Fight or Flight

by ashlanielle [Reviews - 12]

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  • Teen
  • None
  • Alternate Universe, Angst, Hurt/Comfort

Author's Notes:
PLEASE READ THIS NOTE FIRST: There are TRIGGER warnings ahead. However, if you know anything about me and my stories, you know I will never end anything tragically. I had actually never planned on posting again. Choosing Realities was to be my final one. But, I sent this to a few lovelies and they encouraged me to post. Any recognizable dialogue comes from Self-Conclusion by Spill Canvas. It served as inspiration. Also, if any of you decide to leave a note, please remember that this is by no means a standard. Every person's experience is unique and should NEVER, EVER be criticized or made to feel less significant! With that said, here is what I have written.

“Fade in, start the scene. Enter beautiful girl. But things are not what they seem as we stand on the edge of the world…”

 

Today's the day I'm going die. No more thoughts, no more indecision. I've been to this bridge day after day, sometimes night after night, toying with the idea. In the darkest of nights, the bitter winter wind bit at my skin but I was numb to it, the inner anguish so consuming that the harshness of the elements could never trump it. I felt nothing, I had nothing...I was nothing.

It's funny, if someone had asked me just one year ago to choose the day I would die, I would have thought them madder than a hatter. But now...now the answer seems so clear. I’m not Alice, and this is most definitely not a twisted dream from which I will suddenly awaken. No…tragically, this is real. And my choice of today of all days is so fitting. After all, this was the day that my world was turned on its head. The day I lost everyone who ever cared about me...who loved me.

Taking breath, I pull the wrinkled photo from my pocket, ghosting my fingertips over the proof of happier times. My vision blurs and I feel familiar searing tears trail my cheeks. I've cried so many of them, it's a wonder I don't have scars from all the times they've burnt my skin.

I take another breath, this one more painful than the last. Every breath since that day has been agonizing, a cruelty that increases with each passing hour. But I won't have to worry about that anymore. Just a few moments and I'll be released from that torture. I'll be free.

Returning the photo to its place, I walk towards the spot where it happened. Even with my mind resolutely decided, each step still feels leaden, but I press on. It's only proper for it to come full circle.

Suddenly my steps halt as I see a man at my spot. I stare at him from a slight distance, waiting for him to move along like every other pedestrian. After several moments it becomes clear he's not leaving. In fact, this young man seems to be waiting for something as he leans against that pathetic metal barrier separating him from the icy water flowing below, the very water that beckons me.

A sudden anger fills me at his intrusion into my plans, and I find myself moving towards him, my steps no longer requiring effort.

Either hearing my footfall or sensing my approach, he turns in my direction, his coat billowing about him.

"Excuse me," I bite out, ready to run him off.

"There you are," he says with a slight smile. I see his shoulders slack. "I was beginning to think I was too late," said, sighing in relief.

His words are like a blow to my stomach. I stare at him, my lips parting in shock.

My words are broken as unexpected emotions attempt to strangle me. "E-Excuse me...?"

I see his body twitch ever so slightly, almost as if he’s tempted to step closer to me; but much to my relief, he stays his distance.

“I was…that is, I thought I might have been too late. I’ve been here for the better part of an hour, and I-…”

“Why are you here?” I interrupt, my agitation flashing again as I look up at this tall stranger, wishing he was anywhere but in front of me. He runs a hand through his hair and anxiously darts his eyes to the bridge before settling them on me once again. It’s then that I feel a faint tightness in my chest. Those eyes…they’re searching my own with startling intensity. It’s unsettling, the feeling that he’s parting away layer after layer of my carefully constructed barriers.

“I-I’ve…I’ve been…weelll...watching you,” he stutters nervously, his hand now rubbing the back of his neck.

The rational part of my mind insists that I should be frightened by this admission–that I should immediately take off without a second glance. I know this, but I can’t bring myself to do so. I’m more confused than anything else.

“Watching me?” I ask slowly. Strange how I continue to persist with the questions instead of simply telling him to piss off.

“Yes, watching, but not…well, it’s not as creepy as it sounds,” the man insists albeit a tad weakly, almost as if he knows it does indeed sound that creepy. He suddenly points behind me. “I, uh, live just there, and I often sit out on the terrace an-…”

“In the middle of winter?” I ask with questioning brows.

“It’s a nice terrace,” he shrugs before starting his ramble once again, “But, um…well, I saw you one day, just standing there. Didn’t think much of it till I came back from work and saw you hadn’t moved. I looked for you the next day, and sure enough, there you were, same spot. And every day since you’ve shown up like clockwork. Wasn’t certain why at first, but then yesterday…well, I finally put the pieces together.”

The look in his eye changes, and I turn my eyes aside, unable to tolerate what I see, unwilling to process its meaning. “An’ what pieces are those? Maybe I just like the view from here.” Even as I try to remain nonchalant, I can feel the tremor in my words as I speak. He’s stepping to close to forbidden territory.

“You always look down,” he answers softly, his words surprisingly holding more emotion than expected from a complete stranger.

With that simple statement, my eyes snap back up to meet his. The emotion in his words is nothing compared to the ones conveyed within his unfathomably dark eyes. It’s puzzling to me why he appears to feel so strongly about someone he’s never met. I feel myself physically reacting to it, my throat tightening with unexpected tears. Focusing on his words, I find myself looking for clarification, but he beats me to it.

“You never look at the scenery or the people that pass by. Not once since I’ve seen you. You always look down…at the water. I-I…I can see…,” he fumbles, and I can tell that he’s struggling for the right words. Suddenly, he runs a hand through his hair and I could swear he gave a low growl of frustration. “You’ve been staring down at it every day, but then yesterday, I saw something change. The way you looked at the water. It was almost…almost longingly. And I…I can’t let that happen.”

There’s a burning in my lungs and I know it’s not due to the bitterly cold air. It’s because I’ve stopped breathing. His words have knocked the wind out of me and I cannot force my body to inhale. I gasp, whether it’s from shock or my body grappling for oxygen, I do not know. Maybe it’s a combination of the two, because how could this oddity have seen all of that? How could he possibly know my final intent?

My final intent…it’s suddenly called back to mind, and I sniff at him. “You don’t know me.” The response is weak, but I put every ounce of derision I can into them.

Again those eyes fill with ever-changing emotion, softer than before yet just as meaningful. “I’d like the chance to,” he says in urgent sincerity.

“Wow,” I harshly chuckle, “That’s one heck of a chat up line. Say that to all the girls?”

I expect my biting tone and blatant hostility to anger him, to make him throw his hands up in defeat and just leave me alone. But, once again, this man persists, appearing unaffected by it all. In fact, he ignores my smart remark.

“It won’t make the pain stop. You think it will, but it won’t.”

His tone has changed. It’s firmer now, laced with just a hint of pleading. Despite that, I feel my anger growing at the gall this man has in assuming he knows about my pain. He doesn’t know how much I’ve lost, how much I’ve suffered.

That anger suddenly emboldens me and I take a small step forward, my eyes narrowed in fury. “And just what do y’know about pain, ay? About my pain? Y’think that you can just show up and throw some cliché comfort at me an’ make everythin’ better? It’s so easy to you isn’t it–being alive? Waking up day after day, going to work, getting takeaway and watching crap telly, living this stupid life! It must be nice to have so much bloody happiness! But guess what? Not all of us have that luxury. Some of us walk around in a bloody daze, just goin’ through the motions. We put on the face everyone wants to see. ‘Cause God forbid we make them feel uncomfortable! And the insanely twisted part is that even though it’s so hard, it’s so bloody easy at the same time. Because people don’t care! They don’t bother themselves with seeing anything beyond what they want to see! And every time they plaster on their smiles and give their meaningless pleasantries, it’s just further proof that you’re invisible. That nobody cares one bloody bit ‘bout what happens to you, ‘bout who you really are. Time and time again it becomes so bloody clear that now I’m completely alo-…”

Instantly my words cease as I realize that I’ve just ratted myself out. The hot air from my rapid, shallow breaths mingles with the winter chill giving proof to how affected I am. I can feel my body shake and my hands start their familiar tremor. Quickly I shake them out, angrily trying to halt the oncoming panic and sobs I feel brewing in the pit of my stomach. Why did this friggin’ man have to push his way into my bloody business? Why couldn’t he just leave me to do what I so desperately need to do?

Harshly he swallows, and I can see that my final confirmation has somehow pained him. Each passing minute with him staggers my mind. I don’t understand his reactions even though I find a small part, one I thought long hidden, wanting to make sense of it all.

“You’re not alone,” he says, his voice just above a whisper. He goes to say something more, but my harsh, nearly hysterical laugh immediately halts him.

It’s a bitter laugh, as bitter as the wind that has picked up and batters our faces. Oh, this poor, daft man! How little he knows.

“Not alone… You... Oh, you really don’t get it, do you?” No longer thinking about guarding myself, about maintaining a safe physical distance, I rush towards him, my stride determined, aggressive. Consumed with irrational thought, I grab his arm and jerk him towards the railing, practically shoving him at my chosen spot.

“Think y’know so much, yeah? Then g’on. Tell me what this is,” I demand, grabbing his hand and slamming it onto the large welded patch marring the bridge’s railing. “G’on, clever boy!”

He studies the markings for several moments, his fingers making a slow inspection of the uneven repair. Seemingly finished with his examination, he turns that penetrating gaze towards me, making the same quiet study. However, I’m too angry, too emotionally tormented to allow room for intimidation.

“Oh, what? No more runnin’ off with that bloody gob of yours? No more answers?”

For a singular moment there’s silence. Then, surprising me once again with his resilience, he speaks. “Who was it?” he questions softly, tenderly. “Who did you lose?"

Again, the burning sensation returns as the air flees my lungs. He’s too observant for his own good, and much too close to the mark. I feel that dreaded pricking behind my eyes, and I know what’s certain to happen next. A sudden tear falls, followed by another traitorous one. Pitifully, I wipe their stains away.

The stranger continues to hold my gaze, quietly waiting for my answer. I honestly don’t mean to respond, but the words escape my carefully constructed barrier.

“Everyone…,” I barely choke out, “They’re all gone. It’s just me. I’m…I’m the only one left.”

I expect the standard pity to fill his dark eyes, but I’m sorely mistaken. This man must take some subconscious delight in proving my assumptions false. Instead of the compulsory pity countless ones before him have professed, he looks at me with complete…understanding. Understanding of what, I am unsure. About the accident? About being utterly alone? About…what? Regardless, I force myself to ignore it. It’s not possible, no matter how much that sliver of hope wishes it were true.

I can’t do this anymore. The more he speaks, the more I’m rattled, the more I find myself slipping. I make to shove past him, but he instantly reaches out, clutching my hand furiously, stopping my escape. Snapping my head around, I cast silent aspersions at him before attempting to tug my hand free. However, his hold is steadfast, unyielding. I can clearly make out his determination; it’s etched in his face. Our war comes to a standstill as we silently challenge one another to make a move.

“Please, just stop…for one bloody moment stop and listen to me. Trust me…Despite what you may think, I do know what you’re thinking…what you’re feeling.”

I feel a quiver of belief at his statement, but I scoff in spite of it. “Enlighten me.”

“I know your legs are pleading with you to leap. You’re itching to do so. Because the idea that it’ll stop, that the pain will go away is so strong, it’s pulling you. But trust me–it’s nothing but a bloody siren’s call. It’s false hope, nothing more than a lie. Because once you get there, you realize that the pain is still there, and it’s the last thing you’re gonna feel before it all goes black. There’s no release, only remembrance.”

More tears trail down my cheeks as his words pound against my mind. I shake my head, trying to rid myself of his echoing words. This isn’t what I want to hear; this isn’t what I came here for. It’s supposed to be so simple, so effortless. Just close my eyes and let go. Why…why did he have to spoil my beautiful illusion?

I bat at my eyes with my free hand. “Tell me, then. How am I s’posed to go on, to live, when everythin’ inside of me has died?”

Those eyes change once more, and I have to admit, even in the harshness of the moment, they are truly magnificent.

“I know some of what I’ve said may sound cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true. And I…I’d be lying if I said that things would never get rough, that it was all suddenly going to vanish the moment you walk away. It won’t…There’ll be days when you throw everything you can get your hands on. When you scream and curse the universe and everyone in it. When you wake up drenched in sweat and tears. But it won’t always be like that. One day, you’ll get out of bed and won’t have to remind yourself to breathe. But you have to fight to get there.”

My eyes close in attempt to contain my tears, but it is a futile action. Nothing can hold them back as I let his words fill my mind.

“I’m…I’m so…tired…tired of being alone.” A small sob passes through my lips. “I don’t have the strength to make it on my own anymore,” I whisper, my voice that of a frightened child.

“Then don’t do it alone,” he responds with such warm tenderness, and I feel his thumb stroke my hand a few times.

That gentle touch opens my eyes and I stare down at our still joined hands. They’re still pulled taut from my attempt to flee, and I see that his sleeve has risen, exposing his wrist. Something catches my notice and I hone in on that bit of skin. Multiple elongated marks mar his pale skin. Some are thin, precise, as if made with careful focus. Others are jagged, angry, as if done in haste. Their raised nature and only slight discoloration makes it clear that these were of the past. He sees where my focus lies, but he doesn’t pull away, rather, allowing me to study each one intently. I don’t know the story behind them, the day or hour they marked his skin, but in this moment, the how and why are insignificant.

Finally, I tear my eyes away from the evidence of his own past demons, and meet his eyes. This time I hold his gaze. A new understanding of my own surfaces, and I turn in my resolve.

“Alright…,” I reply, hesitance still present, yet not as prominent as in the beginning. “So…what happens now?” I’m afraid, no doubt about it; and I know that that fear is evident as I continue to look up at him.

A small smile pulls at his lips, and he steps a bit closer, his hand still latched to mine.

“Now I say my name’s John. And you are…?”

The faintest of smiles ghosts my lips. “Rose.”

He squeezes my hand. ”Pleased to finally meet you, Rose.”

With those simple introductions, I allow him to quietly lead me away from my intended Fate. I had gone there that morning with a list of reasons to leap, but as I walked away with what was once a broken man, I began to hope that maybe, just maybe, I might find reasons to live.