"Hey Acacia. You, um... you heard all that didnt you?"
Nodding imperceptibly in the darkness, Acacia sat down, cross-legged, on the floor to Roman's left. The moon was behind her, casting her face into shadow, and she watched her own profile flit across him before she settled back against a stump. The harsh, colourless light reflected off his features, and Acacia fought to steady her voice before answering.
There was agony written across his features, so much pain that it hurt just to look at him. So instead she stared up at the sky, and for a while they were silent, each lost to their own thoughts. She was supposed to have awoken Jojo for his shift ten minutes ago, but she didn't want to. Didn't want to fall asleep where her thoughts could take her anywhere and her dreams were becoming more vivid and unsettling with each passing night. All around them was peaceful; the nearby scuffling of a rodent in the dust, the chatter of an insect, the far off call of a bird. A faint smell of gunpower in the air tingled with excitement like fireworks on the Fourth of July. A few shots ripped through the air from far away. Acacia turned her own gun over in her hand. It was still loaded from the first day, not a single shot had been fired from it. It was probably the only virginal gun still on the island, she didn't know what it was she was hanging on to. She looked from the gun to Roman. Back to the gun. Back to Roman. Back to the gun.
She could end it. She could end it right now. There was nothing they could do to save him, and Acacia wasn't sure how much longer she could go on watching him die. Her heart thudded as she realised what she was thinking. Murder? Euthanasia? They're they same thing.
The gun seemed to gain a hundred pounds, it was trapping her hand against her knee, she couldn't move it. Acacia looked at Alex's sleeping form on Roman's other side, to Jessica just beyond her, to Jojo, who was sleeping perpendicular at their feet. If they knew what she was thinking... But it was only a thought. Nobody ever got killed by a thought. It was when they acted on those transient ideas: that was when people ended up dead.
It was just a thought! Acacia glanced at the gun in her hand. There was no way she could use that, the other three would awaken in an instant, and at any rate she didn't know where to point it. Didn't know where would kill and where wouldn't, where might end up just making the pain worse and the death no faster. She released the gun from her grip, dropping it into the dust, and bringing scuffed knees together, she hugged them as she had often done as a child. It's only an idea.
No, if she were going to do this, which she wasn't, the best thing would be to wait for him to fall asleep, and then smother him with a pillow. But it didn't matter, because she wasn't going to.
Roman took a few rasping breaths, and the idea grew in her mind like a disease. Preparatory guilt wrapped around her stomach and clenched it in an iron grip, griping as her mind ebbed back and forth like the tides. It drifted in as she looked at Alex, the such little time that the twins had managed to spend together. As she looked at Roman and how she had come to make such a great friend in a few short days, he was almost a brother to her now. The brother that had shown her how to load her gun, the brother that had provided her with a purpose, which was the only thing that had stopped her from going crazy three days ago. He had, essentially, been her world, and she didn't want her world to end so soon.
It ebbed away as she looked closer at him, at the eyebrows that were scrunched up in concentration from trying to stop himself from crying out. That prayer she had just overheard. That ever so slight... plead? in his voice when he asked her if she had been listening. The relief that death would bring him now. The closure that it would bring her. And, in a way, it would seem right that she could end it peacefully for him, while he still had some dignity. That was what people always wanted, wasn't it? To die with a little dignity.
Slowly, little by little, the tide was going out, and what had been an idea was becoming a reality.
Acacia turned around and lay down next to Roman, turning onto her side so her mouth was close to his ear.
"You've been brilliant," she whispered, allowing a few tears to fall freely, they were immediately wicked away by the earth. "Just brilliant. I couldn't have asked for a better person to spend the last four days with." She remembered the prayer. "I'll- I'll see you in Heaven, okay?"
From her duffel, she found a plastic bag that had once upon a time contained her packed lunch for the coach trip. Into it she put a jumper, and with great care placed it across his face making sure that his eyes were covered. She didn't want to see his last moments, didn't want to see exactly what she was doing. As she pressed, she closed her eyes, putting one hand on his shoulder as by default he started to fight. He was weak. "Sssh," Acacia soothed as best she could, her heart thudding fast and deep.
Her brain was screaming at her to let go, to stop. To let nature take its course. To remember what she was here for. Why am I here? What am I doing?
But there was a deep, animalistic part of her that took over, pressing gradually harder and harder until her arms ached with maintaining the pressure and her head throbbed with emotions, until he stopped moving and the crash of drums that had been crescendoing around her suddenly fell away with a great anticlimax and she let go. She put two shaking fingertips to his neck, and felt nothing. No perceptible heartbeat, no rise and fall of his chest, no expression on his comforting features. No occasional tiny moans that for two nights now had been comforting her that he was still alive.
Acacia scrambled to her feet and in a few short steps got as far away as she could, her natural grace making little noise in the night that was now even more still. She looked with horror at Roman, he looked so alive, yet at the same time so very dead. Her hands tingled as the blood returned to them, a reminder of what she had just done, the life that she had just ended.
She had never felt so powerful simply for being alive.
There was no way she could stay here. There were a few short hours until the announcement that would probably serve to wake Jojo, Jessica and Alex up, and once her name was read out... she would never be forgiven. Alex Jackson would put a price on her head, and Acacia wasn't ready to die just yet. It could so easily have been her that had been shot, could so easily be her that had been dying, it might have been Roman who had just had to make the most agonising decision of either of their lives. Her that would have to come to the realisation that she was going to die, and wanting it to come sooner.
She needed to cling on to the second chance at life that his death had given her.
As she was leaving she looked back at the four bodies on the ground, one was still, three rising and falling with each breath they took. Whatever might had happened tonight, she still owed them a chance for their lives. Heck, she owed Alex more than one. Gently, she knelt down beside Jojo, shaking him awake by the shoulder.
"It- it's your turn," she said in a broken voice. "I have to go, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Look after Alex. Tell her- tell her I'm sorry," she professed her guilt to Jojo without looking at him, her eyes fixed firmly on the ground, on the sky, on the dead stumps of trees that looked remarkably, beautifully, melancholy in the moonlight. Standing up, Acacia slung her bag over her shoulder, and ran into the darkness, needing to put as many miles between her and the body as she could.
((Acacia Salinger continued in Fairytale of New York
B51: ROMAN JACKSON - DECEASED