BZRK Page 2

Alex Cotton sat on the edge of the bunk. His wrists were handcuffed to steel rings on either end. The effect was to stretch his arms out and limit his ability to move anything but his head.

The ghost of Alex Cotton turned hollow, vacant eyes on his little brother.

Noah couldn’t speak for a moment. Because what he wanted to say was, “This is the wrong room. That’s not my brother.”

Then a low growl that at first sounded as if it might be coming from the radio. An animal sound. Alex Cotton’s mouth snapped suddenly, like a shark missing the bait.

“Alex,” Noah said. “It’s me. It’s just me, Noah.”

The guttural sound again. Alex’s eyes suddenly focused. Stared at Noah, shook his head as if the vision caused him pain.

Noah made just the slightest move to touch his brother’s strained arm. Alex yanked his whole body as far away as he could, which was no more than a few inches. He strained so hard that the handcuffs drew blood.

Noah backed away, held up his hands reassuringly.

“Told you, don’t try and touch him, he’ll start in screaming about his little spiders and shit,” the guard said.

“Alex, it’s just me. It’s Noah.”

“Nano nano nano nano,” Alex said in a singsong voice, and then giggled. He wiggled his fingertips like he was acting something out.

“Nano? What is that, Alex?” He whispered it, speaking as he would to a frightened child. Gentle.

“Heh heh heh, no. No. No no no nano nano nano. No.”

Noah waited until he was done. He refused to look away. This was his brother. What was left of his brother.

“Alex, no one can figure this out. No one can figure out what happened to you. You know what I mean, to have you end up here.”

Explain your craziness, crazy man. Tell me what happened to my brother.

“Nano, macro, nano, macro,” Alex muttered.

“He says that a lot,” the guard offered. “Mostly nano.”

“Is this from the war?” Noah asked, ignoring the guard. He wanted an explanation. None of the doctors had been very convincing. Everyone said it was probably the war, but Alex had been examined for posttraumatic stress when he came home, and everything had seemed fine with him. He and Noah had taken in some sports, gone on a road trip to the Cornish coast for the beach and for some girl Alex knew. His brother had been a little distracted, but that was all. Distracted.

The guard hadn’t answered.

“I mean, is it memories and all that?” Noah pressed. “Is that what he goes on about? Afghanistan?”

To his surprise, it was Alex who answered.

“Haji?” Alex laughed a crooked-mouth laugh, like half his face was paralyzed. “Not haji. Bug Man,” Alex said. “The Buuug Man. One, two, three. All dead. Poof!”

“That’s pretty good for him,” the guard opined approvingly.

And for a few seconds it almost seemed as if the crazy had cleared away. Like Alex was straining to make his mouth say words. His voice went down into a whisper. He nodded, like he was saying, Pay attention to this; this is important.

This. Is. Important.

Then he said, “Berserk.”

Alex nodded, satisfied with himself, then kept nodding harder and harder, until his whole body was vibrating almost like some kind of seizure. The shackles rattled the bed. The whole cell seemed to vibrate in sympathy.

“Berserk!” Alex said, louder now and louder still until he was shouting it.

“Berserk! Berserk!”

“Jesus,” Noah said, hating himself for reacting, for letting his horror show.

“Once he starts on this, it’s over for the day,” the guard said wearily. He grabbed Noah’s arm, not unkindly. “Goes on for hours with this berserk shite of his.”

“Berserk! Berserk!”

Noah let himself be led from the cell.

“Berserk!”

When he heard the door locked behind him, he felt a wave of sickness and relief. But it didn’t stop the sound of his mad brother’s cries, which followed him down the hallway, drilling holes into Noah’s reeling mind.

“Berserk!”

“BERSERK!”

TWO

Stone McLure wasn’t model handsome. Not one of those, one of those guys who looked pretty. Even though he was just seventeen, Stone wasn’t really for girls. He was for women.

Women would look at him and let their eyes slide over his face and those shoulders, because, you know, women don’t stare the way men do. They just need a glance. And then, having memorized him with a glance, they would regret their marriage, regret their age, regret their sweatpants and faded Abercrombie T-shirts, regret that they were carrying a plastic bag of groceries in one hand and a twenty-four pack of Pampers in the other.

Stone pulled his earbuds out.

“Where are we stopping first?” he asked his father.

“We’ll refuel in San Francisco and pick up a second pilot. Then I have a brief meeting in Hokkaido, and it’s on to Singapore.” He said it without looking up from his work.

Earbuds back in.

Stone had curly dark hair and eyes like polished green marble with golden threads woven through. He had a brow that seemed designed by God to mark him as honest, a strong nose, a complexion that had surely never been marred by so much as a freckle, let alone a pimple—what pimple would dare?

He looked a bit like his father, Grey McLure—and most of the world knew Grey’s face—but Grey had the signs of weariness and wariness that came of being a billionaire of the better sort. A billionaire who had made his money with science and innovation and in all the ways you’d hope a billionaire would make his money.

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