Bonnee Crawford – Deakin University
You have been searching for hours when you find her toeing the sheer drop. She is standing on The Edge of the world, looking down. Water is thrashing far below; a combination of the ocean’s waves and the violent waterfall that stretches endlessly to both sides. A fine mist rises back up, dappling your cheeks with beads of moisture. It clings to your face, making your skin clammy. The howl that sweeps in on the wind from across the water is mournful and bitter, continuously battling to clear the air of the misty spray.
The stone beneath your feet is hard and smooth and slippery. You wipe your forehead and step towards her. She is standing on The Edge of the world and she has nowhere else to go. Her feet are flush with the point where the cliff ends and gives way to empty air. You know what she is trying to do, but you cannot let her.
“It won’t work.” The sky above is threatening to burst open. The weather will not be kind for much longer and you want to go back underground. You feel exposed out here. You want to return to the others, but she is standing on The Edge of the world and you know exactly what she is thinking. “You know I’m right.”
“Then why are you worried?” she asks.
You take another step towards her. You can feel the chill that radiates from her body. She is so lifeless. Why would you be so concerned for the fate she is wishing for, when you know it is impossible? What difference would it make if she threw herself off The Edge of the world and into The Deep, when she is already dead?
“I want to save you the disappointment.”
She takes in a deep breath and holds it. You wait for the inevitable sigh, but it does not come. You tilt your head. She does not breathe out.
“Do you really think we can hold our breath forever?” she asks.
“I don’t know. I’ve never tried.”
“You’re like the others.” You cannot see her face, but you can sense that she is smiling. She turns to you and there it is: the gentle curve of her lips that she has kept hidden for so long. It is not how you remember. It is sadder. Her eyes are sadder, too. “We know that we don’t need to breathe, but we do it anyway. You say, unthinkingly, like everyone else, that we can hold our breath forever. But you’ve never tried.”
A soft peel of laughter escapes you. “It’s a habit. I was human, once, just like you were.”
“You were mortal, once, just like I was.”
The curve of her lips flattens out and she turns back to the sea. She is standing on The Edge of the world, looking down. You want her to go underground with you, but she wants something else. She wants something from the ocean, far below. She wants something you know she cannot have, but you are terrified that, somehow, she will get it. You try to get inside her head, but nothing gives away what she is thinking. Will she jump? You try to answer the question yourself, but you cannot, and you do not know if it is because she has not decided yet, or if she has found a way to block you out. She is standing on The Edge of the world, looking down into an ocean that has no floor.
“When I was alive, I wanted to become immortal. I never said I wanted to stop being human,” she says.
“I always thought being human and being alive came hand in hand. I never thought of immortality and being human together.”
Far below, the ocean is waiting for her to make a choice. She could take the plunge and follow the waterfall all the way down through the mist and into The Deep. You do not want to look down to where the water assaults the rocks. You wish she would stop looking. She is standing on The Edge of the world, and you are standing with her, willing her to walk away.
“If you wanted to save me from disappointment, why did you let me become this?”
You give no answer. It is not your fault she is unhappy with immortality. You only gave her what she asked for; she begged you for this life. It is death, but you still consider it a life. She considered it a life, once, too.
She is standing on The Edge of the world and the sky is about to burst open overhead. The updraft from the ocean is somehow warmer than the chill radiating from her lifeless body. She is standing on The Edge of the world, looking down, and you are waiting for her to turn away and go back underground.
“What’s one more disappointment?”
She throws herself so suddenly, there is no way you can stop her. You watch her lifeless body plummet down through the mist, skimming the vicious surface of the waterfall. Her arms spread wide to greet the sea. The Deep engulfs her without a second thought. You search the crests of the breaking waves and the foam that spews from around the base of the waterfall, but she is not there. Panic starts to infect you. You are standing on The Edge of the world, looking down, and she is nowhere to be found.
You wait, staring into The Deep, begging her to resurface. She cannot be dead. She already is, but she can’t be. She cannot be gone. You beg and plead and reason with yourself and with the ocean and with the sky. What if it worked? Will immortality be over for you too, if you throw yourself from the cliff? So many questions rush through your head, but still, she does not resurface. You call out her name. You call it again. There is no answer aside from that of the waves, roaring at you from below. You roar back, “GIVE HER BACK!”
Suddenly, you are falling. You are unafraid. The air rushes past your ears, cold and merciless as you plummet into The Deep. Your head rings with the scream of the waterfall, cascading alongside you. The ocean envelopes you in salt and foam and you are pulled under. Rocks feel sharp and hard against your body. You feel them cutting in, but they do not hurt you. Lungs full of water do not cripple you, as they would have in your past life. The salt water does not sting your eyes. You are immune to the thrash of the waves.
She is clinging to the rocks as the waves and waterfall beat her against them. Her eyes are wide open and her brow is set in determination. She wants so badly to die, but she is already dead. She does not react when you touch her, but you know that it is forced. Immortality will not let you speak underwater, or you would say something to coax her away. Instead, you take hold of her arm and push yourself against the angry waves and never-ending mass of falling water, towards the sky, dragging her up behind you.
You inhale out of habit when you break the surface. She lets you drag her through the water until you find a break in the falls to climb back up the rocky cliff-face. The climb feels endless. You are both soaked and you half-expect her to be shivering. She is not; she is just as undead as she was before she threw herself from The Edge. At last, you pull yourself over the top of the cliff and drag her up next. She lies against the smooth surface, watching you.
“Are you happy now?” you ask. Your voice is resentful. You hate that she jumped, even if it accomplished nothing. You warned her it would be futile. She should have listened.
She is still trying not to react. It is starting to rain. The sky has finally let itself go. You do not care; you are already drenched.
“Why did we choose this life?” she whispers over the conundrum of waves and wind and rain. Her eyes rest on the sky, unfocused.
“I hate eternity.”
You feel your disdain crumble and you lay down on your stomach next to her. In another life, you would have felt dizzy at the thought of being so high up and so close to The Edge. The drop is right behind you and you will fall into The Deep again if you roll over. You are not afraid. You know now that it will make no difference.
“You can’t take it back,” you say. “You have to keep it.”
She finally lets out that inevitable sigh. Her chest is rising and falling in that habitual pattern of breathing that she knows she does not need to follow. You take her cold hand in yours and squeeze, demanding that she listens. “Keep it with me.”
At some point while you are lying there on The Edge of the world in the rain, she nods in agreement. She closes her eyes for a moment, submitting to the reality of her situation, letting it sink in at last. She will live forever, just like you. Her hand squeezes yours in return.
Bonnee enjoys writing short stories and novels of a variety of genres and hopes to pursue a career as a literary agent and editor. She has just completed her first year of a Professional and Creative Writing major in order to improve and enhance her skills.
Image by Sarah Allen