The Prompt Project’ are posts that are essentially a way for me to exercise my creative muscles, without all the pressure that comes from writing my WIP for example.
I post what I write on the spot, I don’t impose a word limit or time it, just go with whatever my brain spits out for as long it keeps up the momentum. I’ll literally see prompt, write and then post the results.
Today’s prompt is:
“Stop.” He said, his breathing ragged. “Please.”
Trigger warnings: Overt discussions of suicide/ death.
A life in spite of myself
One year ago I decided to live and, frankly, it’s been bloody inconvenient.
When they “recruited” me, they never mentioned I would still have to do all the things people to do to stay alive, like eat, or exercise, drink water and sleep. I chose to be a guardian as a way out, a middle ground. The irony of choosing a position that means I live forever, in the middle of me doing my best to achieve the opposite is not lost on me but it’s the same of most everyone here so, misery loves company, clearly.
“Sam, get up! It’s pancakes today and if you want some, you’ll have to get your ass out of bed.”
“I’ve only got one job today and it’s not until sunset.” I grumbled. Saphe, being the traitor she is, cracked my door open a notch so the smell would come wafting in. Coffee, pancakes and laughter drifted through. I groaned and Saphe peaked her head in, a knowing smile on her face. “Fuck off.” I said but it was half-hearted and we both knew it.
“It’s sunny today. I think spring is finally here. Do you want to bring a book a read outside with me by the lake after we’ve eaten?” Dammit. She’s starting to know me too well. I ignore the strange mix of the pit in my stomach and delighted tingles in my chest at that thought.
“Alright, alright. You’ve won, stop selling it, I’m up.”
“Do you need to shower?”
“Showered before I went to bed, so nope, we’re all good, I’ll be ready to rock after breakfast.” There was a time when Saphe was asking that question for a different reason, I think she still likes to check every now and again. Her face split into a huge grin. She was sunshine personified, positivity itself. Sometimes I can’t fathom how she’s here.
“Alright, meet you at breakfast in ten.” She departs without waiting for me to agree, we both know I’ll take twenty anyway. Part of being a Guardian is having this weird, always right, internal clock but that doesn’t seem to help with my innate clock always being a little slow. I am not made for punctuality, supernatural gifts be damned.
I haul myself out of the bed though, smiling wryly. I’ve got some living to go do, apparently.
It’s late afternoon and the newly sprung Spring is giving way to a chilly nip in the air, the lake rippling in a breeze that’s whipping my pages about. I don’t mind it though. It’s refreshing. Saphe has gotten restless, looking at me contemplative for a bit before asking,
“The one you’ve got today, must be a tricky one if you’ve only got one on the books.” I sigh and move my bookmark to my current page. She worries a lot, about every charge, hers or not.
“He is. This’ll be my third visit. I don’t know how many times I can play ‘kismet, mysterious stranger’ vibes. I convinced him to move out from those shitty arse parents of his and it’s been so long since he was on my list that I thought I’d managed it.” I chewed my lip, frowning at the glistening lake.
“I’m sure you’ve done everything you could. You can’t always save all of them but as long as his name keeps appearing, he’s still here.” She said, placing a hand over mine, reading the heart of my worry. Saphe is so God-damn empathetic I sometimes wonder if that’s how she ended up here. I’ve seen the way she hurts when others hurt, I don’t know how she bears it, but then, she wouldn’t be here if she had been able to bear it, that’s the point.
“The meeting is at the top of a tower, at sunset. I’m not entirely sure I’m not being sent there to recruit instead.” Saphe frowned.
“The docket always says explicitly if that’s what you’re there for. If it doesn’t mention it, take heart in that, you succeed for one more day.”
I threw a glance at the darkening sky. “Speaking of which, we’d better head back, so I can transport there.” We started packing up but before leaving, I made sure to grab her arm. “Thanks, Saphe.” Her eyes shone with delight.
“Don’t mention it.” She replied. I always make sure she knows I’m grateful though. It’s important to tell people those things. Especially when it’s important to them, like it is with her.
The sky is breathtaking. Like someone spilled ink across a pink fluffy robe, with streaks of orange and yellow from the setting sun. I breath in the city air. The smell of cooling metal and concrete, of food and people, of smog from the cars. It’s quite up here but there’s the ever present back drop of a city full of people. There’s something so beautifully, disgustingly alive about it all. I am struck once again by how much I might have missed. How much I nearly gave up.
I settle myself into the lawn chair someone has placed up here just before the door to the roof crashes open. Determined steps freezing as they spot that they are not alone. Shit. I hold my breathe, hoping he doesn’t spook and leave. Instead, he moves to the chair about 10 feet away from me. Sinking into with his hood up, hands shoved deep in his pockets. He must be thinking he can wait me out.
I kick the case of beer besides me, making him jump. “Hey, want a beer? Sunset is fucking gorgeous tonight, isn’t it?”
“No thanks.” He answers, in a small quiet voice, his hands twisting inside his hoodie sleeves. I grab one anyway, strolling over to him with a confidence that it so not me. He takes it when I offer it, even sipping it after I twist off the cap.
“Can you help pick which one to put on my Instagram?” I show him a couple pictures on my phone, seeing enough of his face to see the red rimmed eyes and blotchy cheeks. “I know, it’s a bit cringe posting a sunset but I’m like fuck it, it’s a beautiful day to be alive, I’ll post my pretty fucking sunset if I want.” He cringes a little at those words but clears his throat to speak.
“The last one. The selfie.”
“You reckon?” I ask. He nods, finally look up and making eye contact. He frowns.
“Do I know you?”
“I don’t know, have you lived here long, maybe you’ve seen me round the building?”
“Six months but I don’t get out much.”
“You enjoying the city?” He gave a non comital shrug in reply. “I get it, can be kind of lonely. That’s why I decided to talk to you, you know? I was feeling all epic and then you were here and it felt like I was meant to meet you.”
“If I’m your destiny then it sucks to be you.” He answered, a deadpan tone in his voice. You could’ve mistaken it for sarcasm if you weren’t looking.
“I dunno, you’ve got good taste. That post already has like, twenty likes.” There. A slight, imperceptible shift in the chair. I’d said the right thing. “I’m Tory, by the way.”
“Harry.” He supplied, glancing at me sideways before returning to stare into the distance.
“What brings you to the roof today Harry?” He gestured vaguely to the sunset in reply. “Me too.” I clear my throat and decided to go for broke. “One year ago I decided I was going to jump off a roof like this.” That got his attention. “That’s why I came up here. To remind myself of all the reasons I had to stay.” My voice is choked as I continue. “It started out small, you know? Sticking around long enough to have my favourite coffee in the morning. Then sticking around because the lady in the cafe would notice if I didn’t come for lunch. The mailman would care if my parcels weren’t delivered and I didn’t want to make his job more difficult.” I took a deep, calming breath. Harry let go of the one he’d been holding and breathed with me. “Then, I dunno, one day breathing got easier. I looked forward to things, rather than having to convince myself to get up and keep putting one foot in front of the other.”
“Stop.” He said, his breathing ragged. “Please.”
“Shit. Sorry. I know this is heavy.” Tears ran down his face and he looked up at me. “Ah, I didn’t mean to upset you. I’m so sorry, to busy thinking about myself and my shit.”
“Does it really get easier?” He asked, cutting off my rambling apology like I hoped he would. His brown eyes were the colour of honey in the light of the setting sun but in them I could see it, the despair that felt like little daggers at the edge of every breath. Weighing down every step. Discolouring every moment until the world feels like it should be black and white and you can’t fathom a world where there is light and colour and joy.
“Yes.” I replied softly. “It was real slow for me. Some days I was just going through the motions, one foot in front of the other. Staying alive took everything in me. Then, bit by bit, it felt less heavy. I’d catch myself smiling and have this crushing fear that I would never feel it again.” Harry was staring at me, like I was the life boat in the storm. “It probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Choosing to live and to keep choosing every minute of every day. To eat, drink, sleep and do it all over again.” Then I smiled, let him see what this year has taught, what my excitement for the endless life of a Guardian will bring me. The places I’ll see, the people I will meet, the love I will feel. “But fuck me, if it wasn’t worth it.”
Harry broke into deep, soul shuddering sobs, standing at my gesture to be enveloped in a hug.
“Do you want to talk about why you were up here?” I asked after a while. He nodded into my shoulder, before withdrawing, taking deep, gulping breaths.
“I think I need some help.”
“It’s okay, let’s go find some help together mate.”
Sorry that was a deep one, I’m reading ‘The First to Die at the End’ at the time of writing and I guess it’s just got me thinking about stuff.
If you struggle with any of the stuff mentioned in the post, don’t be afraid to find resources, or seek help from professional sources or loved ones.