A light appears behind her, blinding my unaccustomed eyes. It begins as a thin line spreading to either side of us and disappearing into an unseen distance, creating a horizon.
My sister and I pull apart at the same time, wiping our tears away with sheepish grins.
As she turns away to look at the sudden scenery, I look at her. She no longer is the cold, pale vegetable in the hospital bed, covered in burns and scars and connected to a dozen monitors.
She looks the same way she had on the day of the accident– glowing with a natural tan and at a healthy weight. Her dark hair is long, sleek, and lays flat against her slender shoulders. Her face and arms are free of blemishes. She is even dressed the same– skinny jeans, boots, and a band T-shirt with skulls drawn all over the front.
Propelled by a sudden urge, I look down and find that I am standing on solid ground on my own two feet.
And I have two hands. I curl the fingers of my left into a fist and examine it, bringing it as close to my face as I dare. The slim digits glow slightly in the light. Cracked skin covers the brittle bone and a thin scar cuts across the back of my thumb.
It’s real. It’s really my hand.
“Ethan?” Sylvia’s eyes are wide and glistening with fear, an expression I have never seen before. “What’s wrong?” Her voice trembles slightly.
“Nothing.” I say, repeating the conditioned response I’ve been using for almost every question people have asked me since I woke up two days after our car flipped off the highway.
‘What are you thinking about?’
Translation: How my mother could have made it out alive if it wasn’t for me.
‘What do you remember about the accident?’
Translation: The squeal of the rubber tires on the asphalt. How bright the sun was as we swerved towards it. The crunch of metal. How much the sound of glass shattering resembled the irregular tune of the wind chime on our porch.
My mother’s voice begging bystanders to help me out of the overturned car as my father carried my sister to safety and gasoline leaked from the car, creeping towards the small fire at the engine.
The warmth of the middle-aged man lifting my numb body and taking me away from the wreckage.
The pained screams escaping from somewhere deep inside me.
The orange blaze of the sun as it engulfed the car and my mother with it.
Sylvia’s arms wrap around me again. She had always been capable of telling when I was lying.
She is slowly growing warmer while I can feel my own body cooling down, absorbing the coldness that had once resided in hers.
I look at the white horizon.
So that’s what it is.
“I was so scared.” she says, silencing my thoughts. “All alone in the dark.” Her voice becomes thicker as her shoulders started to shake.
“I know.” I respond. And I do, I truly do. I’d dreamt of her voice sobbing every single night, longing to be found. “And I’m sorry,” I continue, trying to keep my own voice from trembling. “I’m sorry I couldn’t find you until now.”
And I’m also sorry that we won’t be together long.
“No.” she says, pulling away to dry her eyes. One hand remains on my shoulder, warming my cold flesh. She hesitates before asking, “What happened to me– to us?”
Her face scrunches up, bracing for a hit.
I don’t know what to tell her or even where to start. Images and words mix together in my mind, overlapping each other until they become a tangled, incomprehensible jumble.
“Never mind.” she says, reading the answers on my face. Her eyes well up with tears again but she blinks them away.
A moment passes before I reluctantly gather up enough courage to say, “Let’s go,” and motion towards the white light. I keep staring at her face, taking in every single detail while I still have time.
She looks behind her, then back at me with one eyebrow raised. I nod and begin walking past her, holding my hand out behind me to guide her like when we were little. I am only older by a few minutes yet I have always felt that it was my job to protect her.
I guess some things never change.
Her warm fingers envelop my cold ones and we make our way forward in silence.
The white horizon grows thicker with each step, as though someone is slowly stripping away the darkness, one thin line at a time.
We arrive at the edge of a black cliff, surrounded by a sea of the purest white.
“What is this?” she asks, looking down over the edge.
I don’t– can’t– answer. Instead, I just let go of her hand. She turns toward me but I keep my eyes fixed on my feet.
I take a step back. “I’m sorry, Sylvia.” And push her over the edge.
As she falls, twisting to look up at me as my tears catch up to her, I see the burns and scars slowly appear on her skin, growing more and more prominent as she disappears into the white haze.
She will wake up in her hospital bed and call for a nurse, who will phone my father. He will in turn come looking for me, eyes glistening with happy tears. The celebration will be cut short when he finds my corpse and thinks I committed suicide to be with her.
He will never understand, but Sylvia will. She’ll know why I pushed her.
Only one of us could return to the world of the living.
I knew that. I suppose I always knew we’d never be whole again.
I watch the white light fade as I dissolve into the darkness.
A/N: It seems like we’ve reached the end of yet another story… I hope you guys liked it! Please let me know what you thought of this story and I hope to see you next Friday! 😀