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BohemianNeko [userpic]
Chasing the Sea - (Original Short Story)
by BohemianNeko (bohemianneko)
at May 16th, 2008 (01:53 pm)

current mood: flirty

Notes: This is just a random short story I did for my creative writing class.

Chasing the Sea

I held my breath and willed my heart to slow down as it battered my ribcage. The world felt dizzy and immaterial except for the warm but clammy hand which I held tightly in mine. I knew I was sweating too, but I couldn’t feel it. I couldn’t feel anything but his hand, which I only felt out of a kind of mental necessity. It was impossible to think, and the feeling of his pounding pulse from the tiny, dilated veins in his hands was the only thing that kept my own heartbeat from lifting me to my feet. The fear was begging me to run, but I had to ignore it. I had to wait for it. Everything depended on it.
It was hard to believe that I had ever led a normal life or that the boy whose hand I held had ever been away from me, but as the searchlights outside swung erratically back and forth, lengthening and shortening shadows on the wall, my life flickered with the lights’ movement. I had to concentrate to remember anything beyond right now, anything before tonight, but it was better to think of things far away than of what might be the last few moments I would ever draw breath into my lungs. I traced my own footsteps backward in my mind’s eye, trying to get a clear focus on what had led to being crouched tight against the wall, search lights thrashing through the air around me, a hand only slightly larger or stronger than my own the only thing that tethered me to this reality—my only gift and my only curse.
Twenty-four hours ago, Edmund and I had been miles and miles away from here. We had spent the night, like many other nights before, curled up in a nook of an alley, this time in the corner between a wall and the side of concrete steps. Houses and beds had long since become a rare luxury for people like us, hunted nearly to extinction if we did not comply with the testing. Sometimes, on nights like last night, I couldn’t even remember why I’d started to run in the first place. My feet kept moving without will or direction except the distant, now faint, impression of my father’s voice, telling me to head for the sea, or Edmund’s moody and determined urging toward a horizon he had never seen. As my body slumped and then nuzzled into the corner between the wall and the steps, my mind refused to quiet. Each time my head would lull my body would jerk itself awake with a start, so used to being interrupted in any attempt to rest that I’d forgotten how to even try. Edmund must have noticed, because he was the one who broke the silence.
“They take even our dreams from us, don’t they?”
My eyes fluttered back open and I resisted the urge to roll them as the lids drooped back down. It wasn’t entirely unlike Edmund to wax poetic occasionally, but at times it seemed so far out of place that it brought the kind of jaded, ironic smile to my face which mirrored the only kind Edmund ever seemed to have. I didn’t respond though. Instead, I simply looked up and down at Edmund, seeing how his green eyes weren’t even close to closed. He wouldn’t sleep, and somehow that made me relax a little. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always trusted him implicitly, even if at times it’s impossible to actually like him. Maybe both are for the same reason: They caught him once.
He’s never talked about it much, but I think that’s the reason he stays with me. The kinder part of him can’t bear the thought of letting another person go through the testing, can’t bear the thought of them also bearing the searing black mark along their neck. It was simply chance that had brought us together, and every day fate tried to rip us apart. I honestly think he would have left me long since had he not enjoyed rebelling against any force which would presume to control him so much. Maybe he’s just as afraid as I am of being alone.
“Sleep while you can,” he said, his voice still so young that it cracked, but not from fear. He wasn’t any older than me, and yet I was surprised every time I was reminded, because his eyes seemed so old.
I would have argued with him, but I was too tired to try. Instead I rolled my eyes at him again, it being too painful to take him as seriously as he was probably being. When my eyes closed again, my head leaning as comfortably as possibly against the corner of the wall against the stairs, I fell into an uneasy sleep almost immediately. The muscles in my legs stayed tense and taut, being at rest being a completely unnatural state for them. My dreams, just as Edmund had said, were plagued with nightmares of running, of being caught, of never finding anything but this. My dreams weren’t really so far off from my waking. So similar was the fear of both that I almost thought I was still dreaming when Edmund shook me awake.
He hissed a whisper at my ear as his body heat was the first thing I felt as he crouched next to me. I stirred, but at first my exhausted mind didn’t perceive that the shaking was real. I didn’t hear the wailing sirens, only the echoes of them in my dreams.
“Anna,” he tried again.
Finally he succeeded in waking me up, and I gasped as though a bucket of ice cold water had been dumped over me. I made a whimpering sound as I noticed how close the sirens, how close the voices were. I probably would have said something, but Edmund put his arm around the back of my neck, the closest thing he could arrive at to a comforting hug, and his fingertips grazed my lips briefly. His eyes briefly rested on mine, and we both became unnaturally still. As soon as he felt that I was awake but no longer anxiously squirming, his gaze shifted up, as though he could look up and over the steps behind which we crouched. I don’t know, but maybe he could. The red and blue lights flickered on the walls above us from behind, but in my absolute silence I could hear the tires and the motors growing more distant. The longer I was with Edmund, the more intuitive I became about things like that, but I still didn’t quite trust my own judgment.
Minutes crawl by like eternities when you’re sitting still, so used to running. Having to live a life on the run was bad enough, but the worst part of it was when the running stopped. The sound of my own footfalls, of Edmund’s, were the most constant things in my life, and their absence made me keenly aware of everything. It was pins and needles, only worse—I felt like my body was a scrape and that the air was made of salt. As I’ve mentioned, I trusted Edmund implicitly, so I closed my eyes and concentrated on the roll of the sea. We were heading toward the ocean. One day we would reach it. We had to. That’s the one thing about our dream: we didn’t have to worry about being disappointed, because if we ever failed in achieving it, it would be too late to matter.
Eventually, Edmund tapped his fingers against my cheek again, a tad unnecessarily, as he unwrapped his arm from around me. He ran his hand down between us against my arm until he took hold just above my elbow.
“Come on,” he said.
We stood, and without a word we began to run into the night, faint red and blue flickering behind us.
Running, running, until the soles of my feet regained their familiar numbness. I could tell you about how we’d gotten here, but the miles of road, covered with out footprints and exhaust from any sort of vehicle, all run together after years of madness.
When I was afraid, Edmund’s green eyes had a kind of paralytic quality. I longed for it at this moment, my reverie only drawing me back to the present moment, but I couldn’t look at him. I couldn’t move except for the involuntary quivering of my hand.
Edmund seemed to be momentarily distracted by my hand because he ran his fingertips gently over the back of it. Edmund and I never talked about what exactly we were—friends, allies, something else? But in a way, it didn’t matter. We knew one another; we needed one another, it didn’t matter why. Briefly I was distracted and comforted by the touch, but the distraction was short-lived and dangerous. When the doorframe down the hall broke, the sickening crack of wood shattering to splinters, I couldn’t manage to stifle a yelp. Edmund’s hand released mine and clamped over my mouth, but the sound had already torn out, shattering our silence.
Finally, his eyes met mine and both of looked away at the same time, at the same spot, a meter away from Edmund’s thigh on the floor. The cold, black barrel seemed like obsidian liquid in my eyes, like if it were to be touched it would cut us both and everything around us to ribbons. Just because the people who were chasing us had no qualms with violence, it didn’t make it any easier to realize that violence was likely the only option left. Again, the seconds stretched out into hours it seemed, and adrenaline was acidifying my insides, making my arms heavy and light all at the same time, my knees both buckled and begging me to run at the same time.
It all happened in an instant: The long metal handle on the door across the room slid down. The tumbler inside clicked and the door came ajar with a speed that seemed impossible, but with the same speed Edmund let go of me, pushed me hard against the wall and into the corner, and grabbed for the gun. He had laid it far enough away so that he would have to reach for it. He kept insisting that he would not become a mindless killer. Now, I wished more than anything that he’d already had it in his hand. My mind was preparing before the shot was ever fired. Edmund was of no use to them now; he had been caught and had escaped, he was not a fresh specimen for experimentation. They had already broken everything in him that they found it useful to break. He would die here alone, and I would be taken into the same captivity in which they had held him.
Like I said, we’d never really talked about, but in the mere moments that there were before the trigger was pulled far enough to release the bullet, I considered for the first time how angry it made me that they had hurt him. Not just that they had hurt so many thousands of people—that number was too big to imagine or feel anything for—but they had hurt Edmund. I knew then, also, that once the trigger was pulled that they couldn’t hurt me anymore.
My mind was racing in a way that I cannot explain. My thoughts whirled around in a maelstrom that threatened to make my vision go black. Then, suddenly, it stopped. I heard the cocking of a gun and found that the metal gleam was pointed at me, not at Edmund. The huge man, his face lit by the wavering spotlight like a specter, was holding the gun on me. It’s strange that even though my blood turned to ice, which pumped ever harder through my body, seemed to lacerate my body from my heart out, that the only thing I actually felt was relief. He couldn’t see Edmund, the light had moved away from him. I wanted to close my eyes, because I wasn’t as brave as I dreamed myself to be, but I couldn’t I was truly frozen in fear.
Then, with what I thought would be my last conscious thought, I heard the gun fire. Finally my eyes closed, but the pain never came. I thought that it had been so quick that I hadn’t felt it, and that now I was dead and yet somehow still aware, until I heard a familiar sound that I never thought I’d hear again one way or another.
“Anna?” Edmund croaked. When I opened my eyes he hadn’t moved from his crouched position except for dropping the gun to the floor. He was as pale as I’d ever seen him, and it was only after I followed his eyes that I noticed the huge, fallen man, a gory black puddle forming beneath him in the dark. I comprehended what had happened, but in spite of the fact that the man had been trying to capture and kill us, it was too horrible to think about. Edmund wasn’t moving. He just sat there on his knees. I think we would have both sat there forever had not the sounds outside rattled me from my stupor. I felt a strange surge of strength that I’d never felt before as I got to my feet before Edmund. He stayed still until I dragged him from the floor.
“Come on,” I begged. “We have to go.”
He stammered once, still staring at the fallen man who had slain his blood innocence. I wrapped my hand in his and squeezed it, and finally he looked at me. He nodded once, the color still drained from his face, and we began to run. We so much startled the other men who were searching that we narrowly escaped being captured and killed several times as we ran—but we did escape and we were used to it now.
When we emerged from the building, sticking to the shadows as best we could, and running with the evasive grace that only two people who had spent their lives running away and running together could muster, I could feel that something had changed. Even though I never would have admitted it, prior to that moment I had always somehow viewed Edmund as my superior, but this time I had been the one to pull him to his feet. We were even—equal—now. Somehow that made me respect him more, because now I had the slightest inkling of the weight he felt when he had to pull me along. And I realized, strangely enough, that while I had never understood him until the moment he had pulled the trigger, that suddenly he was human to me. Before, he had always been Edmund—strong, cold, and my companion. Now he was Edmund, my friend, something in him further broken, further fractured, but he was my friend, and I loved him. I couldn’t say anything as we ran, breathless into yet another cold night, but I hoped there would be time. I kept up my running through my thoughts, the familiar numbness creeping back into my feet, as we made our way toward dawn—making our what we both hoped would be our final bid for the sea, for the horizon, for hope.

What do you think?