some fall in love. i shatter.

Rusted Leaves (#4)

In Stories Volume 1 on March 26, 2012 at 8:49 am

Jonah held his hand over April’s mouth.  Her eyes pushed past their sockets.  Her nostrils flared, her body striving to pull in oxygen faster than the two small nasal passages would accommodate.  She didn’t fight Jonah though, she knew that his hand kept her from screaming.  Screaming would only bring attention; attention would only bring death.  Gruesome, painful, and slow.  She let Jonah take charge and hold her steady.

They lay behind a felled log that had accumulated banks of dead leaves on each side, all blown in on the terrible winds that carried deathly tidings and the fading cries of their friends, all slaughtered at the camp a jagged mile back.  When they had slid behind the log, Jonah immediately began burying them both underneath the leaves, starting at April’s feet and working upwards over both their bodies.  She was emitting tiny squeaks, the beginnings of full-on screams, when he clamped his hand over her lips and began covering them both with just one hand.

A twig snapped.  They froze, silent and still as the dead tree.  They waited to hear him, see him, see the axe blade wet with the blood of Terese, Mike, Tom, Terry, Hector, Quinn.  They waited to learn if fleeing had been in vain, waited for the glint of steel.  Nothing.  More nothing.

“Just the wind,” Jonah convinced himself, “just the wind.”  He paused to moderate his voice.  “April, I need my other hand to cover us before he comes.”  She understood and her breathing slowed.  He willed a jagged smile.  “Good.  It looks like there’s a small depression below this side of the log.  I’m going to try shuffling my body into there and I need you to roll on top of me.  Your shirt blends in more with the color of the leaves.”  He said it as an afterthought but needed to explain to her his logic as it left her more exposed.  Jonah planted his heels and twisted most of his body a few inches below the surface and partially under the log.  The unearthed dirt was warm and inviting.  April shuffled on top of him, splaying her limbs out to disperse her weight and mask the appearance of her body.

“Okay, good, great; you’re doing great.  Now, try to pull as many of the leaves onto your back as you can, cover up as much as you can.”  He looked into her eyes, through strands of hair dirty with soil and eyelashes littered with bits of dead leaves.  She was terrified, too much so to hide it, but he could see the commands, the pieces of a plan helping to calm her; they formed a way out of an endless maze even if that exit was still far away.  Her left arm was pinned against his and the log but her right skimmed over the ground, pulling in leaves and slowly covering their frames.

“Great job, April.  Now pull your arm in tight and I’ll cover that side of your torso.  You’re doing okay, yeah?”

“Yeah.”  Monosyllables are better than screams, he thought.

His left arm pulled decaying leaves with their sweet musk over the remaining parts of her body and then over her head until they were both as concealed in burial as they were going to be.  April had kept her head slightly elevated so that in the shade under the awning of dead foliage, their eyes were an inch or two apart and looking into one another.  April barely blinked she was riding so much adrenaline.  Jonah knew the timing couldn’t be worse but he had been trying to tell her something at the campsite all weekend and they were likely running out of time.  The slime of decomposing leaves seemed to be alive on his fingers.

“April,” he whispered, even more quietly than before, for below the leaves, even the slightest gust of wind sounded like the footsteps of the maniac that had been slaughtering his friends for the past two days.  “I know it isn’t the right time, but I don’t know that I’ll get another chance to tell you.”

A branch snapped.  Not a twig, not a leaf, not the breeze shuffling around the dread detritus of the forest floor.  A strong, solid branch snapped.  Jonah’s words dried on his tongue.  Sunlight breached their tiny shelter in rays that shot through gaps in the layers of dead ground cover.  They listened.  Another snap.  Closer.  April’s eyes closed and remained shut.  Her body grew more still and her breathing grew shallow as if she were entering hibernation.  Try as he might, Jonah could not close his eyes.  They were fixed on the largest gap in their shared cover.  A shadow passed over them.  He couldn’t help thinking they had dug their graves together.

“I love you,” Jonah whispered no louder than the sound of the air leaving his lungs.  April’s eyes opened for an instant.  The shadow hesitated.

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