[This is the third version of my short story Loss. It a short story that the reader can choose how they want it to end. I am not totally in love with the last two paragraphs so any ideas would be great!]
I know what I need to do, I just don’t know if I have the strength to do it. I just know that it needs to stop. Grave after grave after grave. I’m tired of burying my friends.
Placing the last rock on Kenton’s head, his face looks so white, so unnatural. He didn’t even make it to his 20th birthday. It’s next month. He told me it was a bad idea going after her. I didn’t listen.
Amidst the rapids rushing through the gorge, bushes rustled behind Soran.
“Hello?” He said nervously as he scanned the rocks and bushes behind him. “Please be a deer, please be a deer, please,” he pleaded and slowly reached for a piece of drift wood nearby.
Suddenly a silver knife flung through the brush and wedged itself between the rocks missing Soran’s hand by near inches. He fell back against Kenton’s grave, catching his breath.
“Thought I would find you here,” said the silverly voice. “Didn’t think you were watching when he fell.”
“He didn’t fall,” Soran snapped. “You pushed him.”
The voice laughed and a young woman wearing blood stained jeans and grey jacket stepped out of the bushes.
“Oh please,” protested Alaya, “I didn’t think he would fall this far. Didn’t realize this gorge was so... deep.”
Soran’s face and eyes burned with hatred. In a flash he swiped the knife wedged between the rocks and held it in front of him. “You. Pushed. Him.” he said through clenched teeth.
Unfazed, Alaya rolled her eyes and placed her hands on her hips. “So?” she smirked, “What are you gonna do about it?” She enticed, staring down at him.
Her electric blue eyes flickered. The veins on her neck were pulsing black. She looks like she’s half dead, especially with those bullet holes riddled across her chest. How she is still standing, let alone breathing, is beyond me.
“Well?” She questioned slyly, narrowing her eyes like a wolf.
Soran stared her down but then saw the knife between them and realized what it would cost him. He sighed and let the knife drop out of his hand.
“I…can’t,” he faltered.
Shocked, Alaya furrowed her brows and stepped closer. “What do you mean you can’t?” she scoffed, “aren’t you going to finish this?”
Kneeling, Soran looked up at her. “You killed him,” he began. “He was my best friend. My brother. And you killed him. You killed all of them! All of us!” he said sharply. Tears began streaming down his face painting the pebbles and stones with his grief.
Puzzled, Alaya stepped closer. “So, you’re giving up? Just like that? You’re not going to fight for your family or friends any more?” Soran wiped his burning eyes and looked down at the rocks. “Laya, please, I’ve lost three friends and a brother in two days, I can’t. I just can’t. Please. I can’t bear to watch another friend die.”
Alaya smirked. “Coward,” she said under her breath. Suddenly, like a panther, she rushed at him, kicked him square in the chest, and snatched the knife out of the rocks. Soran fell backwards against the grave and tried to scramble away but Alaya was faster. She lunged at him with full force pinning him down with her knee. She grasped his wavy brown hair with her one hand, holding his head back against the rocks and pressed the knife against his neck. Soran grabbed her hands and did his best to hold them back. His eyes were as wide as saucers.
“Come on, Soran, give me a challenge,” she smiled and chuckled to herself. “At least fight for Kenton.” She tilted the blade slightly until the point drew blood. Soran froze, he was breathing so fast he thought his heart would explode. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t think. All he saw were those unnatural murderous eyes. Eyes that used to make his stomach flutter. Now all he feels is pain and his body screaming for attention.
“Fight!” she yelled. “Come ON! You COWARD!” Her eyes wild and empty.
Fight or flight. He had to do something. But perhaps ‘doing’ is only going to make things worse. There is only one way to get out of this.
Soran swallowed hard, his hands now shaking.
“Well?” Alaya pressed her knee further into his chest.
“Enough!” bursted Soran, “please! Just get it over with! I can’t.”
“You can’t or you won’t.”
Soran felt the knife push a little further into his neck. “I can’t do this anymore, just do it. Do it!” Soran slowly released his grip on her hands. “I have nothing left to lose…except…you.” Alaya tilted her head and furrowed her brows.
“Unless,” he choked.
“Unless what?” She paused.
“You could change, Laya. You could fight; not me, yourself. You can take the antidote, you can be cured.” He winced as she pulled on his hair even more. “I’ll have my best friend back, I won’t have to bury anyone else.” Alaya felt his hands fall away.
“But this is who I am,” Alaya told him. “This is the best version of myself.”
“Is it? Is it really? Your best version?”
She sneered, “Shut up! I’m stronger, faster, and smarter in every way. I’m practically invincible.”
“But is that all you ever wanted? You think life has nothing to offer you?” Soran’s face twisted from fear to pity.
Alaya shifted. “Life has been hell for me! I was alone, and abused and hated it. I had no-one! Nobody! But now,” she boasted, “now no one will EVER hurt me AGAIN!”
“But you had us!” Soran pleaded. “We were there for you! Why do you think we came after you? To kill you? We wanted to bring you home. To fix you.”
“You can’t fix me, you idiot! You can’t fix any of us—“
“Yes we can. That was the plan. The antidote—“
“—is a lie!”
“—works.” Soran answered. “It does. We tried it and it worked. It’s why we came for you. To give you chance. To come back home.”
Alaya briefly looked away from his puppy dog eyes. So much love, so much weakness she thought.
“Look,” he sighed. “I give up, I can’t keep doing this. I want this to end.” His brown eyes gleamed, and his voice broke. “Do what you want. I’m tired of burying my friends.”
Alaya was puzzled. She never had an opponent give up like this, he showed such compassion and love. Something she hardly remembers. Soran closed his eyes, his hands lay open at his side. Deep down, she wanted to believe him. She wanted to remember what Heal-X took from her.
For a moment, her eyes seemed to clear for the first time. She questioned everything she was told to believe. Studying his face more closely, she began to remember ruffling his wavy brown hair and seeing his kind brown eyes. She could almost hear his laugh. However, the memories did not come fast enough.
Soran’s eyes shot open, he gasped and grabbed his throat. Blood gushed between his fingers and he struggled to talk but only blood spewed from his lips. Alaya released her grip and rolled back on her knees. She stared at her friend drowning in his own ambition.
“I’m sorry,” she uttered, unable to look away. “At least you can join your brother.”
Soran reached for her before everything went dark. His hands dropped into his lap and his head lulled to the side. Alaya watched his warm skin became pale and waxy. She inched closer to him and gingerly touched his hand. So cold, so strange. Alaya leaned into his face, his brown eyes looked empty now. She killed many times before, so why did it feel different now? A single tear slid down her grimy face. Strange.
She quickly wiped the tear with her sleeve then noticed her knife still in her hand. She looked it over. Something inside her was trying to get out, like someone clawing at the lid of a coffin desperately trying to get out. She shook the feeling away and stood up. Mission accomplished. Now, she had to return to Heal-X and wait for her next assignment. As she turned to walk back the way she came, Soran words drifted back into her head,
“… I can’t bear to watch another friend die…I have nothing left to lose, except you.”