“TELL ME YOUR STORY,” the woman asks in a quiet and tired voice from across the dark cell.
I do not know how long I have been in here but I think it has almost been three days since I arrived. However, this is the first time that the stranger – enveloped in the darkness – has spoken to me.
“I’m not really good at telling stories,” I confess. “I’m not even good at talking to people. My words always come out mixed and senseless.”
“When you have been in here as long as I have, any story, even one that is not well-told, is still good enough,” she says, chuckling hoarsely. The movement rattles her chains, the sound reverberating on the cold walls.
I pause for a minute, planning on what to say next. Even though I cannot see, I still look around as if I am expecting the dark silence to help me. I am in a strange prison cell in a strange land, I think, chained to the wall with the only company being that of a prisoner, whose face I have never seen. With the recent chaos in my life, what more can I lose?
Therefore, I start…
“Once upon a time, there was a boy and he was death…” I say and pause as I feel her immense anticipation hit my face like a cloud of smoke. That was something I had only just recently discovered I could do: feel the emotions of others. However, she does not say anything and waits for more. For a moment, I actually think she has already fallen asleep due to the fatigue from just sitting or maybe my story was already so un-intriguing. She breathes out heavily in response. I take it as a cue and I go on.
“It was too dark, despite it being in the early afternoon. Thick dark clouds covered the sky from horizon to horizon, as they released the heaviest rain of the year. The wind did nothing to better the situation as it blew almost as hard as an on-coming tornado …and there I was, hanging on for dear life by my tired and strained knuckles, on the edge of death.
“Normally, one does not spend their afternoon hanging off the edge of a broken bridge, being hit by the cold and relentless rain, getting whipped in the face by a blue-and-black Ankara scarf that beat in the wind. Half of it was not my fault; that much I remember. Half of the Inegress Gate, the colossal suspension bridge made of white titanium, and which stood as a symbol of the peninsula city, was broken off. The remaining half swayed dangerously in the wild wind as more and more loosely hanging sections of the tarmac broke off. A number of vehicles with helpless, screaming passengers followed into the cold waters below. I was surprised at how I had not fallen off yet.
“‘… Zenobias!’ someone yelled and, suddenly, whoever it was had come to my rescue. She grabbed a handful of my torn shirtsleeves. The rain occasionally blurred my eyes but even with that, the sight of the girl somehow holding on to me, was one that was most hopeful.
“I noticed her eyes first and the way that, even in the dark atmosphere, they cast a bright jungle green light from them, piercing right through the despair in me. They were filled with emotion and worry, but also full of hope. Blood covered her pretty, dainty nose and her lower, fuller lip was cut and swollen. Her left cheek was bruised and bleeding. Rich but messy, chestnut-colored, frizzy hair fell over her other cheek as she leaned down towards me. Despite all of the injuries, she had flushed cheeks and her face gave off a strange, soothing glow.
“‘I’ve got you, Zen,’ she said as she exerted all her remaining strength in pulling me up. She had succeeded in getting me to put a knee onto the tarmac when, unfortunately, the bridge groaned and swayed once more, making me lose my balance. I slipped. Going down hard, I hit my temple on the pavement and dragged the girl with me. Somehow, we stopped sliding off the bridge but this time at a more precarious position than before. No part of me was on the pavement anymore and half of the girl’s torso hung off the bridge. I only held on to her hands, from which I was slowly slipping.
“I remember crying out loud saying ‘Maia’ over and over again. I had never been more scared in my life and it was this fear that was impeding my senses and thought pattern. My heart was in my throat threatening to jump right out my mouth. I remember looking up at the girl again and begging her not to let me go. She promised me that she would not.
“She should not have made that promise.
“Someone, suddenly appearing beside us, spoke saying: ‘After all that, I’m surprised you are still alive!’ I could not see who it was from the level at which I was hanging, and neither could I tell to whom she was referring to. I knew she was a girl and I could all but sense the evil aura that flowed from her. Her presence was surprisingly agile yet threatening, like a feline, only that this was probably a panther and not a cat.
“‘Tsk! Tsk! We can’t have that, can we?’ She went on, and then just as suddenly as she had appeared, she was gone.
“An eerie calmness came as soon as she had disappeared and I knew that the end had come. The rain had suddenly stopped pouring and the wind had ceased blowing. There was not a single sound heard for miles, not even the honking of vehicle horns on the road closest to the bridge. The darkness of the skies still lurked filling the atmosphere with dread. Just like I had felt the evil presence earlier, I felt fear so great coming off three souls. One was from the girl who I still held on to; the second was from a familiar presence a slight distance away and the third, my own.
“‘Maia?’ I remember calling out again, conforming to my fate. The girl looked down at me. ‘You need to go. It’s not safe here…’ I said, letting the words trail off.
“I expected her to get what I was really saying. I knew she was a clever young lady so after about five seconds or so, her eyes grew large with fearful surprise then shrunk with anger and despair. I sighed knowing the reproach that would follow after.
“‘No,’ she simply said and suddenly erupted into a volley of more sincere and determined refusals: ‘NO! No-no-no… NO!’
“I tried to explain but she cut me off as soon as I had opened my mouth. ‘I am not going to just let you fall!’ she said. ‘I can’t do that! You’re my brother! I need you! We have a task – you and me – and we need to –!’ She did not get to finish.
“A mighty thunderclap tore through the silence just after bright lightening filled the skies, taking her voice with it. The bridge swayed again as everything went back to how it was, disastrous and depressing …everything except for the girl – Maia.
“Her bright green eyes dulled, gradually losing their brilliant look. The color in her cheeks slowly faded and she looked down at me with an expression I do not remember ever seeing on her: defeat. She parted her lips, straining to say something but first, out came blood, which landed smack on my forehead. I involuntarily closed my eyes and heard her say, ‘I’m sorry…’ in a tiny, pain-filled voice.
“Her hold on me broke. I fell, as if in slow-motion, letting the darkness of what might have possibly been death consume me even before I plunged into the water.”