These fragments I have shored against my ruins

The things that make me weak and strange get published online.

It’s been a while since I posted fiction. Since this scene will inevitably be cut (or changed significantly), you can have it:

Far away, a gunshot echoed.

Leigh ran. Her light bobbed and danced over rocks and roots and skittering shapes. Spiderwebs clung to her face. The backpack bounced against her shoulders. She leapt over a log-

-and pitched forward into empty shadows, coming down hard on her hands and rolling head over heels, hearing the sound of something snapping. Please don’t let those be my fingers. She landed hard against a log. The breath left her body as though scared away. She reached for the flashlight but it was too far away and she hurt everywhere and couldn’t breathe; her fingers scrabbled blindly across the wood and her mouth gaped open mutely in the dark. Something warm fluttered over her hand and she sucked breath back in on the force of surprise alone: “Please don’t be dead,” Jarod said.

She coughed. “I’m alive.”

Jarod pried her off the log. Distantly, she felt him taking the backpack off. “Oh Christ, you’re bleeding.” He held her hands at the wrist. “Jesus. What happened? Who did this?”

“The tree…” She coughed. “I slid down. You didn’t come home.”

The arms under hers abruptly snaked around her and plucked her up off the ground. Jarod was uncomfortably warm. His face settled over hers and it was damp; he smelled like he’d been running. He rocked from side to side. “Damn,” he murmured, “aren’t you scared of anything?

Lots of things. All the time. “Yeah. Everybody’s scared of something.” She twisted around. “Are you okay? You feel all hot.”

“I’m fine, now.”

“Why didn’t you come home?”

“I had a… Oh, fuck.” He twitched, went rigid. “Shit. Damn it.” The hands on her shoulders tightened. “It’s happening again.”

Realization dawned. “Your stomach?”

“No. Worse. These…shocks. Aftershocks. I heard rumours, but…” He jerked. “Christ do they hurt.” He spoke through his teeth. “Withdrawal. Lasts a month, at least. I didn’t tell you. Sorry.” He shivered. “Thought I could handle it, but…” He almost laughed. “We both know how stupid I am.”

“You’re not stupid,” Leigh said. “You’re really smart. You think of everything.”

“L…Lucky guesses.”

“You found me in that big crowd!”

“Because I f…fucking stalked you there, Leigh, I followed you, because I’m that fucked up…”

A thin veil of chill settled over Leigh’s skin. Suddenly she felt the forest spreading away from them into impenetrable darkness, heard the minute sounds of life surrounding them. “Now you get it,” he said, and he sounded different: older, exhausted, smug. “Now you know. Everything my sister told you about me was right. I’m crazy. And you’re stupid for staying with me.”

Leigh’s palm connected sharply with his face. She brought her hand up again but he wrestled it back; her other one came up but he got that one, too. Now they were playing Mercy in the dark, and she had no wall to slam his head against like in the girls’ bathroom at school. “You should know I don’t like being hit,” he said. “Brings up all kinds of memories.”

She tried, and failed, to tie his arms in knots. “Now you’re just trying to scare me.”

He bent her hands back. “Damn fucking straight.”

“Won’t work.”

“Should I try harder?” The cuts on her palms opened fresh. They stung. She hissed. “You know I’m a lot bigger and stronger, Leigh. I could really, really hurt you.”

“You won’t.”

“How come? ‘Cause I’m such a nice guy?” He laughed. Breath puffed in her face. “I’m a fucking murderer-”

She dug her toes in the dirt and pushed forward; her teeth found the salty skin between neck and shoulder and sank down as hard as her jaws would let them. Jarod yelped. His hands disappeared. Leigh didn’t let go. A moment later there was a warm palm against her scalp, stroking. “That’s good, Leigh. That’s all I needed.” He sighed. “I was starting to miss the girl who fought back.”

Leigh sat up. She stared at him for a moment. Then she withdrew her fist and rammed it straight into his stomach. He coughed a little. “Oh yeah. That’s the stuff.” He licked his lips. “I knew somewhere in there you had to be angry and scared. You can’t be all sweetness and light all the time.”

“Sweetness and light? She stood up. “We’re going home.”

“Okay.”

“You’re carrying me. The whole way.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“And you won’t be late again. No matter how bad your withdrawals are. If you have to crawl, Jarod, then-”

“Then I’ll crawl. I get it. Let’s go.”

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1 thought on “The things that make me weak and strange get published online.

  1. Hey, very interesting post.

    My written English is not so good so I write in German:

    “Lieber den Spatz in der Hand, als die Taube auf dem Dach.”

    Yours sincerely
    Terrier

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