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   Chapter 24 Crossing

Stolen Souls (boy x boy) By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 7251

Updated: 2018-02-10 22:02

I fall with my eyes open wide.

My flailing arms snag splintered, ancient planks, the bridge swinging up and slamming down in harsh cold wind from my momentum. I squeeze hard, the amulet searing my already sore skin. Blood and foam fly up out of my mouth, but it's Jules I'm scared for, suspended on fifteen feet of cord below me in the canyon. The whiplash might have killed him. Or maybe the sudden stop. Or maybe he banged his head on a sharp rock. Either way, not great survival odds."Jules?"



A scream, high and shrill, pierces the wind's empty howling.

So he's alive, I tell myself, at least there's that.

I snap the amulet's chain from around my neck with my teeth. It hangs in my mouth as I drag myself up onto the moaning bridge. The panels creak under my weight, blasts of snow bringing frosty tears to my eyes. I shift my weight and take up the hook in my hands, writhing out of the tangles of cord.

Stinging tears lash my freezing skin. I'm not strong enough to pull Jules out of there. I'm not. And that's why all the muscles in my body are tensed and my jaw is clenched, so much strain my eyeballs bulge in their sockets as I drag the cord up. He's injured, but he tries. His face peeks up at me from below, illuminated in the muted moonlight, every distinguished feature screwed up in pain.

He fumbles with rope as he pulls himself toward me. The blood glistens off him, red and wet down his sides. Together, we yank him up onto the bridge. He rolls flat on his stomach. Larry the goat bleats meekly from Jules' backpack, and I squeeze the animal under my arm after checking it quickly for injury. Just dazed. Jules is the one who's hurt. His shirt is torn and his skin ripped over his ribs. The side of his face is slashed, crisscrossed with long scraggly scrapes that ooze red. Superficial stuff, but it must hurt still. I wince for him.

"I—I was dragged." He swallows. Steadies his shaking hands by fishing a bottle out of his bag and plucking Larry out of my arms. He cradles the cream-colored creature in one arm, it's little hoofs batting the air as it bleats for food. "Up the wall. Had to turn on my side so I

and snow obscures the best of my view, some are gone. Big gaps in the bridge like missing teeth. And below, the abyss. Even the ropes are fraying. They must've been here for years, braving the frost, the storms, the cold. Jules is on his feet now, Larry tucked back into his backpack. I'm about to ask Jules why he thought bringing a goat with him would be a good idea, but then decide to keep my mouth shut. Who can understand Jules? What matters is that he's okay, maybe a little shaken and a little bloody, but okay.

"Shiro?" He cocks his head at me, tucking a strand of curly hair behind his ear. It promptly blows back out of place. "Are you going to keep spacing out on me, or—"

"I'm fine." I roll my neck back, wincing at the stabs of pain that accompany the stretch. I think I might've popped a vertebrate or two in climb. I decide I'll hit the gym if I get back.

If. Peering down into the darkness below, it doesn't look like a when anymore. This journey has already become an ugly little if.

Bats take to the sky, fanning out over head. Their leathery wings shimmer in the moonlight. I duck. Jules grabs my hand. Squeezes it as if out of a nervous gesture.

"I think we're—"

"Dead meat!" Jules shouts, through he's grinning as he touches a hand to his bloodied face. There are bats. Big ones. Vampires, descending on us from a moonlit sky. The bridge creaks and moans, and with his hand in mine, we're already running.

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