Jack

“Our lost future comes to find me every night.

It kicks down my door and suffocates me into

unconsciousness.

All I can do is await the day that I forget about

those glorious potentialities corrupted by

their impossibility.”

— blue-bound-notebook

 

Jack. A shapeless lump by the coastline. Shuddering and curled up into himself. Black and fluid with his suffering. The moon and stars above twinkle, impervious to his pain. Jack.

 

Fine grains of sand stick to the worn knees of his jet-black jeans. His sweater is soaked with sweat, the blanket around his shoulders damp with the ocean air. A slight breeze ruffles his matted hair and he shivers, scarlet-crusted nails a stark contrast to the navy cloth covering his back. He chokes on a sob, lungs seizing up and his body keening over as snot and tears mingle and drip off his face.

 

He rubs roughly at his eyes and nose with the sleeve of his sweater. Digging his fingers into the black sand, he staggers upright, his thin form swaying dangerously. The menacing rock at the end of the beach beckons to him. Whispers of days gone past reach his ears and he moves sluggishly towards them. Childish laughter and shouts fill his mind and he doubles over again, the memories squeezing at his chest and threatening to steal his breath away again. The episode passes.

 

He looks up. Bleary eyes finding the bright moon easily. He blinks once, twice, as if he hadn’t noticed the cold white orb before. It seems big, bigger than it should be. He wishes it could swallow him up.

 

Jack. Jack. Jack.

 

He shudders and looks around wildly, swinging a long arm in a wide circumference around himself. The blanket falls off on one side. His eyes are scared, confused. He runs, the long sleeves of his sweater flapping in the wind. The blanket trails behind him, a dark cape for the haunted prince. He runs to her.

 

He sees her there, by the rock. She holds a hand out to him, smiling like the sun and summer and ice creams by the beach and everything he wants, needs right now, and he puts his hand out too-

 

He slams hard, soft skin and tired bones against unforgiving rock. His hands grapple with the contours, leaving them scratched and bleeding.

 

“No, no, no… please,” Hoarse whispers leave his lips. He slides down, collapsing in a heap where the rock meets the sand. He pushes the heels of his palms into his eyes. It doesn’t make the pain go away.

 

Jack…

 

His head jerks up. Rising on shaky knees, he leans against the rock and waits for another call. He wants to believe. It happens again as he’s running a hand through his unruly hair. The call.

 

Jack.

 

Jack!

 

He starts. He’s never heard her scream before. Not since…

 

He rattles his head. No time for that now. She’s calling for him. He has to go.

 

The blanket is abandoned, a dark puddle at the foot of the rock. He hurries toward the cave, footsteps getting surer and surer. She’s louder now, voice echoing and bouncing off the walls.

 

“Ellie!” His voice barely carries. Face scrunching up at how weak he sounds, he tries again. “Ellie, I’m here!”

 

Jack, Jack, I’m here.

 

He spins around, quick and clumsy. His feet slip on the wet rock.

 

Jack, don’t be silly!

 

“I’m not,” he gasps. Panic is rising, gripping his throat, holding his breath captive. His sweater is too hot – perspiration drips down his face and he raises his arm to swipe at it. The dark is encroaching, blurring the edges of his vision. He blinks it away, rebellious and stubborn and determined to find the source of her voice. “Ellie! C’mon, stop playing!”

 

Play with me, Jack.

 

For a moment Jack is thrown off-balance – the voice had seemed so close, so real. Like she’d been right next to him. He turns. The slick, rough floor under his feet unsteady. He spins on his heel. Pupils blown. Stumbles. Falls.

 

He sees her on his way down. Everything slows. Ellie, with her long, pale, golden waves and fair skin, the too-familiar smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose, her soft skin caressing his face, her sweet, sweet voice filling his ears, like thick honey lining his insides. Warm and safe and comfortable. Ellie.

 

He lands in her lap. Ellie. Her gentle green eyes on him, meeting his eyes and surveying his body. He’s in her arms now. She takes in the bruises, the blood and cuts, the layer of sweat and grime on his skin. Her fingers frame his face and he closes his eyes for a moment. His body relaxes under her touch, all the tension and pain he’s been carrying around for the past five months mercifully ebbing. He lets out a long-held breath.

 

Sleep now, Jack.

 

“No,” He forces his eyes open again. Gazes at her. Brings his right hand up to cup her cheek. She leans into his touch, eyes closing, and he could swear she was glowing. Like an angel. He never deserved her. “Ellie, I-”

 

No more, Jack.

 

“But I-”

 

Shh. Hush, now.

 

“Since when did you take care of me?” His smile contorts, coughs wracking his thin body. He turns away, body curling up on the dark surface and retching. “I’m sorry. I wish you-” Cough. “-never saw that.” His chest heaves.

 

Ellie only smiles.

 

“You’re not… You won’t leave me, right?”

 

I’m right here, Jack.

 

“No, I mean… You’re staying with me? This time?”

 

She simply smiles, radiant and pure. For a moment Jack forgets.

 

“Ellie…” he breathes.

 

I’m here, Jack. Go to sleep.

 

“Don’t wanna. I want… I need to…” His breaths are getting shorter now. Quicker. Shallower.

 

Sleep now, Jack. Her hand rests on his forehead. She moves it down his face, over his eyes. His eyelids flutter shut. He’s still mumbling.

 

“Ellie… I love you. Ellie, don’t go. Ellie. Ell- Ellie. Take me with you.”

 

That’s where you’re going, Jack. Just close your eyes and you’ll be coming with me.

 

“That… Tha’ right?”

 

Yes, Jack. Easy, now.

 

“Okay. With… you… Ellie… With you…”

 

*****

 

They find him five hours later, a bunch of fishermen starting their day out at sea. They spot the blanket, forgotten, by the rock. It takes them an hour to find their way into the cave, its sharp and slippery surfaces tricky to maneuver. They find him, thin and pale and blue, soaked and cold to the touch. Alone.

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