Set at the end of Book 3. This is for Mar, who introduced me to this world. Sorry for shortness, this was written very quickly whilst I still had it all in my head. And also sorry for it being out of character.
I heard a strangled cry from behind me; it was a pained call of my name. I turned to Ellie, somehow recognising her anguished voice. She looked terrified, she knew what was happening and what I was about to do…what was going to happen to me. It was streaked all over her gaunt features. It was such an unnatural look to see on her face; strong, fearless Ellie. I smiled tightly at that, hoping that it was a reassuring look.
I knew what I was doing; it was our only chance…their only chance. There was no point in us all being killed, not when I had the chance, hot and heavy in my hands to save them.
And that was what I did, I saved them.
It all happened in the flash of a split second; painless and dizzying. I didn't see or hear anything; my eyes were squeezed tightly shut and my ears were filled with white noise. But I felt it. I felt it warm and encompassing, wrapping firmly around me and pulling me apart all at the same time. I'm not talking about the grenade; I didn't feel that at all, I'm talking about death.
It was welcoming and warm. It smelt of childhood, familiarity and home. There was a pleasant heat in the air and the lightest sounds of summer. The most notable thing of all though was the calming feeling that embraced me. Calm. I could barely recognise the feeling; it had been so long since we'd felt it. But my goodness, did it feel good. There was no worrying or panicking or pain. Looking back, I can't believe the peace I felt in that moment, considering that my friends were still there in the war, but I greeted it hungrily.
My eyes, that I hadn't realised were still closed, popped open with astonished surprise at the sound of that voice. My mouth gaped at the sight before him. He was as slight and awkward as I remembered him. His eyes deep, dark and mysterious, stared at me with an expression I couldn't quite place. He coughed and rung his hands nervously.
My body dropped, in a kind of strange relief, I suppose, before I flew towards him and threw my arms around his neck, "Oh! Chris!"
I think it was only out of shock that he hugged me back. Or perhaps he was just happy to see someone he knew, I didn't know. But we embraced tightly for a lengthy time. I could feel his hands gripping onto my shirt and soft tears rolling from his cheeks and falling to my shoulders.
We broke apart slowly and Chris stroked his hand under his eyes. I had a thousand questions in my mind but I couldn't decide what to ask first.
If Ellie was the writer in the group, then I was the thinker. I was constantly questioning the reasons and the whys; grappling with the faith I'd held so strongly. I held it all in my head and now was no different; I didn't know how to stop the torrent of thoughts.
I felt Chris' fingers graze mine, before he took my hand in his own. I looked to him, questioningly but he shook his head. I suppose he was a thinker too, rather than a talker. He used to write poetry, it was heavy, emotive and dark. Not for the first time, I wished that I'd been there more for Chris. Things could have been so different.
I pulled him to a stop and he frowned down at me, "Chris, I…I'm so sorry,"
"I know." He said in a hoarse tone and I inclined my head to which he chuckled lightly, surprising me. "I've been watching you guys. And I'm sorry too, Robyn, it shouldn't have been you."
I blinked with surprise, wondering what made him think that. Who did he think should have died rather than me? "You watch us?"
He nodded and led me further towards the horizon; I followed silently and lost myself in my thoughts again. I was dead. This was death. It wasn't what I expected. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't heaven either. I couldn't help from feeling a little cheated, a little disappointed. I wondered if this was my purgatory…had I been bad? Had I lost my place in heaven? Maybe it was something I'd done it the war, maybe it was killing Harvey. Thou Shalt Not Kill. I'd broken a commandment, no wonder I wasn't at the gates.
"You okay?" Chris asked, tugging me from my desperation.
I nodded; somehow I think we'd all grown used to pulling ourselves together quickly, thanks to the war.
We had reached the 'horizon' and it was magical. It was only then that I realised we weren't on the Earth any longer. The horizon was an edge. A wide thick ledge that hung in the air, balanced beautifully between the sun above and the misty looking Earth below. It was, well, it was heavenly.
"What is this place?" I asked finally.
"I call it the In-between." Chris answered. He didn't elaborate and I didn't ask. I wasn't sure I was ready to know.
He took a seat at the edge and I copied his motion, our feet dangling from the lip of our In-between. I wondered if we jumped if we'd fall back down to the Earth. Again I didn't ask.
Slowly the Earth below us came into focus. I recognised the scene instantly; I'd been there, possibly not long ago. There were our friends, stood disbelievingly around nothing much at all. I knew it was the place that I'd died. I willed them to carry on, to move, to run, to escape. I whispered it urgently under my breath and I felt Chris squeeze my hand.
That wasn't what I died for. I didn't die so that they would mourn me. I died to save them.
"Say it louder." Chris advised and I felt my brow knit into another frown. "Tell them to run."
It only took another glance at them; Ellie, Homer, Fi, Kevin and Lee, looking broken and lost for me to do it. "Go! Run! Get out of there! Save yourselves!" I urged.
And they did.
My gasp shook through my chest as fresh tears filled my eyes. "Thank God."
"No, Robyn." Chris shook his head and I went to protest before he spoke again, "Thank you. You saved them. You're their guardian angel."
"I'm what?" I asked.
He heaved a sigh, as though all the talking and explaining was tiring him out. "You're their guardian angel. You were a martyr to their cause, that kind of thing doesn't go unnoticed up here."
Something surged though me then. It might have been relief, I'm not sure. But my faith in all things good had been restored, I knew that. I must have smiled, because Chris threw me one of his rare smiles back.
"You can watch them here. And if you wish something hard enough for them, you might be able to make it happen." Chris explains.
"Are-, I mean, are you a guardian angel too?" I asked, as a tingling feeling ran through me.
He laughed, bitterly, darkly and crisply. "Hell, no. Come on, Robyn, who did I save?"
I swallowed thickly and thought of Chris' short existence. It was a sad waste. But I was taught to look for the good, not to focus on the bad. "Chris, you probably saved us all."
He scoffed, "Do me a favour and don't bother with all that finding the good stuff, I can't take it. Do you know how I died? Do you want to hear about it? Because I didn't save anyone. I didn't look death in the eye and tell it to take me rather than anyone else."
Somehow, I didn't expect his anger. Like an idiot, I expected only peace in death.
"While you lot were being heroic or whatever I was lying in a car wreck. I was too drunk to understand it at first, hell, I was so scared. And it hurt so much. Hours I was there, hoping and ha, you'll like this, I prayed. Hear that, I prayed. But I died anyway. Alone. And it felt like crap. I didn't save anyone." Chris retold bitterly.
"You did." I said quietly, almost fearfully, because I was sure he wouldn't believe me. "You pushed us on. We messed up, Chris, we left you when we should have banded together. You saved us from that mistake again. Your death wasn't in vain. It was a tragedy, no doubt, but it meant something; your life mattered."
Chris didn't look as though he shared the sentiment. "We were sixteen, Robyn. That's no life."
"Too many people measure their life by the passing of time, but that doesn't make it a good one. We weren't put on the earth to grow old, that's not the point of existing." I told him in a thick voice.
"I didn't want to die." He admitted in a shaky tone.
"Me either." I smiled softly, "I had so many dreams of what I wanted to do."
He seemed surprised by that admission.
"But you know what I wanted more than that? To matter. To be remembered. And our friends," I paused to glance back down to the earth where the group were now speeding away in a blue Mercedes, "they are never, ever going to forget us."
Chris hung his head.
"Have you been alone here, this whole time?" I asked. The in-between seemed so vast and lonely.
"Yes, no." Chris shrugged his shoulders, "People pass by here,"
"Where do they go?" I asked hungrily.
He indicated upwards with his finger. I glanced up and gasped. It was like a swirling vortex of cloud and mystery. I didn't have to ask him, there was no question; it was heaven. Heaven, floating over us. It was beautiful.
"Why haven't you…?"
"It's heaven, Robyn, it's where good people go." He chuckled.
I looked to him desperately, "Chris, you know it kills me that you think so little of yourself."
"It kills you? You're dead." He reminded me.
"There's a place for you there, Chris, I know it." I said forcefully, with all the conviction that I believed it. "I want to go. And I want to go with you."
He stood up and walked away, mumbling curses about me. I let him go. There was something else I had to do.
I watched my friends, desperately running, as I'd told them to do but they were tired and beaten. They needed a way out.
"Brave Ellie, Reckless Homer, Spontaneous Lee, Conflicted Kevin and my Beautiful Fi. You can do it without me, I know you can. I'm going to leave you now; I've got somewhere else to be. I love you guys…don't forget me, please. Don't forget me and don't forget Chris." I wiped away my tears and squeezed my eyes shut, wishing and praying harder than I ever had before.
Chris and I held hands again as we watched the helicopter lift our friends to safety.
"They're getting out of there." Chris said hoarsely, not believing his eyes. I couldn't either. All those nights we'd dreamt of escape and finally, they were getting out of the nightmare.
"Isn't it wonderful?" I stated.
He couldn't help from agree.
"Come on," I tugged him forward and he tried to resist. He should have known better. People were always quick to dismiss me; with my small frame and unproven faith.
But I think that my admittedly short life will be remembered differently. I always tried my hardest to help everyone when they were in need, because they didn't have someone helping them like I did.
My friends, when you look back on your journey and see only one set of footprints in the place where the group of us walked, that is when I carried you.
Chris, you should have known better than to resist. I've carried heavier loads than you on my back.
That's what I did; I carried Chris right into heaven with me.