up killing the only thing that actually cared about him in the process. It was all because of his stupid decision a wolf with good intentions had died. He didn't even get to pay him back, preferably with squirrel meat.
It felt ridiculous being attached to a wolf but he couldn't help it. Wolf David always stood by and protected him. It didn't chime meaningless encouragements or try to change him like the other humans in his life. It just listened to him talk and supported him without saying a word. It was happy to see him and it seemed like it always wanted the boy to be alright.
Sure, some people did that too. David always relied on him and showed appreciation for his quick wit when it came to saving the camp. He gave Max responsibility and trust, something he didn't think he deserved after being such an asshole. He even took him out for pizza. David believed in him and wanted him to be better, like the wolf. It was uncanny how similar they were, right down to their ocean-green eyes.
Max didn't know why but he felt his eyes sting or why his throat started to get tighter. His eyes were watering against his will. When the tears finally slid down his face Max desperately tried to wipe them away.
"Oh no buddy," David whined. His face was scrunched up uncomfortably. "He's not- the wolf- uh."
Max kept sobbing as he buried his face in the hospital blankets. The one friend he could trust completely was gone and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
David kept stuttering in distress, which only made Max more upset. He wasn't just upset with the death of the wolf but he was annoyed at his camp counsellor for trying to lie to him. Max thought they could trust each other or that David at least thought he was mature enough to grasp the concept of death. He was just as bad as everyone else. But why would he lie? Wasn't David mainly set on telling the truth or was he a fucking hypocrite like everyone else?
It was at that moment something clicked. David had mentioned the bear fight and Max almost drowning. How could he possibly know about that? The drowning might have been a little obvious due to his apparent case of hypothermia but the bear fight, no one could have known about that. Something didn't add up.
"How'd you find my hoodie?"
The boy's voice was nasally and weak. He hoped the vulnerability would guilt his camp counsellor into telling the truth.
"I found it lying next to you," he stated as if it had been rehearsed,
There was a pause between the two, awkward and silent. He was certain something wasn't right.
"Should I tell Neil and Nikki about the bear fight? Neil probably won't believe me though."
"I'm sure they would want to hear all about it."
Another puzzling thing was that David didn't question the bear fight as if he almost knew about it. There was a sneaking suspicion that David had more involvement in that night than Max knew. If he didn't know any better, he would have assumed David was a werewolf. It actually made more sense the more he thought about it; the uncanny resemblance, the fact that Harrison could do fucking magic and that David somewhat knew about the night Max had.
"Are you mad?" Max sighed, recalling the events of the night.
David paused for a second, twiddling his thumbs. "I'm not mad. You just gave us all a scare. I know you don't think you're worth a lot but the campers would all be devastated if something happened to you."
The possibility of David being a werewolf was getting more realistic than Max would have wanted. He only told the wolf about his insecurities so David couldn't have known about them. There was a slight possibility that Max was more transparent than he thought but that couldn't possibly be true. He was Max after all and Max was a master manipulator.
He might as well just go ahead and ask him. He had nothing to lose. If he didn't end up being a werewolf, Max could always blame it on his concussion.
If David was a werewolf that would mean he would have saved Max's life multiple times. He went out of his way to look for Max, fight a bear and follow him so he wouldn't get hurt. David would have risked his life for anyone at camp so doing it for Max wouldn't have been so out of character. He cared about whether Max survived or not, guiding him back to camp.
On the other hand, it would also mean that David was a witness to all the stupid shit he did in the forest as well as how much of a baby he was acting like. It would also mean that he heard everything. He heard about his school life, his home, his deepest secrets that he was hoping no one would hear. Worst of all, he heard Max admitting how lonely he was and how he felt that no one cared. That would have explained why David was putting so much emphasis on people caring about him.
His mind flashed back to when he almost drowned and the first voice he heard when he woke up. He knew it was David's voice but woke up to see a wolf looming over him. The pieces of the puzzle were finally coming together yet it somehow still felt like a bit of a stretch.
"Are you a werewolf?"
Max wanted to just cut right to the chase. He didn't care how it sounded or whether he sounded crazy, he just needed to know.
David was obviously taken aback by the question as he jolted. His eyes were wide like an owl's as his mouth hang open.
"Pshh what? O-of course not! Why would you even-"
"You're a terrible liar."
The sharp statement left the man silent as he bit his lip. He let out a heave exhale as he slumped into his chair in defeat.
It took Max a couple seconds to process what he just found out as well. He was sure that werewolves didn't exist, yet again he didn't think magic existed before Harrison.
"You saved my life," he muttered.
David nodded. "You have no idea how much danger you were in back there. What were you guys thinking? I know you wanted to scare Gwen and I but was it really worth almost getting eaten by a bear or getting mauled to death by a pack of wolves?"
Pack of wolves? Were they the ones he heard when he was next to the lake?
"A pack of wolves tried to attack us just before we made it back to camp. That's why you have those stitches on your arm."
Max looked down at his arms to see that one of them had three deep cuts that had been stitched up. He felt sick in the stomach, knowing that there was another danger he wasn't even aware of at the time. David really went all out to make sure he got back safely.
"But on the bright side we're matching," said David, pointing to his bandaged cheek.
Max felt gently reached for his cheek and felt a rough fabric on his fingers. Of course David was going to out a positive spin on almost dying in the woods.
"What about your back?"
The man chuckled before saying, "It's all stitched up. I've had a lot worse just from camp."
So there wasn't much damage from his little escapade, Max noted. His counsellor still got hurt because of him but it wasn't as bad as what Nurf did. He would get better in a couple of weeks. What he was really worried about was the hospital charges they would have to face. What were his parents going to think of it? Where were his parents anyway? He didn't expect them to be there but he would have at least hoped there was some mention of them.
"Do my parents know yet?"
That question left the man more quiet than Max would have liked. The man gingerly picked up Max's hand again as he cast his eyes downwards. The smile plastered on his face was fading away.
"The, uh, number they gave us was to a pizza place in Mississippi. We couldn't get a hold of them."
Max felt his heart sink as tears welled up in his eyes once again. Of course they would leave him. He was an idiot for thinking he was good enough for them to make an effort for him.
He was stupid.
He was a terrible person.
No one cared.
No one would ever love-
"You don't deserve them," David stated coldly.
It caught Max off guard when David's grip on his hand became tighter.
"You're one of the most brilliant kids I've had here at camp and you don't deserve people who make you feel like shit. I know you don't think anyone cares or that you're just a burden but you're worth a lot here. Nikki and Neil stayed up for hours, waiting for you to come back. They came to visit and asked a whole lot of questions. All the campers made cards for you because they really like having you there. You should have seen how much Gwen was fussing over you."
He wasn't a completely bad person.
There were some people that tolerated him.
"Camp wouldn't be the same without you there."
That was right, it wouldn't be. Didn't he save the camp multiple times? He was only getting better and better. It wasn't because anyone was rubbing off on him but camp was definitely changing him for the better. He could even argue that he was becoming a mediocre person. Saying he was decent would be a bit of a stretch but he knew he wasn't terrible.
"You don't only have two friends. You have the whole camp with you, including Gwen and I. Just promise me one thing."
Max nodded, listening intently.
"Don't make us all worry like that again."
He saw a nurse waiting at the door out of the corner of his eye. She was holding a tray full of food, making Max's stomach rumble.
"Okay," he promised.
Thank you guys so much for your kind comments. I didn't think people would actually like this and I really appreciate you reading it and giving good feedback. Is it me or are waking up scenes really awkward to write?
Should I make an extra chapter where David is watching how Gwen and the campers interact when they see Max? Should he be in the hospital when he's either unconscious or awake?
I feel like this chapter was pretty shitty compared to the others. It's a bit cheesy.