On the Crag

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On the precipice of the crag, they stood; buried in the shadow of the rocks and staring into a sinking sun. The hour long climb to this point had whittled them down to exhausted wrecks – it had been years since they had last been there, and it was not the same as before. No.

“What are you thinking about?”

He grimaced and squinted as he tried to think of a reply, but his seeking mind returned with emptiness.

“Nothing.” It crawled from his mouth, flat. He sank down the curved wall to fall amongst the silt. Wind roared through the craters and cracks in the earth around them for only a second, and left them alone in silence.

“Jack,” she began her lecture, pacing about on the vast grey shelf. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do when you’re like this. It’s undoing me – undoing us. I’ve tried all I can and you act all… cold.”

“I don’t know.” Jack grunted.

“Seriously?” she span on her heels to face her husband, crunching the ground as she did so. “You don’t know?”

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, either.” His palms, stuck and cut with the sharp stones, cupped around his face. Now, his grim voice echoed across his skin. “I don’t know.”

The woman turned again to stare off the edge of the shelf. There was nothing to see down in the dark, save for the two-or-three emaciated trees climbing into the retreating light. There used to be goats that would clamber across the naturally formed steps that lined the edge of the rock faces, but they had disappeared after the long grass stubbornly refused to regrow. It all seemed lifeless, now. The wind roared through again and shook the trees, as if to fill their minute of silence.

“Diane.” The muffled voice came again from the silt pile.

“Yeah?”

“I can’t help it.”

“I… I know.” She crossed over and sank cross-legged beside him, catching the sour scent of his callous sweat as she did so. He had stopped using the cologne – the same cologne he wore for years before – to have it replaced with an odour of uncaring. “I just thought that – since we haven’t done this since… we were first seeing each other, it made have made you feel something.”

Jack’s numb face rolled out of his hands and pointed upwards to let out a hollow chuckle, sounding much more like a weak cough. “Aye. I’d really love to. I would. But I can’t.” he glanced at the sleeve covered stump where his right hand used to be, but reeled away in disgust, as if he had made himself forget the old war-wounds that had replaced Jack Goodman with this hollow simulacrum.

I can’t.”

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