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Reaching Faith

By @Summer_Ramsay

A Short Story

The air was stale, dry, and tasted more like that of death than of life. It gripped my lungs, making every breath laboured, but my legs would not stop moving, even if my lungs failed. They moved with a spark I did not know they had, with the same urgency as the thoughts that were speeding through my mind. Time could not e wasted, but like water through my fingers, the seconds were slipping. I thought of her face, eyes closed, completely at peace before the plunge. No, I decided, I would not let her be peaceful.

She told no one where she was headed, just left a note; a lengthy goodbye. But I knew where she would jump, the place where Faith would give up fighting.

The forest floor, so uneven and unpredictable, made the treading dangerous, but running past the pats of my memories was truly worse.

Places like the meadow in the middle of the woods. One of the few sun-kissed places, not a tree to shade it, and therefore dandelions would drop seed every spring, popping out to say hello with each winter thaw.

“Make a wish,” Faith insisted, a single dandelion in her grasp.

“That’s just a myth. Wishes never come true.” I had protested, admiring how her golden skin shimmered when the light hit it, and how her eyes sparkled in amazement with the slightest bit of sorrow as she blew the seeds away.

“Well if you think hat then of course they won’t come true.” She smiled the way the always seemed to melt me.

“What did you wish for?”

“I can’t tell you,” She giggled, but her happy glow quickly became a grim sadness. “If I tell you it won’t come true.”

I could tell by the look in her eyes she had wished to be happy, a feeling I had always experienced in her presence but could never seem to return to her despite my ever growing affection.

“Pass me a dandelion, would you?”

“You mean a wishing flower,” she had corrected me, picking one so carefully, as though it would pain the plant if not plucked percisely.

Her smile had grown once more as I took the flower from her hand and joined in with her little wishing game. Faith may have been sixteen, but she had the heart of a child and the love of someone who had always wished to live in a fairytale.

I could feel her watching as I shut my eyes, embracing the darkened silence as I wished the same for Faith. I had wished for her to be happy.

Though I knew stopping was not an option, my mouth was aching for something cold and easy to swallow. That’s how I ended up along the riverbank, the wind in the trees counting each second that passed as I drank the spring water to calm down my aching chest.

“Life is a game,” Faith had explained once, “You’re own into a battle, and throughout the fight you are meant to learn about yourself and how to better the world. If you play it wrong, if you take unnecessary risks, it could hinder your outcome in the end. You could die of old age, if you’re lucky and play the cards you are dealt. But if you play it wrong, your chances of dying happy will forever be ruined.”

“Why must you be so sinister?” I questioned, skipping rocks from one side of the stream to another. “Why can’t you be happy with the life you are living?”

She never answered me, just stood and gracefully crossed the water over a tress that had fallen from a previous fight with Mother Nature. Her skirt was green, matching that of her eyes and making the redness of her hair intensify.

“Augustus, living the life I live is similar to that of drowning. You think you are able to swim to the top, to escape the pain and the darkness, but the tides just pull you back down, making it impossible to escape it’s grasp. And so, you just tread water until you give up and let the stronger force win.”

I didn’t dare waste another second, not f I could help it. The same tree still lay across the water, and though I did not possess the same grace as Faith had, I stumbled across the bark with great ease.The other side of the bank greeted me with an abandoned church, paint peeling from the wood siding and a cross that barely hung onto the remains of the front door. The windows were never boarded, not decorated with that of stain glass and the steps had always been uneven and rotting.

“Humans – we’re such disgusting creatures.” The wood floors creaked beneath Faith’s feet, though she had little weight on her at all. “We’re so greedy as we live, as we die, and yet we’re still not happy without knowing absolutely everything. We give money, then complain we have none. We watch other people starve, blame them for their mistakes, then attend ruches and places of prayer as though we have not sinned.”

“Since when did you become religious?” I had asked, looking up at the damaged statue of Jesus, “I thought you hated religion.”

“I strongly detest it, yes, but I do not hate it. For religion is a way to bring light to people who need it most. It allows us all to continue believing, despite so many insisting on basing our lives around fact only. We must study in school only that which we know. We are yet to be allowed to have faith in things we don’t understand. But religion breaks this rule, allowing us to have faith.”

“I think people believe because they’re afraid of what happens when they die.”

Faith stood for a moment, her blue dress so still, but her eyes full of wonder. “Perhaps you’re right, for dying is something no one knows. We cannot base it on facts.” She then stood on a pew, looking at the broken statue from the back of the room. “But I am not one who is afraid of dying and therefore I am not a phoney who believes based on the fear of the unknown. I believe during will be that which is peaceful, not scary at all.

“But what happens after? Where do our souls go? Is there a heaven, or a hell?” I continued watching her tiptoe from pew to pew, picking up pieces of a torn up Bible.

“I haven’t the slightest idea.” She reached for me from the front bench, a smile on her face. As I went to help her down she placed the pieces in my hands. “It’s a shame something so sacred is so tattered. Please, Augustus, if you do find out about the afterlife, keep it a secret. I would hate to see people have nothing left to believe in.”

Beside the church there was a graveyard. The marbled graves were cracked and weathered, the names and dates barely readable, and overgrown vines climbed the stoned in reach for the sun. It had been one of Faith’s favourite places to visit, as twisted as that seems, because she loved how quiet the company was.

“Be careful!”

I stopped mid-step, my foot levitating in the air, “Of what?”

“You’re stepping on people.” She pulled me back by the arm, keeping me from roaming near any stones. “Just because they’re dead doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the respect and right to sleep peacefully.”

“It’s a graveyard, Faith. You have to walk in order to get to the grave you wish to visit.”

She was quiet for a second, looking around at the old stones. No one ever visit this area, most likely because no one knew it still existed. With a sigh, she nodded. “Just tread carefully.

I will.” I held her hand I always did when visiting places that would trigger her own memories. I could tell she was still reluctant to walk, biting her lip ever so slighting and jaunting so gently I felt like she may fly away.

“Will you promise me something, Augustus?” her grip tightened, her vision on her feet as though she was afraid someone may reach up and grab her ankles.

“Of course.”

She stopped between a single row of grass that separated the newest stones from the oldest, though they all loved ancient in my eyes. “Promise you will respect my grave when I’m dead.” Her eyes met mine, but there was no sadness like there was in her voice. She seemed at peace.

“Of course, but I will be dead before you. I am older, you know.”

She just laughed and hugged my side. “Oh, Augustus, you are so naive.”

My lungs felt bruised, my legs grew weaker and my knees felt so close to giving out, but I was almost there. I could almost catch the smell of Faith’s hair, that of a fresh rain; petrichor.

“Faith.” My voice caught, mouth dry and throat torrid. “Faith!”

“Who are you?” I whispered, a child roughly a year younger than me sat on the remains of a burnt hill. “Are you okay?”

She didn’t speak, nor lift her head from her knees

“My name is Augustus.” I sat beside her. There had been a fire earlier that day on this hillside/ A woman had lit her home aflame. This child, my father had told me, was the only survivor of the family.

“Faith,” she had choked.

“Your name is Faith?” I had asked. Sh never answered and it was not until years later that I found out her name had never been faith at all, but t soon became the name she would adapt to.

“Augustus, we need to go, the flames are getting worse.” My father had called out to he from the other side of the hill, the place the house had been and the place where all the neighbourhood men had been working on extinguishing the expanding flames.

“Come on.” I wrapped my arm around Faith’s waist. It was so small. She had always been so fragile, so broken. “I promise you won’t get hurt any longer. I’ll keep you safe.”

“Faith?” Calling out once more got me the response I had so desperately needed. She walked with the poise I had always admired, a single red ribbon wrapped around the waist of her white lace dress. She looked so innocent, pure and young. And she was smiling.

“Why are you here?” Her voice was gentle, like it had always been. “Why have you come after me?”

My legs gave out, making me tumble to the ground. She quickly ran over to aid me, allowing me to lean against her as I caught my breath.

“Because,” I panted, “I promised to keep you safe.”

Her fingers were gentle as they laced my hair around them. “And so you came to stop me from finally being happy?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, Augustus,” she sighed. “There is no point when you cannot get hurt worse than you already are. I have always felt that way. I am numb. I feel no pain. There is no sadness, no happiness. Laughter is no different from tears. Insanity is sanity. There is no right. No wrong. Living is a mere step away from dying, and I am willing to make that leap.” She stood to go, “Goodbye, Augustus.”

“Wait.” I pulled her down into my lap, gripping her against me in fear of letting her go. “I won’t let you go alone.”

The wind sang as it shuffled through the surrounding trees. An eagle called in the distance, searching for it’s next victim, and we just sat in the overgrown grass on the side of a hill full of Faith’s demons.

She stood and I stood, hand in hand as we walked alongside the river. The gushing of falls strengthened, the mist dancing throughout the air. Everything seemed so beautiful, so brilliant in colour, in life.

And as well fell off the falls drop, never letting go of each other, I was at peace.

 

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