Flash Fiction: After the Fall

After the Fall

Clouds loomed overhead, filling the sky to the horizon, the only light coming from the occasional lances of lightning arcing towards the earth. Thunder rolled in the heavens and rain poured down in a torrent. In a wide expanse of field, caught in the eye of the storm, two figures were walking, their heads bowed. They were not dressed for the weather; their fragile garments were soaked with rain, their hair was plastered to their scalps, and water ran in streams down their faces. Neither of them spoke as they trudged along, their bare feet sinking into the sodden earth, which forced itself between their toes. Their legs and feet were brown with soil, though here and there were red flashed where brambles had torn at their wind whipped skin.

The man turned to look at his companion, his eyes screwed up against the downpour. She mouthed words and he knew she must have been addressing him, but all he caught was a faint sound, snatched away by the wind and drowned by the incessant rain.

“What?” he yelled back, raising his voice to try to be heard, but she shook her head as if to say she could not hear him. She moved closer to him, and put her mouth close to her ear, standing on her toes to do so. She nearly slipped and he caught her.

“Can we stop now?”

There were more words but they were lost in the tumult, even though she must have been shouting. He shook his head; it was pointless to stop in the open where there was no shelter from the driving rain. Lightning flashed across the sky once more, and in the brief relief of the darkness, he saw a large tree, with low hanging branches. It was better than being out here. He pointed towards it, though it was now hidden in the gloom.

“That tree!” he yelled back. His throat hurt. Too much shouting, too little to drink. There was a dull pain in his stomach that nagged him to eat, but the hollowness in his chest forced his appetite aside.

His companion nodded; she too had seen the potential shelter, and without further words they headed towards it. Even with the renewed determination brought on by knowing there would be a brief respite from their journey, maybe even shelter from the elements that were set against them, it was not easy going. The sodden earth was turned to bog in places, and their feet sank and slipped this way and that. More than once they were forced to stop to pull a foot free from the ground, but eventually they reached the tree. Ducking beneath the low branches, they half-sat half-fell onto the ground by the thick trunk and wiped the water from their faces.

The tree did not provide complete protection from the rain – it forced itself through the canopy, splattering the ground, but it was nowhere near as bad as it had been outside. The branches also provided shelter from the sharp bite of the wind and the pair were able to massage some warmth back into their bodies now they were free of that. He looked up at the tree’s venerable trunk, as he nestled himself between the roots. It was an oak tree, he knew, and it had clearly stood for many years. Even now, when they were stuck out here in this vile weather, he managed a brief smile as he admired the tree. Trees had always been his favourite.

His companion did not smile as she looked at their surroundings, and he knew why. It’s not her fault. He said the words very deliberately in his mind, but he was not sure he believed them. There was a smaller voice that crouched somewhere in the dark recesses that just would not believe, no matter how firmly he reiterated the line in his head. I’m equally to blame. It did not believe that either.

“Do you think he meant it?” She spoke in a quiet voice and he was relieved that he was able to hear her. The storm was muted by the branches, though they could still hear the thunder playing its terrifying rhythm high above them.

“I don’t know,” he said, truthfully.

“He can’t have. He just can’t, can he?”

There was a desperation in her voice, as if she wanted her words to be true, but deep down knew that they were not. He was torn between reassuring her and the anger that was rising in his chest. She was watching him closely.

“I don’t know,” he said again, but more pointedly. He did not want to have this conversation; it was too soon, too close.

“He didn’t mean it,” she said with what sounded like finality. He shrugged, aware of her eyes on him, but lacking any other response. He was fighting the urge to shout and scream, a feeling that he had never experienced before. It worried him.

“You do think he’ll take it back, don’t you?”

“I don’t know!” he roared, the anger bursting through his meagre defences and rushing forward like a tidal wave, “I don’t know any more than you do so just stop asking!”

He regretted the outburst immediately; as quickly as the anger had come it had gone again leaving him empty. He saw tears begin to run down her cheeks and he turned away from her in shame. Her sobs, such a soft sound in the storm, tripled his regret.

“I’m sorry,” he said, quietly, “I’m just worried.”

He put an arm out and she moved close to him, leaning her head against his shoulder. He leaned down and kissed her on the top of the head and for a brief second the hollowness receded, replaced by a warm spark. It was gone in an instant and he looked thoughtfully out at the driving rain.

“I’m sorry too.” She did not look up as she spoke, but interlaced her fingers and twiddled them. This had clearly been preying on her mind. He tensed at the words, not sure if he wanted her to continue.

“What for?” he said, tentatively.

“All of this. It’s my fault.”

“It’s not important,” he said, shrugging. The voice in the back of his head was laughing viciously to itself. He tried to ignore it.

“It is, though. I am really sorry.”

“I said –” he snapped, but pushed the anger aside as he finished, “– it’s not important.”

There was a brief pause in which neither of them spoke. He closed his eyes and tried not to listen to the voice that was still laughing at him. He could feel her tension, just as he knew she must be able to feel his. Let it pass.

“I’m sorry.”

No sooner were the words out of her mouth than he was on his feet, struck by a sudden energy. The dam had burst once again, and this time there was little left to hold back the waters behind it.

“Stop saying that – it means absolutely nothing!”

“It’s not my fault!” she shouted back at him, her mouth open with shock, brows knitted in fury.

“Whose fault is it then?! Whose fault is it?! You had to follow one instruction, that’s all he asked. Follow one instruction and you’ll have whatever you desire. But you couldn’t do that, could you?! You just had to disobey!”

“I didn’t mean for this to happen! I didn’t know he’d throw us out. I just wanted to do something to make us happier!”

Once again the anger receded, leaving him feeling cold and stripped. Goosebumps seem to ripple up his flesh and he shivered. She looked up at him, eyes wet with tears.

“I know,” he said, kneeling down in front of her, “I’m sorry. That thing tricked you. It’s not your fault. I liked it there, that’s all, and now everything’s going to be different. I’m not angry, I’m scared.”

She nodded but said nothing more. Silence settled between them again and he moved back to be by her side. She did not lean on him or move. She sat with her head bowed, her hair falling about her shoulders, sticking to her wet skin. She was crying again. He put his arm around her and pulled her into his chest.

“Go back,” she said, her voice barely a whisper.

“What?”

“Go back,” she said, with more determination, “tell him that it was my fault. Tell him to punish me, not you. He’ll forgive you and you can be happy again.”

Outrage formed instantly.

“No.”

“Yes. Go back – you shouldn’t have to bear this with me. You shouldn’t have to be deprived.”

“Don’t say that. I am not going to leave you!” His voice was steel. “You were made for me and no matter what we might have lost, we have each other. I don’t care about anything else.”

It felt as though a sun had been born inside of his head; the dark voice fled at once, scurrying away from the light that filled him. The hollowness in his chest was gone and he pulled her towards him, holding her as tightly as he could.

“I love you, Eve,” he said and the light grew stronger.

“I love you, Adam.”

Their lips met, sealing them together. The thunder above them died away and they looked on in wonder as shafts of bright sunlight penetrated the cloud, drove back the rain, and brought warmth to the earth once more.

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