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The Boys on the Bridge
In time, they would learn to remember the details of the event rather hazily, fine points eventually being lost. They would, for example, forget whether it was Julian who ran into Dmitri, or the other way around. All that they would remember was that they had both been walking across the bridge at the same time, the river rushing over a hundred feet below them, the two boys walking in separate directions, and had promptly collided.
And from that point on, it went something like this:
Julian Carcinoma staggered to his feet, cursing under his breath as he did so. He didn’t need this, not now- what sort of idiot didn’t watch where he was going while crossing a bridge?
Dmitri Valescine was uttering his own set of swear words as well, although his were Romanian as well as British. Stupid a**, cacat cu ochi. This blazer had been designer, for God’s sake! And as for the rest of the ensemble- jeans and a white button down weren’t casual when they had totaled over a hundred and fifty pounds!
The two boys leapt to their feet, glaring freely. Dmitri’s blazer was coated lightly in dust, and Julian’s grey wool peacoat sported a tear in the left sleeve, but the damage to their clothing wasn’t what made them stare at each other.
The two boys, from their facial features to their height, their body structure to their posture, were completely identical. Granted, Julian’s hair was a bright, dark gold, his skin a tanned bronze and his eyes hazel, while Dmitri’s hair was an inky, jet black, his eyes the exact same color as his hair and his skin paper white, but the cut of the hair, the shape of the eyes…
“What the bloody hell is going on?”
The scenario would have been eerie enough, even if Julian and Dmitri hadn’t uttered the same words at the exact same time. As it was, the two boys just continued to gape at each other, neither of them wanting to be the one to break the silence.
It was Dmitri who decided to speak first, his lips soundlessly shaping the same words over and over until her finally found his voice.
And then, as if in response, Julian’s voice formed the words, “Shadow Boy.”
Golden Boy and Shadow Boy. Light and Darkness. Day and Night. Heaven and Hell. Only a few names for the two polar opposite boys, children who determine the fate of the world.
Every eighteen years, two particularly special children are born to this world, both boys, both completely identical, save for the different coloring of their hair, skin and eyes. They may be born within the same nation; they may be born in different countries, such as Julian and Dmitri were. The biggest difference between the two boys, however, is their personalities.
Golden Boy represents everything that is good and peaceful in this world. Sunshine and laughter, hope and love, everything that is wonderful falls beneath his influence. He is the luck and happiness, the fortune and cheer, and wants nothing but the eternal harmony of the world.
Shadow Boy, on the other hand, represents the eternal chaos and devastation of mankind. His domain is one of terror and destruction, hate and sorrow, all that is angry and ugly in the world. He brings darkness and pain, death and suffering, and while Golden Boy wishes to save, Shadow Boy wants only to tear the world into piles of ash.
When the two boys reach the age of eighteen, they will meet for the first time. It is there that they will first become aware of the other’s existence- and there that they will kill each other. For it is only by murdering Shadow Boy that Golden Boy can bring the world into harmony. And it is only by killing Golden Boy that Shadow Boy can plunge the world into its fiery fate.
These facts came crashing into the minds of the boys, so quickly that both of them almost fell over again. Dmitri stared at Julian. Julian stared at Dmitri.
“My God…” Julian’s voice trailed off at the look on Dmitri’s face.
It was a look of complete and utter malice, one that overflew with the mad desire to kill, to rip from limb to limb, to destroy and burn. His eyes were both flat and full of life, although Julian had no idea how an expression with so much bloodlust could be described as being full of life.
“So one of us kills the other?”
He smiled as he says this, but it’s a smile without any warmth. “Shouldn’t be that hard. You don’t exactly appear to be… strong.”
Julian bit off the retort that as they looked exactly the same, Dmitri had just insulted his own physique.
“Oh, come off it, do you really believe that?” Julian asked. He was trying to keep his voice steady, but it trembled slightly. “I mean… what happens if we just don’t kill each other?”
Dmitri took a step forward, his hand going to the inside of his jacket, and Julian stepped back. “I highly doubt that you’ll live long enough to find out, so why are you asking?”
Julian felt his hands begin to tremble slightly, and clenched them behind his back. “Because I, quite frankly, don’t want to die. And I also don’t want to kill you.”
Dmitri stared at him, calculatingly. “We’ll settle this another time.” He smiled again. “I want to have time to prepare for when I kill you.”
And with that, he turned and ran off the bridge.
Julian stood in front of the mirror, combing his still-wet hair. It helped to have such a petty task to focus on, one that he could let his thoughts consume- it distracted him from the events of that afternoon.
He hadn’t wanted Dmitri to see it, but he had been completely terrified. He was eighteen years old; he was supposed to be focusing on the happier aspects of his life- college, his artwork, Christina from his drawing class who had finally said yes to a coffee date the next morning. He shouldn’t have had to worry about curses, or being Golden Boy, or Dmitri Valescine…
Sighing, he put the comb down and stepped out of the bathroom, hastily throwing on jeans and a white t-shirt before picking up the backpack that contained his art supplies. He had thought that maybe, he could head down to the student studios before they closed for the night; sketching had always helped to relieve his stress in the past.
Yeah, but in the past, I’d never discovered that I was part of a curse that determined the fate of the world.
If he thought about it, then he had to admit that he didn’t really know what he thought of Dmitri. Yes, he had turned cold, murderous and brutal the second the curse had been revealed, but there was something about it, something about that lethal shell that hadn’t seemed fully convincing. Something that had seemed slightly vulnerable….
Don’t think like that! Don’t consider the potential goodness of a boy who you are destined to kill!
He didn’t want to kill Dmitri- he wasn’t a murderer, and he didn’t want to pretend like he was. But when you looked at it from the other angle, and saw what would happen then- Julian didn’t want to die. And when it came down to a choice between him and a boy that he had never met, Julian knew who he would end up choosing.
There was a knock at the door, and Julian, sighing, went to answer it.
Standing in the doorframe, his expression blank, was Dmitri. He was in less formal clothes than earlier- although he still wore jeans, he had swapped the dress shirt and blazer for jeans and a blue, thermal long-sleeved tee and a black trench coat- but was just as coldly handsome and smugly intimidating than before.
Julian’s heart leap into his mouth. “I thought you said that you would give me more time.” His voice shook even as he tried to keep it steady. “How is four hours enough time?”
Dmitri laughed, a laugh that actually sounded as though it contained warmth. “Relax, I’m not here to kill you. I wouldn’t do that- it’s cowardly to show up at a man’s doorstep and kill him without the chance to defend himself, and I’m no coward. I just want to talk.”
Julian raised an eyebrow questioningly. “Talk?”
“Yes, talk. It’s when people move their lips and sounds come out- you may have heard of it?” Dmitri smiled, crookedly. “Look, we got off on the wrong foot. Do you blame me for wanting to apologize for how I acted earlier? At least let me buy you a drink.”
This conversation was going nowhere near where Julian had been expecting it to go. “So you make it plain that you’re going to enjoy killing me, and then you show up at my apartment and ask if I’d like to go get a drink?”
Dmitri looks down his nose at him. “Would you rather we skip the drinks and head right to the “bloody murdering and world burning” part of the night?”
“Then you do intend to kill me?” Julian was not going to allow himself to be talked into getting murdered.
“All in due time, my good friend, all in good time.” Dmitri checked his watch. “It’s almost nine o’clock- are you coming or not?”
It didn’t seem as if he really had a choice. Sighing, Julian picked up his jacket off of the hook and followed Dmitri out the door.
A little later
The bar was packed when the two arrived, but then again, it was a Friday night. Dmitri pushed his way through the crowd with a sort of arrogant grace, creating a path for Julian to follow through, and the two boys settled down directly in front of the bar, Dmitri flashing two fairly believable false IDs. The bartender returned several minutes later with a glass of red wine for Julian and a gin and tonic for Dmitri, and for a while, they simply sat and drank in silence.
“Where were you headed when I bumped into you on the bridge?” Dmitri asked, sounding genuinely curious.
Julian was startled by the question. “Back to campus- I had a paper to finish up.”
“What sort of paper?” Again, the question comes with genuine interest.
“My semester thesis- on how the works of Impressionist artists reflected the political and military turmoil of the world during that period.”
Dmitri nods, appreciatively. “Sounds like quite a topic to cover and a considerably better destination than mine.”
“And that would be?” Julian’s question was partly out of interest and partly out of obligation.
“The dark inner depths of my mind, a bottle of very cheap wine and a battle to scribble down sixteen last measures of a chart I’ve been working on for the past two months.”
Julian laughed then, as the thought was actually a very funny one. Once he thought about it, though- he hadn’t known that Dmitri had an interest in music, much less musical composition.
“What instrument do you play? Or is it just general writing?”
“I play the piano and violin,” Dmitri answered. “And I write for both, along with the flute. This symphony is for piano, though- it’s called “Wanderings. What sort of art do you do?”
“I’m in oil painting.” Julian couldn’t believe that he was having this conversation about culture with Dmitri, of all people. “Studying classical painting with a bit of art history on the side. I’m hoping to work in the museum field, in addition to painting.”
Dmitri didn’t say anything in response to that, just stared into the depths of his glass. “I wish you hadn’t said that.”
Julian was confused. “Why?”
The other boy looked at him, and for once, his expression was unguarded. “Because when you talk about your future, you have so much hope and life. And it makes me feel guilty that I’m going to have to take it from you, or forsake my own.”
They had arrived at the Golden Boy and Shadow Boy curse. “I’ll say it again- what happens if we just don’t kill each other? If we’re the two who decide that we won’t be murderers and overthrow the curse, and live our lives peacefully as friends?”
Dmitri opened his mouth to say something, but whatever it was was drowned out by the sound of an enormous clap of thunder. They both ignored it, even as the sound of rain drumming on the roof of the bar began to muffle the conversations, at least until a flash of lightning illuminated the bar in bright, white light- and then all the lights went out.
The effect was immediate. People screamed, diving under the tables; chairs were upended as people ran for cover; glass and alcohol shattered to the floor. Dmitri grabbed Julian by the arm and pulled him away from the bar, hurrying through the crush of people. “Follow me!” he shouted. “And whatever you do, don’t lose sight of where I am!”
Julian had his doubts about following Shadow Boy into a thunderstorm, but figured that as long as Dmitri wasn’t pulling out a weapon and thrashing it madly through the air, he could be remotely trusted.
Even Later Still
They reached the door with difficulty, and as soon as they stepped out into the night, both were instantly drenched. The rain was pouring out of the sky in sheets, water droplets hitting their faces like pellets. Julian reached up one hand to wipe the rain out of his eyes, where it was collecting like tears, but Dmitri yanked on his arm before he could. He began to run, and Julian hurried alongside him, struggling to keep up. He lost track of all time and direction; the rain made it impossible to tell where they were going. Every few seconds, a smattering of thunder or lightning would pierce the sky, and he flinched involuntarily, wondering how they hadn’t been struck yet.
The bridge loomed before them within seconds, and Julian found that he wasn’t the least bit surprised to be here. Dmitri stopped, right as the bridge was curving over its highest point, and turned to look at Julian.
“This is happening because of us!” He shouted, over the roar of the storm. “As long as the two of us are still alive and are together, then the world can’t be at peace. Storms, fire, other disasters- they won’t stop until one of us is killed!”
Julian swallowed hard against the lump of fear in his throat. “Dmitri…” He didn’t know what to say; how do you react to a person who must kill you, or face their own death.
“Don’t.” Dmitri took a step forward, and Julian reflectively leapt back. Is there anything that I could use as a weapon? Anything to defend myself?
But Dmitri wasn’t moving to attack him; to stab or shoot him. He was walking to the edge of the bridge, peering over the side, rising himself onto the ledge.
“The world deserves a Golden Boy”, he said, smiling sadly. “I tried to be dark… I really did. I tried to want to kill you, to be that coldhearted murderer I’m supposed to be. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t kill you because you were just so full of life, because you had so much left to live. And because I found that every time I tried to convince myself that I hated you, I only succeeded in hating myself.”
He rose to his feet on the bridge ledge, and Julian noticed that the rain was beginning to subside. “Good luck with the world, Julian. It’s a broken place.”
Julian dove forward, reaching for Dmitri’s arm. “No. Don’t jump.” He couldn’t explain it, but he felt a fierce, protective longing to stop Dmitri from making the jump. “What if… what if…”
And then the idea dawned on him. “What if we both lived? What if we simply just went our separate ways, never saw each other again, and lived like that?”
The look on Dmitri’s face was more miserable than anything Julian had ever seen. “But I don’t want to never see you again! It’ll be easier like this!”
Julian glared at him. “It’ll be easier if you’re dead? If I’m the only one that has to miss someone? Because I will miss you. You’re my demonic half; it’s not as if we’re unconnected. It’s me or the world, Dmitri. You have to make a choice.”
Dmitri looked at him for a long moment, a long, evaluating look, even as he slipped back onto the bridge. When he broke the gaze, he stepped forward, leaning in to whisper something. “If it was a choice between saving the two, I would choose you.” He drew back.
There was something about his face that made Julian wonder if he wanted to do something other than talk, had the circumstances been different. Would there have been an embrace? A kiss? Neither of them would ever know.
In another world, another time, they might have been friends, perhaps even lovers. However, this is a story where hate triumphs over love, not the other way around. And so the two boys parted at the bridge, and they never saw, nor heard from the other, ever again.