Sunday, 15 March 2015

Orange Sky: Part Eighteen

[Parts 1-17 are here.

I'm sorry.

Xo]


“NO!” James screams, letting go of the branch and grabbing Michael’s arm. He hooks his legs around the branch as best as he can. His other hand is slick with sweat. Michael’s wrist slips a little further. James feels the ground start to crumble underneath him.

“YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE I FUCKING HATE YOU SO MUCH YOU GOD DAMN BASTARD!!” he shouts, barely keeping it together. “HOW COULD YOU?? HOW FUCKING COULD YOU??”

Michael looks up at him. “LET ME GO! JAMES! LET ME GO!”

“FUCK YOU! NOW CLIMB UP HERE SO I CAN KILL YOU MYSELF!”

“James –”

“NOW, MICHAEL, BEFORE THIS ENTIRE THING COLLAPSES!”

Michael doesn’t argue. He swings himself back and forth, gaining momentum to give him the leverage he needs. James feels his shoulder begin to slip out of place. He tightens his grip.

“ON THE COUNT OF THREE! ONE! TWO! THREE!”

He flings himself backwards and Michael flings himself forwards, and together, they are enough to bring Michael back onto the snow just as the edges begin to crumble.

“RUN!” James screams, grabbing Michael’s hand. “RUN!”

Michael leans heavily on James as they half-sprint half-hobble away as the ground falls away from beneath them. They just make it to solid ground as the last piece tumbles over the edge. They both collapse into the snow. James’ entire left side throbs. A quick glance tells him his shoulder is dislocated again.

“James,” Michael says, panting. “I—”

James sits up, steeling himself to pop his shoulder back into place for the second time.

“How could you do that to me??” he demands, gritting his teeth and yanking his shoulder back into its socket. He barely even feels it this time. The pain in his heart is far greater. “How could you, Michael?? How could you??”

“James, I—”

“I don’t want to hear it!” James spits, standing up. “I don’t want to, I can’t, just…”

His words get cut off by a sudden wave of vomit. It splashes onto the snow, freezing instantly.

Michael stands up beside him as James spits into the snow and wipes his face. James walks a little further and scoops up a handful of clean snow, using it to wash out his mouth.

“I thought I’d lost you,” he says without looking at Michael. His voice shakes. “I thought I’d lost you and then I found you and then you…” He forces himself turn to him. “How could you, Michael? How could you do that to me?”

“I was trying to save you! I couldn’t drag you down with me, J! Why can’t you see that?? I’ve spent my whole fucking life dragging you down, and then this…This was my only shot to make it right. To lift you up instead of weighing you down.”

James is trembling, but he’s not sure if it’s from fear or rage or relief.

“What do you think would have happened if you fell??” he spits. “What the fuck do you think that would have done to me?? Did you even think about that??”

Michael takes a step towards him. “James, I—”

“No,” James says, turning away and starting to walk. “I don’t want to hear it. Just…I can’t fucking hear anything from you right now.”

Michael watches him for a moment before striding over to him and pulling him into his arms.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry! I thought…Alexander needs you, James. He can’t lose you.”

“Well I can’t lose YOU!” James yells, clinging to him. “I need YOU! You can’t just make a decision like that! You can’t leave me! You can’t leave us! We have to stay together, Michael! We need each other!”

“I know,” Michael says, crying now. “I know and I’m sorry. I’m sorry, brother. I’m sorry.”

James pulls away from him “You can’t ever do that again,” he demands, ignoring the tears streaming down his face. “You don’t get to give up. You don’t get to decide to give up!”

“I promise,” Michael says earnestly. “I promise, James. I promise.”

James wipes his eyes and stares at him. He isn’t sure if he wants to hug him or punch him. “Come on,” he says after a minute, still feeling dangerously close to a total breakdown. “Let’s go get Alexander.”

“Where is he?” Michael asks, looking around.

“Over by that tree.” James points into the distance. “Come on.”

They start to walk towards the tree. When Alexander sees them walking towards him, his face lights up.

“JAMES!” he yells, starting to run. “UNCLE MICHAEL! JAMES!”

A tremor runs through the ground.

James looks down at his feet. The wind blows past, taking away the top layer of snow. It skitters across the surface of the ice.

The ice.

James looks up. Alexander is still running towards them.

Across the ice.

“ALEXANDER!” James screams, starting to run towards him. “ALEXANDER, STOP! ALEXANDER! ALEXANDER!”

Alexander doesn’t stop. His feet pound against the ice, sending another ripple through the surface.

The ice cracks.

“ALEXANDER!! STOP! ALEXANDER!!”

Alexander skids to a halt.

The crack beneath his feet widens.

“James?”

His voice is small. It gets carried away by a passing breeze.

“Don’t move,” James says, slowing down as he gets closer. He looks down at the ice. He can see the dark water swirling beneath it. He looks up. Focuses.

“I’m coming to get you, buddy,” he says, holding Alexander’s gaze. “Stay right there. I’ve got you.”

He’s almost there. He stretches out his hand, afraid that if he gets much closer his weight will break the ice.

“Take my hand, buddy,” James says evenly. “Hold my hand.”

Alexander reaches out towards him. Their fingers touch.

Their fingers touch.

The ice beneath Alexander’s feet splinters and dissolves into the dark water, taking him with it.

******