The Fall

Falling is the most painful thing that can happen to you. When it happens you have no recollection of your previous state or anything in particular. You have to discover life and people anew, no easy feat.

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3. Discovery

Over the next few days Rube teaches me the basics of the language he calls English. To begin with, I find it difficult to grasp, like trying to hold the wind between your hands. Then language comes easily to me, like breathing. Soon I am conversing with him, albeit with poor grammar and incorrect usage of certain words.

Rube also teaches me basic skills that help me to survive everyday life. Such as cooking and cleaning, simple tasks that take no time for me to learn. Other things, such as reading, writing and remembering the words Rube has taught me, are much more difficult to learn. I get by, but fear what would happen if I came across another being without Rube there to help me.

My skin mutates and shifts countless times over the next few days, beyond my control. Every time it shifts, my metallic skin grows thicker and covers a larger area of my body. The shift is always brought on by physical contact with Rube, never by my own volition or randomly. I guess it is my body’s way of protecting itself from any outside influence and not just a reaction to Rube.

Rube. He’s slowly drawing away from me. To begin with he was open and curious about me, wanting to discover as much as he could about the girl who fell from the sky. But now… he will not allow me to enter his mind, for any reason. He only speaks to me when he wants something or if I ask him a question. He leaves the building that we sleep in before the sun appears and doesn’t return from the woodland outside until my hunger returns for the second meal of the day.

This day, I wake just as he is leaving and climb from my bed. I do not bother changing my clothing because I assume it will be suited to the walk outside. I check Rube’s position through the window before following him out into the predawn.

The first thing I notice is just how freezing cold it is. My breath mists as it is blown away from me in the slight breeze. I did not think it could be much colder than it was inside the thin walls of the building, but I was mistaken. However, I do not have time to go back inside and grab a coat because Rube is almost out of sight. Instead, I wrap my arms around my shivering body and trudge toward where Rube disappears through the trees, barefoot. Within moments my feet are achingly numb, as are my bare arms. But I soldier on, leaving flattened areas of frozen grass behind me.

The thin limbs of the trees grab a hold of me as I pass, grazing my arms and making blood bead on the surface of my skin. I wipe away the thick liquid carelessly and continue on my path, knowing this is the way Rube had walked.

Gradually, a small clearing comes into sight before me with Rube knelt in the centre of it. I stop dead on my feet when I see what is in his hands. Fire. His hands are on fire. The beating in my chest speeds dramatically as fear fills me. Then confusion creases my brow when I realise that he is not in pain.

I take a small step back, now wishing I had never followed Rube out of the house. A too loud cracking noise sounds beneath my foot as I put my whole weight onto a twig. Rube’s head swivels round so that I can see his face.

His face is more beautiful than ever before, his cheekbones seem higher and his jawline more angular. But it is his eyes that draw my attention. They are darker than the night, any depth they once held intensified tenfold by the lack of colour. His expression darkens as his bleak eyes fall on me.

Rube’s voice is deeper than it normally is when he speaks, “What are you doin’ here?”

I blink slowly, my mind working over-time to provide the words for my explanation. “Wondered why leave before sun rise.”

Rube sighs, his shoulders slumping and his head drooping. “You shouldn’t ‘ave followed me.” He lifts his head and stares across the clearing into my eyes. “You weren’t s’posed to know ‘bout me.”

I feel my head shaking and my brow creasing without conscious thought. “Not know?” My feet are more stable beneath me.

“No.” Rube sighs again as he rises to his feet gracefully. He lifts his hand, surrounded by fire, as his skin begins to glow orange and the air around him visibly vibrates with the heat coming from him. Rube’s face darkens further with a look of dread and sorrow. “I’m ‘fraid I can’t let you leave this ‘ere clearin’, Căzut.”

I stumble back from this very different Rube, unsure if this is the same person that I woke next to. “What doing?”

Rube chuckles sadly, shaking his head. “I can’t ‘ave you runnin’ off an’ tellin’ no one ‘bout me.”

As I stumble further back, I trip on something and fall down. I land heavily on my rear, throwing my hands out to catch myself and prevent my head colliding with the ground. My voice becomes high in pitch with my fear. “I no tell. Promise.”

Rube’s lips curl into a sad smile. “I can’t take that risk.” He steps up before me, now towering over me.

Rube’s black eyes flicker between their white-blue and black as the fire around his hands grows in size and heat. I can feel the immense heat radiating off of him from where I sit on the ground. Sweat beads on the surface of my skin. Rube bends suddenly. He wraps his searing hot hand around my ankle. I scream out in pain. He drags me into the clearing. I throw my weight around in the hope of loosening his hold. My top snags on a twig as I am dragged across the floor. When we stop moving my ankle is released.

I curl around myself, checking on my now blistering ankle. I wonder why it hadn’t shifted and as soon as the thought occurs to me, it does. The now burnt skin mutates into a rusted and flaking version of my metallic skin.

My attention is captured by a fireball that flies toward my face. I turn my head and roll away just in time to avoid it but collide with another fireball, it hitting me on the shoulder. I scream out, my hand flying up to my new burn. Before I can fully take stock of my now shifting shoulder, another fireball slams against my thigh drawing another scream from my lips.

Rube grunts as I look up at him, breathing heavily against the pain. I try to lift myself but fall straight back down. Rube’s eyes flicker again as a confused look crosses his face. But then his face hardens and he throws another fireball at me, hitting my on the stomach and earning another scream.

The pain consuming my body dulls slightly as my skin shifts to save itself from more harm. Then Rube shouts out, drawing my attention to him. His knees wobble as he looks at me, his eyes flickering between white-blue and black.

He cries out, “No!” The shout seems to last longer than any sound I have ever heard. His face turns red with effort. He collapses to his knees, his face a mask of sorrow, pain and self-loathing. He falls to his side, his eyes rolling back into his head. He goes still.

I scuttle back from him, not daring to rise to my feet. My heart races, trying to escape my chest. I can hardly breathe my chest is tight. For countless moments I just lay there, staring at this beautiful man who tried to kill me but stopped.

I sit up and roll my weight forward until I am on my hands and knees. I crawl slowly towards him, cautious. When I reach him, my hands shift into metallic versions of themselves and I hold my palms on either side of his face. He is far too hot. My brow creases with confusion and caution. But as I look at him, unconscious before me, my bitter thoughts of hatred and revenge melt away. I pull his head onto my charred lap, a hole in the trousers that once covered my legs.

When I brush his black hair off his face, his eyes flutter. They open to reveal a pair of white-blue eyes. In them I see nothing but sorrow and an apology. The corners of Rube’s eyes mist with moisture. My own vision blurs as moisture falls from my eyes.

I wipe my face and my fingers come away wet. I stare at the moisture on my fingers, confused.

“You’re crying. We do it when we’re sad.” Rube’s voice is soft and cracks in strange places.

I turn my eyes to him, my confusion growing. “But I no sad.” My lips twitch as I stroke his hot cheek with my metallic finger.

Rube’s face blanks and his eyes widen as he looks at me, his eyes searching for something. Then his lips turn up in a small satisfied smile. “Nor am I.”

Rube’s eyelids flutter but he forces them open, shaking his head.

I chuckle softly, stroking his cheek gently. “Sleep. Need it.”

He lays there, his eyes on my face as his eyes slowly close and the abyss takes him. The whole time Rube smiles and I cry softly, my shoulders shaking slightly with sobs.

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