Don’t die, Marco. I’m coming.
Maiv repeated this mantra over and over in her head as she pushed her way through the forest and sheets of rain. Wet branches slapped at her face and arms, brambles tore at her jeans. Something – a branch? a stone? – caught the toe of her boot and the ground caught her in an oozing, muddy embrace. She sat up and drew a ragged breath as she wiped mud from her face.
She nearly fell again when something shifted under her heel as she stood. She stared blankly at the offending object. It was the neck of a guitar. Raindrops caught in rivulets on the frets. The incongruity momentarily derailed her. She pushed her short dark hair out of her eyes and took her bearings. The rest of the broken guitar leaned against a tree, moss and lichen growing over both. An empty cola bottle, its red label faded to pink, and a scatter of small change lay next to it. Maiv realized it was a shrine left by a ghost in his or her last moments; treasured items of a life judged to have no further value.
Maiv backed away from the site of one suicide as she remembered she was there to prevent another. It didn’t take long to pick up the trail of his boot prints turned small oblong pools of water. A smashed cigarette butt floated in one. At least he hadn’t been in a hurry. As she stomped onwards, she decided that was another thing she’d yell at him about. It was bad enough to scare her by cutting through the forest. He’d sworn that he had quit smoking.
She found Marco as she rounded a large oak tree. His silhouette was outlined by a flash of lightning. She gently lowered him to the ground, using her utility knife to cut away the noose. Pressing her ear against his chest, she listened for a heartbeat. The only rhythms left in her world were the pounding rain and her own slowing breath. She poured her grief out in sobs and moans that blended with the rolling thunder as the sky itself mourned with her.
The storm gradually blew to the east. Maiv’s sobs quieted as exhaustion settled over her with the fog and she dreamed of ghosts. Sometimes they pulled at her legs, slowing her pursuit of Marco; other times they hid him from her by enveloping him in fog. Then the mist parted and she found him dangling from a tree.
Whispers in her hear and a heavy weight on her chest woke Maiv with a start and she looked around, seeking the voices. It was dawn. The rain was now a light drizzle and wisps of fog clung to trees like remnants of a dream. She shook Marco to wake him then remembered he would never wake again.
Copyright 2014, Kimberley Long-Ewing, all rights reserved