The night was not dark or stormy. If it had been, perhaps they would have been more careful. As it was, the three of them stumbled right into the hole and fell.
The eldest’s lantern broke, the middle’s extinguished, but the youngest’s light still shone. Mainly because she broke its fall by bashing her own head against the ground. The world swayed around her.
“Are you all right?” the middle sibling asked. He brushed his hands over her hair, coming away with blood. He grimaced.
“Take her light,” the eldest instructed. He did so. She wanted to protest, but her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth.
Her eldest sibling picked her up. Cradled in their arms, she felt all arguments fall from her mind, replaced by a new sense of clarity.
“Can we climb back up?”
“Not like this. We search for another way.”
It’s just a hole, she wanted to say. But as she felt them walk, continue to walk away, she realized it couldn’t be a mere hole in the ground.
They had found the entrance to the Vault.
It was two hundred feet to the ground. Ria adjusted her goggles.
“Are you insane? You can’t beat a dragon!”
She took a couple of breaths. “I’m not trying to beat him, Nashita. I’m just proving I can do it.”
“Why do you have to prove anything?”
Her gloves felt warm, her chest tight. Ria knew it was because of the start of her adrenaline rush. “Are you coming or not?”
The fairy flitted under her hat. “We better not be flattened.”
Ria smiled. “Of course not.” Looking afar, the dragon’s golden eyes stared deep within her. She grinned back at him.
Then she stepped off the edge.
Contestant number one killed number two.
Rivulets of blood, spilling back down his arm.
Ugly to most, but reviled by few,
simultaneous cheers and shuddering alarm,
hampered not by contestant number one’s gory charm.
I can’t believe in something so good
Existing in a way it always should
Without a question from the masses
Who rip everything apart within their asses
Making me beg for the moments before adulthood
Every other moment ringing falsehood
Breathing out what all we understood
From the vision I see beyond these glasses
I can’t believe in
In time gone by, in the childhood
Which has long since died, something you’d
Known would destroy me as fast as molasses
I’ve known since forever the feeling is
Reaching up for something so good
I can’t believe in
“You’re not safe here.”
He sighed, grinding the bottom of his cane into the grooves between the tiles. “I know.”
She decided to finish pulling her long brown hair back into a ponytail, personally unphased by his presence. “I’m not going to cover for you when the other girls come in.”
He swallowed, tugging at his collar with his free hand. “But we need to talk.”
“You’ve been avoiding me.”
She rolled her eyes. “They’ll be out out of the showers soon.”
“I’m blind! Just tell them I can’t see anything.”
“What part of me avoiding you didn’t you understand?”
It was annoying, but he knew better than to make a scene. He left the locker room, planning how next to accost her in a place that she wouldn’t be able to evade him.
In the light of day it had been a silly thought. In the irrational darkness though, that of three o’clock in the morning, it was logical that they have an adventure.
“She’s going to be mad,” said the little girl as her brother helped her out the window.
“She’s always mad. Maybe that’s why daddy likes her.”
She nibbled a bit on her bread. She had snuck it to bed. So had her brother, but he had jammed it into one of his pockets. She could see the occasional crumb fall out through the bottom of his pocket. “Where’re we going?”
“To that weird tree she wouldn’t let us check out! If we’d just gone out with daddy, he would have let us explore.”
The little girl nodded, blinking the sleep from her eyes. In the daylight, she would have told him no. Right now?
The siblings wandered into the woods.
A dark and stormy night dimmed in comparison to what it was at that very moment.
“I can’t see.”
“Well you’re standing on my foot.”
Hastily, he shifted his foot off of theirs. “Why is it so dark?”
“When the sun’s blocked on the other side of the planet, where would the light come from?”
No moon, no stars. His mind scrambled to understand, wiping his hair blackened by soot away from his eyes with the back of his hand. “Now what?”
To give them credit, they never sounded annoyed by his questions. “Keep warm. Nothing more we can do.”
That was always the worst thing to hear. Nothing he could do. The fire gave them warmth, but it was still dark.
There was something in the air. Something more than the usual amount of smog.
Unfortunately, because of the smog, it was impossible to make it out.
The dachshund looked up at her with lowered ears. She wished her sense of smell was as bad as his, but at the moment he had the better end of the deal. She picked him up.
“Yeah, I know. We really need to get out of here.”
He wiggled in her arms, licking the side of her face. It made her laugh, which made her take in more air, smog, which made her cough.
“Yep! Really time to get going.”
She put him back down, lower to the ground, away from the bad air, and they walked onward.
Her life’s work was to help to help others, when in reality she was the only one who needed help.
Her sister scowled, finding yet another bottle. Picking the small thing up, she rattled it. There were some pills still in it. Well, that would be a few less pills that she wouldn’t be downing.
She was sleeping across the room, not disturbed by her sister plodding through her things. Maybe because it wasn’t the first time. Maybe because she was used to her sister cleaning up after her.
Even when her sister’s phone went off, she didn’t do much more than pull her pillow over her head. Her sister picked it up. “Yes?”
“Where are you?”
“Nice to hear from you too. Do you know she’s found more Xanax?”
“Will you figure out from where already?”
“Okay, okay! I’m on it. You get her clean.”
They hung up at the same time. The bottle creaked in her closed fist.
I lost you one day, before I knew that
caring wasn’t good enough.
All I’d done had been for you, but
never was that what you asked.
Tasked with something as vicious as
moving on, I
ACCEPT that there are things I did wrong.
Keep our regrets apart.
Every moment we think of this is another
yesterday we have ruined.
Only I might have such thoughts, but
unhappiness is nothing I will wish upon you.
My time with you has ended, I ACCEPT.
I will keep what we had and move on,
never forget those days,
exceptional at the time and now forever.