SHIFTING PARALLELS – PART 4
At the sound of Sophie’s voice, high with anxiety, I turn. Harry is on the flat wall of the bridge; he scrambles like a monkey, just as I did when I was a child. But he is close to the edge, and the lake is deep.
Clara is trying to pull him down; her little arms tug at him; Sophie has hands on them both, and I can hear the urgency in her voice. My heart lurches; I know the year. I know the year. I know the exact date. Today is the day my children die. I race back toward the bridge. I wish I was in better shape.
I am pulling Harry down; I am trying to get Clara to leave Harry alone, she is upsetting his balance, he is angry now, and the twins’ harmony has turned, as it often does, into a battle of wills. Clara is crying, her small hands tight on Harry’s sweater; I have his waist but he wriggles and it is like trying to hold a fish. Foreboding fills me in a rush of feeling and horror, and I can sense Harry slipping from me; Clara won’t let go, and somehow she has made it onto the lip of the bridge alongside him. My heart is up in my throat; I cannot hold them both, and they are both fighting me, Clara fighting for her twin, and I am pushed away. I sob, desperate to keep them safe, but I cannot, they are slipping, and Harry is going over the edge …
I am not as fast as I used to be, and I can see the tragedy ahead. I know what happens; I know that Harry goes over, that Clara, refusing to let him go, slides with him. The only eye-witness is Sophie; I know what happened, for she told me, over and over, her eyes red raw and her voice a whisper in its horror.
I know the children fall, and that Sophie’s attempts to rescue them fail. I know this, I have heard her pain over and over, and she never let me share my own pain with her. She shut me out and locked her hurt away until she could feel nothing at all. I know how this ends. But this time, I am here.
I lose my grip and Harry is going over; I know, somehow, that Clara is going, too, that in trying to save them both, I am instead losing everything. There is a fatalism about it, and although everything is happening in slow motion, I cannot seem to move faster, not fast enough, and Harry is screaming with fear, and I am screaming with pain, and Clara is sobbing.
Then time seems to stop. The man in the coat is by my side; his eyes, so much like George’s, are filled with light and determination and strength. He has a hand on my boy, and I reach for Harry and together we haul him back onto the lip of the bridge, we drag him to safety. I grab Harry and hold him tight. I say nothing; there are no words for this, only love.
The man is holding Clara to him, and, oddly, she has turned into him like she does when George comes home from work. He has saved my children, and she understands that, and feels secure with him.
The man raises his head and looks at me, a direct stare which makes me tremble. This is the way George used to look at me; his piercing gaze would reduce me to a quivering wreck, and we would close the door on the world and love each other until we were sated. How I would love to have the old George back.
This is the fourth (and penultimate) part of a new serialisation of one of the short stories from our “Dark Perfume” collection.
You can read Part 1 here.
You can read Part 2 here.
You can read Part 3 here.
You can read Part 5 here.
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