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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Drama · #1177276
He met her and lost her there, in his only refuge, on the day he left.
Infinity Flight
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Written for "Invalid Item

         Early morning sunlight glints off of the rolling ripples, giving the impression of a pristine landscape moved and influenced by the wind. The sky's reflections catch on the smoky water, making the already blue liquid even deeper in color, splashed with the white of cotton candy clouds. Cool air fills his lungs and refreshes his body.

         Indescribable. He's heard the word before, and has never found a suitable application for it, but this just fits. This beauty defies words.

         Emerald reeds sway with the wind—soundless—and the dock, his only constant, remains, creaking with use as his tiny footsteps navigate the narrow path. The old dock is long, stretching out to the edge of his range of vision. He's not going to wait today. The wind is too soft, the water too inviting.

         Walking would be a sin.

         Stretching his arms out to the sky, he closes his eyes and runs, not daring to open them lest the magic of the moment be stolen away. He runs and runs, the dock always beneath his feet. But there comes a moment when it is gone, when the only thing embracing his small toes is the cool air. In that single moment, it feels like forever; like flying.

         And then he splashes into the tranquil lake. He sinks far, far below the surface as the layers of his life are peeled away, his troubles caught on the current and banished to oblivion. But as one sinks, one must also rise. When he touches the surface, his troubles swim back to him and weigh his shoulders down. One moment of magic is all he needs to keep going, though. As long as this place is here, he promises, he will be, too.

         After all, this is where he met

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         He wakes up early, before the sun's light even touches the sky. He doesn't dress or run. There's nowhere to run to. Breakfast isn't all that appetizing a thought, so he just lays in bed, covers pulled back from his body, eyes closed despite the fact that he is completely awake. He lets memories of his dreams flow over him like water, leaving no trace of their passing.

         No...not dreams.

         They truly are memories, even though they're ones he'd rather not have.

         He swipes the memories of blood and tears from his mind. He's grown now. These things shouldn't haunt him anymore. He knows of one thing that will soothe the memories, but he can't go there, so he settles for the next best thing: a cold shower. The water courses down over his body, teasing old scars with a pleasant tickle of trickling liquid. A sort of tickle builds in his chest, too, rising to an ache until he cannot hold back the urge to cough. Not again.

         At first it's soft, hardly louder than the hum of water, but his lungs rebel against his attempts to stop, to breathe. He coughs as if expelling all of the filth that resides in his memories. Nothing comes out but blood, though. By the time his body finally rests, he's on his knees in the water. Blood swirls down the drain and down his lips in lines as he desperately tries to pull in enough air to satisfy his body.

         Once he doesn't have to concentrate on breathing anymore, he turns around, letting the water flow over him. He laughs softly. It's ironic to him that it's not the beatings that put his life in danger. It's not the life-size presence of his dad, or of the pains physical or emotional that were inflicted on his young body.

         The thing these doctors say will take his life is so small it can't be seen by the naked eye. He's always lived a life based on the things he sees. The only things of consequence are those that he feels. It's how he was raised to live. That's why it's so funny that the things he ignored will be the death of him.

         As of today, he's lived sixteen days longer than the doctors thought he would. It's a good feeling to defy the odds, but he knows he doesn't have much time left. If he was in the hospital, they'd have him on a ventilator by now. He doesn't want that, though. His entire young life was spent relying on others for his life. At 22, he's not willing to fall back onto that. He will die when his body chooses to, and not when his consciousness is too decayed to make that choice. The doctors won't make it for him.

         He has that right. And he doesn't mind at all. Only a single thing sticks in his mind; something unfinished, a book left unclosed, a stone left unturned.

         I'll be here...

         Those were the words she had once spoken. He stands.

         He will go to her.

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         He'd finally gotten used to the house, to the nooks and crannies he could hide in when his father was mad. He'd gotten used to the perpetual layer of dust that settled on everything, despite vigorous cleaning, and he'd found solace in the room in the back that he proudly called his own.

         Now, everything was gone. He tried not to think about it, because when he did, he felt his life breaking to pieces before his eyes. It was like setting up a base in a dark void, laying a person on it and telling them they were safe—and then tearing the ground from beneath their feet. He had decided that as long as he denied that he was falling, he wouldn't feel the pain of it.

         He ran.

         The water...he wanted to see it. One could only deny they were falling for so long, because eventually they hit the bottom. He wasn't ready to feel that pain yet. Right now, he couldn't bear it. But maybe...

         He arrived at the dock, breathless, and fell to his knees. Old bruises ached, but he didn't care one bit. He was
here. He let his old jacket slide off of his bony arms, and he embraced the breeze. Both feet started moving of their own initiative, running down the creaking planks toward the beckoning water. Halfway there, he stopped.

         Someone else was here. He saw the bottom of a silky dress fluttering with the stiff breeze, with even softer locks of hair swirling above it. The dress matched with the aqua surroundings, but the girl's hair seemed out of place—like sunlight spun into ringlet curls. The girl sat at the very end of the dock, swinging her legs and holding a pencil tentatively in her left hand. She tapped it absently against a notepad. He approached silently from behind. He'd already considered walking away, but this was his dock. No one else's.

         "Beautiful, isn't it?" The girl turned around. Her eyes were beautiful, the precise color of the sunlit water he loved to sink into. Her skin was flawless porcelain, the color of the lifeless dolls his mother had collected before she'd gone. Tiny teeth showed when the girl grinned.

         "Uh-huh," he replied softly.

         "It's chaotic. That's why I like it."

         He frowned at her, unwilling to ask the question that bubbled in his mind. Finally it just came out. "What's chaotic mean?"

         "It's wild," she said. "Uncertain, beautiful... perfect. It's the chaos of this place that makes it attractive."

         "Nuh-uh! It's not wild! And why are you here? This is my place!"

         The girl looked at him. She didn't answer his question, replying simply, "I'm moving into the house at the end of the road."

         He wanted to hate her for taking his home away, but he couldn't. He sat on the dock, letting his own gangly legs dangle over the edge, bare toes brushing the water. "Why do you think the water is...um...cha—chaotic?"

         She smiled. It was warm, like melted chocolate—or like his mother's perfume when she hugged him tight. He liked it.

When he left her for the final time, he asked, "Will I see you again?"

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         The sky is a dull and dreary gray, the kind of smog-stuffed appearance that defines the usual for big cities. Not a single cloud hinders the view of the heavens, but the dirty grey color remains. He watches from the back of the cab. He shouldn't drive, he had been told, in his condition.

         It isn't the warning that keeps him from driving his own car, but the fact that he isn't sure he can make it all the way by himself. He most certainly wants to take the last part of the journey alone, but assistance is grudgingly required if he wants to make it to his destination at all.

         The cab driver shows barely veiled disgust and disapproval when a violent coughing fit is barely supressed in the back seat. He lets his charge out at the edge of town.

         Less than twenty miles. Past the clumped houses, into the thick, green peace of untainted nature, his solace still lived. He'd tried not to go there after he had made that discovery, but now, things were different. He had to.

         He leans against the wall of the dirty building behind him, wondering, for the first time, if he'll last that long.

         He'll have to. This is one thing he cannot fail in.

         If it is the last thing he does...

         A wry smile twists his face Oh, wait.

         It probably will be.

         A passing car squeals to a stop in response to his wave, and he gets in, requesting assistance of the kind driver. He feels that familiar itch in his chest, and he feels impending darkness behind his eyes, but he pushes them away.

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         "Why do I think the water is so chaotic?" The girl thought for a moment. "You know, I don't like talking to people too much, but I like you, so I think I can tell you this." It was the third time he'd met her. After he finished cleaning and packing, she was always waiting for him. Tomorrow, he would be gone. She would move into his house, and his solace would belong to someone else. The only comfort was that he felt like she could protect it. She could understand it.

         "I live at home," the girl said. "All the time. My parents want it that way because I'm smarter than a lot of kids my age and if I went to school, I'd be several classes ahead. They say that it wouldn't be good for me to be exposed to that. So they teach me at home. It's boring. It's calm and it's perfect. I have no choice but to live that way. This water...it flows wherever it wants to. It doesn't care about limits. Come a good rain and it will overflow its banks simply because it can. It doesn't care that all that water will be lost. I want to be like that."

         He started blankly. "Um...I don't get a lot of what you said, but I think I understand. I like the water 'cause it's quiet, though. It makes me feel like all the stuff that's going on just sort of floats away."

         The girl nodded. "It gives different people different things. It gives us what we need."

         They at least agreed on that point. He sat down next to her and looked over. "Hey...who are you? What's your name?"

         "It's Annelise."

         He thought that over. "It's an awful girly name." He frowned. "Mine's Ashton."

         She smiled. "A nice name."

         The last day...the last day he'd ever be here was today. "Will I see you again?"

         "Of course! If you ever need to talk, I'll be here."

         It didn't hurt so much to move. He knew, one day, he'd see her again.

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         It's almost funny to him how disillusioned one can be as a child. It's stupid what one can come to believe. Peace, happiness, tranquility—all are emotions that can be torn away with the flick of a knife or the flick of a tongue. Words are both as strong and as fragile as that. He's never trusted words, anyway.

         The long path stretches out before him, a road he's traveled a million times before. It really is naive of him to think that she'll actually be there. She lied before. When he was thirteen...

         When he'd run from his father at thirteen, he had found his way to the dock, where she promised she'd be.

         He didn't find her there. He asked everyone—everyone—about her location. He searched for the people who had inhabited the little house after him. It was a fact, he was told, that no one had moved into his house after he was gone. He insisted she'd been there, insisted because he needed her to have been there, and because he needed just a single person to believe him.

         For his troubles, he received a psychological evaluation, a cardboard cutout set of foster parents, and an equally tedious set of drugs to keep his head on straight. After a while, he'd acknowledged she'd never existed, simply because of the fact that it was easier that way. He knew she had, though. He just no longer needed people to believe him.

         When he'd become old enough to live on his own, he'd moved into a small apartment of his own, battling a cough that, he supposed, was a product of the cold weather. Of course, it hadn't been. He hadn't paid any attention to it as it persisted for months.

          He'd most certainly endured worse than a simple virus, and doctors were liars, anyway.

         By the time he realized that his ailment might have been more than a simple cough, it was far, far too late. The damage to his lungs was irreversible. He was given drugs to help him cope, but there was little else they could do.

         Now it was time to revisit his past and find out if his memories were true. He breathlessly instructed the car to let him go at the end of the gravel road. He'd walk the rest of the way, he assured the kind driver.

         He clears his throat and tastes copper. He feels a weakness in his joints, a fire behind his eyes that has nothing to do with exhaustion. The sleep his beleaguered body desires is much more permanent.

         Right now, the only thing he fears is that he won't be able to make it to the dock.

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         At twenty years old, it was still just a cough. It was getting worse, and sometimes his chest hurt, but he still told himself he could handle it. He had taken local classes so he could get a high school diploma. He hoped to attend college at some point.

         For now, he was studying up on some local history to write an essay.

         He swore to himself that it was an accident, that it was chance that he came upon that newspaper. After all, divine action was but a myth. Despite everything, he found himself staring at the face of the young girl he'd met so many years ago.

         But...they'd told him... she was a part of his mind. He had created her, they said, to escape the abuse.

         But her face was real. Her smile was not a lie.

         Hope surged inside him. She had been real. She'd been
there. His eyes did not see the date on the paper. They did not see the headline.

         The date: 1960. The headline... Young Girl Dies Tragically.

         His breath caught in his throat when the words above the picture registered at last. He tried to stop staring at the date, tried to breathe, but he didn't succeed with either effort. Getting air to enter his chest seemed an impossible effort. Tiny bits were dragged in but he coughed the air out immediately. That day was the first day he had an actual attack. By the time he drew his hand away from his mouth, it was covered in blood. Thoughts played over and over through his mind.

         She could not have been there. She had died decades before he had seen the girl at the lake. He read the story, over and over again, but he told himself that the girl he had seen merely looked like this one.

         He did not believe in things like this. He believed only in the things he could see. Ashton put the newspaper down. He dropped his classes, and he never told anyone about the newspaper. He didn't need anyone to believe him anymore.

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         He makes it slowly down the gravel road until he can finally see the water. So close.... He feels a heaviness, a slowness, encompass his limbs, but the smell of the clean water refreshes him. He walks down the dock, eyes wandering. He does not see her. Words whisper through his memories, and he hears a distant laugh, utterly at peace and happy. He almost thinks it's her.

         He continues to walk until he reaches the very edge. He watches the distant shore, and he could swear that she is winding through the trees, laughing, still as young as he saw her so many years ago. She appears and disappears, but her laughter remains. He can hear her—or is it the water?—beckoning to him.

         Is there really a difference between the two?

         He remembers the thing they had agreed upon. The water provides what one needs.

         He needed peace, and the water gave her the chaos she desired, as well.

         And because he's needed someone...someone to believe him, the water had given her to him.

         He waves at her and she waves back. He walks farther and farther back on the rickety dock, then he smiles. This is what he needs. He feels a freedom as he finally starts running. When the dock is no longer beneath his feet, he lingers for a single moment in infinity, and then he falls, deep into the water.

         He sinks to the dark bottom, and the current sweeps his troubles away. The darkness becomes more complete. This is a place where he does not need to breathe. It feels like home. The current beats against him until he is clean, and he feels weightless, free. He doesn't have to rise, this time.

         He doesn't believe in things he can't see, but he could swear she's reaching out to him as the blackness becomes complete.

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*Bullet*Notes: This was written when I was 16 years old. While feedback is amazing and always appreciated, I recognize the flaws in these and am keeping them as an archive of my early work rather than a piece I am actively trying to rewrite and improve. For that reason, I have chosen to disable reviews.
© Copyright 2006 § Roseille ♥ (concrete_angel at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/1177276