Contest #75 shortlist ⭐️

8 comments

Fiction Sad

Trigger warning: Suicidal ideation

1. She’s four the first time he sees her. Most people didn’t start the life-long relationship with him until later on, but a tumble in the pool is all it took for the two of them to meet. He sits on the edge of the pool, watching her splash, arms breaking the surface vigorously. The California sun beats down on the water, transforming the droplets into sparkling diamonds that burst upon impact with the concrete that surrounds the water. She goes under, and the ripples lap lazily at his pants legs. Minutes pass, too long - he hates waiting on children - and then her mother takes over. Through her mother’s sobbing pleads, he learns that the girl loves sour candies, her dog, and days at the beach. He waits patiently, watching her mother flutter anxiously around her until the paramedics arrive. Then comes the breath - a wet one, followed by a hacking cough. As she breathes, so he breathes, and then he’s gone.

 

2. Something about early adulthood is so incredibly hard to get quite right. This seems to be universal, so it’s not a surprise when he finds himself in her bathroom that night. They sit across from each other, criss-cross-applesauce, his transparent knees barely brushing through hers. She’s shut off the overhead lights, leaving only a few candles bobbing in the bath water. He assumes she’d meant to get in at some point, but now the water is as cold as the weather outside. Snow falls softly against the window, a reminder that there is a world outside the small bathroom. She’s not hearing it, though, her mind on the wreck that evening had turned out to be. A party should be a party, after all, not an accidental coming out to your best friend and long-term crush, followed by a screaming match and shattered bottles. The music from the party still plays in the other room, a reminder to her that everyone and everything spins on, whether she can keep up or not. They sit like that for some time, sharing the silence. He’d stopped wondering whether they felt his presence or not. He hums along with the song stuck in his head, and she clenches the shard of glass in her hand like a lifeline. He’s still there when she crawls into the tub fully clothed, a parallel moment to complement the one they’d shared eighteen years ago. This time, it’s hours instead of minutes, and her friend comes instead of her mother. “Carlye?” A nice name. Briefly, he hopes that she gets to hear it muttered against her neck while she’s tucked into bed beside her friend. He doesn’t stick around to see if they make up.

 

3. It’s sudden, this time, a rushed appearance at three am. He’s still fastening his cloak when he, the wind whipping it around his transparent frame. It’s been a long time - he wouldn’t be surprised if this is it. There are always the little chances, things he doesn’t show up for: when she steps in front of a car in the cafe parking lot, that’s a passing encounter. So is the grape she chokes on momentarily in the hotel in Georgia, and the cancer that’s removed before it catches her in its talons. Huge ordeals to the living, they’re nothing to him. Now, rounding the car, he thinks this might be a big ordeal for the both of them. She has a family now, he realizes. Her husband was driving, it seems - he’ll be fine, and the boy in the back seat is crying too hard not to be fine. Carlye, on the other hand… He stands, just the other side of the glass, and feels her reaching. She’s grasping for something, body still. The line between worlds is blurring, and he’s mentally going over the next step when her son calls out for her. His voice is weak, but the second time, he gains volume. Slowly, she becomes solid again. The pull lessens, and he stops preparing to take her. Her eyes flutter, her fingers moving. She’s not reaching for him anymore, but for the child in the backseat, the aching to move on morphing into a pain that comes with staying. He’s confused, momentarily. The pain is more than someone with a family should feel, stronger than someone should feel in physical pain. Bowling tickets are on the car floorboard, barely visible under the crunched-up door frame. He studies her, considering what he knows about the human tendency to reach for what they love over what they’re obligated to. It’s too strong - she’s too strong - and he has to leave.

 

4. It’s been years for her, but not so for him. He’s as old as time, and where his appearance has remained the same since day one, she has changed. Her hair is grey, and she’s acquired the wrinkles of someone familiar with the sun, someone who’s seen birthdays come and go more times than she’ll admit. She smiles at him, and the act shoots straight through his form. There is no resistance. She’s resisted her whole life, and the time for the performance has passed. They’ve played their parts - she’s played more than one - and they’re on stage for the finale. Like an old film, the past has aged. She's revisited it, watched it as the colors faded and the pain became less noticeable. She's even fond of pieces of it, the people who made it bearable. She's had time to regret and time to rejoice, and now her bones ache with the strain of a full life - a happy ache, but it's too much for her now. This, like the way she spent the rest of her years, is a calculated choice. He relishes in the moment - his entire being has centered around the axis of duty to assist humans in leaving their old, worn out lives behind them. But as she takes his hand, he knows; she’s not leaving a life behind her. Rather, she’s stepping into one, and for the first time, she’s doing it for herself.

 

January 08, 2021 03:58

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8 comments

Lovely job getting shortlisted Ari!

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Ari Fargo
04:29 Jan 19, 2021

Thank you!

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Your welcome!

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15:47 Mar 25, 2021

The ring of death and afterlife did connect.

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Tom .
11:31 Jan 18, 2021

This was a beautiful touch on death and the other realm, well the step into it. It is short and impactful. The limit to the word count really helps the story you tell. It is crazy you have had no comments on this. The site is currently in a state of flux. Full of teenagers obsessed about points and dragons, so thank you for pulling this story out, for an older reader to enjoy. Good Job

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Ari Fargo
04:31 Jan 19, 2021

I really enjoyed writing it, so I'm glad you found some enjoyment in it as well. Your kind words touched me! Thank you!

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15:09 Jan 17, 2021

Great write! The voice of death is so wonderfully dry and perfectly captured.

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Ari Fargo
04:32 Jan 19, 2021

Thanks! It was a fun character to write.

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