A series of unrelated short stories about the darker side of the human psyche.
Moonlight glinted off the slow moving surface of the water. She sat at the end of the pier, her legs dangling off the end. She moved them back and forth at an irregular rhythm and each time her heels came into contact with the stone, small pieces would chip off and disappear into the murky depths of water that were hidden from the illumination of the moon and the sickly orange glow of the street light behind her. Each movement she made eroded the rock beneath her, piece by broken piece. The thought amused her in a sick way.
She shifted forward slightly to look directly down on the water and her fingers brushed against a rock that sat beside her. She picked it up and traced a circle on the cement beside her before dropping it in her pocket with the rest. There were fifteen circles now, one for each year of her life. She wasn’t normally this sentimental, but she didn’t feel quite like herself tonight. And she was sure that no one else would pick up on it. It was a little late for them to start noticing her.
A cold breeze lifted her hair and she shivered. She looked up at the brilliant whiteness of the moon and the twinkling stars and decided it was time to go; she couldn’t sit here forever no matter how much she would like to.
She laid her hands on the concrete for leverage, and slipped forward into the empty air. She had expected the water to be cold, but it took her breath away nonetheless. She had her eyes shut tight and she tried not to move, but it was harder than she thought to keep her limbs from moving when all she could think about was the burning in her lungs.
She knew that the fastest way for her to end this would be to stop holding her breath, but there was still an absurd barrier in her mind stopping her from opening her mouth, something she had been told about the water in this river that it was filled with sewage and refuse. Pointless she knew, yet as her mind remained calm and her body remained in its open state of panic, she couldn’t force herself to yield.
She started to black out. She was so numb that she could barely feel the hands that gripped her. She was dragged backwards, expelling the oxygen from her lungs out of shock and she started to struggle, to fight, not for her life, but for her death. But her saviour was stronger than she was and it didn’t take him very long to pull her out of the water and onto the slipway dripping, shivering, and gasping for breath.
Neither of them moved or spoke for some minutes as they each tried to recover their breath. Her lungs rejoiced but her heart sank as she rolled herself over with much effort, coughing and spluttering, to lay her bleary eye on the moon once more. It hung there watching her, apathetic as ever. She had been so close, so close, and again she had failed. Anger boiled up inside her. Her ‘saviour’ was a little further up the slipway. She craned her neck around and glared.
A boy sat with his head between his knees, his dark hair falling forward over his face and a number of small rivulets of water rushing from his clothes down the slipway towards her. “Why did you do that?” she rasped at him, rolling back over onto her stomach.
The boy raised his head slightly, still breathing heavily. She could only see the light of the moon reflecting off his eyes. “You were drowning.” he replied simply, in a voice deeper than she expected.
She shook her head and laid her cheek down on the cold cement. “You shouldn’t have done that.” she whispered.
“I didn’t think you were going to do it this time.” He said, and her eyes opened wide. “I thought it was a sure thing last time but then you just left. You just didn’t seem as determined this time.” He let out a low chuckle. “But you surprised me.”
She slowly raised her head off the cement and stared at him. “How long have you been watching me?”
He looked right at her, his face still hidden behind his hair. “Just for a few weeks. I was here when you dropped your shoe in. I went in after you left and fished it out. And then I came back every night after that hoping that you would be here again.” He chuckled and swept his hair back from his face, exposing a pale face and dark eyes. “I don’t know why you fascinated me so much, I just kept coming back. And then I realised what you were trying to do, you know that time you were crying and talking to yourself?” Her insides felt cold with embarrassment and shame. She wished she was still in the water. “I figured you were like me. Then I kept coming back because I wanted to see if you had the guts to do it. I didn’t think you did.” He smiled at her. “But you surprised me.”
“What do you mean like you?” She asked. There was venom in her tone. She wasn’t like him. She wasn’t like anybody and that was why they had done it. That was why she was here.
He looked down at his shoes as he answered her. “I know what they did to you. I know why you’re here. I know what it’s like.”
If she wasn’t already frozen, she would have felt her blood run cold. She was in a lot of pain now. She pushed herself up onto all fours with some effort and then to her feet, trembling violently as she did. She could barely move her lips as she said. “I have to go.” She left a wide berth as she passed him, almost afraid that he might grab her for some reason, but he stayed still.
She was at the top of the slipway when he spoke. “I can help you get them back.”
She stopped and turned. “What- what do you mean, get them back?” She stammered.
He stood up and turned to her. He was only wearing a t-shirt and jeans but didn’t seem to be shivering at all. There was even colour in his cheeks as he spoke. “I can make them pay for what they did to you.” He said. She let out a huff of air and tears threatened to spill. He took another step towards her. “I can make them hurt like they made you hurt. If you let me.”
She stared at him with her arms wrapped around herself. No one had ever offered her anything so tempting. Except them. And they had been lying. What made him any different? “I-”
He cut across her. “I pulled you out because it would have meant that they had won if I hadn’t.” He held his hand out and after a moments hesitation she took what he offered her in her shaking and clumsy hands. It was a stone from her pocket. “If you meet me here tomorrow, I’ll help you get even.” He said. She stared down at the stone in her hands as he walked past her. By the time she turned around he was nowhere in sight, she was alone.
She closed the front door behind her and took her shoes off with some difficulty. The tv was blaring from the living room, her mother having fallen asleep on the couch. She went silently up the stairs and into her room, taking the letter from off her bed and sliding it into her pillow case once more. She looked at the computer in the corner, the one that she hadn’t turned on in months, and rubbed the stone between her fingertips. Nothing would ever change, she had accepted that, and that’s why she had been going to the pier. She couldn’t get the pictures that they took back. They could be punished but it would never be enough, they would never pay enough for what they had done to her.
It was the last house. She stood in the garden and stared up at the moon. It was such a clear night, so beautiful. A sense of peace like nothing she had felt in her life permeated through her body. The first two houses had been filled with panic and fear of being caught, but that had all dissipated when she realised how skilled he was at what he was doing. He had stopped them screaming with a few well-placed words. He had thought of everything, planned everything. He had made them pay alright. He had made them suffer, and they had looked into her eyes as they did. They had known why. And that was the sweetest thing.
It wasn’t right and it was far from perfect, but damn did it make her feel good. She heard the screen door slide open behind her and she turned to greet him as he walked towards her, wiping his hands on a cloth. It was over. They had finished. She felt gratitude as she watched him walk slowly over the grass towards her, gratitude and love. She had watched him work with no emotion or remorse yet she felt no fear with him. She loved him, and she knew now that he had loved her all along. Love at first sight. But she had been too wrapped up in her own pain to see him clearly. But she saw him clearly now.
He came and stood beside her and they shared a shy smile. They both looked up at the sky and after a minute or so, she reached over and held his hand. It was still slick with blood but she didn’t care. He was her saviour. He wasn’t right and he was far from perfect, but damn did he make her feel good.