The lights of the paparazzi flashed in Eric’s brain, but there were no cameras and no cameramen, only the blinding flashes coming from his own dying mind. Light and darkness; past and present, all instantaneous in his eyes. Suddenly the light lingered, shapes and sounds, blurred and unrecognizable began to appear surrounding him yet he felt nothing. No pain, no pleasure, even the movement of the gurney rolling from the ambulance into Lake View Hospital was as oblivious to him as the emergency medical team rushed to save his life.
“Latino male, 15, a gun shot to left temple approximately 20 minutes!” With those crucial words EMT Emmett Bradley stepped aside, saying a prayer for the boy’s life and soul. As quick and efficient as ever Nurse Harrington snapped into action “BP 50 over 32, heart-rate 64 and dropping!” the team was a machine. “All right let’s get him into o.r. 3 stat and prep. I want 3 amps of epinephrine ready.”
“All right, Eric, I just put the last box in the truck, it’s time to tell your little friend good-bye.” Nine year old Eric turned to see his mother standing by the rental truck waiting to uproot him from his whole life which at this point consisted of his best friend and the only home he had ever known.
“Well Eddie, I guess I gotta go,” standing in his best friends front yard, which incidentally happened to be right next door to his own and telling him goodbye was the hardest thing Eric had had to do so far in his young life.
“You got my number and email address right?”
“Yeah, and I promise I’ll write you every day!”
“Me too Eric, I promise!” Eddie hung his head kicking the grass, trying to prolong the moment.
“I’m sorry you’ve gotta leave. Why’s your mom making you move to Michigan anyway? It’s cold there and there’s no Mardi Gras parties.”
“I know. I wanna stay, but Mom says that it’s not safe here in Louisiana anymore and that I’ll understand why when I’m older. “
“That’s stupid! What does ‘not safe’ mean? It’s great here!”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Eric, hurry up honey, we have a long way to go and we need to get started.”
“Hold on I’m coming!”
“Now young man!”
Defeated and humbled he cast his eyes down to the ground and obeyed, “Okay Mom. Bye Eddie, I’ll miss you.”
“Bye Eric.” and with Eddie’s last goodbye the images began to fade back into darkness.
“Eric baby, Momma’s here, Momma’s here baby, don’t you leave me you hear, don’t leave, you’re going to be all right! Everything’s gonna be fine.” Camilla Ramis had come from nowhere appearing by her son’s side in an instant, ignoring the nurse’s questions.
“Ma’am, are you his mother? Ma’am are you his mother?!”
“Of course I’m his mother!” Camilla’s own reaction and tone took her by surprise and suddenly she was sorry, but that was her little boy that lain covered in blood on the stretcher. Nurse Harrington, on the other hand, understood completely and went about the routine unfazed. “Ma’am, we need some information. Eric is his name; correct? “
“Yes Eric Ramis, I’m his mother Camilla.”
“Is he allergic to anything Mrs. Ramis?”
“I don’t think so,” everything was happening so fast. She had think, she had to remember, “… no, no he’s not.”
“Is he on any medication?”
This one she knew, “No.” but as soon as she said it a doubt rose inside her and her recent fears came to mind.
Noting her change of countenance the nurse continued her questions. “Could he be on something that you’re not aware of…,” she continued with caution and sincerity. “Something not prescribed perhaps?”
Camilla’s gaze dropped and she gave a slight nod, “I hope not, but lately… I ….”
“Thank you for your honesty Mrs. Ramis; it may go a long way in helping your son. Now Mrs. Ramis you need to go to the emergency desk and fill out some forms. Can you do that for us?” and with that his mother was no longer by his side the emergency door swung shut behind them, closing her out completely.
“Thanks for lettin’ me hang with you. I haven’t made any real friends since I moved here last year… except you that is.” To be perfectly honest JT was the only friend he had made real or not.
“Yeah, rents think that just coz they move us into these neighborhoods with lots of other kids that it’s easy to make friends.” JT’s only other friend was his big brother whom he looked up to like a hero deserving of worship and which he hung with every day. The two preteen boys were spending their summer walking through the maze called a subdivision in an attempt to have fun or at least not be so bored.
“So where does your brother hang out anyway?”
JT pointed between two houses on the corner, “at the mini-mart at the end of the block.”
“And you’re sure it’s okay for me to hang too?”
“Sure. Race ya!” The two were off before the sentence was even finished, jumping over flower beds and squeezing between garages, tying as they skidded to a halt at the sidewalks edge. After all they couldn’t be seen acting like children when they joined “the gang”, that wouldn’t be cool, so they caught their breath and walked as smoothly as possible to the mini-mart.
“Hey Bro. This is Eric. I told him he could hang with us.”
“So Eric, you wanna chill huh?” MT loved toying with his younger brother and his little friends.
“Ya, is it okay?”
“What an accent! Where’re you from little boy?”
“I’m no little boy, I’m almost 11 and I’m from Louisiana! Gotta problem with it?”
“Well excuse me!”
Eric was so scared of MT the sixteen-year-old giant before him, that he was trembling on the inside. His young heart raced as loud as hoof-beats in his throat, MT had taken the name claiming that his heart was as MT as his soul and everyone was expendable, but Eric stood his ground and attempted to show no fear, waiting for MT to make his move… and he did.
“If you wanna hang with us you’ve gotta prove you’re man enough. Think you can do that?”
Despite all his efforts his courageous voice still shook. “Just tell me what to do. I’m no baby and I’ll prove it!”
“It’s simple really, just go up to the corner over there and tell us if anyone’s comin’; anyone… got it?”
“That’s so easy a baby could do it!”
“Then prove it Louisiana. Oh and Eric, do it right and I’ll give ya twenty bucks.”
The gurney had stopped moving, but Eric hadn’t. He felt his cold body moving in every direction. Images were hovering all around him speaking a language he could not comprehend as the chaos ensued inside his mind. It was torture; a fiery torture from the pits of Hell as blurry demons invaded his body with needles of all shapes and sizes, pumping his veins with poisons and acids that burned his flesh and his organs, while the images whirled about him merging into one, living, pulsating form.
“Hey Rickman!” No longer did Eric feel nervous at the hang out. The mini-mart was now a place of comfort and MT and the boyz were now more like a family to him. The thought of actually having a family made him smile deep inside as he joined them, his family. His mother tried hard and he loved her very much, but she had to work so much and for such long hours that she was never around, and what he needed a mother just couldn’t provide even if she was there. He was a man and a man doesn’t need a mother or any other skirt for that matter.
“Happy twelfth man.”
“On behalf of me and the rest of the boyz we think you’re ready for a promotion.”
Eric’s face lit with excitement, just the thought that his friends needed and trusted him meant his earlier feelings of being part of a family were valid. “Really… I mean… that’s cool.” He could barely contain his fervor.
“Take this envelope to 127 East Maple. The woman there will give you another envelope. Bring it to me. Do a good job and you’ll get fifty bucks.”
“Thanks MT, no problem,” and just like that Eric was a mule.
“I need more suction I can’t see the bleeder!”
“Hold on son I’m almost there. Got it! Suction for cryin’ out loud I need more suction! How can I stop the bleeding if I can’t see where it’s coming from! All right there it is, got it. That should do it; suture, nurse vitals?
“Eric are you sure you’re ready for this?”
“It’s Rickman and I’ve never been more ready for anything in my life. Let’s do this JT.” With that final assertion Eric’s life would never be the same and both of them knew it. Hugging was out of the question so the two blood brothers grasped the back of each other’s nearly shaven heads touching their foreheads together for possibly the last time. The event lasted only seconds, it couldn’t have lasted longer, for fate awaited him and JT was his deliverer. The two walked to the rear of the now abandoned store where the small gang of fifteen young men and women awaited his arrival. He had chosen his path, and he knew his life was limited. The oldest living member was twenty-three; the youngest was twelve, no one left unless it was by body bag. He knew this very well and he accepted it as a way of life his way of life, “make your mark, go down in a blaze, make them remember and respect.” The group surrounded Eric on all sides enclosing him, trapping him within their tight circle and soon within their world. He had no idea where the first blow came from but with that single strike a mountainous rage of fists rained down upon him; bashing, breaking, and bruising his fourteen-year-old body. If he survived the initiation he had a family that would lay down their lives and their freedom for him and vice versa, if he didn’t it wouldn’t matter. Pain wracked his mind and his body, and just when he thought that moment would be his last among the living the storm ebbed and the screams of excitement quieted to a whisper, leaving one voice to be heard, MT’s.
“You’re family now Rickman. You’re a Blade now and forever.”
“Doctor his heart rate is dropping, BP is bottoming out!”
“We’re losing him!”
“We have flatline Doctor!”
“One amp Epi now, shock him, 360, charge!”
Shots rang out, tires squealed, screams echoed. Time slowed as Eric pulled his 9 mm, but the bullet that pierced his skull was faster than his draw. Unable to get a shot off he fell, thrown back, body twisted, legs folded behind him, arms above his head, he lay like a girl’s ragdoll thrown forgotten in the corner. His eyes wide open seeing nothing as his body convulsed wildly. One scream died into another and the echoes of shots ricochet in his brain just as the bullet had done.
“No response Doctor.”
“Still nothing.” Tired and despondent the team ceased their frantic quest to save the young man’s life and laid down their instruments of healing.
“Okay, call it.”
“Ten seventeen and twenty-three seconds.”
The chaos died down, slowing to a quiet, mournful, crawl. The machines were silenced and left to rest. One by one the needles, wires, and IVs were removed and disposed of. The cold ominous room emptied, leaving Eric’s lifeless body to the “clean up crew”, while once more Dr. Edgemond faced the most difficult responsibility of a doctor, telling a loving mother that she would never again be able to hold, hug, or even touch her living son again, for he had been murdered in a drive-by at fifteen. Never to go to the prom, never to graduate, never to taste the sweet nectar of love or marriage, no children to say, “I love you Daddy.” Not one last “I love you Mom,” not even “good bye.” As part of Camilla Ramis died forever in the hospital chapel, Eric Ramis’ own mind gave way in the desolate, cold, sterile o.r. experiencing one final…
The sustaining light engulfed him and he could sense life moving inside it, but soon Eric realized it was the light itself that was moving all about him, still he felt no fear. The light was warm, warm and wonderful and he was comforted within it hearing the most beautiful melody sung by soft enchanting voices. His head and his heart filled with the music and the feeling of the purest love danced through him. He had found nirvana. A warm breeze blew by encircling him, and with the breeze came the heat and the heat intensified, warmer and warmer, hotter and hotter until it was almost unbearable. The light retreated with one great, blinding flash and though his insides were as hot as fiery embers, his skin was freezing, cold as the Arctic ice. Fear began to take hold, invading every part of his being, quickly consuming him, ravaging his sanity. He was dying all over again, with more pain and agony than he had ever known. The flames of Hell danced around his scorched body blistering his skin and the peace giving song dwindled into the horrific screams of terror that made even his soul shiver and at the crescendo of the song from Hell Eric began to feel every instance of pain that he had ever inflicted on everyone he had ever damaged. Tainted drugs, gun shots, beatings, he felt them all one by one over and over, slow and agonizing. Just as his entrails soothed from the twisting, wrenching torment of drugs, his skin, muscles, and bones were shredded by invisible bullets tearing through his flesh. Old pain dying with a hint of relief then more anguish more torture. Seconds of this torment seemed to last for hours. Yet through his pain and anguish, true sorrow for his crimes flooded his spirit and without a thought he cried from deep within his spirit. “Forgive me Lord, please forgive me, I’m so sorry!”
Eric’s body bolted upright on the cold operating table as his lungs gasping deeply for their first breath in his new life. He was alive and in his heart he heard the words of God’s forgiveness and in the tiniest of whispers said in reply, “I’ll make it right. I’ll make it right,” as a single tear graced his newborn cheek.