Neon Red – Chapter 47

(DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. It’s important to remember this is all totally fabricated, embellished, and exaggerated for entertainment purposes.)


I can see you standin’ next to me,

In and out somewhere else right now

You sigh, look away…I can see it clear as day

Close your eyes, so afraid…hide behind that baby face

Cage The Elephant | Cigarette Daydreams

I woke up early, and he was on my mind. All night, actually. I dreamt about him quite vividly. We were walking the historic streets of Bradford, brushing our fingers together, dying to interlock them. I was showing him a few of my old haunts and let him meet the local barber. Then we headed over to my tattoo spot and picked up a few ideas for later appointments. Afterwards we spent a while in the kitchen with my mum, seriously deliberating what happened to Malaysia Airlines flight 370. I was a conspiracy theory guy meself, so I was right at home in this conversation. We each offered our own theories and explanations for what may have happened, and mine had a lot to do with aliens. Haz thought there must’ve been some sort of Bermuda Triangle responsible. My mom was the only practical one among us.

Why couldn’t I stop dreaming of him? It was pathological at this point. A symptom of some deeper psychological plight gone undiagnosed for too long. Part insomnia. Part insanity. I propped up onto my elbow beside him now. He lay facing me unconsciously. Baby soft face, unguarded in sleep. His adorable pouty mouth. Unable to resist, I pet his hair, allowing the warmth this gesture generated to swirl around my gut unchecked. Willing him to wake up and kiss me stupid.

“I’m right here, baby…” was all I could think to say. “I’m right here…”

As my strokes deepened and gradually hit home, he blinked awake. Whirling green met timid brown, and for a split second I levitated. He smiled tiredly and I reciprocated, feeling far too full to make sense of the moment. Feeling far too good. At my wit’s end with yearning. Desiring him in ways I was incapable of satiating in the physical. Things that could only be settled between our spirts.

“I can’t stop thinkin’ about youh…” I said quietly, unsure of how I expected him to respond to such a statement. His lids lowered with a rested heaviness.

“Then don’t…” he pressed the back of my hand to his cheek, then we kissed deeply. 


I was mid-piss a few hours later when the alarm sounded. A high-pitched, omnipresent ringing that for a moment seemed to come from inside my head. I grunted and bore down, forcing the rest of the piss from within me, then haphazardly washed my hands. Stumbling out into the bedroom, I shoved one boot on before fumbling for my mobile. The telly had been frozen by the hotel staff, and an emergency message was planted across the screen; also translated into English. Apparently, there was an emergency in the building, which would explain why the hotel phone was ringing off the hook. I thought briefly of answering it, but was dissuaded when Preston burst into my room, red-faced and out of breath.

“Come on Zayno! Move, move, move!”

Fuckkkk me,” I gaped in disbelief, startled by him barging in. “Is everythin’ alright?”

Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” I shoved my other boot on and preceded him out of the room.

“What’s goin’ on broh?!” All the guests on our floor had filled the hall. Out here the ringing redoubled, accompanied by flashing lights and other apocalyptic sirens. The noise became a relentless, multi-layered shriek that drowned out all other sound and seemingly shook the walls. Several babies were crying as well. I felt bad for them. If I was this panicked and confused, I couldn’t imagine how terrified they were. It was too damn loud to even think straight. To jumbled to even register the fear. 

What was the standard procedure during a fire drill again? Don’t die, was all I could seem to think of. Now a recording played over the intercom in both Spanish and English, but I couldn’t hear shit. I presumed it was instructing us to head towards the nearest exit. It also likely discouraged us from using the elevators, which sucked because we were several flights above the ground floor.

“Let’s gohhhh!” I shouted, shoving my way through the mass with Preston’s help. The crowd was moving too damn slow for my peace of mind. Plus, all I could think of was getting to Haz. I needed to see that he was okay. I hate that he’d left my sight mere hours before all this popped off. I dug out my phone and called him a few times, but there was no answer; not that he could hear me over the warzone I was stuck in at the minute anyway. And I had no idea where his room was exactly, as he hadn’t sent me his room key in a while, so for now I’d have to blindly guess.

Madness surrounded me from all ends. Navigating the halls seemed an impossible feat, and hotel staff were everywhere, instructing us to all head in one direction. They yelled unmercifully at anyone who thought to be divergent. Arguments broke out left and right, people trying to push their way to the front of the mass migration. I was among them, and a few of the people I’d shoved cursed at me from behind, but I didn’t give a fuck. They were taking their sweet time to evacuate, and I wasn’t about to burn alive just to remain cordial with a bunch of strangers.

When I made it to the staircase, Preston and I flew down the steps and out into the lobby. There we saw tons of our team and I laid eyes on Niall and Lou, but no sight of Liam and Haz yet. There was already a crowd forming outside, since tons of fans had broken through the barricades and now ran towards the building to meet us. It didn’t seem to cross their minds that this was a real life evacuation, not a drill. 

The screams outside were just as piercing and relentless as the alarm had been inside. It was here that I smelled the smoke, hot and raw on the air. Holy shit, this place was actually on fire. My heart leapt into my throat as I pulled away from dozens of grabbing hands and peered over shoulders to find one face in particular. Still, we were pushed further and further away from the building, and therefore became lost among the thousands of rabid fans that surrounded the hotel streets. Police sirens were wailing. A fire truck and the first responders were having difficulty making it through the crowds of crying Directoners, and blew their deafening horns to clear a path every now and again. One copper got on the loud speaker and warned sternly that the streets needed to be evacuated immediately, but the girls were so desperate to keep their front row seat for seeing us that they ignored they were placing themselves in imminent danger.

Visible flames tore through the west side of the building like a bonfire gone awry. It was near our rooms. A collective gasp leapt from the crowd as it began to spread rapidly, leaping up several stories. Then there was a massive surge. People started screaming and running in every direction. Preston violently grabbed my arm and flung me aside to safety. By now I’d made it across the street from the hotel and finally set eyes on a freaked-out Liam, but still no Haz. My heart nearly pounded out of my chest then. I needed to lay eyes on him or I was going to lose my shit. In panic mode, I scanned the crowd and shouted his name at the top of my lungs. Still no answer.

“Where the fuck is he?!” I shook Preston.

“Who mate?!”

“Haz?! Where is he broh?? He’s not here!”

I don’t know, I don’t know! I wasn’t assigned to him, mate! I was told to get you out. We’ll have someone look for h—” I shoved him away and darted back into the dispersing crowd, fighting against the momentum to get towards the blazing hotel. When I made it to the parking lot, a massive hand grabbed ahold of me and snatched me backwards.

“Where the hell you going, Zayn? You need to get back across the street now!” It was Paul.

“Where’s Haz?!”

“He’s not with the other boys?!”

“Noh! We need to make fuckin’ sure he’s not still inside! Let me goh!”

“I’ll see to that! You get back with Preston now! I won’t say it again!”

“Noh, fuck that broh, if he’s not out here then I’m goin’ in! Fuck youh! Move!”

“Zayno, no!” he shouted, flinging me away. Moments like these were when I hated how fucking big they were. There was no winning when things got physical. When he saw I wouldn’t go down easily, he called a couple of guys over to subdue me. I tried to twist free of them as best I could, but even one of their arms was enough to staunch my efforts. They were huge.

Flipping out, I elbowed one bloke in the face and stomped on another dude’s foot so hard he doubled over and released me. Without a moment’s hesitation, I darted towards the hotel, glad the cops hadn’t arrived yet because they would have made it impossible to get back in. I ran so fast I passed Paul who was in the middle of sprinting back inside himself. He didn’t see me until it was too late.

I made it back to the staircase without issue, as most guests had already been evacuated. Taking the steps two at a time, I hauled ass back up to our floor and was winded by the time I got there. Bursting through the stairwell door, I ran along the halls which were filling with thick black smoke. The normal lights were out, and all I could see were the blinding flashes from the alarm system and a few flood lights here and there. Right away my lungs became overtaxed, and I had to stop and brace myself against the wall a few times to catch my breath. A severe coughing spell nearly choked me out.

By the time I’d recovered, my eyes were burning from the exposure to the smoke. I couldn’t see shit through my tears. I settled for shouting his name repeatedly, hardly waiting for an answer. There was no response anyway. In fact, this floor was eerily silent, apart from the incessant ringing. Not even a few lingering guests were in sight. The floor was entirely abandoned. Listening closely, I finally heard the roar of the blaze tearing through this side of the building. Only then did apprehension of getting trapped this high up knock some sense into me.

Legs wobbling, I headed down to the next floor, but refused to pass it without searching for him. I ran as far as I could, calling his name. Still no luck, only more impenetrable smoke storming the halls. More flashing lights. The sprinklers had cut loose here and were raining down all around me, soaking the carpet. Forfeiting, I retreated and listened as my boots slapped the puddles in the carpet along the way. When I burst back into the stairwell, I could hear Paul shouting up at me. He was a madman, tearing up the stairs at the speed of light. Just then, I heard and all-too-familiar cough coming from above. That exact cough had woken me up a million times in the middle of the night, disturbing my sleep whenever I’d dozed off against his chest.

Instead of running down to Paul like I started to, I spun on my heels and headed back up, passing my floor to get to the one above it. There I found Haz struggling down the steps, trying to hold up his 300lb security guard in the process.

“Haz! What the fuck?!” I rasped, running to grab the guard’s other arm and flinging it over my shoulder. Together we made a difficult and slow way down one flight of steps caring the dude’s dead weight, and thankfully by then Paul and a few firefighters had made it to the middle of the building. After rummaging through the hall above us, the first responders laid the massive nearly unconscious man on a bed sheet, and we all took a hand in carrying him down the remaining flights to the ground floor. Haz and I took one end and Paulie and the fireguard took the other. The remaining first responders separated throughout the building to look for others in need of help.

“Let’s go, boys! Good work! Almost there, Zayno!” Paul encouraged us, when it became clear our arms had turned to Jell-o. Mine were wobbling all over the place, threatening to give out. When we hit the front door and ran with the makeshift stretcher outside, I felt like a soldier on a war-torn battlefield. A cheer erupted from the fans and the first responders arrived with a proper gurney in no time. Afterwards, Haz and I clasped onto each other and stumbled side by side behind Paul to safety. The other boys had been placed into a sprinter van down the road and we now joined them; over a block removed from the chaos.

Fans had followed us to our getaway vehicle and were now beginning to slam their hands on the sides of the sprinter, nearly shattering the windows. Under Paul’s instruction, the driver started the engine and moved further away to escape them. Before we knew it, we were in the next neighborhood, having fled the scene of the crime like we were the arsonists responsible. When we parked and cracked the windows for a bit of fresh air, Louis came and slung his arms over mine and Haz’s shoulders saying,

“All in a days’ work, lads.”


“What the fuck just happened?” Haz asked, entranced. Face streaked with soot. Wow, he’d really been in the thick of it before I got there. I reached across and tried to wipe the smear away with my thumb, to no avail. We were sat together at a booth in a restaurant that wasn’t opened yet, but had allowed us to hide from the public inside. All the major networks had descended by now, and news vans were swarming the neighborhood, looking to get a word with us. Our team weren’t going for it, though, and under no circumstances were we allowed to speak with the press. According to them, we’d been through enough.

“I’ll tell yous what happened,” Liam began, seated in the booth behind ours with the other two boys. Apparently, he had overheard Haz’s question and sought to answer it. “One of them crazy Argentinian cooks got a little overzealous with one of them crazy flaming plates, I’d say. Have you seen one of them things boyz? How they do it is beyond me—”

“I’m almost positive there was something incredibly racist about that statement,” Lou quipped, stuffing his face with blueberry pancakes.

“Alright, I’ll keep quiet then,” Liam conceded. “Bit too early for me, anyway.”

“You’re an idiot, mate!” Niall was laughing uncontrollably. He’d had a bit of a freakout when we got stuck in the crowd earlier, so it was nice to see he was back to his normal giggly self.

The rest of our team had followed us and were gathered in the back of the restaurant, and some were even outside around the building, keeping an eye on things. I briefly read Shahid’s animated response to my earlier text explaining to him what had happened, before looking across the table at Haz. He was totally shellshocked.

“Youh alright, maan?” All he could do was nod and look down at his untouched waffles. “Not hungry?”

“After that? Mate, of course not. Hell no….”

“Yeah, shit got mad there for a minute,” I said, sipping my OJ, then frantically turning the glass around in circles on the table. The wood made a funny sound. Then I stopped abruptly, self-conscious that I’d drawn the attention of the entire restaurant onto me.

“‘Mad‘ doesn’t even begin to cover it…”

“What about ‘totally fuckin’ insane’?”


“Look Haz…I’m gonna be honest. You’re worryin’ me a bit, here.” I reached across and rubbed his elbow, which was propped onto the table. It was a bit scraped up from trying to brace himself against the wall while carrying his bodyguard. “You’re all gud, yeah? We’re okay now. It’s alright, broh. We got out alive. And you’re a hero—”

“I’m definitely not…”

“Yeah youh are. You’re a bad maan, Haz. Don’t ever let anyone tell you differently. They need to put your face in the paper or sumthin’. Todd was hired to protect youh, yeah? And there youh were protectin’ him the whole way. Tryin’ to carry his big ass down all them flights of stairs by yourself. Big up yourself, maan.” I exaggerated my accent a little and earned a smile.

“I couldn’t believe it, Z, honestly though. We were, like…right fucking there, mate. My room was so close…I could actually, like, feel the heat. Taste it even. And, uh, all I could think of was being set on fire…burned alive and shit…”

“Woah, broh…that’s pretty dark. I’m sorry youh had to even think of sumthin like that…”

“I first smelled the smoke while I was in the shower, and, uh…that was before the alarm even sounded. When I, uh, went out to, like, see what was going on, I saw it all. Barely had time to get back inside and, uh, toss on a shirt and trousers before finding him in the other room…totally passed out. His room was filled with smoke already, and he hadn’t even gotten up for the day yet.”


“I couldn’t just leave him, so I woke him up as best I could, and, uh, we stumbled out of there the entire way. Thank God you found me, mate, or I didn’t know what I’d do. I clearly couldn’t carry him the whole way. I pulled so many muscles trying…”

“Aw, babe…”

“The fucking fire would’ve caught up to us eventually…” his brow wrinkled when he looked over at me.

“You’re alright now, though. And it’s nothin’, babe…don’t even mention it. Of course I’d come after ya.”

“Hey…it’s something, alright? Seriously…you’re fucking amazing, Zayn. I don’t say that lightly. You actually came back in for me. What the fuck is wrong with youh?? You didn’t have to do that, but you did. Paulie told me how reckless you were. How you fought your way back inside—”

“This shit’s like a movie, innit?”

“I just want you to know how much I rate that, mate. You’re, uh…unbelievable in my eyes…”

“Well, youh would’ve done the same for me, too. I know it. Youh risked your life tryin’ to save Todd, soh I know it wouldn’t have been a question of youh comin’ back for me.”

“That’s generous of you…”

“Hey youh feelin’ any better anyweh? Youh seemed really, like, upset last night? Like sumthin’ had suddenly scared youh off? Was it me? Did I do anythin’ wrong?” At that he rubbed a few fingers down his forehead and shut his eyes.



“M’sorry…I didn’t mean to get all weird on you last night. I, uh, think I just didn’t feel too well, y’know? And then I was stupid enough to start something knowing I couldn’t finish. That was fucked of me. I’m shit for that. That had to be…”

“Yeah…pretty fuckin’ miserable,” I laughed.

“I’m sorry to do that to you,” he looked over at me with a little wince. “Besides…I’m not sure I exactly wanted to…go down that road again. It’s been, uh, nice…for lack of a better word…not having things feel complicated between us. Y’know?” I knew when his voice got high-pitched towards the end of a sentence he was feeling some type of way, but not saying it.

“Sure…yeah…last night was totally uncomplicated, broh. Super rad…”

“You’re being sarcastic.”

“How can I not be?? Listen at what you’re sayin to me right now, Haz??” I leaned over the table and hissed so no one else could hear. “Youh know how fuckin’ hard I was last night? Now my balls are bluer than this fuckin’ cup!” I picked up his mug and slammed it back down, black coffee sloshing out onto the table.

“Whatever. I’m so hungry, mate,” he changed the subject, tearing into the room temperature waffles after drenching them in syrup. I was itching for a cigarette, and because I couldn’t smoke one, I was falling into a shitty mood.

“Soh, uh…I noticed youh didn’t even check to see if your boy Matt was okay. I thought youh two were awful close—”

“We got the all-clear from the team after they took roll call. You and I were the last ones out, but nice try anyway.”

Pfft!”I scoffed, bitterly drinking my juice. He grew tired of the waffles rather quickly and shoved them aside.

“They’re so cold anyway.”


“M’still hungry though,” he pouted.

“Should’ve eaten when youh had the chance. There’s noh way of knowin’ when they’ll allow us back into the hotel to grab our shit, or when we’ll be able to eat again.”

“Yeah…I’m fucked.”

“Hey uh…I’ve got somethin’ youh can eat…” I said, underhandedly.

“What’s that?”

“My meat…”

“Dude, what the fuck?? What’re you? 12?”

“What, broh? I just meant youh can have my bloody bacon!” I scooted it over to him. “I hadn’t touched it yet. Cold bacon’s still gud, yeah? I eat it all the time.” At that he laughed and ate a few pieces.

Suddenly Liam broke out and sang the chorus of Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie” Appropriate tune, in more ways than one. Niall performed the accompanying rap. I had half a mind to join them.

“Youh know Haz—”

“Alright boys! Let’s move out,” Paul announced to the room. “The fire was thankfully contained. There was only damage to a few rooms. No structural integrity issues. We’re allowed to head back in and pick up our things before moving to the next hotel. Meet you outside in five.”

(Thanks for reading!❤️)

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Felice Cherry Wingate
Felice Cherry Wingate
5 months ago

Loving this!!! Great fiction is always based on the truth – you know more than you tell! Keep the chapters coming!!

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