Little story to get you through the work week! I'm attempting to play catch-up as always, but new stories should be out on Monday. You can tell the S4 people that I chose you over them today.
This story belongs in the Maudit world though I'm vague on when it takes place. I'm guessing before the introduction of cars.
When Clark reached the clearing in the woods, he found the pale girl sitting on the very edge of large rock that jutted out over the river. Even though he expected to see her, his heart still clenched in fear at the sight.
Seeing her on that rock always made him nervous in a way he couldn't explain. He supposed it was due to his mother always warning him about the river, which was deep and swift and had claimed many lives over the years. The girl sat on the very edge of the high rock, staring down, unseeing, at the dark water. He never knew what she was thinking because he never could quite ask.
"Mabel!" he called up to the form on the rock. It took her several blinks before her eyes came in to focus and she recognized her playmate.
"Hello, Clark." Her voice was soft and he had to strain to hear her over the sound of the river. "I knew you would come today. Will you climb up?"
Clark shook his head. Mabel always asked and he always refused. It was almost like a ritual they went through each time he came looking for her.
Mabel shrugged and started to climb off the rock. Clark held his breath the entire time, only releasing a great puff of relieved air when her bare feet touch the ground.
"How did you know I would come today?" Clark asked when Mabel joined him what he deemed a safe distance from the river. "I didn't know myself until I got here."
Mabel shrugged again. Her thin, pale shoulders almost touched the large ears that stuck out from a tangle of dark brown curls.
Had Clark been a bit older, he might have wondered why every time he came to meet his friend she was always wearing the same thin cotton sundress. He might have wondered why in a town as small as Maudit he didn't see her at the small school. He also may have wondered why she was always waiting for him in the woods.
In true child fashion, he simply accepted Mabel's presence. There were many things he had yet to learn in his nine years and Clark's curiosity had never been that keen to start with.
Together the two friends played and talked. Clark liked Mabel. Even though she always looked so pale and serious when he first arrived, after a few hours of playing, color came into her cheeks and her smile made him happy. He sometimes thought, after Mabel's transformation, that she looked a lot like his ma. Though he had no siblings, Clark often wished that Mabel could be his sister. He knew some boys at school complained about sisters, but he doubted any of them could dislike Mabel.
As the got lower in the sky, Clark knew he had to leave. He always felt bad for leaving Mabel alone in the woods, but she refused his offers to come to his house for dinner or for him to walk her home. He tried to wait her out, but he didn't want to be home late and risk being punished for it.
Each parting the same, he would say his goodbyes and Mabel would begin her climb back up the rocky overhang. This time, Clark felt he had to say something. He had to keep her away from the river.
"Mabel?" Clark reached out to stop his friend in her assent. Puzzled, the young girl turned back.
"Please don't go up there." He didn't like that he sounded scared, but he was. "You're going to fall in and drown one of these days."
Mabel looked at the water and shrugged in her way.
"I've done it before." She said, not looking at Clark but at the swirling river. "Only the first time was scary."
Clark was shocked silent for a moment.
"Fallen in?" He managed to breathe out with some difficulty.
"Drowned." This time Mabel did look at Clark. Her expression was puzzled, as if this was something Clark should have known.
"You have not!" Clark didn't know why, but her expression made him feel embarrassed. "If you fell in, you'd be dead."
"I know." Mabel nodded but still looked puzzled.
"Well, you're not dead, so stop making up stories." Clark could feel a bit of anger rising from the embarrassment. Mabel must have always known how afraid he was of the river.
"Okay." Mabel looked up at the sky, which was growing darker by the moment.
Clark waited for her to continue but she said nothing else. He took a few steps away from her.
"I...I have to go home." He said, still not wanting to leave her. "Will you play with me tomorrow?"
Mabel nodded but kept silent.
"Don't fall in." He said a last time for lack of anything else to say.
"It doesn't hurt." Mabel sighed. "Not anymore."
Clark couldn't think of anything else to say. Despite the fact he knew his ma must be waiting for him, Clark reached out to Mabel again. When he touched her arm, she turned her dark eyes on him. They were as deep and as wet as the river and scared him just as much.
"Why do you always leave?" She asked, large tears spilling from her eyes. "Why do you always leave me here by myself? I can't leave alone!"
Clark looked around as if the darkening woods would give him a clue as to what to say to his friend. He wanted to comfort her but he was also afraid in a way he couldn't say.
"Please don't leave me here alone anymore. Please let me go." Mabel started crying in earnest now.
"I...I have to go home." Clark said, knowing it didn't sound convincing. "My ma..."
"Ma already let us go!" Mabel's voice was louder than he had ever heard it. "She let us go after...after..." She seemed to stick on the sentence and couldn't get the words out.
"She doesn't need you anymore but I do!" Mabel wailed
Clark shook his head, confused. Mabel wasn't making any sense.
"Let me take you home with me." Clark said. "My ma will help us. We'll get you home when you feel better."
Mabel shook Clark's arm off and scrambled up the steep rock to the very top. She stood, her outline dark in the fading light.
"No!" Clark yelled and raced after his friend. He was terrified of the rock and the rushing river below but his fear for Mabel's safety was stronger.
At the very top, he grabbed Mabel by her upper arms just as she seemed to teeter backwards. Mabel grabbed him in the same fashion. Both went over the edge together, falling together into the dark night.
The sensation of falling turned Clark's stomach but the splash never came. He opened his eyes to see Mabel, her face deathly pale in the dark nothingness around them.
Do you remember? Mabel's voice came from everywhere around him.
That's when the cold water embraced him. Clark couldn't breathe as the icy rapids swept him away. He fought to get his head above water but he couldn't tell which way was up and he couldn't let go of Mabel's arms. Everything was black and cold and....
Clark gasped and opened his eyes again. He was not under water but he was still falling. Mabel still held on.
Do you remember? Her voice came again straight into his mind.
Clark started crying and pulled his sister close to him. He did remember.
He remembered how he and his twin sister played in the woods near the river every day. He remembered how his mother had always warned them against it but they did it anyway because they loved the sound and the rush of fear they had when they stood on top of that rock.
He also remembered the day Mabel had grabbed the last sandwich from under his outstretched hand and Clark had laughed and given her a playful shove. He remembered the look on his sister's face when she fell backwards, arms stretched out to him. He had grabbed her arms, but his own perch on the rock was precarious. He had tumbled with his sister down into the dark waters below.
I remember. Clark thought the words into the darkness around them. His lips never moved but he still heard it and knew Mabel did too.
We can leave now. We can go home. There was a great sigh from his sister and the darkness around them begin to lessen. Clark no longer felt he was falling though he couldn't say he was standing either.
Home was the last word he thought before the light engulfed them.
My lofty dreams of being a famous & brilliant writer were literally smacked out of my head. Now I plan to fill the void with copious amounts of subpar writing!