Gods and Monsters

By Alex Ebenstein

The guide smacked the top of my bright red plastic helmet in that good-natured gesture of camaraderie. It annoyed the fuck out of me. 

“Don’t worry, guy, you’ll be just fine. You might even have fun,” this guide whose name was possibly Jerry said with a smirk and a wink.  

“Got any phobias?” I asked, and when he looked confused I added, “Are you afraid of something? Spiders? Snakes? Clowns?” 

“Oh, sure. I hate snakes. Creepy, slithery sonsabitches. I see one—” He made a short whistle and jabbed his first two fingers in the opposite direction. “—and I’m outta here.” 

“Right. Now imagine you hop into your car, buckle up, then the car fills up with snakes. Hundreds, crawling all over you. And now the door is locked and the buckle is stuck and you can’t get out until I say so.” 

Jerry or whatever his name was rolled his eyes. “You’re telling me that’s how you feel about heights?” 

“That’s right.” 

“Oh, come on, guy. You can’t be that scared to be up here.” 

“And yet, I am.” I threw both hands up in the air, then pulled them in to catch my sagging, helmeted head. My eyes bored holes into the dirt under my shoes. I’d found a place to sit—a tree stump—that was away from the drop off, but I knew it was in my best interest to avoid looking anywhere near the vast valley until I absolutely had to. 

My wife’s light touch traced a hieroglyph on my back. “You okay, hon?” 

I grunted. “For now.” 

“You’ll do great,” she said. “I know this is scary for you, but once you take that leap of faith the adrenaline will kick in and ride you home. It might even ride you hard enough to give you a good time and make me jealous.” 

“You sound just like that guide. Except, you know, the sexual part.” I lifted my eyes to find a full-faced grin on Hailey’s face. I shook my head, but laughed, too. She was always intentional with her words, and even though I was used to it, she was still capable of using them to full effect on me. For a moment there I no longer felt stuffed to the gills with dread. 

But terror remained. 

“Remind me why I agreed to do this again?” 

“Oh, hon,” she sighed, then used her butt to shove me aside and create room for her to sit beside me on the stump. “Because that’s what this whole trip is about. To get out of our comfort zone. To free ourselves from the rut of daily life. To have fun. To be adventurous. Which, I believe those were your exact words. Be adventurous. That’s what we’re doing. And I’ve always wanted to go ziplining. What better place than the Rocky Mountains? It’s gorgeous up here!” 

She grabbed my hand and gave it a quick squeeze—her way of telling me she loved me without using words. Then she stood and unleashed an animal scream into the thin air, scaring off a small flock of birds and drawing derisive glances from the two guides. I used to be embarrassed by her random outbursts like that, but eventually I realized she was only being true to herself. Living her best life, as the younger generation says, and dammit if I wasn’t jealous of her unwavering confidence. I sure as hell could have used some up in these mountains, minutes shy of flinging my body down a line between peaks, several hundred feet of air suddenly between me and the ground. 

“Y’all ready?” the other guide yelled over to us. This guy’s name was Brad, I knew for sure.  

“Do I have to?” I muttered. Only Hailey heard me. 

“Yes, Nick, you do. We didn’t pay beaucoup bucks for the private tour for you to not go and then need a lift back down the mountain. Now mount up, bucko. We’re going ziplining.” 

 I stood wearily, but the soles of my shoes felt firm on the ground. I was steady for the time being, although I knew that would change as soon as I ascended the platform. Hailey must have sensed some hesitation by me, because she grabbed my hand and pulled me along, all the way to and up the wooden steps. Brad and Jerry were up on the platform already, waiting for us.  

While looking down—something I’d been doing the whole time to avoid the view of the drop-off—I adjusted my harness for the thousandth time, trying to get that sucker in a more comfortable position. But to be honest, I was stalling. Finally, I lifted my head. 

“Oh, shit. What is that? Smoke?” I asked. I could follow the zipline cable from over my head across the valley, but the landing platform on the other side was partially obscured by thin wisps of whiteish-gray floating past. 

“Nah, just fog,” Brad said. 

“Actually, I believe those are clouds. Lenticular clouds, to be precise,” Hailey said. After she saw my expression, she added, “I read about it in a guide book.” 

“Yeah, sure. Clouds, whatever,” Brad said. “Y’all ready?” 

“Clouds won’t cause any problems, will they?” I didn’t think they would, but I’m not ashamed to admit I was reaching for any possible reason to abort mission. 

“Nah,” Brad said again. “But they ruin the view. So we better get zipping before y’all can’t see a damn thing. Should be better lower down, but these are the best views right here.” 

Suddenly the clouds seemed like a great thing. Sailing into an obscured mist wasn’t high on my to-do list, but if it eliminated the chances of me seeing how far I’d fall if the harness failed . . . Well then, the more the merrier. 

“We’re ready,” Hailey said. 

“Dope,” Maybe Jerry said. “I’m going to go first so I can help stop you on the other side. As demonstrated, that glove you have on your hand is all you need to brake, but just in case, I’ll catch you. I don’t care what order you two go in. Brad will come over last. Got it?” 

Hailey was nodding her head vigorously, so much so that I was surprised to see her wide grin still held on her face. I said, “Sure, I guess.” 

“That’s the spirit.” Jerry clipped his harness in to the line, taking care to once more show us the step-by-step process that he demonstrated back at the shop. When he had his clips secured, he stepped back into position on the platform, turned to us and said, “Cowabunga, kids.” 

Jerry took three quick strides then jumped off the platform, zinging out into open space. It wasn’t until he was halfway out of sight that I realized how dense the cloud had gotten. He disappeared intermittently, reappearing one final time just before what I thought was the opposite platform . . . Then, gone. I looked to Hailey who looked to Brad, then back to me. 

“Is he—” 

“Clear!” Jerry shouted from the other side, his voice simultaneously echoey and muted. 

“Alright, who’s next?” 

“I’ll go!” Hailey shouted enthusiastically, then in a softer, more subdued tone, said, “Is that okay, Nick? Or do you want to go first?” 

“No, you go ahead. I’m going to need another minute to trick myself into going.” 

She beamed, then gave me a fast peck on the cheek. “Love you!” 

Then she went to it, clipping in with the assistance of Brad, quick strides, and a leap. I saw less of her in the clouds than I did Jerry, but Hailey squealed with joy most of the way, with intermittent whoops of cheer and an exclamation of amazement. Eventually I heard her call back that it was clear, happiness peeking through even that one simple word. 

Despite the sick, dropping feeling in my gut, I smiled. I couldn’t help it with that level of glee coming from my wife. It reminded me why I agreed to do this, because I wanted a chance to see that pure joy again. It had been too long, for both of us.  

“Okay, let’s do this. Might need a push, but I think I’m ready.” 

Brad did not respond. I turned to see him staring off to the west, into the thicker clouds. His face looked like he was caught in a daydream, but the shape his lips made spelled trouble, not hope. 

“Hey, are you—” 

“Only gods and monsters dwell at such heights,” Brad said, his voice coming out soft but solemn.  

“What did you say?” A new wave of dread flooded my insides, but it felt different. This was no longer ‘fear of heights’ dread. Brad spooked the hell out of me. 

Suddenly his face broke and his attention returned my way. 

“Oh, sorry. Just thinking about something my grandpa used to tell me. Kinda cool, though, huh? Gods and monsters . . . Which one do you think we are?” He tried on a smile, but a freshman in high school drama class did a better job of convincing than that guy. 

“Uh, I don’t know. But I’m ready to go now.” And I was. I didn’t want to be alone with Brad on that platform anymore. The intense urge to be with Hailey again overwhelmed any fear I’d had of ziplining before. 

“Yeah, sure. Here we go.” 

Brad helped clip me in and after a couple seconds to take deep breaths, there was no more hesitation. I jumped. 

The next few minutes were a bit foggy, pardon the pun. 

I didn’t see a damn thing the whole way across because I had my eyes shut. I squeezed so hard I managed to block out most of my hearing, too. There’s a good chance I screamed, although I can’t be sure it wasn’t my mind screaming internally. My stomach felt like it was doing flips the whole way, and for a second somewhere in between the two platforms I almost lost my lunch; my lips and teeth held the vomit in place long enough to be swallowed back where it came from. At some point, the ride ended. No clue if it went fast or slow, only that time seemed irrelevant, and eventually I came to a jolted halt—I hadn’t done so well with the hand brake—as Jerry stopped me on the downward platform. 

All in all, the experience wasn’t terrible, but I couldn’t say it was fun, either. The adrenaline Hailey promised me didn’t come. At least not the pleasant rush I thought I’d get later when it was my turn to pick the adventure—white water rafting. But hey, I made it across. My legs were two sticks of jelly as Jerry directed me down the stairs to Hailey, but I survived. 

Hailey said something, though I didn’t hear what. My head and body were too busy catching up with my stationary, feet on the ground reality.  

“—yell clear, Nick.” 

“Huh? Oh, right.” I shook my head, finally coming around. I tried yelling for all clear, but a bullfrog’s croak would have been louder. 

Hailey and whatshisface Jerry laughed. Apparently, I was the after-dinner entertainment. A trickle of warm embarrassment creeped into my cheeks as Jerry yelled clear again for me, but then Hailey placed her hand on my shoulder, facing me with those big, bright eyes of hers. 

“Fun, right?” she asked. 

“I’m not sure I’d say that.” 

Her smile faltered for a fraction of a second. I could have convinced myself it hadn’t happened, that it was just me blinking, but I knew better. My words hurt her, or at least caused disappointment. She was having the time of her life and wanted to share that with me, not see me being a downer. I knew my wife. In that moment, she felt guilty for having fun when I was not. She would know she shouldn’t feel that way, and I’ve certainly never set out to make her feel that way. But that was Hailey. ‘Thoughtful’ was too tame a word to describe her. 

“I think the next line will be the ticket, though. That’s where I’ll catch my stride.” 

That did the trick. Whether she bought the line or saw through it, realizing I was doing it for her—it didn’t matter. It was the go-ahead she sought to unabashedly enjoy this adventure. 

Brad came across and the two guides descended the platform. 

“Just a short little hike to the next line now,” Jerry said. “What say you, folks?” 

“Let’s do—” Hailey began cheerfully before stopping. “Is he okay?” 

She pointed at Brad, who was staring off again, that funny, troubled look molding his hard facial features into something nearing abstract. I didn’t like it before, and I sure as hell didn’t like it now. Something was off. Something was wrong. 

“Brad?” Jerry said. “What’s up, man?” 

Brad faced us, but not like he did to me on the platform before when I finally got his attention. He hadn’t snapped out of anything this time when he looked our way. His mind appeared to still be wandering, lost. 

“The clouds are getting heavy,” Brad said. “Storm’s coming.” 

I spun in a slow circle. I didn’t know if he was right, but suddenly I realized just how dark the day had gotten. There wasn’t a space anywhere above the ground free of obfuscation. I eyed the sun directly, a perfect and pale disc in the sky, tucked safely behind a veil of haze. 

“The forecast and radar showed nothing before we left,” Jerry said. “But the weather can be unpredictable up here, and it does seem like it could storm.” 

“Right,” Brad said. I could tell he was no longer seeing us, and was barely with us at all. His sight settled beyond, into the thickening shroud of dirty gray clouds. “We should go.” 

The Almighty God might as well have said it, because I didn’t need another word. The trail only went one direction, so I set off, grabbing Hailey’s hand to bring her with me. We reached the next platform a few minutes later at a near trot, the guides somewhere out of sight behind. Hailey looked harried from being pulled along but did not voice her annoyance. I wasn’t convinced she was all that opposed. 

The guides arrived as we started to climb the short set of steps. Jerry looked aggravated at being left behind so suddenly. Brad was stone-faced. Atop the platform, next to the edge, there was no mistaking the situation. The fog was total. Wisps rushed between and past us, partially obscuring the two men mere feet away. We had to be standing inside a cloud at that very moment. 

I thought, When did it get so windy? 

Because we weren’t just standing in a cloud. We were standing in a raging river of dark, purple gloom. I checked my arms and saw the hairs raising as if suddenly charged with static electricity. 

“Oh, shit. Guys,” I exclaimed. Nothing else needed to be said: A quick scan of everyone’s face told me they already knew. 

“Right,” Jerry said. “We go—” 

Thunder shook the air around us. That’s what my mind believed at first, anyway, because thunder made the most immediate sense. The sound didn’t last as long as I expected, though, and every second after had me reconsidering what it was. Thunder normally cracks or rumbles or booms. That noise wasn’t any of the three. It was loud, echoey, but more of a thwack. Almost like a loud bang in reverse, like what I would expect a star to sound like as it collapsed on itself, provided sound could be heard in the vacuum of space. 

“We go NOW.” 

Hailey surprised me by asking, “Is this still safe?” 

“I’m sure it’s fine,” Jerry responded quickly. 

“Boy, I’m so comforted by your confidence,” I said. 

“What do you want me to say, guy? Want me to lie and say ‘yessir it’s absolutely one hundred percent safe?’ Can’t do it. What I can tell you is if you want to skip the zip, you can hike down the mountain for the next hour or so in this mess, but I don’t think that’ll keep you away from whatever shitstorm is coming. Or we can cut the chit chat and zip down in about five, ten minutes. What’ll it be?” 

There was no response to his rant. How could there be? 

“Okay then,” Jerry said, clipping himself in. “Same as before. I’ll go first. I’ll yell when I’m clear, but don’t hesitate. You might not hear me through this shit. Give me thirty seconds, a minute, tops. Got it?” 

Someone must have nodded, because Jerry launched himself into the clouds. He was gone from view in an instant. The three of us waited silently for an indication from Jerry when another reverse boom imploded around us, shaking the wooden platform, vibrating the heavy air. I braced myself for . . . What? I wasn’t sure exactly, but if a scream pierced the world I wouldn’t have been surprised. 

There was no scream, only the steady noise of rushing clouds and wind. I hadn’t been counting, but by now we were well past thirty seconds, if not a minute. 

“I didn’t hear him. Do you think he’s okay? Do you think it’s clear?” Hailey asked. “He said not to wait . . .” 

“He’s good,” Brad said, surprising me. 

“What? How do you know? Did you hear him?” 

Brad didn’t answer, only kept his eyes locked into the heart of the white wall. What the hell was going on here? I didn’t hear a goddamn thing. I glanced to Hailey for confirmation. Her arms were crossed, held tight to her chest in self-protection, and her face was scrunched, fear inscribed in her brow. She raised her shoulders slowly. 

“Are you sure?” I asked the guide. 

Brad nodded. He had nothing else to say on the matter. I turned to Hailey. 

“Do you want to go next or me?” I asked. I wanted her to decide because I couldn’t. I was terrified of sending her off first, into the unknownbut leaving her behind, alone with Brad, seemed worse. 

“I—” She hesitated. “I’ll go.” 

“Are you sure?” 

“Yeah, I’m sure.” 

“Okay, please be careful. Be on the ready with your hand brake in case . . .” In case something happened to Jerry is what I wanted to say, but what good would that do? We were all freaked already anyway. 

Hailey clipped in, gave me a final glance. “I know.” 

She kicked into the air and swung off the platform down the line, disappearing in an instant. I did that thing where you hunch slightly, cock an ear, and listen intently. I didn’t know if I wanted to hear anything or not. Either could be good. Or bad. 

“I wonder . . .” Brad said behind me. 

I wheeled around to question or yell or plead, but then I heard a loud cry. 

“HAILEY!” I yelled. The sound of it seemed to vanish on contact with the air. Had my voice been carried on? Or sucked away? 

Several excruciating seconds later, Hailey responded. “I’m hurt! But I’m okay!” 

My knees nearly gave out from the injection of relief. I had so many questions. What happened? How bad was she hurt? What about Jerry? Instead of speculating, I decided I needed to just go. Get across and keep moving down the lines. 

I took position and clipped myself to the zipline. I flexed my legs, ready to fly, then stopped. 

“What did you mean you wonder?” 

Brad gave me a curious look. His lips held a smile, but not a happy one. Sympathetic, if anything. “You’ll see. Now go.” 

The bare flesh on my arms and legs bumped into goosepimples, as if the temperature of the air clinging to my skin had suddenly plummeted. But no, I could thank Brad for that. 

I pitched down the line, leaving that creepy bastard behind me. This time I forced my eyes to stay open, although I might as well have been flying blind. I had time to think how remarkably similar this run was to the first one. Sightless, disorienting, stomach heaving. Terrifying. 

Something hit my arm, stabbing a cold burst of pain through my bicep and up into my shoulder. I yelped, but more because of the shock. I assumed it was an errant tree branch, but whatever it was sent me swinging side to side violently. Completely out of control and instantly nauseous, my eyes instinctively snapped shut as my only avenue to fight back. Soon, though, I realized whatever I hit had slowed my momentum, and it wasn’t long before I came coasting to a surprisingly smooth stop. 

A soft brush against my leg startled a sharp cry out of me. Thankfully I got my eyes open before my body could spasm out in self-defense, as it was only Hailey coming in for a hug. I squeezed her back, hard, feeling her body jerk with short, quick sobs, and seeing tears roll down her cheeks. 

“You made it,” she said. 

“I did. I’m here.” 

I unclipped from the line as I watched Hailey back up a few steps. She had a noticeable limp. I was about to ask what happened when I remembered I needed to shout back to Brad. I gave him the all clear, then went to my wife. 

“What happened?” 

She was still crying, but in a calmer fashion now. “That platform came up too fast. I couldn’t see the end before it was too late. Without Jerry here to help me stop I slammed into the back pole. I sprained my ankle at very least. Maybe broke it. But I’m okay.” 

Oh my God, Jerry, I thought. “Where is Jerry? Are you sure you’re okay? I’m so sorry.” 

“I’ll be okay,” she said as Brad came rocketing in. He stopped hard and at the absolute last possible moment, but unscathed. Clearly not his first rodeo. “But I don’t know where Jerry is. He’s not anywhere around here.” 

The sky thwacked at us as if to answer. It seemed to bust a barrier in my brain, too, because I suddenly recognized I’d been hearing that noise randomly around us. The thrashing cloud winds had reached howling levels at some point, too, because with extra thought on the matter I understood we had been yelling to hear each other from only a couple feet away. 

I shook my head, trying to clear the fog there preventing me from thinking clearly. Was the fog within an effect of the fog without? 

“I know where Jerry is.” 

Hailey and I turned simultaneously to face the guide. He was casually unclipping from the zipline, his expression thoughtful, but unperturbed.  

“You do? How?” Hailey asked. 

“It’s simple, really. I saw what he saw.” Brad methodically loosened his harness, undid the buckles. “The gods are calling, and Jerry answered. He went to meet his maker.” 

His harness fell to the wood planks underfoot with a hollow knock. 

“And I’m going, too.” 

Brad took one step, two…and leapt from the platform headfirst into the gray, staticky void. 

We both made strangled, startled noises. I reached an arm out after Brad, but it was a meaningless gesture. Hailey dropped to her butt and pulled her knees in to bury her head. The sobs returned, wracking her body. I was stunned into a silence. I placed a hand on Hailey’s shoulder, trying to stand tall, trying to be the strong presence—but then my legs gave out. 

“What the fuck is going on?” I said. 

We stayed that way for a few minutes until another close, cavity-shaking implosion sounded off. 

“We have to go, Hailey. We just—” 

But she was already up. I could tell she was drawing from that deep well of resolve I knew she had. Her jaw was clenched, yet her eyes were clear and focused. That was Hailey for you. Emotions hit her hard, but it was all part of her design. They had to come so that she could release them and move on. I, on the other hand, often fought my emotions, and I think that stunted my internal strength. Hailey was the far stronger person in our marriage, and she was about to show it again. 

“I don’t think it’s safe to keep ziplining, but with my ankle this way I’ll slow us down too much to walk. We have to take the risk and get down this damn mountain as fast as possible.” 

I was still struggling to decide what our best option was, but Hailey was certain. There was no question in her voice. I nodded, conceding to her confident decision.  

She was right that progress would be slow by foot. Fortunately, the next platform was close. By the time we climbed the steps, the world was positively deafening. The wind pulled at our clothes furiously enough to tug them loose of the tight harness straps. An inherent electricity in the air set my entire body tingling in an unpleasant, grating manner. 

Back to back thwacks concussed us from either side of the platform. In the space between, a large object rocketed over our heads, close enough to feel its presence. 

“What was that?” Hailey yelled through din. 

“A tree branch!” I yelled back. I didn’t mention that the supposed tree branch was charcoal gray and mottled a deep, iridescent blue. I couldn’t bring myself to verbalize it, giving credence to the slew of insane thoughts coursing through my brain.  

“That came so close! I don’t know, Nick. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe we shouldn’t take the zipline.” 

“So, what, we walk? What about your ankle?” 

Hailey looked lost—no thoughts, words, or plan. I could relate. We both looked around, as though we could see further than a couple feet, as though the answer would simply appear. 

A thought came to me. “What if we wait it out?” 

Wait it out?” 

“Yes!” I shouted, pointing down to the ground. “We could hide out under the platform! This has to end sometime, doesn’t it?” 

“I don’t know. What if—” 

Hailey stumbled backward to the ledge. I lurched after her, grabbing her arm and yanking back before she could fall to her death. The question to ask what had happened formed in my mouth but never left because I noticed what had changed. The wind, no longer surging from our right to left with the direction of the valley, had shifted ninety degrees, coming from the mountain behind me and out into the valley. Except— 

No. This was a new force. The clouds continued to whip the same way they had before, while the air directly in front of us was being visibly pulled. This new wind tugged at us, threatening to drag us off the platform. Hailey grabbed onto me and I grabbed ahold of the deck board below me, fighting with all my might. 

An exhausted growl came tearing from between my gritted teeth. “What the fu—” 

The loudest blast yet enveloped our world. Or ended it. I can’t be sure. 

I went temporarily deaf. My body convulsed, as if in seizure, but thankfully it ended as quick as it began. Time slowed, or perhaps stopped altogether. The air around us stilled with sickening suddenness, from ferocious to slack in the blink of an eye. The shroud of cloud cleared in our immediate vicinity. 

What looked like a hole in the atmosphere appeared before us. Black and infinite in depth. The hole started maybe three feet across in that first instant before swiftly expanding to ten feet, fifteen feet… 

My hand made it halfway up to point out the impossible-to-miss-hole—portal?—when everything in my field of view became blotted out by a wall the color of charcoal gray. My eyes ballooned, my head lifting to attempt understanding the scope of the thing—were those scales?—before me. Various objects of that same dark gray flashed in at all corners of my peripheral . . . Limbs? Tentacles? 

Everything I saw was covered in blotches of a shimmery ocean blue. 

Some twenty feet above my head was where my upward scan stopped. Two pearlescent protrusions, each the size of one of my arms, jutted away from the mass of gray. The tips and inside edges gleamed like freshly sharpened blades. The gash in my arm pulsed at the sight. At the same time, two basketball-sized orbs glowing a neon red blinked at us. 

My brain got in one final thought before everything went black: I could use a god right now. 

When I awoke, I could hear again. But I couldn’t see. 

“Oh god, oh god, oh god,” I said. My voice sounded tinny and echoey, like it was a distorted radio transmission reverberating off the walls of an enormous cavern. “Oh my God, I think—” 

“Nick? Nick!” 

Hailey?”  

“Nick! Oh my God, I thought you were gone…” 

“I’m here, hon. I’m here. But I think I’ve gone blind.” 

Our voices continued to sound off, bouncing around the unseen void. 

“I thought I was too,” she said. “But I don’t think we are. It’s completely dark here, but I’m pretty sure my eyes are open and working— I’m just not seeing anything in the blackness.” 

“I’ll take your word for it. Keep talking, though, I’m going to come to you.” 

She did, and I crawled toward her as best I could, having a little trouble with the weird way sound acted here. The ground underneath was the strangest part. It was hard and solid, but not abrasive. If anything, it was featureless, aside from the deep cold that seemed to reside just below the surface. It wasn’t freezing to the touch, but you could tell there was a very thin layer insulating us from the frozen depths. 

I stumbled along for a while—no clue how long—but eventually found Hailey. We embraced heavily, tears from all four eyes mixing with our sloppy kisses. I’d never been so happy and sad at the same time. I couldn’t bring myself to let her go, or to stop thinking, Where the hell are we? 

An indeterminate amount of time passed. Sometimes we moved—always together, in direct contact—but mostly we stayed put. Where were we supposed to go, anyway? This dimension or world or plane of existence seemed to go on forever. At some point my hand brushed a hard, slick object. My gut told me it was a bone covered in gore. I didn’t tell Hailey, but I did wonder if it once belonged to Jerry. Had he been the meal that kept us alive for the time being? 

Occasionally we’d hear that reverse boom, the hollow thwack, but here—wherever here was—the sound was mercifully muted. Not that it lessened our terror any. One of the times I heard the noise and saw a brief flash of daylight, what I could only assume was a peak back into the world we were pulled from. Instinct told me to move, to run towards the light, but it was gone before my brain could send the signal to my muscles. 

I’d also catch, from time to time, a flicker here and there. Patches of iridescent blue, glowing eerily as they flitted across my vision. I don’t know if Hailey saw it, too, but I can’t imagine she hadn’t. Either way, we didn’t discuss it. We seemed to have a nonverbal understanding that to speak our fate aloud would cement its inevitability. 

I must have slept because I came to when Hailey’s hand found mine, our fingers lacing together. She gave it a squeeze, her silent way of telling me she loved me. 

She whispered close to my ear. “We should have jumped with him.” 

About the Author:

Alex Ebenstein is a maker of maps by day, writer of horror fiction by night. He lives with his family in Michigan. He has stories published in Novel Noctule, Tales to Terrify Podcast, The Other Stories Podcast, and Campfire Macabre from Cemetery Gates Media, among others. Find him on Twitter @AlexEbenstein.