Chapter _; book i.
Working chapter title: what you meant
The webcam stared at him, unblinking; expecting him to speak. The words froze in his throat and he [stared blankly] at nothing. The timer ran.
He didn’t want to make the video. It was too damn eerie, he thought; too accepting of an imminent death he wasn’t planning on. But what about Eden? What about the loneliness eating her up inside? The days that stretched, seemingly without end, while she waited for his video. What would happen if some nasty fate did befall him?
Weren’t there things he would want her to know? Of course there were, he shook off the question, feeling like a scumbag for even having reservations about the stupid thing.
“Eden,” he started, immediately dropping his eyes to the floor. He let out a breath and tried again. “First of all, I’m sorry you’re seeing this.” He watched his own motions on the screen, every blink, every twitch available for his own scrutiny. “The things I have done feel simultaneously more important and more trivial. There is this great, wide emptiness I feel. It’s not easy to wrap my head around this, to really accept it as a possible outcome of the days ahead.”
He sighed, shaking his head and scraping his fingers through his short hair. “I am consumed with regret over things that haven’t even happened yet, that may never happen; here I am, though, being sucked down into a sorrowful pit of quicksand.” The weight of his next words slowed down his ramblings, hesitating before passing through his lips. “I’m sorrier than I ever thought a person could be, and for a lot of reasons,” he said. “I’ve failed you. You, and us, and everyone else around here. Everyone back home.” He gestured with his hands, broad sweeps of motion punctuated by sharp downward strokes toward the table. “But,” he said, “mostly you.”
Every word he spoke out loud felt like another nail in his coffin.
“There’s so much I want you to know, but the words feel narrow and unrefined. I’m bound within the parameters of spoken word.” He closed his eyes, frustration causing him to fumble over what to say next. “I did everything I could to get home, Eden. Trust me when I say that no one knows how empty that sounds better than I do, but it’s the truth.” He let silence fill the space for a moment as he gathered himself. “God, that feels so unimportant.”
He looked up, directly into the camera, wishing he could see her. Depression fell around him like a heavy cloak, and he let the sheer mass of it occupy the screen. He just wanted to see her, to comfort her, to ease her into the loss she’d be experiencing whenever she watched the video. “You will never know what I would give to be there with you. I always thought I would be the one to protect you when the sky came crashing down around us, but here I am, stumbling through this ill-prepared goodbye.
I never wanted to say goodbye to you, Athersweet. I never meant to leave you all alone,” the ache in his throat threatened to undermine his resolve, but he fought it back, choking the hurt down passed his adam’s apple. “I’m sorry that the one promise I couldn’t keep was when I swore I’d come home.”
He would trade his supply of ammo for a bottle of bourbon, he thought. Just to get through the night.
“Please,” he said, pleading with the lens, “don’t hate me for not being enough to survive this place. I hope you know I never wasted a day, I never cut any corners. I did everything I could to come home to you. I did everything I could to be the man this situation demanded of me.
Over the last few months my regrets have multiplied, but the one that rises clear above the rest is that I’ve let you down. I’m so sorry, Eden; this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”