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Electricity crackled in the dry air as it was ripped to shreds by lightning a few miles away. Thunder crashed overhead and I glanced up briefly, but only to see the green clouds that had been moving above for the last few hours.
Dead silence overtook the alley as I made my way through and to the fire escape that hung from one of the buildings. I was only aware of my clammy palms when I took hold of the bottom rung and heaved myself up to climb to the roof.
But I had good reason to be nervous. I’d made a deal with the devil, and only one of us was going to get out alive tonight. My heart burned with hatred at the very thought.
I hauled myself onto the escape, stepped up onto the first rusty landing and looked up. Lightning flashed through the clouds, trapped.
By the time I reached the roof, I knew he’d have to be up here already.
He’d been the one to suggest we meet in the first placeâ€”and however much of a bad idea it’d sounded like, I’d agreed. Now, I liked the idea. This time, I’d be able to show him that I was right.
I stopped at the edge of the roof, perched in a crouch as I glanced around to see if he was there like I’d thought. He wasn’t.
“Idiot,” I hissed under my breath as I stood and made my way to the other corner of the roof.
Just before I could lean over and check the alley below, a voice from behind said, “Stupidity is often mistaken for bravery.”
I spun on my heel to face Pseudo, careful to keep the surprise from my face.
He sneered, his mouth twisting horribly to one side. “Which is it in your case, Zion?”
To this, I had no response, but I didn’t need one. My eyes spoke for me, I was sure of that. I could practically feel the hate that radiated from them.
His lips twitched and fell from their twist as he took a step towards me. “You came up here to fight, didn’t you, moron?”
“And you came here to kill me, didn’t you, Fake?”
The sneer was back again and he spat at my feet. “You think that’s what this is about?”
Well . . . yeah. What else would it be about?
I took a step towards him and drew my gun. “Yes.”
He looked at the gun and the sneer broke into a grin. “Everyone will know you did it, Zion.”
“And is there any stopping me?”
Pseudo shrugged and slipped his hand out from under his shirt and I was staring down the barrel of his gun too. “Possibly.”
Dangit. I should have noticed his hand . . .
Too late now.
We stared each other down until thunder cracked and broke our death glares. I looked up uneasily, but back at Pseudo to make sure he wasn’t going to pull the trigger on me.
There was fire in his eyes and his gritted teeth looked ready to tear me apart if they got the chance. Not like I’d give it to him.
“Do it coward,” he growled. “Shoot me already.”
“And let you have the satisfaction of my life sentence? I don’t think so.”
He squinted at me as the green clouds turned an overshadowed grayâ€”the air turning stale with it.
With one word, his finger twitched. “Ha.”
The twitch set me on edge and I pulled the trigger without thinking. Pseudo would meet Death tonight. He was thrown back with the impact and the gun in his hand jerked back.
With a crack of thunder, something tugged at my ribs and the wind left my throat with a whoosh. I hit the ground and only then did I realize that the â€˜crack of thunder’ had been Pseudo’s gun.
It was a while before I came back to consciousness. But when I did, the sky was pitch black. And it was raining.
My face was mashed against the roof beneath me and saliva had pooled on my chin. I swiped it away and struggled to turn over.
The splitting pain that caught me in the side left me breathless and I lay panting as I felt for the wound in my ribs. Blood was mixed with rain, my clothes soaked with more of which, I wasn’t sure. But I knew it wasn’t good. The scent of death hung thick in the air.
A moan to my right told me what I’d wanted to know without even realizing it.
Pseudo was still alive.
“Good thing you’re a bad aim,” he muttered, his words slurred.
I wasn’t sure what to say, so I was silent, watching what little there was to see in the skyâ€”save the bit of trapped lightning in the distance.
He coughed after a bit of quiet and I searched the darkness for him. Unable to find him, I asked, “can you move?”
“If I could move, you’d be dead.”
Ouch, that hurts.
Just to make sure I couldn’t move, I tried to sit up, but fell back short of breath, the pain in my side intensifying.
So it was settled. We would die here. Together.
The thought of dying with him almost made me sick. It was one thing to kill someone and be sentenced for life. It was a completely other thing to die with the one I’d hated for as long as I could remember.
There was another long silence the stretched to eternity, it seemed. But Pseudo finally spoke.
“What was it that started it?”
This was the last question I’d expected him to ask.
But I knew the answer well. I’d seethed over it since I was so very little, I didn’t even need to think. I just knew.
“Your dumb dog,” I said.
“My what?” The surprise in his voice shocked me enough to throw me off guard.
“Your dog. You know, theâ€”“
“I don’t have a dog.”
No . . . it was twelve years ago, nitwit.
“The husky! When we were four. You remember?”
“Oh. Yeah, okay.”
It was when I was four that Pseudo (then my next door neighbor) had tramped through my front lawn with his brand new husky puppy.
It had been the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Its bright blue eyes sparkled and the patches of black and white fur on it’s back had shone in the sun.
And how I’d wanted that dog! Oh, I’d have killed for a dog like that. So I’d grown from four-year-old innocence too quickly to even keep track of and I’d seethed in my jealousy of my neighbor.
“And you had that cat,” Pseudo half laughed.
Yes, then I’d gotten a cat. She was the best thing everâ€”but no better than that husky. Now he would have been the greatest thing in the world.
“I hated you for that cat,” he laughed.
Why is he laughing? This isn’t . . . time to laugh.
The lightning in the clouds touched down not too far off.
“And your dog was amazing,” I managed.
But a year after I’d gotten the cat, she’d been hit by a car. In my grief or a best friend, I’d blamed it on the neighbor boy and his dog. Then Pseudo’s dog died in a similar accident a few months later.
The feeling was mutual.
Pseudo laughed again I could hear the grin in his voice. “That was so stupid. Why’d we ever fight about that?”
I had no answer for him.
After our pets were both deadâ€”and both owners had thrown the blame at each otherâ€”the hate and jealousy grew to other things. Toys, backyard playgrounds, climbing trees, grades in school, parents, girlfriends, and most recently, our lives.
Explosion had been inevitable.
“We were so stupid . . .” Pseudo’s voice trailed off.
The rain pattered harder against my body, beating my clothes flat against my skin. I had to close my eyes to keep them from getting water in them.
When I least expected it, he spoke again. “Can we forgive each other? You know, for everything . . .”
Well. There was really no reason I should say no. Slim chance to none, we wouldn’t be found here. It was the middle of the night during a storm and who knew how long we’d both live for.
Each breath I drew brought pain like a spear in my side.
“Yeah,” I panted, my breath coming shorter than ever before. “Yeah, I can forgive you.”
The smile in his voice was almost one to convince me that we’d be okay. “Good. When we get out of this mess, I’ll make sure to help you buy a husky puppy.”
So in light of the moment, I figured why ruin his optimistic point of view?
“And we can find a calico kitten at the animal shelter for you.”
It was enough to convince me that we would be found and everything would turn out alright. I began to drift into sleep, the pain in my side letting up a bit.
I opened my eyes to look at the sky when my hair suddenly felt as though it were standing straight out from my head. The black clouds flashed above and I heard Pseudo laugh.
“No husky for you, no cat for me,” he cackled. The pitch of his voice made me grind my teeth together.
Then the air above us pulsed with electricity and searing flashes of white light. A rush of air slammed into me.
And then it was just gone. All that was left was the light . . . then darkness.
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