"It is freezing cold!" I gasped, chasing after Mark, who moved much more gracefully than I did.
"I told you to wear more layers," He replied, shooting me a filthy look. "It's not my fault you decided to wear a hoodie and jeans in November."
"S-shut up!" I ordered, my teeth chattering, hands tightly folded across my chest. "What's taking so long anyway? Mark, slow down!" I jogged after him, worried about being abandoned in these dark and terrifying woods.
"No, you're too slow! I'll leave you behind if you don't move faster!" He called over his shoulder, somehow gliding as I tripped and stumbled over dirt, stones, and random branches. It felt like the forest was conspiring against me.
I groaned but moved a little faster, and finally just decided to freeze and run after him. "God, what, what are we doing, will you tell me now?"
Mark smirked as he gracefully moved through bushes, disappearing behind clouds of green-turning orange leaves, not even bothering to ask.
"Oh come on!" I hissed, eyeing the bushes suspiciously. Naturally, Mark would be standing on the other side, unscathed and put together, while I would fall out probably, covered in scratches and dirt. "Ow, ow, ow, ow!" I growled, pushing my way past the brambles, feeling the light slaps of the branches hit my frozen cheeks. "Mark, why are you torturing me like this-AAH!" I screamed, throwing myself back. "Holy shit, why? Why is there a cliff here?"
"Isn't it magnificent?" Mark whispered, gazing at the rapidly lightening grey-purple sky.
"No! Mark, what the hell man?" I pulled myself up against a tree, staring at the edge his sneakers were on. "Mark.." I started warningly, as he spread his arms out.
"You're missing the view," Mark commented, and I forced myself to watch the spectacle, the sun rising like a wobbly yolk, splashing the sky with shades of pink, orange, and a stunning yellow. The invading colours should have contrasted with the moody bruise coloured sky, but it didn't. The clouds just became dipped in golden rays, changed.
"Okay, Mark, it's beautiful, maybe step back?" I said immediately as the sun settled in. "Now, dude, this isn't funny."
"Now, this is how life should be lived." Mark sighed, basking in the piercing rays.
"It's also how people die, believe it or not, so move!" I snapped, hating this new side of him, this unknowable, creepy version I didn't understand.
"Funny you should say that." Mark backed away from the cliff slowly, keeping his grey eyes locked on the lake, giggling. "We need to go there."
"Mark, I, my parent-ugh, okay, okay, fine." I ran my hands through my hair, torn. I couldn't leave him, I couldn't stay.
"Are you going to leave for university?" Mark asked suddenly, surprising me. "I'll miss you, and I know you'll miss the mountains. Won't you stay?"
"I haven't made a decision, but they accepted me, so why not? You know?" I said awkwardly, knowing that that wasn't the deal. We were friends, and here I was, leaving him to his shitty family, his shitty future and meltdowns.
Mark wasn't interested in my excuses. "Turn off your phone, it's been buzzing the entire hike and it's driving me insane," Mark said, and the thing buzzed once more, simply to prove his point.
I furiously typed in a response to my mother's messages. With Mark, he needs me, I'll ttyl! I immediately turned it off and shoved it into my pocket. "Okay, so lake, then home Mark. Both of us go home."
"We'll see." Mark smiled, scooping up a green coloured stone. "Isn't this a thing of beauty?" He threw it in a perfect arc, and I felt my heart drop, holding my breath for a splash.
Moving forward, I stared down at the lake, suppressing a desire to jump down. Where did that rock end up? "Mark, are you sure you know the way? Mark?" I turned to look for him, and rolled my eyes, diving through the bushes again.
I saw him walking on the trail again and ran after him, warm enough to put my track and field skills to good use. "Hey! Idiot!"
Mark started running too, and I felt the blood thunder in my ears as I chased him, finally feeling amused. This was an old game, both of us chasing each other, taunting, and slowly improving at sprinting and distance.
I felt alive, capable of fighting the forest at last as I leapt gracefully over logs and vaulted over the remnants of barricades and yellow tape.
Mark let out an inhuman cry of glee and sped up more than before, and I ran off the trail, easily dodging branches as I caught up slowly.
Eventually, I got close enough and grabbed at his coat.
"Missed me!" He howled, so close to being his old self again-
"Son of a bitch!" I panted, skidding to a halt. My lungs ached and burned, shrieking for air and breath. "Oh, that's, ugh!" I gasped, my muscles turning to mush. The burn in my legs was so foreign to me, and I got the feeling that I hadn't run for a while. My vision swam, and I saw it, a girl on a hoodie standing at the edge of a cliff...
I felt nauseous, almost vomiting.
"Hey, what gives, I thought you were catching up? Are you okay?" For the first time in a long time, Mark met my eyes.
"I don't know," I saw the concern in his eyes and swallowed back my tiredness, my nausea, wanting to keep him here, knowing I had missed him, he hadn't seen me in so long... "Let's keep going," I said finally, forcing a smile and clumsily staggering up.
Mark smiled at me, already turning, already forgetting. "That's the spirit, onwards, meine Freundin,"
"Right." I forced myself to breathe through the stitch in my chest, ignoring the buzzing of my phone. "Hey, we've been here, before right?"
"Of course," Mark murmured, his face suddenly cold, colourless, and dark again. "The last time we came, don't you remember? We went to the lake."
"Why?" I asked, feeling confused. "Why were we at the lake?"
"You're bleeding," Mark pointed at my leg, at a trail of blood I hadn't noticed. "And don't do that, you know what happened, you know what you-"
"Oh shit!" I dabbed at it with my sleeve. "When did this happen?"
"Come on, we are going to miss it!" Mark said, a new purposefulness to his steps.
"Mark, stop! Stop!" I grabbed his arm and missed again, my hand falling past his. "Why were we here? What happened?" It struck me suddenly that he looked slimmer, the rings under his eyes darker, his mood swings worse than they had been earlier in the year.
My phone buzzed and I ignored it, there wasn't any signal anyways, no replying would be happening. "Mark? Goddamnit, why don't you answer?"
"We're late, you're not supposed to be here," Mark muttered, his fingers twisting into each other. "No, not here, not here, not here, not now, not..."
I bit back a shout of frustration and made myself exhale calmly. "Mark, it's okay, I'm okay...just forget it."
We walked in a forced silence for a while, and I began to feel the flutterings of panic in my chest. I glanced at Mark and inwardly snickered, one anxiety attack and one meltdown, coming up in the middle of nowhere.
The sky was beginning to darken, and I was getting cold again, my cuts, scrapes, and now bruises aching a little. Even my ankle throbbed for some bizarre reason.
Finally, I began to see the lake, and both Mark and I sped up automatically, seemingly wanting this horrible day over.
I started running as a clearing emerged, racing forward, almost pulled by something. Something had happened. I left Mark behind, a sob building in my throat, as I charged forward. The girl on the cliff..falling, falling. I ran into the frigid waters, my hands pummelling it out of the way, and I pushed deeper, the water up to my hips, my chest..my mouth, and I was drinking it with salty tears.
My teeth chattered, and I gasped and sputtered, paddling wildly.
"NO! NO! Mark!" I screamed, sobbing as I remembered everything. "Mark, stay with me, Mark!" But there was nothing. It was over, it had happened a month ago.
I sobbed, sinking, and struggling. "No, no, no!"
I saw something white in the water, something pale, solid, and getting larger. It warbled around me, the moon's reflection.
It chased me towards the painful, pebbly beach, and I pushed myself, choking and shuddering. I broke the moon's reflection to kick ashore. I was sobbing and shaking, and I knew I was in shock or dead or something.
I stared at the moon in the water, replaying the moment he had crashed into it, my mind quietly shutting down.