Duster + Ensei

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Wind roared across the earth, pushing small wispy clouds and loose leaves across the blue arch above. Its rush toyed with the two girls’ hair, tugging it this way and that with capricious strength. They stood on the top diving board, fully three stories tall and, seated at the peak of the hill, taller than any of the other structures at the school. Before them spread the pathways and buildings that made up the city, stretching out from them in an apron that seemed both small and yet gigantic from their height.

A cell phone rang briefly; the blonde girl dug into her pocket and pulled it out, read the screen, and smiled at her partner, reddish brown eyes searching out blue. “We’re almost ready; I’ll call you to meet us at the gate,” it read. Idle chatter drifted in the wind, soft jokes the blonde intended to lift the atmosphere. Yet the brunette kept one hand on the railing, her blue eyes drifting away almost immediately, scanning the horizon as if something important was held in that jagged edge. Her partner glanced in that direction, her eyes drawn to the same place, as they had so often as of late without her even noticing it.

The sky. Its incredible dome curved above them, impossibly far away. Blonde hair whipping in the wind, the girl couldn’t help but wonder: what was it her friend saw in that sky? It was just…a sky, like any other. There was nothing special there, no unknown quality, no amount of magic in it. Yet the brunette stared at it so often, a look in her eyes and in her very movement that bespoke of longing, of her hope to once more soar through that sky like she had so easily done before.

Moved by whim, the blonde held her phone in front of her, and with a soft, barely-audible click snapped a picture of that dome, as if to catch some sort of elusive clue for examination later. Her hand moved to the side, following some sort of invisible logic, and for a moment the brunette was in the screen, her hair flying about her in a parody of flight. Those blue eyes seemed so tired, as if just…weary with the world…

The image disappeared. The phone was ringing. Another click, and the blonde answered it, listening to hear the expected words…

Clothes rippling in the breeze, the other girl walked away, down the plank to the edge. Then she turned around in a flurry of cloth, and with a jolt the blonde realized the other girl’s feet were hardly on the plank, the heels already hanging off the edge. Both arms were stretched straight out, as if they were wings of a plane, and the blonde raised her eyes, her heart beating frantically all of a sudden. Her eyes met the blue of her friend’s, and motion slowed, the wind’s noise rising to a peak. The brunette’s mouth was moving – it was moving, right? – something had been said, but the gusting roar drowned it out. Those luminous blue eyes seemed to look through her, look past her to a place only she could see, and the blonde suddenly felt invisible, as though she had inexplicably ceased to exist. Beneath them, the pool of water, so pellucid, somehow peaceful, sheltered from the wind, became a perfect copy of the sky above.

And then, agonizingly slowly, her friend tilted backwards and disappeared over the edge.

Time ceased to exist.

The blonde didn’t hear the frantic inquiries from her phone, didn’t hear the wind anymore, didn’t hear her own voice when it broke loose. For one crazy moment, she thought to herself that this was what her friend wanted, that she should let her do this, but that thought was drowned out almost immediately by her own fear, her own selfishness, not wanting her friend to complete that fall alone. The phone fell, forgotten, from nerveless fingers as the blonde pitched forward, invoking her power even as she moved, and with impossible speed she was over the edge, plunging after her friend, reaching her, grasping her with one – no, both – hands, pulling her as though to protect her…and then the water enveloped them, shockingly cold and hard in what had already been a chilly day.

March 2019
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