CW: Dealing with subjects of death, light drug use, slight strong language.
Inspired by World So Cold-Three Days Grace
Lightning danced across the sky, and rolls of thunder shook the ground as a pale and frazzled Zeke stumbled across the grass. His feet sank into the soft earth, and rain blurred his vision, but he refused to be deterred. Zeke struggled along his path until at last, he found her. Eva lay still as the grave, not a single sign of life to be seen. The deep color of her skin barely held its usual vibrant glow. Between the rain and the blood that streaked down her face, Eva's curls were a loosened and almost matted disaster. Zeke wasted almost no time as he scrambled to her, checking her body for a pulse. His blood ran like ice when he found nothing, but he didn't give up.
“Eva?” He called, shaking her shoulders. “Eva, please! I need you to look at me! Open your eyes, baby! Please!”
After what felt like an eternity, Eva's eyes shot open, her breath coming out in ragged, shuddering gasps. Eva was certain that her body was on fire and the rain did nothing to quell the flames. As she rolled onto her side, Zeke took her hand as he slowly helped her to her feet.
“W-what happened?” Eva stammered quietly, her hands pushing her mess of curls out of her face. She caught a glimpse of her fingertips, stained with red. “Why am I bleeding? Why do I feel like I got run over by a freight train?” The poor woman began to hyperventilate as she looked up at Zeke.
“I don't know, baby.” Zeke looked down at himself, then gave her a once-over as well. “Whatever happened, it left us looking rough.”
Eva winced again as she tried to walk. “I can't.” She half whined as Zeke pulled her close. “I can barely move.”
“I know.” He placed a feather-light kiss on her forehead, careful not to touch the angry-looking gash. “Just hang on to me, okay? We've gotta find some help and figure out what the hell is going on here.”
Eva simply nodded, clinging to Zeke with whatever strength she could muster. The couple hobbled along for a few moments when, suddenly, they heard the faint, familiar sounds of sirens and were barely able to make out the flashing lights a ways away.
“Oh, thank God!” Eva breathed a small sigh of relief. “I thought we were gonna be walking forever.”
“Hang in there, beautiful,” Zeke planted another sweet kiss on her forehead, “We'll get some help, get everything figured out,” he turned to her with that smart-ass grin that she always loved, “and when we get home, my girl is getting a bubble bath with her favorite wine and that black bath bomb you love so much.”
“You're the best.” Eva let out a breathless chuckle before gracing her man with a sweet kiss.
The couple journeyed on as the sounds of the sirens grew nearer, a comforting sound to Eva's ears. Zeke, on the other hand, felt a slight sense of unease crawling over his skin. The more distance that disappeared between them and safety, the worse he seemed to feel about the whole situation. Zeke glanced down at Eva, her hopeful expression laced with intermittent winces of pain. Her tenacity was always something he eternally admired. He did his best to shake it off, more for Eva's sake than anything else, and led them on.
“Baby! Baby, look!” Eva said excitedly, her pace surprisingly picking up as much as her wounded body had allowed. “I can see them! I see the EMTs! Fire trucks, too, I think! Hello!” She called out as they hobbled closer, but they didn't seem to hear her. Eva chalked it up to them being busy and the sounds of the pouring rain and sirens drowning out her voice. “Hello! Can you help us, please?” She tried quite a bit louder, but there was still no reply to her pleas.
Eva frowned deeply as she looked up to Zeke, who she noticed was appearing considerably paler than she remembered. She simply shook her head, speculating that it was thanks to the cold of the rain they found themselves stuck in.
“Why are they ignoring us?” She huffed as she tried to keep another hyperventilation episode at bay.
“I-I have no idea.” Zeke stammered, his eyes glued to the scene before them. It shocked him that Eva was blissfully unaware of the remnants of the car accident. Zeke's heart beat wildly in his chest as he surveyed the chaos around them, barely noticing that Eva had pulled away from him and ventured toward an EMT.
“Excuse me?” Eva reached out to a medic who was walking close to her. She got a shock to her system as her hand passed through their shoulder like it would through a patch of fog. The paramedic jumped ever so slightly, looking straight at her or rather, looking straight through her. They looked around themselves for a moment or two, then simply shrugged and continued on their way.
Eva looked down at her hand in horror as things finally started to become clearer. Her gaze traveled up and, at last, she noticed where they were and what had transpired. Her breath kept catching in her throat as she hobbled toward the twisted metal of the wrecked car, jumping slightly every time a first responder passed through her body. She barely heard Zeke calling to her as she finally stopped in front of the wreckage. Her eyes slowly scanned over the vehicle, finding it oddly familiar even in its misshapen state.
“Wait.” She whispered to herself. “This-this is our car.”
She limped slowly over to the window, a small sound of dismay escaping her lips as she looked through the passenger side window. Eva saw her own body; silent and unmoving with eyes that seemed to stare in horror at nothing. Her heart pounded in her chest as she reached out with shaking fingers, surprised she was able to move a stray curl away from her wounded face. Eva instantly saw the long gash across her forehead and watched as the blood flowed freely from the wound. She raised her hand up to her forehead, feeling the exact wound in the same place. She caught a glimpse of the blood just as it was washed away with the falling rain. Eva stumbled backward and into Zeke's embrace. She didn't know whether she wanted to scream or cry, so she simply held onto him as she watched firefighters and medics scurry to and fro. There were police officers directing traffic and someone being led away on a stretcher. Eva was able to faintly make out the voice of the injured man.
“That's you!” She breathed, looking from Zeke to the man on the stretcher and back again. “Maybe, you'll survive. Maybe one of us will make it!”
“Eva, baby, wait!” Zeke tried to keep a firm grip on her, but she wiggled away.
“Zeke, we have to try.” Eva shot back. “I don't know what's going on or even what I'm saying, but dammit, we have to do something!”
Zeke watched her limp away, suddenly remembering that trying to keep her from walking away or changing her mind was a lesson in futility. With a heavy sigh, he turned his attention to the car, where medics were now attending to Eva's still body. The corpse's face now held an expression of pure fury and hatred as it glared at him. Zeke's heart threatened to jump out of his chest as they pulled Eva's broken body from the wreckage and placed her on a stretcher inside the body bag. It took him a try or two but he was finally able to tear his eyes away from the disgruntled corpse and join the walking Eva at the ambulance truck. He held Eva's hand tightly as he saw himself being lifted into the back of the ambulance. His body was riddled with various bruises and cuts, some with slivers of glass still lodged inside. His lips were moving, his voice barely above a whisper, but he could hear the words as if they were being spoken directly into his ears.
“Eva,” he whispered desperately, “I'm so sorry. This is all my fault. Please be okay. Please. I'm sorry, baby. Please.”
The Zeke that lay on the stretcher met her eyes, his own widening with fear and remorse. His hand did its best to lift and reach out to her as he mouthed her name. Sadly, he had no more strength left in his body. His head fell back as the deafening tone of his pulse flatlining rang in their ears. Zeke's eyes became unseeing, but the remorseful expression clung to his features. Eva turned away from the body and into her lover's embrace. Her frown deepened, suddenly finding herself lost in deep thought.
“Zeke? Why were you sorry?” Eva whispered, her eyes slowly surveying the chaos around them. “What happened to us? You kept apologizing, but I can't remember anything. Why?”
Zeke opened his mouth to answer just as his world began to blur and spin. He let go of Eva as he stumbled back a few steps, the feeling of euphoria overtaking him and bringing a small chuckle bubbling from his lips. Zeke's face lifted toward the rain and he felt like he was floating on a cloud.
Eva studied him, confused for only a moment before realization hit her just as he hit the pavement. Zeke leaned back against the guardrails, smiling as he held out his hand to catch the torrent of raindrops.
“Zeke,” it took everything Eva had to stay calm as she attempted to venture the question, “are you...Did you...?” She paused, took a couple of deep breaths, then tried again. “Please tell me you didn't.”
“Don't sound so upset, babe.” Zeke's words slurred as his emerald eyes barely cracked open to look at her. “I just wanted a little something to calm my nerves, that's all. It's not a big deal.”
Another chuckle escaped him, which was swiftly cut off by the rather large CRACK of Eva's open palm colliding with his cheek.
“You son of a bitch!” She screeched. “You were high again, weren't you? Weren't you?”
Zeke gripped his cheek, almost instantly snapping out of his reverie. “H-high? What are you--?” He paused, the memories suddenly coming back in horrible waves. He remembered being at the party with Eva and all their friends. He remembered sneaking off with a certain James and Scott and finding a secluded corner behind Scott's shed. He remembered the familiar floating feeling of the high as the poison seeped into his system. The only aspect of the night he barely remembered was the drive home. All he could recall was the cool of the rain as they both raced to the car. Eva volunteered to drive, but Zeke insisted, dangling the keys just out of her reach.
“Let me chauffeur my lady this time.” He heard himself saying. His voice sounded so smooth, so convincing, it made him physically ill.
“It wasn't,” he began, trying to swallow the guilty lump in his throat, “it wasn't even that much. I just wanted something to take the edge off. You know parties make me nervous. I didn’t even really want to be there.”
“I'm sorry,” Eva chuckled bitterly, looking him up and down, “are you seriously trying blame me for this? I told you that you didn't have to go! I told you that you were more than welcome to stay home! I even said I wouldn't go because I didn't want you to be uncomfortable or be alone!”
Zeke frowned, his gaze dropping slightly. “I know.” He half mumbled. “I just didn't want you there alone.” He could feel the twinges of jealousy rising in his chest. “I didn't want anyone going near you. I knew you wanted to go to that party, but I knew who was gonna be there, too. I didn't want you there without me!”
“That's right, Zeke.” Eva crossed her arms, a look that was nothing short of incredulous written all over her face. “Keep packing on the excuses. Just like every other goddamn time we've had to have this talk. You just love to blame literally everyone else except the person in the mirror!”
Zeke searched for an answer to shoot back at her, but he knew he had none. Instead of digging himself deeper into a hole, he simply stood to his feet and let Eva continue, still holding his wounded cheek.
“You promised me, Zeke!” Eva finally allowed herself to let the sobs flow from her body. “You promised me that you were done with that shit! How could you?”
Zeke was barely able to look Eva in the eye and all he could mumble was a barely audible apology.
Eva hugged her arms around herself, her glare boring holes into her lover. “You said that you were going to get help, that we'd be able to put this all behind us and never have to worry about it again. Now, because of you, we're both--.”
She had to pause as it dawned on her that she hadn't actually voiced what had happened to the both of them. Her eyes finally dropped to the ground as she gritted her teeth in a futile attempt to stop her crying.
“Now, because of you, we're both dead.” She finally finished.
Zeke reached for her, none too surprised when she recoiled away from his touch. Eva tried to bring herself to look at him, but it just wasn't happening. Eva turned from him and was greeted by a small light that was slowly approaching them. The wounded woman instantly shook it off as one of the first responder's flashlights. Oddly enough, as the light closed in, the cold of the rain seemed to give way to a comforting sense of warmth. Soon, it didn't feel like a normal flashlight glow. She suddenly found herself smiling as she slowly stepped closer.
“Wow!” Eva breathed, almost at a loss for words, “It's so beautiful. Zeke, look! Can't you see it?”
“No, baby. I can't.”
Eva's smile fell, noticing something off about Zeke's voice. She turned to her lover and finally noticed his grim transformation. Zeke's skin was ashen and the bags under his eyes looked big enough for someone to crawl into and go to sleep. The usual emerald gleam they once held had given way to something akin to fire, shades of red and orange dancing around in his irises. The minor cuts and scrapes on his skin were quickly gaining companions as if unseen creatures were tearing at his flesh with their claws.
Zeke winced, but only slightly. In fact, much to his surprise, the physical pain was slowly giving way to a creeping sense of numbness. However, the emotional sting he had still lingered as he gazed at his love. His eyes widened and the air rushed out of his lungs at the sight of his now angelic beauty. There was a halo of soft light that surrounded Eva's head and her wounds were slowly healing themselves. Her skin regained that vibrant glow that he had come to love and, at this moment, Eva looked as she did when they were still alive. Try as he might, Zeke was still unable to see the magnificent glow that was behind her. Deep down, in the pits of whatever soul he had left, he knew exactly what that meant.
“You were always so amazing. Such an angel.” He began quietly, a melancholy smile dancing on the corners of his lips. “You believed in what I could be instead of just seeing what everyone else saw. You saw my troubles, my demons, and you still accepted me. You actually loved me and this is how I thanked you.” Blood red tears sprang to his eyes as he chuckled bitterly. “I should’ve been giving you the world, but instead, I took it away from you.. I'm so sorry for all of this, baby.”
Eva felt like her heart was breaking and wasted almost no time reaching out to him. Her hand collided with a barrier, stopping her in her tracks. She placed her hands on the invisible wall, smiling a tad as Zeke did the same.
“It's probably for the best.” He commented. “You deserve all the peace in paradise. I put you through enough hell.” Zeke backed away slowly as wisps of black smoke snaked up from the ground. Eva opened her mouth to answer, but Zeke simply shook his head. “No, baby. We both know this is goodbye. I don't think you can save me from this one anyway. You've done enough of that. Just remember that I love you, okay? In my own selfish, dumbass way, I've always loved you and I always will.”
Eva's lips clamped shut as tears cascaded down her cheeks. It took her a moment, but somehow she found the ability to speak. “I love you, too.” Her voice cracked as she stepped away and slowly made her way toward the light. At the last moment, Eva took one last look behind her, just in time to see the black smoke billowing around Zeke as he completely disappeared from her view. Eva's heart was heavy at the sight, but she knew it was how it had to be. Part of her wanted nothing more than to rescue him, just as she always had in life. Another part remembered his words and knew he was right. There was no coming back from this and no saving him. Not this time.
“Goodbye, Zeke.” She whispered to the night air.
She turned back towards the warm, welcoming light and took her first steps toward her peaceful eternity.
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I loved this story!! Ms. Ramey is descriptive without being wordy or redundant. The reader can envision Eva's skin glowing in the light, while feeling Zeke's utter despair when the realization of the tragic events were his doing. Authors, many seasoned, struggle to find this balance. As I read the story, I could see the scene unfold before my eyes, as if I were an intruder into this intimate revelation. Well done, Ms. Ramey!! I look forward to reading future submissions.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read it! It means the universe to me! :)
What a beautiful, tragic story and so preventable. Eva tried so hard to save Zeke from himself. Sometimes you just can't, and you captured this well. Both people deserved their final fate, heaven or hell. Well done! I look forward to reading more of your stories!
Thank you so much! This one was actually kind of difficult for me because writing an ending that's not so happy is something I've never done. I'm glad it came out well and I appreciate you taking the time to read it. Cheers! :)