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Four Way Crossing
I take a tentative step forward. Where am I? I have no idea what this place is, where, or why I'm here. How I got here's damn blurry, too. All that seems to matter are the poorly constructed wooden fences, lime-coloured cow pastures, wheat fields, and the dirt road in front of me. Maybe I'm in the country. Seems like it.
I find a rut in the road made by a tire – I imagine the tire of a pickup truck – and stand inside it for a minute, contemplating. North, East, South, West. All the same thing, basically, but as different as the poles. To the north unfolds a vast expanse of rolling fields and small hills. I can see rickety fences, and some barns, too, speckling the scene. The east shows the dirt road, continuing on into a sun only an hour or two from setting. I turn to the south to see a forest. Not just a grouping of foliage, though, much more. It's tempting, promising adventure and thrill. The west... to take that direction, faithful to many an adventurer in days of old, proves nothing but foolish. The world falls away, the edge of the cliff crumbling. A sea painted turquoise rushes below, ninety, a hundred feet down. A salty breeze wafts forth from it. Not an option, I suppose.
North, east, south. Follow the road, the rules, the sure path. Follow the lure of the forest, the temptress we call danger. Carve my own path through the world to the north. I try to think of which path will be best; I don't know which path will lead me onward. I don't know where I'm going, true, but I have a bad feeling about this crossroads. One right choice. Three very wrong ones.
All my life I've been straying from the given path. Forging my own way. I have, however, tasted each road. Today, I'm faced with a decision. Which way?
Weird, I don't know what day it is. Or the year.
The path of danger is just that, dangerous. It has its own reward, yes, that's the lure. It promises a fuller life, even if it is shortened. Once, I gave in to the craving for thrill. I know this path and the evils that walk it. I nickname it Silver.
James Silver ran a coffee shop in town. I made a habit of visiting him, because he was one of the friendliest men you'll ever meet. Every Tuesday I'd help out at the store, cracking jokes with his son, who was in my year.
Everyone called Drew Silver by his last name, because Drew did not describe the kid well enough. He was as friendly as his father, but not like him in intellect. James was a logical man, a master at chess. Silver didn't care about those things. He was an artist, and a poet. The name Drew hardly seemed poetic enough to describe him.
Silver was my best friend, and we had perfect balance. We'd talk about everything under the sun, going for walks. But one day, our walk became an adventure. He was giving me a little lesson about art, chiaroscuro is when one places values of stark contrast next to each other, he said, while I listened intently. We were trudging through the rock farm to a swampy pond. I guess we were going to explore it. I was too focused on Silver and his eloquence to pay much attention to the task at hand. After all, I couldn't speak like that. I was just another semi-literate bayou boy who was more lazy than stupid, slurring words and speaking in short forms.
“That's my favourite way of adding some interest, I'm not so much a fan of using complementary colours. I feel like they're tacky, but that's just my opinion,” he continued, cheery face illuminated by a midday sun.
“Wait, Silver, why're we goin' to that pond?” I asked abruptly, lip protruding slightly.
He shrugged, creasing his forehead with a raise of light brows. “Adventuring.”
“But ain't it dang'rous?”
“Of course! But, in the words of Andre Gide, 'Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.'”
“How's that revelant?” I questioned.
He rolled his eyes, “You mean relevant. And it means you have to leave safety behind when you're going for the prize.”
I chewed my cheek, thinking over what he said.
“Jeeze, my head hurts. I think I'm getting a headache, I'm all dizzy.”
“You wan' go home?”
“No, adventure waits for no man.”
We split up, Silver watching my back while I explored the area around the pond. I loved how the mud felt around my feet, the squishing sounds it made, the tranquil scent of earth. It was one of those spring mornings that smell like potential. Inhale one breath of that earthy, fresh rain smell mixed with the blossoming flowers, and you had to do something. Back home my momma was probably cleaning, while my dad was off getting a haircut or trying to fix up the wasp problem we had in the backyard. Here, Silver and I were exploring.
I carefully slipped in among the trees, avoiding the banks. The banks were where the ground was so mushy you could fall right into the pond, knee-deep in mud. It was also where there where undoubtedly snakes living.
It was all good, fun even. I didn't see anything dangerous, but the thought that I might had me thrilled. I was a little boy. Of course I was having a blast.
I could hear Silver shouting from across the pond. It didn't make any sense, though, what he was saying. “Ayer! Ayer!”
When I heard the snapping, I finally pieced it together, and ran like hell. When you live in a swampy area, you learn to be wary of anything that sounds like gator. I was a little too young to react as fast as I should have.
I sprinted for the nearest good tree, and jumped. I felt myself arc, catching hold at the highest point. Unfortunately, I was small and weak. I tried to pull myself up, I really did. My legs flew out, I squirmed something fierce, and even lost a shoe in my struggle.
I screamed, echoing one of Silver's faint shouts from the other bank. Pain worse than any I'd ever felt before rang in my leg like a gunshot. I couldn't even feel half of the thing after a minute.
I remember how I got out of the hospital, only to find out Silver had a stroke while I was being taken care of. What killed me wasn't the loss of my leg, but the loss of my friend, and knowing I ignored his symptoms. His headache, dizziness... “Ayer!”
The doctors were focused on me. They saw he was sick but didn't think anything of it. My leg was urgent, and what they passed off as a virus was shrugged off. He could have gotten help if I wasn't so stupid, running off for adventure even though he was obviously not feeling right.
It took years for me to stop blaming myself. Even now, wherever I am, the memory makes me feel guilty. So I avoid the forest way, too. Losing the best friend I ever had made me hate the forest way.
Looking down, I realize that, until now, I didn't have my prosthetic leg. This world had given me a real leg. Thinking it through, I'd rather have my prosthetic limb. It keeps me from risking my life like that again. It's a constant reminder about the cost of that road. That's why it has the tiny S inked onto the ankle. Silver.
A breeze blows by, and the feeling of the salty air around me is a blanket, warm, safe. Maybe I could just stay here a while. Or just go to the nearest farmhouse and ask to stay the night. Hmm... So sleepy...
No! I know that path, and I sure as hell won't take it. This is another painful memory, another loved one lost, because of a mistake. A poor decision. I nickname it Sadie.
Sadie was gorgeous. One of those girls no one really thinks of when she's not around, but you had no idea why. Funny, charismatic, sweet, but she had some sort of flat quality. Her jokes were hilarious, witty, but there was nothing remarkable. She was clever, but not intelligently so. She was perfect, without any real qualities to love.
If you think about it, all the things you love about a person, are their flaws. What sets them apart. Yeah, it's nice and fine when someone's funny and innocent, all those nice adjectives. But what keeps you coming back, what draws you in, are those negative words. Stubborn, fiery, loud, awkward. Perfection's perfectly boring.
Sadie, Sadie, Sadie, the lovely young lady. I was young, only fifteen or so. When she looked at me with those blue eyes, I was smitten. Before I knew it, she was under my arm, and we were sitting on a log by a huge bonfire. Laughing, in one of those golden moments. Golden, like her hair in the firelight. Golden, like the glow in my heart.
“Wow, it's days like this I really feel like everything's going to be alright. Y'know what I mean?” I asked. Ever since that spring day I lost Silver, I'd been less lazy with my words.
“Yeah, I do. It's just one of those times when you wanna think about the future, daydream a little,” she twanged back.
I chuckled, tucking a stray piece of her hair behind her ear. “Where do you see yourself in ten years?”
She smiled. “You answer first.”
“Travelling. Probably on my own, cause that way, next time I get in trouble, no one but myself gets hurt. How bout you?”
Her pretty smile turned to a scowl. “Of course, you're gonna run off when you're done with school.”
“I'm not running off,” I responded defensively.
“You're running from your problems. Newsflash, you have one leg. Where the hell do you think you're going?” She told me furiously.
I kept my cool. I managed to deny even anger, thinking of how she's finally developing character. In an instant she caught fire, and I'd never been so proud of her.
“I just told you. I'm going to go travelling.”
“What about us?” she shouted, cute southern belle turned p***ed-off hick. Her words were perfumed with the beer on her breath.
I shook my head, getting up. “What about us?” I echoed.
“I thought we would last. But you forget about me the second something more interesting comes along? B*******.”
“I'm sorry. I'm sorry I don't think, I'm sorry I didn't expect perfection, I'm sorry I'm not perfection.”
At that, I walked away, leaving the crackling of the fire behind me.
I did go travelling. I spent a summer exploring Italy. Another Ireland, and a third New Zealand. I followed my intuition, and was wary of the calm before the storm. True, I came home considerably scratched, bruised, and worn out, but I'd never been so alive in my life. I was happy.
Sadie got married to a young man much like her, and moved to Oklahoma. I saw her in town one time, when she was visiting her parents. There was no life in her. Pale, slender, plucked and dyed, she was frowning and getting wrinkles far too soon. We made eye contact, for a moment. I saw she was hollow inside, a mere shell. She must have seen the effects of my flawed life, because I swore I saw a tear roll down her cheek.
I'm glad I didn't take the road she did. Sadie's road. When we were together, she talked so often about getting married someday. I could have ended up just as hollow as she was. But I forged my own way. I found happiness.
The sun is setting by now. Without further ado, I head off, vaulting over the fence easily. The fields are lovely bathed in pink. I turn around after a few minutes of walking, and am memorized by what I find. A farmhouse in the distance, is more than just illuminated by that sinking golden orb. It's much more similar. The house is blazing, thick smoke quite visible over the bright flames. I can smell it. Over in the forest, beasts growl. Not just a few creatures, but a chorus of them. Dozens.
I feel a shiver run down my spine. Wherever I am, this place is serious. One wrong decision is fatal here. Part of me didn't really believe anything bad could happen in this world. That part's been shredded, baked, and served for lunch with a spicy noodle dish on the side.
Being so close to the sea has made me tired. The shock of finding out how close I came to dying has flipped the switch from tired to exhausted. So I stretch out in the grass, and sleep.
Dawn is a lazy cat, stretching across my eyelids, its purr making my heart rev like an engine. Go go go! I wake quickly, eager to get moving. For the first time since I've been here, I'm excited about the possibilities, the journey ahead of me, all the places I could find.
Leaping to my feet, I begin to run. Hours fly by, but still my feet fly over the grass. I approach a wide river in excellent time, but when I reach the bank of the royal blue band, I can do nothing but stand there dumbfounded. This is another obstacle in my way.
I squint into the bright light of the morning sun, making a futile attempt to shield my eyes with a hand. I spy with my little eye, a bridge. I can't withhold my excitement at the prospect – a bridge!
Two steps bring me closer to it, but three bring me farther. Hold on. Things aren't that easy, nothing's ever that easy. Another fun search game sends my focus to a tiny boat a ways out in the river, then a crudely painted sign.
“Ferry. One hour wait.”
My head begins to shake, my feet to move towards the bridge. What a long bridge it is. Hm.
After Silver's death, his father and I became closer than ever. I could call him family, and he treated me like a son. James was miserable, everyone in town and probably some of the critters knew that. I guess I didn't know the extent of his despair. How could I understand? I had no idea what it felt like to lose the last true family member I had. He knew it well. His daughter was kidnapped eight years before Silver died. They found her body after she'd been missing five years. James's wife was beyond devastated. She hadn't ever cared much for Silver, and what love she had for James couldn't overcome her terror at seeing her daughter pulled from a lake, chunks of flesh missing, body bloated, and feet encased in cement. Desdemona Silver moved back with her mother in Nottingham. James sent letters. They were mailed back with no reply.
One day, I was walking to go see him. A surprise visit. I remember the bridge clearly. A little footbridge, with not much of a drop below it. Eight feet tops.
He could have been sleeping. Yes, sleeping. I tried to find some way, any way to make the truth less painful. The man who'd become my best friend, the man who lost a son the day I lost my friend, was hanging from the railing of the bridge by a rope. A noose gripped his throat.
James Silver was nothing if not resourceful. That footbridge wasn't high enough for him to jump off. No buildings were, either. But he found a way, yes, he found a way.
I remember the sickening creak of the rope in the wind. The sheets of rain pounding downward. His face, coated with water he couldn't wipe off, would never wipe off. I couldn't help it. I started bawling.
One month later, Desdemona Silver came back to town. When I had to tell her James committed suicide, I knew she loved him. Her heartbreak was a knife in my chest. I couldn't breathe quite right for weeks after.
If only James had waited. She never stopped loving him. He still had hope. He had something to live for. He just didn't know it yet.
Looking at the bridge, I think of the elder Silver. Patience. If James had been patient, he would still be the man I looked up to. I had so much respect for him! He was so admirable, so strong, and he kept going even when life became terrible. I guess I was wrong about him.
I lie down in the grass, watching the clouds. That cloud looks like a chicken eating a fish. Now it's a giraffe with its tongue sticking out. Hey, that looks like a dandelion seed.
My eyelids shut, soaking in the complete peace of this little river and its banks. Feeling the candy-like sky beneath my toes.
I let my imagination – a fierce thing, stronger than even my unusually powerful legs – run wild. I draw up a field of wild flowers, the kind my momma calls weeds. I don't call them weeds, it's a word for something awful, and they're so pretty. I love dandelions.
“April showers bring May flowers,” I sing, unable to think of anything better to fit my poetic mood.
It takes one sense for me to realize my dream has come true. The floral scent filling my nose is summer embodied. It's morning walks alone, comparing life to what I see around me. It's the late walks Silver and I took, philosophy on our minds. A second sense confirms there's an abundance of delicate flowers wrapped around my figure.
“Are ye waitin' for the ferry?” a gruff voice asks in an accent I can only classify as European.
I rise slowly, nodding to the man. He's absolutely tiny, but he fits in with this world perfectly. This world. Somehow, I'm already accepting this is no earthly realm. Somehow, I'm starting to believe I'll see Silver at the end of this journey.
I follow him to the boat, feeling like a dancer. Dancer...
I was in the local library, reading. Actually, I was doing some reading on space. I heard Aldebaran somewhere, just that one word, and it made me want to research.
I felt my eyes dart up from the page, my vision imprinted with the memory of the stark white page against the grainy wood of the table. Sitting in an arm chair was a girl I could barely describe, even while looking at her, with a huge volume in her spidery hands.
Her eyes were like a wolf's, with the same burning brilliance in them. Like a predator on the hunt. All I could focus on was those eyes. I had no idea what her hair colour was, what she was reading, I didn't know anything but those wolfish eyes.
Without noticing my stare, she rose with the grace of a swan, moving like music toward the door, and leaving like the last breath of a crisp autumn. When she left, the world was ice. It took all day to thaw, and those eyes continued to haunt my dreams until -
Until I got here. However I got here, wherever this is. This girl, though, she's recent. A recent memory.
Another first for this world. The first time I have a destination. Home. I'm getting home as soon as I can.
But what if I can't? What if this is some sort of afterlife, and I've missed out on my chance to crack the mystery of Wolf Girl? I had a feeling about her. You don't just ignore your intuition.
“Penny for yer thoughts?” the little man questions brightly.
I realize my gaze has been fixed out over the shimmering waters, and turn it to him. “I've got dozens. Can I ask you where we are?”
“The river Acheron,” he says with a wink, “ready t' head t' Elysium?”
I chuckle. I understand his joke, and hope it is such. If not, this adventure is more than I bargained for.
“More like Tartarus.” I remark.
“Don't like it here?”
I shake my head. “It's not that, it's beautiful. The problem is me. I'm not noble, or even good. Well, maybe that's not the only problem,” I admit, because hey, maybe being able to talk to someone is really therapeutic for me right now, “This place is perfect, but I don't know if I want perfection. I can't appreciate the full beauty of this place, because -”
“Another's beauty got ye distracted?”
I nod, feeling a smile spread on my face. Slowly, though. One must take the time to experience life. The sun illuminating a leathery but joyous face, and my own smooth one, whispers this to me. I'm learning so much here. Like patience. Like those cardinal points, 75% doom.
My reflection in the oh-so-blue depths makes me think. I look the same as always, just a little more... wild. I'm not clean-shaven as I'm used to being, which should irritate me, because I'm usually so religious about keeping up my appearance, but it doesn't.
The ferryman laughs in his mellifluous manner. He's one of those people you can't help but adore from the start.
“Hey, let me row for a bit, you relax,” I tell him with a smile.
He is getting pretty old, evidently, and he did just come back from another trip. He obliges gratefully. To make rowing easier, he tells me a story.
The ferryman had no name. He was simply the ferryman. Until one day, one halcyon day sweet as could be, he saw a passenger approaching him.
“Afternoon, ma'am,” he greeted her, tilting his hat, “would you like a ride across?”
She laughed. He thought it was the loveliest thing he'd ever heard, positively beautiful. “No, thank you. I came to see if you'd like to go swimming.”
He cocked his head to the side. “Swimming? But neither of us are dressed for such a thing.”
He was clad in work clothes – trousers, a freshly pressed dress shirt, and his cap. She in a dress as blue as the sky, with eyes as soft as the mud on the river's bank.
“What's life without risk, Mr. -”
“But what's your name?”
She rolled her eyes, smiling. “May I call you Don?”
“Why Don?” he asked gently.
“After Adonis,” she replied, cheeks red.
She began to walk away, but he stopped her. “Ma'am,” he began.
She corrected him. “Denise,” she said.
“Miss Denise, would you like to spend the day with me?”
They spent the day together. They then spent every day together. He stayed by her side, even though she was far more brave and daring than he. They parted when she pushed danger just a little too far, meeting with his brother, death.
“Oh, I'm so sorry!” I exclaim when he finishes his story, wiping a tear from his cheek.
“Thank ye. She's never really been gone, though, ye see. She's with me e’ery time I take a risk. There be somethin' o' 'er in the wind itself. She might've died, but I'd still give all the stars in the sky for 'er.”
“That's beautiful, sir.”
“Aye, as was she.”
I continue rowing without a word. His story has definitely caught me off guard, it's hard to wrap my head around how much love he has for her, even though she's gone. It's hard to understand that commitment, that devotion. He would die for her.
We reach the other shore, glowing like the bluest gem, and I give him a parting hug, wishing him best of luck. He returns the pleasantry with equal sincerity.
In front of me is a long stretch of road. I pause to consider what awaits me before heading off, still carrying nothing but myself and the clothes on my back.
My path climbs steadily upward, the trees slowly growing to incorporate lovely birches. I feel loose gravel squish under my feet, one flesh, one plastic, fresh air filling my lungs. The only thing that's quite unfortunate is my heart – I've always had a problem with my heart and lungs, which makes it hard to breathe sometimes, and makes my heart race. It's becoming worse as surely as this hill is becoming steeper.
My hand runs through my hair of its own free will. I always touch my hair when I'm worried. It's just my habit. I can't help but be worried, either – I'm realizing I must have made the wrong decision somewhere. I'm quite familiar with death, it seems like everyone in my life drops like flies, and I know the feeling you get when it's coming. I think I'm going to die before I can get too far along these paths.
I find my current path is really more of a gravel road, overlooking a beautiful lake. Both go on for miles, stretching into the north. The sheer height of the road is frightening enough, but seeing the crystalline water beneath, so far beneath, is making me feel downright vertiginous.
I find the path has a little ridge running along it, close to the grass. I perch on the ridge, following its way like I'm walking a tightrope.
Not once do I lose my balance, even when bird calls surprise me. I keep focused on what's coming, and staying on my ridge. In the distance, I can see a mountain shooting upward, bound to dominate the scene in mere hours. It comes forth at a steady pace.
I try to step off the ridge to get a better look at the mountain, but find I can't. A rubbery numbness in my legs takes hold when I make an attempt to quit my path. I can't help releasing a tiny cry, sounding almost strangled in my astonishment.
“What do you want from me?” I shout, sending birds flying. My words echo, soaring down the cliff, circling the valley beneath, even ascending the road before me.
What lesson am I learning now? Aggression grips me, and I just want this mind game to stop. Can't I just enjoy my time here however I want – no traps or tricks? It's like something out of a picture, some picture I'd never believe I could actually experience. It's damn amazing. But these little lessons and their smug grins are ink blots and coffee spills on the picture. Not so enjoyable.
Deep breaths. Take deep breaths, kiddo.
I feel a thin yellow thread twirling through my mind, tugging at my heart. I've always imagined memory would be made of yellow thread. Cause that's the feeling it gives, the yellow pulling me by my chest.
I met the gaze of the gawky youth sitting down the isle from me. My little lab rat. I was fascinated with the workings of the human mind and little Murphy was more than willing to be my subject. He needed my help, and I needed his.
My experiment didn't really have a hypothesis. I was winging it. Murphy came to me for advice one day, upset, and I did my best to help him. He continued to come to me, even speaking to me of things some refuse to be aware of. When Murphy was most broken and hopeless, he'd call me.
But Murphy taught me so much. Trying to understand the mind enough to help him was a challenge I enjoyed.
The latest test in my experiment that wasn't much of an experiment was really paying off for my subject. He was suffering from depression. I'd felt the webs of depression before, too, especially after the Silvers died. So I tried on him what worked to bring me out of it – the mind.
I believed the mind was a powerful thing, surely you could think your way out of anything if you had enough strength. Murphy was pulling himself out of that black hole effectively, and I'd never been so proud.
The mind is a powerful thing. With this knowledge, I can see how I've forced myself onto this way. I won't be able to move until I can change my mind.
It takes a while, and the sun has moved considerably before I'm on my way again, careful not to let thought destroy this place for me. The mountain grows more breathtaking and more solid the closer I get. Also gaining solidity is this weight on my feet – I can't get that girl out of my head.
I pick up my pace to a light jog, still enjoying my way, but making more of an effort than ever to get where I'm going. Home. Funny, I can remember the town how I left it, if I've left it at all, but I can't remember anything of my house but ivy and the colour of the parlour. My mom calls it buckwheat. My dad calls it dull.
Home is slipping from me. Well, it has slipped. I'm experiencing a lot here, but is it really worth it if it means losing everything except this odd world? The gentle breeze, spiced with cold air, makes a good argument in favour of keeping this and all it encompasses, no matter the cost.
The slow dance of the sun down the sky reminds me of her, though. When it embraces the silhouette of the mountain I feel the shackles of this dreamland loosening. The end of another day. As strange as it is here, there's still day, and there's still night. That sunset may be unfamiliar, but the sun is most definitely the same I've shielded my eyes from, walking out of the small movie theatre. Tried to bury under my skin on summer days. There's still oxygen and carbon dioxide and all the components of the periodic table. My home still exists, and I'm coming for it.
“If you want something enough, you can have it. It's as simple as that.”
I kicked at the leaves in the gutter. “How? If I wanted the moon, I couldn't reach up and grab it, could I?”
“If you reach high enough you can. Fight. Fighting for what gives you happiness is never a mistake,” Silver told me.
Silver's ancient advice comes back to me now, sending chills rippling down my spine. Everything is growing so... solemn. The crescent in the sky that I can only describe with my old friend's name. The light air. The wise, solid ground. The scent of dirt and the feeling of lake air.
“I can't,” I whisper.
I shake my head.
“Fight for what?”
I turn to face the lake.
“Danger goes hand in hand with death. Visit him too much, and his ally will visit you,” I announce. “To live generically guarantees you a generic life. But live your way, and you're on your way. Have patience and enjoy your time, or it could run out abruptly. Don't take the easy way out, you miss much. It's easy to forget how strong our minds are, but they should never be underestimated.”
The air's still the same, making my chest ache. Home. Home. Home.
“Love's like the scenery here. I've never been much to fawn on flora and fauna, nor have I had much of a heart. But that's no way to live, being a stone man. Risk everything for love. And don't give up. Ever,” I continue, voice raised considerably.
At that, I leap off the ridge, plummeting toward the water like a pencil. From this height I'll be dead before I hit the water. I'll have a heart attack. Or I'll make it into the lake, bashing my head off goodness knows what. Being devoured by goodness knows what lurks around here.
I relax my claw-like hands, and extend my arms outward. I embrace the air and the water and all the elements. Then there's the slap of the surface against my body like running into a steel rod. The rush of water covering my stinging skin.
I find myself home. In my house. My legs, half natural and half man-made, sorta like my town, take my through the buckwheat parlour, out into the quaint roads, and carry me far. The two day walk is nothing compared to my experiences since I found that rut and the cliff. When I come to a bridge, I see police cars, and an obvious stalemate.
Two figures stand on the edge of the bridge, a petite female and a bulky man I'd say's in his forties. By the cars, police officers crouch in a ready position, guns aimed. But they can't shoot him. Shoot and hit, she falls off, too. Shoot and miss, he cuts her neck open with the gleaming blade he has pressed to her throat. I'm horrified.
It strikes me how similar they look, despite the stature. They have the same nose, the same mouth, the same long legs. Father and daughter, no doubt. Then I see the wolflike eyes, illuminated by the setting sun and can stand this no longer.
With the air of a man who has embraced death, I march forth, calm as the air before a tornado. The officers' eyes dart, looking at me for a fraction of a second before returning with force to the man. The girl's eyes widen, and I notice she hasn't been crying. I would have, in her place.
“What?” I see the word forming on her lips.
But I don't stop. Don't hesitate. I stand beneath the pair, staring through the man. Right through him.
“Let her go.”
He shakes his head desperately, quite honestly looking like a lunatic. He's crying. He's a wreck, but she's alright, even though it's her who's trapped with a knife to her neck.
“Let her go,” I command.
He's distracted, and a series of wild shots rain on the man and the girl. I don't take the time to hope she hasn't been hit. I just jump.
A lucky shot to the foot has snatched his balance away, and he tumbles off the bridge, into the river below. I feel a pair of legs in my grasp as I half dangle over the edge. I'm swarmed, and the girl is pulled up to safety just as the splash of the man's body hitting the water reaches us.
Risk everything for love.
“Who are you, and why don't I remember you?” Wolf Girl asks.
She's been blacked out since the night of the bridge, she was pretty damaged from hitting the side of the thing. But she's up now.
“You don't know me. But you... the acci-”
“That was no accident.”
“So you don't have amnesia.”
“Nope. I remember you saved me.”
“But-” I begin to protest.
She smiles. “Thank you for saving my life. My name's Aldebaran.”
We sit in silence for a while, both thinking. She doesn't mind the quiet. Neither do I, but I break it nonetheless, questioning her. “Why did the thing on the bridge happen?”
“I was trying to find you,” she starts.
“But you don't know me.”
She ignores my statement. “I was trying to find you, because for some reason, I couldn't get you out of my head. Oh my, I don't even know your name. I must sound terribly creepy. Anyway, I found my birth father instead. There's a reason my mom divorced him. Well, I don't think he was too happy to see me. He started yelling then... yeah, you saw what happened.”
“I fail to see how anyone wouldn't love to see you. You're a star.”
She takes my hand and I finally realize why the Ferryman, Don, fell so hard for Miss Denise. Love's a strange thing, I guess. The cardinal points, and the ordinal points don't matter when you're in love. All that matters is that the stars have finally aligned.