The world shimmered. Clouds merged and dispersed shapelessly, doing a poor effort to hide the beauty of the green and golden fields gleaming in the early morning sunlight. Art thought it particularly cruel to shimmer on today of all days. It should have been raining. It should have been moody and dark, the weather of the world torn apart in grief. After all, a god was about to die.
The world twinkled at her innocently.
It answered her by revealing a series of little blue fjords, each molded into their own puzzle piece shape by the sheerness of the rock that sliced through them. Each had its own shade of teal, sapphire, or ultramarine and all flushed at her evocatively in the summer sun.
Art screwed her eyes shut and took a shaky breath. Every morning she climbed this mountain, past polished rock and symmetrical trees. Her boots would crunch into the soil just as they should and the ideal breeze ruffled her hair gently, keeping her perfectly cool. She would climb to the little clearing with its one solitary olive tree and cliff that overlooked the rough imperfect world below. Every morning she would stand at that cliff and watch the world spin dizzyingly below her, yet no matter how rapidly it raced, to Art it always seemed so utterly still.
How dare it turn without her?
It won’t for long, she told herself. She knew it missed her too. All these years she could feel it plead with her to return to it. Today, she finally would.
Despite the courage in her thoughts, her body hadn’t moved. Her legs were heavy with dread, her heart drumming mercilessly. She looked down at the hands that gripped tightly to her tunic and was relieved not to see them shake. She couldn’t bare to see that.
We have to, she told herself, we belong down there.
Taking a long final breath, she gritted her teeth, held her head high and took one long stride to the edge. The world was closer to her today than in any other of her long banishment, yet for the first time she realised just how far it was. Looking down at the long, dizzying emptiness in which she had to fall caused her breath to escape her lips in fear. Nausea bubbled in her throat.
But she was strong. She was a leader, a hunter, fighter. She was compassionate, loyal, brutal and merciless. She could overcome anything. She had survived this long after all, clinging to the mountain with sheer tenacity. She would go to her death willingly, confidently, and utterly alive to the very last moment.
But what if it hurts?
She ignored the voice and imagined the warm embrace of the Earth once more. The lurch of her stomach as her feet left the flawless rock beneath her and kicked out into nothingness. She could feel the wind rushing past her ears and stripping her of all worry, sorrow and pain.
Determined, she reached out into the expanse.
Then, “You weren’t even going to say goodbye?”
Gasping in shock, her traitorous body pulled itself back, feet violently scrambling away from the edge.
Anger whipped through her veins, spinning her on the spot, though she did not have to turn to know who was standing beside her. She knew that bemused voice, the floppy hair, bright eyes and infuriating smirk by heart. Her hands were shaking now. She had been so close.
Her fury dispersed into the ideal breeze as suddenly as it had overtaken her, for the brown eyes fixed on her now were no longer bright. He still smiled, but it was filled with sadness. Art’s heart constricted. Turning away quickly, she willed herself to keep the tears back. She had promised herself not to cry this day.
“I couldn’t,” she finally admitted when the silence had gone on too long.
She didn’t ask how he knew. He always knew.
The deathly hush continued. The ideal breeze ruffled her hair gently and kept her perfectly cool. Oh, how she longed for a storm.
“You shouldn’t have come,” she continued, having to do something to break the insufferable stillness, “I can’t do this if you’re here.”
“Then I would be a very poor brother if I left you now.”
“Please,” she begged, “You don’t understand how much it hurts me up here. I know we all suffer but it hurts. It hurts so much.”
“I know,” he said, still smiling. He pushed himself away from the olive tree and walked over to her, blocking her path to the ledge with its terrifying, enticing drop. “I know.”
Desperate not to let him see the tears that stubbornly pushed their way onto her eyelashes, she turned her head and looked out over the mountain, although not really seeing it. She had hoped he would understand enough to stay away but knew that she wouldn’t have, if their positions had been reversed.
A gentle hand forced her chin back so he could look into her eyes.
“That is why we should go now.” He shrugged nonchalantly with a smile.
For the first time in their lives, she stared at him without comprehension, causing his eyes to glitter mischievously.
By the time her eyes had widened in understanding, he had already stepped backwards and gently pushed himself off the edge, that infernal smile still on his face.
Without wasting the time it took to scream, Art threw herself after him, diving from the mountain with no more hesitation.
He caught her as they fell.
Spinning nauseatingly, they gripped each other with a terrified, desperate frenzy. Head pushed tightly into his chest, Art clung to her brother and screamed out despite herself, letting him twist them in the air so that he was below and the wind stabbed into her eyes. She knew she should let go, give up and fade out but she couldn’t. She wanted to live. She could not see the world that was rushing to meet them, only flashes of colour that no longer seemed so inviting. But she was coming home. They both were. Together, as they were meant to.
As one, the twins closed their eyes, hugged each other, and begged in anguish for the sudden, final impact.