Out On The Water

Out On The Water

A Story by The Dark Passenger

A short story written in memory of a close friend of mine; Cameron Millar

Out On The Water
Wake up, wake up...
A quiet whisper snaked its way into my consciousness; “But I am awake...” I saw his blue eyes flutter open for a second, before closing again. I giggled. 
“Sure,” I smiled, and looked out over the glistening water. It was so still and dark, like an endless abyss; a portal into somewhere else, lit up only by the bright full moon that hung above, and the lights of the pier that sparkled in the distance, just out of reach. Now and then, small ripples would shake the surface of the water, just to remind us we couldn’t tip toe over it to the other side. Not that I would’ve ever thought of setting foot on or in the thing... it frightened me. But only me, never Finley. To him, it was just a really big swimming pool- one without the pesky boundaries of human construction, or human safety rules for that matter. No, not here; no pool guard in too-tight trunks and too-narrow mind to tell him mere mortals weren’t meant to perform somersaults underwater. Out here, it was just water, just air, just freedom. 
That’s all I ever wanted.
“I know,” I said, and smiled over at him. His brown hair was a rock-star, bed-head mess over his face.
“Watch me!” He squealed excitedly, turning over so his face was buried in the soft bluegrass below us. “I’m making a grass angel!”
“Three cheers for hay-fever!” I laughed. 
“Never,” He retorted. “This isn’t even hay!”
I fell onto my back in a fit of giggles. “I missed you, Finley,” I said, sighing.
“Mmhmm,” He murmured, nodding, face still buried in the grass. He let silence follow, and it hung over us in a way that made me realize he must, for the first time ever, be frowning. The air turned cold, and my eyes welled up. 
I told them, though, I told them you’d come back.
How could I have believed for a second that he wouldn’t return? It was Finley; full of surprises; with a mind that stretched so far beyond the realm of natural existence, it gave him incomprehensible abilities to do just about anything. He was magic on spindly long legs, dressed in a pair of faded jeans and purple tinted spectacles. It was like he was built for a different universe; a different realm, somewhere else... away from this dowdy, dreary, three-dimensional parody of society. This world was too small for him, but he never seemed to care. Instead, he reeled in the glory of breaking us down from our high horses and socially-approved constructs of age, and maturity, and who-we-should-and-ought-to-be. He was the antidote to the lifeless gray haze we existed in, and he showed us glimpses of his world from time to time. 
How could the light in all this darkness ever lose his way? It would’ve been like Peter Pan never returning to Never Never Land, and instead, resolving to grow old, grow sick, grow numb... like the rest of us. That’s just not what happy endings are made of. 
How could you have done it?
As soon as the words left my lips, I regretted it. I watched him sigh heavily, and he pulled himself off the grass to trace soft foot prints through the lawn, making his way to the water’s edge. Dandelion pollens skated by in the night air, passing through to gawk at this train-wreck of a conversation. 
“I didn’t mean to,” He said, apologetic and soft- so soft it could have been drowned out by the buzzing of the dragon fly wings that hummed around his head. His blue eyes focused, transfixed, on one of the insects that hem and hawed over the decision to perch upon his finger tips. 
“I know,” I replied, but knowing is a fickle thing. Our humanity is so flawed and so fluid that it seeps into everything we think. It makes us ponder what ifs and picture bad things. “I’m sorry,” I whispered, feeling sadness take hold and choke me.
With quick steps, he hopped, skipped and launched into the black water. For a split second, before he broke the surface again, I felt fear. 
The news was on everyone’s lips, news headlines, internet page... paraphrased, misquoted, whatever... It didn’t matter; the story was always the same. Finley Matthews went out on a trip, out to sea, and he never came back. A day passed, and then two, and then four, and six... The news story floated from headline to fifth page margin. Then, everyone lost hope. “They stopped looking for you,” I said, my voice breaking. “What was I meant to think?” I felt a tear roll down my cheek. “I remember that feeling you left me, late one night, when I thought you had come into my room and shaken me awake,” I breathed, “Despair, and dread, and drowning,”
Well I’m here now aren’t I?
I looked to him as he floated and bobbed in the water, his hair soaking wet. I smiled weakly, feeling the sadness slowly ebb away. It was true, Finley came back... after a week of fingers-crossed and praying. He was a miracle; magic, didn’t I say? Only he could have traversed the wicked written pages of a tragedy such as this, and scratch out the final ‘exeunt’, to replace it with an embrace instead. 
Pulled away by the current, he had swam out to some camp grounds, and when some people found him, they nursed him back to health. It was so simple, so perfect, of course that’s what happened. How could we have ever thought otherwise? After a week he was back in our arms again, smiling, the same; Finley. 
“I was just so scared,” I said, “Of how the world would look if you never came back....” I watched deep, purple, velvet clouds sail past the moon to dim the lights for a second. I took a breath, “I was terrified of who I’d become, without ever seeing you... again,”
He nodded, he seemed to know, but he kept silent. Sad conversation was not his forte. Silence ensued again, and the breeze did it’s best to rustle leaves and shake trees to fill the silence between us. Sickly sweet looped carnival tunes from the pier drifted across the water to meet us. I gazed out to red and yellow Ferris wheel that spun lazily in the distance. Finley stared defiantly down at the black water. I felt bad again.
Perhaps my darkness was touching him and soaking in. Perhaps after all that he had been through, a small crack appeared on the thick surface of his skin; the barrier between his perfect world and mine. My sick world, filled with worry and pain. “I still told them though,” I said, hoping to sound reassuring... 
I still told them you’d come back.
He lifted his head and flashed me his pearly whites. With a stubborn little smirk, he splashed water in my direction and I flinched to take steps back. “Come on,” He said, “You’re just wasting time.”
“No,” I shook my head, “You know I can’t, not anymore,”
“It’s easy!” He said, and our eyes locked...
Just let go.
“Okay,” I said to him, “Okay...” I sighed to myself, and took a shaky breath as my toes touched the icy cold water. “It’s too cold!” I whined, and backed away. 
“Then just jump in,” He grinned, “And I’ll hug you until you’re warm again!” Him and his skewed logic; that special spark; the antidote to the gray haze. I couldn’t help but laugh. “It’s not so bad,” He shrugged. 
“Okay,” I said. It seemed simple enough, and beyond the fence of doubt and fear that kept me from launching forward, Finley giggled up at me. I dragged in as large a breath as I could manage and forced myself forwards. Step, step, step, jump... and then it was over. I crash-collided with the below-freezing abyss, and let it consume me.
I drifted, alone, inching closer and closer to the bottom. It was indeed cold, and dark, and scary- just like I had imagined. Silky green weeds, like tendrils of hair waved along at the bottom, tickling the soles of my feet, as if to tease me with the notion that they might grab  me. At the thought of it, my heart and mind raced in unison.
I was just a young fledgling, unaccustomed for flight inside this unfathomable deep that Finley so enjoyed. Perhaps before I ran headfirst through the fence, and into his world, I should have asked him how to stay afloat; how to keep up with him. 
Just think happy thoughts. 
I felt fingers interlace with mine, and before I knew it, I was being pulled towards the surface. I breathed, unsteady, and he laughed as he enveloped me in a hug.
His soaking wet hair grazed the side of my cheek, and I felt his warm breath against my skin. I smiled, softly, and closed my eyes. The freezing water and the unknown below faded away, away, away...
Content and serene; a sense of feeling complete, a feeling I thought I would struggle to feel again- but somehow, it had found me. I pulled him close and kissed the top of his head, my hands shaking as I struggled with the thought; Finley, my dear friend, I never thought I would hug him again. But here I was, falling apart and being held together at the same time. Incomprehensible, impossible, magic... it was just as perfect as I thought it would be, here, on the other side of the fence. 
Tears rolled down my cheek as I drew a shaky breath. “What would all of us have done without you?” I said, voice and heart breaking. “Promise me you’ll never get lost again,” I pleaded, “Please...”
Promise me.
“I promise,” He whispered. and looked up at me. That crooked smile, those bright, sparkling eyes. So young, so innocent, so naive. “Next time,” He said, “Just stay with me...”
I furrowed my brow, unsure of what he meant. “Of course,” I said anyway, “Always,” He smiled softly. He looked at peace. 
I woke up. 
I looked around; no lush bluegrass, no sparkling pier, no endless lake... just four beige walls covered in two-bit paintings and collectable memories. I felt debilitated and short-changed. I clasped a hand over my lips and let my unhinged emotions rise up over my head. Was that it? The perfect cliche to end a perfect story; it was all a dream.
Had I become the perfect definition of youthful discontent? The one who dreamed the perfect dream, and saw it end...
I cried, and cried, and cried... and in spite of it all, my grief grew, and grew, and grew; like a parasite that glutted on every painful thought that entered my head. I thought it was all over, that the sad story had drawn to a happy close. I held all the answers in my arms for just one moment, and then I opened my eyes. 
Why did I have to return? Here, in the gray haze, resolving to be like the others; to grow old, to grow sick, to grow numb... Desperately, I tried to grab on to the small fragments of the perfect, happy world I had seen projected inside my head. That section of paradise; that other universe; just happy thoughts, just letting go. There, Finley was safe, he was happy, he was at peace. 
That’s all I ever wanted.
Later that day, I heard a friend fight back sobs on the other end of a phone. “They had to stop looking,” She said, and paused to sigh. “It’s been seven days...” Seven days, I thought, and mulled it over. “This...” She stammered, her voice falling to a whisper, “This is such a nightmare.” I shut my eyes.
Wake up... wake up...

© 2012 The Dark Passenger

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Added on April 13, 2012
Last Updated on April 13, 2012