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Without a Leash


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Corbin just sat there, dangling his legs off of the roof of the high school, willing the time to pass. He ran his thin fingers through his jet black hair, scratching an itch that just wouldn't seem to leave him be, and continued to thump his red tennis shoes against the brick wall of the building. The shredded tails of his baggy blue jeans floated lazily in the wind, presenting a care-free apparatus which so blatantly mocked their owner.
Corbin wasn't sad, he wasn't even lonely, he was just alone-and he liked it that way. He enjoyed his vantage point, watching his high school peers like a scientist watches mice navigate a maze. He knew it was creepy, the way he just stared, but he didn't care. He would rather spend his time doing more interesting things than scrambling from person to person trying to construct feeble liasons called friendship. Don't get him wrong, he was a very nice person, he was just alone-and he liked it that way.
There was one flaw in his heavily armored self-image, and that was Emily. She wasn't popular, she wasn't perfect, but boy was she pretty. Corbin shared over half his classes with her, and they were usually paried up because of the alphabetical similarities of their last names. If one person could love another without actually spending time with them, then Corbin was madly in love.
As he sat on the roof overlooking the school parking lot, he saw Emily walking out to her car with a group of friends. Whilst laughing, pushing and shoving, and teasing each other, one of the guys following in the group caught Corbin gawking and pointed at him. Another girl gave an anxious shriek and hurredly whispered something to Emily. A slow fog began to settle around the school as Corbin shamefully shifted his eyes just enough so it didn't seem like he was staring at her but still close enough to her that he could see her reaction.
Emily glanced up, then her head shot back down, and she gave a large exaggerated shudder. Standing awkwardly, she looked up and gave a small reluctant wave, then bolted for her car. Her friends followed suit, still laughing at the lanky teen, sitting still as a statue on the roof. Emily's car door slammed shut and Corbin turned away quickly, as if he'd been slapped, trying to hold back the bitter tears. Emily had never acted this way before, she had always been nice and jokingly funny and engaging, and in a single, half-hearted wave she had shattered his image and changed him into a small immature onlooker. He'd never felt so betrayed, save once, ten years ago...

The glorious age of 8, nothing quite like it. This is the age where every boy in their right mind wants a dog, no, needs a dog, and Corbin had one. He had gotten it for his sixt birthday, a small black lab/beagle mutt with big brown eyes and even bigger floppy ears. She was an outside dog and that morning when he took her out back to play she kept jumping in the air, snapping at the morning mist.
"Her name's Misty," said Corbin, ever so proud of his new dog and the ingenuity behind her name.
He played with her all day, chasing her, pulling her ears, running for the stick he threw to her, tackling her into the soft grass. It was getting dark as the sun started setting and the foggy clouds started rolling in, bringing tomorrow's storm. Never had Corbin had such a great birthday.
The next three years he spent every available minute with that dog, taking her on walks, playing in the backyard behind the chainlinked fence, she was Corbin's only friend.
The day after his 8th birthday it was, and Corbin was at the local park with Misty. She was chomping at the bit, pulling on the leash and looking at the wide expanse of green grass.
"Don't ever let her off her leash," Corbin's parents warned. "If you do she'll run and you'll never see her again."
Corbin pondered this, then kneeled down to unlink Misty from her leash.
"You wouldn't run away from me, would ya girl?"
" 'Course not."
He let her off the leash and she bolted, darting through the field and into the surrounding forest. It took a minute for Corbin to realize that she wasn't going to turn around. He began to run after her.
"COME BACK!"
"COME BACK!!"
"MISTY COME BACK!!!"
"...please...."
Corbin stood at the edge of the forest, too scared to follow Misty in there.
Two months and 3,000 flyers later, Corbin gave up hope. All those nights when he held Misty as she wimpered at the sound of rain, every walk and game of tag, gone. Tossed aside like a sack of dirt. Now-hopeless, friendless, he stayed at home, not risking anything anymore.

That familiar pang of betrayal echoed in Corbin yet again as he walked the roof of the school. He paced furiously, as fog lay down, completely blocking his view of everything beyond the roof.
Nobody was supposed to be on the roof of the school, but through a strange twist of events, Corbin had found himself with the only key to the door leading up there, and noboby had ever caught him, until now.
He stopped pacing. He couldn't take it anymore. There was nothing really left anymore. He wasn't depressed, he was just thinking rational for once. With Emily turning his back on him, he really didn't have much, and he was much too afraid to risk anything anymore. Risk gained nothing but pain.
He ran, towards the edgoe of the roof. He was either going to fly or fall, and he didn't care which by now. The fog completely blocking his view, he launched off his right foot into the air, and began to sink. A small part of him died right there, the part that believed that maybe, just maybe, he'd fly off to a happier place.
Just a second after jumping he hit the ground. hard. and bounced. But it wasn't asphalt he landed on, it was soft, and wet. No.....cloud?
He stood up, and his feet sunk a little into the strange terrain.
"That's strange, you're not supposed to be here?" Corbin turned to see the speaker and found an old man, with white hair, wearing blue jeans and a white hoodie, that had small golden wings on the pull-strings of his hood and the friendliest smile he had ever seen.
"Who are you?"
"What am I doing on a cloud?"
"Am I dead?"
"What's going on?!?"
The old man just smile and said "you, my friend, are not dead,-you're just on Death's cloud. You're only here through some celestial coincidence, however. There must be some reason you're here, I'm just not sure of it yet.
Corbin stood, stunned, not sure to believe what he had heard. "Then what are you doing here?"
"I'm just here to collect someone, that is what Death does you know, helps people along, you see? Usually they find me, haha not exactly the way you found me however." The Angel laughed. A smooth breeze ruffled Death's cloud, and it almost sounded as if someone was whispering to the heavens....or from the heavens. Death's head shot up. And looked quizzically at Corbin.
"Corbin! Could you direct me to the highway, please?"
"Sure...it's over there."
As he pointed, he appeared there, the cloud placing itself instantaneously over the highway, about 15 feet from the asphalt.
"This, Corbin, is where I collect, this is where it happens."
Corbin looked around at the empty highway, looking for the victims. Down the highway a couple miles was a semi-truck, swerving ever so slightly to the other lanes. It was a gas carrier, the worst semi to crash into. "Is that the guy?" Death shook his head quietly, as if hiding something. Death looked down.
There, soon to pass underneath the cloud they were riding on, was Emily.
"WHAT? No, you've got to be kidding me!!!"
Death shook his head again, "looks like that girl is a part of this."
Her car was coming up fast, Corbin had to warn her of the semi heading towards her. Not thinking quite straight, and now used to the feeling of jumping without hope of safety, Corbin ran off the cloud, arms and legs churning through the air as he landed on his side on Emily's trunk, rolling off onto the asphalt. Emily slammed on her brakes, and opened her door screaming, her face red with confused fury.
Ears buzzing with pain, Corbin couldn't hear a word she was saying- all he could focus on was the semi that just rolled over the meridian, heading directly towards Emily's silver car. She hadn't even noticed the truck with the sleeping driver yet, she just kept screaming insults and profanities.
Not wasting any time, Corbin snatched Emily from around the waist and dragged her into the ditch on the side of the road. His left arm snapped as she punched, screaming and struggling to get away from the psycopath she thought he was. He groaned, and tears poured as he held on with all his might, his face now bloodied by her elbow.
A behemoth crash silenced the screaming girl, and she froze and her own car spun right over the ditch, seemingly slower than possible as shattered glass rained down upon the two. They lie there for a moment, and then Corbin lay the stunned girl aside, and ran up the ditch to see what remained.The Semi driver had been thrown from his truck, his leg laying at an unnatural angle and his right shoulder covered in blood. Corbin walked up to the man, saw that he was breathing, and then turned his head to see the semi.
It was on fire. the tanks the cab was carrying were roasting like a pot on the stove, ready to boil over any minute. Corbin looked up at the cloud, and then turned, his shoulders sank with the burden of what he had to do, his eyebrows fell. Looking at the flaming truck, Corbin ran and jumped into the cab, shoved the truck into reverse, and hit the gas.
About two hundred yards away from the crash he slammed on the brakes. The truck careened onto its side, the gas tanks giving a thunderous clap. As it was falling Corbin jumped out of the cab, landing on his left side again, cracking his collar bone. Beyond screaming now, Corbing scrambled to his feet, and turned to look over his shoulder at the truck. No one was around, a couple cars on either side of the highway had stopped a couple hundred yards away to watch the explosion. There was a small hissing sound, and Corbin turned away, braced himself, gritted his teeth, and took one look around before shutting his eyes.
It was a sunny day, not a cloud in the sky, save one.
A bone shatttering crack, and breeze of hot air.
Corbin opened his eyes, and saw Death. The old man was smiling that uncoditionally loving smile. Corbin looked him in the eye, and with a sad smile said "Sorry sir, but you're the last person I wanted to see right now."
Death laughed. "You are the one I'm supposed to collect, yet another coincidence."
As Death said this, Corbin felt a cold wet tongue lapping at his hand. He looked down, to see his little mutt with the brown eyes and floppy ears, pawing at him excitingly. Corbin smiled, such a smile that put Death's warm grin to shame. He knelt down and held her tight, rubbing those ears of hers and kissing her forehead.
"Corbin, wouldn't you like to see the lives you've saved?"
Corbin glanced up, and back at Misty. He stood, patted his side, and began to walk into the glowing fog.
"No thanks, I think we're going to go for a walk."




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