Author: gabby silang ([email protected])

Spoilers: None

Summary: SarkSarkSark.

Distribution: Just let me know.

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Climb

There is music in the background. Classical guitar, Spanish. It swells and falls with the crickets and frogs. Stars appear one by one at first, then in pairs, then droves until the sky is not dotted in white so much as striped with the deepest navy blue, running in rivulets around the massed points of light. He takes it all in, sipping at the onset of night like a good port.

The appreciation of beauty is, by some, regarded to be contrary to the business. He'd always considered it essential, an invaluable occupation. Business runs smoother in good, crisp clothes, fully loaded cars, and with a side of cabernet sauvignon. It feels smoother, pours down the throat like silk, rolls off the tongue like a good, hearty laugh.

Indulgences in luxuries do not make him extravagant. He is, at heart, a minimalist, loving the simplicity of his work. Never any reasons but one's own, no rules of engagement other than those he will set. As soon as the situation is clear, the path is obvious, the outcome nearly inevitable.

Words like 'objective' and 'accomplished' trip to the tip of his tongue but he smiles and holds them in, savoring.

This place is a secret even to his employer-- four walls and isolation that can be trusted more than shakily reciprocated trust. He had thought he'd die before owning land in the States. Then again, he doesn't really own it.

The smile widens, almost uninhibited.

He's young enough for foreign landscapes to remain a novelty. Now the mountains, the dark sea of trees, the blanket of starlight in a sky so very high above are a private amazement to the young lad from Lancashire.

Another point to file away, to take out in the future day when he'd reach his own summit and look down on how he got there. Look down on the shoes he'd licked, the drinks he'd poisoned, the doors he'd kicked down just to get in. He'd look down, but more importantly, they'd look up. Look up and envy, say they'd known all along, say they'd get there some day too. But there isn't that much room on a precipice.

For now he allows himself to grin, and leans back further against the worn wooden steps, somewhere halfway up a mountain.





2.

He'll allow himself to be messy tonight. He leaves the half-full bottle on a low coffee table, the glass unwashed, close enough to the edge of the counter to fall off from the careless brush of a sleeve. Of course he won't be that careless, but it's the principle of the thing. He'll allow the possibility of broken glass, red/purple stains on the wool carpet. He'll walk barefoot to invite the pine needles to stab him. He still won't light a fire-- it's not a death wish, he just wants to be thoughtless for a while.

He'll sleep naked, where even the simple cotton sheet feels luxurious and silken sliding over skin. He's never been a still sleeper. Most nights he can't stand to sleep at all-too many things he still wants to do, wants to say. By dawn he will be frustrated at the world's laziness, how it can spare so many hours for rest when there are a thousand other places to be, goals to achieve, and all of them requiring wakefulness.

Tonight he will rest. He will contemplate the stars through the window above the headboard, listen to the forest breathe like a singular beast alive and heaving with the effort of survival. The sheet will end up at his feet so that he can feel the breeze in every pore, inhale it fully. The gun under the pillow makes him feel less exposed. Vulnerability is never an issue, not here.

In the middle of the night he'll rise and wander, like a caged thing, to every corner, searching for occupation, for meaning. Bypass the door and toy with the wine glass, sip at its liquor, not yet warm. Lean against the window frame and paint the trees and mountains out of the shadow that's engulfed them. He'll try to pick out individual sounds from the host of alien noises that seep through the glass, the slats in the walls, the open window he's turned his back to. Just watching, casual, until he realizes that he feels safe.

It's too strange to analyze and he'll make a beeline for the bed, feel for the gun and grip it to remind himself not to sleep.