Short Story: Clifftop Discovery

The moment her friend tips over the edge of the cliff, she knows that it’s over for her.

Either she’ll live with the guilt that she pushed her friend to his death with her own hands, or she’ll die wrestling control of her body from the parasite in her. The decision is a no brainer.

With a burst of energy, she grabs her friend by the wrist. Then, using herself as a fulcrum, she throws him back onto solid ground. It means that she’s now the one in freefall, but that’s a price she’s willing to pay.

No! the parasite cries.

Yes.

“No!”

Arms lock around her, pinning her arms to her sides. She twists enough to see the side of her friend’s face.

“What are you doing?” That idiot. He’s wasting her sacrifice.

“There’s a secret I’ve been keeping from you. Promise me you’ll stay still, and I promise we’ll survive. Deal?”

She’s too confused to react, which he takes as a sign of agreement. His arms tighten until she thinks she’ll snap in half, and her yell of pain mixes with his as wings sprout from his back.

Her imminent death, the parasite that’s been slowly taking control of her body, her guilt for all the pain she has allowed the parasite to inflict through her, all that disappears as she stares at the large brown and white speckled wings that blot out the sky.

“Hang on,” her friend says.

The powerful wings catch a thermal updraft and they circle back to the mountain top. He drops her gently on solid ground, and even the parasite is too stunned to react. Her friend doesn’t wait. His brown eyes flash yellow and his claw-like fingers spear into the base of her skull. His arm draws back with a wriggling centipede the size of her hand and he swallows the thing in two vicious bites.

He crouches before her, wings carefully laid out so that it doesn’t get pinched or folded. “Are you alright?”

Dazed, she reaches behind the back of her head, where he stabbed her with his fingers, but when she pulls away there’s no blood. Relief, confusion, guilt, horror, fear, and more fill her mind, leaving no room for words. She stares hopelessly tongue-tied at her friend.

Her friend doesn’t look like he knows what to do either, but he at least still has his words.

“I brought milk tea in my thermos. Let’s have a drink and I’ll explain?”

Her head nods, but her fingers reach out to stroke the feathers. Her friend watches with an amused smile.

“Or we’ll just sit. I’m good with that too.”

He settles beside her, shoulder to shoulder, and drapes his wings over her like a shock blanket. She realises she’s crying, soundless tears coating her cheeks for who knows how long. She’s alive. She didn’t kill anyone. She has her body back.

She curls into a ball and cries.

~End~

Genre: fantasy

September post count: 9/12

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