When something bad happens, there's a few ways you can deal with it. They're so common that they're listed as stages. To grief. They can come in any order, really. Who should say that you have to feel pain in the "right" order?
There’s anger, an obvious one. How could you not blame the world for dealing you a crappy hand? Then there’s bargaining. I’ve never really understood this stage. I wasn’t sure even what it was supposed to be.
I’ve always imagined that it was like comparing. Like if somebody else lost their parents to disease, is it really so bad that my arm is broken? It seems cruel though. Why should you compare what’s happening to somebody else to what’s happening to you and feel better because they have it worse?
Acceptance. I think this has to be the last stage. If you get there, at least. It’s accepting that you’ve lost someone or that the problem has occurred. That there’s no way to undo what has already been done. Like you’re accepting that your life is crippled and broken.
Lastly, there’s denial. Maybe it’s not the last stage—more like it’s supposed to be the first—but it’s my favorite, no question. You don’t control any of these other states. Besides maybe acceptance, but that’s a bit cheating.
You can say that you accepted something even if you haven’t. You can say that you’re over somebody even if you’re still madly in love. Nowadays, you could lie about anything. In some people, lying is just a habit.
Living in the glory of denial means that you get to live in your head and pretend that reality doesn’t exist. It means you get to pretend like things aren’t so bad. It isn’t terrible to do that for a while.
And wouldn’t you rather live in your head than reality?
I dropped to my brother’s side, sliding my arm around his shoulders. “Ow, Caius, stop it!” Odin cried. “Caius, stop it.”
I stopped trying to help him up. He looked awful. His shirt was stained red with his own blood, the knife on the ground and just as bloodied. “You have to get up, we need to get you help.” I said. “Just fight it.”
Odin squeezed his eyes shut. “Stop when I tell you to.” He said, leaning against me for support. I didn’t care that some of his blood was against my shirt. What I cared about was getting him help.
It was a painful process trying to walk with him. He winced every time we moved. I didn’t want to hurt him anymore and I wished that I had the strength to pick him up and get him over to camp.
Once we got closer, a few friends helped me carry him. Odin was writhing, but they ignored it. We had to get him to help and the only way to help him was to hurry. I couldn’t watch while they were treating him.
Blood and wounds made me sick. It being my brother didn’t help. “Caius. We need a plan.” Emersyn said, sitting down next to me on the ground. “We’re wounded and our numbers are small. We need something.”
I shook my head. Why should I have to be the one to have to come up with a plan? It felt like I was always the one that had to come up with a plan. “I don’t know.” I said as a few others gathered. I felt guilt in my stomach. I had no answers.
“What do you mean you don’t know?” Ayelet asked as she sat down. “You always know.”
“Well now I don’t.” I said, glancing over my shoulder. What were we supposed to do? My brother was on the edge of dying.
“You have to come up with something.” Emersyn said. “The body can’t work without an order from the brain.”
I glared over at him. Why did I have to be the brain? I couldn’t just sit back and be some other, less important body part for one? “I don’t know Emersyn.” I said. “My little brother is dying. What am I supposed to know?”
“Shouldn’t that make you want to go after them all the more?” Evander asked. “We need a plan and you’re the best thinker.”
“I only come up with them because Odin helps me.” I said. “What do you think that we should do?”
“Well, we’re wounded. I think that we should leave.” Emersyn said with a shrug. “Even you look beat, Caius. Perhaps a break would be good.”
“A break?” I asked. That sounded like the stupidest thing in the world. “You can’t take a break during a war. Do you want to know how many times I’ve wanted to take a break?”
“Okay, calm down Caius.” Ayelet called. “It was just a suggestion.”
“That doesn’t make this war any less serious.” I said. “Odin is all I have left. We can’t take a break.”
“It wouldn’t be a break; it would be a time to heal.” Silas spoke up. “If we keep trying to fight then we’re going to lose more and we’ll only weaken ourselves.”
Silas sounded right. So why did I want him to be wrong? It made sense that we should be taking time to heal, but we didn’t have time to wait. My brother might be hurting, but that was no reason for me to stop fighting. He could late back. The rest of us could still fight.
“We can’t do that.”
Emersyn groaned. “This is why we can’t leave things up to you.” They said. “We’re not the only ones fighting them. Our group does not have to be the only ones fighting them.”
“We should be fighting together.” I said. “We’re stronger as one. That’s why our enemy is winning.”
“Our warriors are dying.” Evander said.
“Then we should be working harder.” I said, crossing my arms. I wasn’t about to lose this argument. “Make contact with the next camp over. We’re going to need to work united if we’re going to have any chance at winning this.”
“I disagree, Caius.” Odin wobbled over on crutches, putting almost all of his weight on them instead of his feet. “We should have time to heal.”
I stood looking over at him. His shirt was exchanged for bandages that wrapped his entire torso. I was glad to see that he was alright, but that didn’t mean I would back down from my argument.
“Just because you got hurt doesn’t mean the rest of us are.” I said. “You’ll get time to heal and the rest of us will continue to fight.”
“I won’t back down.” Odin challenge. “If you’re fighting, then so am I.”
“Odin, don’t be insane.”
“You’re the one being insane.”
“The whole team can’t stop because you do!” I shouted. Silence fell. I knew everybody was listening. “We are stronger together, but we can’t stop fighting because one of us can’t. The war doesn’t wait for us to heal, so we fight no matter how hard it gets.”
Emersyn stood up. “You’re going to get all of us killed.”
Maybe I was. “Wouldn’t you rather die fighting than die knowing you gave up?”
“I’d rather not die at all.” Silas said, standing next to Emersyn. “But given the option, I would rather die fighting.”
“Great.” I said. “We meet with the other camp and we attack together.”
“And if our people are dying off?” Emersyn asked.
I shut my eyes. If we were losing and dying we would need to retreat, but who was to say that they wouldn’t push us? We couldn’t turn our backs while they were still fighting us. “We keep fighting.” I said.
It might have been the stupidest thing I’d ever said, but I stuck to it. “Even if we’re dying off. Even if we’re wounded.” I said. Or maybe that was the stupidest thing. “We keep fighting.”