Message in a Bottle

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story about the fear of phobias.

Submitted: August 26, 2013

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Submitted: August 26, 2013

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 "Jenny, jump!" We shouted up at her, waving our arms like frantic wings, our heads bobbing at the surface, little bottles lost among the white foamy waves.
"I can't do it." She said. Her stomach most likely tied in knots, tighter than any boy scout could ever accomplish. By now her skin had probably grown that sheen that plated her body like bronze accentuated by her tan, a sheen that had nothing to do with the heat bearing down on us, enveloping our bodies like an oven slowly ticking its way up to 450. Preheat for the pot of bubbling soup that we were being tossed around in, pieces of fleshy meat boiling to a charred crisp under the heat of the bald oven light, the sun.
"I can't do it." The sun lay directly overhead her, casting her body into a shadow from the blinding white. I blinked upwards in the direction that I supposed she was, where I had come from. She no doubt was squinting back down at us, probably shifting from foot to foot on the scorching rocks, keeping her toes from baking and blistering, and keeping the nervous butterflies from nawing their way out of her toned stomach. She wasn't afraid. I knew that. She wasn't afraid of heights, she wasn't afraid of water. She wasn't afraid of rocks, or impaling herself on one while hurtling off the side of a cliff. She wasn't afraid of drowning, the smooth way the water caught you and squeezed the life out of your body with as many arms as an octopus, the process was so much more tedious and agonizing than the cool water slipping over your skin in the movies and swimming pools let on. She wasn't even afraid of the ocean's mood swings, angry ocean's kidnap little girls. She knew, and she did not care.The thing that made her breathing grow shallow, in and out, her voice cracking, pupils dialating, heart pounding, nerve ending, was the what if. She was so close to fearless, she rolled the aftertaste around in her dry mouth, trying to remember just exactly what spices and flavors it held. So close, yet she couldn't remember what lay on the plate before it was empty. Pain, death, love. Those were a child's game. She wouldn't fall in love, because what if she was afraid of it. She wouldn't feel pain, because what if it turned out to be too much? She wouldn't jump from a 30 foot cliff into the upset water of the Pacific Ocean, coaxing us deeper and deeper and then swallowing us whole,where the people she meant the world to waited for something that would never happen. She would never fall. Not off guard, not into a boiling pot of seawater swishing around with seaweed celery and coral reef carrots, and not in love. I was wasting my time. Lily, who floated two arms lengths away from me, was wasting her time as well. Jenny didn't love me, Jenny didn't love her little sister, and Lily cried at night under the comforting embrace of the moon, for she knew her word, her smile, her laugh, meant less to Jenny than a bottle, broken and smashed on the street. Bottles bobbing in the ocean, little bottles lost among the white foamy waves.
“I’m coming down.” She cried. She could not take the dive. My heart shriveled to the point of nonexistence, I was surprised that blood was still being pumped around my body. I didn’t know what to do. If she had her way, she would be curled up in a ball in the corner of her room, never moving. If she had her way she would be out in the world jumping out of airplanes and leaping off cliffs. If she had her way she would be utterly and completely nonexistent. If she had her way, she would be so lively she would be immortal. But, she didn't have her way. She never did. It was the scabby hands and hooded figures seen out of the corner of your eyes, lurking in the shadows, causing you to forget yourself, they always held the control. They pulled her back from the edge, whispered dark words in her ear like the wind swirling the tufts of greasy brown hair around her head into a halo.
The only thing to fear, is fear itself. Liar. So many lies. It hurts my head, my brain is pounding, begging to be let out, to be eaten away like the soft meat of a clam. Wrenching my skull open like a clamshell, the pearl was gone and broken in half. She was so afraid of the fear. It chewed away at her organs and bit great bloody chunks out of her flesh. It pushed her to the things she didn't want, and pulled her away from the things she did. You could see it breaking her. To fight, was to strap yourself to the rock, and steal Prometheus' place. She held the anxiety and panic behind the glass doors of her eyes, they were splintering and cracking, the shards caught everything within a five year radius, spurting blood from gashes in our skin, not nearly as painful as the posion it spreads to our hearts.
She turned away. She turned away from the cliff, from the water, from risks and love and happiness. She turned away from the hope and the possibility of safety. She turned away from it all because she was no longer the one behind the wheel. They caught her and grabbed her, they sucked her soul and ate her heart in two mighty gulps. Her eyes widened, I could see her clearly, a bubble of simmering water floated me up to the cliff top. Watching her struggle for her life. She hadn't realized the severity of it all until the end. Isn't that how it always works? In one last desperate attempt for freedom, she showed her fear, her fear of fears, who's boss. She ran. Her bare feet slapping against the rocks, cutting niches into her toes. She ran to the edge and ran as far as she could. A black hood filled with shadows swung itself and watched her go. Curiosity, or maybe it already knew what was happening. It knew what to expect. She reached the edge and without as much as a second of hesitation she jumped. My bubble of boiled water popped and I was plumeted into the angry swirling sea, a hurricane of fear beneath us. We weren't surprised. Lily and I turned our heads, we would rather not watch. We said nothing. There was nothing to say. The ocean calmed and the clouds blew away. The sun towered over and a blue sky surrounded us. We pulled the zippers on our mouths shut, hanging on the left side, they were closed once again. Back to societal standards. I didn't know it was comming until it happened, but once it did happen, I felt I had know my entire life. My whole existence centered on this one moment in all of time and space. Breaking the barrier between the ocean and the air, no breathing was needed, my body ran on something far more rare. I resurfaced. She did not. 
I looked around. I was floating in the ocean, alone. Completely alone. There were no cliffs, no shore, on all sides, all I could see was the deep forboding blue of the water. Swishing and washing and dunking me under. Everywhere I looked it surrounded me. Caught me up in a wave and pulled me forward. Backwards. Side to side. So much blue and darkness and alone. The scabby hands were on my shoulder. The wind was whispering in my ear. It was hot and sunny, not a breeze in sight. So open and empty and alone. A dark shadowy figure was on my left, now my right. I closed my eyes against the white hot burn. A sinking ship. A crashed airplane. A swimming expedition went wrong. A storm. So many options but all ended the same. An empty bottle left bobbing in the ocean. She didn't exist. She never did. I was alone, so completely alone. I was crazy. She was crazy. We all were. Just broken animals trying to find our pieces and put ourselves back together. I never found the one that belonged in my empty chest cavity. I made her up. Imagination, halucination, or maybe she fell to the bottom. What was her name again? She didn't exist, or did she? Was it a she? I lost a few screws in the water then. My broken body not equiped for the pain. We were so fragile. All so fragile. Those screws kept me together, they were loosened in the lapping waves, pulled free by scabby fingers, and fell away. My metal bones sunk to the ocean floor.


© Copyright 2017 Nick James. All rights reserved.

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