Challenge: Set by Katabatic

Time: one hour

Themes: meeting, accident, moving on. Angst.

Place: anywhere

Last line: …and he/she/it stands up, and begins to walk. (I changed the tense of it to match the rest of the story. Before, it was in the past tense.)

They'd met the week before. I'd seen them, both laughing at the sculptures, catching each other's eyes, talking, and walking off together in step. I'd seen them jump over the brooks and descend the valleys and climb the peaks, still walking, still laughing. Their stout walking boots left matching footprints in the mud and grass while I trod on behind.

They suited each other very well.

Now they huddled in the corner of the visitors' café, bent over steaming mugs of tea and a plate of scones. I watch them from the next table, hiding behind a newspaper. They hold hands, even though I am sure it is only their second meeting. She pushes her long brown hair back behind her ears, and I notice she has the strangest pale blue eyes. They remind me of a rock pool, and they disturb me a little.

He, by contrast, is very… defined. His blonde hair shines in the harsh fluorescent lighting, and his brown eyes are so dark they blend with the pupils. Even his grey woolly jumper looks like spun silver.

They look like a celebrity and his girlfriend – except they're dressed in walking attire. Though he doesn't seem the walking sort.

They lean closer into each other. I smile to myself. This is love, I think. This looks like it's meant to be, cliché as it is.

They nod at each other, stand up and begin to leave. I calmly walk after them. We meander through the car park, past the Grisdale Leisure and Sculpture Park sign, and into the woods.

They crunch leaves in sync, and I follow suit.

We walk up a gentle slope, frosted with grit. The cold air gently slaps my face as we ascend. Our footsteps crunch in time. I admire the scenery while they talk to each other in soft voices.

"God, this is beautiful," she says a little breathlessly as we stop at a viewpoint. They stand behind the curved bench – a sculpture in itself. I couldn't agree more. The mist jumping at our legs like an over-eager puppy is –

"Not especially." His voice is cold, detached. The atmosphere's changed. They're no longer laughing.

"Oh? Don't you think so?" She says it absent-mindedly, she hasn't noticed the change. My heart rate quickens.

"I just said I didn't, didn't I?" he snaps. She lets go of his hand, steps back. She doesn't quite know what to make of him. She looks at him with one eye narrowed and her head cocked to one side. He stares back defiantly, his hands by his sides curled into fists.

"What's wrong with you?" she asks softly. She's not being insulting, just curious. "Have I done something to upset you?"

"No, not especially."

"Well then, what? Is it the weather? Something that's happened? You can't just stay in this foul mood and not tell me why."

"Piss off." He speaks almost inaudibly. It reeks of menace. "Just piss off. You're annoying the shit out of me and now it would considerably improve the quality of my life if you'd kindly fuck off." She steps back another step and looks at him, wide-eyed. She can't understand. As she steps back further, she trips slightly. His mouth curls into a sneer.

I walk slowly backwards, off the path and into the woods. I can sense that now would not be a good time to show myself. He's just grabbed her by the shoulders and is now screaming in her face.

"You can't quite get this, can you? I don't like you."

"Wh-why did you… be friends with me then?"

"Because I thought you were attractive, and maybe you had an attractive mind to go with it. But no. I was wrong. You're an airhead like all the others."

"Others? Who?"

"The other girls I've met. The other girls I've f-" I crunch on a twig but luckily they don't hear. He suddenly stops, and drags her behind him as he ascends the path again. She screams, and he places a strong hand over her mouth.

They crunch the path in sync, and I follow suit.

We walk for a long time. We walk up the path, through the woods, across a deforested plain, and finally up another path. He still has his hand over her mouth, and she's struggling to breathe. Her eyes are wide and her hands are flailing. He doesn't react.

Up one more path and we're at the peak. The peak of the park, where a panoramic view stretches for miles upon miles. A jagged rock protrudes from the grassy knoll. He hauls her to the flat top and plonks her down on the ground. Finally he releases her from his vice-like grip. His hand has teeth marks all over it.

I crouch under a ledge of the rock. I can't see them anymore.

"Do you like this view as well, bitch?" She has the good sense not to run.

"Yes. And how, exactly, does that make me an airhead?"

"I don't know. You just give off a vibe." His vagueness is disturbing. They are silent for a moment, and I hear scuffs. I hear her gasping for energy as a thump is heard again and again. He is groaning and she is breathing very quickly. "That – will – learn – you," he says.

I stand up sharpish.

He is thumping her head against the rock, again and again. She kicks him between his legs and he doubles up. Seizing her chance, she puts him in a headlock and flips his feet over her head with surprising strength. As she pins him to the ground, she smiles and sneers, "Didn't know I was a brown belt in judo, did you?"

He groans weakly. But his head is turned away from her and towards me, and I see him smile at me. He winks. And he is back on his feet, grabbing her waist, and before I know it –

Down down down down down.

Thud.

A body hits the ground. I scramble up the rock and stand there, watching blood seep out of a gash from its head. I turn to the survivor.

She crouches on the edge of the rock, triumphant, her hair blowing across her face. Her hands are on her hips. She turns her head to me, her white teeth gleaming through strands of hair. "Self-defence, of course," she states coolly, turning back to his corpse. "You didn't see anything."

"No. Of course not." We stare at the panoramic view together. "Wonderful, isn't it?" I ask. I am trying not to look at the body below.

"Yes. It is." She looks at me, still crouched, her pale puddle eyes void of emotion. "Wonderful."

"Don't you care? You just killed a man!" I explode. She gives me an odd look.

"It's not the first time." We hear a noise behind us. A family has come to picnic. We look back the way we had come, and she stands up and begins to walk.