Call me when you get there.
Salvo does not believe the Eddy, the unwillingness to abandon the truth of his childhood too strong.
“You’re lying! You’re a liar!”
He pushes back with all his might, the salt stained fingernails dragging across his skin as the Eddy is thrusted backwards, surprised at the force of the small boy. He looses focus, his grip easing just enough.
“Don’t do it, boy!” The Eddy howls viciously, picking himself up and striding forward on feet that seem to barely touch the sharpened seagrass below.
Salvo pounds the ground, pushing his legs to go faster, faster. The wind whips his face, his chest, the steel force pressing him backwards, into the dripping arms of the Eddy. But he pushes harder, his lungs threatening to give way, yielding to the force of his ragged breath.
The girls stand, dumbfounded, frozen. All games of dance and laughter have ceased. They begin to feel differently, the playfulness of the storm lost to them as they regain a glimpse of the reality before them. Theresa stands limply in her blood spun frock, and a dawning blooms inside her. The mounting awareness. The painfully slow recognition, the realisation of the time and place, biting at her naked neck.
The girls, they have spun themselves into oblivion, but now begin to emerge from the stupor. Theresa feels numbly. She recognises the boy before them, running full tilt towards her, but vaguely so. She cannot seem to quite place his obscured features, the knocked knees and mass of blue-black hair. But she does know him, she feels certain of this. The wind picks up force and for the first time the cold bites at her exposed ankles, the puckering skin of her bare arms, and she shivers with force, teeth crashing together.
The budding awareness brings such clarity and she winces at the sound as seemingly hundreds, thousands of yelling voices batter themselves towards them all from the peripheries of the cliff’s steep incline. It is the grownups, their hands reaching, fearful eyes scouring the bracken and dried seaweed. They clamour up the steepness, old bones cracking, the youth gone and all hopes of nimbleness and speed along with it.
But too late, all too late. Salvo’s body hits her in an instant, the full wielding force of his speed, the adrenaline tackling them both to the ground. Theresa splutters, momentarily winded, mind spinning along with the whirling clouds in the stormy blue above. She glares up at the boy and she finally sees. Her confusion, her anger, it all melts away as the name comes to her, pours like gold from the flick of her tongue.
He grins and they laugh breathlessly. Each one delirious in uniting once more, the coming together of two familiar souls. They languish in the giddiness of children, the world crashing to a halt as they share this sacred moment together, just the two of them. They do not yet know that this harmony will be brief, for soon they will part for the second, and final time. But for a brief time they forget themselves, the world, the standing witness of the sea, the air, the very presence of time itself. It gives them this last gift. The rejoining of old friends.
Salvo jumps up and offers his hand. Theresa clamps her own around his, vowing to never let go ever again. A viperous voice intrudes on the scene. A howl that rips clean through any semblance of relief.
It is the Eddy. He smiles villainously, mashing his salty gums together and advancing on the intertwined pair, who stumble backwards, closer to the leering cliff’s edge.
“We are not going with you.” Salvo says quietly, a tinge of finality to his words, an authority that had evaded him until now, the very moment when he would truly need it most. The Eddy just stares, licks his crusted lips.
“Call me when you get there, and I have called for them. They know that I have arrived and that I must bring back what was promised. Time is running out, don’t you see, Salvatore? We are growing restless.”
He takes another step. Salvo holds his own bravely, steadfast in his defiance. The Eddy’s ghastly eyes flick from Salvo to Theresa and the haunting smile creeps anew. He sighs a leisurely, sea- bream whoosh of air.
“I suppose the land-bound one will be as good a consolation prize as any.”
And with that, the Eddy leaps, and the two children hold onto one other with all their strength.
Then, a cry ripples like wild fire. A man, wild and running, appears at the break of the cliff. He is shouting something, the sound reverberating, distorting, moulding itself into a jumble of empty meaning, nonsense. They strains to hear. He comes ever closer still, this man, his tree trunk legs pushing him into speeds unknown to his body. The foreign torrent of the tempest making his joints scream, his limbs crying out for reprise. But he cannot stop. His son, enveloped by some invisible dark figure, the tips of his feet skimming the heather edges of the cliff face, he stands on the precipice. Salvo’s father cries out, a mottled, gut-wrenching cry which pierces the sky and strikes the depths of the sea with a mountainous agony.
Salvo freezes, and his grip slacks at the sound of his father’s voice calling him.
A split second is all it takes. The shock of it, the momentary weakening, and Salvo forgets about the arms around his, the feeble tear as hands loosen in his and all of a sudden he stands alone.
Something stutters through him, a ripping, tearing, so painful it causes him to scream out. A guttural sound, the very essence of a heart, a soul breaking apart.
And the Eddy, Theresa, they are gone. Salvo spins around to face the hurtling sea beneath the drop. The startling shock of red disappearing into the inky depths, swallowed by the raging tide.
It is here, dear children, that I tell you that this is not a story with a happy ending. For you have been trusted with this precious thing, the boy and his fate, to be held by you and you alone. A lesson, perhaps, a warning in the mysteries of life, the ruthlessness of the sea. Take caution, for it will serve you wisely with what I am about to tell you. This is the ending as you have chosen, but who is to say that it is the only one to have existed?
I am not an unrelenting storyteller, I do not take pride in prising what is so dear to you from your very reach, and thus I wish to offer to you an alternative path. I will allow you this, on the condition that you will remember what you have been told, all that you have been entrusted with. So, there lies another ending, and I present you with this small offering: one last decision.
I must warn you, that the road so far has been treacherous and aged with false starts, false endings, but all that has been said holds true up until their final, pivotal moments. I will give you this glimpse, and no more, into the thing that could have been, had you bargained wisely and chosen the path considered to be most favourable.
Here it is, your last choice. Do you wish to revert this ending? A life can be saved in the process, a future spared and given life once more. But I will once again caution you, as the cost is unknown and those who temper with the world of the dead will suffer the consequences in life.
So, dear, children, do you wish to go back in time? Do you wish to return to the last conversation between our boy, Salvo, and the Eddy. Remember, Salvo was struck by a choice. To believe the Eddy, or not. Your decision, to fight him, can be changed, if you so desire.
The choice is now yours.