Carly sat by Logan's bedside, wishing that her best friend would come back to her. As she stared at his comatose body, she flashed back to a time she hated to remember. She had almost lost Logan once before and the memory was as painful as an open wound.
It was a couple of years back and Logan seemed more depressed than usual. Hoping that she could cheer him up, Carly suggested that they go to the pumpkin patch to pick out a pumpkin for them to carve before Halloween.
It was a perfect October day. The air was cool and crisp and Carly had to fight the urge to jump into the piles of leaves that could be found throughout her neighborhood. When she and Logan reached the pumpkin patch, Carly's child-like playfulness emerged. She had an undeniable zest for life, which made it harder for Logan to understand why she was attracted to him. But on that particular day, Carly's energy was contagious and Logan couldn't help but to enjoy himself as they searched for the perfect pumpkin.
"Look!" Carly shouted as she pointed to a fairly large one. "It's the great pumpkin, Logan Brown!"
Logan giggled, thinking back to his childhood when he would look forward to watching "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" on TV.
"Is that the one you want?" he asked Carly, noting how adorable she looked in her cranberry-colored pea coat and cream-colored scarf.
With a gleam in her eye, she nodded joyfully.
"Ok, then," Logan said as he lifted the large pumpkin from off of the ground to purchase for her.
As they walked home, Carly watched the colorful leaves fall from the trees. She couldn't help but be happy. At that point in time, everything was seemingly perfect in Carly's world. Seizing the moment, Carly wrapped herself around one of Logan's arms.
"Are you trying to get romantic with me?" Logan jibed.
"No!" she laughed, but held him tighter anyway.
A few minutes later, the two were standing in front of Carly's house. Just as Logan was placing the pumpkin on her front step, Carly noticed a large pile of leaves directly behind him. As he stood back up, Carly pushed him, causing him to fall backwards into the pile. Laughing, she jumped on top of him and the two rolled around in the crunchy leaves.
When their romp came to an end, Carly found Logan on top of her, staring deep into her eyes. His face inched closer to hers and she held her breath in anticipation of what was about to occur. Just as their lips were about to touch, Logan pulled away.
"This can't happen," he said solemnly.
"Why not, Logan?" Carly asked in desperation.
He looked even more pained as he rolled his eyes. "Because you have this false image of me," he told her as he sighed. "You don't want me."
Carly was frustrated. "Why don't you let me decide what I want," she told him.
Logan sighed another breathy sigh. "You want a life, Carly, and I can't give you that."
Carly was growing angrier and angrier, but also sadder and sadder. Her eyes filled with tears as she said, "Logan... all I want is you."
He wiped away her tears and she could tell that he hated the fact that he was hurting her. "I'm not worth this," Logan told Carly.
She didn't agree with him. She obviously thought that he was worth it. Why else would she waste so much time on him?
In any case, they were still best friends, no matter what. Logan told her that he needed to run home real quick, but that he would be back in an hour to help her carve the pumpkin.
"Ok," Carly said. "I'll bake some cookies while I wait for you."
Logan smiled and carried the pumpkin inside the house before he left. Once he was gone, Carly rummaged through the pantry, pulling out all of the items that she needed to bake chocolate chip cookies. As she mixed the ingredients, she thought about how much she wanted to be with Logan, regardless of the fact that he thought she deserved better. She couldn't understand why he insisted on being so foolish. Couldn't he see how great they were together?
As promised, Logan returned an hour later, but as soon as he walked through her door, Carly noticed that something was off about him. She couldn't quite put her finger on it, but she knew that something was wrong. She decided to ignore her instincts and put a movie on as they sat in the living room and turned the pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern while drinking spiked apple cider.
The more Logan drank, the stranger he became. Carly had seen Logan drunk countless times, but this was different.
"Are you all right?" she finally asked him. He was sitting on the floor, so she moved behind him and massaged his shoulders.
"Yeah. I'm fine," Logan said. He stood up and sat with Carly on the couch. She directed her attention back to the movie, but she could see out of the corner of her eye that Logan was staring at her.
Glancing back at him, she asked, "What?"
Before she knew what was happening, Logan grabbed her face and kissed her passionately. Carly was euphoric. She had finally gotten through to Logan and now they were going to be together... or so she thought.
After a few moments, he pulled away and glared at her with a horrified look on his face. When she saw him, her heart broke into a million pieces. Then Carly realized that Logan was suddenly shaking.
"Logan. What's the matter?" she asked.
His shaking quickly turned to convulsing and his eyes rolled behind his head.
"Logan!" she yelled, fear running through her veins.
And then it came.
Violent vomiting that wouldn't stop.
Not knowing what to do, Carly called an ambulance. Logan was rushed to the emergency room where they discovered that he had overdosed on Laurie's remaining painkillers. His stomach needed to be pumped. Immediately.
"I'm sorry," he whispered to her when they were alone in his hospital room. Carly was angry. Carly was hurt. She was angry at Logan for doing this to himself. She was hurt that he did this to her.
"Why did you do it?" she asked.
"Why did I take all of the painkillers or why did I kiss you?" he asked, the words escaping his mouth with utter difficulty.
"Both," Carly stated, almost inaudibly.
"I didn't want to be in pain anymore. I just wanted to end it," Logan told her. "But I was selfish and wanted my last moments to be spent happily with you."
"And how is that supposed to make me feel?" Carly demanded to know. "Am I supposed to be flattered?" The more she spoke, the more livid she became. "You were selfish and you were willing to inflict unimaginable pain on me. You led me on with the intentions of leaving me and then making me pick up the pieces!"
Carly's words stung Logan like a wasp on a hot summer day. "I'm sorry," he whispered again.
Carly was silent for a few moments. "I don't know if I believe you," she finally said, as bluntly as possible.
Logan closed his eyes. He had done something horrible and now he was about to lose Carly, the most horrible thing he could imagine.
"I'll get over this, Logan, and I'll eventually forgive you. I just need time," Carly finally said. She stood up and kissed his forehead. "I love you," she softly whispered in his ear.
Carly walked out of the room and Logan let out a sigh of relief after hearing her reassuring words. He knew he needed to fix what he did, but it didn't change the fact that suicidal feelings persisted to pass through his mind.
Carly shuddered when she remembered what Logan had done that day. As she continued to watch him sleep in his hospital bed, she couldn't help but wonder if this had been another one of his intentional attempts to end his life.
* * * *
On the other side of town, the Browns were looking through old photo albums that were filled with pictures of their children. These photographs represented happier times to Marcus and Maggie. The pages were filled with memories of the twins' birth, family vacations, school plays and birthday parties. They had been such a blissful family. Why did it all have to change?
"Remember when we took the kids to Disney World when they were eight years old?" Marcus asked.
"How could I forget?" Maggie retorted. "After we spent the day in the park, we took them to have dinner with Mickey. Logan got so exited that he dropped his cake on the floor," she recalled.
"Yeah. And then Laurie told Minnie all about the doll she wanted for Christmas as if she was Santa, or something."
The Browns sat in silence for a few moments before Maggie finally spoke.
"Am I going to lose my other baby?" she cried.
Marcus wrapped his arms around his wife and embraced her as tightly as he could. "I sure hope not, honey," he said. "I sure hope not."
"Dr. Thompson said that the only way he'll come out of the coma is if he fights to come out of it. He said that Logan needs to want it," Maggie reiterated. "I'm afraid that he doesn't."
"I know," Marcus replied. "I'm afraid of that, too, but we just have to have hope. It's out of our hands."
Maggie continued to cry until she exhausted herself. She went to bed, leaving Marcus with the photo albums. As he flipped through the pages, he came across a picture of himself with Logan and Laurie on their graduation day from high school. His children had all of the potential in the world. They could have made it a better place. He couldn't understand why his angel on earth had been taken from him. He couldn't understand why his other angel could possibly be the next to leave his life.
Marcus left the albums in the living room and went into the kitchen. He grabbed a bottle of whiskey from the liquor cabinet and poured himself a glass on the rocks. It killed him that the one thing that could ease his nerves was the same thing that could inevitably kill his son. He looked into the glass and paused. Then, as if his arm was acting as a separate entity from his body, he threw the glass of whiskey across the room. Upon making contact with the wall, it shattered immediately. Glass sprinkled down to the tile floor like a hailstorm in the winter.
When Maggie heard the ruckus, she came bounding from their bedroom, not knowing what had caused the commotion. She saw Marcus kneeling on the floor beside the broken glass, tears streaming down his face. The last time Maggie had seen her husband this emotional was at Laurie's funeral.
"Honey?" she whispered as she walked towards Marcus. When she was close enough, she gently and reassuringly put her hand on his broad back.
Marcus buried his face in his hands as he continued to sob. Maggie joined her husband in his misery, crying over the shattered glass and their shattered lives.
Logan was alone. His instructions were to go to the forest unaccompanied, so his friends, obeying their Queen, had no choice but to leave him. Fearing the unknown, Logan started out for the forest. It took quite some time, but he finally made it back to the place that he had first begun his journey.
When he reached the opening to the forest, he found a note tacked to a tree. Logan detached the small, white piece of paper and read his instructions.
Follow the clues,
Reach the end,
A devastated life,
You shall mend.
Logan turned the card over and found his first clue.
How far can a dog run into the woods?
Logan smiled. He had heard this riddle so many times before. "Halfway, because then he's running out of the woods," Logan announced aloud, pleased with himself for knowing the answer.
It then occurred to him that his next clue in this scavenger hunt would be found in the middle of the forest. With his sword sheathed by his side, Logan entered the woods and headed as far within it as he could. As he trekked to his next clue, he couldn't help but wonder how much more difficult they would become. Logan knew he was being tested, and simple riddles were not going to prove his desire to go home.
His expedition was a lonely one. He had grown accustomed to having his animal friends by his side to protect him and keep him company. Logan hated to admit it, in fact, but he missed them. He especially missed Bill. His guilt was eating away at him for sacrificing his buddy for his own benefit.
After a while, Logan finally discovered his next clue lying on top of a large, gray stone. He quickly approached it, but hesitated before picking it up. Logan knew he was given the sword for a reason, so he was cautious before making any sudden moves. He still had no idea what to expect on this ludicrous journey.
Logan carefully lifted his second note from off of the rock. He unfolded it and read his next message.
I am a path situated between high natural masses. Remove my first letter and you have a path situated between man-made masses. What am I?
Logan was frustrated when the answer didn't come to him immediately. He closed his eyes and concentrated as hard as he could.
Natural masses, he thought. "Natural masses could mean mountains," Logan reasoned out loud. "Or they could be hills... Hills!" he yelled. It occurred to Logan that the path that was being referred to was a valley.
It makes sense, he thought. Because if you take away the "v," you have the word "alley," which is a path situated between buildings. Man-made buildings!
Highly encouraged, Logan ran out of the forest and headed for the valley. This time, the trip didn't seem so long to him. He was motivated and knew he was going to succeed. He was going to succeed and he was going to do it all on his own.
When Logan reached the valley, he suddenly realized that he had a lot of ground to cover before he would find the next clue. Slightly discouraged, Logan continued his search. That's when he heard something that caused absolute fear to surge through his body.
"There he is!"
Logan looked up into the hills and nearly stumbled over backwards when he saw Daniel standing with a few of the rats from his pack.
"Get him!" Daniel demanded. "Get him now!"
Immediately, the rats began running down the hill and towards him. Not seeing any other options, Logan ran as fast as he could in the opposite direction. As he ran, his eyes continued to survey the area in search of his hidden clue. Fearing for his life, Logan's heart raced over a mile a minute.
Run, he instructed himself. Run faster or die.
Daniel and the rat pack were quickly catching up to him. As Logan continued to run away, he suddenly felt something hitting his leg. He promptly looked down and saw the sword. With no other choice, he turned and faced his enemies, drawing the sword from the sheath. Immediately, the rats ceased chasing Logan and stood motionless.
"Oh, yeah?" Logan taunted. "Who's afraid of the big bad sword?"
The rats' eyes were as wide as quarters. Logan was impressed with how much power his sword obviously held. That's when he suddenly felt a presence behind him. When he turned around, he was head to head with a spotted leopard. Now, it was Logan's eyes that widened.
"The time has not arrived," the leopard said. "Climb on my back."
Logan hesitated. Without Bill to guide him, he had no idea if this member of the animal kingdom was a friend or a foe.
"I know where to find you next clue!" the leopard yelled. "You must listen to me. Get on my back."
The feeling in Logan's gut was telling him to trust the giant cat. Swiftly, he mounted the leopard and was instantly swept away from his vermin enemies. As the leopard bounded through the valley, he introduced himself to Logan.
"I'm Gary," he declared. "By orders of the Queen, I've been following you ever since you began your scavenger hunt. I was instructed to make sure you stayed out of trouble and to protect you if need be." Logan was slightly insulted. Didn't the Queen have faith in him? And why did Gary seem to think that he couldn't take on Daniel and the rats? After all, he did have the sword.
Then again, could I really take on a horde of giant rats alone? Logan pondered.
When he realized that he wouldn't have been able to, Logan decided to warm up to Gary.
"Thanks for jumping in and saving me," he finally said.
"No thanks necessary," Gary modestly stated. "Now about that clue. You correctly presumed the location from the last note; you just didn't realize there was another riddle written on the back of that message."
"Another riddle?" Logan asked. "I guess when I was able to answer the first one, I got overly excited and anxious," he admitted.
"Well, lucky for you, after you took off for the valley, I memorized the riddle for you."
Logan was elated. "Thank you, Gary! What is it?"
"Let me see," Logan's protector said. He cleared his throat before proceeding. "Pronounced as one letter, And written with three, Two letters there are, And two only in me. I'm double, I'm single, I'm black, blue and gray. I'm read from both ends, and the same either way."
Logan thought hard. "This is a much trickier one," he declared. "Do you know the answer?"
"That I don't," Gary admitted. "But with the knowledge you possess, I'm sure that you can solve the mystery. Have faith in yourself Logan."
Gary finally stopped running. Logan climbed off of his back and the two looked around them.
"Do you think we've lost them?" Logan inquired.
"I believe so," Gary stated. "For now, at least."
Logan sat down on a boulder and pondered his last riddle. He repeated it over again in his head.
Pronounced as one letter, And written with three, Two letters there are, And two only in me. I'm double, I'm single, I'm brown, blue and gray. I'm read from both ends, and the same either way.
"I just need to analyze the poem," Logan said. "I need to break the riddle down line by line. 'Pronounced as one letter, And written with three.' That means that the answer is a word that sounds like a letter, but is spelled with three letters," he deduced.
"That sounds right so far," Gary encouraged him.
"What was the next line? 'Two letters there are, And two only in me'? Does that mean that of the three letters in the answer, two of them are the same?"
"I think so!" Gary exclaimed as he leapt up from off of the ground. He couldn't deny that he was proud of Logan.
"Ok," Logan said as he took a deep breath. He knew he was close to solving the riddle. "'I'm double, I'm single, I'm brown, blue and -- Oh! I know what it is!" Logan shouted. "An eye! It's an eye! It sounds like the letter 'I,' it contains three letters, but the 'E' is repeated, everybody has a pair that can be brown, blue, or gray." Logan didn't even need to continue. He knew it had to be an eye!
Logan's excitement was soon diminished. "But how does that relate to the valley?" he asked.
Gary, presented with an opportunity to assist his new pal, felt an exhilaration within him. "I know where the next clue is!" he exclaimed. "There's a river within the valley that runs in the shape of an eye. When you stand at the top of the hills, it looks like the valley is looking up at you!"
"That has to be it!" Logan yelled. "Can you lead me there?"
"Hop on!" Gary roared.