From Atop My Cloud

Submitted into Contest #8 in response to: Write a story about an adventure on the water.... view prompt


Adventure Romance

I don't care if I ever get off this rock.

Because right before I shut my eyes I can hear her heartbeat.

Its soft thump sings me to sleep.

I'd not exactly given up hope when I came out here. I wanted to search for a living thing.

Not a person. An experience that had the qualities of a person.

But it was always the lack of pure hope that dragged me down. It broke a hole in the bottom of our boat, which honestly wasn't all that sea worthy to begin with.

It was this little bit of suicide which had been inside me since I was a teenager... Something I'd unwisely kept close instead of letting go when I'd found love and security.

It was also the doubt that good things keep. I'd rather go searching for another good thing, then be standing there when it's all gone.

Alone. What a piercing word.

I'd cut corners. I'd stolen that money from my boss. I'd lied to Cherie about almost everything.

It was no surprise my happiness crumbled. It was built on a shameless foundation.

This rock somewhere in the ocean... It's the only solid thing I've had beneath me. It goes down and connects to the ocean floor. That's why I can still hear Cherie. She's down there. I stole her breath and every moment on this rock, I'm breathing her breath.

I made up her heartbeat. I lie to myself too. Do the things you're good at. It helps you feel better about yourself.

You know, I had a grandfather. So many do, but I guess I'm still lucky since there are some who don't. My grandfather wasn't unique, he just told me stories and gardened. But I learned a life changing thing listening to him. Part of it was how to tell stories, an ability I used against people, fashioning my ideas into tall tales, fat fibs, fish stories.

The other part was where stories like the ones he told me came from.

There were pirates in his stories; an essential. They came in and out of the heroes' lives, weaving a transcendent thrill. It was an unnatural, floaty thing. It never happened in real life, my grandfather said.

He didn't give me a name for this feeling, but after much reading I thought I knew what to call it.

He said, If you seek it in real life, it's like falling through a cloud. You arrive on solid ground...disappointed...You leave others disappointed too. It's not the proper way to go about life. It's not responsible.

You can't fall through clouds, I told him. They're solid too.

I was quickly building castles on them. I always did. I stopped playing by the rules that were made by real people in a real world. If I was in a made up world, I could use made up rules. I had no friends. They thought I was confusing. I'm not real, I told them. They gave up talking to me. I didn't fill the space with imaginary friends, because I was too busy conversing with Imagination itself.

In my false world, I saw a girl walking to school with bruises on her legs. I wondered where she'd gotten them, and I began to make up scandalous reasons for her to have them. She didn't talk to me; it was not because she thought I was confusing. I noticed in her fragile doll eyes that she was someone for whom talking to anyone was an endeavor actually too physically painful to attempt. She never smiled, her pale, full lips curled into a line of disinclination.

She looked like someone who needed that feeling too, the one my grandfather's stories had introduced to me. It took you away from that dismally set course, that frustrating reality, replacing it with as many possibilities as the day is long and a destination as far away as the mind can wander. I knew how to make it easy for her to find it.

Boldly, I took her hand and walked her to school. Boldly, I lied to her, assuring her of my presence through the misinformation that I had been searching for her and a magical crystal had sent me. 

She didn't believe me, but she wanted to, so she went along with it.

This is what I thought she'd do, what I was like. But Cherie really believed it. You could say she'd been waiting for me to come along.

When I stole her away, when I made her live like a dog, when we dreamt we were using a flying carpet instead of our tired feet, I meant well.

One day, hungry in the woods, I realized I had real feelings for her. It startled me. Before, I had consciously spun together affectionate nonsense to serve her. That day it came in natural rivers from my heart. It all came out so quick and funny, and it had to come out. I was so embarrassed about it and it was such a queer time, I would never tell anyone what I said to her.

I wanted to forget it. It was so terrible and huge. Then she said things back to me. My heart mindlessly and repeatedly hit itself into my rib cage, injuring itself. Years after, I wanted to expunge that moment I did something that meant something.

I thought to myself over and over as we trekked, and her hand began to misshape mine into one that held another's, that two incomplete hearts can make one whole, and I wasn't a real person, and I couldn't complete Cherie's heart. We could not fill each other's silence, we could not make sure the other was never alone, and my mother and father had killed themselves so I had to kill myself too.

This was the pain and these were the thoughts that brought me to that boat. I stared at it, and the roving, unfettered waves. I was its opposite, my feet chained to real life, while my heart swung out of my chest to touch the invisible.

I told her this was the part where I had to go off to sea to seek treasure. I told her I would come back and make her a princess. In my heart, I was relieved to leave her behind.

Augustus, you're my hero, the doll eyes said.

No, I'm a pirate, I told myself proudly.

They are the ones who create that feeling out of nothing. If they weren't there, you'd just go into the world and nothing would happen that made you feel excited and made you do incredible, fearless things, and there could be no happy ending if you didn't win it from their dirty hands. I wanted to be someone who instigated that sense of conflict deemed precious, that necessary, brightening risk.

But Cherie wasn't finished with me as I was finished with her. She looked down at the boat and then at my chest as if they were both see-through. Her hand shook, and she placed it in my mine, where it still shook.

But I think, her eyes continued, I'll stay with my hero and not leave him behind.

I'll never be able to forget the things I want to forget; the blood, the violence, the loneliness, my awful sins.

Of course I'll never be able to forget her face that no longer trusted me.

As it went through the hole in the boat and sunk like a stone. My disappointment was over in a moment.

I can't stare at the hole anymore because there's nothing left of the boat. But I don't need that hole. I have my own.

Staring down into it, I see her face and I imagine her smiling as she never did, because of a line from one of my grandfather's stories, —to die will be an awfully

That boy had been searching and creating just as I had. He'd pretended, lied, and stole a girl's heart. He fought pirates but he was one.

He sought a treasure that he would never find.

For the first time I can bear to look at the truth. It's because I've given up.

Now I can say it to myself because it's not worth anything anymore.

She relied on me. And I was just a cloud.

There was no one to catch her.

Am I ridiculous to think, that after all this,

to live—

in the real world—

might have been fun?

I can ask myself this question only because nothing matters anymore.

My treasure is at the bottom of the ocean. It is no man's treasure now.

September 27, 2019 03:37

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