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Like Erik, I had only visited Axel once since the accident. And, just like everyone else, that place gave me the nerves. Even without his screams vibrating throughout the hallways, the feel of the place sent shivers down my spine.

You know, I was half expecting to find Axel the same he’s always been - strapped to the bed or something and muttering incomprehensible words. It would have made my life so much easier if the entire thing had just been some creative story Erik decided to get critique on. He liked writing - so even when the hospital was eerily silent, I almost convinced myself to turn around and walk out. I thought I wouldn’t find anything but another scarring image of what was left of someone I once knew.

I’m so glad I didn’t. “Holy shit,” I remember saying as Axel blinked and glanced up from the novel he had been reading. “You’re really okay.”

Axel stared at me for a moment - as if he didn’t recognize me. Then he frowned, almost in disbelief. “Lyon?” He blinked again, looking me over from head to toe. “Is that really you?”

“It’s been two fucking years.” In the midst of my disbelief, I almost forgot why I originally came back to this hellhole. “I can’t believe it.” In that moment, all doubt I had about the veracity of Erik’s posts faded away. Axel really was here, sitting down quietly in a chair, and looking sane. Erik was telling the truth - and I wasn’t going insane with paranoia. I didn’t know whether to be happy or horrified.

Axel beckoned me towards the seat in the corner of the room - likely the same chair Erik sat in. “When did you fly in? Assuming that you’re still studying in New York.”

“Tuesday, actually. I just finished my Masters.” No need lying here. “My flight came in at 4:30 PM.” At that, I saw something change in Axel’s eyes. “I thought I’d come by and pay my respects to my little brother’s best friend, though I guess I got a lot more than what I was hoping for.”

The guy snorted. “You make it seem like I was dead. Give me some credit, will you?” I held up my hands, signifying my defeat. “Honestly, thanks, though. I think I’ll really go insane from being stuck inside this room soon.”

I blinked my eyes and mocked surprise. “Erik hasn’t come by yet? Even though he lives like, what, ten minutes away?”

There was that change in his eyes again. “Actually, no. Though, if you consider the fact that I’ve only been conscious like this for the past month or so, I wouldn’t be surprised if he stopped coming after seeing what I was like before - if what the doctors tell me is true. Did I really scream that loud?”
It took me all my willpower not to sock the guy in the face. He was lying - and I didn’t need some damned note to tell me that. “You made all of us cry, man. Hell, if you’re finally okay and everything, why didn’t you give Erik at least a call? You can do that in a hospital, right? He should be the one sitting here, not me.”

“Oh.” Axel waved me off. “It’s actually not as easy as you think, since I’m in long term care and all. Seriously, do you have any idea how hard it is to prove that you’re sane? What am I supposed to do, tell them that I don’t have a craving to stab people in the heart? I’m not a psychopath, you know.”

Somehow, I managed to force myself to laugh. “I would hope not. Then I’d really question my brother’s choice of friends.” Axel smiled at that, though the grin on my face faded. “Look, Axel.” I looked down towards my feet. “Maybe it’s better for you to stay here - at least for a little while - just between you and me. You know,” I paused before continuing, “your parents...didn’t survive the car crash. I’m not sure if the doctors told you that yet.”

“Oh.” Axel didn’t reply for a long time. “I see.” He turned his gaze away, and I looked for some sort of glimmer of emotion - a tinge of regret or sorrow. There was nothing. Not a hint of the love I knew he once had for his parents.
I glanced at my watch. “Oh shit,” I heard myself say. “I got to go now. Sorry.” Axel shrugged, as if he didn’t really care. “Dude, here.” I chucked him a piece of peppermint. “Your favorite candy,” I explained as he looked at the peppermint in confusion. “I was going to leave some with the hospital, but I guess I don’t need to now.”

The confusion on Axel’s face faded as he smiled back at me. “Thanks man. Tell Erik to stop by too, so, okay?”

“Sure thing.” I reached for the handle of the door, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw him pop the mint into his mouth. “Oh, and by the way,” He blinked as I turned around and glared at him in full. “Axel hated peppermint, dickhead. He’d never take one from me.”

I closed the door before the liar could say another word. I didn’t need anymore proof than that. That person wasn’t the Axel we knew, and he had done something to Erik. If I stayed in there, I wasn’t going to get anything from him - though I made sure the hospital got every piece of information they needed to know. Multipersonality disorder? Still holding up the illusion that he’s sane? Yep, I told all that crap to the front desk - and hopefully, they’d never let that guy see the light of day again.

The parking lot was in the back of the hospital - a cool area shaded with trees and surrounded with a wooden fence. It was still in the afternoon, yet there were barely any cars here - aside from the ones of the staff and everything.

Only when I got to my car parked in the back of the lot under the trees did I notice that I didn’t have my keys. “Well, shit.” I muttered to myself as I glanced in the car and the area around it. How the fuck did I lose my keys on such an important day?

You know that feeling you get when you think someone’s watching you? Like that chill that runs down your spine that almost signifies that you’re not alone? Yeah, that’s basically what I felt as I bent down to look under my car.
I barely turned around in time to see the flash of a metal. “Holy -” I rolled out of the way before the knife could impale itself into my abdomen. “What the fuck?” I shouted as I met the eyes of my attacker. And despite everything that’s happened already, I couldn’t help but the gawk in horror as Axel yanked his knife out of the dirt.

The guy was panting, yet there was a rabid smile twisted onto his face. “I don’t think peppermint is that bad, actually.” I stared at him as he twirled my keys around his finger. “It’s a refreshing change to the crap they give us in the hospital everyday.”

All I could do was scramble back from him as he stepped closer with the knife pointed. “There are security cams, you know,” I gasped, glancing over at the building of the hospital. “You’ll get caught.”

Axel - or whatever thing inside him - laughed. “You think I care? I was caught three times before they finally decided to put me into a straightjacket.” The glee on his face was almost...maniacal. I wasn’t dealing with a human.

Whatever had taken over Axel was a monster.

“Who the fuck are you?” I managed to whisper as Axel advanced towards me. “Never mind that, what the fuck are you?”

The thing just smiled at me again. “Hi, my name’s Axel.” He grinned when he saw the expression on my face. “I’m 20 years old. By the time I was 18, I killed 56 people. My first victims were my mother and father when I was 15. I cut off all their limbs and skinned them alive. My third victim was the girl who worked in the 7/11 down the street. I cut off her tongue and gouged out her eyes by the time she was dead.” He continued down the list of his victims as if he were reciting a poem, though the joy in his eyes as he retold the experience horrified me. I was victim number 46. Erik was 47. He had tortured his best friend’s brother in front of him before killing him too.

“You know, it was really boring in that straightjacket,” Axel smiled at me as my back hit the fence. “I barely could wriggle my fingers or my toes. But then, when I woke up, do you know where I was?” He grinned at me. “I was here in this body! I saw all of you alive! It was amazing, you know - that I had another chance to kill you all again. I couldn’t wait until I could, but you know, all those other Axels kept trying to stop me from getting control. They even slipped the Erik of this timeline a note! It’s too bad he didn’t listen.”

I just stared at him. “What the fuck did you do to him?”

“Me? Oh, nothing. You see,” he smiled again, “I made a deal with the thing that brought me to this body. If I brought its host to where it wanted, then it’d let me stay in this body so I could continue having fun. It really was a simple exchange, you know.”

Oh god. “You mean...that thing from the email is inside Erik’s body?”
“No idea, probably. I didn’t pay much attention to the details.” He licked his lips. “You know, the people of this timeline are really stupid. It was so easy sneaking out from the hospital once I kissed up to those nurses. And you,” he laughed, “if you knew I wasn’t your friend, why did you let me know? At this rate,” his eyes glinted, “I might silence you before you can tell anyone else.”
Before I could even react, he lunged at me with his knife pointed straight my heart. I screamed, though before I knew it, I grabbed the taser out of my jacket and fired. Axel dropped like a rag doll, yet even then, I couldn’t move as the image of his face burned itself into the back of my mind. Even when the doctors and nurses and securities came running towards us, I could barely utter a word as I stared at the limp body in front of me.

I’m sure you guys can guess the rest. Tons of interrogation and everything else that comes with being attacked by a madman. The police found a box filled with tiny strips of paper in Axel’s room, all with warnings or other horrifying things written on them. They confirmed that it was multipersonality disorder and that Axel might have to move to another facility after this. I can’t even say for sure - everything was such a blur after that.

Now, I’m at my friend’s house typing this and ready to crash. I didn’t want to go back to my house anymore - not after what Axel said about Erik.

Whatever the case is, I think I’m going to go look for the construction site Axel and Erik went to. I need answers, some way to get that thing out of my brother’s body. I looked through every scrap of paper from the box in Axel’s room - yet there wasn’t a single hint on how to fix anything. I’m not sure if even the insane Axel knows how to get Erik back.

Well, I guess I’ll update you guys tomorrow on how everything goes. I know it’s stupid - to jump back right into the fray just as I managed to get out. But in spite of that, Erik’s still my brother. And I guess, this is just what brothers do for each other.


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