The cold was a thing. This windless dawn it came without origin or force to find him naked on the face, climbing slow and careful so as not to snag his penis on the rock.
These things we do. In the last of the night with the club winding down she had come back with drinks to find his arm scooped across the shoulder of someone slender and strange. She said nothing and then plenty, each word twisting her lips as she spat it out.
He chased her outside and they circled with hands and voices raised, the day coming on and cars swinging out, lights pale in the grey sky. Across the gravel there was a racing of engines, a slew of stone and a falling of glass. A minor wreck beside this wreckage of things. Her eyes stayed fixed on his, the talking hot and urgent between them.
— It was nothing, just talking, I promise. I love you, just you.
— Words are easy. Words mean nothing.
— I swear it. I’ll prove it. I’d do anything for you.
— Don’t tell it to me. Do it. Show me your love. Prove it to me.
The challenge came. Crazy for sure, crazy like an arm around a stranger’s back. Crazy in this dawn, crazy enough to make it worth doing. Climb Mermaid Rock. Naked. Prove to me your love.
He climbed with blood cold and his bones made brittle, dangling ridiculous in the flint and the shale. There was dew-wet sand and grit on his fingers, stones beneath his feet, a scratch across his chest from some spiteful little mountain shrub. Some way up the vodka wore off and vertigo kicked in. The cliff leaned towards him, brought nausea and panic and he fought to keep hold of reason as he scratched and pulled and slipped to the top where she waited with soft arms and a blanket.
— In a way, she said, I wish you had kissed her.
He answered carefully, her arms feeling good and the warmth coming back.
— I didn’t want to kiss her.
— But if you had, she said. If you did. I’d like to see what you’d have done for doing that.
Connal Vickers has been writing stories for years but only recently developed the art of finishing them. His work has appeared on various online writing forums but until now he has not got around to actually submitting them anywhere that normal people might have heard of. Originally a journalist, he has moved through numerous jobs ranging from fisherman to hot dog machine salesman, and most recently worked as a carpenter and cabinet maker. He now writes full time, a decision which will terrify his bank manager when he hears of it.
This story is sponsored by
Hydra House — Publisher of Pacific Northwest science fiction and fantasy, including K.C. Ball’s collection of scifi shorts “Snapshots from a Black Hole & Other Oddities” and Danika Dinsmore’s middle-grade fantasy “The Ruins of Noe,” sequel to “Brigitta of the White Forest.”