Wherein I take a band name from Scalzi’s Next Band Name list, and spend no more than 20 minutes writing the story with the band name as a title. Current one is Viscous Childhood and the full story archive.
"He's gone," he whispered, as he turned into her, pressing his face into her naked shoulder. "He's gone," he repeated, as she tightened her arm around his body, feeling him begin to shake.
Moments later, he was sobbing, great racks of heartache voicing its intensity in his body. She lay next to him, unable to do anything as cried in her arms. She held him while he cried, releasing only when his tears seemed spent, then stroked his hair as he drifted to sleep.
She waited with him, not moving and not sleeping, until he woke a couple hours later. When he tilted his head up to her, she asked, "Do you want to talk about it?"
"No," he said, looking at her for a bit longer. Then, "Yes."
"Anything you want to tell me, I'm here to listen."
"You won't believe me."
"My belief doesn't matter, your talking about it does."
He looked away, breaking eye contact with her. She held her breath until he looked back.
"We met when we were maybe four, I'm not sure which. Ma tells a different story from Pa, and either we met in the pig sty or we met on the road, either at three or four or five. I don't know. He's just always been there with me."
She watched him, as he eased into his story, seemingly searching for memories to bring up as he looked around her darkened bedroom. She didn't say anything. She waited.
"We did everything together, and by everything, I mean everything. We spent all of our time together. Got to the point where both families were okay with us always together and we'd stay at my house or his house, didn't matter which. Ma didn't care much, what with my other brothers, what was one more mouth to feed. I think his parents liked sometimes having two boys in the house. I don't know.
"We went to school together, when we were old enough. They originally had us in two different classrooms. That lasted two days, spent in the principal's office because neither of us would stay in our rooms, we kept going to the other room, and being carted back by the teachers.
"We did our chores together, it was just easier that way. We had a system to figure out whose we did first, and they always went faster that way. We played in the forest together.
"You know, I don't think we spent more than maybe twenty minutes apart from each other. He was always there.
She was quiet, her hand gently carressing his shoulder. She waited.
"We learned to swim together."
She didn't say anything. She waited.
He took a deep breath. "We learned to swim together. He was always the stronger swimmer. ALWAYS," he insisted looking up at her with an intense look.
She nodded, as he continued in a rush.
"We were nine when we were out at the lake. We were swimming around the platform, taking turns swimming under it to the other side. We had done it a million times before, it never took more than a few seconds to get to the other side. He could hold his breath forever. He was fine. He called out, 'Watch this!' and did a backward 'sault into the water and I saw him go under the platform."
He caught his breath and rushed on.
"And then he didn't come back up on the side. And I waited until I thought he should come up and he didn't come up. So I went to the other side, and he wasn't there. I screamed for him, but he didn't come up. I think my parents or maybe his parents heard my screams from the dock, because they were in the rowboat on the way out to the platform when I came up from under the platform. I couldn't find him under the dock, I couldn't see under it when I was in there. I didn't know where he went."
She didn't say anything. His heart was racing, the pulse on his neck showing her how fast.
"My ma was holding me on the platform, she was crying, when he finally came back up. I didn't understand why she didn't see him on the deck, laughing like he always did. 'Scared you, did I?' he asked me. It took me a bit to get my ma off me, but I finally did, and went to give him a punch because he scared me so much. When I did, my hand went through."
He stopped, and looked back up to her, a pleading look in his eyes.
"It's okay," she said. "Really, it's okay."
"We," he started again. "We figured out that if I walked into the same space as he was in, that he could be with me."
She looked at him, as he watched her face. After a few moments, she said, "I'm not going to laugh at you. This is what happened to you. You can tell me what you want to tell me, and don't tell me anything that hurts. It's okay."
He looked away.
"I've never told anyone before."
She hugged him a little bit. When she released him, he continued.
"When he was in me, everything was slow, kinda mushy, like a dream when you're running and can't move very quickly. The air had this viscous resistance, huh, a viscous childhood. But, no one seemed to notice, at least not that I could tell, but everything was different, but it was okay, because he was with me. We could go do things together, so we did, the two of us. We were together again, and this time it was the two of us in the same body."
She looked at him puzzled. "Could he control your body?"
"Not at first, but eventually, I figured out how to let go, and he was able to pick up and, yeah, he could."
He paused again, looking around before looking at her again.
"He's the one who asked you out."
She smiled at him, and leaned forward to kiss him gently on the forehead. "I'm glad he did," she said.
He was quiet for a long time.
"But he's gone now. I don't feel him. He's not here. He left just after... just after..." She leaned down to kiss him again.
"Just after you found someone to be with you together all the time?" she asked.
He looked up at her, hope in his eyes.
She returned his smile, hope in hers.